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tv   U.S. Senate U.S. Senate  CSPAN  October 23, 2019 3:29pm-5:29pm EDT

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the presiding officer: are there any senators in the chamber wishing to vote or change their vote? if not, the yeas are 43, the nays are 52. and the joint resolution fails passage. under the previous order, the senate will resume consideration of h.r. 3055, which the clerk will report. the clerk: calendar number 141, h.r. 3055, an act making
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appropriations for science, justice, and related. the presiding officer: the senator from maryland. mr. cardin: i think everyone would agree that free and fair elections is the bedrock of our democracy. we know it's been under attack. we know from the mueller report that russia in 2016 used a systematic attack on our free election system to try to undermine our democracy. that attack occurred in the state of maryland. let me quote from "the washington post" article that said maryland was never in play in 2016. the russians targeted it anyway. the article states russia's twitter campaign to influence the 2016 presidential election in maryland began in june 2015, 17 months before election day. when the st. petersburg based industry opened an account, it
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called baltimore online and began to tweet about russia's events. the prosecutors blamed for the 2016 campaign to bode enormous protection to maryland operations all in a likely effort, experts say, to widen racial division and demoralize african american voters. that's what happened in 2016. our intelligence community tell us that russia is active today in trying to influence our 2020 elections and they are using technology to try to undermine our free election system. we must do more to protect our system. it was for that reason, and many others, that i introduced s. 1384, the deceptive practice and voter intimidation prevention act of 2019.
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it's cosponsored by senator klobuchar, senator leahy, senator feinstein, and others. this bill is an effort to try to protect us from this type of international interference in our elections as well as local efforts that are aimed at trying to intimidate voters at -- targeted at minority voters. that should have no place in american politics. this bill did pass the house of representatives in march of this year in h.r. 1. very quickly, and let me tell you what this bill does. it prohibits individuals from knowingly deceiving others about the time, place, eligibility and procedure of participating in a federal election. it -- exercising their right to vote, particularly the use of digit yalt platforms that disseminate voters, and combating voter intimidation, especially those aimed at
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suppressing voting rights. i would hope every member of this chamber would support these efforts. unfortunately the majority leader has failed to bring any of these issues to the floor or give us any time to take up legislation in order to protect our free election system. time is running out. the election -- primaries will start early this year. we need to take action now, and that, mr. president, is why i'm going to make this unanimous consent request. i hope we can agree to it. i ask unanimous consent the judiciary committee be discharged from are further consideration of s. 1834, the koo deceptive practices of voter intimidation act of 2019, the senate proceed to its immediate consideration. the bill be read a third time and passed and the motions to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table with no intervening action or debate. the presiding officer: is there objection? mr. cramer: reserving the right to object. i don't disagree with everything
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in the senator's bill. far from it. it does have several critical flaws and is not ready for primetime. in most if not all states, it is illegal to prevent lawful vote remembers from registering to vote. and we all agree. every qualified voter should have an opportunity to register in an election. by this -- but this proposal is written so broadly, it would prevent election officials from rejecting the registration of an illegal immigrant. it could prevent poll workers from stopping a 16-year-old from voting in an election. this bill would seemingly make it illegal for border officials to actually do their job. i assume this is not intensal, but it is obviously a very big problem. other sections of the bill creates significant first amendment concerns. it would create criminal penalties for political speech that misstates the endorsements a candidate has received. nobody here approves of lying.
