Obamacare Will Hurt Countless More Americans If We Don’t Act

Senate Majority Leader discusses Obamacare, the government funding bill, free speech and nominees.

WASHINGTON, D.C. –U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) made the following remarks today on the Senate floor:

“Today the Senate will move to confirm Heather Wilson as Secretary of the Air Force.  Wilson is a Rhodes Scholar, Air Force Academy graduate — part of the third class ever to admit women, by the way — and a dedicated public servant who served several terms in Congress.  I’m sure she’ll work hard in this new role to strengthen the branch of the military she cares so much about.  I look forward to approving her nomination on a bipartisan basis later this afternoon.  After that, we’ll take a cloture vote on the Gottlieb nomination to head the FDA, which I’ll come to in a moment. I hope to see robust support for his nomination as well.

“Now, I’d like to recognize two important votes that occurred last Thursday.  First, let me commend the House for voting to move beyond the pain of Obamacare.  For years, the American people have suffered under this failed law.  They watched their premiums soar.  They watched their choices dwindle.

“Now, they’re watching as Obamacare collapses all around them. More than half of our states have counties with only a single insurance option on the exchanges, and a growing number could have no options at all — like, as we saw reported just last week, in nearly every county in Iowa. That means thousands more Americans could be left trapped, forced by law to purchase Obamacare insurance but left without the means to do so.  Does that sound to anyone like a law that’s working?

“To those who would try to defend an indefensible Obamacare status quo, I ask you to consider what Speaker Ryan said last week: ‘[T]here is a fundamental and urgent choice at the heart of this debate. We can continue with the status quo under Obamacare, and we know what that looks like. It means even higher premiums, even fewer choices, even more insurance companies pulling out, even more uncertainty, and even more chaos.’

“To those who’ve suffered enough already, my message is this: We hear you. Congress is acting.  I commend the House and the administration for making this important advance last week. Now the Senate will do its work. The administration will also continue doing its part to deliver relief and stabilize the health markets as best it can.  This process will not be quick or simple or easy, but it must be done — it’s the least members in both parties owe to the countless Americans who continue to suffer under Obamacare, and the countless more who will be hurt if we don’t act.

“Second, let me commend the Senate for voting last Thursday to pass the funding bill.  I mentioned last week some of the many important provisions it contained, all of which the president has now signed into law.  The largest border-security funding increase in a decade — now law.  The critically needed down payment on restoring our military readiness — now law. 

“The bill also kept in place an important free speech protection.  And yet, Democrats are now trying to pressure and intimidate the SEC into ignoring something we just passed on a bipartisan basis.  For years, Democrats have pressured the SEC rulemaking process to curb and regulate political speech despite agreement in our funding bills to prevent the Commission from doing just that.  This is not a new page in their playbook. 

“When we first passed this crucial protection in 2015, Democrats appealed to the SEC to actually ignore the law. This time, however they’ve gone in an even more extreme direction.  Now that Democrats no longer have the administration to stifle speech through the SEC, the IRS, or HHS, they’re trying to intimidate private citizens and public companies by telling those citizens and companies what is in their ‘best interest.’ 

“This kind of bullying behavior is part of a broader pattern we’ve seen repeated by the Left time and again in similar circumstances — suppression of the viewpoints with which they disagree and forcing Americans into a choice: tell us your political ideology or be silent.  I’ve called the Left out for intimidation tactics and speech-suppression efforts before, I’m warning about it again today, and I will continue to stay vigilant and defend the First Amendment moving forward.

“But, for now, I’d like to highlight a couple other important provisions in the funding bill that are now law.  One is the miners-health provision I was proud to secure, a critical lifeline that will permanently protect health care benefits for thousands of retired coal miners in states like Kentucky.  Another is the provision of significant new resources that can be used to combat the prescription opioid and heroin crisis.  It’s the latest of many significant steps we’ve taken to tackle this terrible epidemic.

“Today, we can take another step forward by advancing the nomination of Scott Gottlieb to head the FDA.  I’ll have more to say on Dr. Gottlieb later, but for now I’ll note that he’s incredibly qualified for this position and I’m sure he’ll be an ally for states that continue to struggle with the opioid crisis — because the FDA has a critical role to play.  And, let’s be clear, there’s a lot more to be done.

“States like Kentucky have been hit hard by this crisis, our rural communities especially.  In fact, there are a lot of struggles that are particularly pressing in rural America — and several provisions in the government funding bill that can help: provisions to, for instance, advance broadband development, promote safe and clean drinking water, and help reclaim and develop abandoned mine sites in coal country, among other priorities.

“Those are a few of the things that can help rural communities.  There are other actions we can take as well.  One is of particular importance to our colleagues from Alaska, Senators Murkowski and Sullivan.  Majority Whip Cornyn and I have been consulting with them about the Secure Rural Schools program, which helps rural counties and schools whose economies have been hit hard by steeply declining timber revenues from our public lands.

“Senators Hatch and Wyden introduced a bill to reauthorize the program last week and it was referred to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, where Senator Murkowski serves as the Chair.  This bill is important to Kentucky as well. I look forward to working with Chairman Murkowski, Senator Sullivan, and all the bill’s advocates to find a path forward for it this year.”

Related Issues: Obamacare, Health Care, Opioid Abuse, Nominations