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tv   U.S. Senate Debates Treasury Undersecretary Nomination  CSPAN  June 20, 2017 2:15pm-4:27pm EDT

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>> i think that will be up to the house and senate to determine their recesses. they do not generally, we do not get involved in this scheduling.i will let speaker ryan and mcconnell decide what is appropriate in terms of their - [inaudible question] >> all of this continuing and later in our program schedule the senate back in session taking up a treasury department nomination. also expect plenty more speeches on healthcare. live coverage on c-span2. gradum montana state university, i had to leave montana to start my business career, but i came back to montana while my knees were
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still good so i could spend my time enjoying all that montana's outdoors have to offer. and that's why i am excited that june is national great outdoors month. montana's outdoors have a special meaning for me. in fact, i even proposed to my sweet wife cindy some 31 years ago next month on the summit of highlight peak just south of bozeman. and the value of montana's outdoors is simply incredible. in fact, according to the outdoor industry association, there are 64,000 montanans that their jobs are directly tied to our outdoor recreation industry. in 2012, outdoor recreation generated almost $6 billion in consumer spending in montana alone. and nationally, taking this to the big picture of our great
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country, outdoor recreation generates $887 billion in consumer spending each year and provides 7.6 million jobs. you know, folks travel across our nation even from around the world to come visit america's great outdoors. it's all right here. it's right in our back yard. in fact, for me literally. i grew up just about 90 miles from yellowstone national park. i went to kindergarten through college just 90 miles away from yellowstone national park, and i can tell you i go back there every year with my family. whether it's hiking in glacier national park up in northwest montana, fly fishing the gallatin river that brad pitt, robert redford made famous with that great movie, "a river runs through it," that runs right by my hometown, or skiing up at whitefish, big sky, floating down the madison on a hot summer
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day, we can take these things for granted. and that's why it's so important we recognize the value of the outdoors during national great outdoors month. because when you visit one of our national parks or if you go on a whitewater rafting tour, you're not only getting a great experience yourself, you know you're giving back to our local economy and you're helping create jobs. so i want to encourage everyone to recognize national great outdoors month by joining me in getting out there. don't just talk about it. get outdoors. and experience all the outdoors has to offer. i yield up my time, mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from vermont. mr. leahy: mr. president, i thank my colleague from montana. i have hiked in his state before. it's a wonderful place.
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but your mountains are a tad higher than ours. both my wife and i love hiking in the mountains and have enjoyed your state. now, mr. president, the last seven years we have heard republicans in congress campaign on the pledge to repeal the affordable care act. for seven years, they said we're going to repeal it and replace it. state to state, district to district. like president trump, they have pledged to repeal and replace this landmark health reform bill that made access to affordable health care a reality for millions of americans. now, one would think, and what i get asked in vermont is we campaigned for seven years, we're going to repeal and replace it as soon as we're in power. you think they would have a plan
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to do that. but it seems there is no plan. in fact, we have a dozen or so republican lawmakers meeting behind closed doors. i don't think any other members of congress are allowed in. there are some lobbyists but no members of congress. they are shielded from public view in negotiating finally a grand plan to repeal the affordable care act, which by the way makes devastating cuts to the medicaid program. no hearings, no debate, no process, no showing what the cost of it is and no bill. in keeping a tight lid on the decisions they are making for the rest of america, what i get asked back home in vermont is what are they so afraid of? we're about to find out. we hear they still intend to bring this yet to be finalized bill to the senate floor very soon under an expediteed
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reconciliation process. it won't have even the most basic vetting and transparency. not only is this the latest trumpcare plan that's about to be forced on the american people and the senate not ready for prime time -- it's not ready for prime time, it's not fit for prime time. it's really nothing short of shameful. certainly in my decades here in the senate, i have never seen anything by either republican or democratic majorities done like this. mr. president, i will give you an idea how it was done differently when democrats were in control. before we passed the affordable care act, the senate had over 100 hearings. republicans have held one. we held over a hundred hearings. we had roundtables that held hundreds of amendments that were
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considered by the senate finance and help committees during an exhaustive markup process. the republicans not allowing a single amendment. in fact, with the democrats in control, we adopted 160 amendments that republican proposed. this bill they said is so terrible, 160 of the amendments in it were republican amendments. in fact, they stressed for so long, more than a year, figuring that maybe the republicans would have had so many amendments adopted, they might actually stay at the table. in fact, the final senate bill, including more than 145 republican-authored amendments, and it was posted for every single person in america to see for nearly a week before the finance committee marked it up. the same can be said for the help committee. more than 160 hours were then
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spent on this senate floor in considering the affordable care act. everybody had an opportunity to speak on it. now, as soon as democrats control the senate, what's happening with the republicans? 140 or 150 or 160 hearings? no. not having one single hearing. they are not having any debate. they're not having any process. they don't even know what this is going to cost. right now, no bill. the house and now in the senate, this sort of boils down to bumper sticker politics. it's not a serious and workable affair or equitable plan or policy. this happened, you see what happened when you do it this way. half of this bill passed in the house, a bill that not even the
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secretary admitted he hadn't read it. nobody had read it. after it passed, finally it was there and you had a chance to see what's in it, and what did you find out? 23 million americans were going to lose coverage. and the president proposed a budget that assumes savings for the repeal of the affordable care act and big, big cuts in the medicaid program. now, under the house-passed trumpcare bill, the little state of vermont would spend hundreds of millions of dollars more on medicaid to compensate for the loss of federal funds targeted by president trump and house republicans. under the house-passed trumpcare bill, premiums are expected to rise by 20%. seniors, many of whom live on fixed incomes, will be charged five times more than younger
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enrollees under the house-passed trumpcare bill. that's north of $4,400 in increased health care costs. vermonters between the age of 55 and 64. so notwithstanding the millions of people being thrown off the list, notwithstanding the cuts to medicaid, president trump called the republicans to the white house and he celebrated the house-passed bill. he celebrated. he said look what you can do with me as president, and they all applauded and they were all so happy. then somebody must have finally read the bill. somebody at the white house must have read the bill. somebody actually told the president what was in the bill that he was praising, and then
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in a sudden about-face, he described the house-passed bill as mean. mean for president trump when the spoke about the house g.o.p. now, some back home may find a surprise that they are so much in agreement with president trump, but you know what? president trump is right. i'm saying it right here on the floor. president trump is right. the house-passed bill that he appraised is mean. it's mean because it would do so much harm to so many americans. it's terrible. it's unrealistic. if senate republicans think they could fix it behind closed doors, they are wrong. we should be working together as we did before, republicans and democrats, to approve the affordable care act. there are parts where it's
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flawed. let's fix it. if there are parts where it needs to be improved, let's join together and strengthen. let's not double down on americans at a time when their president is turning his back on the very programs that support our social safety net, women and children and low-income americans, small business alike that are going to suffer under these plans. now, nobody at the white house is going to speak for women and children and low-income americans and small businesses, or maybe we 100 as representatives of our constituents i think we have a responsibility to give voice to their concern. we 100 senators are elected to represent 350 million americans. we're supposed to be the
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conscience of the nation. maybe it's time that each one of us republicans and democrats alike start listening to what americans say about their health care. a family physician from manchester, vermont, wrote to me saying i do not support efforts to roll back or eliminate the patient-centered insurance reforms established in recent years that prohibit discrimination against patients due to their race, their gender, their house status, their geographic location. these reforms matter in the lives of our patients. and then somebody from brattleboro, vermont, wrote i'm ready to -- due to change in the system being promoted by the republican majority. and from jericho, vermont, i had hodgkin's lymphoma three years ago. i was fortunate to have insurance to cover most of the
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roughly $100,000 bill. having had cancer is stressful enough without constantly worrying about severe financial consequences if it strikes again, unquote. or from bennington, vermont. being patient centered means we put the patient first. as a physician and advocate for my patients, i do not want them to be hurt by the actions congress takes or fails to take. and then from manchester center, vermont, i will be one of the 20 million people to lose their health insurance when the trump administration almost certainly repeals the a.c.a. in a few months. tax credits will not help me to regain. and from the small town of sandgate, vermont. my son has a chronic illness,
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that without our insurance would cost $1,000 per month in prescriptions alone. and that that doesn't even cover the regular checkups. right now it's covered. i'm sure you remember when you first got out of college or high school, we know we may not have as good coverage when he gets out on his own. the republican plan is a death sentence for him. the republican plan is a death sentence from. now -- sentence for him. now, these are real people. i am willing to guess that there are similar people in virtually every state in this country. these are real stories about their lives. this isn't a political campaign. this is about life and death and access to health care. and for these vermonters and for
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millions of americans across the country, the decisions we make here will have consequences, real consequences in their life. every senator should think about that before we hastily undo years of progress to increase affordable access to health care for millions of americans. the republican majority cheered on by president trump passed their bill which took so many millions of people out of health care, so devastated medicaid, made it so much more difficult for the remaining people to get health care. and finally, the bill they fought so hard to pass, the bill that they cheered on, the bill where they celebrated in the rose garden with president tru
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trump, finally somebody read what they passed. what a novel idea. they all voted on it. they'd all gone home. the president had praised them. i remember the pictures of them beaming in the praise of the president. somebody finally read the bill and told the president, and he said that bill is mean. that was g.o.p. -- the house g.o.p. health care plan. that bill is mean. well, i agree with president trump. but you know what? pushing now, he and his administration, the senate bill, nobody has seen the senate bill. nobody knows how many people are being cut off the rolls. nobody knows how many people are going to be without health care. nobody knows how cuts are being
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made to medicaid. no one knows how much our 50 states are going to be hurt by it. nobody knows which millions of americans, good heart working, honest americans are going to lose health care. and the wealthiest, most powerful nation on earth -- will that be celebrated and then after it's passed will somebody at 9 white house whisper to the president, the senate bill is pretty mean, too? the senate bill is pretty mean but by golly we got it passed. if we had bumper stickers, we would and we got it passed. we're wealthy. we'll have our health care. too bad those tens of millions of americans won't.
