tv Key Capitol Hill Hearings CSPAN December 13, 2013 8:30am-10:31am EST
the presiding officer: without objection. mr. coats: madam president, we're now in about the third day, i think, of a somewhat tortured process that was the result of a power grab that has changed the tradition of the united states senate, a tradition which was held for about 225 years. republicans are frustrateed with the attempts successful made by the democrat party under its leader to change the rules, break the rules to change the rules, and so we end up with no rule, no rule relative to protecting the rights of the minority. now, i know it's easy for those who have been elected in recent years that have never served in the minority because they simply
don't have the experience of what it's like to be subject to a leader and a party which basically says we don't care what you think, we don't care what you say, we don't care what you do, none of it will be allowed unless we give you consent to do it. and i know that a lot of my friends across the aisle have said well, it's your party that's holding things up, and it's the -- you are making the senate a dysfunctional institution. what they haven't done is ask why are you doing this? first of all, i don't believe we're the ones making it dysfunctional, but even if you think that, the question has not been asked why are you doing this. and we're doing this because we have three years of pentup frustration or more under the
leadership of our majority leader who has essentially turned this into the house of representatives. some people say well, what's wrong with that, majority vote rules. just about in everything else we do. why shouldn't majority vote rule here? well, the senate was not set up that way. it's famously known the senate is set up to be a place where tempers can be cooled, the passion can be cooled, something can be debated and worked on, and if major legislation is passed that affects significantly this country, that legislation is passed in the bipartisan fashion following significant debate, and we have always had a provision which basically says those in the minority will have their right to participate, have their right to offer amendments to participate in the debate. we have been shut down from offering amendments. there has been growing frustration on our side,
basically saying this is not how the senate has worked traditionally. this is not how it's worked historically. this is not how it has worked according to the founding fathers' determination of protecting the senate, giving it extra long terms, giving members the opportunity to use the agreed upon rules to achieve the right of someone in the minority to speak up. now, the democrats are going to rue the day when they made this move and jammed it down our throats and said if you don't like it, tough. because at some point, the pendulum will swing, and i think maybe sooner than a lot of people think. 2014 looks like a turn-around year. and if it is, they are suddenly going to find themselves in the minority, and we'll see and they will learn what it's like to be
denied the opportunity to be elected to the united states senate and be a member of this august body, be one of 100 people that are chosen to represent their states and represent the united states of america and be shut down from having any opportunity whatsoever to have a voice in what goes forward here, to offer your thoughts, your amendment, to represent your state. but to be told by the majority leader i'll decide whether or not you can have an amendment. and by the way, i'll use procedures to make sure you can't have your amendment. now, i have had the privilege of serving here on two different occasions. i came here in early 1989 and served ten years in the senate. i don't recognize the senate today. i came back in 201012 years
later. i don't recognize this. this is not the senate that i joined in 1989. it was under democrat control. george mitchell was the majority leader. the democrats had the majority. they controlled it. i had served ten years in the house of representatives along with my colleague from kansas, senator roberts, who is -- i'm sure who is here listening to me speak, and i appreciate that, pat. we have gone through the same experience. but when i served before, under democrat leadership, i realized what the difference was between this upper chamber and the lower chamber. under the genius of our founding fathers, the lower chamber, elected every two years to represent the -- the immediate concerns of the people of their state or their district, and the senate, given the opportunity to step back and take a broader look and work to fashion
bipartisan support so that something major that impacted the american people, impacted our constituents was settled and debated and worked out and ground through the process and gave us an opportunity to say wait just a minute, do we want to rush to judgment here or do we want to just step back and look at the larger picture? and so as a minority member of the republican party, in 1989 and following, all the way up to 1995, i enjoyed and revered the opportunities that i had, and former members of the house would ask me, what's the difference between serving in the house and serving in the senate. i said in the house, your majority party rules, and you're
lucky, you're lucky if you can get the rules committee over there to allow you to have an amendment on a particular bill. every once in a while, it would happen, this was special. but in the united states senate, every minority member i said could offer any amendment to any bill at any time, and that is a great privilege that has been afforded to us, but a necessary privilege, because without it you get stuff rammed down your throat, it doesn't have bipartisan support, you're denied the opportunity to participate to amend, to adjust, to be a part of fashioning something that can be accepted by the american people with support from both sides. and so this boiling up frustration has been -- has been happening here increasingly under the leadership of this majority leader who simply says i'm going to turn this in to the
house. i'm going to change this institution from 225 years of what it once was to something entirely different, and forget you guys on the other side, you in the minority. you don't have the rights that you once used to have. i respected majority leader george mitchell. tough, ran this place like clock work. we were in late at nights a number of times, but every member of the minority had the opportunity and the right to offer an amendment, the right to participate, the right to be heard and the right to offer an amendment to a provision. george mitchell as leader recognized those rights, and he would say guys, ladies, you can offer any amendment you want.
