Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003-Conference Report

By:  Mitch McConnell
Date: Nov. 24, 2003
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, will the Senate turn its back today on 40 million American seniors? We are going to find out in a few hours.

Will a prescription drug benefit that we have promised our seniors for 38 years become law or became a victim to the political agenda of a partisan minority?

This bill provides a Medicare drug benefit to 40 million seniors. It has passed the House, and the President of the United States will sign it.

Only one hurdle-just one-stands in the way of seniors getting a Medicare drug benefit, and that is the Senate.

While a strong bipartisan majority in the Senate supports this drug benefit bill, that may not be enough. While the American Medical Association, AARP, and hundreds of other health provider organizations support this bill, that may not be enough.

While businesses, health plans, citizens, and taxpayer groups support this bill, it may not be enough.

All of this support may not be enough because this is the Senate. And the minority can, if it chooses to, obstruct.

Incredibly, some on the Democratic side plan to kill this Medicare drug benefit through a filibuster, or use any other way they can think of to defeat the will of the majority.

Points of order have been suggested. We know this bill is within the budget that we passed last year. So there may be some tricky point of order raised, but it should not be sustained because we know this bill is within the budget that we passed.

No matter how the minority tries to block the majority in the Senate, a filibuster by any other name is still a filibuster.

Somewhere in my home State of Kentucky, a senior is beginning a new week. She will have to choose whether to take half a pill of her medication, skimp on her food, or endure some other belt tightening. She doesn't understand about filibusters or arcane Senate procedures. But she does know that the drug benefit she needs is one step away from her. She thinks because the majority rules in America she will get relief soon. Well, the majority rule is everywhere except here in the Senate, potentially. She may be wrong. Here in the Senate the will of the majority can be defeated by the minority. The will of the people can be thwarted by a handful-a handful.

This is as close as we have ever come to passing a drug benefit, and a minority in the Senate is determined to make sure this is as close as we ever get. They do not want us to ever get any closer than we are right now. Why? Why deny our seniors that which they absolutely deserve?

Despite the hyperbole, it cannot be policy. This bill is based on the 1997 Medicare Commission. It reflects bipartisan legislation, such as the Breaux-Frist and the Breaux-Thomas bills. It mirrors the Federal Employees Health Benefits Plan, which Senators on both sides of the aisle have endorsed. And it is the product of countless hours of bipartisan negotiations between the ranking member and chairman of the Finance Committee.

Time and time again, demands have been made by the minority as to what must be and what must not be in this bill. Time and time again, this leader and this chairman have met them more than halfway.

The problem today is not this bipartisan policy but raw partisan politics.

Because of partisan politics, some want to keep the Medicare drug benefit as the "Holy Grail" of American politics-something always sought but never found.

To keep their election year gimmick where the Medicare drug benefit is always promised but never delivered-always promised but never delivered-this partisan minority will deny seniors a drug benefit now.

This is crass politics of the worst kind. Our seniors deserve better. Our parents always put us first. Now is our chance to put them first.

But will our seniors come in second place to political games here in the Senate? In the fight for prescription drugs, second place gets seniors nothing. Today, we will vote to see if we put our seniors first or if the greatest generation ever will come in last.

I yield the floor.

Help us stay free for all your Fellow Americans

Just $5 from everyone reading this would do it.