Health Care And Education Reconciliation Act Of 2010

Floor Speech

By:  Mitch McConnell
Date: March 24, 2010
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. McCONNELL. Yes. I would say to my friend the majority leader, since the voting will all occur during the so-called vote-arama, if we could have a minute or so before each amendment simply to describe what it is, that would be helpful.

Mr. REID. Mr. President, I say again through the Chair to my colleague and those Members of this body, we do not have to agree to 1 minute, but we want everyone to understand we have tried to be as fair as we can through this whole process. There are some who said: Why should we waste--there would be 43 minutes or 46 minutes. I think there are 23 amendments pending, so that would be 46 minutes. But we want to be fair. In recent years, we have agreed by unanimous consent to have 1 minute to explain the amendment and 1 minute to disagree with the amendment. I think that is the appropriate thing to do. We want to make sure everyone is treated fairly.

But I alert everyone: The Chair is going to enforce--we are not waiting for the Parliamentarian--the Chair is going to enforce that to the letter of the law. Every time the Presiding Officer is here, there will be 1 minute--if this consent agreement is agreed to--there will be 1 minute to explain the amendment and 1 minute to disagree with the amendment.

Mr. McCONNELL. Would my friend yield for an observation?

Mr. REID. Yes.

Mr. McCONNELL. Even though allowing that, as the majority leader suggested, is certainly optional, it has been the custom of both sides, when we have been in these vote-arama situations in the past, to allow the time on each side, and I appreciate the willingness of the majority leader to do that.

Mr. REID. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent, as I directed, or asked, that there be 1 minute to explain the amendment and 1 minute to disagree with the amendment.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

Mr. REID. Mr. President, I also ask unanimous consent that after the first amendment, on which we will do our normal 15 minutes with 5 minutes of time after that, all votes thereafter be 10 minutes. I ask unanimous consent that prior to each vote there be 2 minutes of debate equally divided and controlled in the usual form; that upon use or yielding back of that time, the Senate proceed to vote in relation to the amendments and the motions in the order they have been offered--I think that is the fair way to go so we are not trying to catapult over other amendments people may have offered at an earlier time--with no intervening amendments or motions in order prior to a vote; further, that after the first vote in this sequence, the succeeding votes be limited to 10 minutes each.

The reason I suggest 10 minutes is I have been told by Senator McConnell and others they want an opportunity to offer amendments, and this will maybe allow them to offer a few more.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

Mr. REID. Mr. President, I also note that with just the amendments that have been proposed, if we are fortunate, it will probably take 9 hours or so, maybe more than that, to get rid of those. There will be continuous votes without any breaks. We are not going to have any breaks unless something untoward happens. Senators should be advised that they should remain close to the floor during this process. If people are not here at the end of the time, we are going to close it up. We need to move on. We have other things we have to do prior to the recess. I have to work with the Republican leader. It has taken an enormous amount of time to do this. Everybody stay here. It works a lot better if my colleagues stay close to their seats and, hopefully, we will have an orderly process as much as possible during the vote-arama.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The minority leader.

Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, I am going to take a few minutes of my leader time before we begin the vote.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The leader has that right.

Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, the administration and some in Congress wish this debate to be over. They want the American people to sit down and quiet down. That has been their approach to health care for an entire year.

Well, Republicans think Congress serves the people, not the other way around.

We have fought on behalf of the American people this week, and we will continue to fight until this bill is repealed and replaced with commonsense ideas that solve our problems without dismantling the health care system we have and without burying the American dream under a mountain of debt.

That is what we have been doing all week in the Senate. While Democratic lawmakers and staffers threw a party for themselves at the White House yesterday, Republicans were here at the Capitol fighting a 150-page postscript that Democrats added at the last minute to the health care bill. This add-on took a terrible health spending bill and made it even worse.

If you thought the tax hikes in the original bill were bad, this bill raised them even higher. If you thought the Medicare cuts were bad, this bill made them even deeper. If you thought the first bill cost too much, this bill made it even more expensive. If you did not like the special deals in the first bill, they slipped more into this one. The whole thing was one last slap in the face of Americans across the country who have been howling at Democrats for the past year to stop this bill and to work instead across party lines on reforms that would actually drive costs down.