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but there are enormous first amendment problems when the federal government starts sending people to jail for what they say. even the aclu opposes my colleague's bill because this provision is so anti-first amendment. just a few days ago secretary hillary clinton claimed a former third-party candidate was a russian asset and a democratic presidential candidate she doesn't like is russia's preferred candidate in the upcoming election. should mrs. clinton have violated federal law with that statement because she perhaps misstated a political endorsement as a way of making a point? we don't want to start down the road where the federal government referees free speech. i believe there's appetite on both sides of the aisle for making good policy that honors the principle behind my colleague's bill. but this version has enormous problems, is nowhere near ready to pass by unanimous consent, and i object. the presiding officer: the objection is heard. mr. cardin: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from maryland. mr. cardin: mr. president, i
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regret my colleague has raised the objection. let me point out this bill has been pending in previous congresses. we have gone through every one of the challenges that my friend has already talked about. there are real problems that are occurring in our states. we had billboards in minority communities highlighting voter fraud in an effort to intimidate african american voters. we've seen information sent out with wrong dates of election. we've seen robocalls pretending to be from a particular campaign when they're from the opposite campaign in an effort to intim date voters from participating -- to intimidate voters from participating. we can always find reasons why we shouldn't consider legislation but the truth of the matter is we have given the okay in our system for some to say it's all right to try to intimidate voters from voting, something that i would hope this congress would want to go on record to say that should have no place in america,
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particularly when it's targeted to communities -- minority communities in an effort to reduce their numbers. i regret that my colleague has objected and i hope that we will have a chance to take up election security information. i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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mr. cramer: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from north dakota. mr. cramer: i seek unanimous consent to dismiss the quorum call. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. cramer: mr. president, it's been a year since the united states, mexico, and canada agreed to the united states-mexico-canada trade agreement, the replacement for nafta, the modernization of the nafta trade agreement that's been so important to all three of our countries. in fact, we're coming up on one year since it was signed by the leaders of all three countries. in fact, the country of mexico has already ratified the usmca. the country of canada is waiting for the united states to take the next step so they, too, can ratify this very important trade agreement. you know, this agreement between the three countries of the north american continent is estimated to add $68.2 -- imagine, $68.2
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billion, almost hard to say, $68.2 billion to the u.s. economy and create 176,000 new jobs. the usmca would also increase exports to canada by 5.9% to a total of $19.1 billion. and shipments to mexico by 6.7% or $14.2 billion. imports from canada and mexico would rise by 4.8% and 3.8% respectively. but it seems that democrats in the house where the ratification process has to begin under the trade promotion authority that this deal was struck under. the democrats leading the house seem to be more focused on taking away one person's job than creating 176,000 new ones right here in the united states. and it is time for speaker pelosi to act on something that is nearly unanimously agreed to.
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and while not every person agrees to it, i don't think there's any question that if she would bring up usmca for a vote in the house, it would pass. and we know that when it comes over to the senate, it will pass here for many good reasons, for the reasons i've already stated, the economic reasons, job creation reasons. but i might also add that passage of the usmca is important to negotiation with other countries. having mexico, canada, the united states in one accord adds leverage to the president's negotiation with china, especially now that we have a bilateral trade deal with japan that president trump has negotiated so effectively and other neighbors and other allies that we're working on bilateral trade deals with. all of that adds to the leverage of negotiating with china. i want to speak just for a couple of minutes, mr. chairman, about the specifics to my state of north dakota. as you know we are a border
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state wit canada. and our northern border is by far our biggest trading partner. in 2017 my state of north dakota exported $5.8 billion worth of goods to the global marketplace, $5.8 billion. and those exports contributed to 28,000 jobs. mr. president, of that $5.8 billion, we exported $4.9 billion of goods to canada. that's 84% of north dakota's exports go to our northern neighbor canada. when you add mexico into that, that's 88% of north dakota's exports, the value of north dakota's exported goods and services go to the usmca countries. farmers and manufacturers can be very pleased with the renegotiated terms that will now
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benefit them directly with a commitment from canada to reduce trade distorting policies and improve transparency, something that we had little issue with in the original nafta. in addition, the new agreement ensures nondiscriminatory treatment for agricultural products standards, a major win for our farmers. specifically, for north dakota, i spoke directly with president trump concerning the biased canada grading system. i worked closely with u.s. trade representative lighthizer and chief agriculture negotiator doud to make sure they were relieved of the unfair practice of grading north dakota grain as subpar feed. this is estimated to double the u.s. exports of grain to canada. north dakota grain growers deserve better and they will now be recognized properly if we can get the house of representatives to bring the usmca up for a vote. our manufacturing workforce will be pleased with the automotive
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and machinery provisions that are included in this deal. going forward, vehicles are mandated to have 75% of north american content to be imported without tariffs compared to the current 62.5%. also, at least 40% of a vehicle eligible for duty free importing must have been built by workers earning at least $16 an hour. this is a big win for labor. this wage requirement will ensure that the market is not being flooded by cheap labor, particularly from south of the border. mr. president, renegotiating and reorganizing nafta into the usmca was an essential move for our state given the economic relationship and mutual elines north dakota and canada -- reliance north dakota and canada share as neighbors. i applaud on president trump to deliver on his promise to a deliver an improved and superior deal for our country and mexico and canada. it's my sincere hope
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the house and senate will act and ratify this agreement as soon as possible in order to cement this win for our country. we must demand that speaker pelosi set petty partisan politics aside, even if just for a day, to bring this important ratification up for a vote in the house so she can pass it, send it over here for quick action by the senate so that we can be on our way to new improved, mood niced -- modernized united states-mexico-canada trade agreement. i yield the floor and note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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quorum call:
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a senator: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from oregon. mr. wyden: i would ask i ask unanimous consent that the -- i ask unanimous consent that the quorum call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. wyden: i understand that several of our colleagues today have been on the senate floor calling for an immediate vote on the president's new north american free trade agreement. setting aside the fact that there have not yet been the
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hearings or the markups necessary to allow that to happen, it would be a major mistake for the trump administration to seek a vote on a trade deal until it is a good deal. while the new north american free trade agreement includes some improvement to the existing agreement, there is still work to be done to get the best deal for american workers and consumers. updating nafta, for example, means con fronting the areas where older trade agreements continually have fallen short. fighting to protect labor rights in the interest of working
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families, preventing a race to the bottom when it comes to the environment, making sure that there is vigorous enforcement of our trade agreements so that other countries can't treat a trade deal as an empty document that gives them yet more time and more opportunities to rip off american jobs. i do have real concerns about current trade enforcement because the new nafta carries over too much of the weak enforcement system of the old nafta. it is too easy on trade sheets and it's not good enough for american workers, particularly on the issue of protecting our working families and labor rights.
