WASHINGTON — A longtime U.S. Senate tradition is for junior lawmakers of the party in power to preside over the chamber’s floor debate. As a first-term Republican, Georgia’s David Perdue has spent his share of time in the Senate president’s chair over the last two years, watching over what are often mundane speeches.
Perdue was on the late shift Monday night as Democrat after Democrat took to the floor in a last-ditch effort to defend Obamacare and trash the GOP’s uncertain repeal plans. Their comments incensed the typically measured Perdue, who has positioned himself as an unwavering supporter of the Trump White House and its agenda. After he wrapped up his official duties around 11 p.m., Perdue clipped a microphone to his lapel for an impromptu, uncharacteristically searing speech in which he laid into Democrats for being hypocritical when it comes to looking out for the poor.
“They want a big government solution that gives them more power,” he said. “They could care less about the very poor people they claim to champion, Mr. President, and I’ve had enough of it.”
Perdue’s contention was that Obamacare’s individual mandate, which requires everyone to buy health insurance and tasks the IRS with taxing the people who don’t, has led the government to collect billions in fines, much of it from the nation’s poorest people. He said Democrats’ policies have led to 300,000 poor Georgians not being able to afford insurance.
“That’s taking care of your brethren, alright,” Perdue said sarcastically. “I’m embarrassed.”
Georgia chose not to expand Medicaid under Obamacare, arguing that enlarging the state’s rolls would be too costly in the long run. Democrats contend the individual mandate is needed to keep premiums lower for the country’s sickest patients, many of whom were denied coverage or previously priced out of insurance.
Perdue was dismissive of Democrats’ overtures for the two parties to work together to repair Obamacare, arguing they were “seven years too late.” He said growing calls on the left for a single payer health care system wouldn’t be effective, citing President Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” and “War on Poverty” programs, which also included a substantial role for the federal government.
Perdue also had strong words for Congress’ non-partisan budget scorekeeper, which has estimated that tens of millions of Americans would lose their health insurance under the various GOP repeal proposals. He echoed the recent White House argument that the Congressional Budget Office overestimated the number of Americans who would enroll in Obamacare.
“This isn’t a rounding error,” Perdue said. “They don’t know what they’re doing.”
PolitiFact previously rated similar comments from the White House as “half true.”
Here’s the speech: