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Public Statements

Health Care Reform

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

HEALTH CARE REFORM -- (Senate - November 19, 2009)


Mr. BROWNBACK. Mr. President, I am glad to follow my colleague from Utah. I have great admiration and affection for him. He has done a lot of good, bipartisan legislation. I hope my colleagues will heed his word. He is good to his word, and he would be willing to do a bipartisan bill.

On top of that, if the Democratic leadership would back up and do a bipartisan bill, the American people would cheer. They would think this was extraordinary, and we could get something substantive done and not this monster.

I am ranking member of the Joint Economic Committee, and we had Secretary Geithner in to testify today. I disagree with a number of things he has done. He is a bright and energetic man with a lot of experience. I noted to him--and he knows this is the case--that we are $12 trillion in the hole. We are hemorrhaging money at the Federal level. Why on Earth we would do the fiscally insane thing of adding a multitrillion dollar entitlement program, when we are $12 trillion in the hole and hemorrhaging Federal money, and you have the President just back from seeing the bankers in China, who have nearly a trillion dollars of our debt? As a Senator and as an American, I don't like that we are dependent upon the Chinese for that much money. I don't think the American people like that. Why on Earth would we do this? He said that people are mad out there. We talked ahead of time, and he said that people are upset across the country. I said, yes, they are, and it is because of this. They are mad and they are scared. Neither of those is a situation where you ought to try to force something through on people who are mad and scared about it. They are mad about things being rammed through, and they are scared about the level of debt and deficit, and they are adding this scale of entitlement on top of an already broken fiscal situation.

The rest of the world is yelling at the United States to get your fiscal house in order, and we are going to add a multitrillion dollar entitlement program, when we all know we ought to get our fiscal house in order. Then the way it is paid for is to raise taxes $ 1/2 trillion in a weak economy. That is going to hurt the economic expansion and job creation we need. Then you are supposedly going to save $400 billion out of Medicare, which I noted to him. That song has been tried in the past. We had these fixes that we were going to reduce payments to providers, to the physician community. For 4 years now in a row we have changed and said we were going to do this provider cut--a minor provider cut--and then Congress said that is too much, we are not going to do that. We will fill that back up. For three or four of those, I have voted for that.

Then there is the idea that we are going to cut $400 billion out of Medicare, which is already on a fiscally irresponsible track and going broke. We are going to take $400 billion out of that. That is not going to happen. If it did happen, it would wreck Medicare. This is a bad idea at a bad time. We should not do this. We should not do it this way.

I want to focus more of my comments on a narrower piece of this, which has gotten a lot of focus in the House and should get focus in the Senate. It is the radical expansion of Federal funding of abortions that is in this bill. Let's put it on its bottom line. They should put the Stupak language in the Senate bill, and instead the Capps language is in the bill. The Capps language will expand Federal financing of abortion--Federal taxpayer funding of abortion. The Stupak language is something we have supported here for 30 years. It is the Hyde language--the language that 64 Democrats voted for in the House. Instead, in this bill you have Federal taxpayer funding of abortions, something we have not done for 30 years. They are going to build it into this bill. The President has said that he wants--he has said multiple times it is one of his goals to lower the incidence of abortion. This bill, if we pass it, will provide, for the first time in 30 years, taxpayer funding of abortion and will expand abortions--counter to what the President has said multiple times.

Nobody who is pro-life should vote for this bill. This is a radical expansion of abortion funding. It is a radical expansion of abortion. I was and remain very disappointed that the Senate leadership and my Democratic colleagues have attempted to insert radical abortion policy through the Democratic health care bill. Abortion is not health care. Any Senator who votes on the motion to proceed to this health care bill is voting in favor of abortion and the expansion of abortion and against life.

This is the biggest pro-life vote in the Senate in years. This will have more impact on abortions in the United States--an expansion of it--than anything we have seen in years. We have been on a downward trajectory on abortion because both sides have agreed; Democrats have said abortions should be safe, legal, and rare. Former President Clinton and others have said this will make taxpayer funding of abortion--this will expand it. And there is nothing rare about it.

Relevant abortion language in the health care bill to which I am referring could be found on pages 116 to 124. The National Right to Life Committee described the language and said it is completely unacceptable. The Democratic health care bill would explicitly authorize abortion to be covered under the government option, and there must be abortion coverage in every insurance market in the country. The abortion language included in the bill is a radical departure from over 30 years of bipartisan Federal policy prohibiting Federal taxpayer dollars from paying for elective abortions. The language in the bill explicitly authorizes the Secretary of Health and Human Services to include abortion in the public option and permits government subsidies in plans that pay for abortion. We have had a long dispute in Congress and in this body about abortion. We have not had a dispute to near that degree--some, but not near the level of dispute on the taxpayer funding of abortion, because most people are opposed to that--most people in America. They may say, OK, I am all right with abortion, but I don't support Federal taxpayer funding of it. That has been a broad, bipartisan support here for some time. It is explicitly in this bill. It is the Capps language. It is commonly referred to as that. It is in the Senate bill and contains a clever accounting gimmick that proponents say separates private and public funds for abortion coverage.

However, it has been proven that the Capps measure would include both abortion coverage and funding in the government-run public option, as well as for those plans in the insurance exchange.

