Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Sen. Mazie Hirono: Hawai’i Heroine Once Again Defends Access to Health Care

The Republicans in the Senate are once again pushing a bill to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act (ACA), colloquially known as “Obamacare,” and to destroy access to health care for 30 million or more American through devastating cuts in the Medicaid program. And once again, as she did last July, Senator Mazie Hirono (D-Hawai’i), despite her own ongoing battle with cancer (most recently she had a rib removed and a titanium rod inserted to replace it), is once again leading the fight on the U.S. Senate floor.

Here is a transcript of Sen. Hirono's appearance on the Rachel Maddow Show on MS-NBC September 18. I couldn’t agree with Sen. Hirono more, especially when she says that -- despite the perpetual whining of my alt-Left friends that “there’s really no difference” between the Republican and the Democratic parties -- the two major parties have a basic, fundamental philosophical difference on this issue. Democrats regard health care as a human right; Republicans regard it as a commodity that you should only have access to if you can afford it.

To watch Sen. Hirono’s amazing interview, log on to 

Senator Mazie Hirono: Rachel Maddow Show, MS-NBC, September 18, 2017:

[On the Senate Floor:] When I was diagnosed with kidney cancer and facing my first surgery, I heard from so many of my colleagues, including so many of my colleagues from the other side of the aisle, who wrote me wonderful notes, sharing with me their own experience with major illness in their families or with their loved ones. You showed me your care. You showed me your compassion. Where is that tonight?

Interview with Rachel Maddow on MS-NBC:

Maddow: Joining us now is Senator Mazie Hirono of Hawai’i, who was on the Senate floor earlier tonight, one of the Democratic Senators speaking out against this latest effort to kill the ACA (Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare”). Senator Hirono, I really appreciate your time tonight. Thank you for being here.

Hirono: Aloha, Rachel. Good to be with you.

Maddow: I feel a little bit rude, talking about your personal health situation in introducing you here, but I did feel like I wanted to let people know the kind of personal hardship you’ve gone through to try to participate in and lead this fight. I’m sorry if that was rude, and —

Hirono: Not at all, Rachel.

Maddow: Well, how are you feeling right now, and how is your health?

Hirono: I’m feeling fine, but I’m not out of the woods. You know, the good thing is I have health care coverage, which millions of people in our country do not have and which, by the way, the Republicans are hell bent on getting rid of health care for even millions more people in our country.

So there’s a difference between Republicans and Democrats. Democrats believe that health care is a right, not a privilege only for those who can afford it. Obviously, Republicans consider health care a commodity. It’s like they think we should go out and buy health care the way we buy a car or a TV. It’s not like that at all.

So this obsession they have to eliminate health care for millions of people in our country, knowing the harm they are doing, is something that I find really inexplicable, except that they consider it a commodity, not a right.

Maddow: In terms of their prospects of doing this, obviously we have had a ton of drama that ended in the middle of the night, with Senator [John] McCain voting no and their last effort falling apart.

Hirono: Yes.

Maddow: What do you make of their chances of actually getting this done? We know the time line has to be incredibly compressed if the — if they need to get this done by the end of the month, which is what the Senate parliamentarian says they need.

Hirono: I don’t think that [Senate majority leader] Mitch McConnell will bring this bill to the floor and have health care, getting rid of the Affordable Care Act, fail once again. I don’t think that’s what he wants to do. So what he’s going to do is twist as many arms as he can to convince the Republicans, mainly, to go along with him.

The Democrats will stick together. We have to. We have done so, and my hope is that Lisa Murkowski [R-Alaska] and Susan Collins [R-Maine] will continue to hold fast and not hurt the people in their districts — in their states — who are relying upon them.

Maddow: Senator Hirono, I know one of the other things that you bring to this fight is your own family’s story.

Hirono: Yes.

Maddow: In terms of your own personal health care history as a child, your family’s, your upbringing. Can you talk a little bit about what motivates you on this subject, and what you think might be at risk?

Hirono: I am an immigrant, so I came to this country with a single parent, my mother, who left an abusive marriage to create a better life for us in this country. And so growing up, she had really low-paying jobs, no health care coverage, and literally I was really scared that she, the breadwinner of our family, would get sick. And if she got sick, then there would be no money because she wouldn’t be able to go to work.

That is very real to me, and of course as I mentioned, my sister in Japan died because, I believe, she didn’t have access to adequate health care. So this is real to me, and I happen to know that these are concerns or challenges that people in our country face every single day.

And you know, Rachel, that evening’s speech, which I wasn’t intending to speak because I had already spoken many times on the floor, at rallies, at press conferences, about the danger of eliminating health care. But that — those remarks of mine have been viewed more than three million times in this country.

And what that said is that so many people connected to what I’m going through and to what — which is what they’re going through. And so people come up to me now and tell me they have cancer. They’re cancer survivors, and so I think it’s really important for people in our country to know that there are those of us who are just fighting for them every single day.

Maddow: Senator Mazie Hirono of Hawai’i, thank you very much for being with us.

Hirono: Thank you. Aloha.

Maddow: Aloha. I appreciate it. I will say what Senator Hirono was saying there, about how much people care about this issue and how much people have at stake. We don’t really know at this point what the prospects are that the Republicans are going to be able to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Under these parliamentary rulings, they do have to do it fast if they’re going to do it. The vote count right now on the Republican side is absolutely not clear. Once again, if they lose three Republican Senators, it will be over.

But I think if this thing starts to be seen as a real prospect, you’re going to see people out in the streets and demonstrating in arms to try to save the ACA again, just as quickly as you saw it the last time it was at risk in this country. Nothing motivates people more than the prospect of losing their health care. All right. We’ll be right back.