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Mr. McCONNELL. Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that Senator McCain and I be permitted to engage in a discussion regarding the health care matter.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
Mr. McCONNELL. Madam President, last Friday, we heard from two entities. We heard from the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services, indicating health care costs in this country would actually go up under the Reid bill. We also heard from CNN. We heard from CMS and from CNN. We heard from CNN about how the American people feel about this measure. At a time when all the polls indicate the American people do not favor this bill, do not want us to pass it, and when the government's Actuary indicates the bill will actually not cut health care costs, which we thought was what this debate was all about in the first place, we are being confronted with a procedure that is quite unusual: an effort to restructure one-sixth of the economy through a massive bill that it appears almost no one has seen.
At what point, I would ask my friend and colleague from Arizona, could we expect that the American people would have an opportunity to see this measure that has been off in the conference room here and being turned into sausage in an effort to get 60 votes?
Mr. McCAIN. I would say to my friend, the Republican leader, that I have seen a lot of processes around here and a lot of negotiations and a lot of discussions, but I must admit I have not seen one quite like this one, nor do I believe my leader has.
I was on the floor in a colloquy with the assistant Democratic leader a couple days ago, and I said: What is in the bill? He said: None of us know. Talk about being kept in the dark.
I would say to my friend from Kentucky, we have to put this into the context of what the President of the United States said in his campaign because the whole campaign, as I well know better than anyone, was all based on change. On the issue specifically surrounding health care reform, I quote then-Candidate Obama on October 18, 2009:
I am going to have all the negotiations around a big table televised on C-SPAN so that people can see who is making arguments on behalf of their constituents and who is making arguments on behalf of the drug companies or the insurance companies.
He went on to say that a couple more times.
I would ask my friend: Hasn't it been several days that we basically have been gridlocked over one amendment, which is the amendment by the Senator from North Dakota that would allow drug reimportation from Canada and other countries?
So then, guess what the reports are today:
PhRMA renegotiating its deal? Inside Health Policy's Baker, Pecquet, Lotven and Coughlin report: `The pharmaceutical industry is negotiating with the White House and lawmakers on a revised health care deal under which the industry would ante up cuts beyond the $80 billion it agreed to this summer, possibly by agreeing to policies that would further shrink the ..... doughnut hole. .....'
I will not go into all the details of that.
Just a few minutes ago on the floor, guess what. They announced there would be some change made, an amendment that would be included in the managers' package.
I would ask my friend, is it maybe the case that the majority leader, who is having a meeting, as we speak, of all the Democratic Senators behind closed doors, without C-SPAN, has cut another deal along with the White House with--guess who--the pharmaceutical companies that have raised prices some 9 percent on prescription drugs this year?
This is a process the American people don't deserve, so I would ask my friend from Kentucky.
Mr. McCONNELL. I would say to my friend from Arizona, that is a process that gives making sausage a bad name.
Mr. McCAIN. So we were hung up--or should I say gridlocked--for 2 or 3 days, over the entire weekend. The Republican leader even agreed to a unanimous consent agreement that would allow a Democratic side-by-side amendment, and that was not agreed to--until over at the White House, according to this report, PhRMA renegotiated its deal and apparently they now have sufficient votes to defeat the Dorgan amendment which, as of last summer, according to the New York Times, said the last deal shortly after striking that agreement, the trade group--the Pharmaceutical Research Manufacturers of America, or PhRMA--also set aside $150 million for advertising to support the health care legislation.
I ask my friend, is this changing the climate in Washington or is it not only business as usual but, in my opinion, I haven't seen anything quite like this one.
Mr. McCONNELL. I would say to my friend, it certainly is not changing business as usual in Washington. Even more important than that, it is not changing American health care for the better, which is what we all thought this whole thing was about when we started down this path of seeing what we could do to improve America's health care, which almost everyone correctly understands is already the best in the world.
