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Public Statements

Affordable Care Act

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Mr. President, we have come a long way in 1 year.

On December 24, 2009--1 day before Christmas--this body passed a radical overhaul of our Nation's health care system. That is right. The majority passed ObamaCare on Christmas Eve.

It was not this body's finest moment. It was not the administration's finest moment. And I expect that this debate will go down in history for its persistent lack of attention to the considered views of ordinary Americans--Americans who rejected ObamaCare's giant new entitlement expansions and the job-killing taxes haphazardly cobbled together to pay for them.

It did not have to be this way. In the midst of the greatest fiscal collapse since the Great Depression, Americans wanted Democrats, who controlled all of the levers of power in Washington, to focus on job creation. Instead, like teenagers set loose when mom and dad leave town, they did what they wanted to, and focused on a government takeover of the Nation's health care system.

Surprising only the most ideologically driven, support for ObamaCare cratered during the townhall meetings of August 2009. The message was loud and clear. Our health care system, and in particular the government policies that contribute to unsustainable inflation in the health care sector, might be in need of reform. But the solution to our problems is not additional government regulation and control of health care delivery by Washington bureaucrats. And the solution is most definitely not to be found in the billions of dollars in new taxes, most of which will be passed through to American families in the form of higher premiums.

For those who did not deliberately put on blinders, the wishes of their constituents were obvious.

Stop the push for ObamaCare and move onto fixing the economy.

But the Senate did not listen.

Instead, prodded ahead by an administration that saw the great liberal dream of government-run health care slipping, the long march continued.

First, the Democratic majority cut short the Finance Committee's bipartisan negotiations.

Then, heads down, the majority plowed forward on the floor, allowing virtually no meaningful amendments.

And before going home for Christmas, it passed the most sweeping reform of the Nation's economy in over 70 years without a single Republican vote.

Every Democratic senator supported the bill.

Not one Republican did.

When ObamaCare passed the Senate, its proponents assumed it was on the glidepath to enactment. But the American people had a different idea.

Our national unemployment rate was 10.2 percent--the highest in 26 years.

The American people understood that at a moment of historic economic challenges, the last thing the country needed was another budget-busting entitlement and sky-high taxes.

And just about 1 month later, this message was delivered again. In a new shot heard across the world, our colleague, the junior Senator from Massachusetts, SCOTT BROWN, was elected in a very clear referendum on the Democrats' health care bill.

The verdict of the American people, if the previous summer's townhalls left any doubt, was now crystal clear.

The push for ObamaCare must end.

Yet, the administration refused to yield.

They thought the people would eventually come to embrace the elegance of ObamaCare. If only the messaging was better, Americans would appreciate all of the good things that Washington politicians and bureaucrats had to offer them.

So after taking time to regroup and weigh their options, Democrats decided to defy the American people yet again.

A little over a year ago, the President hosted a summit at the White House and began his final push for his federalizing of American health care.

The resulting display was ugly. Americans, already revolted by the deals cut in this Chamber to secure the bare number of votes needed to pass the bill, now witnessed historic arm twisting and desperate efforts in the House to deny the obvious--that ObamaCare represented an unprecedented intrusion of the Federal government into the lives of citizens and clearly was a massive burden on taxpayers.

And so it passed.

And ObamaCare became law.

And the administration set about writing the thousands of pages of regulations that would govern how American businesses provide health benefits to their employees.

Fast forward to November of 2010.

The American people did not forget their snubbing by self-proclaimed progressive Democrats who in fact ignored the will of the people at every opportunity during the ObamaCare debate.

At voting booths across the country, they made clear to those congressmen and Senators who provided the votes for this job-destroying health care bill that such high-handed, illiberal behavior was not acceptable in a democratic republic.

Fast forward one more time.

Yesterday, barely 13 months after ObamaCare passed the Senate, and less than one year since it became law, the entire scheme was struck down in Federal court.

In a triumph for both personal liberty and the American Constitution, the individual mandate was found unconstitutional and ObamaCare was struck down.

Not part of ObamaCare.

All of ObamaCare.

Not surprisingly, the administration and its special interest allies responded with the same derision toward ordinary American citizens that has been on display throughout this debate. Instead of acknowledging the obvious--that ObamaCare represents a massive departure from any traditional understanding of limited government--White House officials went on the attack, calling the decision outside of the mainstream and ridiculing its reasoning.

Really?

Millions and millions of Americans believe that provisions essential to the operation of ObamaCare are unconstitutional intrusions on personal liberty that vastly expand the power of the Federal government.

They understand that the justification for the individual mandate by ObamaCare's proponents essentially removes any limits on the power of the Federal government to regulate personal and economic decisions.

Twenty-six states participated in this challenge to ObamaCare.

Thirty-two Members of this body, including myself, signed an amicus brief challenging the constitutionality of ObamaCare.

But, according to the administration's narrative, we are the ones who are out of the mainstream.

This administration came into office buoyed by the good will of the American people and carrying banners of bipartisanship.

Two years later, after the politically disastrous decision to overhaul one-seventh of the Nation's economy with virtually no Republican support, they are blaming the victim.

After a Federal judge looked at this tough issue and determined that key elements of ObamaCare represented an unprecedented and unconstitutional expansion of the national government, the problem remains--as it always is for liberals--the people.

Their views are just not sophisticated enough to grasp ObamaCare's consistency with a government of limited and enumerated powers.

