Health Care Reform

Sen. Nelson Statement on Health Care Deal, December 19, 2009

Washington, D.C.–(ENEWSPF)–December 19, 2009.  Nebraska’s Senator Ben Nelson made the following remarks at a press conference this morning announcing his support for the Senate health care bill, which will reduce costs, expand access, and improve health care for all Nebraskans:

“Change is never easy…but change is what is needed in America today.  And that is why I intend to vote for cloture… and vote for health care reform.

On the floor of the Senate, in town hall meetings throughout our states, and in one-on-one meetings with our constituents, we have all heard heart wrenching stories of people who are left behind, or forced into bankruptcy, or caught in the grip of a health care system that just doesn’t work as well as it should.

While each of my colleagues may differ on how to fix the system, I know of no member who suggests the current system is satisfactory; I know of no member who doesn’t think we need to change our health care system.  Where we differ—and I say so with great respect to all my colleagues—is in the way we fix our health care system.

I believe in the free marketplace as the foundation of our economy and as the primary force that should drive our health care system. That is why I opposed the public option and yet supported the market exchanges.  I truly believe that a competitive health care system will lower costs and provide better health care for the American people.

Having said that, I also recognize the legitimate role of government, and the need for governmental regulation…to address the shortcomings of the free market system and the need to reach out and help those who need a helping hand.  That is why I support the very significant insurance reforms that are a part of this bill and the subsidies provided to lower-income Americans so they to will have access to affordable and quality health care.

This legislation is good for our country and good for Nebraska.

I would like to touch on the issue of abortion.  As you know, I have strongly held views on the subject and I have fought hard to prevent tax dollars from being used to subsidize abortions.  I believe we have accomplished that goal.  I have also fought hard to protect the right of states to regulate the kind of insurance that is offered, and to provide health insurance options in every state that do not provide coverage for abortion.

I know this is hard for some of my colleagues to accept.  And I appreciate their right to disagree.  But I would not have voted for this bill without these provisions.

I would like to acknowledge the administration.  Perhaps most remarkable of all has been the leadership of our Majority Leader, Senator Reid.  To craft this landmark legislation, shepherd it through the legislative process, deal with the many competing interests associated with this legislation, and acquire the necessary votes to end the filibuster is an accomplishment of historic proportions.

I truly believe this legislation will stand the test of time and will be noted as one of the major reforms of the 21st century; much like social security, Medicare, and civil rights legislation were milestones of the 20th century.  Because of Senator Reid’s dedication and hard work, the lives of tens of millions of Americans will be improved, lives will be saved, and our health care system will once again reflect the better nature of our country.

I would like to take a moment to talk about something that will likely fall on deaf ears.  The debate about health care has been passionate, and I believe good for our country.  From the far right to the extreme left, the American people have voiced their opinion.  That is good; that is part of our democracy.

What has been disheartening about this debate are the reckless and ludicrous claims that have been hurled at one another–from both sides–in the heat of the debate.  Opponents of this legislation are not less patriotic or insensitive to the health care crisis we face in America.  Supporters would not be standing here today if for a moment they thought this legislation would cause harm to the American people.

Yet if you turn on the television or read some of the statements coming from both sides of this debate you would think otherwise.  The quality of this debate has not always measured up to the quality of the American people.  We can do better.

There is still much work to be done before this legislation becomes reality.  In the weeks ahead I look forward to working my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to make it an even better bill.

Less as a threat, and more of a promise – let me be clear.  This cloture vote is based on a full understanding that there will be a limited conference between the Senate and House.  If there are material changes in the conference report to this bill that adversely affect this agreement, I reserve the right to vote against the next cloture vote.  Let me repeat: if the conference report has material changes to this agreement, I am reserving the right to vote against cloture.

Change is sometimes hard.  Certainly the passage of this legislation has been a struggle.  Yet when all is said and done and health care reform has become a reality, I am convinced we will look back at this moment in American history and proudly take note that it was worth the effort.”