we will take it up, we will have a vote on it. you may win, you may lose, but you have that right. so the reason why we're frustrated here and the reason why we're using some procedures now which deny all of us a lot of sleep that we would like to have, and at christmas season, we would like to go out and shop for some gifts for our families. we would like to make some plans for the christmas season and we're stuck here. the reason for this is it boiled over. the last insult was simply basically saying forget it, forget the rules that have -- forget the procedures and forget the courtesy, forget the privilege, forget the right that you have enjoyed for all these years in the senate, and we're going to turn this into a different place, and you just take it or leave it. so we're kind of left with very
few resources, unable to express how we feel about this. i think there is a solution, an easy solution to our problem. that starts with, number one, an understanding of the frustration each side has, but it includes -- it has to include the understanding of why they're frustrated. and it's not just the democrats that are frustrated with the republicans trying to use techniques that will allow us at least to have a say in how things are working here, but also frustration among republicans in basically saying bill after bill, time after time, we have amendments that we would like to offer that represent the wishes of the people of our states that we represent, our constituents, and i am being denied that opportunity by the majority leader. well, not everyone calls me distinguished, but i'm happy to yield to someone that does but
also a good friend. a senator: well, there is a good reason for that. mr. roberts: we both came to the house at the same time. we were sorry to lose you to the senate, but i truly appreciate what you have said here. it reflects conversation that we both have had, to try to tell -- to try to educate, to try to suggest basically just to get to know each other a little better with our colleagues across the aisle as to why this is taking place. what our frustrations are. but you have summarized them very well. i would urge my colleagues across the aisle to take your suggestions and your plea really in behalf of us all to heart, would encourage everybody if they have nothing else to do around here, to read the "congressional record" and to read your remarks and to take them to heart. i remember so well when i came
to the senate in 1996 and you were here. and i had an amendment that i wanted to offer. and being a member of the house for 16 years, what you had to do in the house was to check with the chairman and we served in the minority, and then the revolution came in 1994 and things changed. but then you had to go to the rules committee, which the senator has pointed out was a very unique experience. i remembered then what i had to do to get anything done in the house, and basically i had to find a democratic colleague, a friend serving in the majority, to cosponsor the bill that i had and put his name first and then go to the rules committee to
make it an order so that my bill and his bill could work. my partner in this effort was congressman charlie stenholm. i had first been to the rules committee in the house. i had not been to the rules committee. i thought the debate would be about germaneness, was it timely, et cetera, et cetera. i found out it was just a debate all over again on the merits of the bill and on a partisan party line vote, they would deny any republican amendments. so, stenholm was a partner in the effort with the bill. i can't even remember which one it was at this particular time, but it was my first big attempt. and it was on the farm bill. and we had mutual concerns. we thought it was a good amendment. it was the roberts-stenholm
bill. it didn't me very long to figure out the roberts-stenholm bill and charlie said it might be better if it was the stenholm-roberts bill or just the stenholm bill. for awhile it was the stenholm bill and it was made in order. then on the floor, charlie stenholm being the kind member he was, all of a sudden it became the roberts-stenholm bill again and it passed, the law, my first amendment on the floor of the house. that was my background. so i had an amendment, and i know the senator remembers well, because we were standing right about down here, and i was asking you, i checked with the ranking member and the chairman. at that time we were in control. and we had the majority. and i had a very simple amendment, and i won't go into
it. but at least it was referenced to the health, education, labor and pensions committee. and i was checking around with the ranking member and whatever, and they looked a little surprised that i was even checking with them. and the chairman of the committee, our republican chairman, indicated, well, i would just as soon you wouldn't do that because we have a complete bill. we've put it to the committee. i think your amendment has merit, but -- and i knew i had bipartisan support for it and i knew it was a very easy amendment that would pass. but he told me just wait. we'll take that up sometime down the road. well, down the road in the senate means way down the road. so i was sort of grumpy and you asked me what was wrong. i said the chairman doesn't like it. you said this is the senate. you can offer any amendment any time whether it is germane or not. this is the senate; you have
rights. i knew that. i had gone to the robert c. byrd lecture as a new member, and he lectured me on minority rights and how we should conduct ourselves. he was the institutional flame of the senate. and you urged me to offer the amendment. i should have done it, but i thought, all right, i'll wait. i will defer to the chairman's advice. i've often regretted that. and later -- i'm talking about two or three years later the same subject came up. i happened to be on the floor. senator ted kennedy was in charge. they had taken back control. and he knew about the amendment, and he said would you like to get your amendment passed? he was standing on the floor. there was hardly anybody else here. and bingo, using the parliamentary procedure that you could do in the majority, my amendment was passed. it was not the kennedy-roberts
bill. it was the roberts bill authorized, didn't get too much money for it but it made the effort. i've gone into a long personal history here just to demonstrate exactly how this works. now we have a farm bill that's been hung up for over two years. we have a farm bill that the principals are meeting in secret. there are 37 of us that are also on the conference wondering where on earth is the farm bill. the house has just passed by unanimous consent an extension of the current farm bill like we did last year. last year we passed a farm bill. last year the majority leader in a discussion with me said if you can get it done in three days, i'll let it happen. note, i'll let it happen. and chairperson stabenow certainly was working extremely hard on her side. i was working on my side. we were going to the steering committee and said i think we
can get regular order. i think you can get your amendments up. nobody believed me. we had 73 amendments. we did it in two and a half days. once that tipping mark hits with people withdrawing amendments, you get your work done. but the majority had every opportunity to offer amendments. so a year ago, considering the farm bill, the first amendment was by senator rand paul, considering the pakistani who helped us with regard to the osama bin laden raid, and he was in prison. so senator paul that you had tha*ut it would be -- senator paul thought it would be a good idea to hold the aid to pakistan until they released the prisoner. what did that have to do with the farm bill? nothing. it was the first amendment considered. it didn't pass, by the way. and many other amendments that came from folks who had never had an amendment brought up and discussed, those amendments were discussed in the farm bill. i would say probably of the 73 amendments that were considered,
there were 300 offered. people would get up, they would have their say, they discussed the amendment, they knew probably it would not pass, and they would withdraw it. but they at least had an opportunity to present their opinion and represent their states and their constituents, and we had that opportunity. this year's farm bill wasn't 73 amendments, voted about 10 times. senator thune, a respected member of the agriculture committee, senator johanns, the former secretary of agriculture; senator grassley, and myself, we all had a total of about 12 amendments. we withdrew those from consideration from the committee markup and said we'll take them up on the floor, except the majority leader cut it off saying time-out, no more. none of us got those amendments. as a former chairman of the
agriculture committee in the house and the ranking member last year, what's that all about? i mean, you have a farm bill. you have people on the ag committee. they have pertinent amendments with regard to the direction of the bill, and bingo, you're just cut short. that causes a lot of frustration to say the least. now, i've -- i haven't gotten into the weeds on this simply because of your friendship and advice which i treasure, but your willingness to speak from the heart to demonstrate to our friends on the other side of the aisle, think about about. -- think about this. think about why we're doing this, because if you break the rules to change the rules -- what is happening is we're packing the district court here in washington which is the appeals court, probably more
important than the supreme court on all the regulatory matters that come up, i.e., the president's executive orders, the president's waivers, the president's interim final rules or any agency's interim tpaoupbl rules. we have government by regulation today. we do not have government by legislation today. we have government by regulation. and this court becomes the senate. and so it was evenly -- we had an even number of judges, and now we're going to have three more. and so consequently the president who says i can't work with the republicans, because he won't work with republicans, is going to have his way. it's going to be jammed down our throat. and i know you when you go back to indiana and i when i go back to kansas, what we hear from any economic sector of our economy is what is going on with these regulations? somebody holds up a piece of paper and says are you aware of
this regulation? and i say no i'm not but i'll check on it. what is our ability to deal with that? almost nothing. so we have government by overregulation. that is what this is about, so that that agenda by the president for more regulation to get his agenda is going through the courts as opposed to the senate of the united states. and that's why we are faced here with this situation. that is why i was here from 8:00 to 9:00 talking about iran. you're talking about the issue at hand, and i truly appreciate it. so i thank you for coming to the floor. i thank you for making these comments. i just wish people would understand why we have this frustration. and the, i think, a more accurate reflection of what is going on here, i know that that is not reflected much in the media. i understand that. but that is simply the case. a senator: i thank my colleague from kansas.
