Federal News Service
HEADLINE: PRESS CONFERENCE WITH MAJORITY LEADER BILL FRIST (R-FL); SENATOR RICK SANTORUM (R-PA); SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY); AND SENATOR GEORGE ALLEN (R-VA)
TOPIC: ACHIEVEMENTS OF THIS CONGRESS
SEN. SANTORUM: Good afternoon, everybody, and this is our halftime report. We're halfway through this session of Congress, and we're here to report to the American public on our successes and failure, our wins and losses. And it has been a serious game. This has not been a game. It's been a real attempt on the part of the Republican leadership here in the Congress and in the United States in particular to deliver for the American people a big victory. And I want to turn it over to our quarterback, the man who has steered this team to victory on numerous occasions, including a big victory today. And we turn the ball over to our quarterback Bill Frist.
SEN. FRIST: All right, got it. All right. The quarterback doesn't take the handoff though. (Laughter.)
SEN. SANTORUM: It was close.
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SEN. SANTORUM: We had a leadership retreat almost a year ago at Carlisle, at the War College, and George and I displayed our prowess on the field that Jim Thorpe played on.
SEN. FRIST (?): What about me? You forgot about me.
SEN. SANTORUM: I said that George and I-you know, I thought I'd just highlight the highlights.
SEN. FRIST (?): Who had the prowess and who didn't.
SEN. SANTORUM: Let me thank at my colleagues for this good wrap- up. And I just want to close by talking about something that's near and dear to my heart, and that's what we've done for the American family. This has been a good year to report back as to what we've done to help protect children in particular. We passed the amber alert bill earlier this year. Senator Hutchison here was one of the key advocates of that, who helped find kidnapped children. We passed the protect act, which was to strengthen laws against child pornography. We were able to pass the do-not-call registry to help families not be interrupted during family time, and to be able to spend that quality time with their children in the evening. And we passed the can spam bill, which was just recently passed by the House to stop this insipid amount of pop-up ads and spam that hits our children, and particularly in the area of pornography. So we have had some good successes. On top of that, we were able to pass the partial-birth abortion ban act-talk about protecting children, this is protecting the most innocent children among the American family, and we are able to stop that brutality. So we have a lot to go back home to talk about and to report back to our owners that we've delivered for the American family this time around, and it's something we should be very, very proud of.
One area that we should not be very proud of is helping those who are less fortunate among us. We had a bill that had bipartisan support that passed here with an overwhelming vote, and we have not been able to get the bill to conference, and this is a very, very sad situation, and that has to do with the care act, and there we are trying to talk about those who are most at need in our society, to get more resources to them. And so we called this an unnecessary roughness call, because it really is a penalty flag thrown on blocking those who are not here to speak for themselves, to get the resources they need to organizations to help them, and these people who are suffering in our society's time of need.
The other area that again we let down the American family is in the area of D.C. vouchers. This is giving an opportunity to poor children here in the District to have an opportunity to go to a school where they can get an education. They can rise the ladder of success. And as much as we tried and tried, we were off to false start after false start in not getting that bill to the floor for a final vote up or down. We hope now with the omnibus, which is being blocked by the Democrats, in part because of this provision, until at least January, that we can have an up-or-down vote here on the floor of the United States Senate to get this bill finally passed and give the opportunities to the kids here in the District that they deserve.
I'd be happy to take questions.
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Q Senator Frist, on the Medicare, can you explain the reasoning for prohibiting the government from negotiating volume discounts for people on Medicaid?
SEN. FRIST: Yes. We are adamantly opposed to having the federal government set prices, fixed prices, for the American people. It has been destructive in every country that has tried it. It discourages innovation and research. If you have Alzheimer's today or Parkinson's Disease, if we have any chance of figuring out how to reverse it, how to stabilize it. We need more research and development. Any sort of price fixing does that.
What we do believe in is the private sector and competition, and allow both purchasing, which does not occur today. And in this bill one of the most exciting things I have is that you allow individual plans to bulk purchase for thousands and potentially millions of people, competing one against the other, and that ends up controlling prices over time, but captures the dynamism and the efficiencies of the marketplace. You capture bulk purchasing, but at the same time you drive down the prices of the very same drugs in a way that's a benefit to people like Dorothea Yancey (ph), who was at this microphone a few days ago. Dorothea was on Medicaid and Medicare. She worked for a retail outlet part-time, because her either son or daughter was sick. She had to I think leave that. And when she left that she could no longer afford $190 for one drug every month. Now all of a sudden Dorothea, because of the sort of competition, benefits, the $400 billion we've put into this program, is going to have access to drugs.
SEN. SANTORUM: Let me follow up on that briefly. I just want to remind everybody that this provision, this noninterference position, was first introduced by the Democrats in 2000 in Senator Daschle Medicare bill. It's their language. It was reintroduced by Pete Stark over in the House.
It's his language. In addition, it was in the tripartisan bill. It was also in the Snow-Wyden bill. And it was in the bill that passed the United States Senate that got 76 votes. So I just-the senator form Iowa, Senator Harkin, was on the floor when I brought that to his attention, a nd he meekly responded, Well, I was against it in all those bills too. Well, you never heard that until all of a sudden it's now in the final bill, and all of a sudden this is a major issue. It was not a major issue in any of the other bills, including the bill that passed the Senate with an overwhelming majority. You are either going to have a command-and-control economy, where the government is going to set prices and fix costs, or you are going to have competition to let both the medical system develop, and as the leader said very articulately, the pharmaceutical industry to develop new drugs to cure things. And you can't have both, and other countries have proven that to be the case.
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Q Senator, how do you-why is that Democrat obstruction when a few out of your own caucus --
SEN. FRIST: That's two out of three Democrats. There were six Republicans-two out of every three Democrats. And I think the point was made that if the Democratic leadership said this bill was important that we could have gotten this bill through. But overwhelming Democratic obstruction. Do you want to say something?
SEN. SANTORUM: Well, I would say-yeah, you've got to remember that one of the biggest provisions in this bill was written for the Midwest, and you had more than enough Midwest senators on the Democratic side of the aisle who did not vote for this bill. Those of us in the Northeast, this was very much a mixed bag on an energy bill. There's not a lot written to help those of us in the Northeastern part of this country. This was written to pass the United States Senate with Democratic votes from the Midwest, and they didn't deliver those votes because what George Allen said: The quarterback went in the huddle and didn't call a play.