Alexander Calls Bill “Historic Mistake,” Says Democratic Leaders Ignoring Eight Democrats’ Request to Provide 72 Hours for Review

Ignoring Eight Democrats’ Request to Provide 72 Hours for Review

Posted on December 19, 2009

WASHINGTON - The following are excerpts from Senator Lamar Alexander’s (R-Tenn.) speech on the Senate floor this morning, in which he said the Senate majority is rushing “toward an historic mistake” in trying to pass their health care bill by Christmas because they don’t want people to know what is in it. Alexander also discussed a letter written by eight Senate Democrats to Majority Leader Reid requesting the kind of transparency he has so far denied.

On a letter by eight Senate Democrats to Majority Leader Reid requesting the transparency that has so far been denied:

• “We are in our 20th consecutive day of considering health care, and we still do not have a final bill. In other words, we do not yet know what we are voting on, how much it costs, or how it affects the American people.

On October 6, 2009, eight Democratic Senators wrote the majority leader a letter which expressed the view also of all 40 Republican Senators, and it said what ought to be obvious: that when debating even a minor bill, but certainly a major bill of this magnitude, the “public’s participation in this process” – so the letter went – “is critical to our overall success of creating a bill that lowers health care costs and offers access to quality and affordable health care for all Americans.

‘The letter from the eight Democratic Senators continues:
‘Every step of the process needs to be transparent, and information regarding the bill needs to be readily available to our constituents before the Senate starts to vote on legislation that will affect the lives of every American.’

“The letter continues:

‘The legislative text and complete budget scores from the Congressional Budget Office of the health care legislation considered on the Senate floor should be made available on a website the public can access for at least 72 hours prior to the first vote to proceed to the legislation. Likewise, the legislative text and complete CBO scores of the health care legislation as amended should be made available to the public for 72 hours prior to the vote on final passage of the bill in the Senate. Further, the legislative text of all amendments filed and offered for debate on the Senate floor should be posted on a public website prior to beginning debate on the amendment on the Senate floor. Lastly, upon a final agreement between the House of Representatives and the Senate, a formal conference report detailing the agreement and complete CBO scores of the agreement should be made available to the public for 72 hours prior to the vote on final passage of the conference report in the Senate.’

“That is wise advice from Senator Lincoln, Senator Bayh, Senator Landrieu, Senator Lieberman, Senator McCaskill, Senator Ben Nelson, Senator Pryor, and Senator Webb. What they are saying is, before we vote on a health care bill that affects nearly every one of all 300 million Americans we ought to have 72 hours to read the bill and know what it costs.”

On the Christmas deadline:

• “The thrust of this massive legislation that affects 17 percent of our economy does not take effect for four years. So if we do not have the bill, and if most of the legislation does not take effect for 4 more years, then why are we spending this time staying up all night, rushing to enact the bill by Christmas? I believe it is because the majority knows the longer the public sees the bill, the more they know about it, the less they will like it, and they want to try to pass it before people know what is in it.

“There has been a lot of talk about making history on health care. The problem is, there are different kinds of history. In this case, the Democratic majority seems to be determined to pursue a political kamikaze mission toward an historic mistake.”