mr. coats: i'm glad he mentioned his own personal experiences and our experiences together with this. it's more than about the senator from indiana and the senator from kansas. it's about this institution. it's about the future of the united states senate. what kind of a body are we going to be? are we going to be the senate that has been the senate for 225 years? with the rights of the majority being able to express -- our majority leader can look across the aisle and say the former chairman of the agriculture committee, former secretary of agriculture can't have a say in what the farm bill says. i mean, it's a treasure trove of experience. it's a treasure trove of knowledge of the whole agricultural sector, and the majority leader simply says because i'm in power and i can tell you what you can do and what you can't do. forget it. forget your adjustments to this.
but that leads us right into the most egregious power grab of all, and that was when under total democrat control both in the house and the senate and at the presidency in the white house, democrats decided they're going to tell us how we should reshape our health care system and readjust one-sixth of the entire u.s. economy. and, by the way, we have all this expertise here, or we think we have this expertise here, and we will wrap all this up in one with 2,000-plus page bill, and we will run it down your throats without any input from the other side. oh, we had input, but everything, the rules were adjusted, the vote was changed and it was passed by a simple majority and had no constructive
impact from those who did not think this was the right way to address our health care system. and now look at the mess we are in. we've been talking here for days about calls, not reflecting just our views but calls from constituents saying what in the world have you done? the reason i ran in 2010 is i was so upset about two major things. one, the way the democrats have essentially said take this health care bill, don't worry about reading it as nancy pelosi said, we'll find out about it later. boy are we finding out about it later. and the people that it has been imposed upon, the people that we represent, are now finding out about it later. and i've got a whole packet full here of responses. i don't know if these are from republicans, democrats, liberals or constituents. all i know is they're from my constituents whom i represent,
all of them and trying my best to represent them and they have flooded my office with tweets, facebook and all this session stuff i have a little trouble grasping right now. but e-mails, letters pouring in, phone calls jammed, people saying what have you done to us, what are you imposing on us? i could go through here and read horror stories about people and the broken promises, the broken promises on this. you know, i think as the senator from kansas has understood, we have both been in this business here for a while, you better be careful if you fall in the trap of going home and promising what you can't deliver. oh, it's so easy to walk in front of groups and say i know what you really would like to hear, and so i want you to like me and vote 30 for me at the next election so i will tell you what you want to hear. it's so easy to go home and
promise something that makes people feel good so they will feel good about you. but you better be careful because if you overpromise and under perform, they're going to say hey, wait a minute, and no one, no one has more overpromised and underperformed than this president of the united states regarding health care. you know, when you say, when you say if you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor, period, i bet the president wishes he hadn't said the period. maybe. let me just finish and i will be happy to yield. i'm sure he wishes he hadn't even said that, if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. thousands of people in indiana are basically saying hey, i can't keep my doctor. mr. president, you promised, and you said period. what does period mean? hey, take it to the bank. count on it. final, finito.
no more questions need to be asked. i'm telling you you, if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor, period. nothing more needs to be said. and the same was said about don't worry, your premiums won't go up. don't worry, you won't have -- don't worry, if you like your plan, you can keep your plan. how many hundreds of letters have i gotten from people saying hey, i love my plan. why do you think i chose it? if i didn't like my plan, i wouldn't have selected my plan. and now i get a letter saying your plan is no good. you have got to go into the government's plan, you have got to go into the obamacare plan. and oh, it's going to be affordable. don't worry, folks, no money is going to be spent. well, were we told about the $400 million that was spent just to fashion the web site. can you imagine how they screwed up their web site. after three and a half years of notice, they can't even put out
the web site, horror stories they are getting on the web site, which they are continuing, by the way. if you can't do that, how are you going to manage the program if you ever do get people signed up? and so on and on it goes, but this idea of promising and now having these promises broken just feeds into the lack of -- to the cynicism, the lack of trust among the american people and the institutions of government and in their elected representatives and in their president, and that is just a cancer in this country. if you can't put your faith and trust in the promises in what's said by the people who are representing you, who are making the laws that you have to comply with, that's a sad day. so the senator again has asked me to yield. i will be more than happy to yield back to him. mr. roberts: i think the answer was when the president said if you like your plan, you can keep it, period, or your doctor, it
wasn't that way, really. it was if you like the plan, you can keep it, semi colon or -- or maybe there was a parentheses there. if you like your plan, you can keep it. if i like it. and if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor if it's possible and we think it's all right, whatever. mr. coats: if i could just add to what the senator said, if you don't like your plan and if you want something different, we'll tell you what you have to like and what you don't have to like. it's no longer your choice. we'll tell you what you need, what we think you need, but you can't make that decision for yourself. so here's our plan. i mean, you look at our plans and pick one of those, but boy, if you want something different, if you want to go to your insurance company and work something different out for you or your employers or your
employment-sponsored plan and so forth, forget it. we know more than you do because we vote the law and the reason we wrote the law is because we don't think you have the intelligence or the ability to figure out what's best for yourself. anyway, i have to yield back. mr. roberts: if the senator would yield? these were called lemon plans, shoddy plans, plans that were denigrated even though the families involved worked on the plans, had a plan that they liked. i am sure the same is in indiana as is in kansas. more people have lost their insurance than have signed up and been happy with the program. nobody on our side of the aisle wishes -- or doesn't understand the fact that we have a lot to do with health care reform. and i would say that almost every senator has a five-point plan on what they would like to do, but it is certainly more market oriented and certainly isn't top down. i will tell you what is working
