Weekly Democratic Address
October 23, 2020
Aloha, I’m Senator Mazie Hirono, and I have the privilege of serving the people of Hawaii in the United States Senate.
These are not normal times.
All across the country, millions of our fellow Americans are sitting around their kitchen tables worried about the future.
Some of them have lost their jobs and are unable to purchase food for their families;
Others are struggling to make rent or pay their mortgage;
And too many are mourning a loved one – whose empty seat at the table is a painful reminder of the terrible human cost of COVID-19.
With the pandemic driving so much fear and uncertainty across our country, the Senate should be laser focused on providing meaningful relief that meets the urgency of the moment.
Instead, Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans are rushing to confirm a new Supreme Court Justice – a Justice they expect to be the decisive 5th vote to take away health care protections from millions of Americans in the middle of a pandemic.
This threat is not hypothetical. It’s immediate and very real.
On November 10th – a mere 18 days from today and a week after Election Day – the Trump administration and 18 Republican State Attorneys General will be at the Supreme Court urging it to strike down the Affordable Care Act.
After trying and failing to repeal the ACA at least 70 times in Congress and twice through the courts, Republicans aren’t taking any chances with this lawsuit.
It’s why the President waited only 3 days after the death of our champion, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, to offer Amy Coney Barrett a seat on the Court, keeping the promise to appoint a Justice who would strike down the ACA.
And it’s why Mitch McConnell is forcing her nomination through this rushed, illegitimate process.
Donald Trump and Senate Republicans know what they’re getting with Judge Barrett because she has made her opposition to the ACA very clear.
In 2012 – after Chief Justice Roberts upheld the ACA – Judge Barrett argued he ‘pushed the Affordable Care Act beyond its plausible meaning to save the statute.’ Obviously, if she had been on the Court she would have sided with her mentor, Justice Antonin Scalia, to strike down the ACA.
If confirmed, Judge Barrett would be a reliable vote for the growing conservative majority on the Court – one led for years by Justice Scalia.
In addition to signaling her views on the ACA, Judge Barrett said Justice Scalia’s judicial philosophy is hers at the White House super-spreader event announcing her nomination.
Faced with the overwhelming evidence that Judge Barrett would be a vote to strike down the ACA, Republicans tried to cover it up in the hopes that voters aren’t paying attention to their shell game.
Senator Chuck Grassley tried to argue there was no evidence Judge Barrett would strike down the ACA – conveniently ignoring her own words and Donald Trump’s promise.
Senator Lindsey Graham disingenuously argued that the Trump administration’s lawsuit was unlikely to succeed. But he knows full well that Judge Barrett’s own words indicate she would have struck down the ACA if she were on the Court in 2012.
And Senator Marsha Blackburn absurdly tried to argue Republicans were trying to protect Americans’ health care despite voting dozens of times to eliminate the ACA.
While Senate Republicans obscured their true intentions, Senate Democrats are focused on what’s at stake – the lives of people who will suffer dramatically if the ACA is struck down.
We displayed the photos and shared their stories of people across the country at the Committee hearing last week to show the real-world impact that Judge Barrett and Senate Republicans ignore.
That’s what Justice Ginsburg called on the Court to do – to consider the real-world impact of its decisions.
Striking down the ACA would have very real consequences for Jordan Ota, an elementary school teacher from Ewa Beach, Hawaii.
Jordan has PNH – a very rare blood condition. To treat it, she receives infusions of a medicine that costs around $500,000 per year without insurance. Her father Dean told me that “without this medicine, she will die.”
If the Supreme Court strikes down the ACA, Jordan’s insurance company could put a lifetime cap on benefits and leave her without coverage for her life-saving medicine.
Judge Barrett’s vote to strike down the ACA would also harm Powell Berger from Kailua.
Powell endured surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation to successfully treat her breast cancer in 2004. Concerned that her cancer might come back, like it had for so many others, Powell worried she would not be able get health care with her pre-existing condition.
Powell, who owns her own consulting business, told me that she cried watching President Obama sign the ACA into law, knowing it would guarantee her access to health care.
To her, this meant she had a chance to live long enough to see her children grow up.
Jordan, Powell, and the millions of Americans like her are why I’m fighting alongside Senate Democrats to oppose Amy Coney Barrett’s lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court.
On Monday, Senate Republicans will try to ram Judge Barrett’s confirmation through the Senate.
Apparently, they are so obsessed with getting rid of the ACA that they are willing to deprive millions of their health care and hope Americans aren’t watching.
Tens of millions of Americans are already voting – energized by what’s at stake. They won’t be intimidated into staying home.
We’ve all seen the news coverage of thousands of voters standing in line for hours on end in the cold and rain to make sure their voices are heard and their votes are counted.
Voters like Antionette Love from Milwaukee who said, “there’s too much tomfoolery going around, and to stand in line means something.”
Senate Democrats stand with Antionette and the millions like her who won’t be silenced.
Mahalo nui loa.