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mr. president, i yield the floor. i subject the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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ms. murkowski: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from alaska. ms. murkowski: mr. president, request that proceedings under the quorum call be dispensed
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with. the presiding officer: we're not in a quorum call. the quorum call is suspended without objection. ms. murkowski: i have nine requests for committees to meet during today's session of the senate. -the-did not have the approval of the democratic -- they do not have the approval of the democrat ig leader. they will not be permitted to meet but i ask ask take a list of committees requesting authority to meet be printed in the record. the presiding officer: without objection. ms. murkowski: thank you, mr. president. mr. president, i have come to the floor this afternoon to mark the 40th anniversary of the first oil moving through the trans-alaska pipeline system. in alaska we call it taps. this is an 8 huj-mile -- 800-mile-long engineering marvel that runs from the north slope of alaska to tide water in bel deldeze. it's a long history. this afternoon in the interest of time i will abbreviate the
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history, but i do want to start the story of our pipeline in the late 1960's. believe it or not, this was a pretty bleak moment for oil exploration in alaska. and despite great promise, many companies had given up on exploration on the north slope by some account at that point in time there were at least 14 dry holes that had been drilled before arco and humble oil company decided that they were going to sink just one last well. and it was actually an arco executive who described it more as a decision not to cancel a well that was already scheduled rather than to go ahead. but that well crudo bay state number 1 would prove to be a game changer for alaska. we had discovered oil. we discovered oil on the north slope and a lot of it.
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we quickly learns that prudhoe bay would be one of the largest oilfields in global history, by far the largest ever discovered in the united states. early estimates at that time suggested as much as 9 billion barrels of oil could be recovered from it. we have learned over these intervening 40 years that we so far underestimated that. but it was not just the issue of discovering the oil. prudhoe bay is located in very remote part of the state, as far north as you can go, a pretty inhospitable area given the climate, far away from population centers in the lower 48. so a lot of challenges needed to be overcome before production could begin. and initially, it's like, okay, how do we move significant
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quantities of oil? how do we transport this oil to market? and it was dan yurgin in his book "the prize" who did a really great job of describing the choices out there. he said ice-breaker tankers were seriously considered. other suggestions included a monorail or a fleet of trucks in permanent circulation on an eight-lane highway across alaska. they then calculated that it would require most of the trucks in america to do this. there was also a prominent nuclear physicist who recommended a fleet of nuclear-powered submarine tankers who would travel to greenland. boeing and lockheed explored the
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idea of jumbo jet oil tankers. well, mr. president, obviously none of those ideas came about, and some probably for very, very good reason. but after significant study and debate, a pipeline emerged as the best way to transport alaska's oil. and while two routes were considered, one over land which would run across canada, an all-alaska route was ultimately chosen as the best way to go. but even then pipeline construction could not begin right away. there was serious -- there were serious debates in the state over issues like taxes and tariffs and pipeline ownership, and it really consumed our state's legislature for years. the land claims of alaskan natives needed to be settled. this occurred in landmark legislation that passed in 1971. and then it was in 1973 that
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congress took up the trans-alaska pipeline authorization act. as part of that debate here on the senate floor, alaska's senators offered an amendment to deem the environmental impact statement for the pipeline to be sufficient and to shield it from what could have been decades of litigation by its opponents. this was a critically, critically important aspect to the debate and really to the future of the pipeline to ensure that this construction would not be delayed by litigation. the vote was as close as votes get here in the united states senate. it was deadlocked 49-49,ed and sitting in that -- -- it was deadlocked 49-49, and sitting in
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that chair, mr. president, the vice president at that time, spiro agnew, cast the vote breaking that deadlock. i reflect on vice president agnew in different ways. i reflect on that deciding vote that allowed us to proceed with our trans-alaska pipeline. the pipeline bill went on to pass the senate on a strong bipartisan basis. not long after that, then-president richard nixon signed it into law. this was -- this was tremendous news for alaska because we would be allowed to move forward with the construction. and the construction of this pipeline was a monumental undertaking. but that monumental undertaking was also done with really considerable speed. in april of 1974, construction on a 360-mile haul road -- we
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now call it the dalton highway -- began. it was finished in 164 days. for us to of you who have heard -- for those of you who have heard my plea to colleagues when i have been in committees when i have talked about the history of my efforts to try to get a 1 10-mile one-lane gravel, noncommercial use road for the people of king cove, i think about what we were able to accomplish in 154 days with that haul road that allowed us to then help facilitate the build-out of the pipeline. the pipeline itself was the largest privately funded infrastructure project ever undertaken in america at the time. so this was significant. it was significant for a alaska, of course, but it was significant for the nation as well. it's total costs came to be about $8 billion.
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in october of 1975, there were about 28,000 people who were working to make this pipeline a reality, and that pipeline was completed in 1977. so, again, it was 1974, initial construction of the haul road begins. october -- in 1977 then it when it was completed, just three years and two months after construction began. i'm told it was actually ten days ahead of schedule, according to one estimate, which is pretty
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from the north slope to an ice-free port of valued ease at tidewater. it crosses three mountain ranges, including attigan pass which has an elevation of more than 4,800 feet. it reaches a grade of 55 degrees at one point in the chugach range. up incredible mountains and down the other side. it crosses more than 600 streams and rivers. more than 400 miles of it are elevated above the ground. you have it elevated aboveground here. but in certain areas, as you follow the pipeline either by air or occasionally you can see it from the road, it's probably one of the most photographed pipelines in the country, but you will see it go underground, and in many parts of the way, about half of it are buried
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underground. this was part of the engineering that allowed for a recognition that you're building in a permafrost area, so how you ensure that you're not having impact to the -- to the ground and the area around it, it -- it crosses a major fault line, the denali fault. back in november of 2002, we had a 7.9 richter scale earthquake. just about 90 miles from fair banks on that denali fault. the pipe moved seven and a half feet horizontally, moving back and forth this way, and two and a half feet vertically. this pipeline was designed for an 8.5 earthquake, and it allows for 20 feet of horizontal
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movement and five feet of vertical movement. the engineers not only worked to cross some extraordinary terrain but recognized that this is in an area where earthquakes do happen, and it's extraordinary to listen to the stories of the engineers who inspected every inch of that line after that earthquake in 2002 and their comments about truly this engineering marvel. there are so many stories about -- about the construction of the pipeline, just alaskans as we lived through those pipeline years. it's hard to really capture what it was like to be in alaska during the time of construction of that line. we saw our population just boom as we saw new workers come into the state. i was living in fairbanks at the time.