as opposed to the rollout is the advertising for this, some of which is unbelievable. every day in the media -- and thank goodness the media is now watching and at least paying attention to this, but there was a rap group now that is on television that said it's cool to sign up for obamacare. why on earth is the -- why are the taxpayers paying for that when every day secretary sebelius is changing the game along with the president. i think the president has changed this plan about 17 times. maybe that's low now. but he should come back to the congress for that. i think a lot of these changes are unconstitutional. but at least he should come back to the congress. which gets me back to your basic point. what would have happened had we gone ahead with regular order and sworn in scott brown as the new senator from massachusetts and then it wouldn't have been on a one-vote margin with regards to obamacare or the portable health care act or what
it was called back then, the patient protection affordability act. the acronym for that is ppaa, which i think pretty well sums it up. had that happened, you would have had to have some sort of a bipartisan agreement, which is really what we are talking about in breaking the rules now so that you don't have to do that, but then they would not swear in scott, and so there we were on christmas eve. none of us knew what was in the bill because it was in harry reid's office. as a member of the help committee, i was privileged to consider this bill. we worked hard. i had three amendments on rationing. i am worried about rationing. there is four rationers. i'm not going to get into that. i'm not going to take up your time to do that. ipab is the number one i'm concerned about. they are worried about the reimbursement your hospitals in
indiana, my hospitals will get in kansas. that's why we are trying to do the doc fix. at any rate, we were in the help committee. i had three amendments. all three were defeated by a party-line vote. that markup sat on a -- i don't know where it is now. it's collecting dust. it then went to the finance committee. i had the same three amendments. i wanted to offer the amendments on the floor. we are going to have a lot of problems with these rationing boards making decisions as opposed to individual patients and their doctors, if they can find their doctor, if they can have their doctor, period. so it gets back again to regular order. it gets back in to respecting the minority rights. it gets back into protecting minority rights. had we had those, i think that this bill possibly could have been worked out. i now believe that this bill was proposed by those that really prefer national health insurance and this was the stalking horse
for national health insurance. i don't think anybody on that side of the aisle realized that this bill would be like thelma and louise going off into the canyon, but that's what's happened. and so now we have all this mess on our hands and every day we learn about something new. the secretary just came out yesterday with additional changes. they don't mean anything because she is just simply urging the insurance companies to go back and talk about those folks that you were talking about about the plan that they would like to have or the plan they would like to keep. she is just saying to the insurance companies, we urge you to do that. what's that all about? the toothpaste is out of the tube. i don't know how on earth you can get that done. there were four more other suggestions. now, i am getting off subject here because you started off here saying about the rights of the minority, and this bill didn't pass with any republican votes and very little republican input, and i think that in part is why it has crashed and is
burning right now. if that -- if that had not happened, if we had just had regular order input during that particular time, i think there would have been a better product. i probably still would have voted no because i don't want national health insurance. now, i feel a lot better that i have expressed my rant to you. it's been a better morning as a result. but i think anybody listening to us could finally understand the depth of our frustration, wanting to be a part of the senate and having the right to be part of the senate but having that right and privilege that everybody had for 225 years has now been taken away. and it will be interesting if, in fact, the pendulum would swing back and republicans were in control and what we would do. would we go back to the 225-year precedent or would we say well,
what's good for the goose is good for the gander. we'll just seek a pound of flesh or two. i don't know what we would do. i would hope we would go back the 225-year precedent could be the right thing to do, but it would be interesting to see. thank you for allowing me to -- mr. coats: the senator from kansas is a long-time friend, someone i have had the privilege of serving with, getting to know on a personal basis, he and his wife and his family. we're both here with some experience under our belts, and unlike many of our colleagues who may see only one side of the story, we have been on both sides. i think about -- i had my differences with senator robert byrd from west virginia. there was no greater defender of the rights of the minority than senator robert byrd, a democrat senator who served his lifetime in the united states senate. i wish there had been some
respect for what senator byrd had said. i can see him standing on the floor saying it doesn't matter how partisan this is. these are engraved in stone privileges that we have learned, our founding fathers have learned through adverse experience throughout history, about denying the minority a voice, a right to participate. this never would have happened if robert byrd was here. i know there are new members that just have not experienced what it's like to be said sit down and shut up. we'll tell you what you can say -- what amendment you can offer, if any. and to be told time after time after time, you know, it builds, because as all the bills come up and you have got five things you would like to get done this year on behalf of your constituents, and you wait for the next bill to be brought up and you say
mr. leader, can i put it on -- have an amendment on this bill? sorry, no amendments. filled the tree, done. we're going to move forward. okay, i will go the next one. can i have it on the next one? here we are at the end of the year, the cycle is over, done. i'm sorry. you can't represent your constituents with what you think they want to do. now, maybe you won't prevail, but you will have been in the fight, and people will have had to put their yes or their no on it. you can go home and say i gave it everything i had. i didn't win, but i'm fighting for you, and i was allowed the opportunity to do it. and now we're told now you go home and say i wasn't even allowed to express your interests. you, my constituents' interests, through offering an amendment to the bill as a member of the minority. i mean, the history of this place, the history of democrat leaders when they had power is a
respect for that right, for the right of the institution. it's not about dan coats or pat roberts. it's not about the current state of the republican party of the united states senate. it's about this institution. it's about what goes forward. do we want to turn this thing into we have got the power and you might as well just go home? that's what the frustration is. and i hope the new members who look at this and say well, if there could be a more efficient place, we shouldn't have to go through all this. we wouldn't have to go through all this if you would just give us a chance to participate. but how else can we -- how else can we express to you our frustration other than just at least having the opportunity to slow things down here so maybe you will listen to us? maybe you will reconsider. maybe you will go to some of -- i wish they had listened to senator levin. he has been here a long time. a democrat -- respected democrat
