BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, the American people have seen what Democrats in Congress plan to do with seniors' health care. They have looked on in disbelief as almost every Democrat in the Senate voted again and again and again to slash Medicare. Now they are watching in disbelief as Democrats float the idea of herding millions more--millions more--into this nearly bankrupt program as part of a backroom deal to force their plan for health care on the American people by Christmas.
Every day it seems we hear new revelations about secret conference room deliberations where Democrats are frantically working to get their 60 votes by Christmas. And every day we hear about some new idea they have come up with for creating a government plan by another name. This week's version would have the Office of Personnel Management running the program, an idea that was shot down almost as soon as it was announced by the former OPM Director who said it couldn't be done.
This is what he said: ``I flat out think that OPM doesn't have the capacity to do this type of role.''
This is precisely the kind of approach Americans are tired of in Washington, and this is precisely the kind of health care plan Americans did not want.
Seniors thought they could expect lower costs. What they are getting instead is an assault on their Medicare. Small business owners thought they could expect lower costs. What they are getting instead are higher taxes, stiff fines, and costly mandates. Working Americans thought they would get more efficiency, less fraud, cheaper rates. What they are getting instead are new bureaucracies and higher costs.
Business leaders from across the country enthusiastically support the idea of health care reform. They know better than anyone that costs are out of control and that something needs to be done. But they have read the bill Democrats in Congress have come up with and they are telling us this isn't it. This isn't it, they are saying. Not only won't this bill solve the problem, they say, it makes the existing problems actually worse.
The Vice President of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce was here yesterday. He said there is a desperate need for reform--reform that bends the cost curve down. He said, unfortunately, this bill fails the test. He says this bill will only lead businesses to lower wages, decrease working hours, reduce hiring, and cut jobs. He said it adds to the deficit; it adds to the debt. It includes massive new spending programs and entitlements and incredibly, as I have noted, it also borrows from existing entitlement programs. It borrows from existing entitlement programs that are already in trouble.
Businesses look at this bill and they see $ 1/2 trillion in new taxes, as many as 10 million employees at risk of losing coverage, and crushing new mandates. This is not reform. This bill doesn't solve our problems, it spreads them. That is why seniors don't like this bill. That is why job creators don't like this bill. That is why public opinion has dramatically shifted against this bill.
Americans want reform, but this is not the one they asked for. This bill is fundamentally flawed and it can't be fixed. There is no way to fix this bill.
Americans want us to stop, they want us to start over, and they want us to get it right. Democrats should stop talking at the American people and start listening to them.
Now, Republicans are prepared to provide a platform for the debate as long as it takes--as long as it takes. The majority leader said we would be working every weekend. We take him at his word. We expect to be here this weekend, and we look forward to it. Republicans are convinced there is nothing more important we could do than to stop this bill and start over with the kind of step-by-step reforms Americans really want.
We have amendments. We want votes. We have been waiting since Tuesday to have more votes. We are eager to continue the debate.
Here is what my good friend, the majority leader, said when we started the debate on November 30:
Debating and voting late at night. It definitely means the next weekends--plural--we'll be working. I have events I'll have to postpone, some I'll have to cancel. There is not an issue more important than finishing this legislation. I know people have things they want to do back in their States, and rightfully so. I know people have fundraisers because they're running for reelection. I know there are other important things people have to do, but nothing could be more important than this, and we notified everybody prior to the break that we would be working weekends.
We took the majority leader at his word when we started this debate on November 30 that we would be working weekends. Actually, it is a week later--this past Monday of this week--he said, ``It appears we certainly will be here this weekend again.''
My Members understood we would be here on the weekends. We don't think there is anything more important we can do, and we are a little bit upset--maybe more than a little bit--that we were not able to vote on an amendment yesterday. We have been prepared to vote for several days. There are amendments that have been offered that we can't seem to get a vote on. The American people are expecting us to vote on this bill, and we are here and prepared to do it. We would like to get started voting on amendments today.
Mr. GREGG. Mr. Leader, if I might ask a question through the Chair.
The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Bennet). The Senator from New Hampshire.
Mr. GREGG. On that last point, it does seem there is a slowdown occurring on amendments. As I understand it, we have four or five very substantive amendments dealing with taxes, dealing with employer mandates, that we are ready to go to, and we are ready to vote on; is that not correct?
Mr. McCONNELL. I say to my friend from New Hampshire, that is absolutely the case. We waited around all day to get a vote on the amendment by the Senator from Idaho, Mr. Crapo. We were told there would be a side-by-side, and it mysteriously has not yet appeared. But we are here ready to work. We share the view of the majority leader that this is an extremely important issue, and we want to vote.
Mr. GREGG. I hope at some point today maybe we should propound a unanimous consent setting those four items up for votes on Saturday and Sunday.
