Washington, D.C.—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made the following remarks on the Senate floor this morning. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“I have good news, and I have bad news.
“The good news is that Senate Republicans finally – at long last – have put a detailed plan down on paper.
“The bad news is that it’s not, as we had hoped, a plan to make health insurance more affordable. It’s not one to make health insurance companies more accountable. It’s certainly not a plan to reverse rapidly rising health care costs and draw down our deficit, like ours does.
“No, the Republican plan we’ve waited weeks and months to see does none of these things. In fact, it is not even about health care at all. The first and only plan Senate Republicans bothered to draft is an instruction manual on how to bring the Senate to a screeching halt.
“Here are some of its highlights:
· Tips on how to force the full reading of long amendments. Now, I have no objection to this level of transparency. Every Senator should know what he or she is voting on. But let’s be truly transparent: we all know those who would ask for such readings have no intention of sitting in this chamber and listening to the Senate clerks, whom they would force to read the legislation aloud. Any suggestion otherwise is simply disingenuous.
· This document also explains how to manipulate points of order – a complex but important part of the legislative process. Yet these Senators have no intention of examining arcane procedural or Constitutional rules. The document says it in plain language. It even condones using this tactic – and I quote – ‘without cause.’ And it admits, in no uncertain terms, that the goal of this tactic is ‘delay’ – the word is right in there. It’s as clear as day.
· There’s more. It also advises Senators on how to – quote – ‘extend consideration of a measure,’ which motions – quote – ‘may be filibustered,’ and when Senators might – quote – ‘offer an unlimited number of motions.’
“Many have expressed outrage at what is in this catalog of obstruction instructions. But what disappoints me most is what isn’t in here:
“I can’t find anywhere in this Republican plan a strategy to lower premiums. I can’t find a single word about how to make sure more of our citizens can afford to stay healthy. I can’t find even one idea for stopping insurance companies from denying health care to the sick.
“You see, my Republican friends have been so busy coming up with games and gambits – with ways to distort and delay – with scare tactics and stalling tactics – that they haven’t left any time to come up with solutions to one of the most profound crises of this generation.
“The Senate might be interested to learn that the architect behind this blueprint is none other than the Ranking Member of the Budget Committee, the senior Senator from New Hampshire. It’s worth noting that this Senator – who, more than any other, often speaks publicly about how to properly use citizens’ tax dollars – has now signed his name to a plan with the explicit goal of wasting the taxpayer’s time and money.
“Not even two weeks ago, the author of this document – along with every single one of his fellow Republicans – voted against even letting the Senate debate this bill. He didn’t even want the opportunity to discuss and defend his position. Now he expects us to believe his only motive is making sure the minority party’s voice can be heard?
“This couldn’t be any further from what the Founders had in mind. They did not write this esteemed body’s rules so that we could stare at the hands of the clock as they rotate around each other without end.
“So let’s not pretend the Republican strategy is anything different than it is. After all, Republicans certainly aren’t trying to hide it.
“When I see these kinds of political games, I think of a woman from Las Vegas, Nevada, who wrote to me this spring just as the health care debate was getting underway. Her name is Alysia, and she is in her early twenties. I couldn’t tell you if she’s a Democrat, or a Republican, or an Independent. And it doesn’t matter one bit.
“Alysia was born with a grave kidney disease. She has suffered with it every day of her life, and these days she desperately needs surgery. But like so many in Nevada and across the nation, she recently lost her job. And when she lost her job, of course, she lost her health care.
“So Alysia tried to buy a new plan that would help her afford that surgery. What did the insurance companies tell her? That her kidney disorder is a pre-existing condition, and because of that reprehensible policy they refuse to cover her – at the exact moment she needs it the most. Alysia then tried to get help from Medicaid, and what did she hear in response? That she doesn’t qualify because she isn’t pregnant, doesn’t have children and doesn’t have a disability.
“I think of Alysia, and I think of how closely she must be following this debate. I know it means a lot more to her than a legislative exercise or a political objective.
“This morning she’ll pick up the newspaper, or turn on the news, or go online to read about what’s happening in the United States Senate. She probably remembers her grade school textbook teaching her that this is the world’s greatest deliberative body, and is eager to find out how those deliberations are going. She’s eager to learn what we’re going to do about a system that makes it impossible for her to afford to get healthy. And who knows – she might even be watching on C-SPAN as we speak.
“Can you imagine being Alysia – can you imagine going through all that she’s gone through? Can you imagine counting on your leaders to right these many wrongs, and then this is what you find: That a United States Senator has written a ‘how-to’ guide for avoiding the tough decisions that could save her life?
“It’s not too hard to imagine. We all know you don’t have to have as bad a health history as Alysia’s to tell a similar story of your own. You don’t need kidney disease for insurance companies to take away your health insurance.
“As it stands now, they can deny you coverage because of your high cholesterol or your allergies. Maybe you had minor surgery 10 years ago, or your mother had breast cancer. We all know that, much like our Republican colleagues, insurance companies will use any excuse in the book to say ‘no.’
“For many good people in Nevada and throughout the nation, it’s a painful, terrible reality. And it’s one of the many problems our good bill fixes.
“The American people see transparent tricks, like this shameful scheme, for what they are – and they’re not impressed.
“I can’t decide which should disappoint them more: that Senate Republicans are happily wasting so much time, or that they are so eager to admit it.
“But here is one thing I do know: This is no way to govern. It is no way to legislate. It is no way to lead. And it’s especially no way to lead our country or our constituents back to health.”