Washington, DC— Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid delivered the following remarks this afternoon on the floor of the U.S. Senate about the significance of the Senate debate on health insurance reform that begins today. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“The next few weeks will tell us a lot about whether Senators are more committed to solving problems or creating them.
“We have before us a historic opportunity – the chance to ensure the wellbeing of both our fellow citizens and our recovering economy. We have before us the opportunity to relieve the suffering of many, and prevent even worse pain in the future.
“But if we are to seize this opportunity, this debate must be about facts, not fear. We must remain focused on how we can best help the American people and the American economy. And we must avoid the temptation to drown in distractions and distortions. In other words, we must do our jobs.
“Last week, the Republican Leader called the health care crisis ‘manufactured.’ The American people would beg to differ: Last year, 750,000 Americans filed bankruptcy. Seventy percent of them did so because of medical expenses – and 62 percent of those who filed bankruptcy because of medical expenses already carry insurance. What a sad commentary on the state of the health care delivery system in our country.
“This weekend, the Assistant Republican Leader said we should go back to square one – in fact, his exact quote was, ‘There’s no way to fix this bill.’
“That is exactly what the legislative process is about. Debating, amending and improving. Democrats stand ready to do so, and I hope my Republican colleagues recognize that reality – even if their party’s leaders deny it.
“So as we round the latest turn along this journey, I renew my plea to this body, to Senators on both sides of the aisle: Let’s discuss the specifics in this bill, not the whispers of wild rumors.
“While we will disagree at times, let us at least agree that doing nothing is not an option.
“And while each of us may not say ‘yes’ to each word in this bill as it currently reads, let us at least admit that simply saying ‘no’ is not enough.
“We will do this work transparently, and we will do this work tirelessly. That may mean debating and voting late at night. It means debating and voting on Saturdays and Sundays, if we must. This crisis – and yes, it is a real crisis – is simply too hazardous to our country’s and our constituents’ health.
“This is a good bill: it saves lives, save money and saves Medicare.
“The evidence of that continues to pour in: an MIT economist has analyzed our bill and recently concluded that it will help Americans pay less and get more. He found that while the cost of private insurance continues to rise at rapid rates, those who use the new health-insurance exchanges we propose will save hundreds – and in some cases, thousands – of dollars a year.
“I’m gratified that we have already taken health insurance reform further than at any other point in American history.
“But I’m not satisfied, and will not let up until we finish the job. Health care fairness will come only if we dedicate the coming weeks to solutions, not scare tactics.”