Click here or the image above to view video of Murphy’s remarks.
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), a member of the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, joined Senate Democrats on the floor of the U.S. Senate Monday night in protesting the GOP’s efforts to force a secret health care repeal bill – which would reorder one-fifth of the American economy and force millions of people to lose their health insurance – through Congress. Murphy lambasted Congressional Republicans for shutting Connecticut residents out of the bill-writing process, and for denying the American public any hearings, amendments, or debate on the bill.
“This is about real people who are going to go through miserable, terrible experiences because of the bill Senate Republicans are just days away from putting onto the floor,” said Murphy. “Within a heartbeat of passing this bill, about 14 million people will lose insurance, and then, over time, it grows to 51 million people. The cost of that is about $800 billion of money out of the healthcare system. It is not coincidence that that then gets transferred into…tax breaks for the pharmaceutical companies, the insurance companies, and for really, really rich people.”
Murphy continued, “My constituents, even though they are represented by Democrats, have no fewer rights than the citizens of Iowa or the citizens of Texas who are represented by Republicans. Why are my constituents not allowed to see the details of what is about to happen to their lives? Why are the people of Connecticut going to get three minutes to look at this bill once it hits the Senate floor? My constituents are Americans. They deserve to know what is about to happen to them.”
Last month, the nonpartisan CBO released an updated analysis of Trumpcare, making clear that the bill would raise costs and worsen care to pay for huge tax cuts for the wealthy. Earlier this year, Murphy led 17 senators in demanding that Senate Republican leadership conduct an equally transparent and thorough deliberative process on Trumpcare as was conducted in drafting and passing the Affordable Care Act in 2009. The senators contrasted the dozens of bipartisan meetings and hearings, and more than 160 hours of floor debate, with the unprecedented steps that Congressional Republicans are currently taking to force Trumpcare through Congress.
The full text of Murphy’ s remarks is below:
Mr. President, I thank my friend from Hawaii for convening us here tonight.
This isn't theoretical. This isn't about numbers. This is about real people. We know them. They exist throughout our states.
I have told this story a few times before on the floor of the Senate. When I think about the progress that has been made over the course of the last six years, I think about Betty Berger. Betty is a woman who lives in Meriden, Connecticut. Betty and her husband did everything we asked them to do. They were morally upstanding citizens, contributed to their community, had full employment, raised good kids.
Her husband switched jobs. He switched jobs, and he had a 1-week, maybe a 2-week period of time in between those two jobs. As luck – or lack of it – would have it, during that brief intermission between employment, their son was diagnosed with cancer. The cancer then became a preexisting condition, which meant her husband's new employer would not cover the son as part of a family plan. The cancer progressed and progressed and progressed, and this family, the Bergers, had no means to keep up with the payments.
Their story, unfortunately, is not foreign to folks who have heard from constituents who have gone bankrupt because of healthcare costs. The Bergers lost everything. The Bergers first went through their savings, then they went into their son's college account, then they sold their car, then they sold their house. They lost everything they had trying to make sure they had healthcare for their son simply because he got diagnosed with cancer during the one tiny interim between their family's insurance coverage. That preexisting condition doomed that family. There but for the grace of God – that could be us. That could happen to any one of us.
Yet, today, medical bankruptcy is, frankly, a thing of the past. Why? Well, it is not because healthcare costs any less. It is because we said we are not going to allow insurance companies to deny coverage to someone because they have a cancer diagnosis. In fact, we are not going to allow insurance companies to charge you more just because you are sick.
And guess what? People have been able to keep their college savings account. They have been able to keep their car. They have been able to keep their house even if they get sick. That is what this bill has meant. Twenty million more people are insured, yes, but the number of personal bankruptcies in this country has plummeted by 50 percent, almost entirely because there aren't Bergers any longer. There aren't people who had to live through what the Berger family had to live through.
That is what this is about. This is about real people who are going to go through miserable, terrible experiences because of the bill Senate Republicans are just days away from putting onto the floor.
I know my colleagues have covered this exhaustively, but I just want to show visually what CBO says the House bill does.
I know it is in vogue for the President and Republicans to say that ObamaCare is in a death spiral, but that is not what CBO says. CBO says that if you keep the Affordable Care Act and actually implement it rather than undermine it, rather than sabotage it – as the President of the United States is today – the number of people who don't have health insurance will remain fairly stable from 2017 to 2026. It is about 28 million people. But if you enact the American Health Care Act, the bill that passed through the House, that number goes almost immediately from about 26 million up to 40 million. Right about 14 million people lose insurance right off the bat. Like within a heartbeat of passing this bill, about 14 million people will lose insurance, and then, over time, it grows to 51 million people. That is not the Affordable Care Act in a death spiral. That is market stability. This is a death spiral. The death spiral starts upon passage of the Act being secretly negotiated today.
