Mr. Speaker and my colleagues, I rise tonight with a sad and heavy heart. Today, we should be standing together, reflecting on a year of bipartisanship, and working to answer our country’s call and their challenge to address the rising costs of health insurance in our country.
Today, this body, this institution, enshrined in the first article of the Constitution by our Founding Fathers as a sign of the importance they placed on this House, should be looking with pride on this legislation and our work. But it is not so.
No, today we’re standing here looking at a health care bill that no one in this body believes is satisfactory.
Today we stand here amidst the wreckage of what was once the respect and honor that this House was held in by our fellow citizens. And we all know why it is so.
We have failed to listen to America.
And we have failed to reflect the will of our constituents.
And when we fail to reflect that will—we fail ourselves and we fail our country.
Look at this bill. Ask yourself: do you really believe that if you like the health plan that you have, that you can keep it?
No, you can’t.
In this economy, with this unemployment, with our desperate need for jobs and economic growth, is this really the time to raise taxes, to create bureaucracies, and burden every job creator in our land?
The answer is no.
Can you go home and tell your senior citizens that these cuts in Medicare will not limit their access to doctors or further weaken the program instead of strengthening it?
No, you cannot.
Can you go home and tell your constituents with confidence that this bill respects the sanctity of all human life, and that it won’t allow for taxpayer funding of abortion for the first time in 30 years?
No, you cannot.
And look at how this bill was written.
Can you say it was done openly, with transparency and accountability? Without backroom deals, and struck behind closed doors, hidden from the people?
Hell no, you can’t!
Have you read the bill? Have you read the reconciliation bill? Have you read the manager’s amendment?
Hell no, you haven’t!
Mr. Speaker, in a few minutes, we will cast some of the most consequential votes that any of us will ever cast in this chamber.
The decision we make will affect every man, woman and child in this nation for generations to come.
If we’re going to vote to defy the will of the American people, then we ought to have the courage to stand before them and announce our votes, one at a time.
I sent a letter to the Speaker this week asking that the ‘call of the roll’ be ordered for this vote.
Madame Speaker, I ask you. Will you, in the interest of this institution, grant my request?
Will you, Mr. Speaker, grant my request that we have a call of the roll?
Mr. Speaker, will you grant my request that we have a call of the roll?
My colleagues, this is the People’s House.
When we came here, we each swore an oath to uphold and abide by the Constitution as representatives of the people.
But the process here is broken. The institution is broken.
And as a result, this bill is not what the American people need, nor what our constituents want.
Americans are out there are making sacrifices and struggling to build a better future for their kids.
And over the last year as the damn-the-torpedoes outline of this legislation became more clear, millions lifted their voices, and many for the first time, asking us to slow down, not try to cram through more than the system could handle.
Not to spend money that we didn’t have.
In this time of recession, they wanted us to focus on jobs, not more spending, not more government, certainly not more taxes.
But what they see today frightens them.
They’re frightened because they don’t know what comes next.
They’re disgusted, because they see one political party closing out the other from what should be a national solution.
And they are angry. They are angry that no matter how they engage in this debate, this body moves forward against their will. Shame on us.
Shame on this body.
Shame on each and every one of you who substitutes your will and your desires above those of your fellow countrymen.
Around this chamber, looking upon us are the lawgivers—from Moses, to Gaius, to Blackstone, to Thomas Jefferson.
By our actions today, we disgrace their values.
We break the ties of history in this chamber. We break our trust with Americans.
When I handed the Speaker the gavel in 2007, I said: “this is the people’s House—and the moment a majority forgets this, it starts writing itself a ticket to minority status.”
If we pass this bill, there will be no turning back. It will be the last straw for the American people.
And In a democracy, you can only ignore the will of the people for so long and get away with it.
And if we defy the will of our fellow citizens and pass this bill, we are going to be held to account by those who have placed us in their trust. We will have shattered those bonds of trust.
I beg you. I beg each and every one of you on both sides of the aisle:
Do not further strike at the heart of this country and this institution with arrogance, for surely you will not strike with impunity.
I ask each of you to vow never to let this happen again—this process, this defiance of our citizens.
It is not too late to begin to restore the bonds of trust with our Nation and return comity to this institution.
And so, join me.
Join me in voting against this bill, so that we may come together anew, and address this challenge of health care in a manner that brings credit to this body, and brings credit to the ideals of this nation, and most importantly, it reflects the will our people.