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now, our colleague, senator brown and i have proposed several additional tools to address specific challenges in mexico and it's my view, having talked to trade officials and gathering information elsewhere by all accounts there has been good progress on this front. additionally, one of the bigger challenges that have to be confronted is identifying the hundreds of thousands of sham labor contracts in mexico that have exploited workers there and harmed workers here in our country. mexico must remain on track to get those contracts renegotiated on behalf of the interests of our workers. now, to my colleagues who say this deal must be passed in the name of certainty, i want to
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make a point that i think is very important. during this overhaul, the original north american free trade agreement remains in place. workers, farmers, ranchers, and businesses should not have to go to bed at night fearing that economic uncertainty is going to rob them of their livelihoods. the uncertainty only arises when the president acts out and makes impulsive threats regarding our trade relationships. when the president threatened new tariffs on mexico this june over immigration policy, that creates far more uncertainty than taking the time necessary to get this deal right. american workers and farmers have already been hurt by the
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president's impulses. more are going to get hurt if trump threatens and produces chaos causing the congress to accept a bad deal on the north american free trade agreement. passing a trade deal that would allow the president to unilaterally change trade rules and jerk around entire industries would be a substantial mistake and one that would produce still more uncertainty. that is not how you get trade done right. based on that i do have some real concerns about how the administration want once nafta o be implemented. and i'm just going to close by mentioning a fact or two about my state, madam president.
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in my state, trade and global commerce is priority business. one in five jobs in oregon depends on international trade, and the trade jobs often pay better than do the nontrade jobs because they reflect an added level of added value. and i always say when i'm asked at a town meeting what my views are on trade, i say let's grow it in oregon. let's make it in oregon. let's add value to oregon and then ship it around the world. so i don't take a back seat to anybody in talking about the importance of trade and particularly to my state. what i wanted to do, though, this afternoon because i sat and listened to a number of my colleagues talking about their view that we ought to just have an immediate vote, we just ought to vote now.
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i don't know what they thought with respect to hearings and markups and kinds of things that are required but they just came and said we've got to move now. i just want to make it i'm clear as ranking democrat on the finance committee that you go when a trade deal is a good deal. and there are issues still to be resolved on that matter. i'm interested in working with all sides in good faith to get a good deal. and with that, madam president, i yield the floor and i would note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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quorum call:
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a senator: madam president, are we in a quorum call? the presiding officer: yes, we are. mr. warner: i ask that the proceedings of the quorum be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. warner: i am here because protections for americans with preexisting medical conditions are under attack from the -- this administration. over the last three years, this president has used every tool at his disposal to try to undermine the a.c.a. he tried to repeal it twice through congress. when that failed, the administration joined a lawsuit that would strike down the a.c.a. with no plan to replace it. the truth is, this administration is, unfortunately, actively working to destabilize the insurance
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market. one way the administration is attempting to undermine the a.c.a. is with the so-called short-term plans, which i would prefer to -- and frankly i think most americans if they saw the criterion of these plans would not call them short-term plans; i would call them junk plans. and thanks to this administration, these junk plans allow insurance companies to once again discriminate against americans with preexisting conditions. make no mistake, these plans are a threat to the stability of the insurance market and to every american with a preexisting condition. that's why i've introduced a resolution that will force an up-or-down vote on the administration's rule that pushes more of these junk plans on unsuspecting consumers and,
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consequently, significantly increase costs for other americans. madam president, i fear some members of this body have forgotten what it was like before the affordable care act when an unexpected surgery or a diagnosis of a chronic illness could mean a one-way ticket out of the middle class. unfortunately, this is not a hypothetical. recently one of my constituents, a man named jesse, received a $230,000 medical bill for his back surgery. unbeknownst to him, he had purchased a plan that he thought would cover this, but this plan, unfortunately, with as a junk plan that considered his back injury as a preexisting condition. jesse is one of the more than three million virginians with a preexisting medical condition. i've got three daughters. two of my three daughters have
