Washington, DC—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made the following remarks this morning on the Senate floor. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“Since Harry Truman was President, Democrats have fought to make it more affordable to live a healthy life in America. Every day, we come closer to achieving that goal.
“Yesterday was no different. Yesterday, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office confirmed that the Finance Committee plan – which is one of five plans before Congress to reform the way health insurance companies treat people in this country – will reduce the deficit. It didn’t say it will keep the deficit the same; it didn’t say it will increase it, not even by a penny.
“It said, in black and white, that the Finance Committee’s bill will reduce our deficit not just in the short term, but over the long term as well. That’s something progressives, conservatives and everyone in between can applaud.
“And so today we stand closer than ever to fulfilling that fundamental promise, the one for which we have fought for more than 60 years. We stand closer than ever to fulfilling the cause of Sen. Ted Kennedy’s life.
“But as anyone who has even superficially followed this debate knows, the route to realizing Sen. Kennedy’s dream is far from smooth sailing.
“There are still those who will not rest until the American people are denied the change they demanded, those who will not be happy unless the status quo is sustained. There are still those who want to pick fights against us, even though we are interested only in fighting for hardworking families. There are still those who consider this a zero-sum game, and will only declare victory if President Obama concedes defeat.
“Let me be clear: Just as Democrats believe in ensuring quality, affordable health care for every American citizen, we believe equally as strongly that this country has no place for those who wish for it or its leaders to fail.
“And just as yesterday brought us another step closer to real reform, it also brought us another round of Republican excuses. From the Republican leadership on down, the other side remains trapped in its strategy of distortion, distractions and deception.
“Yesterday on the Senate floor, the Republican Leader asked rhetorically what happens to Medicare under our plan. I’d be happy to answer: under our plan, seniors pay less for their medicine; under our plan, seniors pay nothing for their annual checkup; under our plan, seniors pay nothing for preventive care; and under our plan, doctors who treat seniors get a raise.
“But the other side is not letting those facts get in the way of a good sound bite.
“Instead, yesterday on the Senate floor, the Republican Leader said our plan will cut Medicare. What he did not say is that the only thing we’re cutting is the waste rampant in that system – the waste that you, as a taxpayer, pay for in every paycheck.
“Yesterday on the Senate floor, the Republican Leader said, and I quote, ‘Republicans have tried to protect Medicare throughout the debate.’ What he did not say is that this debate is also the first time in history Republicans have ever feigned such an interest:
“The fact is that ever since Senate Republicans opposed the creation of Medicare, they have spent the past 40 years on the wrong side of history when it comes to helping seniors.
“In the past 10 years, Republicans have voted against protecting and strengthening Medicare 59 times.
“And When President Bush vetoed the Medicare Improvement Act last year, the only Senators who supported him were his fellow Republicans.
“So the American people can be excused for not buying Republicans’ eleventh-hour claim that they are the true guardians of seniors’ health care.
“It’s telling that after weeks of negotiations, months of debate and decades of national movements for health insurance reform, this is the best they can come up with. It’s telling that one of their most oft-repeated arguments protests not the content of the bill, but the number of pages it’s printed on.
“And let’s not forget that Republicans only offer arguments in response to our plan to make health care more stable and more secure. We have yet to hear any Republican arguments in support of their own health care ideas. Why? Because there are none. They don’t exist. The Republican plan is nothing more than the status quo.
“Under the Republican plan, insurance companies can continue to deny you coverage when you need it the most.
“Under the Republican plan, insurance companies can deny you coverage because you have high cholesterol or hay fever or heart disease. They can raise your rates because you’re getting older or because your dad had prostate cancer or simply because you’re a woman.
“Under the Republican plan, if you do have health insurance, your family has to pay $1,000 more every year to cover all those other families who have none.
“Republicans in Congress are the only ones who support that plan. The rest of the country knows we need to act, and we need to act now.
“Here’s a list of those who support our plan to improve your health insurance in the short term and the long term alike: doctors; hospitals; the pharmaceutical industry; a bipartisan group of governors; President Obama, who has made fixing health care his top priority; Democrats in Congress, who are committed to getting this done this year; And at the top of that list: the American people, 9 in 10 of whom say high costs are hurting their families.
“In recent days, prominent, courageous, independent-minded Republicans have added their names to that list. People like Arnold Schwarzenegger, the governor of the most populous state in the union; Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of the most populous city in the country; Bobby Jindal, the Governor of Louisiana, whom Republicans asked to provide their party’s response to President Obama’s first-ever address to Congress; Tommy Thompson, the former Secretary of Health and Human Services under President Bush; Mark McClellan, the former head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services under President Bush; Bill Frist, the former Senate Majority Leader and a physician, who said last week that if he were still in the Senate, he would vote for health insurance reform; and Bob Dole, another former Senate Majority Leader and a Republican nominee for President, who this week encouraged his party to drop their ‘Just Say No’ strategy.
“Now, here’s a list of those who think things are just fine the way they are: Republican leaders in Congress.
“That’s it. That’s the whole list. And that is the real matchup in the health-care debate. It’s clear to see who is listening to the American people and who is tuning them out.
“Democrats are willing to listen not only to the American people. We are also more than willing to listen to Congressional Republicans’ ideas, if they offer any to move this debate forward. We would be more than happy to end up with a bill that doesn’t rely on only 60 Senators’ votes, but one that can earn the support of 70, or 80, or 90.
“But until that happens – until Republicans in Congress show they want to be productive partners rather than partisan protestors – we will continue to do what the vast majority of Americans demand that we do, and that is continue moving forward to improve a badly broken system.
“I agree with what President Obama told Congress last month: We have no patience for those who seek more of the same failed ideas. We have no patience for those who contribute only criticism and not constructive input. We have no patience for those who mischaracterize our plan or mislead the people – and we will call them out when they do.
“We believe this because we believe the American people deserve to be told the truth. We believe hardworking families already have enough real problems to worry about without having their time wasted with fake ones. And we believe this country has no place for those who hope for failure.”