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Public Statements

Health Care Reform

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. ALEXANDER. I wonder, before the Republican leader leaves, if I could ask him a quick question? I ask unanimous consent that Senators Barrasso, McCain, and Bennett, and the Republican leader, be permitted to engage in a colloquy during our 30 minutes and that I be notified when we have about 4 minutes left.

The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. Without objection, it is so ordered.

Mr. ALEXANDER. I ask the Senator from Kentucky, the Republican leader, is it not true that the Finance Committee Democrats voted down a Republican proposal to put the health care reform bill on the Internet for 72 hours so Americans could read it?

Mr. McCONNELL. I would say to my friend from Tennessee that is absolutely correct.

Mr. ALEXANDER. I believe the Republican leader said the bill might be 2,000 pages long?

Mr. McCONNELL. Certainly, well above 1,000 and probably 2,000.

Mr. ALEXANDER. If I am not mistaken, there are several versions of the bill in the House of Representatives that will come over here. Then there is a version that we did in the Health Committee here that will have to be integrated with that bill; is that not correct?

Mr. McCONNELL. It is my understanding it is the intention of the majority leader and the administration to merge the bill that came out of the Health Committee on which the Senator from Tennessee serves and the bill that is in the Finance Committee now.

Mr. ALEXANDER. It is my understanding in the Finance Committee they are not even writing a bill yet; they are just working on concepts?

Mr. McCONNELL. Apparently, the Finance Committee will actually go to a final vote on a concept paper, not an actual bill--which I think will inevitably produce a dilemma for the Congressional Budget Office in trying to assess the cost of a concept bill. Then, apparently, they will turn that into a bill, and then the Congressional Budget Office will have to score, once again, the final bill, and the number there may be different from the number of the concept paper.

Mr. ALEXANDER. How long do you suppose it would take, once the two bills are put together, for the Congressional Budget Office to tell us how much it costs?

Mr. McCONNELL. I would think for an accurate score we would have to ask them. What a challenge that will be. But I assume it will take a while.

Mr. ALEXANDER. Well, I thank the Republican leader. In our discussion today, I see the Senator from Wyoming is here, it is almost embarrassing to say that--I mean, to people outside Washington, and maybe even to people inside Washington, the idea that we would not take 72 hours to read a 2,000-page bill that spends $1 trillion or $1.5 trillion that affects virtually every American and that may have a lot of unresolved questions in it.

It is hard to imagine people would not think that was common sense, that we ought to read it before we vote on it.

Mr. McCONNELL. I think we can add, the American people, I think correctly, could only assume there is some effort to try to hide the true impact of this rush effort to reorganize one-sixth of our economy, a $1 trillion bill, well over 1,000 pages that nobody has taken the time to read. It is not even produced in final bill language.

The American people begin to get the drift that this is a process that is going to, I think, enrage them. It enrages them already. I think the rage about it is only going to escalate in the coming weeks.

Mr. ALEXANDER. I thank the Republican leader for his time. I would think every civics class in America, if the teacher would give a test, would say: Should an elected representative read a bill before he or she voted on it? Yes.

Should he or she know how much it costs? Yes.


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