(Republican Leader Mitch McConnell) – One of my predecessors as Republican leader of the Senate, Everett Dirksen, once advised a colleague that he would be a lot more effective if he occasionally allowed himself “the luxury of an unexpressed thought.” On the issue of health care, I haven’t followed that advice.
This morning, I’ll make my way to a wooden podium at the front of the Senate floor and deliver my 50th speech since June on the topic of health care. But you would never know it from listening to Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill. Listening to them, you would think Republicans haven’t been part of the health care debate at all.
I understand the tactic. It’s an old political trick to accuse one’s opponents of being against something very worthwhile when what they’re really against are the specifics that you’re proposing.
In this debate, though, proponents of the administration’s health care plan have turned this old strategy into something of an Olympic sport.
The simple fact is, every Republican in Congress supports reform.
Health care costs are too high, and too many Americans lack health insurance. I have said so in just about every one of those 50 speeches and in dozens of interviews. And every other Senate Republican is on record favoring common-sense reforms for a system that needs them — ideas such as medical liability reform and equalizing the tax treatment for businesses and individuals who buy insurance.
Republicans are also on record about what we don’t favor, and that’s a 1,500-page bill that includes a lot of things Americans didn’t ask for and very little of what they did.
Somewhere along the way, things got off track. Americans asked for step-by-step reforms that cut costs and increased access. Instead, they got a 1,500 page, trillion-dollar plan that would vastly expand the role of government in the health care decisions of every American and would pay for it with higher premiums, higher taxes and massive cuts to the Medicare program for seniors.
The dramatic shift between what Americans expected and what they got is the reason so many of them turned out at town hall meetings in August, and it’s the reason that an ever increasing percentage of them oppose the health care proposals now taking shape in Congress.
Americans are also concerned about the process. They don’t understand how an administration that cited transparency as one of its chief selling points is now busily cobbling together a bill that would reorganize nearly one-fifth of the world’s largest economy in daily, closed-door meetings somewhere inside the Capitol.
Some of those who support the administration’s plan for health care have tried to come up with a variety of creative reasons to explain why Americans oppose it. They’re looking too hard. The real reasons are the ones we’ve given, out in the open, for months.
Americans don’t want the same kind of denial, delay and rationing of care that they have seen in countries that have followed the path of government-driven health care for all.
Americans are also perplexed that in the midst of a terrible recession, near 10% unemployment, massive federal debt and a deficit that exceeds the deficits of the past four years combined, the White House would move ahead with a massive expansion of government health care when common sense, step-by-step reforms are a better way to go.
This is the message I have delivered nearly every day on the Senate floor since early June and which I’ll continue to deliver as the health care debate proceeds. It’s a message that a vast majority of Americans seem to agree with, and which those of us in Washington would be very wise to heed.
(Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is the Senate Republican leader)