Washington, DC— Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid delivered the following remarks this morning on the floor of the U.S. Senate about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“The historic health reform bill before us is a strong head start toward urgently needed change. But like nearly every bill to come before the Senate, it stands to benefit from the constructive input of all Senators. This good bill will be even better after this body debates it, refines it and improves it.
“I’m pleased we have begun the amendment process. I hope that we will soon be able to begin voting on those amendments – ones drafted and sponsored by Democrats and Republicans alike.
“But as we delve into the details and give the individual parts of this bill the considerable thought and attention they deserve, let’s not forget the big picture.
“So as the third day of debate begins on this bill, let’s remember what it does: first, we are making it more affordable for every American to live a healthy life. And second, we are doing so in a fiscally responsible way that will help our economy recover.
“This bill does not add a dime to the deficit – quite the opposite, in fact: We will cut it by $130 billion in the first 10 years and by as much as three-quarters of a trillion dollars in the first 20.
“We do this by keeping costs down. This critical reform will cost less than $85 billion a year over the next decade – well under President Obama’s goal.
“We will make sure nearly every American can afford quality health care. We will make sure more than 30 million Americans who do not have health care today will have it soon.
“And we will not only protect Medicare, we will make it stronger.
“In short, this bill saves lives, saves money, and saves Medicare.
“The Congressional Budget Office and respected economists outside of Washington have studied it, and they agree. This bill will do what we set out to do at the beginning of this Congress: it will lower costs and increase value so that all Americans can afford quality health care.
“The experts have crunched the numbers and they’ve come back with positive reviews. It will help parents afford to take care of their children and help bosses provide coverage for their workers. It creates more choices and more competition in the health care market. It will protect everyone against insurance companies’ abuses. And for all the changes, in the areas where our health care system does work, it keeps it just the way it is.
“I’m proud of the Democratic Senators who have stood up for these principles – and those who’ve defended them against hollow attacks from the other side.
“One after another, Republicans have come to the floor with disingenuous claims:
· They’ve talked about health care premiums, overlooking the fact that those costs will go down for the vast majority of Americans.
· They’ve talked about the deficit, ignoring the fact that health reform will do more to lower the deficit than any other measure in years.
· They’ve tried to scare seniors, closing their eyes to the fact that we strengthen Medicare and cut waste and fraud from the program.
· They’ve tried to scare women, closing their ears to the fact that we will make it easier than ever for women to get the preventive screenings they need.
· They claim to speak for the American people, but neglect to mention that for the last year, a majority of Americans has consistently said it’s more important than ever to nurse our health care system back to health.
“And what’s the most consistent Republican attack on this bill? They carefully count the number of pages in it, but completely discount the number of people it helps. Can anyone think of a more superficial way to measure the worth of a bill than how many pages it’s printed on? As far as I can tell, the only threat that poses is, perhaps, a greater risk of paper cuts.
“Those who want to keep the broken system the way it is have thrown everything they can at the wall. So far, nothing has stuck.
“And incredibly, my distinguished counterpart, the Republican Leader, last week called the health care crisis ‘manufactured.’ In one sense, he’s right: It was manufactured by the greedy insurance companies who raise families’ rates on a whim, and who deny health care to the sick. It was manufactured by leaders who enabled them, who empowered them, and who sat idly by while the problem grew worse and worse as it collapsed into crisis.
“My Republican friends have been so busy coming up with distortions that they have forgotten to come up with solutions. They seem more concerned with scaring the American people than helping them.
“This barrage of baseless accusations underscores just how desperate some are to distract the American people from the real debate – and from the fact that they have no vision for fixing our broken health care system.
“Yes, correcting the record has taken considerable time. That is okay; we’ll continue to do so as long as necessary. Democrats are more than willing to defend this good bill. After all, it’s not hard to do. As Mark Twain, a great Nevadan, once said, ‘If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.’”