In a speech on the Senate floor, Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) emphasized – despite a frustrating process – his commitment to keeping his promise to repeal Obamacare and highlighted the devastating consequences if Congress fails to do so.
“Anyone who thought repealing and replacing Obamacare would be easy once we had the votes was likely not paying attention to the problems plaguing our healthcare system,” Hatch said. “However, if we act now to pass the full repeal, we will be taking significant steps toward accomplishing our goals and keeping our promises. If we pass up yet another opportunity – if we can’t muster the votes to pass something we’ve already passed – I have a hard time believing we’ll get another shot to fulfill our promise and repeal this unworkable law anytime soon.”
Hatch continued,“Among other things, it means a congressional bailout of failing insurance markets, probably before the end of 2017. Frankly, that ship may have sailed on that one after last night’s developments. We’re probably looking at an insurance bailout one way or another. Those who will be interested in moving an insurance bailout later this year should be ready to explain how they want to pay for it.”
The complete speech as prepared for delivery is below:
Mr. President, the final pieces of Obamacare were signed into law a little over seven years ago. Since that time, Republicans – not just in Congress, but throughout the country – have been united in our opposition to the law and our commitment to repeal it.
This hasn’t been simply a political or partisan endeavor. We’re not just trying take a notch out of President Obama’s win column. The simple truth is that Obamacare isn’t working.
The law was poorly written and the system it created was poorly designed. Even a number of Obamacare supporters have come to acknowledge that it hasn’t been working the way it was promised to work. As a result, millions of Americans have suffered astronomical increases in their health insurance premiums and fewer and fewer insurance options to choose from.
That is Obamacare’s great irony: The law requires people to buy health insurance while also making it impossible to do so.
For seven and a half years, Republicans have fought to expose the failures of Obamacare and have pledged time and again to repeal it.
Every single Republican member of the Senate has expressed support for repealing Obamacare. Most of us have made promises to our constituents to do just that. And, those promises – coupled with the obvious failures of Obamacare – are a big reason why we now find ourselves in control of both chambers of Congress and the presidency.
For the last six months, Republicans have worked in good faith to find a path forward to both repeal and replace Obamacare.
The released discussion drafts attempted to bridge the divide between our more conservative and moderate members, so the products were never going to be perfect. Such is the inherent nature of compromise.
The draft released last week included additions to address member priorities, and was likely the best chance we had at a compromise bill to repeal and replace Obamacare with significant entitlement reform.
But, last night a handful of our members announced that they would not support the compromise bill, even though it would have repealed Obamacare’s taxes, reformed Medicaid by putting it on a sustainable path for future generations, and included the largest pro-life protections on federal spending that I’ve ever seen.
This, Mr. President, was the opportunity we had been working toward. All we had to do was come together and compromise and seven and a half years of promises would have been much, much closer to being fulfilled.
But, last night, we blinked.
And, frankly, I think the members who opted to scuttle the compromise bill will eventually have to explain to their constituents why they left so many Obamacare fixes on the table and walked away from this historic opportunity.
So, where does that leave us?
The Majority Leader has announced his intention to shelve the effort to repeal and replace Obamacare with a single piece of legislation. Instead, the Senate will move forward to vote on legislation to simply repeal Obamacare, with a two-year delay.
So, long story short, we have one more chance to do what we’ve all said we wanted to do.
I am aware that some members have already expressed their skepticism – if not their opposition – to this approach. I would hope that they will take the time to reconsider.
As senators contemplate this path, they should keep in mind that the upcoming vote is not about the next two years, nor is it about the past six months. We’re not going to be voting to approve a specific process for drafting and enacting an Obamacare replacement. And, we’re not voting to approve the way this effort has moved forward during this Congress.
I know some of our colleagues have doubts about the path forward. Others have complaints about the path that got us here. But this vote, in my view, will simply be about whether we intend to live up to our promises.
Do we want to repeal Obamacare, or are we fine with leaving it in place? That’s the question we have to ask ourselves.
Keep in mind, Mr. President, the vast majority of Republican Senators are already on record having voted two years ago in favor a full Obamacare repeal with a two-year delay.
Of course, in 2015, we knew that the President would veto that legislation, and we now know that the current occupant of the White House would surely sign it. That’s really the only difference between then and now.
Was the vote in 2015 just a political stunt? Was it just pure partisanship? I know some of our Democratic colleagues claimed that was the case. Were they right?
I sure hope not. On the contrary, I sincerely hope that any member of the Senate who voted for the 2015 bill and who has spent the last seven and a half years pledging to repeal Obamacare hasn’t suddenly changed their position now that the vote has a chance to actually matter.
If we vote to pass a full repeal, will we be solving all of our healthcare problems with a single vote? Certainly not.
But, that was never going to be the case, Mr. President. Anyone who thought repealing and replacing Obamacare would be easy once we had the votes was likely not paying attention to the problems plaguing our healthcare system.
However, if we act now to pass the full repeal, we will be taking significant steps toward accomplishing our goals and keeping our promises. If we pass up yet another opportunity – if we can’t muster the votes to pass something we’ve already passed – I have a hard time believing we’ll get another shot to fulfill our promise and repeal this unworkable law anytime soon.
What does that mean?
Among other things, it means a congressional bailout of failing insurance markets, probably before the end of 2017. Frankly, that ship may have sailed on that one after last night’s developments. We’re probably looking at an insurance bailout one way or another. Those who will be interested in moving an insurance bailout later this year should be ready to explain how they want to pay for it.
Failure would also mean premiums continue to skyrocket and people will be left with few, if any available insurance options, even though they will still face penalties if they don’t make a purchase.
It would mean that the Obamacare taxes and mandates remain in place. And, it would keep Medicaid expansion on the books indefinitely, most certainly creating a scenario for Governors to advocate for the federal government to continue paying close to 100 percent of the share for able-bodied adults.
Mr. President, we already know what happens if we leave Obamacare in place – that scenario is playing out before our very eyes. That downward spiral of broken promises – the one the American people have to deal with every day – is the reason we’ve all committed to repealing Obamacare.
Now, don’t get me wrong, Mr. President. I wish the path that got us to this point had been easier, with less melodrama and acrimony. To be honest, I wish we had simply moved to this full-repeal strategy at the outset, because, as I noted several times early in the year, it is probably the most feasible path forward if we want to achieve our goals.
It would be nice if things had gone differently. But, this is where we are, with only 52 Republicans in the Senate and a minority that has, from the beginning, wanted no part of this process.
Right now, we have essentially two choices. We can keep talking about repealing Obamacare and wish for a better future, one with more Republican votes or more Democrats willing to acknowledge reality. Or, we can press forward with the numbers we have and make good on the commitments we’ve made to the American people.
To quote the old Scottish nursery rhyme: If wishes were horses, then beggars would ride.
Translation: More talking and more wishing won’t get us anywhere.
We can either take a significant step forward to undo Obamacare’s mandates and taxes that have collectively wreaked havoc on our healthcare system. Or, we can dither about some more and leave them in place for the foreseeable future.
In my view, Mr. President, the choice is an easy one. I urge all of my colleagues to once again vote with me to repeal Obamacare. We’ve blown a number of opportunities already in recent weeks. Last night, we blew a big one. I hope we can avoid doing the same with this upcoming vote. If not, we’ll have to answer to the American people and explain to them why we failed.