Schumer Floor Remarks on Graham-Cassidy Healthcare Bill

September 18, 2017

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor regarding the Graham-Cassidy healthcare bill. Below are his remarks:

Thank you Mr. President, and let me once again thank my friend and colleague from Florida.  There is no one, no one, who has defended his state more diligently, more assiduously, more effectively, than the senior Senator from Florida.  And I know the millions, close to 20 million people in Florida, are grateful, as are all of us. Thank you. 

Mr. President, we will vote today on final passage the NDAA. I’m pleased with the bipartisan manner in which the Senate worked on this important legislation. Senators McCain and Reed managed the bill with great skill, and I commend them for their bipartisan work on this important legislation.

Now, I’m going to use the rest of my address to address something that it is not so bipartisan.  It’s terribly partisan. And that is the issue of healthcare. I hope the American people listen closely.

After a few months of lying dormant, Trumpcare is back, and it’s meaner than ever. Trumpcare lives again under the name of Cassidy-Graham, and guess what, it’s another bill that would drastically cut back on healthcare funding for Americans who need it the most.

So my colleagues, my fellow Americans, this is a red-alert moment for the entire country. Our healthcare system again is threatened by a hastily constructed piece of legislation, put together in a backroom by only one party, no CBO score, no committee process, not a single public hearing. Everyone is totally in the dark about the effects of this bill, and yet there is an effort to rush it forward.    

This Frankenstein monster of a bill that would so harm so many Americans just keeps coming back and back and back. And somehow each time it’s managed to get worse.

Here’s what we know about what the new Trumpcare would do: it would roll back protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions; it would allow states to impose burdensome requirements as a condition on Medicaid coverage; it would defund Planned Parenthood stripping millions of women of their right to access affordable health care; and most crucially, the new Trumpcare would plunge a dagger deep into the heart of Medicaid, immediately ending Medicaid expansion and establishing a per-capita cap on Medicaid spending.

That jeopardizes coverage for 11 million Americans and puts at great risk the coverage and affordability of insurance for the 12 million who buy insurance on the marketplaces. It would take the money used for Medicaid expansion, Medicaid subsidies and block grant it to the states, imposing a massive cut on funding that helps so many Americans well into the middle class.

The term “block grants” may sound harmless, but in practice they are anything but. Right now, our healthcare system reimburses states for the costs of what their citizens actually need and use. Block grants are a fixed amount of money given to each state forcing the people who need healthcare to fight among each other as to who gets those dollars.  People with parents in nursing homes will fight with.those on opioid treatments, who will fight with those whose kids have pre-existing conditions, who will fight with those who simply need to go see a doctor.  They’ll all be pitted against on another in a heartless scheme, a heartless scheme that will hurt so many. Block grants are a not-so-clever way of disguising a massive, massive cut to health care.

Cutting back care, raising premiums, hurting millions and millions of average Americans. And that’s the case with this new Trumpcare. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities took a look at the new Trumpcare and found that the block grants in the bill would deprive states of hundreds of millions and sometimes billions of dollars.

I’m going to mention a few states here.  My colleagues should know the effect of the bill, they don’t.  CBO has told us that they cannot give us a full score, but simply note whether it meets the budget reconciliation.  It’ll say, ‘it’ll cut a billion dollars.” That’s all it will say. We won’t know how many citizens are hurt.  But Center for Budget and Policy Priorities whose numbers are very, very reliable has done a calculation.  I would ask my colleagues to pay attention. I’ve just picked out some states; there are more.  Arizona would lose $1.6 billion in federal funding; Alaska would lose $255 million in federal funding; Maine would lose $115 million in federal funding; West Virginia would lose $554 million in federal funding; Colorado would lose $823 million in federal funding; Ohio, a state most wracked by the opioid epidemic, would lose over $2.5 billion in health care funding; and Iowa would lose $525 million in federal funding.

These are devastating numbers. And my colleagues, if you don’t believe the accuracy of these numbers, then have the courage and decency to wait for a CBO score. Wait for a CBO score. To go pass this legislation before CBO measures out the effect on your state, would be legislative malpractice of the highest.  These numbers, we believe are accurate. They come from a group who has had years of expertise and accurately predicted healthcare effects.  Devastating cuts to so many in so many states.  If you don’t believe these numbers, then show us what yours are.  Wait for CBO, the impartial arbiter, and see what they have to say.

