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Weekly remarks: Mitch McConnell and Obama seem to disagree still on healthcare

March 27, 2010 |  3:00 am

Capitol Dome

Remarks by Sen. Mitch McConnell, as provided by the Republican National Committee

Hello. I’m Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. Earlier this week, the President signed a massive health spending bill that’s been described as historic. Well, Democrats in Washington may measure history by how expensive and intrusive the bill is. But, most people outside Washington see things differently.

In one of the most divisive legislative debates in modern history, Democrats decided to go the partisan route and blatantly ignore the will of the people. Americans opposed this legislation, and, now they’re clamoring to see it repealed and replaced.

Democratic leaders and White House officials may be celebrating their victory this week, but most of the rest of the country is not.

Most people aren’t interested in celebrating a bill that makes their lives more complicated, takes more out of their paychecks and puts decisions they’re used to making themselves into the hands of federal bureaucrats.

Most people aren’t celebrating the fact that their insurance premiums will go up. Seniors ...

... aren’t popping champagne corks at more than a half a trillion dollars in Medicare cuts. And, job creators, already struggling in a down economy, aren’t doing any cartwheels over all the mandates and new taxes they’ll have to shoulder as a result of this bill.

We’re already seeing the economic fallout.

Just two days after this bill became law, the John Deere Co. said it will spend an extra $150 million this year alone just to comply with the new law. Illinois-based Caterpillar Corp. said it expects to take a $100-million hit. 

This is bad news for workers, and it's terrible news for the broader economy. As the President himself put it during a visit to Caterpillar last year: ‘You can measure America’s bottom line by looking at Caterpillar’s bottom line.’ That was the president a year ago.

The timing couldn’t be worse. At a moment when millions of Americans are looking for work, Democrats in Washington just voted to spend $2.6 trillion on a healthcare bill that will make it even harder to create private-sector jobs. The IRS sure gets a boost, though. An estimated 16,500 new workers will be needed there to enforce a brand new insurance mandate that the bill imposes on employers.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky
And then there are all the unintended consequences that will inevitably result from a 2,800-page bill that sets up dozens of federal boards and a thicket of new rules and regulations -- regulations that we know won’t withstand their first contact with reality.

In fact, we’re already seeing it. Just one day after the president signed this bill into law, we got word that one of its celebrated early features -- a ban on discriminating against children with pre-existing conditions -- won’t immediately protect children after all.

Another promise, requiring insurance companies to let young adults stay on their parents’ plans up to age 26, turned out to be similarly ineffective. In other words, Democrats in Congress just voted to take over one-sixth of our economy, and two of the biggest selling points they used to push it over the finish line already need fixing. Here’s a question: If they can’t get these two things right, how can we expect them to properly manage the rest of it?

When the White House was questioned about the glitches in the bill, they said the secretary of Human Services was on the case. They said she’d issue a new regulation to correct the problem. But this is precisely what Americans are afraid of.

This bill hadn’t even been law for 24 hours, and already they’re proposing regulations to cover over mistakes and errors. And we haven’t even seen the last of it.

I’m sure that soon enough, every American will be reminded of the wisdom of that old observation that ‘government is best which governs least.’

Look, nobody is satisfied with the healthcare system as it is. We’ve got serious problems that need to be addressed. Costs are out of control. Too many people are being squeezed out of the market. But, the fact of the matter is, this healthcare bill doesn’t solve any of those problems. It uses them as an excuse to undermine the things we do best -- the wide array of choices, the constant innovations in technology and treatments, and the high quality of care that people all around the world admire about the American healthcare system.

Sadly, all of those things will suffer as a result of the bill the president signed this week.

We can do better. We can expand access to people with preexisting conditions. We can keep people from being kicked off their plans. We can lower costs and premiums. We can do all of these things without undermining the things we do best and without raising taxes that kill jobs in a bad economy.

The American people know that. That’s why they’ve been clamoring for a different approach, and that’s why Republicans are committed to repealing this bill and replacing it with common-sense solutions that achieve the good things that folks on both sides want to achieve without all the nasty consequences we’re already beginning to see.

Repeal and replace. That’s what Americans really want, and that’s something people far beyond Washington, D.C., will actually want to celebrate. Thanks for listening.    ####

Democrat president Barack Obama on the phone in the Oval Offfice

Remarks by President Obama on healthcare, as provided by the White House

This was a momentous week for America. It was a week in which together, we took bold new steps toward restoring economic security for our middle class and rebuilding a stronger foundation for our future. It was a week in which some of the change that generations have hoped for and worked for finally became reality in America.

It began with the passage of comprehensive health-insurance reform that will begin to end the worst practices of the insurance industry, rein in our exploding deficits, and, over time, finally offer millions of families and small businesses quality, affordable care -- and the security and peace of mind that comes with it.

And it ended with Congress casting a final vote on another piece of legislation that accomplished what we’ve been talking about for decades -- legislation that will reform our student-loan system and help us educate all Americans to compete and win in the 21st century.

Year after year, we’ve seen billions of taxpayer dollars handed out as subsidies to the bankers and middlemen who handle federal student loans, when that money should have gone to advancing the dreams of our students and working families. And yet attempts to fix this problem and reform this program were thwarted by special interests that fought tooth and nail to preserve their exclusive giveaway.

But this time, we said, would be different. We said we’d stand up to the special interests, and stand up for the interests of students and families. That’s what happened this week. And I commend all the senators and representatives who did the right thing.

This reform of the federal student-loan programs will save taxpayers $68 billion over the next decade. And with this legislation, we’re putting that money to use achieving a goal I set for America: By the end of this decade, we will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.

To make college more affordable for millions of middle-class Americans for whom the cost of higher education has become an unbearable burden, we’re expanding federal Pell Grants for students: increasing them to keep pace with inflation in the coming years and putting the program on a stronger financial footing. In total, we’re doubling funding for the federal Pell Grant program to help the students who depend on it.  

To make sure our students don’t go broke just because they chose to go to college, we’re making it easier for graduates to afford their student-loan payments. Today, about two in three graduates take out loans to pay for college. The average student ends up with more than $23,000 in debt. So when this change takes effect in 2014, we’ll cap a graduate’s annual student loan repayments at 10% of his or her income.

To help an additional 5 million Americans earn degrees and certificates over the next decade, we’re revitalizing programming at our community colleges -- the career pathways for millions of dislocated workers and working families across this country. These schools are centers of learning, where students young and old can get the skills and technical training they need for the jobs of today and tomorrow. They’re centers of opportunity; where we can forge partnerships between students and businesses so that every community can gain the workforce it needs. And they are vital to our economic future.

And to ensure that all our students have every chance to live up to their full potential, this legislation also increases support for our minority-serving institutions, including our historically black colleges and universities, to keep them as strong as ever in this new century.

Education. Healthcare.Two of the most important pillars of a strong America grew stronger this week.  These achievements don’t represent the end of our challenges, nor do they signify the end of the work that faces our country. But what they do represent is real and major reform. What they show is that we’re a nation still capable of doing big things. What they prove is what’s possible when we can come together to overcome the politics of the moment, push back on the special interests and look beyond the next election to do what’s right for the next generation.

That’s the spirit in which we continue the work of tackling our greatest common tasks -- an economy rebuilt, job creation revitalized, an American Dream renewed -- for all our people. Thank you. ####

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Photos: Cliff Owen / Associated Press; McConnell's office; Pete Souza / White House.

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