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Public Statements

Health Care Reform

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, over the past months, Americans have grown increasingly alarmed about the high levels of spending and debt we have seen under the new administration. They have become increasingly vocal about these concerns out of a growing sense that the White House does not seem to be listening to them, that it is talking over them.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the debate over health care and never more so than in the President's speech to Congress last week. For weeks and weeks, Americans had expressed their concerns about the Democrats' health care proposals at townhall meetings across the country. Yet the President returned from the August break with a speech that did not address any of them.

Instead, he stated his intention to spend nearly $1 trillion on a plan he says will expand coverage without increasing costs or adding to the deficit. These are precisely the claims Americans are finding so difficult to square with reality. The speech itself was certainly well delivered, but in the end Congress is not going to be asked to vote on a speech. It is going to be asked to vote on specific legislation.

In my view, the President's speech only highlighted the concerns that millions of Americans and Members of both parties in Congress continue to have with the Democratic plans for health care reform because when you strip away the pageantry of the speech itself, what you are left with is simply this: one more trillion-dollar government program and a whole lot of unanswered questions about how we are going to pay for it.

What is it going to mean for seniors and small business owners, and how is it going to affect the quality and availability of care for millions of Americans, the vast majority of whom are happy with the care they have? These are legitimate questions, and it is unfair for anyone to dismiss those who ask them as either cranks or scaremongers. The answers to these questions impact some of the most important aspects of people's lives, and people just aren't getting answers.

Take the issue of cost. The President says he is going to pay for his plan by cutting waste, fraud, and abuse out of the system. That raises a couple of questions. First of all, if there is such waste, fraud, and abuse, then why isn't the administration doing something about it already? Second, if we are seeing this kind of waste, fraud, and abuse in an existing government program, why shouldn't we expect it to exist in the new government program the White House wants to create? Of course, we should root out waste, fraud, and abuse. I don't know anybody who is against that. But let's do it for its own sake, not to justify a very brandnew government program most Americans aren't even asking for.

How about Medicare? The administration plans to pay for much of its health care proposals with hundreds of billions of dollars in cuts to Medicare. A significant portion of this would involve cuts to Medicare Advantage, a program that serves more than 11 million American seniors, nearly 90 percent of whom say they are satisfied with it. But faced with questions about his proposed cuts to Medicare, the administration insists services to seniors won't be cut. Mr. President, this is absurd. How can the administration tell America's seniors with a straight face that it is about to cut $ 1/2 trillion from Medicare but that those cuts won't affect the program in any noticeable way?

What about the hundreds of billions of dollars the administration would have to raise to pay for its plan even after its proposed cuts to Medicare? The White House hasn't said where it plans to get all of that money, but to most people, the answer is pretty obvious: more spending, more taxes, higher deficits--or, most likely, all three.

What about the deficit? The White House says its health care plan won't add a dollar to the deficit. How do they square that with the fact that the Congressional Budget Office has said repeatedly and unequivocally that every proposal they have seen would, in fact, add hundreds of billions of dollars to the deficit?

Any schoolkid in America could tell you that creating a massive new government program will cost a lot of money, that cutting Medicare by hundreds of billions of dollars will lead to cuts in services people currently enjoy, and that higher taxes on small businesses will lead to even more job losses.

These are serious questions. The administration's response to them is not. Their response is to accuse anyone who asks them of being a scaremonger and to give them the same two-word answer they gave everybody who questioned the stimulus: Trust us.

When it comes to health care, Americans are saying these arguments don't add up. These are simple questions. The administration should answer them. If they can't, it is even further validation that the questions are worth asking.

Mr. President, I yield the floor.

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