The numbers are devastating. They represent millions of Americans, especially middle-income and low-income, who will receive poorer healthcare face higher costs, or both. Who do they represent? You’re an American family, a nice middle class family, making a good income. You have a parent in a nursing home? It’s likely to be paid for by Medicaid.  That parent is at risk, if this Graham-Cassidy bill passes.  You have a young son or daughter, afflicted by opioids? The treatment they receive would also be at risk if this bill passes.  You give birth to a child with a pre-existing condition, who desperately needs help.  We’ve met so many of these families, every one of us.  That child’s life, in many cases, could be at risk if this bill passes. This is the poorest way of legislating that I’ve seen in all my years here.  To try and rush this bill through: no hearings, no CBO score, no knowledge of how it actually affects your constituents.  How can we do that?

Already some Republican Governors have spoken out against this legislation: Governor Kasich Governor Baker. Sixteen patient and provider groups have come out against this new Trumpcare: including the American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association. The ratings agency Fitch said that Cassidy-Graham would be even “more disruptive” than all the other ACA repeal bills, all the others. And the American people have rejected Trumpcare repeatedly. It’s number in the polls are below 20%.  Hardcore supporters of Donald Trump don’t want us to pass this bill.  Only one in five Americans wants us to pass this bill.  Nobody, hardly anybody.  We’re going to go do it? For a political scalp? We can’t. 

So, I know there are some on the other side of the aisle who say they can work it out so that each state wouldn’t be hurt as badly as under the current draft of the bill. These bad, bad numbers.  That they can "tweak the formula" for one state or another that would make the cuts less devastating. First, they’re never going to come up with that kind of money.  I heard one Governor was told by a Senator, ‘Don’t worry about the big cuts to your state, we’ll make it up with Disproportionate Share Payments, Uncompensated Care.’ It’s impossible, it’s impossible. The amount of money in the DSH program is so much less than the amount of these cuts, we couldn’t even come close.  That’s what’s being thrown around here.  Lots of different surmises.  ‘Maybe we’ll do this? Maybe we’ll do that?’ Playing with people’s lives here; that is so wrong.  States will end up facing a hard cut, most of the states of the union, many states represented by my colleagues on the other side of the aisle who voted for the previous bills.  We shouldn’t do it on substance, but we also shouldn’t do it on the basis of regular order. 

To have such a major bill that affects so many people be rushed through at the last moment in the dark of night, no discussion, no analysis, no real knowledge of how it affects each of our states.  It’s legislative malpractice of the highest order. If the founding fathers were looking at this chamber now and watching, they’d be turning over in their graves.  An America founded on debate and discussion and sunlight is veering off that in a really nasty way. 

There is no regular order here. There are no bipartisan, public hearings on the Graham-Cassidy bill. The HELP and Finance Committees are not debating this legislation and offering amendments. Again, it’s the same backroom, one-party sham of a legislative process that ultimately brought the other bill down. A contrived, 11th hour hearing on block grants in the Homeland Security Committee – a committee with such limited jurisdiction over healthcare matters – does not even come close to suggesting regular order.

And Madame President, in conclusion, I think many of us on both sides of the aisle thought there was a ray of light the last few weeks.  The partisanship that had governed this place for the last few months seemed to be breaking.  I had good meetings in the White House, hope of working together. Senators Alexander and Murray began talking about how we move forward. I was joyful that maybe the partisanship could end and we could work together and the majority leader and I were getting along very well.  This bill, if done this way, and passed would dash those hopes.  Senator Alexander, Senator Murray have had hearings, they’ve had discussion.  They’re negotiating it this moment.  And what they come up with will have some things I don’t like and some things people on the other side of the aisle don’t like that’s the legislative process.  It’s not to rush a bill through in the dark of night without even knowledge of how it affects people, because now CBO has said they cannot measure how many people would lose coverage and how people would be affected until a few weeks because this is a block grant, it takes a long time to weigh it. 

So after two weeks of thinking bipartisanship, that flickering candle might gain some new light, this is the last thing we need. Let’s not go back to the same divisive, destructive healthcare process that paralyzed the Senate for much of this year. Let the leader and I encourage our members to talk to one another and come up with bipartisan solutions, not just on this bill, but on bills to come. Let’s pursue the bipartisan path courageously hewn by Senators Alexander and Murray.

In conclusion, I’d ask every American who hears these words, who longs for us to work together, to call your Senators and Congressmembers and let them know. Tell them that this bill is even worse than the previous bill. Tell them that it hurts average families.  Tell them there’s a better way. The same level of activism that we saw on the previous bills must be garnered now, or this will just slide through in the dark of night, the effects desperate, devastating and unknown.

Democrats in the Senate we have no choice, our constituencies, our consciences compel us, we will oppose the Cassidy-Graham bill in every way that we can, using every tool at our disposal. We ask the American people to once again speak out and make their voices heard. The hour is late, the need is desperate.