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Public Statements

Health Care Week VI, Day IV

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, for the past several weeks I have come down to the Senate floor just about every day we have been in session, and I have brought a simple message: Americans want health care reform, and both parties want to deliver that reform. What Americans do not want is a government takeover masked as a reform that leaves them paying more for less. And they don't want us to rush something as important and as personal as health care reform just to have something to brag about at a parade or a press conference.

So it was perplexing to hear the President say yesterday that the ``status quo ..... is not an option.'' I cannot think of a single person in Washington who disagrees with that statement. No one is defending the status quo, no one. What we are defending is the right of the American people to know what they are getting into: the exact details and the cost.

That leads me to another distressing aspect of the administration's approach to this debate, the artificial timeline for reform. The President has said he wants to see a health care reform bill out of the Senate in 3 weeks and on his desk in October. His rationale seems to be the same as it was during the debate over the stimulus. The economy's in bad shape, so health care reform has to happen right away.

Certainly the two are connected. But the problem is that many of the Democrat proposals we have seen would not make the situation better, they would make it even worse. And due to our current financial situation, we need to be even more careful about how we spend our money, not less. We saw the consequences of carelessness on the stimulus bill. We rushed that, and Americans got burned. We must not make that mistake again.

But we can start with a point of real agreement: Americans want reform, but they want us to be careful.

An artificial deadline virtually guarantees a defective product--virtually guarantees a defective product. Look no further than the drafts coming out of the House and Senate this very week. Both of them are shot through with weaknesses and deficiencies typical of a rush job. First, they cost way too much. According to early estimates, the House bill would cost more than $1 trillion over the next 10 years and yet--listen to this--it still wouldn't cover all the uninsured; $1 trillion and it wouldn't cover all the uninsured. It includes a new tax on small business that could keep companies from hiring low-wage employees. It creates a new nationwide government-run health plan that could force millions off their current insurance. One of the worst parts is that advocates of the House bill want small businesses and seniors to pay for it; small businesses and seniors they want to pay for it. Businesses would pay through new taxes, seniors through cuts to Medicare, cuts that hospitals in my home State simply cannot sustain.

I have talked to the hospitals in Kentucky that are worried about the impact these Medicare cuts would have on the services Kentucky hospitals currently provide to seniors. I encourage all of my colleagues to talk to the people who care for patients day in and day out at hospitals in their own States and see what they have to say about this proposal. It may be a lot different than what some of the interest groups here in Washington are saying.

Small businesses are worried too. At a time when the unemployment rate is already approaching 10 percent, the new tax on small business will inevitably lead to even more job losses. Business groups across the country that have seen the details of the House bill are warning that it would certainly kill jobs. Under the House bill, taxes on some small businesses could rise as high as roughly 45 percent. Let me say that again: Taxes on small business up to 45 percent, meaning their tax rate would be about 30 percent higher than the rate for big corporations. So small businesses, which have created approximately two out of three new jobs over the past decade, get a bigger tax increase than big corporations. It is worth asking why small businesses, which created about two-thirds of the new jobs in this country over the last 10 years, get hit so hard under the House bill. Is it because they can't fight back as hard as big businesses? Either way, the House bill would lead to some small businesses paying higher taxes than big businesses, even though the U.S. corporate rate for all of our corporations is already one of the highest in the world.

The Senate bill is as bad. As currently written, the HELP Committee bill would increase the Federal deficit by at least $645 billion, at least that
much. If we add all the Medicaid changes the HELP Committee anticipates, it increases the Federal deficit by more than $1 trillion at a time when we are already spending about $500 million a day on interest on the national debt so far this year--$500 million a day in interest on the national debt so far this year. It too would kill jobs by requiring businesses to either insure all of their employees or pay a tax if they do not. It would levy a tax on those Americans who don't have or cannot afford health insurance. It also fails to reform malpractice laws. It spends billions of dollars on projects unrelated to the crisis at hand. It forces millions of Americans off of their current plans--forces millions of Americans off of their current plans--despite repeated assurances from the administration that it does not. And like the House bill, it creates a nationwide government plan that could lead to the same kind of denial, delay, and rationing of care that we see in other countries.

Health care reform is vital but it is not easy. If the House bill and the HELP bill are any indication, it is certainly not something that should be rushed. Both bills are too expensive, particularly for small businesses and seniors. They are too disruptive of the health care Americans currently have, and they are ineffective in addressing the health care problem in its entirety.

Americans have a right to expect that we will take enough time on this legislation not to make the same mistake we made on the stimulus. The House and Senate bills we have seen this week show we are not there yet, not even close. We need to slow down and let the American people see what they are getting into with these so-called reforms. We all want reform, but we want the right reform.

I suggest the absence of a quorum.

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