Washington, DC—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made the following statement this morning on the floor of the U.S. Senate. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“In a single word, this health care debate is about choices.
“Will our country choose to tell parents they cannot take their child to the dentist because insurance is nonexistent or prohibitively expensive? Will we choose to tell small businesses that they have to lay off employees because they can’t afford skyrocketing health care premiums?
“Or will we choose real, meaningful health care reform that ensures everyone can afford the quality care they deserve?
“There is another way that this debate is about choice. Democrats are committed to ensuring all Americans can choose their doctors, hospitals and health plans.
“No matter what Republicans claim, the government has no intention of choosing for you any of these things – or meddling in any of these relationships.
“If you like the coverage you have, you can choose to keep it.
“Like most Americans, we believe there should be more choice and more competition to lift the heavy weight of crushing health care costs. If we leave it up to private insurance companies more interested in keeping their profits up than keeping us healthy, that won’t happen. One of the best ways to do that is to give people the choice of a public option not run by insurance companies.
“Third, Republicans have a choice in this debate. They can choose to work with us, or they can choose to work against the interests of the American people.
“From the start, we have reached out to Republicans. We have let them know that we would rather write this bill with them than without them.
“Republicans so far have made it quite clear what they are against. We remain interested to learn what they are for. Democrats continue to save for our Republican colleagues a seat at the table, and we sincerely hope they take it.
“Last year, the American people made their choice clear. In no uncertain terms, they rejected the Republican status quo.
“Those with coverage know that their health care bills are higher because of the tens of millions of Americans who are uninsured. They know they shouldn’t have to go bankrupt or lose their home just to afford to stay healthy, or to care for a loved one.
“I know that we will disagree at times, but we welcome an open and honest debate. We welcome a dialogue.
“But one choice we do not have is to wait. Health care in not a luxury. We cannot afford another year in which 46 million of us have to choose between basic necessities and lining the pockets of big insurance companies just to stay healthy.”