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Public Statements

Health Care

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. KYL. Mr. President, I wish to address now the health care legislation we passed in the Senate and that is pending over in the House of Representatives.

There is a news report that Democrats are going to use the strangest of all procedural tactics to try to pass the Senate health care bill over in the House of Representatives, and this is against a backdrop of a lot of strange things--the use of the reconciliation process, all the backroom deals that result in the various benefits for various Senators and Representatives--we have heard so much about.

It almost seems Democratic leaders view the views of their constituents as an obstacle to be overcome, and every time the polls show even more opposition to the legislation, they decide to try even more clever ways of getting around their constituents' views--wheeling and dealing, backdoor legislation--but nothing quite as brazen, I guess I would say, as the process we now see developing. This is a process I became familiar with as a Member of the Senate--not when I was in the House of Representatives because I do not believe it was ever used then, although it might have been and I was not aware of it. But it is a process by which House of Representatives Members can actually say they have passed a piece of legislation without ever voting on it.

You might say: That does not quite comport with what I learned in eighth grade civics class, and you would be right. We all know the only way a President can sign a bill is if identical versions of legislation pass both the House and the Senate.

Well, the House does not want to have to vote on the Senate health care bill because, as the Speaker of the House said: ``Nobody wants to vote for the Senate bill.'' So now what they have done is concoct a way you can actually pass the bill without ever voting for it, and it is by including the substantive Senate-passed bill into the rule that as a procedural matter the House votes on to consider each measure. So as a rule to consider the reconciliation bill is brought to the House floor, it would contain a provision that would deem the Senate-passed bill passed, even though the House Members would never vote on it.

That is wrong. It is probably unconstitutional. Any House Member who believes he or she can go home and say to their constituents: Well, I never voted for the Senate-passed bill is, frankly, not going to get away with it because, by voting for the rule, they will have voted for the Senate-passed bill.

It seems to me this is the time for principled Members of the House of Representatives to stand and say: Enough. I may even somewhat like what we are trying to do with this health care legislation, but somebody has to stand for principle, and principle means, at a minimum, voting for legislation that you send to the President for his signature--not standing behind a rule which deems legislation to have been passed, even though it was never separately voted on.

It seems to me, first of all, we should make it crystal clear we will make this famous to the American people, if in fact they decide to use this process--something that has never been used for a bill such as this before. This so-called deeming rule will become part of the lexicon of American political discourse, and people will come to know it, just like they did the House banking scandal and certain other things here in Washington, to represent a time period and a group of people who were willing to violate all rules of sensibility, of morality, as well as legality in order to try to accomplish ends that could not be accomplished in other ways.

Nobody who votes for this rule and then later claims they did not have anything to do with passing this Senate bill is going to be able to get away with that. The American people will understand it. Frankly, whether they are sympathetic to the underlying health care legislation, they are not going to be sympathetic to Members of the House of Representatives who decide to do this kind of end run, this sort of scheme to deem a bill passed that has never been separately voted on in that body.

I hope the health care legislation we have now debated for a year can stand or fall on its merits. The American people have made it clear they do not want this legislation. Twenty-five percent do, but seventy-three percent have said either stop altogether or stop and start over. That is what we should be doing. Because of this wave of opposition by our constituents, our colleagues in the House should not try to get around that by using a procedure that is totally inappropriate to the purpose.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator has spoken for 10 minutes.

Mr. KYL. Mr. President, might I make a parliamentary inquiry: Is there more time remaining on the Republican side?

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Fifty-one minutes.

Mr. KYL. Thank you, Mr. President.

What I would like to do, until Senator Grassley arrives--I first ask
unanimous consent to have printed in the Record a letter from Gov. Janice K. Brewer of Arizona, dated March 10, 2010, to President Barack Obama.

There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the RECORD,


Mr. KYL. Let me briefly describe the reason for this request.

Arizona is suffering, as are other States, from the economic downturn. We have an unemployment rate now that has more than doubled. In fact, it has gone from 3.6 percent in June of 2007 to 9.2 percent this month. Our State faces a $1.4 billion shortfall in the current fiscal year and a $3.2 billion shortfall for the next fiscal year, despite the fact that the Governor and the State legislature have imposed significant spending reductions.

State revenues are down by 34 percent. Notwithstanding this, over 200,000 Arizonans have enrolled in the State's Medicaid Program, known as AHCCCS--which is our Arizona health Care Cost Containment System--just since the beginning of 2009. That is nearly 20,000 new enrollees every month. The last thing, given these kinds of numbers, Washington should be doing is making the States' economic or fiscal problems even worse. Yet that is exactly what Governor Brewer says the Senate health care bill would do because it would require every State to expand its Medicaid Program.

The Federal Government would foot the bill for 3 years. Then the States would have to help finance the expansion in 2017 and in subsequent years. She estimates the bill would increase the cost in Arizona by nearly $4 billion over the next 10 years. Making matters worse, the early expansion States--States such as Arizona that have already expanded Medicaid to cover the uninsured, as I noted--will actually get fewer Federal dollars than the States that have not yet expanded their Medicaid Programs, in effect punishing those who have tried to do the right things--the exact things Democrats have wanted in the health care bill.

As she observed in her letter:

Arizona taxpayers will have the misfortune to pay twice: once for [Arizona's] program and then once more for the higher match for other states.

Additionally, States currently retain important flexibility in administering their Medicaid Programs so they are not caught off-guard as the economy changes. But as Governor Brewer notes, that flexibility would be eliminated under the Senate bill. She says:

Under your proposal, more power is centralized in Washington, DC, and the states just become another financing mechanism. Not only will states be forced to pay for this massive new entitlement program, but our ability to control the costs of our existing program will be limited. These policies are simply not sustainable, and will result in a greater burden on state budgets and state taxpayers.

Mr. President, since I put the letter in the Record, I will not reflect further on it but note the fact that this is yet one more reason for Members to oppose the Senate-passed bill in the House.


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