Health Summit 2010

Sen. Mitch McConnell suggests the President starts over on reform at White House health summit

CQ Transcriptions
Thursday, February 25, 2010; 5:49 PM

MCCONNELL: Mr. President?


MCCONNELL: All of my members have had a chance to speak at least once, several of them a number of times. John Kyl reminds me that HSAs, for example, are not exactly for rich people, that the median income of a user of an HSA is $69,000 a year.

All of us are representatives of the American people, but I have a feeling we haven't been listening to them very carefully. Congressman Roskam mentioned what the people in his district think, and I expect all of you are experts on what the people in your districts think. But we know from the polling that's been done in this country how the American people feel about this 2,700-page bill. We know how they feel about it.

This is not a close call. If you average all of the polls in America, we know that the American people oppose this proposal by an average of 55 to 37 percent. They have also been asked, and we keep reading in the newspaper that where we're headed next is to the reconciliation approach. Gallup also asked that question, and explained to the American people what it meant so they understood what this word that we use around Washington actually means. And in the Gallup poll, the American people were opposed to using that 52 to 39.

So this has been a fabulous discussion, Mr. President. We have a lot of experts around the room, but I think it's really important, since we represent the American people, that we not ignore their view on this. They have paid attention to this issue like no other issue since I have been in the United States Senate. Health care is a uniquely personal issue. Obviously, you get more interested in the subject the older you get, but every American cares deeply about the quality of their health care and access to health care and costs of health care.

They have followed this debate like no other, and they have rendered a judgment about what we have attempted to do so far. The solution to that is to put that on the shelf and to start over with a blank piece of paper and go step by step to see what we can agree on to improve the American health care system which is already, as all of us agree, the finest in the world.

OBAMA: I'm just going to make this remark and then I'm going to call on Patty Murray. I'm going to save the two lions of the House here for the end, because there's been a lot of comments from every Republican about the polls and what they're hearing from their constituents. And as I said, I hear from constituents in every one of your districts and every one of your states.

And what's interesting is actually when you poll people about the individual elements in each of these bills, they're all for them. So you ask them, "Do you want to prohibit preexisting conditions?" "Yes, I am for that." "Do you want to make sure that everybody can get basic coverage that's affordable?" "Yes, I'm for that." "Do you want to make sure that insurance companies can't take advantage of you and that you've got the ability, as Ron said, to fire an insurance that's not doing a good job and hire one that is, but also that you've got some basic consumer protections?" "Yes, we like that."

So polls I think are important in taking a temperature of the public. If you polled people and asked them, "Is the system working right now and should we move forward with health reform," they'd also say yes to that.

And my hope had been and continues to be, based on this conversation, there might be enough areas of overlap that we could realistically think about moving forward without -- without a situation in which everybody just goes to their respective corners and this ends up being a political fight, because this is something that really has to be solved.

We've got three people who have not had an opportunity to speak today. If you don't mind, I will -- would like to, in the interest of time, just go ahead and let each of them speak. If there's an intervention that somebody on the Republican side wants to make, then I will recognize them.

Then I will allow anybody of your choice, Mitch, to wrap things up. I think Speaker Pelosi may want to say just a quick summary of what she's thinking, and then I will talk a little bit about next steps. And if everybody could keep their remarks relatively brief, that would be very helpful.

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