Claire McCaskill

Executive Session - April 28, 2009

Claire McCaskill
April 28, 2009— U.S. Senate, Washington, DC
Congressional floor speech
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Mr. President, I rise this afternoon in support of an incredibly gifted public servant. I don't normally stand up and sing the praises of Kansas. I am not a huge fan of Kansas. I am a Missourian, and we have issues between Kansas and Missouri--usually between our basketball teams and our football teams.

During the last decade, I have had an opportunity to get to know Kathleen Sebelius as a person, as a mother, as a wife, as a Governor, and as a friend. I want my colleagues to know that they are voting to confirm an extraordinary individual who will do an excellent job as Secretary of Health and Human Services in the United States.

Kathleen Sebelius has shown courage and guts many times in her career. Frankly, running for Kansas's Governor as a Democrat shows guts and courage. We are talking about a State that is not warm and fuzzy about Democrats. We are talking about a State that is as red as Dorothy's ruby slippers. But she ran for Governor after she had served as commissioner of insurance in Kansas. So why was it that all these Republicans got excited about voting for Kathleen Sebelius? It was because she demonstrated, when she was commissioner of insurance in Kansas, that she was about fighting for them. It happened over an insurance company. Everyone needs to realize this is an experience she has had that relates directly to what we need right now as Secretary of Health and Human Services as we embark upon the most aggressive and ambitious health care reform agenda this country has ever faced.

When the largest health insurance company in Kansas wanted to sell--this was a mutual company owned by the policyholders of Kansas and covered 70 percent of Kansans--all Kathleen Sebelius, the insurance commissioner, had to do under the law was sign off on it and say no harm would be done. But she took a look at it and said, wait a minute, I don't think the test should be that no harm is going to be done. I want to know what this sale is going to do to make things better for Kansans. She took on a titan--a big, huge insurance company. That is what we need right now, someone willing to take on the calcified silos of profit in our health care system and blow them up in order to deliver a better product. She said: I want to make sure this sale is going to reflect a better environment for health insurance for the people of Kansas.

She fought them all the way to the Supreme Court of Kansas and eventually she won and was able to block the sale of this company. She said at the time that bigger is not always better, and unless they could show how this was going to be better for the people of Kansas, she would continue to fight them toe to toe. It was that kind of fighting spirit on behalf of regular people who don't have the tools to fight big insurance companies that uniquely qualifies her to be at the head of this important agency as we embark on the health care reform agenda.

Not only did she have the guts to run for Governor--she won, which was remarkable. Here is an even more remarkable part. She went to Topeka, the capital, and began working with the Republicans. As President Obama has said over and over again, she said: I want to work with you. And she did. She wrestled with a senate and a house that was dominated by the Republican party in Kansas and, at the end of 4 years, what did the people of Kansas do? Did they say they were sick of the gridlock and didn't want this liberal Kansas woman anymore from the Democratic party as Governor? Oh, no, they did not; they reelected her by a wide margin.

It is a remarkable thing, when you think about it, because this is a State that our former President won by 20, 30 points. Yet the people of Kansas realized they had a fighter. They looked past the party label to her courage, integrity, intelligence, and her willingness to go toe to toe with the big guys for them. I am proud she has been nominated. I know there have been some distortions about her record. I can assure my colleagues that she will make us all proud in this job. She will work with every one of us to try to find that common ground. She will leave no opinion behind as they consider the best way to move forward on this health care reform agenda.

I am pleased to be able to stand for a few minutes and tell everyone in America to celebrate today, because we are about to confirm a fighter--someone who will fight for you and deliver the kind of health care in America that we deserve, at a price we can afford.

I yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum.

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