Last night, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) delivered an hour-long speech on the Senate floor condemning the Democratic health care reform bill and accusing Democrats of displaying “the arrogance of power” in trying to pass health reform before the holiday recess. Hatch predicted that if Republicans had 60 votes and control of all three branches of government, they would “get this country under control”:
This will become one more example of the arrogance of power being exerted since the Democrats secured a 60-vote majority in the United States Senate and took over the House and the White House. I dream some day of having the Republicans have 60 votes. I’ll tell you one thing, I think we would finally have the total responsibility to get this country under control and I believe we would. But we never come close to that. There are essentially no checks and balances found in Washington today just an arrogance of power with one party ramming through unpopular and devastating proposals on after the other.
Republicans controlled for years — but their agenda of tax cuts for the super rich did little to “get this country under control,” so to speak. Throughout the Bush administration, “the median household income declined, poverty increased, childhood poverty increased even more, and the number of Americans without health insurance spiked.”
Republicans ignored the health care crisis. Throughout the years of Republican dominance, the rate of uninsurance grew and employer-sponsored insurance continued to erode. “When Clinton left office, the number of uninsured Americans stood at 38.4 million. By the time Bush left office that number had grown to just over 46.3 million, an increase of nearly 8 million or 20.6 per cent.” Between 2001 and 2005 — when Republicans had majorities in both chambers of Congress — the number of uninsured employees grew by 3.4 million and employer-sponsored health insurance premiums grew by no less than nine percent each year, while wages only grew between 2.2% and 4.0% each year. (In fact, the share of Americans who received health insurance through their employer declined every year of his presidency.)
In fact, during a recent exchange on CNBC, Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) asked Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) why Republicans didn’t address the health care crisis during their years in power. “I will have a moment of bipartisan agreement,” Ryan said. “We should have fixed this under our watch and I’m frustrated we didn’t.”
Cross-posted on The Wonk Room.