A very important opportunity was missed in the Senate last Wednesday. Throughout the week, the Senate Finance Committee debated and deliberated over amendments to a health care proposal that, if passed, will have a profound impact on the lives of every American. At stake was something many of you have told me in recent months is absolutely necessary: transparency and accountability of Congress to the American people. An amendment offered by Senator Jim Bunning of Kentucky would have taken us toward that goal, but unfortunately this amendment was defeated in the Finance Committee.
Specifically, the amendment would have required the actual legislative text and a final cost analysis from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) be posted on the Finance Committee's website for 72 hours prior to the Committee voting on final passage of the overall health care legislation. This provision should've been a bipartisan effort to reassure the American people that Congress is doing the work they sent us here to do, transparently and deliberately. Nebraskans and indeed all Americans deserve this information, but it was roundly rejected by the majority of Senate Democrats on the Finance Committee. I do not understand what justification there would be for refusing to allow the language of what is likely to be more than 1,000 pages of legislation to be reviewed for three days before calling a vote.
Republicans and Democrats agree on the need to fix the broken pieces of our health care system. Yet it is equally important to get it right. Our health care expenses make up one-sixth of our entire economy. Whatever legislation emerges from the Finance Committee, and from the Senate, will entail drastic changes for all of us. Families, businesses, hospitals, doctors and nurses, the Medicare and Medicaid programs, and indeed our economy as a whole will all be affected. I don't say this to invoke fear, it is simply a fact. If we are going to change the lives of so many, so significantly, shouldn't we be darn certain we're doing it right?
This is why I don't understand the opposition to this amendment. I had the pleasure of visiting with so many Nebraskans throughout the state in August, and these were the most common requests I heard: read the bill; take the time to deliberate; use sound judgment. The Bunning amendment gave us the opportunity to do just that.
In the coming days and weeks there will be many additions and alterations before any health care legislation is ready for a vote on the Senate floor. I will continue to be vigilant and make my concerns known if we continue on the wrong course.