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i was a high school student. i graduated just out of -- just going into college there. obviously, that was my town, and in my town now all of a sudden you had people from louisiana and texas and oklahoma. i can remember seeing guys in cowboy boots in fairbanks in the winter on the ice, thinking these guys are going to figure out how to change their foot footwear. but we -- we worked to welcome these people who were there, to really help make a difference. but it was -- there were pressures on our community. you couldn't find a hotel room. you couldn't find a rental car. it was hard for the grocery stores to keep the shelves stocked in many of the towns. we saw significant investment in our communities in many different ways. there were a lot of wild stories and tales, some which are
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appropriate to tell years afterwards. some that still keep us smiling but we don't talk too much about them. but many, many good stories out there. i am -- i am proud. i'm proud of this extraordinary infrastructure that we have in alaska, an extraordinary energy asset, and to be celebrating the fact that for 40 years now, this pipeline has been not only contributing to alaska but contributing to the nation, is something that as alaskans we do look to with pride. this is -- this pipeline is not just a piece of pipe. it's an economic pipeline for
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the state of alaska. over the course of 40 years, taps has become the veritable backbone of our state's economy. it's helped us create jobs, to the point where our oil and gas industry either employs or supports fully one-third of the alaskan work force. pretty significant in terms of its impact. it's generated tremendous revenues for our state, some $168 billion at last count, which have been used for everything from roads to schools to essential services. it really has helped build the state and continues to allow our state to operate. taps has allowed us to create our permanent fund which we have used to convert the revenues from a nonrenewable resource, oil, into something that will make an enduring contribution to the growth and the prosperity of future generations. our pipeline is also -- has also allowed us to keep our tax
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burdens low, which is critical in a state like alaska where the cost of living is extraordinarily high. alaska has one of the lowest tax burdens of any state, and that's thanks to the trans-alaska pipeline system. it also allows us to keep other industries, whether it's fishing or tourism, keep their taxes much lower than they would otherwise be. the scale of this is often hard to imagine. dr. terrance cole, who is a history professor at the university of alaska, put it this had way back in '04 when he said prudhoe bay oil is worth everything that has been dug out, cut down, caught or killed in alaska since the beginning of time. the discovery of the prudhoe bay oil field in the late 1960's fulfilled even the most optimistic dreams for statehood. from day one, alaska's pipeline has also strengthened the energy security of our nation. you have to remember, taps began
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operating in the wake of the first arab oil embargo. it helped tide us over during the 1979 oil crisis. it's insulated us from opec and lessened our dependence on nations that do not share our interests. it's provided reliable and affordable energy needed by millions of americans all up and down the west coast. it really is hard to imagine alaska without the trans-alaska pipeline. it's hard to imagine the consequences that america would have faced without the 17.5 billion barrels of oil that it is now safely carried to market. think about that. 17.5 billion barrels of oil over the past 40 years. it's no exaggeration to say that while we built a pipeline, that pipeline helped us build our
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state. today, as we mark the 40th anniversary of taps, we can also take stock of the challenges that it faces. many are a direct result of the decisions made or perhaps not made in this very chamber. because while our pipeline once carried 2.1 million barrels of oil per day, accounting for a full quarter of america's supply, today that amount has been crimped down to just over 500,000 barrels a day. it's not due to lack of resources. not at all but instead our lack of access to those resources. alaska has never lacked for energy, just the permission to produce it despite the promises that have been made to our statehood and beyond. according to the energy information administration, we have at least 36.9 billion barrels of oil. that's enough to produce one million barrels a day for the next 100 years.
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we have prolific potential in our national petroleum reserve which was specifically set aside for oil production. we have world class resources in our offshore areas in the beaufort and our arctic outer continental shelf, and we have what is believed to be north america's largest untapped conventional oil field, which would occupy about one ten,000's within the arctic national wildlife refuge. again, this is an area that is specifically set aside for development and the federal government recommended it be opened for that purpose back in 1987, a 30-year anniversary there. so, mr. president, while we have the resources, what we need are partners at the federal level who will work with us to restore
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through the alaska pipeline. i welcome the new administration and its commitment to helping us produce energy, energy for alaska, energy for the nation. mr. president, i'd like to end with a quote from the fairbanks daily news minor. this is an opinion piece by admiral tom barrett who is the president of aless came pipe -- alyeska pipeline. this is the taps operator. and he's written this opinion piece. and he states as follows. he says, though there has been a lot of change on taps in 40 years, one unwavering constant remains. the commitment of the people who work on taps today to provide safe, reliable operational excellence 24 hours a day, seven days a week, resilient amid all of alaska's extreme geography
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and weather. and i think about the men and women, the engineers, the workers, the contractors, all those who do such an incredible job to deal with the day to day, to keep that oil flowing safely. and again as we recognize 40 sag this oil, i want to repeat to my colleagues. taps, the trans-alaska pipeline is not just a pipeline. it's an economic life line for us. it is a source of security and prosperity for us as a nation. and so i join my delegation, colleague senator sullivan, congressman young, and all of the alaskans who are marking this anniversary today. as taps reaches 40 good years, we look back. we appreciate the past, but we also look forward and set our
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sights on another good 40 years to come. with that, mr. president, i thank you, and i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from new mexico. a senator: thank you, mr. president. i'm happy to be joined today on the floor by senator heinrich who has been a real fighter for health care for new mexicans and i look forward to staying here and hearing him also talk about how he feels about this republican health care bill. mr. udall: i rise today for the third time this session to oppose plans by president trump and the republicans to gut our health care system and to throw millions of americans off their health insurance. on may 4 of this year, the day the house republicans narrowly passed their trumpcare bill, the president held a celebration in the white house in the rose
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garden, and he pronounced the bill a great plan. well, trumpcare may be a great plan if you're wealthy and healthy, but if you're wealthy, you get big tax cut, and if you're healthy, your premiums may not go up and may even go down. that is until you're sick. trumpcare is not a great plan if you're over the age of 62 or are a hardworking family trying to make ends meet, if you live in a rural area, or if you have or have not had an illness like cancer or heart disease or diabetes or if you're a woman. 23 million americans will be left high and dry, out of health insurance by 2026. they don't think trumpcare is a great plan. to them it's a mean plan. actually, those are president trump's own words several weeks after the rose garden celebration. president trump came clean with the senate republicans
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admonishing them that the bill is, quote, mean and needs to be more, quote, generous, kind, and with heart. for the first time since his inauguration i agree with the president on health care. since day one of the 115th congress, republicans have had the affordable care act in their sights and so has the president. and they have tried mightily to do away with the rights and benefits under the a.c.a. but, mr. president, there is good news. the american people have rallied. they've called. they've e-mailed. they've gone to town halls. they've marched. and they've made their views known and shared their stories. so far they have stopped republicans from gutting our health care system. just this past saturday in my home state, simultaneous rallies in opposition to trumpcare took place in 20 counties.
