Today I Issued a Challenge to President Trump

Will he work with us on a bipartisan solution to health care?

Well, Mr. President, yesterday afternoon, my friend the Republican Leader announced that the Majority would delay the vote on the Motion to Proceed to this particular Senate Republican healthcare bill.

We Democrats take no solace in that fact. Unfortunately, the Majority seems intent on continuing their efforts to pass this healthcare bill. Over the next few days and weeks, I expect to see buyouts and bailouts, backroom deals and kickbacks to individual Senators to try and buy their vote. What I don’t expect to see, yet, is a dramatic rethink of the core of the Republican healthcare bill. But I’m hopeful we can get to that point.

So far, every single version of the Republican Trumpcare bill, in the House and the Senate, has the same basic core to it. The details have changed a bit around the edges, but the core has remained the same in each and every version: slash Medicaid to the bone in order to give a massive tax break to a very small number of wealthy Americans. Cut support for Americans in nursing homes, those suffering from opioid addiction, and those with a pre-existing condition to pay for a tax break for the wealthiest few. The basic premise of every Republican healthcare bill so far is to cut back on healthcare for Americans who need it the most in order to give a tax break to the people who need it the least.

There’s just no moral calculus to justify it; it doesn’t fix any of the problems in our current healthcare system, like high premiums, high deductibles, counties where there are not enough insurance options, and it’s not what the American people are for. The American people are not for tax breaks to the wealthiest of Americans nor are they for cutting Medicaid.

A USA Today poll this morning showed only 12% of Americans support this bill. At a level of 12%, even huge numbers of Trump supporters are opposed to this bill. The level of popular support is not going to change one bit with a tweak that wins over this senator or that. A bill with this twisted idea at its core will fail, time and time again. That’s why the vote had to be pulled yesterday. You can be sure if it was popular with the American people it wouldn’t have had to be pulled.

So, I’d make my friends on the Republican side and President Trump an offer: let’s turn over a new leaf. Let’s start over.

Let’s abandon more tax breaks for the rich; let’s abandon cuts to Medicaid; and discuss what the American people are really concerned about: premiums, deductibles, the costs and quality of healthcare.

President Obama invited both parties, Democrats and Republicans, to Blair House to discuss healthcare reform in front of the American people early in his first term as President.

President Trump, I challenge you to invite us — all 100 of us, Republican and Democrat — to Blair House to discuss a NEW bipartisan way forward on healthcare in front of all the American people.

It would focus about what you Mr. President have talked about in your campaign: lower costs, better healthcare, “covering everybody” — not on tax cuts for the rich, not on slashing Medicaid. President Trump, you said you wouldn’t cut Medicaid. We don’t want to either.

We Democrats are genuinely interested in finding a place where our two parties can come together on healthcare.

We want to bring down premiums too. We want to bring down deductibles too. We want to stabilize the marketplace. We want to control the outrageous costs of prescription drugs, another thing the President talked about in his campaign. There is plenty of common ground for us to come together around.

We believe our healthcare system has made important progress over the past eight years, but it still needs to be improved, in many ways. We admit that the Affordable Care Act isn’t perfect — there are ways we can improve on that law and on our entire health care system. So let’s talk together about how we can achieve that in a bipartisan way.

If my Republican friends abandon cuts to Medicaid, highly unpopular with the American people, abandon tax breaks for the wealthiest few, highly unpopular with the American people, we Democrats are more than willing to meet with them and the White House to talk about how to improve healthcare for the American people. How to lower deductibles. How to provide better healthcare for more people at a lower cost.

Sen. Schumer holds a photo of his constituent Melba —who has Cerebral Palsy and is a Medicaid recipient - outside the US Capitol

Because that’s who we Democrats are fighting for, the average American family, not the wealthy few.

Today, we can turn over a new leaf and discuss healthcare legislation the way our founders intended our government to discuss legislation, as a true debate between all of our country’s representatives.

Now yesterday, the Majority Leader reminded Republican Senators that if they failed on their partisan healthcare bill, they’d have to negotiate with me, the Minority Leader, and by implication, our Democratic colleges. When did the prospect of bipartisanship become a cudgel, instead of an opportunity? When did bipartisanship become a threat?

That’s not how Congress is supposed to work. Negotiating with the Minority to seek compromise should be the first option, not the last resort.

Let’s start over, and get back to legislating in a way deserving of the grand tradition of the Senate as the world’s greatest deliberative body.

Providing for affordable and quality healthcare is an issue we should grapple with — all of us, all of us together. It’s one of the most important things we can do for our country. We can do it but only if we do it together and put the partisan ideology aside.

So I’d challenge the President: invite us all to Blair House. Let’s see what we can come up with. Let’s try.

We Democrats have, on several different occasions, sent letters to our Republican colleagues asking for bipartisan talks on healthcare. So far we’ve been rebuffed. Now with the demise of this bill yesterday, its inability to get enough votes to proceed, we have an opportunity to go back to the drawing board.

We are willing to debate and compromise on healthcare, but we have to be included, and it has to be a discussion on how to actually improve our healthcare system for the American people — not slash Medicaid to pay for tax cuts for the wealthy.

We can meet and we can try, or the Republicans can stick to the same partisan approach on healthcare, which so hurts working families and so benefits millionaires.

President Trump, my Republican friends: the choice is yours.