In opening remarks, GOP warns reconciliation 'not appropriate'
Striking a more aggressive tone than the cordial President Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) wasted little time at the bipartisan health summit before rebuking Republicans for their allegedly dishonest approach to the debate.
Speaking soon after the Republican opening remarks from Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Reid forcefully attacked the claim that Republican ideas have been ignored and Democrats have worked toward "jamming through [the bill] on a partisan vote."
"You're entitled to your opinions, but not your own facts," Reid said, mentioning Alexander by name. "Your opinion is something that is yours and you're entitled to that, but not your own facts."
The Senate leader noted that his party has made various concessions to GOP health care demands, only to be continually rebuffed at every turn. He pointedly blamed Republicans for playing fast and loose with the truth.
"The bill on the floor that my friend Lamar is lamenting here has significant input from the Republicans," he said. "So let's look at the facts a little bit more, because they can be stubborn, you know.
In another sign that Democrats are likely to use the budget reconciliation process to bypass the 60-vote cloture motion and approve the bill with a 51-vote majority, Reid also ripped Republicans for behaving as though reconciliation "has never been done before."
"Remember," Reid responded, "since 1981 reconciliation has been used 21 times; most of it's been used by Republicans," he said, referring to the GOP's use of the procedure in the 2000s to pass tax cuts for the rich and Medicare reform.
Alexander warned Democrats against invoking the "little used process called reconciliation" and claimed that if it happens, "the only thing bipartisan will be the opposition to the bill." He added that it's "not appropriate to use to write the rules for 17 percent of the economy."
"Again, Lamar, you're entitled to your opinions but not your own facts," Reid said. "It's as if there's a different mindset, a different set of facts than the reality."
Reid referenced a recent Harvard University study that found roughly 45,000 Americans die each year for lack of health insurance, as well as the rising level of medical bankruptcies across the nation, in stressing the need for comprehensive reform.
"Our Republican friends oppose our legislation," he said. "And that is your right. But also, it becomes your responsibility to propose ideas for making it better. So if you have a better plan for making health insurance more affordable, let's hear it."
Alexander assured Obama and his Democratic colleagues that Republicans "want you to succeed" but plainly will not support the legislation that was approved by the Senate in December.