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i say to them keep up the fight and i will continue to fight as hard as i can. we need to do all we can to stop this attack on health care. the consequences of upending our health care system are enormous. they're enormous for the 20 million americans who now have health care because of the a.c.a. through private insurance and through medicaid expansion. trumpcare hurts the most vulnerable, the elderly, the disabled, and those with fewer resources. the consequences of gutting the a.c.a. and restructuring medicaid are enormous for our economy. one-sixth of which is related to health care. they're enormous for hospitals that rely upon third-party reimbursements under the a.c.a. and medicaid expansion. these hospitals need those revenues. and even more so for rural
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hospitals that keep their doors open thanks to the a.c.a. and the indian health care services facilities that have reduced wait times and added services because of the a.c.a. but the majority in congress refuses to hold hearings, and they are blocking all public participation. this is unconscionable and it's undemocratic. before republicans -- before democrats voted on obamacare, the senate held 100 committee hearings, roundtables and walk-throughs. the final senate bill included 1477 republican -- 147 republican amendments. the majority leader has missed an opportunity for political and moral leadership on one of the most important issues we face. senator mcconnell should have an honest and open process including senate committee hearings. with full public participation and a chance for patients to tell congress how this proposal
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impacts them. not hidden meetings, not limited debate and a simple majority vote. americans deserve an open process from their elected leaders. that is why i introduced a bill last week with my democratic colleagues called the no hearing, no vote act. this bill would require a public committee hearing for any legislation that goes through the fast-tracked budget reconciliation process, including the trumpcare legislation. members of congress were elected to improve lives, not destroy them. and i believe that we need bipartisan cooperation to ensure we don't do that. if we want to improve on obamacare, we could. one, make sure that all americans have health care and, two, make health care more affordable. so, mr. president, what's really happening here, i'll tell you. the american people don't want
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the benefits that -- the american people don't want the benefits they've gained through obamacare to be repealed and replaced with an inferior plan. they do not support trumpcare. only 17% of americans support the house republicans current bill. with this degree of public opposition, it is baffling that republicans keep pushing a bill that kicks 23 million americans off their health care. but the moral underpinnings of trumpcare are as bankrupt as trump's new jersey casinos. the winners of trumpcare are the wealthy and the republicans are plainly serving those interests. the republicans can keep trying to hide trumpcare, but americans understand that it is just plain wrong. and i want to talk about a few of the ways that it's just plain wrong. while women make up half our population, no women serve on senator mcconnell's health
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care working group. yet women are uniquely affected by trumpcare. for example, the range of cost-free preventive services under the affordable care act includes screening for breast cancer, including mammograms, bone density screenings, cervical cancer screening, domestic violence screening and counseling, breast feeding counseling, and equipment, contraception and folic acid supplements. all these services were critical to maintaining women's health and the health of their babies as well. new mexico leads the nation in the percentage of births that are covered by medicaid at 72% of all births in the state. so these services that are now available to everyone are essential. trumpcare would repeal the cost-free preventive care requirements for the medicaid expansion population. not only would this repeal --
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risk the health of women and their babies, it would result in increased medical care costs overall. preventive medical services save money in the long run. the affordable care act requires insurance plans to provide a range of essential health benefits. for women these required services include maternity and newborn child care. but trumpcare would allow states to apply for a waiver to define their own essential health benefits beginning in 2020. so states could choose to exclude maternity and newborn care and women would end up paying more for this care. the result? women not getting the care they need. trumpcare would cut medicaid funding to planned parenthood for one year. planned parenthood provides preventive medical and reproductive health services to women and men.
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and planned parenthood clinics provide a safety net to low income women. according to the c.b.o., cutting off medicaid payments to planned parenthood for one year would mean a total loss of access to services in some low-income communities because planned parenthood is the only public provider in some regions. take elena from albuquerque, new mexico. elena found that when they was 30 years old and in law school, that she had the bracka gene mutation that puts her at much higher risk for breast and ovarian cancer. the treatments for braca mutation include mastectomy, treatment she couldn't afford. thankfully she qualified for medicaid under the expansion. she got her breast cancer screenings and decided to have a mastectomy because of the cancer
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scare. elena had three surgeries costing thousands of dollars covered by medicaid and now the chances of her getting breast cancer are very low. but elena now worries that if she decides to have her ovaries removed and trumpcare becomes law, she will not be able to have this potentially life-saving surgery. if she has had a lapse in medicaid coverage, her medicaid expansion coverage will be gone. and because trumpcare would end the ban against insurance companies denying coverage for people with preexisting conditions, she may never be able to get insurance or surgery. mr. president, public schools and schoolchildren will be hurt by trumpcare. schools are now eligible to receive medicaid funds for necessary medical services for children with disabilities. schools are reimbursed for vision, hearing, and mental health screenings.
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these services help children get services early so they can be ready to learn. right now new mexico schools are reimbursed $18 million a year from medicaid, but under trumpcare, states would not have to consider schools' medicaid eligible providers, and the cost would be on the public schools. the problem is the income public schools cannot take on these kinds of costs and that might mean hundreds of schoolchildren each year will go without vision, hearing, and mental health treatment because no one else will be able to provide them. dr. leon mcelroy, superintendent of a rural school district in south eastern new mexico, dr. mcelroy says, and i quote here, medicaid funding is vital to our continuum of care and service to the majority of our students. often our school nurse is the
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only medical professional our students ever see. end quote. mr. president, new mexico has one of the highest percent native american populations in the country. more than 10% of our residents. even though many native americans receive health care through the indian health service, i.h.s. has not always been able to provide needed care due to the lack of funding. medicaid expansion has changed that and changed it dramatically. according to dr. valley wangler, who works with the zuni pueblo, she says, and i quote, since the affordable care act, patients in zuni have access to specialist services who were once difficult to find and p often delayed or denied. an i.h.s. physician working on the zuni reservation had a patient with severe knee
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arthritis that was making it difficult for her to stay physically active and work at a local school. she needed knee replacement surgery. before medicaid expansion, i.h.s. had trouble funding knee replacements, and the surgery was denied for years because i.h.s. could only afford to pay for life and loss of limb services. but this patient is now on the medicaid expansion. she was able to get a total knee replacement, is working full-time, staying fit, and is no longer in pain. one of the a.c.a.'s most popular provisions is the protection from discrimination, if you have a preexisting condition. this is one of the most mystifying parts of trumpcare. republicans would end that protection by allowing states to waive out and set up high-risk pools. all of us know someone with a serious illness or condition, like kitt here.
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kitt is four and a half years old and has type i diabetes that will require lifelong care. her mother dana is worried about trumpcare. dana says it bricks my heart that elect -- it breaks my heart a that elected officials are leaning toward dropping the federal mandate to guarantee federal health insurance for those with preexisting conditions. sit down with a child that has an unbearable disease and be their warrior in d.c. to make everything possible for that special soul and their family to have an easier tomorrow. i hope we will all be those warriors to protect that health care program that's been put in place for them. and, at this point, i would yield to senator heinrich.
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the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call: mr. heinrich: mr. president? the presiding officer: the
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senator from new mexico. mr. heinrich: mr. president, i want to start by thanking senator udall -- the presiding officer: the chamber is in a quorum call. mr. heinrich: i'd ask unanimous consent to vitiate the quorum call. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. heinrich: mr. president, i want to start by thanking my colleague from new mexico, senator udall, for his advocacy on behalf of the pieces and parts of our health care system that are so important to the state of new mexico, things like rural hospitals, opioid treatment, indian country. he's been an incredible champion on those, and that's part of the reason why both of us come to the floor today, given what's at stake. last month president trump and house republicans rushed through a disastrous health care bill that would leave average new mexico families paying thousands of dollars more for less health coverage. it would destroy the medicaid program as it currently exists in our state and throw our
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entire health care system into chaos. and now senate republicans are drafting their own version of a similar health care bill in complete secret, behind closed doors, with absolutely no -- none -- bipartisan input. this lack of transparency and departure from regular order is -- it's unacceptable, and it's deeply irresponsible. especially when every single american family's health coverage at is stake if this bill ever becomes law. while we don't know for sure what senate republicans' version of trumpcare will look like, media reports say that it's shaping up to look more and more like the train wreck of a bill that president trump and house republicans celebrated in the white house rose garden just a couple of monthsing a. -- just a couple of months ago, a bill that president trump
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reportedly said in another closed-door meeting with republican senators last week was, in his words, mean -- quote, unquote, mean and cold-hearted. the house-passed trumpcare bill is devastating to low-income families, to seniors, to americans living with preexisting conditions. this isn't so much a health care bill as it is a tax cut for the ultrarich masquerading as health reform. you don't have to take my word for it. you can look at how the nonpartisan congressional budget office described its projected impacts of the house-passed trumpcare bill. according to the c.b.o.'s analysis, trumpcare would strip 14 million of their health insurance next year and 23 million by 2026. all to give tax breaks to the wealthiest of americans.
