Rubio: Obamacare fight has 'really only just begun'
Sen. Marco Rubio, who has been quiet on the Obamacare front, ended that today -- the final day of the shutdown showdown -- with a floor speech that predicts the law will be "judged harshly by history."
He refers to the impasse as the "latest Washington manufactured crisis of the month," though critics (Democrats and Republicans) say that's what Rubio, Ted Cruz and Mike Lee helped create by pushing to defund Obamacare. Nonetheless, Rubio offers blistering criticism of the law and declares the fight is not over.
"It has really only just begun. For in the months to come, millions of Americans will begin to confront the costs and the consequences of this law.”
Full transcript below.
Senator Marco Rubio: “It now appears that at some point this evening, we will reach the end of the latest Washington manufactured crisis of the month. But unfortunately the real crisis facing our country remains. And that real crisis is the growing sense among our people that we are losing the American Dream.
“Why do people feel this way? Because more than 4 million Americans have been out of work for six months or more. Because millions more find themselves stuck with jobs that do not pay enough for them to live the way they used to. And while their paychecks aren’t growing, their bills are. Ask the young couples and the single parents how much they’re spending every month to provide child care for their children. Ask the students, the young Americans who are stuck with thousands of dollars in student loans that they’re now struggling to pay. This is the real crisis facing America. That our status as a land of opportunity seems to be eroding. And that so many of our political leaders seem oblivious to this.
“And now, as we emerge from this latest standoff, we have done nothing to address it. There were two issues at play in this showdown. The press coverage mixes them together, but they are two distinct and separate issues and they should be examined that way. It started with ObamaCare. A law that was sold to people as something that would help them get affordable health insurance. But that is not what it is going to be. We have all heard the news of what a fiasco the rollout of the exchanges has been. But as bad as the rollout of the exchanges and the website has been, we need to realize, that was supposed to be the easy part. The most difficult and disruptive parts of that law are yet to come.
“In the months to come, a new insurance fee – a new tax on hardworking Americans – will be added to insurance policies. People will be required to give up existing coverage that they are happy with if it doesn’t meet the standards created by ObamaCare. And if they don’t buy the insurance, they eventually will have to pay a tax that goes up to either $695 a year or 2.5% or your income. Employers with more than fifty full-time employees will be required to offer a certain type of coverage to their employees, so many of them are moving people to part-time work. And full-time is no longer defined as 40 hours, it’s now 30 hours, so many employers are moving employees to under 30 hours a week.
“Today, for many Americans ObamaCare is just a website that doesn’t work. But in the months to come, this law is going to hurt millions of people. It’s going to cost them hours at work and maybe even their job. It is going to cost them the insurance they have now and are happy with. It is going to force them to leave their existing doctors. And it is going to raise rates for people who buy insurance for themselves.
“What do we tell these that are being hurt by this law? To deal with it because it is the law of the land? Is it not our job to fight for them? Is it not our job to be their voice? To protect them from the harmful effects of this law? And that is why I continue to believe that we should not waste a single penny more of taxpayer money on this damaging law. One of the most important powers and responsibilities that we have as members of Congress is the power of the purse. It’s under our Constitution. It gives the Congress the power to decide what to spend money on and what not to spend money on from the taxpayer.
“I know of no one in my party who supported shutting down the government. On the contrary, we argued that we should fund the entire government except for one thing, ObamaCare. In fact the House of Representatives passed a law that did just that. But the Democrats took the position that either we fund ObamaCare or we fund nothing at all. They took the position that funding ObamaCare was more important than funding the government. They were willing to put our country through this government shutdown just to save their pet project. Within days of this showdown, by the way, a second issue was added to this, the federal debt limit. The press portrays the debt limit as simply a law that allows us to pay our bills. And therefore, they fall for the argument that failing to raise the debt limit equals a default on our debt. But the debt limit is a lot more than just simply permission to pay our bills.
“Every year our government is spending more money than it takes in, a lot more money than it takes in. And as the years go by, that annual deficit adds up to what we call the national debt. And it is growing at an alarming rate. The debt limit is a law that limits the amount of money the government can have as debt at any single time. But we depend on borrowed money to pay our bills. And so if we do not raise it again eventually, we will not have enough money to pay all of our bills. That should scare us. Reaching the debt limit is like when the bank calls on you to collect on the monthly mortgage payment. If you don’t pay them, your home is going to be taken away, your credit is going to be ruined and your ability to borrow money in the future is going to be hurt. But what if, because you don’t make enough money, the only way you can pay your mortgage is by using your credit card? You can’t keep doing that forever. And so when the bank calls, you pay the bill, but you also figure out what other expenses to cut so you don’t have to keep using your credit card to pay the mortgage. That is what real people in the real world would do. But that is not what we’re being asked to do here. They are asking us to just pay the bill and keep using the credit card. And let tomorrow worry about tomorrow. We can’t keep doing that forever. Because at some point, even the credit card is going to stop working.
