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Public Statements

Unanimous Consent Request--H.R. 1

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. UDALL. Madam President, it has been 1 year since the House of Representatives passed the most comprehensive package of anti- corruption reforms since Watergate--1 year. H.R. 1 shines a light on secret campaign contributions, makes it easier to vote, and cleans up corruption in Washington. It is the solution to the gridlock that the American people are tired of in our Nation's Capital. But for 1 year, H.R. 1 has gathered dust on Majority Leader McConnell's desk.

Every single Senator in the Democratic Congress and in our caucus here in the Senate is cosponsoring the For the People Act, which is Senator Merkley's and my companion bill to H.R. 1, For the People Act, but it is buried deep in the leader's legislative graveyard.

Over the course of the last year, as the For the People Act has languished, tens of millions of dollars were spent--much of it in secret--to influence the policymaking process.

Almost half a dozen States passed new laws restricting voter rights. The U.S. Supreme Court gave the green light to political gerrymandering. And President Trump, visiting his own properties dozens of times, funneled millions of taxpayer dollars into his own pocket. Yet, the Republican Senate is silent--silent as our democracy faces a crisis like none we have ever seen in our lifetimes.

We can draw a straight line from the crisis in our democracy to more than 300 bipartisan bills buried in the majority leader's graveyard. The bills waiting for Senate action are broadly supported by the American people, but they are opposed by the ultrawealthy, the special interests, the powerful corporations in that they try to buy our elections. Like Senator McConnell, these Big Money interests are proud of killing these bills.

Here is what happened over the year that the For the People Act has been in the majority leader's graveyard: The number of Americans without health insurance increased by hundreds of thousands. California wildfires, worsened by climate change, cost $25 billion. Flooding in the Midwest, also a casualty of climate change, cost $12.5 billion. And 22 people were gunned down at an El Paso Walmart by a White nationalist armed with an assault rifle. Sadly, that was just a fraction of the thousands of gun-related deaths in our country last year.

This is not the America that the American people want. The American people want us to act. The gap between what the American people are clamoring for and what the Republican majority in the Senate is giving them is as wide as the Grand Canyon and is growing by the day.

Just look at the polls. Staggering numbers--closing in on 90 percent of Americans--support universal, affordable healthcare. With these numbers, you would think Republicans would be making sure that every American has healthcare, but, instead, Republicans have tried to dismantle the Affordable Care Act every chance they get. As we speak, President Trump and 18 Republican Governors and attorneys general are urging the Supreme Court to strike down the Affordable Care Act.

The American people want exorbitant prescription drug prices reeled in. Eighty percent of Americans think the cost of prescription drugs is far too high, and we all know that Big Pharma is the reason why. Yet legislation to reduce drug costs is also stuck--stuck among the hundreds of other bills on the majority leader's desk. Over the last two-plus decades, Big Pharma has spent $3.7 billion--yes, that is billion--on lobbying. So today the same vial of insulin, which cost $175 15 years ago, costs more than $1,400 today. As a result, some diabetics ration their insulin, and some, as a result, have died.

It is not just our healthcare. The ability of our planet to support human life as we know it is at stake. Time and again, polling tells us the American people want us to tackle climate change. The American people accept the science. They understand the existential threat. Yet dozens of climate change bills lie dead in the Senate, including my Renewable Electricity Standard Act, to move us to 100 percent clean energy by midcentury.

Nearly 70 percent of Americans, including a majority of Republicans, believe we need to take aggressive action to fight climate change, and almost 80 percent believe the government should invest more in renewable energy resources. With these kinds of numbers, you would think Congress would be passing climate change legislation on a regular basis, except you would be wrong. Why?

Well, an expert analysis found that from 2000 to 2016, $2 billion was spent on lobbying regarding climate policy, and the fossil fuel interests outspent environmental public interest groups by a factor of 10 to 1. This is not democracy at work. This is a complete perversion of our democratic ideals.

But the good news is we can change all of this. We can reinvigorate our democracy. We can end the reign of Big Money, empower small donors, make it easier to vote, stop political gerrymandering, and bring ethical conduct to Washington. The majority leader just needs to stop doing the bidding of the wealthy special interests and bring the For the People Act to the Senate floor.

I know my colleague Senator Merkley is here and Senator Bennet, Senator Whitehouse, and Senator Cardin.

I yield to Senator Cardin. Thank you all for being here today.


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