September 17, 2013
Washington, D.C. – Nevada Senator Harry Reid spoke on the Senate floor today to comfort victims of the tragic mass shooting at the Washington Navy Yard and regarding Republican opposition to the Affordable Care Act. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
No words of condolence could possibly ease the pain of a dozen families who lost loved ones in yesterday’s Navy Yard shooting rampage. But I hope it is some small comfort that a city and a nation mourn alongside them.
There is still no explanation for the terrible violence that occurred yesterday. My thoughts are with those who were injured. I wish them a speedy recovery. And my heart goes out to all of the 16,000 military and civilian employees who work in the Navy Yard complex, as well as their friends and family members, who were affected by this tragedy.
Just a few days ago, members of Congress marked the anniversary of September 11, 2001 during a ceremony on the steps of the United States Capitol. Yesterday’s shootings are the worst loss of life in the Capitol region since the Sept. 11 attack on the Pentagon. Both last week’s significant anniversary and yesterday’s terrible violence are a reminder that life is fragile and precious. And they are a reminder of the debt we owe to those who protect our freedom and our safety – whether they serve in the military or as first responders.
My thanks go to all those who put their lives on the line to prevent greater loss of life Monday, including the entire Washington, D.C. law enforcement community. I thank Senate Sergeant at Arms Terry Gainer, who is responsible for our safety here in the Capitol. And in particular, this city owes a debt of gratitude to Metropolitan Police officer Scott Williams, a K-9 officer and 24-year veteran of the force, who was hurt very badly. I wish Officer Williams a full recovery and thank him for his selflessness.
THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT
Since the moment President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law – ensuring every American has access to quality health insurance at a price they can afford – Republicans have been on an absurd quest to undo this progress.
Republicans members of Congress were horrified when the United States Supreme Court declared Obamacare constitutional.
House Republicans have voted more than 40 times to repeal Obamacare, and are now threatening to shut down the government unless we deny funding to implement the law of the land.
Under the Affordable Care Act, members of Congress and their staffs will be covered by exactly the same plans that will extend health insurance to millions of Americans next year. Under the law, 535 members of Congress and 16,000 staff are treated like other employees across America. And like 150 million other Americans who get their health insurance through their jobs, their employer – the federal government – will share part of the cost of that healthcare, as it has for all federal employees for decades.
In other words, members of Congress and Congressional staffers will live by the same rules and get their health care from the same exchanges as other Americans. But the Junior Senator from Louisiana and a number of other misguided Republicans want to force members of Congress and their staffs to live by a different set of rules.
Although Senator Vitter has happily allowed the federal government to pay for a portion of his health insurance for years, now he wants to force almost 16,000 Congressional workers to cover the full cost of their health insurance. That leaves me wondering, if Senator Vitter opposes the employer contribution for Congressional staffers, does he oppose it for the 150 million other Americans whose employers help pay their health insurance premiums? Does he want to discourage private employers from doing the right thing and providing their employees with affordable insurance coverage?
Millions of Americans rely on this important benefit to keep their insurance affordable – and have for generations. And millions of employers rely on this important benefit to attract the best and brightest workers. Ending the employer contribution would effectively slap 150 million Americans with a pay cut. Is that Senator Vitter’s intention?
If Republican Senators believe they should bear the full cost of their own health insurance, they can certainly decline the federal government’s employer contribution and pay their own way. They can even encourage their staffs to follow suit. But for Senator Vitter and his Republican allies to end the contribution for 16,000 hard-working federal employees – even after years of accepting the subsidy themselves – is hypocritical and mean spirited.
In truth, this is only the latest Republican attempt to derail the successful implementation of Obamacare. Last November, Americans overwhelmingly voted to reelect President Obama and to keep Obamacare as the law of the land. Americans have spoken loudly and clearly: it’s time to move on.
According to the voters and according to the Supreme Court of the United States of America, Obamacare is the law of the land. It’s time for Republicans to start acting like it. It’s time for Republicans to stop denying reality.
The United States Senate should be passing an energy efficiency bill that will save taxpayers money, creating good-paying jobs rebuilding roads and bridges, facing the reality of climate change, passing immigration reform or fixing our broken tax system – not relitigating four-year-old policy battles. But instead of working with Democrats to effectively implement Obamacare – or to pass new laws that benefit middle-class families – Republicans are obsessed with fighting old battles at taxpayer expense.
And instead of standing with millions of Americans who are already benefiting from Obamacare, Republicans are standing with insurance companies that would return us to a time when profits came before people.
Since President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law, insurance companies can no longer discriminate against children with preexisting conditions. They can no longer raise your rates for no reason. They can no longer drop your coverage if you get sick. Today children can no longer be denied insurance because they are born with a disease or a disability, a protection that will soon extend to all Americans. And soon being a woman will no longer be considered a pre-existing condition.
In Nevada alone, tens of thousands of seniors have saved tens of millions of dollars on medicines because the Affordable Care Act closed the gap in prescription drug coverage. More than 3 million young people – including 33,000 young Nevadans – were able to stay on their parents’ health plans until they were 26 years old. And, hundreds of thousands of businesses that already offer their employees health insurance are getting tax credits for doing the right thing.
In a few months, 129 million Americans with preexisting conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes or epilepsy and 25 million Americans who cannot afford health insurance will have access to reasonably priced coverage and quality care through the exchanges. Republicans have been trying for years to erase those gains, and force millions of American families to once again rely on expensive emergency room care – or go without care at all.
Punishing hard-working Congressional staffers, who put in long hours because they believe in public service, won’t roll back the benefits of Obamacare. Punishing Congressional staffers won’t prevent millions of Americans from gaining the health insurance they need and deserve next year. But it will hurt thousands of men and women – including Senator Vitter’s colleagues and his own staff.
Instead of willfully denying that Obamacare is the law or purposely trying to derail its implementation, it’s time for Senator Vitter to help us improve the law of the land and ensure every American has access to the kind of care members of Congress enjoy already.
RenoBruce R. Thompson
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