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preexisting conditions that would not be covered under these junk plans. and today i want to share some of those stories to remind my colleagues of what real people will face if we allow the administration to continue dismantling these protections that folks count on. recently i got an e-mail from linda in warren county, virginia. she is a cancer survivor with multiple preexisting conditions. she wrote, quote, due to the housing fallout in 2008, we lost our health coverage, and i could no longer get health coverage because of my cancer diagnosis. mindy from henrico around richmond is also a cancer survivor. she writes, quote, even though my cancer is in partial remission, i remain on treatment for fear of the cancer returning
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again. as i prepare for retirement, it scares me to think that this cancer would be considered a preexisting condition, and i could be denied health care or would be required to pay through the nose for insurance. sharon in norfolk told me about her struggle be behavioral health issues. she wrote, i am a functioning member of society. however, that will not last long if i lose this access to medical help. i went off my meds in 2000, as i couldn't afford a doctor and medication. and it was a very thin line between me and homelessness. justin from loudoun county is worried that she could lose coverage for her diabetes care. here is her message for the members of this body. what if you or a loved one was diagnosed with a preexisting condition? how could you feel -- how would
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you feel about being denied health coverage? it is a good question that justine asked that we should all ask ourselves, madam president. as a father, as i mentioned, i've dealt with the scary reality of having a child with juvenile diabetes and a child with asthma. and also an extraordinarily lucky individual, and i knew that because of the insurance and because i had the resources that they'd be taken care of. that's not the case for many of the three million virginians that have preexisting conditions or the countless tens of millions of americans. katherine in blackford, virginia, told me about her daughter who was diagnosed at age three with juvenile diabetes. she wrote, until there's a cure for diabetes, i cannot imagine how costly it would be for her to stay alive and manage her health if there are limitations on coverage for people with preexisting conditions.
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madam president, katherine's daughter deserves access to health care just as much as my daughter does. i got a letter from a pharmacist in abington named michael. he treats diabetics every day and also knows what it's like because he's lived with the disease for 38 years. he writes, without insulin, we will die. if coverage for preexisting conditions goes away, you will see a large decline in the health of type one diabetics and make more dependence upon medicaid. it is not somebody who's dealt with diabetes for 38 years but he is also a knowledgeable consumer as a pharmacist. i have too many of these stories to share them all today. and i know -- i see my friend, the senator from washington state. she and other of my colleagues will be coming to the floor today and over the next few days until we have a chance to vote on this c.r.a.
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i think to share stories as well of what we will do to virginians, washingtonians, tennesseans, americans all across this nation if we go back to a time when we don't protect people with preexisting conditions. one or two more quick stories. james from danville, virginia, told me about his ten separate preexisting conditions. lynn from lynchburg is on three separate medications due to a brain tumor. she could die if her insurance coverage didn't cover those medications. and the list goes on and on. in closing, madam president, when we talk about preexisting conditions, we're talking about people's lives. that's why we must pass the resolution i've introduced to reverse the administration's harmful rule changes and defend protections for folks with preexisting conditions. i think every one -- every one of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle have said they absolutely want to protect folks
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with preexisting conditions, even folks who otherwise completely don't agree with the a.c.a. that's the one part of the a.c.a. that folks have agreed upon. well, next week we're going to have a chance to move past talk, to move past statements, to actually go on the record with an up-and-down -- up-or-down vote, go on the record say that we're going to protect the provisions of the a.c.a. that made sure that folks with preexisting conditions weren't discriminated against, or we'll go on the record saying, no, what the administration is doing is all right; these short-term or junk plans that sound good until you realize you're not getting the kind of coverage that you thought you were buying, we'll have that decision point come next week. so i ask that my colleagues across the aisle who leave and
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say they support protections for folks with preexisting conditions, well, they'll have a chance to go on record next week. i hope they will. i hope we'll pass overwhelmingly this c.r.a., make sure the protections for folks with preexisting conditions are maintained, and i can't think of an issue that is more important to so many families all across virginia and for that matter all across the country. and with that, madam president, i yield the floor. mrs. murray: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from washington. mrs. murray: madam president, thank you. and i want to thank the senator from virginia for bringing forward this c.r.a. that we will be voting on that will allow us to affirmatively from the senate say we want to protect people with preexisting conditions and people from these junk plans that really take away the protections that are so important that every family counts on. so i really appreciate that to the senator. you know, madam president, when this comes to health care, families across our country have