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that's reckless and, frankly, it's inexcusable by any measure. how would the bill do that? the house-passed bill, which again seems to be the baseline for the ongoing secret negotiations here in the senate, would slash funding for the medicaid program by hundreds of billions of dollars and end the need-based tax credits for individual health care market plans under the a.c.a. i've heard from so many new mexicans who have told me how access to health care country of origin has -- to health coverage has helped their families and in some cases even saved their lives. i recently met with patients at the ben archer health center, a rural health clinic in hatch, new mexico, and heard how important medicaid coverage can be to families in southern new
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mexico. one of the new mexicans i met there was anna marie, who worked for the las cruces food service for years. her husband pad h. passed away -- her husband passed away in 2008. when she found herself unable to keep working following a minor stroke, she could not afford health coverage on her own. when she reached tout my office last year, she had bronchitis and walking pneumonia. my staff helped her enroll in medicaid and now she's able to get access to the care that she needs. i want to take a moment to explain why the medicaid program is so critical in my home state of new mexico. as a medicaid expansion state, new mexico has seen dramatic gains over the last five years in coverage for the folks that need it the most. stories like anna marie's
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illustrate just how important medicaid can be for hardworking new mexicans. medicaid currently provides affordable health covering to over -- health coverage to over 900,000 new mexicans, including many schoolchildren, seniors in nursing homes and long-term care facilities, people with disabilities, and people who need treatment for mental health and addiction. just one example of the wide-ranging consequences of the republican health plan's drastic cuts to the medicaid program would be the end to any possible progress we've made so far in fighting the opioid and heroin epidemic. the opioid addiction epidemic has been deeply felt in communities across the state of new mexico. for years, without adequate treatment resources, our state has suffered through some of the highest rates of opioid and
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heroin addiction in the nation. and i would just note that today a story came out about how we hospitalized in the e.r. long-term care or hospital care. 1.3 million americans last year because of this epidemic. however, when provided with an opportunity to receive comprehensive treatment and rehabilitation, people who've suffered through the trials of opioid addiction can and do turn their lives around. evidence-based treatment works, but it's only possible what we devote real resources to pay for it. and so much of that comes directly through the medicaid program. as you can see on this chart, medicaid pays for 30% of opioid medication-assisted treatment in new mexico -- 30%.
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it's the foundation that you build on for opioid treatment. and in states like west virginia and ohio and kentucky, medicaid pays for nearly half of opioid treatment payments. this came up just last friday when the white house hosted its first meeting for president trump's commission on combating drug addiction and the opioid crisis. now, the president's top advisors probably didn't hear what they would have liked to from the advocates who've been on the front lines of fighting the growing opioid crisis. for example, dr. joe parks, the medical director for the national council for behavioral health, told the president's commission, quote, medicaid is the largest national payer for addiction and mental health treatment. since the majority of increased opioid deaths and suicide occur
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in young and middle-aged adults, which is the medicaid expansion population, the medicaid expansion must be maintained and completed, end quote. it is nothing short of hypocrisy for the trump white house to claim it is taking steps to address the opioid epidemic when it is helping republicans in congress push through legislation that would end the medicaid program as we know it, slashing hundreds of billions of dollars in federal funding from the medicaid program, which will ultimately pass all of those costs on to the states. let me give you a sense for just how big a burden that would be. in new mexico, it's estimated that our state government would have to either come up with a way to raise $11 billion of new taxes over the next decade or cut the equivalent amount of
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coverage for hundreds of thousands of new mexicans who rely on the program. that is a hit to the state budget of $1-plus billion a year. this would have an especially hard impact on our state's rural communities. when you go to smalltowns in new mexico like clayton or raton or santa rose is, as did i last -- or santa rosa, as i did last year on a rural tour, you see the vital role that hospitals play in rural communities. in most cases these hospitals are the only health care providers for many miles in any direction. and hospitals are also often the major employer in these small towns. rural health providers face enormous challenges because it is financially difficult to care for populations that live over vast spaces and are, on average,
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older, less affluent and more prone to chronic diseases than those in more urban and suburban communities. medicaid expansion and the need-based tax credits for individual plans in the a.c.a. have been critical financial lifelines for rural health providers. thanks thanks to the coverage in new mexico, instead of seeing uninsured patients coming to the emergency room during expensive medical emergencies, our rural health providers are able to help new mexicoans live healthier lives with primary care and a preventive medicine approach. and when medical emergencies do arise, new mexicans have coverage that helps rural health providers cover those expenses. if president trump and republicans in the senate pass their health care bill, that
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all could go away. some of our rural health providers may very well have to close up shop. right now more than one-third of rural hospitals are already at risk of closure. but if you look at where the hospitals that have been forced to shut down in recent years are located, they are almost all in states that chose not to expand medicaid. we should learn a lesson from that, mr. president. i know for a fact that if hospitals shut down, health care delivery in rural new mexico would be decimated and economic impact would be severe in these small towns. it's estimated that when a single hospital closes in a small rural community, nearly 100 jobs are lost, taking more than $5 million directly out of the local economy. a recent report by the economic policy institute estimates that
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if congress passes trumpcare into law, new mexico alone would see a loss of almost 50 ,000 jobs by the year 2022. thanks in large part to the major coverage gains we've seen under the a.c.a., the health care sector has been new mexico's strongest area of job growth for the last five years. new mexico added over 4,000 health care jobs in 2015 alone. a couple of months ago i met with students at central new mexico community college, c.n.m. in albuquerque, who are training for those health care jobs. these bright young people want to make careers out of making their communities healthier and safer. but with this dangerous legislation moving through washington, they are all worried about what it might mean
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for their future career plans, why would we want to rip the rug out from under them by wreaking havoc on the nation's health care system? again, you really have to ask yourself why are republicans so intent on rushing through a massive piece of legislation before we can even understand its potential harmful consequences. as i said earlier, i have heard from literally thousands of new mexico new mexicans who have called in or written or come up to me on the street to oppose this legislation. many of them have told me how it will directly impact their families. i could pick any one of these stories to demonstrate what's at stake in this debate, but i'll leave you with just one. brittany from aztec, new mexico, wrote to me about her
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two young children who are diagnosed with a rare form of food allergies that created absolutely unaffordable costs through her husband's employer-provided health plan. brittany said that she and her husband were averaging three doctors' visits a week and were, quote, barely keeping their heads above water from paying co-pays. end quote. after applying for medicaid, she and her husband have full coverage for their children's medical costs. brittany wrote to me and said, for us, medicaid is literally lifesaving. please do not take away this program or any of the a.c.a. it may not be perfect and could use some work, but taking it away altogether would be catastrophic for so many people like my family. that's what she wrote to me, mr. president.
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i want to urge president trump, and i certainly want to urge my republican colleagues here in the senate to listen to that urgent message. it's time to turn the page on the disastrous policy path that is repeal and replace so we can finally get to work on actually fixing those things in the current health care system that we all agree need work. our common goal, regardless of whether we're republicans or democrats, that we should all be working towards is making quality health care more accessible, more affordable for all americans. i would welcome a good-faith effort to tackle that challenge, because health care policy shouldn't be a political football. it should be about giving peace of mind to the millions of americans like anna marie in las
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cruces, like brittany in aztec, who are only one diagnosis away from a crisis if we don't get this right. thank you, mr. president. i would reserve the balance of my time. ms. duckworth: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from illinois. ms. duckworth: mr. president, over the past few years the affordable care act has made tremendous strides in expanding health care coverage for hardworking americans and the families who need it, and i thank my colleague for his stories, and i'd like to add some of my own. while the law could certainly be improved, the way to do it is not by passing trumpcare, which even president trump has admitted is, and i quote, a mean bill. unfortunately, republican senate leadership has indicated whatever it is that the
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republicans are crapping in secret behind closed doors, it's going to be very similar to the version of trumpcare that has passed the house. that's simply bad news. the version of trumpcare that passed the house could cost 23 million americans, including 385,000 illinoisans to lose health care coverage. it would make it more expensive for older americans and working people, spicialg -- especially those with preexisting conditions to purchase insurance. trumpcare would cause their premiums and out-of-pocket costs would skyrocket. the normal illinois' increase would be $700. trumpcare would make critical services like maternity care for new moms and mental health and substance abuse services significantly more expensive even though they are desperately needed. that's extremely mean-spirited. making matters worse, it would also put veterans on the chopping block. specifically, trumpcare would
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prohibit veterans who are eligible for v.a. health care from receiving tax credits to help them before insurance in the individual marketplace. however, there is a big difference between being eligible for v.a. health care and being enrolled in v.a. oftentimes that's not even a choice that you can make. according to the nonpartisan congressional budget office, as many as seven million of our veterans are eligible for v.a. care but are not enrolled, preventing them from receiving tax credits would amount to a massive tax hike that would force them to pay thousands of dollars extra each year. that's not just mean, it's unacceptable. there's been ample reporting indicating that congressional republicans knew exactly what they were doing. they could have included a fix to this but purposefully did not because that would have made their bill ineligible to be considered under the senate's budget reconciliation process which only requires 51 votes.
