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Public Statements

Health Care

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. McCONNELL. Madam President, the American people have spoken loudly and clearly on the issue of health care reform. They overwhelmingly favor a plan that addresses our problems step by step. They want a plan that lowers the cost of health care without expanding the role of government and without raising taxes or cutting Medicare. They want us to focus on cost.

Unfortunately, Democrats here in Washington either have not gotten the message or they are ignoring it. We know this because after a year of protests, three statewide elections in New Jersey, Virginia, and Massachusetts, and the clear verdict of every public opinion survey, Democrats in Washington are now planning one last-ditch effort to get their plan through Congress and past the American people.

The sad fact is that Washington Democrats are so wedded to the notion that they know better than the general public when it comes to health care that they are about to reject any pretense of bipartisanship in order to jam their plan through Congress by the narrowest margin possible whether people want it or not--a raw exercise of legislative power that Senator Byrd, our resident Senate historian, has described within the last year as an undemocratic outrage on a piece of legislation this far-reaching.

Some on the other side are clearly worried about the consequences of taking such a drastic step. They are wondering whether they should risk the full fury of the public by using these extreme tactics to circumvent the will of their constituents. Democratic leaders are telling them not to worry. They are telling them people will forget about the process once their plan becomes law. Well, they are wrong. Americans are not going to forget if Democrats do this to their health care system.

Wavering Democrats need to realize that there is a better way. Last week, the President and other Democrats acknowledged a number of areas of agreement between the two parties. These are the ideas that could form the solid basis of a fresh start on health care reform. These are the ideas that could form the basis of the kind of step-by-step bipartisan reform Americans really want.

Americans do not want the one-party bill Democrats in Washington are planning to force on them, or any variation of it, and they do not want Democrats to push it through with even more backroom deals. Americans are already seething about the kinds of deals that were used to get the earlier version of this bill through Congress. The ``Cornhusker kickback'' and the ``Louisiana purchase'' became household expressions. But using reconciliation to jam this health care plan through would make the ``Cornhusker kickback'' look like an exercise in good government.

Using reconciliation to fundamentally change the health care of every American would be one of the most brazen single-party power grabs in legislative history. It would be the death of bipartisanship. And Americans will not stand for it. They know bills of this scope only work if they are done along bipartisan lines.

Medicare and Medicaid were created with the support of about half the members of the minority party. The Voting Rights Act passed with 30 Republican and 47 Democratic votes. Only Six Senators voted against the Social Security Act. Only eight voted against No Child Left Behind or the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Only 12 voted against the Welfare Reform Act. Big bills are passed with big majorities, and rarely has there been a bigger bill than that. So if ever there was a time not to depart from a bipartisan approach, it is now--right now.

Democrats are saying they want a simple up-or-down vote on health care. What they want is to jam their vision of health care through Congress over the objections of a public they seem to think is too ill-informed to notice. If
they go ahead with this plan, they will see how wrong they are. I know the argument has been made by the leaders on the other side: Let's get this issue behind us; it will get better. If they pass this, it will not be behind them; it will be in front of them--right in front of them. Americans are engaged in this debate in a way I have never seen in my entire career here. They know exactly what is going on. They will make sure their voices and their will is felt one way or another.

I yield the floor.

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