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National Defense Authorization Act For Fiscal Year 2010

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, as Republicans and Democrats debate the best way to reform health care, Americans are increasingly concerned about the price tag and about who gets stuck with the bill. The Federal deficit suddenly stands at more than $1 trillion for the first time in history, and so far this year we are spending about $500 million a day in interest alone on the national debt. It is as if every single American gets up in the morning, walks over to the window, and tosses $2 out into the wind every day for the next 10 years. It is not a bad analogy, but that is what we are doing. And now the advocates of a government takeover of health care are talking about spending trillions more.

So Americans are worried about cost--and they have good reason to be.

Not only are we in a tough situation fiscally, we have no idea how much this reform will really cost. We know from experience with government-run programs like Medicare and Medicaid that early estimates often grossly underestimate what they end up costing. We know that some of the estimates we are hearing about health care reform are misleading. And we also know that the administration is building up a substantial track record of its own of dubious predictions that it has used to sell its ideas to the public.

We saw it with the stimulus. In selling one of the most expensive pieces of legislation in history, the administration said it had to be passed right away, with almost no scrutiny. If we did not pass it right away, they said, the economy would collapse.

Here is what the President said about the importance of passing the stimulus bill as quickly as possible: ``If we don't act immediately, then millions more jobs will disappear, the national unemployment rates will approach double digits, more people will lose their homes and their health care, and our nation will sink into a crisis that at some point is going to be that much tougher to reverse.''

As it turns out, the administration overpromised.

They predicted the stimulus would keep the unemployment rate from approaching double digits. We passed the stimulus, and unemployment is now approaching double digits. It was supposed to keep millions of jobs from disappearing. We passed it, and since then we have lost more than 2 million jobs. It was supposed to save or create between 3 and 4 million jobs. We passed it, and now the administration is backpedaling on that prediction too. Now it says it is ``very hard to say'' how many jobs have been saved or created. The stimulus was supposed to have an immediate impact. We passed it, and it has not. Despite all the predictions about its effect on the economy, the administration now says it expects unemployment to continue to rise in the months ahead.

Now, in an attempt to pass an even costlier and far-reaching government action, a government takeover of health care, the administration is making similarly aggressive claims about the dangers of not approving its plan.

The administration says that if we do not pass its health care proposal then the economy will get even worse. It says that if we do not approve its health care proposal then the quality of everyone's health care will be jeopardized. It says that if we do not pass this trillion dollar bill now, then we will miss out on a chance to save money on health care down the road.

I do not know if these claims are accurate, and I do not believe the administration is making these claims in bad faith. But I do know that Americans got burned on the stimulus, and I know that some in the administration have said that a crisis is a terrible thing to waste. So at the very least, Americans have a right to be skeptical about the administration's latest effort to rush through a major piece of legislation without allowing us to evaluate it. It is a worthwhile question: Why does the administration say we have to send them a bill that would essentially nationalize one-sixth of the U.S. economy when many parts of the legislation itself would not even go into effect for another 4 years?

Americans are right to be skeptical when administration officials say we cannot fix the economy without fixing health care, or that the Democrat plan for health care will not cause people to lose their current insurance when the CBO says it will, or that a government-run takeover of health care will not add to the ballooning national debt. After the stimulus, Americans have a right to be skeptical about all these claims, especially when they are told these reforms have to happen quickly, and especially when our experience with Medicare and Medicaid and government health care at the State level shows us that initial estimates and predictions can be way off the mark.

Senator Collins, for example, has discussed the problems they have had in Maine as a result of its attempt to create a government-run health plan, of what a disappointment that has been. Six years ago, Maine instituted Dirigo Health as a government option after advocates made the same promises about what it would do to bring down costs and increase access that the advocates of a nationwide government health plan are making right now in Washington.

Yet 6 years later, the Dirigo experiment has turned out to be a colossal, and extremely costly, failure. Despite initial promises, it has not covered most of the uninsured. And yet it has led to higher taxes on thousands of Maine residents who were already struggling to pay for private coverage. In short: Dirigo turned out to cause the same problems in Maine that some of us are predicting for all Americans if Congress rushes to approve a national government plan.

Americans want us to take the time necessary to make health care less expensive and more accessible, while preserving what they like about our system. Americans want health care reform, but they do not want to give a green light to a reform that only ends up costing them more for worse care than they currently have. The fact that Americans are increasingly concerned about how much health care reform is going to cost should not be a reason to rush. It should be a reason for us to take the time to get it right.


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