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New Direction for Energy Independence, National Security, and Consumer Protection Act and the Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation Tax Act of 2007--Motion to Proceed

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC




Mr. VITTER. Mr. President, I rise today to help initiate an important discussion, an important discussion about health care, the enormous need for fundamental health care reform, and an important debate about what principles we should follow, what model we should use in furthering this vital and necessary health care reform. This is a class project, if you will, and I am joined by many Members of my Republican class here in the Senate, specifically Senators BURR, COBURN, DEMINT, MARTINEZ, THUNE, CORKER, and ISAKSON. All of us will be coming to the Senate floor and coming to other forums over the next 8 weeks to talk about this vitally important issue.

I think on some points there is near unanimous agreement among Americans, points like our health care delivery system and finance system truly are broken. Health care is not available or affordable to far too many Americans. The uninsured problem in this country is extremely worrisome, and just as worrisome, quite frankly, are the challenges some insured folks face in terms of keeping their insurance in the face of dramatically rising costs.

On these points, as I say, I think there is near unanimous agreement, and that leads us to a conclusion that virtually every American has reached: We need to act. This is a very real concern of every American family, and those of us in Congress need to come together in a spirit of bipartisanship, with open minds, and act on this crucial issue. As we do so, though, I think it is very important to lay out our choices in models--what the alternatives are. As I said, that is what I am doing with my fellow Republican classmates, laying out a particular vision of what that reform can look like, what it should look like, and what principles it should embody.

Again, I recognize and thank Senators BURR, COBURN, DEMINT, MARTINEZ, THUNE, CORKER, and ISAKSON for joining me in this effort. They will join me tomorrow at the Heritage Foundation to do a similar kickoff, to talk about this important debate, to talk about the principles we should follow and the choices we face. As I said, we will lay out, over the next 8 weeks, what we think that vision for a sounder, healthier future should be.

We are going to start that discussion by talking about guiding principles. Before you get to the specifics, before you get to proposals, before you get to bills, you need to have a sense of what you think the guiding principles for reform and positive change should be. Let me just start the discussion off by suggesting some of those core guiding principles that I share with my Republican classmates who are coming together on this issue. We believe a number of significant things.

First, we believe individuals and families should be in control. Individuals and families should own and control their own health insurance, rather than have the Government mandate something. That is perhaps the first and most basic and fundamental guiding principle.

In concert with that, we believe individuals are capable of and better at choosing their own health insurance plan than Government bureaucrats or insurance bureaucrats. That goes hand in hand with empowering the individual and empowering families.

We believe the current cost of health care regulation makes access to health care unnecessarily expensive for everyone and lowers quality. Everyone acknowledges the current high cost of health care. We believe a huge part of that is the cost of health care regulation. We believe existing Government programs can be improved and modernized and made more efficient, and that should happen. But we also believe part of that should not be dramatically expanding those programs to cover far more classes of individuals and more income levels than were originally proposed.

We believe encouraging competition in the marketplace is the key to lowering health care costs. That, again, goes hand in hand with empowering individuals and empowering families--giving them choice, not dramatically expanding the Government sector.

We believe and recognize that seniors have increasingly turned to Medicare Advantage Plans because in so many cases they offer a better value and a higher quality of care for traditional fee-for-service Medicare, so we strongly support that option--not making it mandatory but that option in terms of the future of Medicare.

Finally, we believe taxes should be as low as possible and the Tax Code should be changed to actually give more power to individuals, give more power to families in choosing and buying and owning their own health care.

That is a fundamental principle on which we outline our vision. As I said, once you acknowledge the enormity of the issue, the need for fundamental change which almost all of us do, once you lay out guiding principles, fundamental core principles which should help chart our future, then you can more fully get to the choices there are in the debate that we need to have in the Congress--in the Senate and the House--and much more broadly in the country.

Over these next 8 weeks we are going to be highlighting those choices and those differences. I think this is very important to do, particularly in a major election year, because as we lead up to the fall elections, these choices, in fact, are going to be a big part of our choices for candidates for President, for candidates for the House and for the Senate.

So over these next 8 weeks my colleagues and I will be talking about not only our guiding principles, what vision that sets out, but also the fundamental choices from which we have to choose those guiding principles, that vision, and that model, or to choose a very different Government-dominated model.

So we will be talking about some of those choices: No. 1, running health care by the Federal Government or empowering individuals through private-owned insurance, the fundamental choice that is at the center of this debate; No. 2, forcing certain types of enrollment in large national or Government programs versus expanding opportunities for individual choice; No. 3, mandating requirements which are often expensive mandates that add to the cost of health care through health care regulation versus creating more choices and alternatives and flexibility which can both empower the individuals and lower cost; No. 4, how we deal with seniors, whether we take away their choices in Medicare Advantage and in drug plans or we keep and even expand their choices in these and other areas; finally, No. 5, raising taxes to support a Government-dominated model versus tax fairness, lowering taxes or creating tax deductions or credits which empower individuals to choose and buy and own good coverage.

Again, that is a quick preview of the next 8 weeks of our discussion and of some of the clear and quite stark, in some cases, choices we face as we have this debate.

In closing, let me say I think this is exactly the sort of discussion and debate we should have in the Senate. We should be responding to the American people's appropriate concern with the crisis we face in American health care. We do have a broken system in terms of getting health care to all Americans. Far too many Americans are uninsured. Far too many other Americans face real worries about being able to afford health care in the future.

We do not have the accessibility and the affordability we need. So we need to respond. Again, I think it is appropriate we start with guiding principles, what should be the fundamental guiding principles we use as we come up with specific proposals, specific plans, specific legislation. Then that, in turn, leads to a necessary and healthy discussion of what the real alternatives are, whether we want a system where we empower the individual and the family to choose and buy and own good coverage or whether we want a system where the role of the Government increases even further, and by definition it narrows individual and family choice.

I look forward to this debate as we lay out our ideas. This group of Senators, we are going to expand on these ideas somewhat tomorrow at the Heritage Foundation. We will be back on the Senate floor over the next 8 weeks talking about these guiding principles and these choices. We will be in many other venues in our States, in the Nation's Capital, all around the country, to promote this extremely important debate as we acknowledge we must fundamentally, dramatically reform our health care system to give all Americans accessible, affordable, high-quality health care.

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