CQ Transcripts Wire
Thursday, December 24, 2009; 9:02 AM
SPEAKERS: SEN. HARRY REID (D-NEV.), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER; SEN. RICHARD J. DURBIN (D-ILL.), SENATE MAJORITY WHIP; SEN. CHARLES E. SCHUMER (D-N.Y.), VICE CHAIR, SENATE DEMOCRATIC CONFERENCE SEN. PATTY MURRAY, (D-WASH.), SECRETARY OF THE CONFERENCE, SEN. MAX BAUCUS (D-MONT.), SEN. CHRISTOPHER J. DODD (D-CONN.)
[*] REID: I spent a very restless night last night trying to figure out how I could show some bipartisanship. And I think I was able to accomplish that for a few minutes today.
Never before has the Senate found the resolve to make health insurance more affordable and health insurance companies more accountable until today. This is a victory for the American people. Those fortunate enough to have health insurance will be able to keep theirs, and those who do not will be able to have health insurance.
This is a victory because we've affirmed that the ability to live a healthy life in our great country is a right and not merely a privilege for the select few. This morning's vote brings us one step closer to making Ted Kennedy's dream a reality; the dream of Americans also are part of that dream of Ted Kennedy's, and that's also become a reality.
Every step of this long process has been an enormous undertaking. I want to thank Chairmans Baucus, Dodd, and Harkin. I want to thank very much my leadership team -- Durbin, Schumer, Murray. They've Ben remarkably supportive, and I will always be indebted to them.
Senators Murray and Harkin are off to their families. They're not here with us this morning. I look forward to working with my friends in the House so we can send a bill to the president as soon as possible.
Senator Baucus -- we're going to hear from Baucus, Dodd, Durbin, Schumer, Murray, and we're not going to take any questions.
BAUCUS: It's been nearly two years since we began our work on health-care reform here in the Senate, and we're all very, very proud of this moment. We stand here at the finish line, though -- as we stand here, we're not standing alone. We stand with those who have blazed the trail ahead of us, the tireless champions of health-care reform, all the way from President Theodore Roosevelt to our good friend who is with us in spirit, Ted Kennedy.
We are standing with millions of American families who have been forced into bankruptcy over the cost of health care. We stand on behalf of 45,000 Americans who die each year simply because they don't have health insurance. We stand with small-business owners who cannot afford health insurance for their employees. We stand with Americans suffering from diseases like cancer and diabetes and all those who have been discriminated against or denied health insurance coverage because of a pre-existing condition.
Today, we make history for them and every American who has fallen victim to our broken health-care system. I especially want to thank Leader Reid for the terrific way he's managed to navigate the waters and get us here to final passage. This is going to be a day that we're going to look back upon as senators very proud of what we've accomplished.
But more important, I'll be very happy to see people getting health care that they now cannot get and very happy to see health-care costs be much brought under control. This is why we came here. This is why we hired out for these jobs to pass something very historic and important like this.
DODD: Well, let me also thank Senator Reid. This is -- on this Christmas Eve, I can't think of a better gift that the United States Senate could give to our federal citizens than lifting the burden of fear from their shoulders; the fear that they would not be able to have health care for their families in their time of need.
This was an enormous victory for the American public, and I'm proud to have been one vote that was cast in favor of this effort. Last year, of course, proved that progress is not easy, but today we were able to prove that it's not impossible. And because of the leadership of Harry Reid, Max Baucus, Tom Harkin, and so many others, we're now on the cusp of achieving something that has defied generations. And that is to provide all Americans with the security of having decent health care.
There's never been a vote cast in my tenure here that's done as much to relieve the burdens to provide more security for middle-class working families in America than this one. This is probably the most important vote that every sitting member of the Senate will cast in their tenure here. And I'm just proud to have been a part of it, and I thank my colleagues for staying with this. And I wish Ted Kennedy were here with us today to enjoy this.
Merry Christmas to everybody.
DURBIN: The corridors of the Senate are filled with portraits and statues of political leaders whose reputations and contributions, many times, have faded into obscurity, but I will tell you the contribution to this nation made by a Senator from Searchlight, Nevada, will become one of the shining chapters in the history of the United States Senate and our nation. He achieved what others have failed in trying to achieve, and he did it with the tenacity and a strength and a determination that I have never seen in my time serving in Congress.
DURBIN: And I am honored to have stood beside him with so many others to see this great day finally arrive.
This is a time of year of long nights and darkness when history tells us that, from the beginning of time, people would gather and they, with their families and friends, would look for signs of hope and light a light and even light a candle.
This morning, this vote in the United States Senate lit a candle of hope for 50 million Americans who went to bed last night without the protection of health insurance, for millions who wake this morning wondering if they'll ever win that battle with the health insurance company for the coverage that they need for the surgical procedure, for the medication.
It's also a candle of hope for any nation that we are finally tackling an issue which every family, every business knows is central to our progress as a nation. We have succeeded through the efforts of Senator Baucus and Senator Dodd and Senator Schumer and Senator Murray and Senator Reid but also with the help and inspiration and leadership of a president who made this the highest item on his agenda and told us that he would work hard night and day to help us reach this moment. We owe our appreciation to him and the vice president especially for presiding over this historic session this morning.
SCHUMER: Thank you. And a happy holiday, merry Christmas, happy new year to everybody. The bill can be described in a single sentence: At the same time, it cuts cost -- the waste, the fraud, the duplication endemic to our system -- and at the same time, it covers 31 million people.
Who would have thought we could do both in the same bill? Who would have thought we could do it with not a single Republican vote and getting every one of the 60 Democratic votes? Who would have thought that we could finally get a handle on the thing that is driving our budget deficit to great heights, which is health-care costs, and at the same time do so much good by covering so many people?
This is an amazing accomplishment. It would be under ordinary times. It's even more amazing under extraordinary times. And the three horsemen of this bill stand behind me. Leader Reid did an incredible job -- just amazing. I just watched with awe with how he could weave the legislative fabric.
Max Baucus, who never gave up. He started out early and just persisted and persisted and persisted and persisted no matter what log was thrown in the way.
And Chris Dodd, who kept the flame of Ted Kennedy and the spirit of doing the right thing and doing the good thing and reaching to the highest values of this country alive. This is a happy day.
Mitch McConnell said on the floor that we're going to go home and hear our constituents rail against this bill. I don't believe that. I believe that the negativity that Leader McConnell and others have continually displayed on the floor has peaked and now, when people learn what's actually in the bill and all the good it does, it is going to become more and more popular because it is good for America, good for the American people, and a true symbol of what we can do if we all pull together.
REID: Thanks, everybody.