“Yet that is what has happened here again. And so the debt will keep growing. And with each passing year, we will get closer to the day when we will face a real debt crisis. A real debt crisis, not one caused because the Congress can’t pass a bill, but one caused because no one will lend us money anymore. And that is how we arrived at the point we find ourselves at today. We have a President and a majority in this Senate that would rather face a default before seriously dealing with the debt. We have a President and a majority in this Senate that would rather shut down the government before they would shut down ObamaCare or even make any meaningful changes to it.
“Tonight the government will be reopened and the debt limit will be lifted, but our real problems are still here. And in the months and years to come, they are only going to get bigger and harder to solve. For those of us who realize this — who clearly understand that the direction we are headed threatens the American Dream and all the things that make our country special — this is the time to reflect on the way forward. Because if we do not figure out how to change course around here, if we do not figure out how to change this course our nation is on we will forever be known at the generation that ushered in America’s decline. History is not going to distinguish between Republicans and Democrats. It will judge us all harshly for our failure to act.
“To avoid this fate, we must once and for all begin to address the national debt. Not with accounting gimmicks, but with real and measureable steps. It doesn’t have to be solved in one sweeping measure. But we must begin the work of moving towards a sustainable level of spending. This will take time. Because we are still saddled by too many leaders unwilling to address the issue in meaningful way. So let’s do what we can while they’re still here. And at the same time, let’s work to replace these irresponsible leaders on the left with leaders who will finally step up and save our nation from the real debt crisis that awaits us.
“As for ObamaCare, it too will be judged harshly by history. And that is why I am personally so disappointed that we were not able to achieve any meaningful changes to it. But this fight is not over. It has really only just begun. For in the months to come, millions of Americans will begin to confront the costs and the consequences of this law. It will be the reason why they are now working part-time. It will be the reason why they lost the insurance they used to have. It will be the reason why they can’t see the doctor they have been seeing for all these years. It will be the reason why their insurance premiums have gone through the roof. We have been warning people about this for years. And we have done everything we can to keep this harm from reaching our people. But now, ObamaCare is going to start hurting real people, in real ways. And when it does, there is going to be a mad scramble in this town to fix it or get rid of it. This has happened before.
“In June of 1988, Congress passed a bill called the Medicare Catastrophic Coverage Act. It promised new medical benefits for the elderly, a cap on hospital and doctor’s bills, and it provided prescription medicine. But then the true costs of the program began to reach the American people. And as seniors began to learn the true cost of this new program, it fueled a revolt. At first, the politicians minimized it. They minimized the protests and refused to make any changes to it. But before long, the onslaught of calls and mail was so much, that it became impossible to ignore. Before long, Congress was in full retreat, and by 1989, it was fully replaced. For Obamacare, that day of reckoning is also coming.
“Over the last few months, I have been startled by the number of people who have told me they are ready to give up. They are ready to give up on the idea that we can make a difference. They are ready to give up on the idea that things will ever get better. But we cannot give up on America. And we cannot give up on the American Dream. We cannot give up, because where are we going to go? If this country declines, if we lose what makes it special, what is going to replace it? And so, no matter how long it takes. No matter how many disappointments lie ahead. We must never give up. And we must never accept that this way of life today is the new normal.
“As for those around the world who look at all these events of the last few days and believe that it’s evidence that our best days are behind us. You do not understand our people. Our politics does not define our country. We are a unique people. A collection of men and women with sharply different views. With different backgrounds and beliefs. We share a free society, and everyone has the right to express their views. To argue, and to battle, and to debate. Sometimes our differences bring us to points of great conflict, when the nation appears on the verge of being ripped apart at the seams.
“But yet, for over two hundred years we have been held together. Because while we are divided on many things, we are united by a powerful and timeless idea. The idea that every single person has the God-given right to determine the course of their own life. The God-given right to go as far as our talent and our work will take us. And so we argue about the best way to achieve that. And we have a tendency to put off difficult decisions until we absolutely have to make them. But we have faced greater tests before. We have not always rushed to meet the challenge, but in the end we have never failed to do so. And let there be no doubt, we will do so again.
“The day is coming, when our people will realize that the time has arrived once again to confront the challenges before us. The day is coming, when our people will do what must be done to keep the American Dream alive.
“I know it is hard to see right now, but we are one day closer to the moment when Americans will do what we have always done. We will confront and solve the challenges of our time. We will make any sacrifice and undertake any task to make sure that we leave for our children what the Americans of yesterday left for us: the single greatest nation in the history of the world.”