I get it that 23 million is kind of a hard number to get your head wrapped around. What does 23 million people really mean? These numbers are so huge. So here is what 23 million people is. It is the entire population of Alaska, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, and let's just throw in West Virginia. That is what 23 million people is. That is a humanitarian catastrophe.
Remember, 23 million people is what you get to at the end of 10 years, but 14 million people lose it right off the bat. There is no way for our healthcare system to provide coverage to 14 million people who had insurance one day and then don't have it the next. By the way, they tend to be the sickest people because that is who is going to lose healthcare first.
Why are we doing this? Why would you choose to inflict this kind of pain on people? Why would you ask to run for Congress in order to put this kind of hurt on the American public?
Here is the answer. I wish this weren't the answer. I wish there were a different answer, but here is the answer. Twenty-three million people lose health insurance, and the cost of that is about $800 billion of money out of the healthcare system. It is not coincidence that that then gets transferred into $650 or so odd-billion dollars in tax breaks for the pharmaceutical companies, the insurance companies, and for really, really rich people. It is not just by accident that it worked out that the amount of money you took from poor people and from middle-class people and from sick people is the exact amount of money you are transferring to the pharmaceutical industry, the insurance industry, and rich people.
Here is another way of looking at it. Here is where the tax cuts go: The lowest quintile, the second quintile, the middle quintile, even the fourth quintile don't get a lot of money out of this tax break. It is the top quintile, the top 20 percent of income earners who get an average tax cut of $2,700.
Here is the big benefit: The top one percent of income earners: a $37,000 tax cut out of this bill. The top 1 percent of income earners get a $37,000 tax cut from this bill. Let me say that again: 23 million people lose healthcare so that the top 1 percent of income earners get a $37,000 tax cut. Who runs for Congress to do that? What constituency is asking for the U.S. Congress to pass a bill that takes health insurance from all sorts of working Americans, people who are playing by the rules – people like the Berger – in order to pass a tax cut for the super wealthy?
I don't know what is happening behind those closed doors. I don't know exactly what they are talking about, but I am going to guarantee you that it is not fundamentally different than what the House bill did, which is what I am describing here. There are still massive numbers of people losing healthcare, rich people getting a tax cut, and lots of folks getting hurt. Why? Just because Republicans made a political promise to do this.
I know I have other colleagues who want to talk. Let me turn for a moment to this process because the process does matter. The majority is breaking the Senate. They are breaking the Senate. Don't think this will not be how this works if you are in the minority. The fact is, we acknowledge that there is a lot that is still very wrong with the American healthcare system. Our constituents command us to try to make those things better. We would love nothing more than to sit down with the Republicans and try to figure out how we can come together on a path forward to make this healthcare system better. I know you don't believe us, but you didn't even try.
I am not sure we believed you at the beginning of 2009 when you said, “We want to help people get insurance,” because we watched Republicans have control of the presidency and the House and the Senate for a long time without a lot of progress being made, but Democrats tried.
Democrats spent a whole year sitting down with the Republicans, trying to figure out if there was common ground – holding committee processes, exhaustive hearings. There were 30 days of Senate debate on the floor. I get it; in the end, Republicans didn't support that package. I get that Republicans can lay blame at the feet of Democrats for not crafting something that could win Republican support. I understand how that argument works.
The fact is that when Democrats were in the majority, they tried. They opened up the committee process. They let everyone in the public see the debate we were having. Why? Because it is a big deal.
We are talking about one-fifth to one-sixth of the American economy. If you are talking about reordering that biggest segment of the U.S. economy, if you are talking about millions of people benefiting or losing, that shouldn't happen behind closed doors.
My constituents, even though they are represented by Democrats, have no fewer rights than the citizens of Iowa or the citizens of Texas who are represented by Republicans. Why are my constituents not allowed to see the details of what is about to happen to their lives? Why are only a select group of Americans able to have a voice inside that room? Why are the people of Connecticut going to get three minutes to look at this bill once it hits the Senate floor? My constituents are Americans, just as the constituents in Republican States are Americans. They deserve to know what is about to happen to them.
You are breaking the Senate. It will not get put back together that easily. These are tough questions. They are partisan questions, but it doesn't mean there is not an obligation to try to find common ground. If you can't find common ground, don't bury the proceedings behind closed doors where nobody can see it.
People hate this bill. They hate this bill. They hate it in part because they don't trust the process. When they see this balance – tax breaks for pharma, insurance, and rich people and then losing coverage – they want to know why they lose and why super rich people win, but they can't get answers because it is all happening behind closed doors.
It is not too late. I will just end there. Senator Schatz said it right: it is not too late. My Republican colleagues can reject this and say let's start over. Let's sit down and see if there are some Democrats who want to work on stabilizing these exchanges, seeing if there is some middle ground, being able to build a bipartisan consensus when it comes to the future of the healthcare system.
It is not too late. I think you are going hear that consistently from my colleagues this evening.
I yield the floor.