Mr. McCAIN. Hadn't there been charge after charge that Republicans are ``filibustering'' and Republicans have been blocking passage of this legislation? I would ask my friend, hasn't the Republican leader offered a series of amendments we could get locked into and have votes on?
Mr. McCONNELL. We have been trying to get votes on the Crapo motion, for example, since last Tuesday. It will be a week tomorrow. Maybe at some point we will be able to have amendments again.
We started off on this bill with each side offering amendments, and we went along pretty well until, I think, the majority decided it was not only better to write the bill in secret, it was better to not have any amendments to the bill. So they began to filibuster our efforts for Senators to have an opportunity to vote on aspects of this bill, such as the $ 1/2 trillion worth of cuts in Medicare which we, fortunately, were able to get votes on; the $400 billion in new taxes, which we would like to be able to get votes on.
This is the core of the bill. The American people have every right, I would say to my friend from Arizona, to expect us to debate the core of the bill--the core of the bill, the essence of the bill--which is not, of course, going to be changed behind closed doors or during this meeting that is going on with Democrats only.
Mr. McCAIN. As I understand it, there is a meeting going on behind closed doors, again, where there are no C-SPAN cameras.
According to the Washington Post this morning, it says:
The Senate will resume debate Monday afternoon on a popular proposal to allow U.S. citizens to buy cheaper drugs from foreign countries which led to a last-minute lobbying push by drug makers last week and bogged down negotiations over a health care reform bill.
It goes on to say:
The fight over the imported drugs proposal poses a particularly difficult political challenge for President Obama who cosponsored a similar bill when he was in Congress and who included funding for the idea in his first budget. But the pharmaceutical industry, which has been a key supporter of health care reform after reaching agreement with the White House earlier this year, has responded with a fierce lobbying campaign aimed at killing the proposal, focusing on Democratic Senators from States with large drug and research sectors.
So it will be interesting to watch the vote.
I would also point out to my friend, it is clear that if we allow drug reimportation, we will save $100 billion, according to CBO, and the deal that was cut--the first deal that was cut with the White House was they would reduce it by $80 billion, so they had a $20 billion cushion. Now it will be very interesting to see what the latest deal is and how the vote goes.
But, again, I wish to ask my Republican leader, we get a little cynical around here from time to time and we see sometimes deals cut and things done behind closed doors. I am past the point of frustration; I am getting a little bit sad about this. Because I think we know we are now bumping up against Christmas. Sometime we are going to break for Christmas. So the pressures now are going to be even more intense because I think it is well known and reported that if they don't get a deal before we go out for Christmas, then it will be very much like a fish sitting out in the sun. After awhile, it doesn't smell very good, when people see a 2,000-page bill which has all kinds of provisions in it.
So I understand, without C-SPAN cameras, that all the 60 Democratic Members of this body are going to go down to the White House for another meeting tomorrow, and we will see what happens then.
Mr. McCONNELL. I would say to my friend from Arizona, talk about an example of manufactured urgency. Is it not the case, I ask my friend from Arizona, that the benefits under this bill don't kick in until 2014?
Mr. McCAIN. Well, my understanding is, if you go out and buy a car today from any car dealer, you don't have to make payments for a year. You can get that kind of a deal if you want it. This deal is exactly upside down. You get to make the payments early, and then you get to drive the car after 4 years.
Mr. McCONNELL. So the urgency, it strikes me, I would say to my friend from Arizona, is to get this thing out of the Congress before the American people storm the Capitol.
We know from the survey data, do we not, that the American people are overwhelmingly opposed to this bill? So what is the argument I keep hearing on the other side? I was going to ask my friend from Arizona: I hear the President and others say: Let's make history. Well, there has been much history made but much of it has actually been bad, right?