chairman of the armed services committee. came down and said we should not be doing this, to his own colleagues. we should not. made an impassioned plea, a very compelling argument, saying we shouldn't do this.. and i think back of the republican leaders and the democrat leaders, whether they are majority leader or minority leader, who both came to agreement that these rights need to be protected. whether it's bob dole or george mitchell or trent lott or tom daschle, all of a sudden we're cast into a situation here which is sit down and shut up. we got the votes. tough. that's our frustration. i just tell my colleagues, think about this. think about how we can get back to what the senate has been for 225 years. think about what it might be look for you when you're in the minority. you're going to want -- you're
going -- not want to go home and tell your constituents and say the other party rules and i don't have any ability to represent you at all. i can't offer any amendment expressing your wishes. i don't even have a chance to get it to a sroeut. i just have to go home and say i was denied the opportunity to even put it to a vote. i remember, of course, senator dole from kansas and senator roberts knows this well, how bob dole would say, look, this is the united states senate. you've got to take tough votes. you're not going to win every one. you're going to have to go home and explain those votes. this isn't just a deny -- don't take tough votes because you don't want to explain it to people back home. step up, debate it, vote. you might win, you might lose. but we're here to vote. we're here to give everybody the
right to have a vote on how they think they can best represent their constituents. didn't come here to avoid this, to hide behind a desk to say this might affect the next elections. i don't want to have a vote on that, vote on this, et cetera, et cetera. i really came down here to talk about the debacle of obamacare. i got all these letters. i mean, but i mean all you have to do is turn on the television or the radio or read the newspaper or talk to your neighbor. i think the word -- unfortunately the word is not spreading about this thing through the media because the media hasn't -- i think even now the media is realizing what a debacle this thing is. all you've got to do is talk to your neighbor whether it is at church, bowling league or whatever. i got my termination letter yesterday. don't know what i'm going to do. or i tried 21 times to get into the web site.
can't get in. you know what no one is talking about is the fact that ironically, ironically those who wrote the bill, the president of the united states and his executives, are not forced -- don't have to go into obamacare. i don't know why this hasn't been more publicized. is that the ultimate in hypocrisy. you, the american people, we have decided this is good for everybody except us, by the way. so we're exempting ourselves. the president of the united states, all his cabinet secretaries, his political appointees, his major staff, and even some of staff that wrote the bill exempted themselves. how can you write a piece of legislation, impose it on 300-some million americans and say, well, that's not for me. that's for you. but since i'm writing it, i can write in here an exemption for myself.
i don't know why the media is not all over this. i don't know why we haven't had an amendment from the democrat side saying this is wrong. i mean, how do you go home and tell people that my president, my majority leader, staff is exempt. that they're imposing it on all of us. i wouldn't even want to go home. mr. roberts: it isn't as if we haven't tried. as the senator knows, senators are under that obligation and their staffs. however, committee staff is different. leadership staff is different. as you have pointeddous, the executive is -- as you have pointed out, the executive is different. what's that all about? it should uniform or not at all and it should uniform for everybody who had a hand in this debacle. i even thought about an amendment saying those who didn't vote for -- i voted
against this three times, obamacare. once in the health committee, once in the finance committee and once it came out of harry reid's office. you said did you read the bill? nobody read the bill because it had been changed and then you had to wade through it. and then as different events came about and one problem led to another problem, that problem led to two problems, those two problems led to another two problems and we're still finding out about that. but back to your point, we can name senators, others have said let's make this uniform. if it's good enough for americans, it ought to be good enough for us. and that has just not happened. mr. coats: it happened to us. i spent torturous hours trying to signed up on the d.c. exchange. i couldn't sign up on the indiana exchange or any other exchange. i was mandated to sign up on the d.c. exchange. i just hope that if something happens to me and it happens to me while i'm in d.c. and not in
indiana -- you know, i'd rather be in indiana rather than d.c.. we all had to go through this as members. people don't understand. back home they think we're exempt. we're not. i went through this torturous process only after two hours with all kinds of technical problems and so forth and so on. hit the confirm button. not enrolled. we had to do it over again. then i got a confirmation. i told my staff print out that confirmation. you are enrolled in the d.c. exchange. you're part of obamacare now. congratulations or whatever. i've got the piece of paper. i go down -- my secretary goes down to the disbursement office to confirm it. coats is not enrolled. what? how about this piece of paper? i know it says you are, but we have no -- maybe there's a technical difficulty here. does that ring a bell for anybody? and the horror stories i have on that -- mr. roberts: if the senator would yield. mr. coats: -- not just two
times, 10 times, 21 times. mr. roberts: my wife is much more adept at the social media capability, so it is up to her. and i thought we were confirmed. only to find out almost before the deadline -- it was midnight and it was a desperation attempt on the part of my staff and myself -- i needed help to get this done, so i had to redo it. then the thought occurred to me, we're going to have two pat roberts in there. 9 one that my wife deposit and then mine -- the one that my wife did and then mine. i hope that's not the case. i hope it cleared up. we'll find out. i hope we don't have to find out but we'll find out. i think that is a duplication of what everybody is going through in the country. then what do you do if in fact
you can't have insurance and you find out about your co-pays and your deductibles and all this, that you've got to sign up and you can't afford it. i'm repeating a sad story that i think everybody knows. but i thank the senator from indiana once again for your plea, your heartfelt plea, to make the other side understand the error of their ways. i hope we can fix this. i hope they can see fit to fix this down the road. i doubt that will be the case and i don't think the country will be better off as a result. mr. coats: i thank the senator. you mentioned signing up, the frustration so many people had. cathleen from mooresville, indiana called my office. she said help. she said i've spoken to someone at the 1-800 number help line
for the federal exchange 21 times since october 31 when she first tried to enroll on the healthcare.gov web site. 21 times she has tried this. so she calls our office in desperation and said, tells us, well, at one point i asked if i could be transferred to this advanced resolution group, which was some other group set up to help people who couldn't get into the web site, i guess. and the customer service representative said that he did not know how to transfer her to that site. she said, well, i mean, i need help. how can i get it? so she finally then called the insurer directly to try to enroll. and they said, well, the only way you're going to get this done is if you bypass the whole obamacare health government -- obamacare web site, because we can't do it either.
