Klobuchar: “With Americans already voting, the president is trying to jam through a nominee who has already voiced serious opposition to upholding the Affordable Care Act….Without the Affordable Care Act's health insurance exchange and the support for states to expand Medicaid, it is estimated that 20 million Americans would lose their insurance.”
WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), spoke on the Senate Floor and called on her colleagues to uphold protections for American’s with preexisting conditions under the Affordable Care Act.
“With Americans already voting, the president is trying to jam through a nominee who has already voiced serious opposition to upholding the Affordable Care Act,” Klobuchar said.
“If President Trump's nominee is confirmed before oral arguments on November 10, yes, she could easily cast a deciding vote to strike down the law in its entirety. The American people know what that means to them. To start, protections for people with preexisting conditions like diabetes or asthma would be gone...”
“Over seven million Americans have been infected by the virus and the cases are rising. That is seven million people who without the Affordable Care Act could be found to have another preexisting condition. And that is seven million people who may have recovered from the virus but as Dr. Fauci has warned, may continue to struggle with a range of long-term effects that require comprehensive health care coverage.”
Full transcript of remarks below and video available online HERE.
Klobuchar is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over Supreme Court nominations. Prior to her time in the Senate, Klobuchar served as Hennepin County Attorney.
Last week, in an exchange at the Senate Judiciary Committee, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) called on her colleagues to hold consideration of a new Supreme Court nominee until after the election and to consider the impact the nomination will have on people’s lives.
Last Tuesday, in remarks from the Senate Floor, Klobuchar spoke in honor of the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and called on her colleagues to honor Justice Ginsburg’s wish not to fill her seat until the American people have voted.
Last week, in her role as Ranking Member of the Senate Rules Committee, Klobuchar announced that her resolution honoring Ginsburg passed the Senate. The resolution provided use of the Lincoln catafalque for the memorial services honoring the late Justice Ginsburg. Justice Ginsberg was the first woman and first Jewish person to lie in state in the U.S. Capitol and only the second Supreme Court Justice to receive this honor in our nation’s history.
September 30, 2020 Klobuchar Remarks as given from the Senate Floor:
Mr. President, I am here today to make clear what is at stake if the Supreme Court overturns the Affordable Care Act in the middle of this global pandemic. This is something the Trump Administration has been trying for for years. It came out of a case in Texas and they brought it all the way now to the U.S. Supreme Court. It has been over nine months since the United States had its first confirmed case of the coronavirus. Now we have over seven million cases and tragically over 200,000 people have died. It's been nine months, but still we do not have a national testing strategy in place, something that would not only save lives, but also would be a great help in having the ability to open our economy again.
We don't have sufficient contact tracing or clear guidance to schools and businesses how to keep their students, employees, and customers safe. Nearly 30 million people are out of work and today many are still struggling to pay their rent and put food on the table for their families. Millions of kids are sometimes going to school in hybrid models, in for a few days, out for a few days. They are learning to use Zoom. First graders, one of my staff members in Minnesota, her first grade daughter learning the mute and unmute button. But, instead of being honest with the American people about how serious this was, we’ve had a president who hid the truth about how deadly the virus is and how it spreads.
This is personal to me when the president was telling the American people that this was all going to go away. That it was going to go away by Easter the same time that he knew we now know that it was deadly, that he knew that it was airborne when my family was just trying to wash off all the counters and wash your hands, which is still a good idea, but we thought that would be the way to keep ourselves safe.
This president didn't share this information. And my husband early on got very, very sick from this virus with severe pneumonia and ended up in the hospital on oxygen, so for me it’s personal, but guess what? It’s personal to nearly everyone in America because they know someone, a friend, a family member who has died or who has gotten sick. Now, in my husband's case thanks to the brave frontline workers and the nurses and the doctors in the hospital, and thanks to the fluke, its just serendipity if people are able to survive this or not, depending on how hard hit they are.
Our story isn't unique. Many other people who went to the hospital didn't come home. We now know this has inordinately hit frontline workers and inordinately hit people of color. So here we are, so many months later and well over one hundred days after the House first passed the Heroes Act, legislation to provide true funding for testing to help state and local governments go through to this time, to make sure our elections are safe during this pandemic, and still we wait. And while I am encouraged that Speaker Pelosi is once again negotiating after she and Senator Schumer had met with the White House, met with the majority leader of this Senate, hoped, offered to go half way -- that was rejected -- and still people kept dying. I think something like 800 businesses closed a day, hundreds of people dying a day.
So now they are at it again. Speaker Pelosi is coming up with a new plan that is significantly less funding but one that we hope has a glimmer of hope. But this has not been a priority in this place. Instead the plan is to spend the next few weeks jamming through a nominee to the Supreme Court. What's the rush? Why not focus on working together to help the American people get through this pandemic? Why not focus on getting a bunch of the bills done that have been sitting on the majority leader's desk, like the Violence Against Women Act? That's sitting there. Why not take some action on climate change? That's sitting there as the fires are blazing on the West Coast. Why not do something about pharmaceutical prices? Something the president has claimed to be trying to do something about in the last month of his administration.