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repeatedly seen president trump and republicans say one thing and do the exact opposite, despite proclaiming themselves somewhere along the lines of health care, despite making empty promises to fight for families and people with preexisting conditions, the cornerstone of republican health care policy has been to attack the care families really rely on with their massively harmful trumpcare proposals -- junk plans that you just heard about and waivers that chip away at patient protections -- and of course that partisan lawsuit which the court could rule on anyday. and let's make it clear. if republicans get their way in court, they're going to throw the lives of patients across the country into chaos and uncertainty by striking down those protections for preexisting conditions, by stripping away health insurance from tens of millions of people covered through medicaid expansion or the exchanges. it will get rid of the lifetime and annual caps that are on
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patients out-of-pocket costs while bringing back caps on their benefits, even for those insured through their own employers. and ending essential health benefits that require insurers to cover things like prescription drugs or maternity care, mental health care, emergency care, a lot more. and while republicans have been advancing their attacks on families' health care, they've also been blocking commonsense solutions senate democrats are out here pushing for. like legislation to bring down drug prices through impactful steps like medicare negotiation or making coverage more affordable for our working families and protecting patients with preexisting conditions from the republicans' reckless lawsuit. now, democrats in the house have also passed legislation to restore funding president trump cut to help people find the right care for themselves, to
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reverse president trump's harmful junk insurance rule, and to actually defend patients from that partisan lawsuit that republicans are pushing that will upend health care as we know it. now, what have leader mcconnell and senate republicans does with those solutions that have come over from the house? they've buried each and every one of them to in a legislative graveyard while claiming they care about fighting for patients or protecting preexisting conditions. madam president, i'm here to say today that republicans' transparent health care charade is coming-to-an end p. soon, as you heard, democrats will force a vote on legislation that senator mcconnell cannot bury in their legislative graveyard, meaning every senator here is going to have to go on the record as to whether they -- where they really stand on health care, whether they stand with families or with president trump and his schemes that take power away from patients and give it back to the insurance companies.
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our legislation will reverse a step that president trump took to warp a tool meant to encourage innovation into one that encourages states to eliminate protections for patients with preexisting conditions, increase costs, and promote those harmful junk insurance plans that can charge vulnerable patients more and cover less. president trump's junk plans can flout protections for preexisting conditions, meaning that they can discriminate against patients, patients like lilly. she is a high school student from gig harbor, washington, and has cystic fibro circumstance or julie, a four-time cancer survivor from mercer island. or havi, a college student with mental health needs, and millions of other patients across the country with preexisting conditions. letting president trump expand the use of these junk plans will leave patients with higher premiums, higher out-of-pocket
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costs, and fewer affordable options to get the health care that they need. and president trump's rule could even be used to cut financial help for patients who need it the most and take benefits away from the sickest patients, even if they don't buy that junk insurance. this is absolutely unacceptable and exactly why the vote democrats are going to be forcing is so important. these patients across the country and in my state deserve to know we have their backs, that we are fighting against president trump's efforts to undermine their health care, not cheering him on and not blocking efforts to stop them. now, democrats are going to be out here a lot to talk about this because we know families in the country care about this a lot. we're going to be putting pressure on republicans to do the right thing, the thing patients and families sent them here to do. and if they don't, if they continue their relentless attacks on our family's health care, if republicans continue to
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side with president trump and his efforts to take protections away from patients and give that power back to the insurance companies, we're not going to give up. democrats are not going to let up. we will double down. we're going to make sure that families know which party is offering solutions to protect their care and which one is blocking them, this party is trying to repair the damage president trump has caused and which party is trying to cause even more harm. which party is fighting for their health care and which one is fighting against it. and we're going to be out here day after day to keep pushing republicans to do the right thing. stand up for patients and families, even if it means standing against president trump. thank you, madam president. i yield the floor, and i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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the presiding officer: the senator from oregon. mr. wyden: i would ask unanimous consent to vacate the quorum call, madam president. the presiding officer: without objection.
