Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, for more than a year now, Democrats in Washington have been focused--some would say fixated--on making dramatic changes to the American health care system as we know it.
It is an open debate as to whether spending so much time and energy on this issue was in the best interest of the public at a time of record unemployment and a need to address jobs and the economy. But what is not open to debate is, the plan they came up with was fundamentally flawed--that it focused too much on expanding the size and cost of government and not enough on the core problem with our health care system, which is cost.
This is why Americans have been telling Democrats in Washington to scrap their plan and start over. This is why so many Americans are so frustrated with government right now. The administration says we need to pass its health spending bill to show Americans government still works. Americans are saying the opposite. They are saying the first thing Washington can do to show it is working is to listen to what the public is saying, to scrap this bill and to start over.
Unfortunately, Democratic leaders in Congress are not interested. They are still clinging to the same old bill and the same old process Americans rejected last year. They are more determined than ever to jam their bill through Congress by any means necessary.
So over the next few weeks, we are going to see a replay of the same kind of arm-twisting and deal-making we saw in the runup to Christmas. I say we are going to see it, but in reality we will not see any of it. We will have to read about it--the deals and the arm-twisting--only after the final bill hits the floor because all the arm-twisting and deal-making is going on behind closed doors, and it has already started.
Somehow the administration seems to think all this arm-twisting and deal-making will prove to the American people government works. I should think Americans will draw the opposite conclusion. Americans do not like the bill any more today than they did 3 months ago. They do not like the frantic, backroom deal-making any more now than they did then.
In the midst of all this, it is understandable that a lot of Democrats are on the fence about whether to vote for this bill, about whether to vote for this process as well. But the reasons they are giving for being on the fence do not square with reality, and they are not going to fly with the public.
Some say they like the current bill because they say it reduces costs. It does not. The administration's own experts say the bill increases health spending by $222 billion more than if we took no action at all. In other words, this bill would bend the cost curve up, not down.
Others say they like the current bill because it reduces the deficit. But even if you grant that highly speculative premise, the one bill the Senate will be voting on tomorrow would wipe away every dime of those projected savings with one stroke of the President's pen. If you believe the health bill will save $100 billion, then you have to also acknowledge the bill the Senate will pass this week increases it by $100 billion.
So far from moving in a more fiscally responsible direction, the health spending bill the White House now wants Congress to pass before Easter would move us in a less fiscally responsible direction. This undercuts the entire point of reform.
The administration recognizes the weakness of its argument. That is why it is trying to create a sense of inevitability about this bill. Once again, it is imposing an artificial deadline to put pressure on Members. It is talking about how we are in the middle of the final chapter of this debate.
The administration wants Members to believe they are characters in a screenplay and that the ending of the play is already written. This is an illusion. House Members are not buying these arguments anymore. In fact, many of them are already walking off the set. My guess is, a lot more are about to.
They know we may be nearing the final act for this bill and the legislative process but that it is just the beginning for those who support it. Americans do not want this bill. They are telling us to start over. The only people who do not seem to be getting the message are Democratic leaders in Washington. But they can be sure of this--absolutely sure of this: If they cut their deal, if they somehow convince enough Members to come on board, then they will get the message. The public will let them know how they feel about this bill.
I suggest the absence of a quorum.