Washington, D.C.—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made the following remarks on the Senate floor this afternoon. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“Our job as legislators is to write and pass a bill that will make it easier for every American family to afford to live a healthy life. Democrats have worked tirelessly over the past weeks, months and even years to fulfill this great responsibility.
“We have listened to the vast majority of Americans who demand that we stop health insurance companies from taking advantage of them.
“We have listened to the vast majority of Americans who know that a public option for health insurance is the best way to keep competition up, keep costs down and keep insurance companies honest.
“We continue to listen to Senators as diverse ideologically as they are diverse geographically as we craft a final bill.
“And today we are closer than ever before to making sure every American can access quality, affordable health care – and making sure they have the choice of whether they get that care through their private insurer or a public one.
“We are closer than ever, but we’re not there quite yet. And as we head for the finish line, one of the most important parts of this process is transparency.
“That is exactly why the two Senate Committees that drafted the foundations of this bill – the HELP and Finance Committees – conducted lengthy public meetings. At these meetings, the American people could see the Committees consider and approve numerous amendments and proposals by both Republicans and Democrats. For example, you could go on the HELP Committee’s Web site and watch them adopt 160 Republican amendments into its bill.
“It is in the name of transparency that the Committees’ legislation has been fully available on the Internet for many weeks now. The HELP Committee’s bill has been on its Web site since June 9, and the Finance Committee’s bill has been on its Web site since September 16.
“It is important to understand where we are in this process: Right now, we are merging those two bills into one. That work is ongoing, and many different options are being weighed. The Congressional Budget Office is analyzing those options, and based on their analysis, we will decide what to put into a bill.
“Those who demand to see the bill right this minute forget that a final bill does not yet exist. If it did, we’d bring it to the floor. All should remember that as soon as the CBO results are in – and as soon as important decisions are made based on those results – we have pledged to make the final bill available to the full Senate and the American people. The final bill will be public as soon as it is written. I’ll repeat that so there is no confusion: The final bill will be public as soon as it is written.
“Only one final decision has been made so far: We are going to give people the power of deciding whether they want to get their health insurance from somewhere other than the reckless private companies that are responsible for the mess we’re in. And we are going to give the states the power of deciding whether that choice is best for their citizens.
“So that’s where we stand. It is important to get these facts on the record as misinformation and half truths and distractions fill the airwaves.
“But let’s be honest: these facts don’t matter much to those who are dead-set on opposing health insurance reform for partisan reasons.
“They don’t matter to the Republican Senator who said he hopes the effort to fix our broken health care system will be President Obama’s ‘Waterloo.’
“They don’t matter to the Republican Senator who said Republicans will oppose the bill regardless of any concessions Democrats make.
“They don’t matter to the Republican Senator who said, and I quote, ‘I don’t have to read it, or know what’s in it. I’m going to oppose it anyways.’
“Their strategy is to deny the undeniable fact that families’ personal health and pocketbooks are suffering. Their strategy is to defend the indefensible practices of crooked insurance companies who make huge profits on the backs of our seniors and our sick. Their strategy is to ignore polls that clearly and consistently show the American people support a public option, and instead argue, without evidence, that they don’t.
“Republicans make no effort to hide their short-sighted and self-destructive strategy. In fact, Roll Call today reports that they, ‘have mapped out a strategy to draw out debate’ rather than work with us to strengthen the bill.
“And Politico reported late last week that Republican consultant Frank Luntz is out with a new memo urging Republicans to fake bipartisanship. You’ll recall that back in May, Luntz encouraged Republicans to oppose a health care reform bill before a single one was even written. Now he says Republicans have more to gain from complaining about the health bill than working to improve it. I say all of us – every single American – stands to lose if that happens.
“I know Senate Republicans appreciate transparency, because their strategy is as transparent as it comes. And that strategy is simply: delay, delay, delay.
“At the same time, I couldn’t help but notice that while Senate Republicans demand transparency, their own plan is being drafted in secret. We don’t know how much it costs. We don’t know who – if anyone – it will help and how, exactly, it will keep insurance companies from abusing Americans. They won’t tell us how their plan will lower your health care bills so you don’t have to choose between your medication and your mortgage.
“So I can only conclude one of two things: either Senate Republicans are drafting a bill in secret, or their proposal simply doesn’t exist, and the Republicans have no solutions to one of the greatest and most urgent challenges of our time. Whichever it is should concern the American people greatly.
“It is increasingly clear to the American people who is trying to help them. It is clear who is reaching across the aisle, negotiating in good faith and compromising where necessary. It is clear who is doing their job as legislators. And it is equally clear who isn’t.”