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mr. wyden: madam president, our colleagues, senator warner and senator murray, have come to the floor over the course of the days to speak about the importance of protecting americans who have preexisting health conditions, and i want to see if i can put this in a bit of context so that people understand why those of us on this side feel so strongly, why i think senator warner and senator murray were spot on, and i want to kind of put it in the context of the way i came up. when i got out of law school, i set up a legal aid program for senior citizens. i was codirector of the oregon gray panthers, and i saw what it meant when the big insurance
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companies could just clobber those people with preexisting health conditions. they would juflt throw all kinds of extra costs on, pretty much beat the stuffing out of anybody who had a preexistential -- preexisting health condition. and we tried as hard as we could to push back. this was all before i was in public life. and i said at the time, if i ever have the opportunity in the congress, i'm going to make this priority business to make sure that everybody in america could go to bed at night knowing that they wouldn't be wiped out in the morning if they had a
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preexisting condition. so in the course of the whole debate about the affordable care act, i produced a piece of legislation called the healthy americans act. seven democrats, seven republicans were cosponsors. some of the republican cosponsors are still serving in the united states senate today. and what we had in it was airtight, loophole-free protection for anybody with a preexisting condition. and we were thrilled that by and large our provision from the healthy americans act became the provision in the affordable care act that ensured that there would be a new generation of consumer protection and security for the millions of americans who had these preexisting conditions. now as my colleagues have said,
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there is a very real threat to that protection that's now in the affordable care act that really does provide airtight loophole-free protection for those with preexisting conditions. and i want to just make sure that we get on the record, for those who are following the debate, what it means if you roll back these protections for those with preexisting conditions. in a sentence, what it means is america goes back to the days, those days when i was director of the gray panthers, and health care was for the healthy and the wealthy. that's what you have if you allow discrimination against those with a preexisting condition. i mean, if you're healthy, you don't have an issue with preexisting conditions. if you're wealthy, you don't have a situation with
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preexisting conditions. but if you're not healthy, you're not wealthy, and you get rid of these protections, you are in a world of hurt, and that's what we are looking at should the republican position prevail. the republican official position is ironclad preexisting consumer protections ought to be pretty much thrown in the trash can. and i'm going to spend a few minutes outlining the examples of why that's the case. first, the trumpcare disaster 2017. the republicans tried to repeal the affordable care act with its protection for preexisting conditions. they failed, and preexisting conditions lived to fight another day. enough said there. second, my colleagues have chosen to stand idly by while republican-led states and the president tried to maneuver
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through the courts to toss out the entire affordable care act overall with the protection for people with preexisting conditions. the so-called texas lawsuit relies on an argument that wouldn't hold up in law class 101 on the constitution. but thanks to a cadre of ideological judges, it does seem that this case may make its way to the supreme court. now i do want to be clear for those who are following this, republican members of this body are not just some kind of innocent bystander when it comes to this court case. they could, if they wanted to, join democrats to take steps that would prevent this lawsuit from going forward, and again we could have protection for people with preexisting conditions.
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instead, all the arguments are why the republicans just can't be involved in -- and a lot of excuses and reflections. third, the so-called fix it bill that my republican colleagues have offered to, what they claim protect preexisting conditions are just so full of disclaimers, they look like they might have been written by one of those insurance company lawyers from the old days who was all interested in finding ways in which the insurance company could win and the consumer would lose. any health care legislation that doesn't provide an ironclad guarantee of health coverage no matter your health status, age or gender, amounts to a huge loophole that leads -- leaves hardworking middle-class people empty-handed when they need
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health coverage the most. if insurance companies can make coverage for your preexisting conditions so expensive that it's unaffordable it's no different than being denied coverage in the first place. next, the trump administration has given the states the green light to use taxpayer dollars to push junk plans that aren't worth the paper they're written on. and i'll have more to say about that in the days ahead, but not only does this approach amount to federally funded fraud, this is a gross misreading of current law that is going to disproportionally hurt vulnerable americans with preexisting conditions who need comprehensive health care. under these rules unscrupulous insurance companies can charge
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people more if they have a preexisting condition, deny benefits for specific types of treatment or even deny coverage altogether. this rule change is, mr. president, and we're going to talk some more about it, is a grotesque perversion of the provision that i authored in the affordable care act that would let states build on the strong protections in the law but not go out and basically completely undermine them. now, mr. president, despite this parade of grimer tidings, next friday, november 1, is the beginning of open enrollment for individual private health insurance coverage on healthcare .gov. so there's a little bit of encouraging news. even as the trump administration has done everything they can to
