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Public Statements

Tax Extenders Act Of 2009 - Continued

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, the President of the United States and the majority in both Houses have now signaled that regardless of how clearly the American people oppose the pending legislation concerning health care in America, it will be attempted to be forced down their throats under the parliamentary process that is intended for our Nation's budgetary matters, whether they want it or not.

This amendment that is pending would remove our important Medicare Program from the partisan procedural process known as budget reconciliation. We must protect the Medicare Program from being used as a piggybank to create the new health care entitlement proposed by Senator Reid and President Obama. In addition to increasing taxes by $500 billion, the health care ``reform'' bill cuts $500 billion from Medicare to put the government in charge of a new $2.3 trillion health care entitlement that we can't afford.

My constituents in Arizona and Americans across the country know the partisan games that are being played here, and they are opposed to it. Our entitlement programs should not be the subject of reconciliation. In 1974, the Budget Act excluded Social Security from the 51-vote reconciliation process. That was intentional, by one of the major architects, Robert Byrd, one of the most revered Members of the Senate, who has also said that health care reform should not be the subject of reconciliation. That makes sense, because if you exclude Social Security because it is an entitlement program, then, obviously, Medicare should also be excluded. We have a crisis with our entitlement programs and they need to be reformed, but they shouldn't be subject to a 51-vote majority.

This amendment removes the Medicare Program from the reconciliation process. Medicare reforms need to be made, and this amendment doesn't affect that, but what the amendment says is that reforms to the Medicare Program should be treated differently just as the Social Security program is. A program as important as Medicare should not be cut or increased through a partisan 51-vote process. Something this important should be held to a higher standard and include bipartisan support.

Let me remind my colleagues of the view of then-Senator Obama in 2007 when we were considering the ``nuclear option.'' He said at that time:

You've got to break out of what I call, sort of, the 50-plus-one pattern of presidential politics. Maybe you eke out a victory of 50-plus-one, then you can't govern. You know, you get Air Force One, I mean there are a lot of nice perks, but you can't deliver on health care. We're not going to pass universal health care with a 50-plus-one strategy.

On the use of reconciliation, then-Senator Obama went even further and said:

You know, the Founders designed this system, as frustrating [as] it is, to make sure that there's a broad consensus before the country moves forward ..... And what we have now is a President who--

he was obviously referring to then-President Bush--

..... [h]hasn't gotten his way. And that is now prompting, you know, a change in the Senate rules that really I think would change the character of the Senate forever ..... And what I worry about would be you essentially still have two chambers--the House and the Senate--but you have simply majoritarian absolute power on either side, and that's just not what the founders intended.

I have been around this body for quite a while. Back a few years ago, when this side was in the majority and there was a movement toward the ``nuclear option''--in other words, 51 votes to confirm judges--I stood up as a member of the majority and said we should not erode the 60-vote majority rule that has prevailed here in the Senate for many years. At that time, that was not greeted on this side of the aisle, frankly, with approval by a lot of people. But what we did then was preserve the Senate tradition and process of 60 votes, and we should maintain that now.

Certainly, having been in the majority and in the minority, I understand the frustrations of the majority. But I think history will show there have been numerous occasions where the requirement for a 60-vote majority has prevented the Congress of the United States from acting at the will of the moment or the fancy or the issue; that when time passes and cooler heads prevail, the 60-vote majority prevented the Congress from acting in a way that would have been harmful to the United States of America and its citizens.

All of my other colleagues have also commented on this issue at different times, depending on whether they are in the majority or the minority. But I wish to point out again a fundamental fact of the way the Congress of the United States has done business in general, and the way the Senate of the United States has done business. We have never had in our history a major reform, whether it be the Civil Rights Act or whether it be the passage of Medicare, whether it be welfare reform or any other major reform made without a majority, and a significant majority, that was bipartisan in nature. That doesn't mean there was 100 percent, but there has always been, whenever major structural reforms have been made, a consensus that was a significant majority on both sides.

So as we have time after time on this floor, we will be coming to the floor every day, my colleagues and I, to urge the majority and the President of the United States to start over and sit down and work together.

Overwhelming majorities of the American people believe we should either stop or start over. Overwhelming majorities of the American people want us to reform the system. But they do not like this unsavory process of vote buying, and they certainly do not like the product.

We will continue to carry the message to our constituents and to the American people. I believe there is still sufficient time for the will of the American people to prevail.

Mr. President, the hour is late. I appreciate the patience of the Chair and his willingness to serve in the chair at this late hour, 7 o'clock at night. I appreciate him being here at this time.

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


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