Mr. McCAIN. I would also like to say, there is a history we should not ignore; that is, that every major reform ever enacted in the modern history of this country has been bipartisan, whether it be Medicare, whether it be Social Security, whether it be welfare reform, as we remember under President Clinton. Every major reform has been accomplished by Democrats and Republicans sitting down together and saying: OK, what is it we have to do? What kind of an agreement do we have to make?
Some of us have been around here long enough to remember that in 1983, Ronald Reagan and Tip O'Neill, a liberal Democrat from Massachusetts and the conservative Republican from California, sat down with their aides across the table and key Members of Congress when Social Security was about to go broke.
Why can't we, since there must be areas we agree on, now say to our Democratic friends and the President, rather than trying to ram 60 votes through the Senate, why can't we now sit down and proceed in a fashion--we will give things up. We are willing to make concessions to save a system of Medicare that is about to go broke in 6 years. We will make some concessions but get us in on the takeoff and don't expect us to be in on the landing when already the bill is written and the fix is in, as the fix apparently is in on the Dorgan amendment.
Mr. McCONNELL. Could I say to my friend from Arizona, no one has done more in the Senate, in the time I have been here, to express opposition to and warn us about the perils of excessive spending.
As I recall, one of the things the Senator from Arizona told us after he came back following his campaign was, what the American people are concerned about is the cost of health care--the cost. Of course, we are also concerned about government spending--the cost to consumers of health care and the cost to government spending. Dr. Christina Romer, a part of the White House's economic team, said on one of the shows yesterday:
We are going to be expanding coverage to some 30 million Americans and, of course, that's going to up the level of health care spending. You can't do that and not spend more.
Maybe she didn't get the talking points for yesterday's appearances. But we have conflicting messages out of the White House on this very measure.
In short, it is safe to say this is a confused mess, a 2,100-page monstrosity of confusion and unintended consequences. Yet they are in this rush to enact a bill--the benefits of which don't kick in until 2014--before Christmas Day this year. I am astonished at the irresponsibility of it.
Mr. McCAIN. Madam President, it is a remarkable process we are going through. I see that my friend from Tennessee is here. I know he, being the head of our policy committee and a major contributor to keeping us all informed and up to date, would also like to say something.
First, I will say something I had not planned on saying; that is, this has been a vigorous debate. I think we have been able to act in an effective way, which has been reflected in the polls of the American people who are largely opposed to this measure and greatly supportive of a process where we can all sit down together--with the American people in the room, to be honest--when we are talking about one-sixth of the GDP. The Republican leader's job has been compared by one of his predecessors to herding cats--I agree with that--or keeping frogs in a wheelbarrow. I have not seen the Republican Members on this side of the aisle as much together and as cohesive and working in the most cooperative and supportive fashion of each other since I have been in the Senate. For that, I congratulate the Republican leader.
Mr. McCONNELL. I thank my friend.
Mr. ALEXANDER. I congratulate the Senator from Arizona for his comments and his own leadership on this issue. I want to add my commendations to the Republican leader.
My thought is that the reason we are working so well together is because we are afraid our country is about to make a historic mistake. There is a lot of talk about making history. There are a lot of ways to make history. Put aside all of the laws about race--don't talk about them. When we talk about race, that is often misunderstood. We didn't fail to make a historic mistake on laws about race until the 1960s, when we began to correct those laws. Let's put aside all the historic mistakes we might have made in failing to stop aggression before World War II. We know about those mistakes. We can remember historic mistakes.
I ask the Republican leader if the Smoot-Hawley tariff sounded like a good idea when President Hoover pushed it in the late 1920s. We were going to raise tariffs on 20,000 imported goods, create more American jobs, and it created the Great Depression. The Alien and Sedition Act sounded like a great idea. That made a little history. Shortly after our country was founded, we made it a crime to publish false and scandalous comments about the government. It has never been repealed. Our Supreme Court said it was a historic mistake. Then there was the Medicare Catastrophic Coverage Act of 1988. I wonder if the Senators might have been here then.
