Senate Democrats

Durbin: In The Face Of Republican Obstruction, Democrats Are Putting The American People First

Washington, DC—As we look ahead to the Fourth of July holiday, Republicans are continuing their record of obstruction by blocking issues of importance to working Americans, seniors and our men and women in uniform. Last week, Democrats worked to pass legislation to help improve Medicare and TRICARE for millions of seniors and military families. Republicans again blocked this important legislation. Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois will deliver this week’s Democratic Radio Address and discuss what Democrats are doing to help our seniors and military families in the face of unprecedented Republican obstruction: 

The text of the radio address, as delivered, is below:

Hello, this is Senator Dick Durbin from Illinois.

More than 230 years ago, John Adams – one of the architects of America’s independence – wrote a letter describing the human cost of establishing our new nation – a nation unlike any the world had ever seen – a nation dedicated to freedom.

The letter was sent to his wife, Abigail.  Two lines near the end of that letter speak directly to us.

He wrote, “Posterity! You will never know how much it cost the present generation to preserve your freedom.”

“I hope,” he added, “you will make good use of it.”

On this Fourth of July weekend, as we celebrate our nation’s independence, we can be proud that the generations of Americans who followed John Adams have preserved — and expanded — our heritage of freedom.

Today, women and African Americans can not only vote for President, they can run for President.  That is progress that would have astonished John – and maybe even Abigail – Adams.

But there is another change in America that would trouble our Founders greatly if they could see it — that is the political gridlock today in Washington.

With gasoline at $4 a gallon and rising … an energy crisis … a global warming crisis … our economy in trouble … our military stretched thin … and more Americans every week losing their jobs, their homes, their pensions and their health care, America must change course.

But in the Senate, the Senate Republican leadership is determined to stop efforts to bring change to Washington. They have now shattered the record for the highest number of filibusters in history. Filibusters of course are the age-old procedural obstacles used to slow down or stop the Senate from debating and voting. Now before this Congress the record was 57 filibusters in a two year period of time. This Republican leadership has waged 78 filibusters and we still have six months to go.

Just last month, they blocked bills to combat global warming, halt the mortgage meltdown and bring down fuel prices.  Last week, Republican Senators blocked a bill  protecting the ability of many Medicare beneficiaries to see the doctor of their choice. The bill would have cancelled a 10.6 percent cut in Medicare payments to doctors.

That cut, which took effect on July 1st, could force many doctors to stop seeing new Medicare patients.

But it’s not just the seniors who will suffer. Military families are also at risk because of this Republican filibuster.

Payments under TRICARE, the health care plan for active-duty and retired military members and their families, are tied directly to Medicare payment rates.

Now in my state of Illinois, nearly 156,000 TRICARE patients could be hurt by the Medicare cuts.  All told, 8.9 million veterans and military personnel nationwide face reduced medical services because of these cuts.

And while Medicare and TRICARE payments to doctors are being cut, the Bush Administration is giving insurance companies that offer private “Medicare Advantage” plans a 3.6 percent raise.

These private “Medicare Advantage” plans – created in 2003 when the Republicans controlled Congress — cost taxpayers, an average of 13 percent more than regular Medicare.

According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, private insurers will reap $150 billion in overpayments over the next decade – money we could better use to improve Medicare and cover some of the 47 million Americans who are uninsured. Instead, much of that money is going to advertising, overhead, big salaries for insurance company CEOs, big dividends for their stockholders.

There will be a lot of talk about patriotism over this Fourth of July weekend and many Senators will rightfully praise our military. But true patriotism means honoring the men and women in uniform who defend our freedoms — not just with words and flag lapel pins, but with actions befitting their great sacrifices.

That’s why the Veterans of Foreign Wars … the Military Officers Association … the National Guard Association …  the National Military Family Association … the Military Order of the Purple Heart and more than two dozen other organizations representing millions of active-duty military members, veterans, and military families and survivors … all oppose the Medicare and TRICARE payment cuts.

House Democrats and Republicans have already come together with a strong bipartisan vote to block these cuts.  It’s time for the Republican Senators who are filibustering this measure to put our seniors and our military families ahead of private insurance companies and let the Senate pass this bill as soon as possible.

I’m Dick Durbin from Illinois.  Have a happy Fourth of July weekend and thanks for listening.