Senator Harris Delivers Floor Speech Calling Out the GOP Secret Health Care Bill

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Monday, U.S. Senator Kamala D. Harris joined her Senate Democratic colleagues to hold the floor in opposition to the Senate Republicans’ secret health care bill, and highlighted the lack of transparency and bipartisanship shown throughout its development. Harris delivered personal testimonies from Californians whose lives have been saved by the Affordable Care Act. The Republican health care bill would put 4 to 5 million Californians at risk of losing coverage.

Previously, Harris spoke on the floor to defend the ACA on the anniversary of its signing, and has since introduced legislation with Senator Feinstein and other Senate Democrats to improve the ACA and make coverage more affordable.

Key Quotes from Senator Harris’ remarks:

  • We know, because we’ve been told, that it’s about 80% the same as the bill that was passed by the House, a bill so catastrophic that even the President of the United States who hailed its passage now calls it, “mean.” We know that it would throw 23 million Americans off their health insurance within a decade, including putting 4 to 5 million Californians at risk of losing coverage. We know it would raise costs for middle class families and seniors. In every county of California, average monthly premium costs would go up while financial support to pay premiums would fall. We know it would put Americans with pre-existing conditions at risk, and leave people who need maternity care or opioid treatment without coverage or force them to pay huge out-of-pocket costs. We know it would cut about $834 billion from Medicaid, which means less money for families to pay for nursing homes, to support children with special needs, or to treat substance abuse.

 

  • And I know that I’m just one of two senators that [Californians] have. And when it comes to their needs and their need to be represented in the United States Congress, and their need to be heard, and their need to be seen, party affiliation should not matter. What should matter are the needs of the American people. And regardless, then, of who they vote for in a partisan election, I am certain of this: this healthcare plan that is being proposed by my colleagues from across the aisle will not solve their problems. And it will only create, in fact, more problems and potentially devastate people’s lives.

Full remarks as delivered:

Mr. President,

Senator Carper, it’s interesting, you talked about Tanzania. It reminds me of a greeting that I’ve often heard from people who live in various African countries. You’ve probably heard it, but when you meet someone for the first time instead of what we would normally say, “Pleased to meet you,” the greeting back is, “I see you.” I see you.

And I think that really is part of our concern here. Do we see the people who will be impacted in a way that they are actually living their lives. And do we understand if we see them, that this bill will not be in their best interest.

And right now, for example, we know 13 Senators, all Republicans, are crafting a bill and this bill would restructure our nation’s entire healthcare system, which, when you add up what Americans spend on hospitals, doctors, prescription drugs, and all the rest, we understand that it makes up 1/6th of our economy.

It would affect the lives of everyone: our parents, grandparents, those who are in need of caregiving, our children struggling with asthma or opioid abuse, our spouses who may be battling cancer.

And what is equality distressing is that this bill is being written in secret.

The Chairman of the Finance Committee says he has not seen the bill.

The Secretary of Health and Human Services says he has not seen the bill.

The American people, the people we all represent, have certainly not seen the bill.

Well, I think the American people deserve better.

This bill is being written entirely along partisan lines, without any attempt to bring Democrats onboard.

And the American people deserve better.

This bill is being written and rushed through the Senate with hardly any time to debate the cost or the details of this proposal.

And the American people deserve better.

Now, I remember when our colleagues across the aisle said the Affordable Care Act was being rammed down the American people’s throats in the middle of the night.

Well, the ACA went, in fact, through 106 public hearings. It incorporated more than 170 Republican amendments. The whole process took an entire year.

But this healthcare plan involves no hearings. No bill text. And no transparency at all.

As United States Senators, we were sent here to represent the American people. Represent the American people.

We answer to the American people.

So why are my colleagues from across the aisle trying to put one over on the American people?

I’ve met folks all across California and this country. And they see what’s happening. They know that if this bill were as wonderful as its proponents would like us to believe, it would be out in the open.

The American people deserve greater transparency.

But even though the authors of this proposal have tried to conceal the details of their plan, we know enough to know this bill would be nothing short of a disaster.

We know, because we’ve been told, that it’s about 80% the same as the bill that was passed by the House, a bill so catastrophic that even the President of the United States who hailed its passage now calls it, “mean.”

We know that it would throw 23 million Americans off their health insurance within a decade, including putting 4 to 5 million Californians at risk of losing coverage.

We know it would raise costs for middle class families and seniors. In every county of California, average monthly premium costs would go up while financial support to pay premiums would fall.

We know it would put Americans with pre-existing conditions at risk, and leave people who need maternity care or opioid treatment without coverage or force them to pay huge out-of-pocket costs.

We know it would cut about $834 billion from Medicaid, which means less money for families to pay for nursing homes, to support children with special needs, or to treat substance abuse.

[Someone sneezes]

Bless you. And that is another reason we need the Affordable Care Act to be in place in a way that we fix what’s wrong but we mend what’s broken and not repeal it altogether.

I recently visited, Mr. President, a really remarkable treatment clinic in Los Angeles. It’s called the Martin Luther King, Jr. Outpatient Center. Everyone from the doctors to the patients can tell you that when 46,000 Californians – excuse me, 4,600 Californians are dying every year from substance abuse and opioid overdoses, it is wrong and irrational to cut Medicaid.

So it really makes you wonder: Why would anyone support this bill? How does this bill help real people with real challenges?

At a healthcare rally in Los Angeles back in January, I met a woman named Tonia.

