Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, I think at this point Senators from both parties can agree that healthcare.gov is a rolling disaster. Every day seems to bring more near-comic calamities. We hear about visitors being told things like their wife is really their daughter or that they have multiple spouses or that they are unable to apply ``due to current incarceration.''
Unsurprisingly, just 12 percent of Americans think the rollout has gone well. That is less than the 14 percent of Americans who believe in Bigfoot. Those who have succeeded in actually enrolling in a plan are vastly outnumbered by those who have lost their plan. The real tragedy is that many who have succeeded are finding out the product is actually worse than the Web site.
The only thing the Web site seems to be good at right now is creating punchlines for late-night comedians. It is almost as though Americans are being forced to live through a real-life ``Saturday Night Live'' sketch. If you caught last week's opener, it is getting harder to tell the ObamaCare headlines from the ObamaCare punchlines these days.
Paper applications, 800 numbers, applying by fax--ObamaCare appears to be leading us boldly into the 1980s. Remember, before this thing launched, the administration swore up and down that ObamaCare was ready to go. Democratic leaders in Congress told Americans that the law's implementation was fabulous and that ObamaCare was wonderful. The President reassured everyone it was working the way it was supposed to, and of course Washington Democrats bragged about their fancy new Web site, the Web site that cost taxpayers--$100 million? $200 million? $300 million? No one is quite sure. That is just one of the unanswered questions we hope they will clarify soon.
To be fair, the President likes to say that ObamaCare is about more than just a Web site. He is absolutely right, and that is why fixing a Web site will not solve the larger problem. The larger problem is ObamaCare itself. The larger problem is what the few people who actually have signed up for coverage have discovered about this law. The larger problem is how ObamaCare is hurting people out there.
It is about college graduates and middle-class families getting hit with massive premium increases they cannot afford. It is about workers seeing their hours cut and their paychecks shrink because of this law. It is about millions of Americans who will lose their current health coverage because of ObamaCare, despite the President's promises.
According to news reports, the Obama administration knew for at least 3 years that millions of Americans would not be able to keep their health care coverage. The President's press secretary basically admitted yesterday that Americans would lose coverage too. Remember, this is the same President who said:
If you like your health care plan, you'll be able to keep your health care plan, period ..... No one will take it away, no matter what.
This is just one of the many reasons Americans feel betrayed. One woman who was quoted in the Los Angeles Times put it this way:
All we have been hearing for the last 3 years is if you like your policy, you can keep it ..... [well] I'm infuriated because I was lied to.
Here is how one North Carolinian put it to NBC News:
Everybody's worried about whether the website works or not, but that's fixable. That's just the tip of the iceberg. This stuff isn't fixable.
That was after he lost a $228-a-month plan and was faced with a choice of taking a comparable plan for $1,208 or the best option he could find on the exchanges, one for $948 a month.
After looking at all of that, he said: ``I'm sitting here looking at this, thinking we ought to pay the fine and get insurance when we're sick.''
Americans up and down the country are beginning to experience the cost of ObamaCare firsthand, and they are realizing they are the ones stuck with the bill. It is not fair, it is not right, and Republicans are going to keep fighting to get our constituents relief from this partisan law.
Of course, the most logical course would be to stop this train wreck and start over, but Washington Democrats still appear more interested in protecting the President's namesake and legacy than protecting their constituents from this law. I hope that will change because we cannot move forward without Democrats.
We have seen some signs that at least some Democrats are coming around slowly--slowly--much more slowly than we would like. I am happy to engage in discussions to see where we might find common ground. Hopefully, we will eventually get to the increasingly obvious endgame: Repeal, followed by true bipartisan health care reform. It may be universally accepted that healthcare.gov is a disaster, but as the President reminds us, that disaster does not exist in a vacuum. The failure of the ObamaCare Web site is emblematic of the larger failure of ObamaCare itself and of the kind of problems we can expect if Washington Democrats continue their stubborn defense of this partisan law.
Politicians regularly come to Washington promising fiscal responsibility, but too often they can't agree to cut spending when it counts, and that is why the Budget Control Act is such a big deal. Since Congress passed the BCA with overwhelming bipartisan majorities in 2011, Washington has actually reduced the level of government spending for 2 years running. That is the first time this has happened since the Korean war.
The BCA savings are such a big deal, in fact, that the President campaigned on it endlessly in 2012. He bragged about the bipartisan cuts in Colorado and in Iowa. He trumpeted the reductions from coast to coast, telling audiences from California to Baltimore that he ``signed $2 trillion of spending cuts into law.''
As our Democratic friends like to say these days, elections matter, and the President explicitly staked his reelection on the back of these bipartisan spending cuts.
Look at the exit polls from November. A majority of Americans said the government was doing too much. About two-thirds said raising taxes to cut the deficit was a nonstarter. Compared to ObamaCare, which more voters said they wanted to repeal, these levels of support are striking.
If our friends on the other side want to keep trying to claim an electoral mandate for retaining ObamaCare--contradicted by the facts as that might be--using their own logic, we would then have to call the mandate for reducing the size of government a supermandate. That is why their new plan to undo the cuts the President campaigned on and increase the debt is so outrageous.
We hear that the senior Senator from New York will soon announce a proposal to give the President permanent power to borrow more; in other words, he wants to extend the debt ceiling permanently by going around Congress. Let me repeat that. The so-called Schumer-Obama plan is a plan to permanently hand the President a credit card without spending limits and without lifting a finger to address the national debt. It is truly outrageous, especially when we consider that our debt is now $17 trillion, which makes us look a lot like a European country. We have to get our debt under control before we move any further down the road to Greece or Spain, and time is not on our side.
I hear the Senator from New York is going to try and sell his proposal as a ``McConnell'' plan. I appreciate the attempt at a PR gimmick, but there are two huge differences between the Schumer-Obama plan and what I have proposed in the past.
First, Schumer-Obama would raise the debt ceiling permanently. I reject that idea entirely. Second, unlike Schumer-Obama, I believe that increases in the debt ceiling should be accompanied by reforms. That is what we did in 2011 when Congress raised the debt ceiling in return for enacting $2 trillion in bipartisan spending control--the spending control the President endlessly campaigned on last year. That is the real ``McConnell'' plan.
If the Senator from New York is interested in working with me to enact another $2 trillion in bipartisan cuts, then let's get down to brass tacks. The American people would love to see us working in a bipartisan way to actually help them. If he insists on pushing the Schumer-Obama plan, he is not going to find any dance partners on this side of the aisle. Handing the President a permanent blank check, increasing the size of government, and trying to overturn the most significant bipartisan accomplishment of the Obama years is a nonstarter.
Our debt is a serious problem. I know Kentuckians think so. Similar to Americans all across the country, they understand it is completely unsustainable over the long run, and they understand it is standing in the way of jobs and economic growth today.
Let's shelve the gimmicks and the blank checks and get to work on bipartisan plans to get spending under control. That is what our constituents expect.