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:
“The amendment process continues to crawl forward and this historic health reform bill continues to evolve and improve.
“Our bill is a good bill. It saves lives, saves money and saves Medicare. It makes health insurance more affordable, makes health insurance companies more accountable and makes our economy stronger. But Democrats know we can make it even better.
“That is happening because of dedicated, hard work from throughout the Democratic caucus – from veteran Senators and newer Senators, by the hands of men and women from diverse parts of the country, and good public servants from all points along the political spectrum.
“Senator Mikulski of Maryland – who for decades has been a champion for women’s health – made it better by making sure women can get the mammograms, check-ups and other preventive tests they need to stay healthy, and get them at no cost.
“Senator Bennet of Colorado, who has served skillfully in this body for less than a year, made it better by reaffirming our commitment to Medicare. He made it better by ensuring seniors get the care they need and the quality of life they deserve.
“That positive trend will continue today. Senator Whitehouse of Rhode Island – who came to Congress with a class of Senators elected with a strong mandate to change the way Washington works – has proposed an amendment based on common sense and accountability. It says that the money dedicated to the health care of America’s seniors and of people with disabilities should be used only for those precise purposes.
“Unfortunately, Senate Republicans are less interested in solving problems than they are in creating them. The day before this floor debate began, the Assistant Republican Leader, the junior Senator from Arizona, said – and I quote – ‘There’s no way to fix this bill.’ Of course, he’s wrong.
“All Senators know there is a very reliable way to do improve this bill. It’s been in use for 220 years, and it’s called the legislative process. It’s called doing our jobs.
“And as this bill continues to improve, I once again remind my colleagues not to lose sight of the bigger picture. As we delve into the details and debate the fine print, let’s not forget why we’re here.
“Our goal remains the same as it was the day we began this debate, many months ago.
“It remains the same as it was a year and a half ago, when the Senate Finance Committee first held a series of hearings that led to the legislation that is before us now.
“Our goal remains the same as it was last November when the American people called in a loud and a clear voice for change.
“It remains the same as it did 31 years ago, when Senator Ted Kennedy called it shameful that – quote – ‘in our unbelievably rich land, the quality of health care available to many of our people is unbelievably poor, and the cost is unbelievably high.’
“And it remains the same as it did the day President Truman sounded a call to action to ensure that American families are protected from what he called ‘the economic effects of sickness.’ That was more than 64 years ago – and more than half of today’s United States Senators were not yet even born.
“That constant goal has been and remains this: We must make it possible for each and every American to afford to live a healthy life.
“Each moment in this fight is historic. No bill to put health care decisions in the hands of the people has ever come this far.
“But the most historic days of this journey lie ahead. We can only seize that opportunity if this debate is about facts, not fear.
“I remind my colleagues that if we are to truly help the American people and the American economy – if we are to sincerely do the work our neighbors sent us here to do – if we are to leave our children and grandchildren a better inheritance than a deep deficit and a broken health care system – if we are to do any of these things, we must work together and not against each other. We must work as partners, not as partisans.
“This is not the first time I have asked my Republican friends to think of the real families across this nation who face real problems – families with real sicknesses, real medical bills and real fears.
“It is not the first time I have warned them that America has no place for those who hope for failure.
“This is not the first time I have extended my hand across the aisle and asked my Republicans colleagues to abandon their short-sighted strategy of bringing the Senate to a screeching halt – a strategy that says they will win only when the American people lose.
“But I do still hope that for the first time, they will reach back.”