So we are capable of making historic mistakes. As the Senator from Arizona has said very well, most Americans, if presented with a problem, would not try to turn the whole world upside down to solve it. They would say: What is the issue? The issue is reducing costs. We can all talk to family members and others--we know what they are paying monthly for premiums, and we would like that to be less, and we would like for the government's costs to be less.
Why don't we, as we have proposed day after day, and as the Senator from Arizona has said--why don't we go step by step in the direction of reducing costs.
I will not go into a long litany of proposals we have made. We can take five or six steps on small business health plans, reducing junk lawsuits against doctors, or buying health insurance across State lines. We should be able to agree on that instead of a 2,000-page bill that raises premiums, raises taxes, and seems to have a new problem every day.
I think the cohesion on the Republican side is not so partisan. I like to work across party lines to get results. That is why I am here. I am just afraid that our country is about to make a historic mistake, and we are trying to help and let the American people know what this bill does--what it does to them and their health care.
Mr. McCONNELL. The fear is palpable. In addition to the public opinion polls we have all seen, we are each having experiences with individuals. I will cite three.
I ran into a police officer--a long-term police officer, an African American. He came up to me and said: Senator, you have to stop this health care bill.
Then there are the health care providers. I see Dr. Barrasso from Wyoming. Within the last week, I spoke to one of the Nation's fine cardiovascular surgeons. He said: Please stop the health care bill. This is going to destroy the quality of our profession. He told me of a friend of his, a neurosurgeon, who called him with the same concern.
I get the sense that there are an enormous number of health care providers--physicians, hospitals, everybody involved in the health care provider business--apparently, with the exception of the pharmaceutical industry, which seems to have cut a special deal--who are just apoplectic about the possibility that the finest health care in the world is going to be destroyed by this--as the Senator from Tennessee points out--``historic mistake.''
Mr. McCAIN. I will mention, also, on the issue of PhRMA, again, here we are in the direst of economic times, with a Consumer Price Index that has declined by 1.3 percent this year, and they have orchestrated a 9-percent increase in the cost of prescription drugs--that is remarkable--laying on an additional burden, which naturally falls more on seniors than anybody else since they are the greatest users of pharmaceutical drugs. I don't blame them for fighting for their industry. But the point is, what they are doing is harming millions and millions of Americans.
Again, about contributing to the cynicism of the American people, whether you are for or against the issue of drug reimportation, to cut a deal behind closed doors and then, apparently, because of support of an amendment by Senator Dorgan, go down and negotiate another deal--how do you describe a process like that?
Mr. ALEXANDER. Well, ``unsavory'' would be a minimum word that comes to my mind. The problem I have is that Americans have a perfect right to their view, and the pharmaceutical industry has a perfect right to advocate its point of view.
As I hear the Senator describe what has been going on, am I hearing correctly? I mean, the pharmaceutical industry is saying we don't like drug reimportation. The White House says: OK, we will cut a deal with you behind closed doors--as far as we can tell--and we will change the law this way, and then--
Mr. McCAIN. The original deal was published in every newspaper, and it was that they would close the so-called doughnut hole by some $80 billion. CBO said their profits would be reduced by some $100 billion if we allow reimportation. They had a $20 billion cushion.
Mr. ALEXANDER. So it is a negotiation between the White House, the President, and big industry about profits: I will do this, you do that, and then you go out--and my understanding is that you write in as part of the deal that the industry spends $150 million on television advertisements in support of the deal. Is that the deal?
Mr. McCAIN. But then, incredibly, they counted the votes. The votes were there to pass the Dorgan amendment. According to published reports, the pharmaceutical industry is negotiating with the White House and lawmakers on a revised health care deal under which the industry would ante up cuts beyond the $80 billion it agreed to this summer.
In other words, because that wasn't sufficient to get votes to kill the Dorgan amendment that would allow reimportation of drugs, they went down and renegotiated. What is that called?
