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Public Statements

Health Care Reform

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. SPECTER. Mr. President, I have sought recognition to comment about the status of efforts to legislate comprehensive health care reform.

Recently there was a comment by a Senator opponent of President Obama, who disclosed what has been known for some time as to the tactics of President Obama's opponents. The Senator who opposes President Obama said this:

If we are able to stop Obama on this, it will be his Waterloo. It will break him.

This is essentially the same tactic that was used by President Obama's opponents on the stimulus package. I am not betraying any confidence about matters that were on the public record, but immediately after the inauguration, within 2 weeks, when the Senate took up the stimulus package, it was apparent that President Obama's opponents in the Senate were simply going to say no and obstruct the matter. It is a matter of public record that only three then-Republican Senators would even talk to the Democrats about the stimulus package--Senator Collins, Senator Snowe, and myself. Now it is apparent, with what the Senator opponent of President Obama has said what the plan is.

Now that we know we will not vote on comprehensive health care reform until September, there is time for a little bipartisanship--perhaps even a little statesmanship--to come together on this issue. We have been sent by our constituents to Washington to solve problems, not to obstruct potential solutions. There are many items where we can all agree. There are many potential savings available, which I outlined a few weeks ago in an extensive floor statement. For example, on advanced directives, estimates are that as much as 27 percent could be saved on Medicare. So much money is spent in the last few hours, few days, few weeks of a person's life. We know from the statistics that funding from the National Institutes of Health can prevent illness and can cut down tremendously on the cost.

We also know that by changing the prosecution on Medicare and Medicaid fraud and imposing jail sentences, there would be a deterrent to that tremendous amount of fraud and abuse. A fine is simply a license.

We know also that substantial savings are possible by covering those 47 million Americans so that we have medical care at an earlier stage to avoid chronic illnesses that are so very expensive, so that we could come together on these items where I think there is general agreement.

The Senator opponent of President Obama is referred to in this morning's Washington Post as saying that he is in favor of fixing the system, it has been one of the main causes of his career, and a specific:

We need some real health care reform.

Well, it would be worthwhile to have that Senator opponent of President Obama say whether he believes we ought to cover the 47 million Americans now not covered. I believe there is a consensus that that ought to be done. But if there are differences of opinion, let them be stated, because if we agree that the 47 million Americans have to be covered, then the next question a responsible elected public official would have to ask is: How do we pay for it?

But if someone is going to say ``I am not in favor of covering the 47 million Americans,'' let him or her answer to his constituents. The Senator opponent of President Obama ought to note, as reported in the Post this morning, that there are 700,000 of his State's residents who are uninsured. If he believes we ought not to cover those 47 million Americans, including the 700,000 in his State, let him respond and say so.

It may be that there is a political price to pay if you face up to that. But if you move beyond the question of whether we need to have health care for all Americans, then we need to move forward.

When you talk about the Waterloo of President Obama, it sounds as if we are fighting some foreign power as opposed to the collegiality which is supposed to be present in the Senate, reputedly the world's greatest deliberative body.

I was pleased to see the Senator who is opposing President Obama with his Waterloo statement--I am glad to see a number of his colleagues on that side of the aisle distance themselves. But as yet we have not had a proposal which comes from the Republican side of the aisle, just as we did not have a proposal coming from the Republican side of the aisle on the stimulus package.

It was my view, as I spoke on the floor on February 6, that the problems about sliding into a 1929 Depression were present. We faced that risk. Complaints have been made about the stimulus package that it has not worked, but there have only been 5 months which have elapsed.

Yesterday I was in Pennsylvania at a major interchange, I-81 and Route 39, announcing $12 million for road repairs; earlier, at the Philadelphia International Airport announcing a substantial grant; in western Pennsylvania in Pittsburgh announcing millions of dollars for locks and dams.

It may be that a better proposal could have been crafted on the stimulus package. But there were negotiations.

President Obama was sworn in on January 20. In the week of February 2, within 2 weeks from the inauguration, taking the oath of office, we were already having obstructionism.

It is my hope that while we adjourn for the August recess, there is time to have a bipartisan plan, a plan which will reject partisanship, a plan which might even bring a little statesmanship to this body.

When the three of us on the stimulus issue joined with the Democrats in providing the necessary votes, the indispensable 60 votes to invoke cloture and allow the stimulus package to move forward, the comment was made from the other side of the aisle: Three Senators don't make a bipartisan bill.

So far, only three Republicans are negotiating on comprehensive health care reform. So let's see if we can't have in the intervening weeks between now and September a concerted effort made to move forward to answer some of these basic questions. If someone is opposed to covering the 47 million Americans, let's hear it. If someone is opposed to having a public option, as proposed by Senator Schumer, which maintains a level playing field, let's hear the specifics so that our constituents can judge us, so that the 700,000 people who are not covered by insurance in the home State of the Republican Senator who has spoken out to break the President, to promote the President's Waterloo--we will have a chance to evaluate that kind of an attitude.

I thank the Chair, note the expiration of my time, 10 minutes, and yield the floor.


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