Sanders Asks Republican Leaders ‘What Are You Afraid Of?’

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) joined Democratic senators on the Senate floor Monday evening to protest Republicans’ unprecedented, closed-door effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act. 

The House bill being considered by Senate Republicans would throw 23 million Americans off of health insurance, including tens of thousands of Vermonters, and substantially raise premiums for older workers. The measure would also provide more than $200 billion in tax breaks to the top 2 percent.

“Let me just start off by asking the president, asking the leader of the Republican party, ‘What are you afraid of?’ Health care constitutes one-sixth of the American economy. It impacts every man, woman, and child in our nation, and yet, we have 13 Republicans, all men, working behind closed doors to produce legislation which will be brought to the United States Senate at the last moment so the American people don't know the disaster that it is,” Sanders said.

In Vermont, the House-passed American Health Care Act would:

  • Shift an estimated $1.7 billion in Medicaid costs to Vermont over ten years just to maintain the same level of care.
  • Jeopardize the coverage of 209,500 Medicaid enrollees, including the 63,300 Vermonters who gained coverage through the Affordable Care Act Medicaid expansion.
  • Jeopardize the medical care of 49 percent of Vermont children and the 26 percent of Vermont seniors and people with disabilities who rely on Medicaid.
  • Result in a loss of 3,700 Vermont jobs by 2026. 

Should this legislation pass and become law, Vermont could be left with three choices: raise taxes to maintain the same level of care; cut funding for other essential government services like roads, education and economic development; or cut health benefits, enrollment, and reimbursement rates to healthcare providers.

“It should tell every American, whether you are a Democrat, a Republican, or an independent, whether you are conservative or progressive, it should tell you something that major, major legislation is being written at this moment, and most Republicans don't have a clue as to what's in that legislation, let alone Americans, let alone Democrats, let alone the average American,” Sanders said on the Senate floor Monday night. “So I say to the Republican leadership: what are you afraid of? Bring that bill out.”

The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions held 47 bipartisan hearings when the Affordable Care Act was considered, and the Senate Finance committee held 53 additional hearings, meetings, negotiations and walkthroughs. In contrast, not a single Senate hearing has been held on Republican legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

“The truth is this is not a ‘health care bill’. This is ‘a tax break for the rich and multinational corporations bill.’ This is a bill that would provide over $200 billion in tax breaks to the top 2 percent. This is a bill that would provide hundreds of billions of dollars in tax breaks for the drug companies and the insurance companies,” Sanders said.

“I think you're going to hear the American people stand up loudly and clearly, demand transparency, demand serious debate on an issue of this consequence. And I think, at the end of the day, this legislation will be defeated,” Sanders said.

To view video of Sanders’ floor remarks, click here

To download remarks, click here