so they finally figured out that she had enrolled through the insurance company. but she felt she needed to let the government site people know so they would not put her on the list that she hadn't enrolled. and so she called up there, and finally got to somebody and said -- and he said one word. fine. and hung up. well, he probably was so frustrated with -- mr. roberts: would the senator yield for one more observation? mr. coats: yes. mr. roberts: i was watching the news last night and many more millions of dollars are now being spent to hire more navigators. your constituent should have had a navigator. in many cases the more navigators now that are being hired from various community organizations, some of which i really wonder about. but in some states where only hundreds have signed up, there
will be more navigators than people have signed up. so obviously it's gotten to the point where everybody that's got a problem with insurance ought to have their navigator. this is a considerable expense. i don't remember now how many millions it now total up. a brand-new group of navigators is being hired at considerable expense to make this thing work. and the advertising rolls on. and then the news media about all the problems, discovers more and more. and i appreciate again the senator bringing this to the attention of the american people. and i note that the distinguished senator from nebraska is here and even has a chart that will educate the american people. mr. coats: and i'm happy to yield to him but i've got about five more minutes left and i want to wrap up with one last horror story from doug from indiana. after two weeks of trying to get on the site, the web site, he
finally was able to at least create a log in name and password. then he had to try for another week to apply for coverage. never successfully getting through. but finally completed the form, submitted and then had security questions sent back to him so that they could verify he was who he was. so he received four questions. question one was our records indicated you lived on the following street in the last two years. what city is this? well, the street they list s-d where his -- they listed is where his sister lived. she doesn't even use the same last name, so i'm not sure how they came up with this. doug had never lived there or had any financial dealings with that property. so, you know, how do you answer -- i'm quoting him -- "how do you answer a question as stupid as that? because they said we can't verify you because you didn't
give us the answer. he said i never lived there. that is my sister. question number two is about which county do you live in. i think he got that right. i mean they got it right. question number three, include his previous employers. the only previous employer that was listed that was accurate but it was misspelled. doug said how do i answer that. question four indicates our record indicates you purchased pet insurance in the last two years. what is the name of your pet? you can't make this up. if sign if he would were still going -- if seinfeld were still going, this would be one of the greatest episodes ever. doug has not had a pet in over two years and never purchased pet insurance but they said what pet insurance do you have. i've got a dog. i don't have insurance on it. maybe i should. they didn't ask me that question so maybe i'm okay. so he put down none of the above.
and since he put down none of the above, they said since you can't answer any of the security questions, we can't enroll you in obamacare. you can't make this up. it is a hollywood script writer's dream for a soap opera or comedy. if seinfeld were still on this would be unbelievable. we hear all these horror stories on the late night comedy shows and so on and so on. if it wasn't so -- it is sad. it is sad. we clearly have reached the limit on this one, and i think an apology is due to the american people. and i think we ought to step back and say let's do this over and do it right. and let's do it with bipartisan support. and let's do the sensible things that are affordable, that will
allow people to keep their doctor, that will allow people to keep their health care plan if they like it and will provide means by which we can address the uninsured preconditions and those that need insurance. but do it in a way that is based on test freed market principles, not on nanny government that says we know better than you. boy, have we proven that that is not true. madam chairman, with that, i yield the floor. a senator: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from nebraska. a senator: thank you very much. i want to start out and thank my colleagues from indiana and kansas for their discussion of this very important issue. mr. johanns: i say this somewhat facetiously, but i've been reading the stories about the roll-out of obamacare, just like the rest of us have. what an incredible embarrassment. if there's a state out there that epitomizes the
embarrassment of all embarrassments, it's the state of oregon. recently they had not signed up a single person through their exchange. not one. not a single person in oregon could get through that. that's notwithstanding that the democrat governor supported it, embraced it, notwithstanding that the united states senators in this body supported it, embraced it. couldn't find a single person. well, i just read an article, i think it was this morning, i was catching up on some reading, somehow, some way they went out there and they found 44 people in oregon who have successfully signed up. after all of these weeks since this roll-out occurred, they probably went door-to-door in oregon and found 44 people who they believe have successfully signed up. we'll see if they actually have insurance or not.
