Washington, DC— Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid delivered the following remarks this afternoon on the floor of the U.S. Senate about how opponents of reform are attempting to obstruct Democratic efforts to reform our broken system. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“Fixing a system so badly damaged by decades of mismanagement and manipulation is not an easy task. It’s no secret that health care is no exception.
“We’re not doing it simply to keep us busy: A bevy of other backbreaking problems piled up over the past eight years – everything from energy to education to Wall Street abuses – only to be passed on to this Congress and the Obama Administration.
“Nor are we doing it because the health insurance industry wants us to. Just the opposite, in fact: they’re doing all they can to protect their reckless policies and raging profits.
“We’re doing this because the American people demand that we do it. Families of all backgrounds and from every state are counting on us to act. And last November, it was one of the primary reasons they called on Democrats to correct our country’s course.
“The American people are closely watching this debate. They are listening to the policies being proposed and they can see the strategies employed toward those ends.
“They’re watching, M. President. And here’s what the American people are saying in response: Nearly two-thirds of them know that Republicans are not working in good faith with Democrats to reform America’s broken health insurance system.
“They’re right. While we’ve made every effort to create a good bill that can earn the support of as many Senators as possible, Republicans have made every effort to stop any bill, regardless of what is in it.
“How do we know this? We know this because Republicans have offered no ideas for reform. We know this because while they talk in the abstract about proposals, they have yet offer any of their own. But most of all, M. President, we know this because Republicans say it themselves.
“In August, the junior Senator from Arizona predicted that almost all Republicans would oppose the health insurance reform bill, regardless of any concessions Democrats made.
“Then the senior Senator from Oklahoma said – and I quote – ‘I don’t have to read it, or know what’s in it. I’m going to oppose it anyways.’
“Then, I opened this morning’s Roll Call – one of the newspapers that cover Congress – and read a disturbing headline – one that confirms what nearly two-thirds of Americans already know, and should convince the rest. It reads, ‘GOP Launches Strategy to Trip Up Health Bill.’
“If Republicans truly wanted to legislate, wouldn’t this headline read ‘GOP Launches Strategy to Improve Health Bill’? Wouldn’t we all benefit from the GOP launching a strategy to ‘Strengthen’ the Health Bill? Wouldn’t it be better for the millions who fear losing their health insurance – and for the millions who don’t have any to begin with – if we would open the morning paper and read even: ‘GOP Launches Strategy to Contribute to Health Bill’?
“But the truth is they have no interest in doing any of that. Instead, Republicans have one strategy and one strategy alone: support the broken status quo.
“Republicans want to ‘trip up’ our plan to protect what works about the system, fix what doesn’t and help the middle class get ahead. That’s because they don’t mind the fact that insurance companies can deny you coverage when you need it the most, or because you have a pre-existing condition, defined as anything from high cholesterol to hay fever to heart disease.
“Republicans want to ‘trip up’ our plan to stabilize health insurance for those who have it and help secure it for those who do not. That’s because they think it’s okay for insurance companies to raise your rates just for getting older, or because your dad had prostate cancer, or simply because you’re a woman.
“Republicans want to ‘trip up’ our plan to keep the insurance industry honest and protect Medicare. That’s because they support a status quo that forces families fortunate enough to have health insurance pay an extra $1,000 or more every year to cover all the other families who have none.
“Republicans want to ‘trip up’ our plan to lower costs for families and make sure every American can afford good, quality care that can never be taken away. That’s because they simply don’t have any ideas for helping the American people – even people in their own states – who are suffering so desperately.
“Republicans will do everything in their power to stop reform this time because for many on the other side, there will never be a good time to reform health insurance.
“That’s not what our constituents sent us here to do. It’s not how to legislate.
“I spent this past weekend in Nevada, and heard first-hand from people who are suffering. Today we learned that our state’s unemployment rate rose again. That tells me that we don’t have time to waste with people looking to ‘trip up’ recovery. Instead, we need legislators willing to work with us toward solving problems.
“Here’s one opportunity Republicans can show they are willing to do more than simply stand in the way: We are working this week to protect seniors’ relationship with their doctors. One of seniors’ biggest fears is that their doctors will drop them, which is why we are proposing a bill that makes sure doctors will continue to see their Medicare patients.
“Republicans have come to the Senate floor numerous times in recent weeks to demand that Congress protect seniors. This so-called ‘doctors’ fix’ is yet another opportunity for Democrats and Republicans to work together to improve Americans’ health – this time, it is seniors’ health.
“The AARP has 40 million members. Nine out of ten of them support this bill. I hope Republicans will listen to the very people they claim to defend and support it as well.
“While the Republican strategy is disappointing to say the least, it is not entirely surprising: After all, one Republican Senator is on record hoping health insurance reform will be President Obama’s ‘Waterloo.’ Nor is it inconsistent with the obstructionist tactics that have denied and delayed so many other important efforts to address so many of our critical challenges.
“Democrats have been consistent in our efforts to reach across the aisle. In April, just as the health care debate was beginning, I wrote my counterpart, Leader McConnell, to express my great hope that Republicans will work with us in this important and historic endeavor.
“Here is what I wrote: ‘In order for this bipartisan process to take root, Republicans must demonstrate a sincere interest in legislating. Rather than just saying no, you must be willing to offer concrete and constructive proposals.’
“I concluded that letter by writing: ‘I hope your conference will recognize that this issue is too important to be manipulated for political purposes.’
“Nearly half a year later, it is clear that Republicans have not heeded our gesture. It is equally clear to the American people, two-thirds of whom readily recognize that Republicans have no interest in returning the favor. Not in the least.
“As former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole said recently: ‘Sometimes people fight you just to fight you.’
“That might be true, but it won’t be tolerated. This Congress will not be sidetracked by those who devise strategies only to ‘trip up’ progress, rather than to contribute in good faith. And this country has no place for those who hope for failure.”