Mr. ALEXANDER. Well, if I am remembering right, earlier this year the Republican leader made a talk on the Senate floor. The attitude of the White House toward a large company in Kentucky, as I remember, was: If you don't agree with us on health care, we will tax you. That was the attitude, it seems, to come out. If you don't agree with us, we will tax you, or we will make it difficult for you to do business. If you do agree with us, we will make a deal with you that affects your profits.
Mr. McCONNELL. I say to my friends, beyond that, the administration basically told this company to shut up. They issued a gag order that was so offensive, even an editorial in the New York Times said it should not have been done. They could not communicate with their customers the impact of various parts of this bill on a product they buy, Medicare Advantage. The tactics have been highly questionable, it strikes me, from the beginning of the year up to the present. What Senator McCain is talking about is just the most recent example.
Mr. McCAIN. Can I also give you this to illustrate it graphically? In this news report, several lobbyists told Inside Health Policy--that is the organization that is reporting this--they have heard that the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America may have already reached a deal with the White House and AARP to close the Senate bill's coverage gap by 75 percent versus the 50 percent under the current bill. PhRMA declined to confirm the reports that it may be agreeable to reforms that would further close the doughnut hole but signaled discussions were underway, and AARP said no agreement has been reached. We haven't seen a deal.
Here are our old friends at AARP at it again. They are at it again.
Mr. McCONNELL. Will the Senator yield for this point?
Mr. McCAIN. Yes.
Mr. McCONNELL. Is that the same AARP that would, I am told, actually benefit from the decline of Medicare Advantage because they sell policies themselves that would be more likely to be purchased by seniors? Is that the same AARP?
Mr. McCAIN. When you lose Medicare Advantage, as Dr. Barrasso will fully attest, then you are almost forced into the so-called Medigap policies, which then cover the things that are no longer covered under Medicare Advantage, such as dental, vision, fitness, and other aspects of Medicare Advantage.
So if you destroy Medicare Advantage, then people will be forced into the Medigap policies. Who makes their money off Medigap policies? AARP.
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Mr. McCONNELL. If I could, Madam President, Senator McCain and I had an opportunity to talk off the floor about things that may be in or out of the current Reid bill. It is over there behind closed doors.
Whether things are popping up or being left out, and whether any of that is significant, I would say to my friend from Arizona, it doesn't make a whole lot of difference, does it? Because the core of the bill, that which will not change, has not changed in any of these various iterations of Reid that we have seen, with $ 1/2 trillion in cuts in Medicare, $400 billion in new taxes, and higher insurance premiums for everyone else.
I would ask my friend from Arizona, if he thinks any of that is going to change?
Mr. McCAIN. I would respond by saying whether the public option is in or out or whether expansion of Medicare is in or out, the core of this legislation will do nothing to reduce or eliminate the problem of health care in
America, which is the cost of health care not the quality of health care. In fact, it will, in many ways, impact directly the quality of health care, increase the cost, as we all know, by some $2.5 trillion, according to the chairman of the Finance Committee.
But I also want to point out the back and forth of this--is it in there, is it out? Well, let's try this. Who, up until a week ago, ever heard we were going to expand Medicare? Now it is out, now it is in. We used to have hearings around here, proposals, witnesses, and then we would shape legislation, which would be amended in the committee, and then brought to the floor and amended on the Senate floor. Here we have to get news flashes to know whether the public option is in or out, whether Medicare expansion is in or out. Again, this is kind of a bizarre process.
But my friend is right; it doesn't affect the core problem with this legislation, which is that it does not reduce cost, and it increases the size and scope of government and the tax burden that Americans will bear for a long period of time, including, by the way--and, again, I don't mean to sound parochial, but there are 337,000 of my citizens in the Medicare Advantage Program. The other side has admitted that the Medicare Advantage Program will go by the wayside. That is affecting a whole lot of people's lives, I would say, and that is in the core of the bill. That will not be changed by expansion of Medicare or with a public option or with no public option.