well, maybe we could offer this for that poor state. maybe we could offer that if they successfully sign up, they get a picture with their governor and their united states senators, their own individual picture. you know, 44 people wouldn't be too many to get through in a picture line. they probably have fund-raisers that are twice that big or three times that big where they do pictures with everybody. i think those persistent citizens of the great state of oregon deserve something more than just a mention that they're one of 44 in some newspaper somewhere that they successfully navigated the site. i would offer that i think they need a picture, an autographed picture of their united states -- with their united states senators and their governor. well, let me move on to something far more serious, and i'm going to talk about
obamacare, too. and i'm going to tie that in with what i believe this process that we're going through relating to our constitutional right to advise and consent the president of the united states when it comes to his appointments, i'm going to tie that in to why i believe that has all happened and why we find ourselves here today because of this failed obamacare system. yesterday when i was on the floor, i talked at some length about the history of filibuster changes. i mentioned that i have a tremendous amount of respect for a senator that passed not all that long ago, served in this body for a long time, probably knew this body better than anybody who ever served in the history of the senate. that would be senator bob byrd. came here and he was in failing
health by the time i arrived in the senate just about five years ago, but what a -- what a wonderful man. got to know him a little bit. we actually participated, worked together on a climate change amendment. and the knowledge that this gentleman had of the senate was just always amazing to me. well, on the 200th anniversary of what's called the great compromise, when the whole concept of the united states senate was created, some people went to senator byrd and convinced him that speeches that he had given on the floor of the senate and historical writings that he had done should be put together in -- in a book. and it would be commemorative of
the 200th anniversary of the united states senate, the great compromise. and so that was done. when i first got to know senator byrd, i became so impressed with the man that i decided that my senate office needed that, that historical record from him. well, i thought i was buying a book. i wasn't buying a book at all. i was buying four books. four books of -- filled with beautiful information about the senate, its history, people that had served here, people who stood up for the united states senate and, therefore, stood up for the people they represented in the united states of america. i talked a little bit about that history yesterday leading up to filibuster changes and it was -- it was the system here
originally in the original part of our country. in fact, until the early 1900's that basically there was no way to end debate, so if a debate was going on, an individual senator could come to the floor and literally take a bill down a path where it may never become law. and somehow, some way through the years, the senate figured out a way to operate with that kind of an unusual where a single senator could take a bill down that road. well, along came world war i. now, if you think about world war i, there were many members in the body who had pretty close relatives in germany, and this was -- this was a challenge because you had to debate and
decide issues relating to that war and that country. and as we might expect, it became very, very difficult to get things passed. well, a piece of legislation came forward and you can imagine what happened. it got carried down this road of never seeing the light of day and they couldn't get that legislation passed, although that legislation was considered very, very important by many in our country, maybe the vast majority of people in our country. and the country reacted to that and there was a big debate and i think people in this body and people in the country came to the conclusion that kind of this open-ended process where debate may never end and there was no vehicle or mechanism to end that debate, well, that had to end.
that somehow, some way the wisdom of the individual members in this body had to be brought to bear on how to allow senators to have their day, have their say, be able to come here and debate the great issues and offer amendments, how could we allow that to happen and give them their rights as united states senators while still having an ability at some point to stop the debate and cast a vote. well, the united states senators in their wisdom decided that they had to find that way and they did. and so originally, if i remember the history correctly -- and i may have this piece not quite accurate -- but i think they agreed that two-thirds of the senators could vote at some point to end debate and then vote on the legislation.
but senators still had the right to offer amendments. they still had the right to come to the floor and debate. they still had the right to work through the day and the night and build coalitions to get their amendments passed, to shape a piece of legislation, to make that legislation maybe better for the country or for their individual state. all of those rights continued to exist. because, after all, everybody recognized that the power of an individual senator to do that was significant to our country. it was important to our nation, not only then but in future. so that process went on for a number of decades following that decision. and then in the 1970's, a decision was made, again by this
body under its rules, and that decision basically said when 60 senators come to the floor and they agree to end debate that we would get ourselves to a point where that debate would terminate and you could vote on passage of the bill, you could vote on -- on getting that bill done. so 60 votes in the 1970's became the norm. now, important point to mention sheer this -- the rights we have as individual senators representing our constituency, which, in my case, is the great people of nebraska -- and the people of the united states of america, for that matter -- those rights were intended to exist in every respect. in other words, i could come to the floor as a united states senator under the rules and if a
piece of legislation was there and i have an important issue that i wanted to bring to the attention of the country or this body, i could offer an amendme amendment. and except under certain circumstances, that amendment didn't even need to be germane. i remember, for example, when this health care bill was passed, there was a provision that if somebody in business bought over $600 worth of items, that they had to file forms with the i.r.s., a 1099, and give a form to the vendor. now, that's a mess because you never know if the first purchase on january 1 is going to be the last purchase or the first of a series of purchases that gets you over $600. and i wanted to get that out of the bill. it didn't make any sense. even the -- the citizens advocate for the i.r.s. was saying, well, gosh, we've looked at this. it doesn't make any sense.
so we started working, and on every piece of legislation that would come forward, i'd offer that amendment to get rid of the 1099 requirement in the health care bill. well, originally i was nearly laughed out of the chamber. democrats who had passed the bill were basically saying to me, you want us to change our bill? get lost. you know? well, i came back a second time. i came back a third time. i came back a fourth time. the business community got involved and small businesses started calling their senators and saying, "senator, please, look at what mike is offering here. this is sensible. this needs to happen." and we offered it a fifth time. and at some point, the president of the united states in his state of the union -- i was sitting right there about two rows back from where he was. madam president, i wasn't any further from the president of
the united states than i'm standing from you today. and he mentioned, he mentioned that it was time for this provision to go. and so we offered it a sixth time. and then we offered it a seventh time and we finally got it done. and you know what? i didn't go out and crow about, my goodness, i must be the smartest senator in the body or i must be the best republican and those evil democrats. i didn't do that at all. i went out and i said to the public, this is a very important thing for small businesses. i'm glad my colleagues agree with me and we can all take credit for this. go back home and tell people you supported it. there were very, very few that voted against it in this body. so an issue that started out with basically no support to speak of in a bipartisan way not only got huge bipartisan
support -- over 80 votes -- it even got a mention by the president of the united states in his state of the union address as something that needed to get done. and we could all take ownership of it then and today. well, why do i mention that point? i mention that point because those rights continued after those filibuster changes. this body came to the conclusion that under the senate rules, it was appropriate to somehow get to a point where we could say, okay, everybody, you've had your day; it's time to bring the debate to an end, if we can, if we can get sufficient votes. and if we can't, well, then we can't. and this bill's probably not going to go any further. and that's been the history of
this institution literally from its beginning. read bob byrd's books, senator byrd's books. he will explain that to you. and as you read what he is saying there, you begin to feel the admiration that he felt for this united states senate. but the other thing you'll begin to feel as you read through those books is this. you'll begin to feel how deeply he cared about the individual rights of each senator, whether they were in the majority, whether they were democrat, whether they were in the minority, whether they were republican. you see, senator byrd understood that the pendulum does swing. there will be times where
republicans will be in control of the united states senate. the voters will decide that. there will be times, therefore, that democrats will be in the minority. he also understood that there would be time when democrats would be in the majority and republicans would be in the minority, and that as our country would go through various transformations and various political processes, we would end up with a different senate depending upon what happened in each election cycle. but the one thing that senator byrd wanted to emphasize and hold as a sacred constant in our system of government was that each senator had rights. and that each senator could come to the floor and exercise those
rights, whether the person they called leader was democrat or republican. and he wanted to make sure that the tyranny of the majority would never silence those rights of the minority or the individual senator. now with that context in mind, madam president, let me review the events of the last few weeks. with that context in mind, i am hoping that that is instructive relative to what happened here. i said yesterday during my comments on the floor, i guess we'd all like to probably think we're the smartest united states senator that's ever served in the body. we're not. some of the giants of this great
country have served in this body. some of the intellectual giants that have ever lived in the united states found their way to the united states senate. and they not only worried about what was happening in their period of history, they worried about what the senate would be 10 and 20 and 100 and 150 years in the future. keep in mind, this body has been here over 200 years. and in many respects, as senator byrd points out in his book, the rules that we operate on are similar. why? because they were smart in the beginning and they're smart today. and they have served us well for over 200 years. like i said, i guess we probably all would like to think we're about the smartest senator that
ever served. and i could tell during the vote right before thanksgiving that there were some senators who were kind of crowing about this change that had occurred here. and i even read some newspaper articles that, boy, their day had arrived. so what happened? let me tell you what did not happen. under our rules that govern how we operate, how we pass laws, how we debate the important issues of the day, we can amend our rules with 67 votes, a two-thirds majority. it's right there in the rules. what a thoughtful provision. the whole idea behind that provision was you don't want the tyranny of the majority to crush
the minority. you don't want the tyranny of the majority to crush the rights of the individual senator whether he's from nebraska or california or florida or wherever. so in those rules it takes 67 votes. did that happen before thanksgiving? did members who wanted to see this done come over here to this side and say, you know, mike, think through this with me. please join with me in trying to get this done. i can't get it done with 55 democrats. i need your help to get to 67, and that's going to take democrats and it's going to take republicans and it might even take an independent or two to get this rule change done. is that the way this happened? no. not the way it happened at all.
so what did happen right before thanksgiving? the majority leader in essence, when you cut through everything, asked for a ruling from the chair. the ruling by the chair was consistent with the rules of the united states senate. and then the majority leader said i will appeal the ruling of the chair. what does it take to overrule the chair? it takes a majority vote. and all of a sudden on executive appointments, circuit court judges across the united states of america, a lifetime
appointment, i remind you -- there's no way they can be removed except by impeachment process once there -- and federal district court judges across the united states of america, the rule was changed. by two-thirds vote, as the rules would contemplate? no. by appealing a correct ruling of the chair and overruling it with a majority vote. like i said, there's probably many here that would like to think, boy, i thought that up. i must be pretty much the smartest person that ever served in this body. can't imagine why somebody didn't think that one up before. don't fool yourself. that was thought up many times. read the writings of senator
byrd. read the writings of any great intellectual that has looked at the senate and how it operates and understands the rules. we have known for decades and decades and decades, maybe since the beginning, that you could appeal a ruling of the chair and make reality out of a majority vote, even though the chair ruled correctly. and that's what happened. i spoke of the tyranny of the majority. the senate was never intended to be a majority-based body. let me get back to the great compromise. i mentioned that when senator byrd decided to put all of this information together in that four-volume set, it was to honor
200 years of history of the united states senate. or stated another way, 200 years since the great compromise. the great compromise came about because when we as an infant country decided that we're going to be two houses in our legislative process, almost immediately our founders decided that one house -- the house of representatives -- would be population-based and majority rule. now, if you're california or new york, as it's turned out, that works pretty well. if you're nebraska or south dakota, not so well. why? we have three members to the house. it seems to me every day of the week california is going to
outvote nebraska. new york's going to outvote nebraska. florida is going to outvote nebraska. darned near anybody in the country is going to outvote nebraska. our population, although we have this very large land mass, our population is 1.7 million to 8 million people spread out across this very large land mass called the great state of nebraska. well, our founders said, you know, it doesn't take much to figure out this isn't going to work out very well over time. and it's a majority-based body. political parties have been a feature almost from the beginning of our country, so if you're in the majority you're always going to win. you're always going to beat the minority as long as your team
sticks together. but they wisely said the senate's going to be different. the united states senate is going to be that body where every state gets two. you see, in that regard, nebraska is just as powerful as new york or just as powerful as pennsylvania. we're just as powerful as california. madam president, we're just as powerful as hawaii. why? because we each get two. and then the senate was structured in a way, as i have pointed out, where literally from the beginning you could debate a bill right down to a pathway where it wasn't going to get passed. and thoughtfully andfully but
under the rules -- thoughtfully and carefully but under the rules of the senate what was happening was as we decided to limit debate at some point in the process you had to get this supermajority. senators knew they could appeal a correct ruling of the chair and reverse it. but they knew that that option should never be used. it didn't get its name nuclear option by accident. most recently when republicans were in control, the threat was made we might go to the nuclear option to get our judges confirmed. and, oh my goodness, democrats in this body rose up. they are offended that those words would even come out of a united states senator's mouth.
they were fighting tooth and nail to stop that because it so changes what happens in this body. well, now what has happened is they are in power. all of a sudden, you know, i reserve the right to change my mind. so just before thanksgiving a correct ruling of the chair was overturned on a pure party-line vote where democrats said to each individual senator who is a republican, where democrats said to each individual member who sits in the minority, a republican, sit down and shut up.
that's what this rule change does. it relegates my voice as a member of a minority party in the united states senate on district judges, executive appointments and circuit court judges, two of those being appointments for life. it renders my voice absolutely, positively meaningless. no democrat has to cross that line and come over here and say my -- i want you to look at this judge at wherever. let's say arkansas, because i think they're qualified. and i want you to think about voting for him.
they don't have to do that anymore. they don't need me. they can just outlast me, just like they're doing right now. and they can bring this to a vote and on a straight party-line vote, they can appoint the entire judiciary of the united states in the district courts and in the circuit courts with absolutely no involvement whatsoever from the minority. none. that's what their rule change did. let me take that rule change and think out loud about where we put ourselves as a country. i wander who was the first united states senator in