Senate Democrats


Washington, DCWith Republicans proposing legislation for their upcoming “health” week that will let insurance companies decide what to cover and what to charge and do nothing to solve the health care crisis in America today, Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid delivered the following remarks on the Floor of the U.S. Senate.

The text of Senator Reid’s remarks, as prepared, is below.

There is a health care crisis in America–a crisis that can be felt in homes and corporate boardrooms alike.

Health care costs are going up Premiums have increased more than 70 percent since 2000, crippling businesses like Ford and GM. Prescription drug prices are skyrocketing, and we all know the president’s Medicare drug plan is a mess.

In addition, too many people don’t have health care. We have 46 million without coverage, 443,000 of them in Nevada, more than 100,000 of them children.

And then, there’s the fact that too many cures–like those offered by stem cell research–remain out of reach because this Republican Senate is dragging its feet.

We need a new direction on health care.

Republicans have had five years to put their arms around this crisis, but even with control of the White House, the Senate and the House, they’ve failed.

Next week, Senate Republicans have scheduled what they call “health care week.” They’re preparing a mini-debate for this major crisis. It’s a puzzling approach to a national emergency, and one that brings a number of questions to mind.

My first question, Mr. President, is what took them so long?

We are over 75 percent of the way through the 109th Congress. Republicans have given months to picking a fight over radical judges… weeks to issues that help Big Business more than families, like class action changes and a giveaway to asbestos defendants…. And now, they want to give a national emergency like health care only a handful of days?

This is another public relations gimmick by Bush Republicans. They are not serious about helping the American people. If they were, they would have given this critical issue more than a few days.

My second question is who do Republicans want to help?

This answer is easy. The only people getting healthy under Senate Republicans are special interests. The same people they’ve fought for the last five years.

Republicans don’t have a single prescription to America’s health care emergency. Instead, they’ve got a cabinet full of a medicine to fatten their Big Business friends.

On Monday, they want to have a vote on their same, tired Medical Malpractice bills. Two bills that would enrich the insurance industry, but do nothing to help working Americans.

Last Congress, the Senate rejected virtually identical bills–with their same one-size-fits-all caps on recovery for the most seriously injured victims of medical negligence.

On Tuesday, Republicans will have another bill–one they claim will help small businesses. But as you would expect in the Bush Republican’s Orwellian world, it will do just the opposite.

Far from helping, their measure threatens the coverage of those who have insurance and does nothing to extend coverage to those who need it. It gives control of your health care to the insurance companies. Insurers–not doctors–will decide if you get coverage and what you’ll be charged.

And then, after those three bills, Republicans are done. That’s all they have. Three bills that do nothing for Americans, and we’re done with health care and on to something else.

Which leads me to the third question–why are Republican’s refusing to consider real solutions in their “health care week?”

While I applaud my colleagues for recognizing health care deserves the Senate’s time, their agenda is frightening.

Where is stem cell research? Where are Medicare improvements? Where is relief for the uninsured and small businesses of this country?

Senators Durbin and Lincoln have health care legislation that will actually help small businesses. It would give them the ability to pool together and choose from the same health care options that Senators have. If it’s good enough for Senators, why don’t we give everyone the same opportunity next week?

Then, Senator Leahy has an insurance reform bill that would bring the insurance industry under federal antitrust laws for the first time. Why not this bill? It’s a real way for us to bring insurance premiums into line.

And then how about stem cell research? Senator Frist has repeatedly promised to bring stem cell legislation before the Senate. Well, I’d respectfully remind him that time is running out!

Every day we wait to give our scientist the tools they need for is another day millions of suffering Americans lose out on the potential of this ground-breaking research. If the government had acted in the 1950s like Republicans are acting today, we wouldn’t have a vaccine for polio!

And where is Medicare on the Republican agenda?

Five months after the president’s drug program went into effect, it’s still mired in confusion and red-tape. A real health care week would fix the drug benefit problems, like extending enrollment deadlines and eliminating penalties from the president’s drug program. And it would also include a repeal on Medicare’s prohibition from negotiating with drug companies for cheaper prescription drug prices.

Mr. President, America’s health care crisis is real. Unfortunately, the Republicans’ commitment to solving it is not.

Next week, as they did with gas prices, Republicans will pretend to be interested in the struggles of the American people. But their actions will tell us who they really want to help.

It’s not what they say they stand for, it’s who they stand for that matters.

And with their “health care week,” Republicans are making it clear they stand with insurance companies, not the American people.