Mr. McCONNELL. Well, I think that is a good idea. Of course, we would prefer to vote today. We are going to be voting Saturday and Sunday too. I think the sooner the better. The American people are actually expecting us--they thought we were here voting and debating amendments on this bill, and we are going to continue to press forward and try to get that done.
Mr. President, I yield the floor.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. McCONNELL. Will the Senator from Arizona yield?
Mr. McCAIN. Gladly.
Mr. McCONNELL. I recall our good friend, the majority leader, telling us on November 30 that we would be here the next two weekends. Then I recall our friend, the majority leader, saying Monday of this week we would be here this weekend.
My assumption was we were here to deal with this important issue that the majority has been indicating to everyone is so important, that we must stay here and do it. We are prepared to be here.
Mr. McCAIN. And vote.
Mr. McCONNELL. And vote. In fact, we have been trying to vote for a couple of days now, and it has been difficult to vote.
Mr. McCAIN. If we are not going to have a vote, maybe we ought to have a vote to table the pending amendments, at least to have the Senate on record.
Could I finally say, I know New Orleans is very nice this time of year, but perhaps we ought to stay here and get this job done?
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. McCONNELL. My friend is entirely correct. I can only quote the majority leader himself who said we were going to be here this weekend. We expect to be here this weekend. If he tries to leave, we will have a vote to adjourn, and I am confident every Republican will vote against adjourning. This either is or it isn't as important as the majority says it is. If it is that important, we need to be here. More importantly than being here, equally important to being here is to vote. We tried to get a vote all day yesterday on a motion by Senator Crapo. What we heard from the other side is: We are working on a side-by-side. That is kind of parliamentary inside talk for delay. We are ready to vote. As several of our colleagues have suggested, we keep hearing about these new iterations of this bill. It reminds me of the end of a football game, trying to throw a ``Hail Mary'' pass, just somehow, some way find a way to pass this bill. I think it important to remember what happens to most Hail Marys. They fall to the ground incomplete. You get the impression they are far less interested in the substance of the bill than just passing something.
When the President came up here last Sunday, he said: Make history. Make history? The American people are not asking us to make history by passing this bill. They don't believe it is about the President. They believe it is about the substance. We are out here prepared to talk about the substance of this measure, offer amendments, and we fully intend to do it for as long as it takes. As the Senator has suggested, if the majority leader pivots to a conference report, which he is able to do under our process, we will spend all the time it takes to deal with the conference report.
Mr. McCAIN. May I point out, again, as the Senator from Maine, Ms. Snowe, pointed out--and it was highlighted in the Wall Street Journal--no major reform in the modern history of this Senate has been enacted without bipartisan support, a reason for us to go back to the drawing board.
I know the Senator from Texas has been heavily involved in the issue of hospitalization and the American Hospital Association's reaction to what appears to be an expansion of Medicare.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. McCONNELL. I say to my friend from Arizona, he made reference today to the senior Senator from Maine and her very insightful and thoughtful and correct speech a couple weeks ago about how an issue of this magnitude was historically dealt with here and how it was not being dealt with this way. She pointed out, major domestic legislation in modern U.S. history was, without exception, done on a largely bipartisan basis. That whole process, as the Senator from Maine pointed out, has been entirely missing, as we have moved along toward developing this 2,074-page monstrosity of a bill, designed to entirely restructure one-sixth of our economy on a totally partisan basis.
I don't think that is what the American people had in mind. They want us here, as we have all indicated, debating, discussing, and amending this proposal. That is what we would like to do for as long as it takes.
Mr. ALEXANDER. Mr. President, if the Republican leader will think back when he first came to the Senate as a young aide in 1969, the year before I was a young aide in the Senate,
I can remember President Johnson, a Democrat, and Everett Dirksen, the Republican leader, dealing with the open housing legislation in 1968, a very controversial bill. How did they deal with it? The Democratic President had the bill literally written in the office of the Republican leader, with staff members and Senators trooping in and out. The country looked to Washington and said: Well, the Republican leader and the Democratic President both think it is important. They are trying to work it out. In the end, they voted for cloture. In the end, they got the bill.
Mr. McCONNELL. My friend from Tennessee is entirely correct. Right before we got here--right before we got here--in 1964 and 1965, the Democrats had overwhelming majorities, as they do now, and the civil rights bill of 1964 and the voting rights bill of 1965 passed on an overwhelming bipartisan basis. The leader of the Republicans, Everett Dirksen, was every bit as much involved in that, if not more involved in it, than even the Democrats. Republicans supported it. On a percentage basis, a greater number----
The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Burris). The minority time has expired.
Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent for 1 more minute.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
Mr. McCONNELL. An even greater percentage of Republicans ended up supporting the civil rights bills of 1964 and 1965 than Democrats. But it was a truly bipartisan landscape for our country--a landmark, important. It was widely accepted by the American people because of the broad bipartisan support it enjoyed. That is what has been lacking here from the beginning.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT