tv U.S. Senate Debates Health Care Law Repeal CSPAN January 5, 2017 5:59pm-6:49pm EST
against the rsmghts. the presiding officer: the senator recognized. mr. van hollen: this is the first time i have risen to speak on the senate floor and i want to start by thanking my fellow marylanders for the honor of representing them in this great united states senate. i want to thank my colleague, senator cardin, now the senior senator from maryland, for joining us. i want to thank the new senator from kaflg, senator harris, for joining us swrel, and i want to say to my fellow maryland thairs look forward to working every day for their benefit and for the benefit of our nation. and i want to say to my new colleagues here in the senate, republicans and democrats alike, i look forward to working with all of you in the years to come for the good of our nation. i understand it's somewhat unusual for a new member to speak so soon on the senate floor, but what we are witnessinwitnessing today in the is not business as usual.
and these, mr. president, are not ordinary times. having served as the lead democrat on the house budget committee, i know that never before has the united states senate rushed out of the gate so quickly to enact a budget procedure to deny the minority party, and by extension hundreds of millions of americans, their rights in this united states senate. yet here we are speeding to use the budget process to fast-track a so-called reconciliation bill that will destroy the affordable care act and in doing so wipe out access to affordable care for americans and create total chaos throughout the american health care system. that is reckless, it is irresponsible, and it violates the traditions of this institution. i may be new to the senate, but i am not new to the way this
senate has proudly been described by its members, both democrats and republicans, both current and former members. my colleague, senator harris, will attest that one piece of advice we all received from both democratic and republican members of this senate was to read the chapter in robert caro's book about lyndon johnson entitled "the desks of the senate." where robert caro talks about the burnished mahogany tops and he tells the story of the senate through the senators who were protagonists in great debates throughout our history, and he highlights the idea that this senate is supposed to be a deliberative body that reflects on issues with a thoughtful exchange of ideas. unfortunately, that certainly does not describe the senate of this moment. having just arrived from the
house of representatives, what we're witnessin witnessing todah more like the tyranny of the majority characteristic of that body. this body is supposed to be different but at least for now it seems very much like the house that i just left. as a result of the fast-track process in the senate, we will be overriding and roughshodding over the will of a majority of the american population. and americans, mr. president, are just now waking up to learn about the bait-and-switch scheme that has been perpetrated on them. for more than six years, republicans in this senate and in the house of representatives have said repeatedly that they would repeal obamacare but replace it. replace it with something, they said, that will be much better. and now we know, as the clock ticks down, that that has been a farce. there is no republican
replacement bill to provide the kind of coverage and benefits of the affordable care act, and the consequences of that failure are going to be devastating for the country. let's take a moment to look at the human toll. first, there are the 22 million americans who previously had no health insurance before the affordable care act but are now covered through the health care exchanges and through expanded medicaid. these are people who've been denied access to coverage because they had preexisting conditions or their kids had preexisting conditions, whether it was asthma, diabetes, heart conditions, so they were either outright denied by insurance companies or priced out of the market. and that 22 million may be a big number, hard to comprehens, but -- hard to comprehend, but behind that number are many families like carlos and isabel, who live not far from where i live in silver spring, maryland.
they could no longer afford health insurance through their employer and shortly before the affordable care act was enacted, cacarlucci lows was told he -- carlos was told he needed a liver transplant. his wife said without the affordable care act, he would never have received that lifesaving treatment. or the case of diane bungiorni. she had previously had open-heart surgery. when her expired, twras only because of the affordable care act that she was able to get coverage and not be denied because of that preexisting condition. days after she was on the affordable care act, a cardiologist told her that one of her heart valves was failing, that she would need another surgery immediately, and she has told us -- quote -- "she would have died had she not had that coverage." in addition to diane and carlos
and the other 22 million americans who would have been denied affordable health care before the affordable care act and the medicaid expansion, there are an additional 7 million americans on the health care exchanges today predicted to totally lose that coverage if republicans pull the plug on the affordable care act. so that's over 30 had million -- so that's over 30 million americans who will lose access to affordable care directly. now, there's no doubt that in those health care exchanges we've seen increases in premiums and some of the co-pays. and we need to do something about it, which is why myself and many of my colleagues have put forward ideas to address the increases that we're seeing in the health care exchanges in terms of costs. we put those ideas on the table, and we would welcome our republican colleagues in joining us to improve the affordable
care act. but you don't fix a health care system, you don't fix those problems by blowing up the entire affordable care act. that is not a solution. mr. president, i also want to focus for a moment on the tensions of mlts -- on the tensions of millions of americans who are not included this that 30 million. who benefit directly from the affordable care act, but who are benefiting right now from become about. -- from obamacare. they may not realize it now, but mark my word they are going to face very unpleasant and you expected consequences if the affordable care act is ripped apart. first, let's take a look at the overwhelming number of americans who get their health care not on the health care exchanges but through their private employer. most members of this body, most americans. the premiums in those plans have actually risen much more slowly
since the affordable care was enacted thank before -- than before. the overwhelming number of americans who are on those plans have benefited dramatically from the reduction of cost. why did that happen? because all those people who have been previously denied access to health care who are in the obamacare exchanges, they used to show up at the hospital as their primary care provider or since they weren't getting any care at all because they couldn't afford the bill, they were showing up at the those hospitals when there was an emergency, when cost was most expensive. and we don't deny people care in emergency. and then they get the bill, and they can't pay the bill. that's why so many people were going bankrupt in america before the affordable care act. but somebody pays. who pays? well, everybody else in the system pays. everybody else who has private insurance through their employer pays. or taxpayers in states pay for
the uncompensated care that their hospitals would otherwise have to carry. so in the end, people's premiums were going up really fast. but by providing the health care system through obamacare for those exchanges, however imperfect, it has helped those other tens of millions of americans. let's look at medicare beneficiaries. millions of seniors -- watch out. their costs are going to rise in three and maybe four ways right away. first of all, their part-b premiums that every senior on medicare pays are going to go up. why is that? because as part of the affordable care act, we got rid of some of the overpayments, the excessive subsidies that were being paid to certain providers, including some of the managed care providers that were being paid, on average, 115% more than fee-for-service sms so we said
that makes no sense. that's a waste of medicare beneficiaries' money. so we reformed that by saving the medicare system money, we also saved the medicare beneficiaries money in their premiums because those premiums are set partly to deal with the cost of medicare. if you reduce the cost of medicare in a smart way, you reduce those premiums. that's why seniors have seen such slow increases in their part-b premiums since the enactment of the affordable care act. those will go right back up. second, seniors on medicare no longer have to pay for preventive health screenings, cancer screenings, diabetes screenings, other kinds of preventive health care because we want to encourage them to identify the problems early and solve them for their own health care purposes but also because it saves money in the system. you get rid of the affordable care act, those seniors are going to be paying premiums,
co-pays for those preventive health services. prescription drug costs: seniors -- and there are millions and millions of them -- who face high prescription drug costs can are benefiting today from the fact that we are steadily in the process of closing the prescription drug doughnut hole. we had an absolute crisis in this country where so many seniors were faced with the difficult choices of getting the medications they needed to live day to day, keep a roof over their head. that's why we're closing the prescription drug doughnut hole. you get rid of the affordable care act, all those seniors who on average have saved thousands of dollars through the affordable care act, they're going to see their costs go up. and finally, mr. president, if you enact the plan that's been put forward by the speaker of the house, paul ryan, and by the person, the person that president-elect trump has
nominated to be his secretary of h.h.s., tom price, i encourage every american to look at their plan because they want to voucherize medicare and they want to save the medicare system money by raising the prices and the risks on every medicare beneficiary. that is the result of that plan. so, the affordable care act benefits 30 million people directly, and we need to make sure we don't put them in harm. but it also benefits all these other people in the system. the people on the employer-provided health plans who have seen historically low premium increases and seniors on medicare. rural hospitals will be particularly hard-hit by repealing the affordable care act. so the proposed republican action is going to think the those 30 million americans, including my neighbors in silver
sprifnlgt it's also going to hit those tens of millions of other americans who may not realize the extent to which they're benefiting from the affordable care act. yet our republican colleagues have not put forward a single planning to help either the 30 million or all the other americans who are benefiting from the affordable care act. instead, we see a rush to generate chaos throughout the health care system and that is counter to what the president-elect has said he wants. here's what donald trump said on 60 minutes. quote -- "everybody has got to be covered. everybody. i'm going to take care of everybody." well, it's really important, mr. president, that the majority in the senate and the house talk to the vice president-elect because they're not on the same road when it comes to that commitment. when the president-elect was asked about finding a way to
keep the obamacare rules that prevent discrimination based on preexphissing conditions he said -- quote -- "i like those very much." when he was asked about the provision that allows children to stay on their parents' insurance plans till they're 26 years old, he said, we're going to very much try to keep that. but here's the dirty little secret. many people, republicans and democrats in this chamber know there are only a very few ways you can design a health care system that meets those conditions. one way which many democrats have historically supported is the idea of medicare for all. the other way is the obamacare model. it was not always known as the obamacare model. the foundation for obamacare actually had its roots in the conservative heritage foundation think tank reports. it was an idea long promoted by
republicans, including many republican senators, some of them still here today. it's an idea rooted in the concept of personal responsibility, the idea that every american needs to do their part and help pay for their health insurance. otherwise if they don't pay, they're going to force other people to pay when they go seek that care in the emergency room or wherever it may be. and in order for that idea to work, the idea that was put forward by the heritage foundation, the idea in obamacare, everyone needs to have coverage because it wouldn't make a lot of sense for us to be paying out all the time if we were able to wait until we got sick and then decide to pay. that's the idea having everyone in the pool have insurance. the idea you don't want to use it but you buy that protection. and if other people don't buy the protection, then the rest of folks feel like they're being
taken advantage of which is why everyone has got to be in the pool and why it's an idea that came out of the heritage foundation. in fact, mr. president, i got the heritage report right here. critical issues, a national health care system. this is back in 1989. i want to read you the three elements in the republican plan. element number one, every resident of the united states must by law be enrolled in an adequate health care plan to cover major health care costs. number two, for working americans obtaining health care protection must be a family responsibility. number three, the government's proper role is to monitor the health market, subsidize needy individuals to allow them to obtain sufficient services and encourage competition. sounds like a description of
obamacare. and it is, which is why of course it was dubbed romney care when they adopted this model for the state of massachusetts. he adopted it based on the republican heritage model. and so here's the problem. republicans can't come up with an alternative. that's why it hasn't happened for six years because if you're going to come up with an alternative, you've got to go to either one of two models. one is medicare for all. the other is the idea that every american has to be in the system and the idea based on personal responsibility which had its start was an republican idea when president obama adopted it,
for many months some republican senators were willing to go along but then the politics overtook them. and since then we've had the republicans opposing their own proposed model for providing health care. so rather than repeal and replace, since there's no replace it is repeal and run. here's the problem for our colleagues politically but more important here's the problem for all americans and all our constituents. no one is going to be able to hide from the devastating consequences of undoing the affordable care act which is going to hurt not just the 30 million americans who are directly benefiting through the exchanges and the medicare expansion, medicaid expansion but also all the seniors on medicare and the others in the private -- getting health care
through their private employers. now, as i said at the outset, it's really truly sad to see the senate at this point and in this state, especially because of the terrible consequences it's going to have on the american people. you know, the very first time i was ever on the floor of the senate was in 1985. i wasn't thinking of running for office myself at that time. it was the factest -- farthest thing from my mind. it was during the cold war. i was working on national issues for a moderate republican senator by the name of mat ma mateus. senator matheus sat right there, one seat behind one seat senator booker is sitting in right now. great to see you.
that's where he sat. the reason i happened to be sitting next to him that day, he was working with senator kennedy that day. senator kennedy was at a desk back there, i believe. it was the second from the aisle. it had been his brother jack kennedy's desk in the senate before him. and even though there were many desks between the desks of senator kennedy and the desk of senator matheus and the senator aisle between them, they were able to work together for the good of the country, just as many senators from both parties have done since. that's the way the senate is supposed to work. that's the way the senate was described in the robert carol book that republicans and democrats alike told us to read as new members before we came here. so, mr. president, i am really glad to be here. i'm excited to get to work on behalf of marylanders and work for the good of our state and
the country. i wish it could have been at a moment when the senate was not hell-bent on breaking the very traditions that have made it great, the tradition of being a deliberative body and not using right out of the gates the very first thing, the process to short circuit the will of the minority party. that is not what any of us were taught the senate was about. and it's particularly troubling that the senate is engaged in bleaking that tradition owe in breaking that tradition in order to undermine affordable health care for tens of millions of americans and generate chaos in our health care system. mr. president, i will fight every day to prevent that from happening. i will also fight every day to try to live up to the true tradition of the senate which is people trying to work together for the good of the country. it is disappointing to be here
at a time when the senate is embarked on violating that tradition in order to strip americans of their health care. i hope we will not let that happen. i will fight every day to prevent that from happening. and then work with my colleagues to try to make sure we address the real priorities and concerns of the american people. and i thank my colleagues for joining me here on the floor. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from iowa. .a senator: mr. president, could i ask my colleague to yield for one moment grass one moment. a senator: i appreciate the courtesy. the presiding officer: the senator from maryland. mr. cardin: i want to take this time to welcome senator van hollen to the united states senate. senator van hollen gave his maiden speech from the desk held
by senator mikulski. i know senator mikulski would be very proud of what you said here on the floor and very proud of senator van hollen being here in the united states senate. i look forward to working with him. i just really wanted to tell the people of maryland, the people of the nation what you heard tonight you heard a person who is committed to making our system work. he's committed to working with every member of the united states senate, but he'll stand up for his principles and will stand up on behalf of the people of maryland. again, welcome. it's wonderful to have him here in the united states senate. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from new york. mr. schumer: thank you, mr. president. i just want to add my commendation. it was such a well done, brilliant, articulate, carefully thought out speech, but it's not a surprise because our new senator, the junior senator from maryland is just like that. we're so excited to have him and our freshman class, some of his colleagues came here today.
we wish it had been larger in quantity but it sure makes up for it in quality as senator van hollen's speech showed and parenthetically maybe he'll be able to increase that quantity in one of his other new jobs. with that, mr. president, i yield the floor. mr. grassley: mr. president, it's because of -- the presiding officer: the senator from iowa. mr. grassley: it's because of obamacare that the health insurance markets in this country are badly damaged. they've gotten worse each year, and they're now near collapse. we were told eight years ago that if you like your health insurance, you can keep it. millions can. if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. millions of americans weren't able to keep their doctor. and you were told that your health insurance premiums would go down $2500. they've actually gone up
probably $3500. some people don't have choice in plans, and some counties don't even have a plan in the exchange. and if you could get a plan, you might not be able to afford it. and if you could afford the plan, you might not be able to use it because of the high copayments that you have to have. so it's not a very good situation. it took six years for the health insurance market to get as bad as i just described, and it will take time for those markets to be restored. the next few years in health care will be challenging, whether obamacare is repealed or even if it isn't repealed.
if obamacare isn't repealed, it will be even longer before americans have access to a functioning health insurance market and the insurance plans that they want. when it comes to health care, every second counts. we owe it to the american people who are sick or who could get sick as well as families and businesses trying to plan for the future to start fixing that problem right now, and that's the results of the election and that's what the united states senate is going to do. the affordable care act which would more appropriately be called the unaffordable care act has been a case of overpromise and under delivery. people were told that their premiums would go down and that
if they liked their doctor, their hospital, or the health care plan, they could keep all of it. the reality is much different. more than half of the country had two or fewer insurance plans in which to choose from this year. some regions had no insurance plans available at all. even those who were strong supporters of the health care law like the minnesota governor that i like to quote have said that the affordable care act -- quote -- "is no longer affordable to many americans" -- end of quote. in my state of iowa, the affordable act premium increased this year over 40% for many individuals. few people of course can afford that.
and families that did manage to purchase affordable care act insurance found that they could no longer afford to use it. one iowan recently called my office and told me that his premiums have increased 400% in three years. he also said that his deductible went up to -- can you believe it -- $14,000. last year one of his children had a major medical problem, and they had to pay for all of that care out of their pocket, not from the insurance. the family paid $12,000 for the affordable care act insurance which did not pay for any health care. and of course that just doesn't make sense whatsoever.
the problem is the affordable care act did nothing to address the underlying causes of the high cost of health care. that is what it cost for a hospital or a doctor to purchase or maintain medical equipment, purchase medicines, carry malpractice insurance and a lot of other things and costs that they have. rather than address the actual cost to care, president obama and his colleagues chose to bypass real health care reform for an unsustainable entitlement and bureaucratic mandates which have priced people out of the health insurance market rather than provide those same people with affordable and quality coverage. so we're at it now. it's time for real health care
reform, not the misguided policies that we were promised eight years ago that now have turned out to be what i described then as misguided policies. it's time to deliver to americans what we were promised. it's time to provide accessible accessible, affordable health care to all americans. but my colleagues on the other side of the aisle need to work with us. they know that the affordable care act is falling apart. they know it's unaffordable. so as we've heard speeches this week, the other side is trying to distract attention from the affordable care act collapse by using scare tactics like you recently heard. it's time for the democrats to step up instead of doubling
down. it's time for statesmanship, not gamesmanship. it's time for the democrats to stop defending the unaffordable care act and deliver americans what was promised. i look forward to working with my colleagues and the trump administration to deliver affordable health care to all americans in tradition of the united states senate. that is going to take what didn't happen in 2009, where it was strictly a one-party program put before the united states congress to pass, and that's why it has failed, because so many people that could have made a good bill pass in 2009 were shut out of the process because
this body had 60 democrat members and they didn't have to pay any attention to republicans. oh yeah, they spent maybe eight or nine months trying to work with republicans to negotiate a bipartisan deal, but before that was completed they said take it or leave it. and the republican minority at that time was not going to be dictated to, and we were pushed out of the room. and then what ended up being the affordable care act was written in the big black hole of senate majority leader reid's office without the bipartisan input that have made so many social programs in america success. and i would name the social security act. i would name civil rights legislation, medicare legislation, medicaid legislation that all had broad
bipartisan support to get them passed. in the case of civil rights acts, the higher proportion of republicans voted for it than democrats voted for it. it's just one example. that's a tradition of the united states senate when you have major social legislation that has been successful, and that's why the affordable care act was not successful because it was strictly a partisan approach used to have it become law. i yield the floor. and i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
mr. mcconnell: mr. president? the presiding officer: majority leader. mr. mcconnell: are we in a quorum call? the presiding officer: we are. mr. mcconnell: i ask consent that further proceedings under the quorum call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. mcconnell: i ask unanimous consent that at 5:30 p.m. on monday, january 9, the senate vote in relation to paul
amendment number 1. further that the senate vote in relation to the sanders amendment number 19 at 2:30 on tuesday, january 10. the presiding officer: is there objection? without objection. mr. mcconnell: it's my understanding we'll have a side by side amendment to the sanders amendment and we'll circulate that amendment as soon as possible. now, mr. president, i ask unanimous consent the senate proceed to the consideration of s. res. 7 which was submitted earlier today. the presiding officer: the clerk will report. the clerk: senate resolution 7, to constitute the majority party's membership on certain committees for the 115th congress or until their suck certificateses are -- their successors are chosen. the presiding officer: is there objection to proceeding to the measure? without objection. mr. mcconnell: i ask unanimous consent the resolution be agreed to, the preamble be agreed to, and the motions to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table with no intervening action or debate. the presiding officer: without objection.
mr. schumer: mr. president? the presiding officer: the minority leader. mr. schumer: i ask unanimous consent the senate proceed -- i ask unanimous consent the senate proceed to immediate consideration of s. res. 8 submitted earlier today. the presiding officer: the clerk will report. the clerk: senate resolution 8 to constitute the minority party's membership on certain committees for the 115th congress or until their successors are chosen. the presiding officer: is there objection to proceeding to the measure? without objection. mr. schumer: i further ask the resolution be agreed to, the motion to reconsider be made and laid upon the table with no intervening action or debate. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. mcconnell: mr. president? the presiding officer: majority leader. mr. mcconnell: these committee resolutions reflect the fact that senator blunt will remain chair and senator schumer will remain ranking member of the rules committee until the inaugural ceremonies have been completed. it's my understanding that following the inauguration senator shelby will become chair of rules and senator klobuchar
will become ranking member of the rules committee. mr. schumer: mr. president? the presiding officer: minority leader. mr. schumer: thank you, mr. president. we just agreed to the committee resolution numbers on each committee, and i just would make a couple of points here if i might. our caucus has some serious concerns about letting the intelligence committee and armed services committee exclusively handle the issue of russia's interference with the election. while much of the information relating to russia's interference in our election can be pulled together by intelligence and armed services, the legislative actions that will be required to respond fully to russia's interference needs a wide ranging endeavor that can only be done by a select committee. so i've spoken with leader mcconnell. i have told him that we will let the committee organizing resolution go forward, but i did put the majority leader on notice that if the work of the intelligence and armed services committees is deemed
insufficient or incomplete, taking too long, this matter may well need to be revisited before the committee funding resolution comes up in february. also, i understand additional information with respect to russia's interference in our election will be released in coming days, and that could also change our view as to the way we ought to proceed. i've spoken about these concerns to the majority leader. he carefully listened and will just keep careful eye on how things are going in the intelligence and armed services committee with regard to russia's interference with the election. mr. sanders: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from vermont. mr. sanders: i would call up amendment number 19 filed at the desk. the presiding officer: is there objection to setting aside the pending amendment? without objection. the clerk will report. the clerk: the senator from vermont, mr. sanders, proposes an amendment numbered 19. at the end of title 4, add the
following -- mr. sanders: mr. president, i ask unanimous consent that the reading be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. sanders: mr. president, i ask unanimous consent to set aside the pending amendment and call up amendment number 20. the presiding officer: is there objection? without objection. the clerk will report the amendment. the clerk: the senator from vermont, mr. sanders, for ms. hirono, proposes an amendment numbered 20. at the end of title 4, add the following -- mr. sanders: and i ask unanimous consent that the reading of the amendment be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. sanders: thank you, mr. president.
mr. mcconnell: mr. president? the presiding officer: the majority leader. mr. mcconnell: i ask unanimous consent the senate be in a period of morning business with senators permitted to speak therein for up to ten minutes each. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. mcconnell: i ask unanimous consent that when the senate completes its business today, it adjourn until 12:45 p.m. friday, january 6. further, that following the prayer and pledge, the morning hour be deemed expired, the journal of proceedings be approved to date, the time for the two leaders be reserved for their use later in the day. further, that following the prayer and pledge, the senate stand in recess to then proceed as a body to the hall of the house of representatives under the provisions of s. con. res. 2 for the counting of the electoral ballots. further, that upon dissolution
of the joint session, the senate stand adjourned until 2:00 p.m. monday, january 9. further, following the prayer and pledge, the morning business be deemed expired, the journal of proceedings be approved to date and the time for the two leaders be reserved for their use later in the day. finally, that following leader remarks, the senate resume consideration of s. con. res. 3. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. mcconnell: if there is no further business to come before the senate, i ask that it stand adjourned under the previous order. the presiding officer: the senate stands adjourned until 12:45 p.m.