Today Republicans will give Democrats one last chance to reject the horrible impact the underlying bill and this last-minute add-on will have on our country. Unfortunately, we already know that they plan to turn the other way.

We will offer an amendment to direct the Medicare cuts in this bill back into Medicare, to preserve and strengthen it for future generations. They will reject it.

We will offer an amendment to strike all the new sweetheart deals in this bill. They will reject it.

We will offer an amendment that would have obliged the President to keep his pledge that families earning under $250,000 will not see any tax hikes as a result of this bill. They plan to reject it.

We will offer an amendment requiring HHS to certify that this bill does not increase premiums. They will reject it.

We will offer an amendment to strike a job-killing mandate on business. They will reject it.

While the White House is trying to sell this health spending bill to a skeptical public, Senate Democrats today will speak loudly and they will speak clearly about the things in this bill the White House does not want people to know and vote to endorse them: massive cuts to Medicare for seniors; job-killing mandates and business tax hikes; higher insurance premiums; sweetheart deals; tax hikes on middle-class families. This is the real story of health care reform.

Americans may not be hearing about it from the White House, but I assure you, they will be feeling the pain. Americans know this and they want to know that somebody is fighting for them in Washington to make their voices heard. That is what Republicans have been doing on this issue for the past year. That is what we have been doing this week. That is what we will be doing tonight. And that is what we will keep doing until those voices are heard. We are not giving up.

Mr. President, I yield the floor.

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Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, I say to my friend the majority leader, I agree, I think the process has been well handled today. The top number of amendments that have been offered on past reconciliation bills is 53. We have offered 23.

We have had a number of discussions off the floor, I say for the benefit of everyone in the Chamber, about some process to complete this bill and to complete the next bill that will be brought up by the majority after we finish this bill. I think there is a chance we might be able to reach some agreement on the disposition of this bill and that bill. I think we should continue to discuss it. I will be happy to continue those discussions with the majority leader. In the meantime, it strikes me we can either continue voting tonight or we could set a reasonable time in the morning after everybody has had a chance to get some sleep, continue voting and discussing and see if we can't wrap up both this measure and the next one in the not too distant future.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The majority leader is recognized.

Mr. REID. Mr. President, my focus is on this legislation, and I know there are other things we have to deal with before we leave, but I am not concerned about those at this stage. I want to finish this legislation, and I want to do that as quickly as we can.

So I would ask that we just proceed. I hope there aren't that many more amendments, but we are here for the duration.

I would note--and I am certainly in no way trying to denigrate those amendments that have been offered, but we have to understand that not a single one has been adopted. I don't know what we are trying to accomplish. We have listened intently. Most of the comments from our side have been from the chairman of the Finance Committee because most of these issues deal with the jurisdiction he has. But it is very clear there is no attempt to improve the bill. There is an attempt to destroy this bill.

We already have a law in place. It is the bill that we passed on Christmas Eve 2009. That is the law of this land. This is a matter to improve that, and I have to suggest that we are going to continue down this road. I am not sure it is a good picture for the American people, to have all these amendments and not a single one of them having enough votes to pass, but that judgment is not mine. We are here to try to move this along.

The House of Representatives is waiting for us to act, as we speak. I think they have proven they are willing to work hard, as indicated this past weekend and over the last several weeks. So let's continue forward in the same spirit we have gotten this far. But I would hope that my friends understand I think it would be to the benefit of most everyone if we could get out of here at a decent hour today. If it is not, if we are going to keep going, that is the way it is. I am an old marathoner, and getting older every day.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Republican leader is recognized.

Mr. McCONNELL. I would just add that there are some obvious disadvantages to the minority to be in a reconciliation contest, but one of the advantages is that we have had more amendment votes today than we had in the entire month of December on the previous health care bill. So the majority leader may not think we are serious about changing the bill, but we would like to change the bill. And with a little help from our friends on the other side, we could improve this bill significantly.

But rather than subject all of our Members to listening to the majority leader and myself go back and forth, I would simply suggest it might be a better use of his and my time for us to continue the discussions we have been having off the floor, continue to offer the amendments, and see if we can reach an accommodation that satisfies both sides. Maybe the best way to do that would be for Senator Reid and myself to continue our discussions while we will keep voting, if that is what the majority would like.

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