Mr. THUNE. Would the Senator from Arizona yield? I see a number of our colleagues and the leader.
I would simply add that this idea of expanding Medicare, which just emerged last week, was a bad one, and one even I think a lot of the Democratic Senators have come out in opposition to, which is why we are now back to the drawing board. But this relentless effort to try to tweak this bill around the edges, to somehow get that 60th vote, doesn't do anything to change the fundamental features of the bill, which the leader and the Senator from Arizona have been talking about, and that is the tax increases and spending.
Mr. McCAIN. If I could just mention this. Over the weekend, obviously people watched football games. I was obviously pleased to see my alma mater prevail over those great cadets at West Point. We have a tendency to divert our attention--even seeing, for a change, the Redskins winning a football game--but what we talked about late last week is vitally important. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services had some devastating comments to make.
This is the organization that is tasked to provide us with the best estimates of the consequences of legislation--specifically Medicare and Medicaid.
The CMS, referring to this bill, said:
..... we estimate that total national health expenditures under this bill would increase by an estimated total of $234 billion during calendar years 2010 to 2019.
It goes on and on and talks about the devastating effects of this legislation, whether the public option is in or out, whether we expand Medicare or not. It is remarkable information that is in this study, a study being ignored by the other side. Clearly, what is happening on the other side is only one Senator is throwing proposals back and forth to the CBO until they get something that perhaps looks like it might be sellable. But the CMS has already made their judgment on this legislation.
Mr. CORKER. If I could respond to that, I have only been around here by about 3 years, but I passed an incredible scene--I think many of you coming to the floor may have seen it--a huge gaggle of journalists and reporters and folks waiting outside a room where our colleagues are meeting. There is reason this bill does not lower cost. I came from a world where if you had a problem, you identified what the problem was and then you had sort of a central strategy that you built out to try to lower cost, which I think is what all of us thought that health care reform should do--let's lower cost and create greater access for the American people.
Well, instead of that, we have had a process where it has been literally like 50 yellow stick-ums were put up on the wall to figure out how they could get 60 votes. There hasn't been an attempt to actually lower cost. There hasn't been an attempt to try to create a mechanism where Americans can actually choose, with transparency, the type of plans that work for them. Instead, it has been a game from the very beginning of trying to get 60 votes, and that is why none of the goals, except for one, has been achieved that they set out to achieve.
This is going to drive up premiums, it is going to add to the deficit, and it is going to make Medicare more insolvent, which is pretty incredible because when I got here there was a bipartisan effort to make Medicare more solvent. Instead we are using money from that to leverage a whole new program with unfunded mandates to States, new taxes, as the Senator from South Dakota was talking about.
So, again, what is happening in this room, and the reason I bring up the 50 yellow stick-ums on the wall, some of which were circled to try to get votes, that is what this has been about from day one. What is happening in the room right now is they are sitting around not dealing with the core of this bill, which is very detrimental to our country. But they are in this room trying to figure out which yellow stick-ums will get them the 60 votes.
In the process, doing something that is going to be very detrimental to this country.
Mr. McCONNELL. It could be the reason they are so anxious to do this before Christmas is they think Americans will be too occupied with the holiday season and somehow they can sneak this unpopular bill through and everybody will be busy opening presents or taking care of their families and somehow the American people will not notice.
I suggest to my colleague, I think this is going to be a vote that will be remembered forever. This is going to be one of those rare votes in the history of the Congress that will be remembered forever.
Mr. McCAIN. If I could, before my friend from Alabama, I wonder also, when we are talking about dropping expansion of Medicare as is reported by news reports--I don't know; we have not been informed--could it possibly have anything to do with the fact that the AMA came out in opposition to it? Could it have anything to do with the fact that the American Hospital Association came out in opposition to it? Of course, that the PhRMA situation is a parliamentary procedure that is awaiting action on the floor speaks for itself.
