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Public Statements

Health Care Week VIII, Day II

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, as the debate over health care continues, it is important that we not lose sight of the fact that the American people expect results. No one was ever elected to Congress to push a problem down the road or to point fingers. Americans certainly want reform, and that is exactly what they expect us to deliver. At the same time, Americans have a right to expect that the legislation we pass actually addresses the problems they face and that we do not use the need for reform as an excuse to pass legislation that does not really help or that makes existing problems worse.

This is the nature of the debate we are in: Some in Washington seem to be rushing to push through so-called reforms just for the sake of reform, regardless of whether they actually help the situation, while others are insisting we take the time to get it right.

Fortunately, with each passing day, more and more Americans and now more and more Members of Congress are insisting that we take the responsible path to health care reform--even if it means hitting the reset button and meeting in the middle on reforms that all of us can agree on and that Americans can embrace.

Here are some of the cautionary notes we have heard from Senators just in the last few days.

One top Senator said:

It's better to get a product that's based on quality and thoughtfulness than on trying to just get something through.

Last week, nine freshmen Senators wrote an open letter to the Senate Finance Committee calling for a solution that doesn't bankrupt our health care system. Here is what those nine Senators wrote:

In the face of exploding debt and deficits, however, we are concerned that too little focus has been given to the need for cost containment.

We are hearing the same things over in the House. One Congressman said on Sunday morning that:

The American people want to take a closer look. They want to feel comfortable with it. We have a long way to go.

Another Congressman said he thinks Americans are ``shell-shocked'' after last year's financial bailout, the stimulus, the cap-and-trade bill, and other major bills approved this year.

Another Congressman, referring to health care reform, asked:

Why are we rushing? Why are we rushing? Let's get it right.

America's Governors are also calling on the administration and Congress to slow down and insisting that Congress take the time to produce the right reform.

One Governor recently was quoted as saying he:

Personally was very concerned about the cost issue, particularly the $1 trillion figure being batted around.

Here is another one commenting on proposals to shift Medicaid costs on to already cash-strapped States. She said:

As a governor, my concern is that if we try to cost-shift to the States, we are not going to be in a position to pick up the tab.

Another Governor had the same concerns about Medicaid. Here is what he was quoted as saying in the New York Times last week:

Medicaid is a poor vehicle for expanding coverage ..... It's a 45-year-old system originally designed for poor women and their children. It is not health care reform to dump more money into Medicaid.

All these people have something in common: They all want reform. They have concerns about the proposals we have seen so far, and they have something else in common too. Every one of the lawmakers I have quoted is a Democrat--every one of them.

Some are trying to portray this debate as a debate between Republicans and Democrats. This is a distortion of the facts and is a disservice to the millions of Americans who want us to get this reform right. As I and others have said, the only thing that is bipartisan about the reforms we have seen so far is the opposition. The reason is clear: It costs too much; they don't address the long-term challenges in our health care system; they don't reduce long-term costs; they would add hundreds of billions to the national debt; and there is no way the American people will embrace them because all of them fall well outside the boundaries of the middle path Americans are asking us to take.

This is why so many within the President's own party are now standing and telling the administration to slow down and to reassess. This is why even traditionally Democratic groups, such as the AFL-CIO, are having second thoughts. Just last week, the AFL-CIO criticized a plan to tax so-called gold-plated insurance plans because of the impact it could have on workers. Why? Because they know that when politicians talk about raising tax on business, it is average Americans who end up shouldering most of the burden.

Americans don't want to lose the quality of care our current system provides, and they certainly don't want to pay trillions of dollars for a government takeover of health care that could lead to the same denial, delays, and rationing of treatment we have seen in other countries. They have heard the same stories we have--of someone with cancer being denied a drug because it costs too much or the woman who came here from Canada to deliver her babies because there wasn't any room in the neonatal intensive care units back home or they visited places such as the M.D. Anderson Center in Houston, TX, as I have, and saw how dozens of patients from other countries go there for treatments.

We don't know the exact circumstances that brought these people here, but we do know this: that they decided to come to the United States, in some cases traveling thousands of miles to do so, to get the kind of care that only America could provide.

Some people, for some reason, seem afraid to admit it, but the fact is, American health care is the envy--the envy--of many people around the world, and Americans don't want to lose it. That is why Americans are telling us we can reform health care without bankrupting the country or destroying what is so unique and special about our current system. That is why a growing number of politicians in Washington are hearing the people's concerns and speaking out. That is why many of them are now urging the administration to take a different path.

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