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Mr. GRAHAM. Mr. President, I rise today with great disappointment in both the substance and process of this legislation.
We should be working from a long held medical premise; first, do no harm. Instead, Americans know this government takeover of the health care system is bad and the tactics that have been used to do it are even worse. The policies contained in the recently passed health care bill combined with this reconciliation package will raise costs, lower the quality of care in our country, shift a new unfunded mandate onto the States, and will result in health care rationing.
The reasons Democrats passed this bill on a party-line vote in the Senate on Christmas Eve and late this past Sunday night in the House are because of a slew of backroom deals and arm twisting to buy up last minute votes. Now we take up the reconciliation bill to remove some of these deals so the President can claim to have clean hands.
There are many other reasons to oppose this bill, aside from the unsavory deals made to secure its passage. In both its scope and reach, the combination of health care legislation and reconciliation is unprecedented. It raises $644 billion in taxes and cuts $525 billion from Medicare. The Democrats' bill contains accounting gimmicks that would make Bernie Madoff proud.
The Congressional Budget Office found that savings generated from Medicare will not be reinvested in the program, but rather will be used to pay for new programs, putting even more strain on the long-term viability of Medicare.
There is no guarantee this plan lowers health care costs for consumers. What is sure is that 80 percent of Americans will find themselves in some form of government-run, government-controlled health care. The remaining 20 percent will soon be asked, if not required, to follow.
Historically, large-scale social legislation has passed with great bipartisan support. Social Security legislation passed in 1935 with 77 bipartisan votes. Medicare passed with 68 votes, and the Americans with Disabilities Act passed with 76 votes. Never before have we acted in a manner that would affect one-sixth of our economy on the whims of a single political party. The combination of tactics used to pass the health care bill and amend it through reconciliation moves us into uncharted territory.
Even previous budget reconciliation measures cited by my colleagues on the other side have passed with large, bipartisan margins. The law that created the COBRA insurance program, often cited by my friends, achieved final passage in the Senate on a voice vote in 1985. In addition, welfare reform was supported by 78 Senators and SCHIP passed the Senate with a whopping 85 votes.
While there are a number of things that Republicans and Democrats agree on when it comes to reforming the health care system, Democrats have chosen to pursue a winner take all strategy that leaves them in the position of having to clean up a messy bill through the process of reconciliation. They have adopted a hard-line ideological approach and continue to push a plan that will put us one giant step closer to the single-payer government run health care system they have long desired.
Speaking of a federal takeover; if you want a federal takeover of the student loan industry, then your ship has come in. Every student in the country who needs to borrow money for college will now have to come to the Federal Government for a loan, which will make the United States Department of Education one of the Nation's largest banks. A portion of the proceeds from these loans, about $9 billion, will then be used to finance new health care spending instead of being put back into education programs. Students will be caught in the middle in terms of health care financing. Not only will their loan interest go to finance an unpopular health care proposal, but they will be paying higher taxes when they graduate and get a job.
I am afraid that by dealing Republicans out of the game, Democrats have done great harm to comity in the Senate. I have never hesitated to work across the aisle on tough issues and try to reach consensus. After this maneuver, I fear that bipartisanship may be a thing of the past for the foreseeable future. While there may have been the chance to work together on important topics, I believe Republicans must now pursue a strategy of repeal and replace. Repeal this damaging legislation and replace it with programs that promote fair tax treatment of health care, encourage innovation, reward wellness, and help those in need.
I will be voting against this reconciliation bill because I believe that combined with the recently passed health care bill, it will do more harm than good for health care and higher education in America.
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