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Executive Calendar

Floor Speech

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Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. BROWN. Mr. President, today in the Senate we were faced with two opportunities to side with cancer patients over insurance companies. In our country, almost everybody would say that we ought to side with the cancer patients over the insurance companies, but the Senate failed again in both cases. Let me explain.

Today, as we considered this, we wanted to make clear whose side we are on. The side the Senate chose, and it looks like the Judiciary Committee chose, is not the side of patients.

This morning, I testified at the Judiciary Committee's hearing on the White House's two nominees to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, Chad Readler and Eric Murphy. Both of these men have a troubling record of stripping Ohioans of their rights, and Mr. Readler's actions on healthcare are particularly threatening to millions of Americans--not just the 5 million Ohioans who have preexisting conditions but millions of Americans with preexisting conditions. Five million Ohioans under age 65, as I said, have preexisting conditions. That is half the population in my State.

Because of the Affordable Care Act, these Ohioans can rest a little easier, knowing they can't be turned down for health coverage or have their rates skyrocket because their child has asthma or their husband has diabetes or their wife has been diagnosed with breast cancer. Mr. Readler is willing to take that peace of mind away and throw those families into financial chaos.

This summer, he did what three career attorneys with the Department of Justice refused to do. He filed a brief challenging the law that protects Americans with preexisting conditions. The next day, the White House appointed him to a Federal circuit court judgeship. Filing this brief earned him rebukes from across the legal community. Three attorneys withdrew from the case, and one actually resigned in objection to the Department of Justice's unprecedented action.

Our Republican Senate colleague from Tennessee, Mr. Alexander, called the brief ``as far-fetched as any [he has] ever heard.'' Mr. Readler had no problem putting his name right at the top and filing it.

We should not be putting on the bench for life anyone who puts partisanship ahead of cancer patients or ahead of people with diabetes or ahead of someone with high blood pressure or ahead of Americans' healthcare.

Unfortunately, the White House is also chipping away at the ability of Ohioans with preexisting conditions to get affordable coverage that actually covers their conditions. Again, we are talking about 5 million Ohioans, tens of millions of Americans. You can talk about anxiety and autism. You can talk about heart disease or heartburn, cholesterol, stroke, thyroid issues. We are talking about families. We are talking about neighbors. We are talking about some of the people in this body.

Everyone here, by the way, takes care of themselves. We all have good health insurance. We don't mind, apparently, denying it to millions of others.

Some Senators think it is fine to let insurance companies sell junk to our constituents back home. These insurance policies are just that: They are junk. They are insurance until you need the insurance. Allowing insurance companies to sell these plans drives up healthcare for everyone. They weaken protection for anyone with a preexisting condition.

Under their new rules, insurance companies could force Americans with preexisting conditions into these junk plans--and ``junk'' is the right word--that barely cover anything. They can charge exorbitant, unaffordable rates for a decent plan.

Half of my colleagues--exactly half--voted for Senator Baldwin's motion. Senator Baldwin, from Wisconsin, has been a hero on this. Half of my colleagues--all with health insurance paid for by taxpayers--have told the people: Sorry, you are on your own. We are letting the insurance companies do whatever they want--rip you off, hike up your costs. That is the way it goes.

It all comes down to whose side you are on. Chad Readler, the President's nomination for the Sixth Circuit, has made it clear: He stands with insurance companies, not with cancer patients. The administration has made it clear: They stand with insurance companies, not kids with asthma.

Today, the Senate chose to stand with those insurance companies over their constituents who need prescription medicines. Honoring Journalists

Mr. President, a free, independent press is critical to our democracy. Reporters do vital work, not just in Washington but around the country. They shine a light on the important issues in our communities. Right now, that means covering the addiction crisis that grips our country.

Today alone--if today is an average day in Ohio, as I assume it is-- 11 people will die of an opioid overdose. Yesterday, 11 died. Tomorrow, 11 will die. Friday, 11 will die.

We have been working bipartisanly to help get communities the resources they need. This month we passed a bipartisan package to fight opioid addiction. It is a start. We need more help from a generally disengaged White House. We need a State government to get out from under its corruption, day to day, that afflicts it and get out and do what they should be doing to fight opioid addiction.

Everyone has a role to play. Local journalists do vital work keeping Ohioans informed of all the resources we have in our State. That is why, this week, I want to highlight another story in an Ohio paper informing the public, reported by a journalist serving his community.

I remind my colleagues that the media are not the enemy of the people, as the White House likes to say, but they serve our communities. They live in our communities. They are part of our communities. They fight for our communities.

Joshua Keeran reported for the Delaware Gazette about Maryhaven, a local addiction and mental health treatment center. Maryhaven is Central Ohio's oldest and most comprehensive treatment center. It has been a great partner to my office in our work, along with Senator Portman, to help Ohioans fighting addiction.

In my conversations with Maryhaven clients, it is clear what a difference this organization makes in so many lives in Central Ohio. Mr. Keeran reported on Maryhaven's Families in Recovery Program, which provides education, training, and counseling support to families confronted with substance abuse problems. Through its reporting, the Delaware Gazette is raising awareness about this important local resource.

This kind of reporting is what journalists do every day in every community in Utah, Rhode Island, Ohio, and across the country. That is why they are deserving of respect. We should reject the out-and-out attacks by the President of the United States and others who call journalism and journalists in the media enemies of the people. They serve their readers. They serve their viewers. They serve their communities. They deserve our respect.

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