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fuel the fires of uncertainty for people about where health care is going to be and what's going to be available, millions of families are going to be able to shop for plans that provide them with health coverage. that's because yesterday americans got the news that the average premium for the so-called benchmark plan for the individual market, part of the affordable care act, has gone down by 4%. make no mistake, this reduction is in spite of all the things the president has done to make it harder to get affordable coverage under the affordable care act. attributing this reduction to the president is about as believable assaying that trump trump -- as saying that trump university is going to make a
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come back any day now. one company crunched the numbers and said they could is reduced it by 22% if it wasn't for the republicans and sabotage by the trump administration. americans should still sign up for health coverage if they need it before the deadline on december 15, even if the president hadn't done you or your family any favors on the health care front. one last point on health care. while americans are looking for affordable health care plans on healthcare.gov, there are going to be a lot of scam artists on the prowl outside the official website. these huckster are going to ply junk plans on to unsuspecting
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families. the junk plans might sound attractive. they always seem to be in advertising and promotional materials. low premiums, exclamation point. affordable coverage. but i just want to make clear that you or a loved one gets sick, chances are the fine print says that the carrier of this junk plan won't carry what you need. despite the low premium, the real bill comes due right when you need your coverage the most. mr. president, i'm also struck by how similar these junk plans are that are being offered now by these rip-off insurers, how similar they are to another part of what we dealt with while i was director of the senior citizens, the gray panthers, and legal aid. we saw back then that fast-talking insurance sales
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people would sell older people 10, 15, sometimes even 20 private policies that were supposed to supplement their medicare, and a lot of them weren't worth the paper they were written on. and if you had one, often the others wouldn't offer you coverage because you already had coverage. and finally we outlawed that. we wrote a law that streamlined the medigap market, and it basically is still the law today. so i hope that with respect to the law on preexisting conditions, that we can protect that. we shouldn't be creating new problems for patients and consumers, and particularly when we make progress such as we did with the affordable care act so that we now have in it airtight, loophole-free protections for those with
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preexisting conditions, we certainly shouldn't turn back the clock to the days when health care was for the healthy and wealthy. so i'm going to have more to say about these junk plans and how they have really unsavory historical roots, particularly on when the equivalent was sold to the elderly because these junk plans are just a back door now to denying care to americans with preexisting conditions, and people ought to know about the dangers. people deserve to know whether their elected officials are going to fight to protect their rights or whether they're going to let a bunch of con artists weaken the core protections for preexisting conditions that senators warner and murray talked about today that are so important to keeping families healthy. and i urge my republican colleagues to change course and
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stand with democrats in defense of the law and real protection for vulnerable patients against discrimination if they have a preexisting condition. with that, mr. president, i yield the floor and i note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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quorum call:
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ms. stabenow: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from michigan. ms. stabenow: i ask suspension of the goark.
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-- of the quorum call. the presiding officer: without objection. ms. stabenow: thank you very much, mr. president. mr. president, i think you heard me say on the floor that health care is personal, not political. health care affects everybody whether they are republican or democratic, your ban or -- urban or rural, cheer for the washington nationals, go nats, or cheer for the houston astros. when talking about health care, they don't start with political affiliation or anything else, they start with what's happening with their family. that's because when it comes to their health and the health of their families, none of those other things matter. people in michigan simply want to know that if they or their loved ones get hurt or sick, they are going to be able to go to the doctor. that they are going to be able to get the health care they
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need. unfortunately, michigan families have reason to be concerned right now. any day now the fifth circuit court of appeals will rule on the texas versus united states case. everything's at stake. everything, including coverage for 17 million people through the medicaid expansion. so people earning minimum wage won't have to pick between having health care and not working or working and then -- working, not getting health care, not working, getting health care, now they can work and get health care. the ability for children to be remain on their children -- their parents' health insurance plan until age 26, coverage for preventive services like cancer screenings and flu shots, and protections for people with preexisting conditions. misty, who runs a consulting
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company in leslie, michigan, knows all about preexisting conditions. she was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 52. her diagnosis came entirely out of the blue three days after her husband lost his job. she said, we were the lucky ones. he found another job three months later before our cobra ran out. she added this. insurance loss and job loss at the same time as a cancer diagnosis are stresses that i wonder if any of those people who are looking to get rid of coverage for people with preexisting conditions have ever thought they'd have to confront. i doubt it. it's estimated that about half of michigan families include someone with a preexisting