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that's because to recommend this huge flaw, the veterans tax credit language would need to be considered in committees of jurisdiction and that would entail holding public hearings and markups in committees which would then reveal to the american people what exactly is in the republican bill. apparently the cause -- cost of public scrutiny is too high for senate republican leaders who are willing to raise taxes on veterans so they can hide this bad bill on the american people. as a result the appalling flaws in their bill remain unfixed and unto seven million veterans remain on the chopping block. that's not the only way trumpcare would harm veterans either. its massive cuts to medicaid would have a direct impact on veterans since nearly two million veterans across our country, including 60,000 veterans in my home state of illinois rely on medicaid for their health care coverage.
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that's one in ten veterans. for nearly one million of these veterans, medicaid is their only source of coverage. many of them are eligible for v.a. care only for the injuries they sustained in the military but not for any of their own health needs. i shouldn't have to remind my colleagues that veterans are at a higher risk for serious health issues because of the sacrifices they made for our nation. yet, if trumpcare becomes law, many of them will lose their coverage that they gain from medicaid expansion under the a.c.a. right now 13 republican senators are sitting behind closed doors in some secret room on capitol hill, gambling with the lives of millions of americans and people who have honorably served their country. one of those lives belongs to robin schmitt, a veteran from the north side of chicago. robin served during desert storm in army military intelligence. robin loved her job in the
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military because it had always been her dream to serve her country. as a 13-year-old girl, robin stood at the vietnam veterans memorial wall right here in washington,d.c., and she knew that be serving her country was her true calling. however, she was eventually forced to end her military career because, in her words, the army refused to allow my husband to come back oafers -- overseas to live with me. so when she was pregnant with her child, she was forced to leave the military. in order to return home to arkansas to be with her husband to raise their children. when she was state side and the v.a. denied her benefits because they were not service connected, thus forcing her and her husband to pay the cost of maternity care out of pocket. she faced medical complications and developed endometriosis, a
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preexisting condition and had to have a cesarean section during delivery. after she delivered her baby, she ended up with $500,000 in hospital debt. this enormous debt followed robin and her husband throughout their marriage and it eventually left them in divorce, medical bankruptcy, and with all of the repercussions that come from extreme financial hardship. she was also blocked from accessing affordable health coverage because she now had a preexisting condition and could not afford good coverage on an $8.50 an hour wage, so she went without care. robin remained uninsured for a total of 22 years, until she remarried and gained health care coverage under her husband's insurance. this was especially devastating because in 2007, robin was diagnosed with cancer. and even though robin was covered by her husband's insurance, insurance companies were not required to cover
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chemotherapy in 2007, and chemotherapy was too expensive for robin and her family to pay for out of pocket. so she had to choose debilitating surgeries. and after her cancer diagnosis, robin developed severe autoimmune arthritis. her autoimmune treatments started at $5,000 and soon increased to $14,000 a month. insurance companies wanted robin to pay for her medications up front with no guarantee of reimbursement. as the medical costs grew and grew, robin had to choose between her medical care or her mortgage payment. after the affordable care act became law, insurance companies were mandated to cover robin's medications and treatments. they were no longer able to refuse her the medications she needed. her insurance premium prior to
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the affordable care act was more than the family paid for household mortgage and bills. now she pays just $300 a month for her entire family. there was no more red tape, constant stress and fear she might not be able to walk or worse might not be able to stay alive. unfortunately the coverage, relief and peace of mind that the a.c.a. brought to robin and her family is now under attack by congressional republicans. and robin is afraid that if trumpcare becomes law, she will once again become nothing more than an uninsurable preexisting condition. she's afraid she will be considered a high-risk pool patient who will only be able to have insurance but will not be able to actually afford any of her treatments. she's afraid that if republicans push through trumpcare, she will not be able to walk, work and will absolutely have no quality of life. her dream was to serve her country in our armed forces. she took two oaths to serve this country, and she kept those
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oaths: a promise that she would defend this great nation. robin may not be in uniform any more but she certainly deserves that we in congressened a here in the senate deserve her right to being a success quality health care. for robin and nearly seven million veterans, middle-class families, our seniors and some of our most vulnerable americans, i urge my republican counterparts to stop these secret negotiations, take repeal off the table, and work with democrats to improve our health care system. just like robin, each of these americans have a story, a family, and a valued place in society. robin's family and all americans deserve better than having their coverage stripped away from them behind closed doors. thank you. i yield back, mr. president. mr. mccain: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from arizona. mr. mccain: i ask unanimous consent the senate recess following all remarks of myself and senator nelson until
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5:00 p.m. for the all-senators briefing, and that the time count postcloture. the presiding officer: is there objection? no objection. mr. mccain: i ask to be recognized to speak on issues not associated with the present subject of debate. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. mccain: mr. president, last week, the senate voted 97-2 to strengthen sanctions against vladimir putin's russia for its attack on america's 2016 election and its other aggressive and illegal behavior. i hope that the other body will take swift action to send this legislation to the president's desk. we need strong russian sanctions now because it has been eight months since the u.s. intelligence community said publicly that the russian government directed this attack on our democracy, yet in the last eight months, the russian government has hardly paid any
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price for its aggression. thus vladimir putin has been learning all over again that aggression pays. he learned that in georgia in 2008. he learned that in ukraine in 2014. he's learned that in syria since 2015. and so vladimir putin remains on the offense. this year, russia attempted to interfere in france's election. we have already seen attempts to influence german public opinion ahead of elections in september, and there is every expectation that russia will do the same thing in the czech republic, italy, and elsewhere in future elections. but perhaps the most disturbing indication of how far vladimir putin is willing to go to advance his dark and dangerous view of the world is what happened in october, 2016, in the small balkan country of montenegro when russian intelligence operatives in league with serbian nationalists
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and others attempted to overthrow the democratically elected government of montenegro and murder its prime minister on the country's election day. why would vladimir putin go this far? to answer this, one must understand why russia was so interested in the outcome of montenegro's election. russia opposes the spread of democracy, human rights and the rule of law across europe, which is advanced by the european union and protected by the nato alliance. to russia's great frustration, montenegro's government had committed the country to a future and pursued membership in both the e.u. and nato. indeed, nato's invitation to montenegro to join the nato alliance in december, 2015, was considered particularly insulting and threatening by moscow. after all, montenegro had once
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been part of russia's traditional slavic ally serbia. montenegro has long been a favorite destination for russian tourists, russian politicians and oligarchs are reported to own as much as 40% of the real estate in that country. a few years ago when it feared losing its naval base in syria due to the civil war, russia reportedly sought a naval base in montenegro but was rejected. now if montenegro joined nato, the entire adriatic sea would fall completely within nato's borders. montenegro's accession into nato would also send a signal that nato membership was a real possibility for other nations of the western balkans -- macedonia, bosnia-herzegovina, kosovo, and according to some optimistic voices in the region, perhaps even serbia. that's why montenegro's
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october 16 election was no ordinary one. in russia's eyes, it was a last chance to stop montenegro from joining nato to thwart montenegro's pursuit of a euroatlantic future and rye assert fiewrn influence in southeastern europe. that's why there was little doubt that russia would exert heavy pressure on montenegro ahead of the election. russia had already been accused of fomenting antigovernment demonstrations and funding opposition parties, yet few would have guessed how far russia was willing to go, but now we know. this april as part of my visit to several countries in southeastern europe to reaffirm america's commitment to the region, i visited montenegro and was briefed by montenegran officials on the status of the investigation into the coup attempt.
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on april 14, montenegro's special prosecutor filed indictments against two russians and 12 other people for their roles in the coup attempt. this past week, a montenegran court accepted the indictments. as a result, the evidence before the court is now public. i believe that it is critically important that my colleagues and the american people are aware of the allegations made in these indictments. pieced together, they reveal another blatant attack on democracy by the russian government, an attempt to smash a small brave country that had the nerve to defy its will and another unmistakable warning that vladimir putin will do whatever it takes to achieve his ambition to restore the russian empire. according to the indictments, the coup planning got off to a slow start in march, 2016.