Mr. SESSIONS. I agree with the Senator completely. As Senator McCain already said, it is baffling. Here we are, all these weeks, and now we are being told the public option is being dropped? Today? And maybe this expansion of Medicare? Oh, we just changed our mind on this? On a bill that is designed to reorganize one-seventh of the entire American economy? This is how we are being led here? I say to Senator McCain, it is historic. I think the American people have rejected this plan.
The numbers do not add up. The money is not there to pay for these schemes. I think the American people know it. So I guess I would suggest--my colleague from Tennessee, Senator Alexander, is not here--rather than jamming forward before Christmas, isn't it time to slow down and think this thing through and start over in a step-by-step process that might actually produce some positive change in health care in America?
Mr. McCONNELL. Absolutely. That is what Senate Republicans have said for quite a while. Let's start over and go step by step to deal with the cost issue. Instead, there is this consuming desire on the other side of the aisle to transform one-sixth of our economy, to have the Government take it over and to make history and, as has been pointed out in this colloquy by many Senators: There are many things that happened in our history that we wish had not occurred. This is certainly going to be one of them.
I am optimistic. We just need one Democrat, just one to stand up and say: Mr. President, I am sorry, this is not the kind of history I want to make. I would love to listen to you but I also want to listen to my constituents and it is very clear where my constituents are. If I have to choose between you and my constituents, with all due respect I am going to pick my constituents. Just one Democrat needs to stand up and say I am willing to listen to the American people rather than arrogantly assume that all the wisdom resides in Washington.
If we figure this out, we are going to do it for you whether you want us to or not.
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Mr. McCONNELL. The Senator from Tennessee is entirely correct. We made a major effort. Senator Grassley and Senator Enzi, the two ranking members of the relevant committees, as well as Senator Snowe, were in endless discussions with the majority. Then it became clear that they were not interested in doing anything short of this massive restructuring of one-sixth of our economy, which includes, as the Senator indicated--we expressed our concerns early about these $ 1/2 trillion cuts in Medicare to start a program for someone else.
I would go so far as to suggest the reason the public's reaction to this has been so severe is because they have chosen such a partisan route. Had they chosen a different route, had we produced a bill in the middle, a bill much more modest in its intention rather than this audacious restructuring, the American people would see us behind it and they would be behind it.
By choosing this sort of narrow ``my way or the highway'' approach, ``we are going to get the 60 votes and jam you,'' they have made it impossible to make this a proposal that they could sell to the American people.
The American people are not foolish. The difference between this issue and most issues is everybody cares about health care regardless of age. The older you get the more you care about it, but everybody cares about health care. But they are paying attention and they see that this is not in any way a bipartisan proposal. So they have created for themselves not only a terrible bill, in my judgment, that should not pass and probably will not pass, but an enormous political problem for themselves along the way that would have been entirely avoidable had they chosen a different route from the beginning.
Mr. CORKER. I think the fact is the two parties certainly have differences. We are seeing that by the huge amount of spending that is taking place right now. But the fact is, when we come together around bills, we do things that can stand the test of time.
When we do that, it is not about political victory, it is about us airing our differences and seeing those places where we have common ground. I have watched each of you in your deliberations on the floor. I know very early on we talked about the fact that if we could just focus on the 80 percent we agree upon, we could pass a piece of legislation that would stand the test of time. Maybe it wouldn't solve every problem in the world, maybe it wouldn't go from end zone to end zone, but maybe if we went 50 yards down the field, it was 50 yards of solid gain for the American people, something that would stand the test of time, then we could come back and maybe get another piece of it as we moved along.
I know almost everyone in this room has been a part of discussions to increase access, increase competitiveness, to drive down cost, to increase choices. This may be historic, if it passes. I actually still believe there is a chance that some of our friends on the other side of the aisle will realize that this is historic. But what is historic about it is this: If we pass this bill or if the Senate passes this bill, we will have missed a historic opportunity to work together and do something that will stand the test of time. All the energy would have been expended on a bill that does not pass the commonsense test, where the basic fundamentals are flawed.