The Democrats continue to think that if only they focus group ObamaCare better, they will get the messaging right.

The American people will learn to love it.

I don't think so.

The American people get it. I know my constituents in Utah do.

In an article yesterday in ``Politico'', Patrick Caddell and Douglas Schoen highlighted the reasons for the public's deepening disdain for ObamaCare. According to them, it is possible that no major piece of legislation ``has created the continued, vehement public opposition that health care has provoked since the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854.''

In their view, ``[t]here is one big underlying factor that continues to cause many Americans to oppose the health care bill: Its passage was anti-democratic. If the Republicans' campaign slogan of 1854 was the Crime Against Kansas, in 2010 it would be the Crime Against Democracy.''

Americans know that the Senate bill was 2,074 pages long.

They know it authorized 70 government programs.

They know it delegated regulatory power to the Obama administration 1,697 times.

They know it cut $465 billion from Medicare at a time when it already faced a $38 trillion unfunded liability.

They know the bill took from one already unsustainable entitlement to pay for a brand new entitlement.

They know it raised taxes by over $550 billion, repeatedly violating the President's pledge not to raise taxes on middle class families.

They know ObamaCare will destroy 695,000 American jobs at a time when millions of Americans are looking for work.

They know the Medicaid expansions threaten to bankrupt the States, with CBO estimating that the Medicaid expansion will cost American taxpayers $435 billion over 10 years.

They know the total cost of ObamaCare is $2.6 trillion.

And they know we can not afford it.

To borrow from Justice Scalia, the American people despise ObamaCare because the American people love democracy and the American people are not fools. They know that this law was enacted in a totally partisan manner, and over the loud opposition of a majority of Americans.

And they know that the partisans promoting ObamaCare were not, and are not, forthright when they say it is budget neutral.

ObamaCare cuts $155 billion from hospitals.

It cuts $202 billion from 11 million seniors on Medicare Advantage.

It cuts nearly $15 billion from nursing homes.

It cuts nearly $40 billion from home health agencies.

It cuts nearly $7 billion from hospices.

But these cuts don't go toward strengthening Medicare, a program with catastrophic unfunded liabilities. Rather, Democrats poured the savings from these cuts back into a brand new entitlement program.

Furthermore, so-called comprehensive health care reform managed to neglect the pressing need for a permanent doc fix. Yet, CBO's most recent estimate is that a long-term doc fix freezing Medicare payment rates at 2011 levels would raise the deficit by $249 billion, not counting an additional $53 billion in debt service obligations.

Not surprisingly, an Associated Press fact check of the President's State of the Union address concluded: ``the idea that Obama's health care law saves money for the government is based on some arguable assumptions.''

That might qualify for the understatement of the year so far.

The likelihood that ObamaCare will not, as its advocates claimed, save the government money was confirmed again at a hearing last week by the CMS Chief Actuary Richard Foster. He testified that the law will not likely hold costs down, and that contrary to the President's mantra, everyone will not be able to keep their insurance coverage if they like it.

In response, the White House political operation attacked the Administration's own nonpartisan professional expert, stating in a blog post: ``Once again, we disagree ..... History shows that it is possible to implement measures that will save money for Medicare and the Federal government.''

Who are you going to believe?

The chief actuary at CMS or a White House political operative?

The average American citizen might not have a Ph.D. in economics. But Americans do understand that massive new entitlement programs do not save money. In their guts, they know that former CBO director Doug Holtz-Eakin is right when he concludes that repeal of this flawed law would actually reduce the deficit by $300 billion.

Ultimately, all we want is a vote on repeal.

Last week, some of my Democratic colleagues came to the floor to advocate for rules changes that would have substantially limited the rights of the minority to debate.

The filibuster, they insisted, is an affront to democracy and majority rule.

Well, let them put their money where their mouths are.

All we are asking for is an up or down vote on repeal of ObamaCare.

This is what the people want.

Ultimately, you have to ask why the Democratic majority would deny us this vote.

I think I know the answer. It has a great deal to do with members of the caucus who know their constituents hate this law. Yet, these Members are torn between two masters. On the one hand are their conservative constituents. And on the other are the liberal interest groups who supported the government takeover of the Nation's health care system.

Unfortunately, the people again stand to lose in this calculus.

I understand that the conventional wisdom is that my colleagues and I are pursuing a symbolic act.

The guardians of the conventional wisdom opine that attempts to repeal ObamaCare might make for good theatre, but are senseless exercises.

In my view, this attitude demonstrates a profound lack of respect for the citizens of a democratic republic.

Over time, given the power of ideas and an engaged citizenry, initially symbolic acts have a way of becoming law. It might not happen overnight, but citizens--exercising their constitutional rights of petition and redress--have a way of reminding even the most hardened of partisan politicians that their job is to represent their constituents.

I have no doubt that some scoff at our efforts to repeal this bill.

But I rest easy knowing that I am standing with my fellow Utahans and the people of this country whose distrust of ObamaCare grows as they learn more about it.

I look forward to the day when ObamaCare is finally repealed. It may not be next month. It may not be next year, but it will be repealed. If we are smart, we will make it next month or in the very near future. When it is, it will be a triumph for our Constitution, a triumph for personal liberty and, most importantly, it will be a triumph for the American people to persevere in their resistance to this law.

I suggest the absence of a quorum.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT


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