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that was when opposition leaders in montenegro allegedly sent an emissary known as nino to belgrade to meet with slabka nikich. in the first meeting at slabka's office, nino said he had been doing business for years in russia, that he was in contact with powerful men in russia. he claimed that one of the men with him was a russian f.s.b. agent in charge of special tasks. nino tried to enlist slabka and his men to lead a plot to destabilize montenegro and slabka indicated he was able and willing to participate. later the two met on a bridge in belgrade, this time with the supposed f.s.b. agent in tow. the russian told slabka it would be good if he traveled to moscow. after these encounters in belgrade, nino enlisted the help of the former chief of serbia's
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special police and someone we will meet later in this story. he used his contacts to check into slabka's reliability. he didn't pass the test, and this original version of the coup plot was abandoned. it was at this point the two russians, edward shinokov and vladimir popov stepped in to take care of the plans for deization -- destabilization operation plans in montenegro. both of these men are members of the g.r.u. one of them already had a colorful past. in 2014, he had been serving his deputy military attache at the russia embassy in warsaw, poland. but after a scandal involving the russian spy network within the polish government, the polish government identified shishmarkov as a g.r.u. agent, declared him person non grata
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and ejected him from poland. after taking over the montenegro operation, he moved quickly to contact the serbian nationalist. the two had met back in 2014 when they discussed their opposition to the e.u. and nato. shishmarkov also offered to help support the serbian group which promotes close relations between russians and serbs and opposes nato and the government of montenegro. the two met again in moscow in 2015. this time shishmarkov had the other submitted to a polygraph test that lasted for hours. after the test went well, sendulak was sent home with $5,000 and a promise to contact him if something urgent came up. that was in the spring of 2016. shishmarkov wrote to sendulak that the prime minister and his
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government must be removed immediately and that the people of montenegro must rebel in order for this to happen. then in september, 2016, shishmarkov told sendulak to urgently come to moscow. he even sent $800 to sendulak to buy his ticket. it was no trouble for shishmarkov to send the money. after all, he sent it from a western union conveniently located on the same street as g.r.u. headquarters in moscow. once in moscow, the two discussed the planning and operation of the plot to overthrow the montenegran government, install the opposition in power and abandon all plans for montenegro to enter nato. shishmarkov said opposition leaders from montenegro had already visited moscow a number of times and were in agreement with the plan. in total, sendulak received more than $200,000 to support the
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operation. he used these funds to pay personnel, acquire police uniforms and equipment, and purchase weapons, including rifeless, gas masks, bulletproof vests, electrical tranquilizers and a drone with a camera. he was also provided encrypted phones to enable secure communications between the coup plotters and g.r.u. agents. sendulak and shishmarkov stayed in close contact as preparations were made for the election. large protests were being planned in front of the parliament expected to draw nearly 5,000 people. sendulak and his coconspirators, including the former commander of the serbian special police, recruited as many serbian nationalists as they could to travel from serbia to montenegro to enjoy the demonstrations. they were hoping 500 would join the protests and be ready to act
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when called upon. as the protests were under way, a group of 50 armed men recruited by shishmarkov and wearing police uniforms would ambush and kill the members of montenegro's special antiterrorist unit to prevent them from interfering with the coup. the armed men still wearing their police uniforms would then proceed to the parliament building where they would begin shooting at members of the police defending the parliament building. they hoped to create the impression that some members of the police were changing sides and joining the protesters against the government. as the coup plotters saw it, this was poetic justice reminiscent of how former serbian president and convicted war criminal slobodan milosevic had fell from power. the protesters would then storm the parliament building and
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declare the victory for the opposition. within 48 hours, a new government would be formed and arrests would be made across the capital, including of prime minister jukanovic. if the prime minister could not be captured, he would be killed. the coup plotters obviously wanted to create chaos and it appears they may have had someone in mind for the violence. ahead of the election, the montenegran opposition hired a u.s. company to provide services, including countersurveillance and planning to exact personnel from the montenegran capital around the time of the election. it is still unclear the precise nature of this outreach to the u.s. company by the montenegran opposition on what services the company may have ended up provided, if any. this is speculation. if i know the russians, american security personnel, some likely to have military or intelligence
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background on the ground during the coup in the montenegran capital would have made competent patsies for stories on sputnik and russia today. fortunately, one might even say luckily the plan never got off the ground. four days before election day, one of the coup plotters got cold feet and informed the montenegran authorities on election day, montenegran police arrested 20 serbian citizens, including the underground leader of the nationalist protesters. the former commander of the serbian special police. news of the arrest sparked fear among others involved in the plot, many of whom retreated to serbia. furious that the plot had been disrupted, shishmarkov and the russian g.r.u. agent grasped at straws for new ways of bringing down the government. he ordered an assassin to kill the prime minister. the order was not carried out
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and he later turned himself in to police, fearing he would be next for assassination by the g.r.u. shishmarkov also ordered a false flag attack on the opposition of the party headquarters to create an appearance of an attack by the government. he hoped to entice one of the parties to leave the government with a bribe using russian money funneled through chechnya. again, fortunately none of this worked. montenegrin police made several arrests in the aftermath of this failed coup attempt but those arrests did not include alleged g.r.u. agents and mr. sish -- sishmarkov. montenegrin authorities hoped the serbian government would consider extradited to montenegro as the government had done with lower level coup plotters, but that did not happen and the two russian
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agents returned to moscow. mr. president, i know that sounded a little complicated. every american should be disturbed by what happened in montenegro, and we should admire the courage of the country's leaders who resisted russian pressure and persevered to bring montenegro into the nato alliance which finally took place officially two weeks ago. but if there is one thing that we should take away from this heinous plot was that we cannot treat russia's interference in america's election in 2016 as an isolated incident. we have to stop looking at this through the warped lens of politics and see this attack on our democracy for what it is: just one phase of vladimir putin's long-term campaign to weaken the united states, to destabilize europe, to break the nato alliance, to undermine confidence in western values, and to erode any and all
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resistance to his dark and dangerous view of the world. that is why putin attacked our 2016 election. that is why putin attempted to overthrow the government of montenegro. that is why he tried to influence the election in france and will try the same in germany and elsewhere throughout europe. that is why it probably won't be long before putin attempts some punitive actions in montenegro to show other countries in the western balkans what happens when you try to defy russia. and that is why it won't be long before putin takes interest in another american election. it may be a republican, it may be a democrat. to putin, it won't matter as long as he succeeds in dividing us from one another, weakening our resolve, undermining confidence in ourselves and eroding our belief in our own values.
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so i urge my colleagues again, we must take our own side in this fight. not as republicans, not as democrats but as americans. it's time to respond to russia's attack on american democracy and that of our european allies with strength, with resolve, with common purpose, and with action. mr. president, i just would like to finally add we will be holding a hearing in the armed services committee on this whole situation that took place in montenegro. mr. president, i yield the floor. mr. nelson: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from florida. mr. nelson: mr. president, before the senator from arizona leaves the floor, he and i are very much in syncopation on the question of what he has just eloquently addressed about the
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russian attempts to interfere in other countries as well as in our country with regard to the elections. and i just wanted to pose a question to the senator. is the senator aware, as he obviously is, but it's my rhetorical question, that the russians have already intervened in the elections of other countries, and indeed tried and it boomerang against france and are probably in the midst of trying to interfere with the german election. mr. mccain: every indication, i say to my friend from florida, most valued member of the armed services committee, that they will continue to try to interfere in any election that they can possibly.