Well, another challenge to the Affordable Care Act is going to be back up before the Supreme Court just one week after the election on November 10. Do you think that has anything to do with this rush to a justice? Is that what it is because it's right after the election. Otherwise why wouldn't you wait? See who wins the election. That's what Abraham Lincoln did, the only time in history a justice died this close to an election, he waited to see who won. But, no, we are told this has to happen now, despite the fact that only a few years ago a completely different president was -- precedent was set by the majority of people that are serving in this Senate right now on the Republican side of the aisle. But what's coming up, November 10, the case, the Affordable Care Act, or as they like to call it, Obamacare.
I always liked it that President Obama was always happy to adopt the name for the bill given that the bill has become more and more popular, given that it has helped hundreds of thousands of people to get insurance, given that it has helped more than that, millions of people to not be kicked off their insurance. You don't have to be in one of those exchanges to be protected by the Affordable Care Act, which basically says if you have a preexisting condition, whether it's diabetes, whether it is Alzheimer's, whether it is cancer, that you cannot be kicked off of your health insurance. That applies to everyone in America with that bill.
So there are people in this Senate right here that have been trying to repeal that Affordable Care Act, trying to do it for years. We had a big debate over it but that didn't work. That didn't work. Because John McCain walked in. I can still picture him walking through that door and saying no, while he was sick, that he wasn't going to deny health care coverage to people because he had it himself. Then they tried again. Went down to Texas. Found a court down there maybe that they thought could be helpful. And guess what? Then it gets struck down, down there. Not just a part of it. They said no, no, no. Maybe the whole thing. So that's what's coming up to the Supreme Court on November 10.
So if you can't get your way one way, the Administration decided we're going to try it in court. It is their lawyers, their lawyers that argued this. Donald Trump's lawyers. They have been trying to get rid of the Affordable Care Act and the protections it provides for people with preexisting conditions for years. But have we seen an alternative plan from this president? No, we have not. That last time when we saw that effort by my colleagues to repeal the health care law, it would have kicked 11 million people off of medicaid. It would have let insurance companies charge people more if they got sick. And it included an age tax where an older person could have been charged five times more than a younger person. That was the plan we saw before. That plan was opposed by every major group you trust when it comes to your health care.
The largest groups of doctors, nurses, seniors, hospitals, people with cancer, Alzheimer's, lung disease, heart disease, diabetes. They said it was the worst bill for the people of this country. There never even was a vote on that bill because it was so unpopular. And that was, of course, just months after that previous effort I just described where John McCain walked into the chamber and gave the repeal of the Affordable Care Act that would have taken health care away from so many Americans, a big no.
Senator McCain believed that courage is not just standing by yourself, giving a speech to an empty chamber like I happen to be doing right now except thank you to the ten people that are in here. It's not just that. It is whether or not you're willing to stand next to someone who you don't always agree with for the betterment of this country. But that's not what we are seeing here. Indeed since, my colleagues have not been able to succeed in repealing the health care law using the legislative process, the administration has turned to the court.
Let's look at the track record. I like looking at evidence as a former prosecutor. Even before he was elected the president promised that his judicial appointment, “Will do the right thing.” And overturn the Affordable Care Act. He has criticized the sitting Chief Justice, Justice Roberts, for upholding the law when it was last before the court. And just days ago he said on Twitter that it would be a big win if the Supreme Court strikes down the health law. And now with Americans already voting, the president is trying to jam through a nominee who has already voiced serious opposition to upholding the Affordable Care Act. The same year that this nominee became a judge, that would be in 2017. She was confirmed in October. She published an article with the University of Minnesota law school journal, pretty good journal, writing that she believes Chief Justice Roberts -- this was her criticism of the chief justice – “Pushed the Affordable Care Act beyond its plausible meaning to save the statute.”
If President Trump's nominee is confirmed before oral arguments on November 10, yes, she could easily cast a deciding vote to strike down the law in its entirety. The American people know what that means to them. To start, protections for people with preexisting conditions like diabetes or asthma would be gone. More than a hundred million Americans have a preexisting condition and the Affordable Care Act makes sure they can't be denied insurance coverage or charged significantly higher premiums. Before the ACA -- And I remember this because we debated it in this very chamber -- 43 states allowed insurers to charge higher premiums to people with preexisting conditions. We can't go back to that.
Without the Affordable Care Act's health insurance exchange and the support for states to expand Medicaid, it is estimated that 20 million Americans would lose their insurance. The ability to keep your kid on your insurance plan until they are 26 years old would be gone. How many parents are using this right now in the middle of this pandemic? I don't know the numbers, but I know it's a lot. The work we have done to close the Medicare donut hole coverage gap for prescription drugs would be gone. The provisions that help people buy insurance on the health care exchanges would be gone in the middle of a global pandemic.
Over seven million Americans have been infected by the virus and the cases are rising. That is seven million people who without the Affordable Care Act could be found to have another preexisting condition. And that is seven million people who may have recovered from the virus but as Dr. Fauci has warned, may continue to struggle with a range of long-term effects that require comprehensive health care coverage.
So why? Why ram this through in two weeks? Is it because that case is coming up? If you read the president's tweets, it makes you think it has a lot to do with it. Or is it because the alternative theory he's put out there, that he wants to make sure that the Supreme Court is in place in order to decide the election results. Neither of those theories is a reason to jam through a nominee, and my colleagues know it. I know that the people of this country see through this raw use of political power. They know their health care is on the line. They know what's on the line. They know our environment is on the line. That's why they're voting and they're voting in droves. They're voting as we speak. They're casting ballots with each and every second we stand here in this chamber.
Thank you, Mr. President. I yield the floor.