This issue will not come up again for a long time. I know how the calendar on the floor is. I certainly know about the patience of the American people. But the history part of this, we will have missed a historic opportunity to do something that will be good for the American people. That is the part, I guess, that bothers me the most.
Mr. THUNE. Madam President, the Senator has been the mayor of a good-sized city, a small businessperson, actually probably bigger than a small businessperson. But if you were running a business and you were in an environment such as we are in today, a tough economy, trying to figure out ways to cut back on your costs and figure out a way to sell a little bit more of whatever it is you are making or doing, and somebody comes to you and says: We are going to reform health care and we want to do something that will get health care costs down and yet what they are selling is going to raise your taxes and, according to the referees--the Actuary at the Center for Medicare Services is sort of a referee in all this; they don't have a political objective; they simply want to get the facts out. Of course, that is the role that is played traditionally in Congress by the CBO, both of which now say--the CBO says it is going to increase health care spending by $160 billion over the first 10 years and the CMS Actuary is now saying it will increase health care costs by $234 billion over the first 10 years. You also have now the CMS Actuary saying it could close 20 percent of the hospitals, that 17 million people who get their insurance through their employers are going to lose it, that the Medicare cuts are not sustainable on a permanent basis in this legislation, and that a lot of these tax increases are being passed on in the form of higher premiums which will mainly be borne by people trying to provide insurance. If you are sitting there as a businessperson--and you have been there--and you are looking at that balance sheet and that income statement and somebody is trying to sell you on an idea about health care reform that has the features I mentioned, how do you react to something such as that? I see what small business organizations are saying, but the Senator has been there. Tell me how you view it.
Mr. CORKER. I met with a businessman in Tennessee on one of my more recent trips. They have an annual payroll of $4.2 million--their health care costs are $4.2 million a year for their employees. They file their tax return as a sub S company. The income from the company actually ends up being attributed to the partners. So when they file an income tax return, they don't take the money out of the company. They leave the money in to invest and make sure it is productive and they have jobs for other people. But that income is attributed to them. So he was showing me what this bill did to them. First, their percentage of health care costs is 12 percent of their payroll. He is way above the minimums this bill has said you have to be. I think it is 7 percent or something such as that. By the time he looked at the taxes that were going to be assessed to them because they filed--in other words, it was, again, their individual income, even though the money stayed in the company itself. What he was saying is: This means not only will we not hire any additional employees, we are not going to do that. But in addition, we are going to seriously look at dropping our health care plan and paying the penalties that come with this bill. I do fear, one of the things people do when they see that the government--a lot of companies in this country do things because they think it is the right thing to do. But a lot of companies, when they see government sort of mandating what they have to do or if they don't do that, there is an option for them to opt out and pay a penalty, when they feel like the government is being intrusive, sometimes they decide: Look, I am not going to do this anymore.
What I would say, to answer the Senator's question is: No. 1, you end up depressing people's wages when you have these huge increases. Because at the end of the day, you have to have a profit to operate. You encourage people who are trying to do the right thing. You tax people at a level that, because of the way our taxation system works, takes money out of the company which, again, is used for productive good and to hire employees. At the very time when we are trying to create jobs--and I know you have been out here a great deal talking about the fact that we need to create jobs--we have legislation. This legislation that is before us is a job killer. The uncertainty of American companies about health care and then the fiscal issues and then this whole notion of cap and trade is, in fact, what resoundingly people across the country are saying is keeping them from hiring people.
Mr. McCONNELL. I hear--and I know my colleagues have--they are about to send us another stimulus bill. I think I hear the Senator from Tennessee saying the single most important thing we could do to jump-start this economy would be to stop this job-killing health care bill.
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