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they're spending large amounts of money. they have certainly to some degree undermined confidence between countries in the nato alliance. and that coupled with a degree of uncertainty here in washington has probably put as great a strain on the nato alliance as we've seen since its very beginning. i thank my colleague from florida. mr. nelson: and one further question, is the senator -- well he obviously is aware and he's obviously been briefed, but does he -- can he help convey the gravity of the situation, of russian interference in the upcoming elections in 2018 and 2020, where not only is it a question of whether they would change the
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vote count by getting in and hacking, but they could change the registration records so that a voter could show up to vote on election day, and suddenly the registrar says, but you're not registered. mr. mccain: i just say to my colleague from florida that when you look at the early attempts versus their latest attempts, they learn with every experience. it's a lot easier, as my colleague from florida knows, it's a lot easier to play offense than defense. we're going to have a hearing on this whole montenegrin thing, and i know that the senator from florida will pay a -- play a very significant role. every time we turn around, we have a new revelation of some of the activities that have been carried out not just by russian hackers, but by chinese, by iranian, even by single
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individuals. this is probably the national security challenge that may not be the greatest, but i would say we are at least prepared for it. mr. nelson: well, this senator certainly looks forward to that hearing in the senate armed services committee. i thank the chairman for his leadership and constantly bringing up and reminding the american people of the threat that is coming through cyber attacks into this nation and others. mr. president, i wanted to speak about what is going on here in this capitol at this moment. it's been the subject of a lot of discussion last night and again as we have been in session today. and that is trying to hatch a plan to overturn the affordable
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care act and to find something that would replace it. and in fact it's being done in secret. and i would just merely pose the question: why is it being done in secret if it is to be something that is to help the american people more than what the existing law is? why wouldn't that be something that you would want to expose to the light of day? and if it is to improve the existing law, why in the world would that not want to be done in a bipartisan basis? and yet, we find ourselves confronting a situation where the majority leader has said he's trying to cobble together 50 votes to overturn the existing law. and it must be something that is
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not very palatable in what it is to overturn. the existing law. otherwise it would be done in the open and in the sunshine. now, the existing law is not perfect. so we ought to improve it. but the existing law, as we have heard in some of these dramatic town hall meetings, is the reason that some people are alive today. it's the reason why some folks no longer have to worry about being denied coverage for a preexisting condition. and, by the way, that requirement of not allowing an insurance company to deny you coverage because you have a preexisting condition is not applicable just to those that
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are on the state and federal exchanges. that's applicable to all insurance policies. and so if you have that kind of condition which i can tell you might be a reason of asthma. and we're not going to insure you for the rest of your life because you had asthma. or if you want to go to the extreme -- and it has been doney saying i'm not going to insure you because you have had a rash. or, you know, the flip side of that is insurance companies put a lifetime limit on you. so if they pay out up to a certain amount, let's say, $50,000, the insurance policy stops. no more payouts, not according
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to the existing law. the existing law, they can't say you're going to lose your coverage because you hit that cap of a lifetime limit that their payout is. so, mr. president, every day i hear from floridians who tell me how the house-passed bill would affect them and what we speculate, since we don't know that the senate bill that is attempting to be brought out at the last minute next week, what we suspect is going to be in it. and every day i hear from people. so take, for example, the lady from seabring, florida,
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christine gregory. she's allowed me to use her name. my daughter has juvenile diabetes. she was diagnosed at age 15. when the affordable care act was signed into law -- and i'm continuing her quote -- i absolutely rejoiced about the end of the horrible things that had come along with having a preexisting condition. she no longer had to worry about cancellation of her insurance, waiting periods, denial of coverage, annual or lifetime limits, higher premiums, and the dreaded high-risk pools. then she continues to write, fast forward to 2017. all the fear and the worry are back. our president and congress plan
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to repeal and replace the affordable care act. now she has the very real prospect of having to enter a very expensive high-risk pool. that could mean bankruptcy for us and denial of the needed medicines and care. or take, for example, here's an unnamed constituent from florida's pan handle. wrote me -- and i got this today -- i have chronic and persistent illnesses that would be debilitating without affordable and comprehensive care. i have chronic back pain from degenerative disk disease in every part of my spine. i've had innumerable procedures to help manage the pain, including epidural and targeted
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nerve block injections at multiple levels. and this unnamed individual, a constituent of mine, continues, i am now now plannino get radio frequency ablations of the nerves using pre-a.c.a. rules, before the existing law. i would have hit my lifetime limit at least a year ago and been able to continue getting pain-managing treatment. i often feel like i'm a burden to my wife, who is one of the most understanding and supportive people i know. and he concludes, if the acha, which is the house-passed bill, passes, and our insurance and total health costs go up significantly, the burden i feel i am right now, that
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burden will become a reality. please, i deserve more than to suffer from uncontrollable pain. and my wife deserves more than to have to care for me in that condition. so the existing law is not perfect, but it's given millions of people, including those with preexisting conditions, like juvenile diabetes, access to health care they otherwise would not receive. this health care bill that passed the house that is being the model for apparently something of taking it out of that if they're ever going to get an agreement between the two houses. that republican health care bill will take us back to the days when it was nearly impossible for people with a preexisting
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condition to get health insurance coverage. people with asthma, they could be forced to pay more than $4,000 more because of that preexisting condition. people with rheumatoid arthritis could be forced to pay up to $26,000, and people who are pregnant could pay more and more and more. let me tell you about another constituent from volusia county who shared how repeal of this would affect her. my husband, she writes, a 50-year-old leukemia survivor would lose his ability to obtain comprehensive health insurance due to the lack of protections for people with preexisting conditions.
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my daughter who has asthma and rheumatoid arthritis would lose her ability to obtain comprehensive health insurance due to the lack of protections for people with preexisting conditions. our family, all hardworking, tax-paying americans will once again be subjected to annual and lifetime limits which could easily bankrupt us. my daughter who is a young woman just starting her career would lose her ability to purchase affordable health insurance and receive tax subsidies that she currently receives under the a.c.a. and she goes on to say that she's afraid that it would regulate them if you change all of that to second class citizens. why am i saying about what was passed at the other end of this
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hallway down in the house of representatives about preexisting conditions. and they say no, no, preexisting conditions are not eliminated down there. that doesn't tell you the whole story. the whole story is that in the house-passed bill, it's left up to the states and the states see that as a way of so-called lowering their premiums. but if you start doing that for some and don't keep that spread over the millions and millions of people that are now under the protection of the preexisting conditions, it's going to become a select few more, and it's going to spike the cost of that insurance. and so i will just conclude by
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telling you another part of what happened down there in the house. in effect, they changed medicare as we know it by cutting out over $800 billion out of medicaid over a ten-year period. so donna kujowski from sabastian, florida, wrote to me recently to tell what medicaid is to her family. quote, i am writing this letter on behalf of my son who has down syndrome. the blocks, which is the technical term that they're using in the house of representatives, in other words capping medicaid to each of the states, will cause states to strip critical supports that my
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son needs to live and to try to learn and work in the community with down syndrome. these medicaid funds have enabled him to participate in an adult supervised day program and transportation to and from the site. this program involves classes, such as daily living skills, social skills, and daily life skills. he's also able to go out once or twice a week to socialize. he has become more confident and happy. that's from a lady in sebastian, florida. mr. president, we need to find ways to improve the health care system. we need to fix the existing law.
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we don't need to unwind all the good things that we have done. we need to fix it in a bipartisan way. so when folks come to me and say senator, what are we going to do to fix it, then what i say is it's my responsibility to do something. so last week i filed a bill with a number of other senators that would lower health care premiums for people in florida by up to 13%. what it would do is help stabilize the existing la law's insurance marketplace by creating a permanent reinsurance fund that would lower the risk insurance companies face, a risk
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pool, a reinsurance fund. it's kind of like what we did back when i was the elected insurance commissioner of florida in facing in the aftermath of the monster hurricane, hurricane andrew, insurance companies just simply couldn't take the risk of that a category 5 might come along, hit directly on the coast, and just wipe out everything and wipe out all the capital reserve that the insurance companies have. so what they did was go to a reinsurance fund which we actually created in florida for hurricanes, the catastrophic reinsurance fund, so that they could reinsure themselves, the insurance company, against catastrophic hurricane loss.
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that's exactly what this proposal is that would lower premiums by 13%, create a reinsurance fund, a permanent one, that would lower the risk to the insurance companies that are insuring people's health. and at least one florida insurer estimates this bill if passed will reduce premiums for floridians who get their coverage from by 13% between 2018 and 2020. so you ask what's a suggestion? i figured it was my responsibility to come up with a suggestion on how to fix it. this is one of several fixes, and it's a tangible fix, and it
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is in fact filed as legislation. so what we are facing in the suggestion that i've made, it's not the ultimate solution to solving the health care system, but it's one small step in the right direction to making health insurance available and affordable for the people who need it most. so how are we going to fix it? you're not going to do it by running around in the dead of night secretly putting together a plan that's only going to be a partisan plan. if you're going to fix the health care system, you're going to have to do it together in a bipartisan way building consensus. and that's what i urge the senate to do instead of what we are seeing happen behind closed
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doors. so let's get together. let's work together to make health care more affordable for people and stop all of this stuff behind the closed doors. the american people deserve better. mr. president, i yield the floor. the presiding officer: under the previous order, the senate stands in recess unt
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