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condition, about half. everything from heart disease, asthma to breast cancer. nationwide we're talking about 130 million people who could lose their ability to have health insurance if health care reform is overturned. think about that, 130 million people. and there's another side effect of overturning health care reform, prescription drug costs could skyrocket. 43 million seniors enrolled in medicare part d prescription drug plans are saving money thanks to health care reform, thanks to the affordable care act, which helped close the prescription drug doughnut hole, what we call the gap in coverage, where you're able to get coverage and then the coverage is not there for a certain amount of time and then you can get it once your drug costs get at a higher level. in fact, health care reform
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saved more than 11.8 million medicare beneficiaries almost $27 billion on their prescription drugs -- almost $27 billion on the cost of their medicine. instead of attacking health care reform, we should be working hard to reduce the ridiculous cost of medicine, as i talked about many times on the floor of the senate. in 2017 alone, the price of name brand drugs that seniors often take just in 2017 alone rose four times the rate of inflation -- four times the rate of inflation, according to the aarp. that's one of the reasons why 72% of seniors, in a recent poll, said they are concerned about the costs of their medicine, whether or not they are going to be able to get the lifesaving medicine that they need and that the doctor's
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prescribing for them. it's absolutely shameful that people in america, one of the richest countries in the world, are going without medicine they need to survive. how is that happening? how are we allowing that to happen? i've always believed that health care is a basic human right, and, yes, that includes medications. we need to do something about this and we know the number one thing we can do to lower prices is to let medicare negotiate. let medicare negotiate. the fact is when medicare part d was passed, there was language at the -- that the drug companies got into the bill, specific language, to ban negotiation slipped into the middle of the bill, which we were originally excited about because we thought it would get medicare drug coverage, and then
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the largest lobbying slipped in language to make sure that we couldn't have the bargaining power of medicare insurance to lower prices and so it's real simple. we want do something that can lower prices. let medicare negotiate. just let them negotiate like every other insurance company. and we know it works because the v.a. does it for veterans. we know it works. the v.a.'s allowed to negotiate the price of prescription drugs and, surprise, surprise, it saves money. it saves 40% compared to medicare. medicare could have saved $14.4 billion on just 50 drugs if it paid the same price as the v.a. $14.4 billion if they paid the same price for seniors, people with disabilities as our
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veterans are able to receive. so what's stopping us? well, we can't get the bill passed to take off the prohibition. i offered it in the senate finance committee. unfortunately not one republican colleague voted for it. we're going to bring it up again on the floor. we're going to bring it up every opportunity we have to make it clear that we, as democrats, know -- we know what the way -- the best way to bring down prescription drug prices. let medicare negotiate. just let them negotiate. now, we know the reason that we can't ever get a vote on this. in 2018 there were 1,451 lobbyists for the pharmaceutical and health product industry. that's almost 15 for every member of the senate. think about that. there's 100 members and there's
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almost 15 pharmaceutical lobbyists for every one senator, and they are doing everything they can -- their job is to stop competition, keep prices high, and they've done a very good job of it. it's wrong for people but they've done a very good job of what they were assigned to do. as i mentioned before, back in 2003 when medicare part d was signed into law, they blocked medicare from harnessing the bargaining power of 43 million american seniors to bring down the costs of their prescription medicines. 16 years later, pharmaceutical companies are still doing everything they can to put their company profits before people. it is time -- it is past time to help people afford their prescription medications and protect people with preexisting
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conditions. people in america right now shouldn't be worried about a court case in the fifth circuit and what's going to happen and what that will mean for their family and their health care. and we could do something about that, mr. president, right now, today. we could do something right now if people wanted to. let me remind you that it's now been 167 days since the house passed legislation protecting people with preexisting conditions. 167 days ago, the u.s. house of representatives passed a bill and sent it over to the senate and we've not been allowed to vote on it. it's not been brought up for a vote. it needs to be brought up for a vote. it needs to be taken out of the legislative graveyard and brought to the floor of the united states so we can vote to really protect people with preexisting health conditions. misty, and other cancer
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survivors across michigan and across the country, shouldn't have to wait a day longer. this isn't about politics, it's about saving lives. missey closed her letter to me with this. if these elected officials are truly as concerned about life, as many of them claim to be, they need to be concerned about my life and the life of millions of others with cancer. here's my question for the majority leader. what are you waiting for? it's time for us to act. health care is personal. it should not be political on the floor of the united states senate. it's time to act. protecting people with preexisting conditions and lowering the costs of prescription drugs. thank you, mr. president.

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