The only acceptable abortion language is the Stupak-Pitts amendment that passed the House this fall with a quarter of the Democrat caucus voting for it--64 Democrats voted for the Stupak-Pitts compromise language. Representative Bart Stupak, the Democratic author, tailored the true compromise amendment on abortion with the principles set forth in the Hyde amendment, which has been the longstanding position of the Congress.

The Hyde amendment simply says we will not use Federal funds for abortion, which is what a vast majority of Americans support. The Hyde amendment has always enjoyed bipartisan support since its inception in 1977, over three decades ago.

What we should have in the health bill is language that applies the Hyde amendment as it already applies to all other federally funded health care programs, including SCHIP, Medicare, Medicaid, Indian health services, veterans health, military health care programs, and the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. That is what should be in this.

Representative Stupak explained the issue very clearly in an op-ed. He wrote yesterday:

The Capps amendment [which is the basis of the Senate language] departed from Hyde in several important and troubling ways: by mandating that at least one plan in the health insurance exchange provide abortion coverage, by requiring a minimum $1 monthly charge for all covered individuals that would go toward paying for abortions and by allowing individuals receiving federal affordability credits to purchase health insurance plans that cover abortion ..... Hyde currently prohibits direct federal funding of abortion ..... The Stupak amendment is a continuation of this policy--nothing more, nothing less.

I commend Representative Stupak for his hard work and ability to reach across the aisle to engage his Democratic and Republican colleagues on this issue. A quarter of the Democrats found the Stupak-Pitts compromise worthy of support. But a majority of the American people support keeping the Hyde principles in the Senate health care bill.

I hope we can convince our colleagues in the Senate to follow Mr. Stupak's lead and do the right thing and vote against the motion to proceed. Voting for the motion to proceed is to endorse the Capps language, which is an expansion of Federal taxpayer funding of abortion.

The American people agree with the Stupak compromise, not the phony language in the Senate bill that would federally fund abortions.

The American people agree it is wrong to smuggle radical abortion policy into this health care bill. The American people agree we should not allow funds to flow from a U.S. Treasury account to reimburse for abortion services.

A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll showed that more than 6 in 10 Americans favor the Stupak-Pitts prohibition on the use of Federal funds for abortion. A recent study conducted by International Communications Research found that more than two-thirds of Americans are opposed to using Federal dollars to fund abortion. The American people feel this way because they know that forcing taxpayers to fund abortions is fiscally irresponsible and morally indefensible.

Beyond the funding issue, the Senate bill also does not include the codification of the Hyde-Weldon conscience provision. Instead, it replaces real conscience protections with language that violates the human dignity and religious freedom of organizations and religious institutions that have moral objections to participating in abortion.

A provision on page 123 reads:

No individual health care provider or health care facility may be discriminated against because of a willingness or unwillingness, if doing so is contrary to the religious or moral beliefs of the provider or facility, to provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortion.

One other objection for the pro-life community is that there is nothing in the bill that would prevent school-based health clinics from referring for abortion or helping minors make arrangements for abortions without parental knowledge.

The administrators running the Medicaid Program from 1973 to 1976 funded as many as 300,000 abortions per year, until the Hyde amendment was enacted in 1976. In the past, in that period from 1973 to 1977, when there was Federal funding of abortions, the Federal government--the taxpayers--funded as many as 300,000 abortions per year with taxpayer dollars. That was until the Hyde amendment was enacted in 1976, because the American people despise doing this. They disagree with that. Whether they are pro-choice or pro-life, they don't want taxpayer dollars to go for this. If they are pro-life, they are saying those are my taxpayer dollars and I am funding this, which I so disagree with doing. This is a beautiful, dignified human life, and my dollars are being used to kill it.

When the Commonwealth of Massachusetts recently passed its State-mandated insurance, Commonwealth Care, without an explicit exclusion of abortion, abortions there were also funded immediately. In fact, according to the Commonwealth Care Web site, abortion is considered covered ``outpatient medical care.'' The Federal Government should not go down this road.

As stated earlier, the President has stated on multiple occasions that it is his goal to lower the incidence of abortion. If that is what he wants to do, if we want to do more than pay lipservice to that reality, we should consider the fact that when Federal funding is not available, fewer abortions occur, or when Federal funding is available, as we have seen in the past, many thousands more occur.

Only the Stupak amendment would lower the incidence of abortion. The current language of the Senate bill would accomplish the opposite and increase abortions. If you are a pro-life Senator, you cannot vote for this bill. This is an expansion. You cannot vote for the procedural vote to go to the bill for the expansion that this will do.

In summary, I will make it clear that the Stupak language is what we need to fix the shell game that would allow public funds to pay for the destruction of innocent human life in the Senate health bill. Unfortunately, language currently within the health bill is a nonstarter and is wrong. It doesn't apply to the longstanding principles of the Hyde amendment. Let's maintain the status quo and not get into the business of publicly funding abortions in America.

I urge my colleagues to think seriously about the precedent being lined out in the health bill if the Senate decides it is going to force the American public to pay for abortions, whether they agree or not.

I urge my colleagues to vote against the motion to proceed to this health care bill. This is not just a procedural vote. It is an enormously important vote because it is the one opportunity for the Senate to stand for life and against taxpayer funding of abortions. Voting in favor of this motion to proceed is a vote against life.

I remind my colleagues, this is the biggest vote on abortion in the Senate in years. Let's not change our current Federal policy to force the American public to pay for government-subsidized abortions, please.

I yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum.


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