Speeches & Floor Statements

Senate floor speech: Supporting Our Military During a Government Shutdown

Posted on September 30, 2013

         I remember being asked by Senator McConnell and the House Speaker John Boehner to speak on behalf of Republicans at the president's health care summit three years ago about the new health care law.  I was the first speaker there and since that time have done my best to try to void its passage and then to repeal and replace it. 

            But I’m not in the shut down the government crowd.  I’m in the let's-take-over-the-government crowd and elect a number of more Republicans and even a Republican president who agrees with us and who wants a different kind of health care law, one that introduces choice and competition and that actually reduces health care costs for most Americans. 

            What bothers me so much about this impasse today is the effect it might have on our military men and women around the world.  I’m trying to imagine what it must be like for someone fighting in Afghanistan whose check might be late, whose spouse is at Fort Campbell, and whose mortgage is due today or tomorrow or the next day, or what if the Department of Defense school closes there and that spouse has a job and no childcare?  These are very practical problems we need to be thinking about.  We need not be thinking about shutting down the government.  We need to be thinking about a way to fund the government and change the health care law at the same time. 

            Now, the House of Representatives has tried once and now is trying it again to make a reasonable offer.  These discussions are all about compromise, about taking suggestions that come from one body to the other body and taking what you can. So if they have come back and said:  Well, the United States Senate had 79 Senators, including many Democrats, who voted to repeal the medical device tax.  And they said:  Let's delay the individual mandate for a year. 

            I’m surprised the president himself has not done that.  The president himself has delayed seven provisions, major provisions in the health care law, including the employer mandate.  The regulations aren’t ready.  The program is supposed to start tomorrow.  It would seem to me it would actually be to the president's benefit, as well as the country's benefit, to say instead of just delaying parts and exempting these people, let's get it right.  Let's delay it for 1 year. 

            That is what the House of Representatives, the Republican House, has said to the Senate.  They have said let's repeal the medical device tax, a particularly onerous 2.3% tax on top of revenues that increases the cost of medical devices for millions of Americans.  We all agree we ought to get rid of it -- 79 of of us do anyway, including about as many Democrats as Republicans.  And the president himself has acknowledged this law isn’t ready.  The chairman of the Democratic Committee that wrote it says it is a coming train wreck. 

            So it seems to me this is a reasonable suggestion from the House of Representatives to say let's work on getting rid of ObamaCare, that is what we would like to do, or changing it, that is what they would like to do to make it work, but let's fund the government.  Let's not run the risk that one single soldier fighting in Afghanistan has a paycheck that is one day late because his spouse is home in Fort Campbell and the mortgage can’t be paid or the Department of Defense School is closed and there is no childcare for the spouse who has a job while her husband or his wife is fighting overseas.  Now, that’s something we should not allow to happen, whether it’s Republicans or Democrats. 

            It may be that the majority leader agrees with that and he has brought that up and we have brought that up, but we should do more than bring up political points.  People expect us to act like adults, work together, come to a result, so we can change the health care law and we can keep the government going. 

            I’ve said for three years that instead of the historic mistake we passed which expanded health care delivery systems that already cost too much, we should go step by step to have a health care law that actually reduces health care costs:  Make Medicare solvent instead of taking one-half trillion dollars out of it for other programs. Give Medicaid more flexibility so Governors can serve more people. Repeal the medical device tax. Make it easier for employers who want to help employees have a healthier lifestyle so they can have cheaper insurance. Allow people to buy insurance across state lines. Allow small businesses to pool their resources and offer insurance.  I have listed a half dozen already, steps we could agree on that would reduce health care costs in the country. 

            I’m not in the shut down the government crowd, and neither are most everybody I know around here.  We are in the take-over-the-government crowd, and let's elect enough Republicans and a Republican president to change the health care law. 

            But in the meantime, we should make absolutely sure that men and women, whether on Active Duty or in the National Guard, not on Active Duty at this time, we should make sure they are paid on the day they are supposed to be paid and their spouses are not waiting for the check. 

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