Before the ACA, she’d sign up for insurance just long enough to see a doctor. She’d then have a few tests done, and fill a prescription. Then she would realize she couldn’t pay and couldn’t afford to pay for the insurance beyond that. 

And she said, “It’s the worst feeling in the world to have to tell your doctor, who is trying to make you well, that you cannot afford the treatment prescribed.”

Tonia told me, “Before the Affordable Care Act, living without health coverage was a nightmare in this country.”

But she went on to say, “That has all changed, and thanks to the ACA I can now see a doctor when I need to, monitor my condition, and stay healthy so that I can keep working and contribute to our nation’s economy.”

If my colleagues in Congress, and she referred to them, “If the Republicans in Congress repeal the law, I don’t know what I will do.”

So I ask, how does the Republican healthcare plan help Tonia?

Another woman, Krista told me:

“I am married with four children, one of whom is a 10-year-old type one diabetic. He requires daily active insulin management to stay alive, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.”

She went on to say, “Healthcare is not optional for us; even with health insurance, diabetes management is the type of thing that can bankrupt you. Without health insurance, I can’t imagine. ACA is a huge relief for my family.”

So I ask, how does this bill help Krista and her family?

Then there’s Rhett, in Marin County. More than 7 years ago, he was diagnosed with leukemia. Rhett is 9 years old.

He says, “Cancer cells are the bad guys,” this is what he wrote me. “For 3 1⁄2 years I took chemo to get the bad guys out. I had more than one thousand doses of chemotherapy…My parents had to tell my sister that I might die of cancer.”

And then he went on to write, “Thanks to my doctors and nurses, my family and friends, my church and my community, and the Affordable Care Act, …. now I’m Gone-with-the-Cancer. I have a pre-existing condition. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, my parents don’t worry about losing coverage.”

A 9 year old Rhett is showing us the way.

But how does this bill help Rhett?

Now, I don’t know the party affiliation of any of these folks. I don’t know if they’re Democrats. I don’t know if they’re Republicans. I don’t know if they’re Independents. I don’t know if they’re members of the Green party. I’m not asking them those questions. I’m asking them, “How are you doing? What’s helping you? What do you need? And how will this impact you?”

And I know that I’m just one of two senators that they have. And when it comes to their needs and their need to be represented in the United States Congress, and their need to be heard, and their need to be seen, party affiliation should not matter. What should matter are the needs of the American people. And regardless, then, of who they vote for in a partisan election, I am certain of this: this healthcare plan that is being proposed by my colleagues from across the aisle will not solve their problems. And it will only create, in fact, more problems and potentially devastate people’s lives.

So to my colleagues, I say:

This shouldn’t be a matter of supporting this bill automatically if you’re a Republican or objecting just because you’re a Democrat. This is about what’s right and what’s wrong.

If you know this bill is bad, stand up and stop it. Speak that truth. Now is not the time to keep quiet and hope nobody notices.

Forget the politics. Forget partisan pressure and talk radio and primary ads. Instead, just listen to the voices of the American people.

Not just in California, but in Nevada, in Arizona, in Ohio, in Alaska, in Maine, in Pennsylvania, in West Virginia.

Because they have made themselves overwhelmingly clear.

Only 20% of Americans support this bill.

A majority opposes it in every state in this country.

It is the least popular piece of legislation in modern history.

I’m asking you to think about the American people.

I’m asking you to think about Tonia. Think about Krista. Think about Rhett, living with leukemia since he was just two and a half years old, undergoing two-and-a-half hour infusions every night with such incredible bravery.

Let the determination of Americans like Rhett bring us together—a 9-year-old boy who tells us, in his words, “Don’t repeal the Affordable Care Act, improve it.”

Because we all agree the ACA can be improved. It must be improved. It isn’t perfect. And I am ready to work with anyone who really wants to make it better.

Instead of playing politics with public health and people’s lives, we can actually work together to strengthen our healthcare system.

In fact, I’m proud to have recently co-sponsored a bill with Senator Dianne Feinstein and a number of my Democratic colleagues. Our bill would make it safer and easier for middle class Americans to buy insurance if they currently don’t qualify for any help paying their premiums.

These are the kind of solutions Democrats can get behind. These are the kinds of solutions that would help, and not hurt, the people we represent.

We took an oath to represent all the people.

So I am asking every member of this chamber to think long and hard about the consequences of this bill. Think about the responsibility we’ve been entrusted with.

We owe it to the American people to tell the truth, not to hide it.

We owe it to the American people to solve real problems, not to manufacture new ones.

We owe it to the American people to do the job we were sent here to do.

I urge my colleagues: Vote down this bill and stand up for the people we represent and serve.

I yield back.

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4 COMMENTS

  1. God I hate this hag, she is a fraud and liar. She hates America and her values. Hope she loses next election!

  2. The only thing that needs to be called out is the better insurance coverage that politicians get leaving the voters with collapsing Obamacare. When a new insurance comes out , all the elected officials should get the same as their constituents. Democrats, 3 for me, 1 for you. Don’t listen to the lying leftwings. They are only in politics for themselves.

  3. We conservatives don’t have anyone in either the state government or the federal government (congress and senate) to represent our views. Why are we stuck with TWO liberal senators (Feinstein and Harris)? They both represent LEFTISTS …

  4. A demotard crying about the lack of bipartianship……lol

    Who’s a-hole did she have her head shoved up for the last 8 years?

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