Franken: GOP’s $2.5 trillion price tag on healthcare ‘simply made up’

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) said on Wednesday that Republican claims that the Senate healthcare reform bill will cost $2.5 trillion “are simply made up.”

During a speech on the Senate floor on Wednesday, Franken accused Republican senators of confusing people on what is in the Democrats’ healthcare bill.

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Franken said, “[People] wouldn’t be so confused if everyone was being honest and forthright about what’s in the bill.”

He added, “I have heard a lot of misinformation over the last several weeks, some on the airwaves and unfortunately some right here on the floor. Very early on Monday morning, I heard a colleague on the floor say that this bill is going to add $2.5 trillion to our deficit. That’s simply made up.”

Franken, citing Congressional Budget Office (CBO) numbers, said “the bill reduces the debt by $132 billion in the next 10 years” and would lower the debt five times that amount the following decade.

“If we’re talking on the floor, you can’t just say this bill will add to $2.5 trillion to the debt when it isn’t at all what the CBO says. No wonder people are confused. People who are trying to kill healthcare reform are deliberately confusing Americans and it’s working.”

It’s unclear whom Franken is referring to; his office did not comment for this article.

Several GOP senators have used the $2.5 trillion figure. On Monday, it was cited by Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.).

Alexander said the healthcare bill “when fully implemented, will cost about $2.5 trillion over 10 years, according to the [Republican side of] the Senate Budget Committee.”

In lambasting the measure, McCain said, “We will not commit generational theft on future generations of Americans. We will not give them another $2½ trillion in debt.”

McCain has criticized Franken for refusing to allow Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) to extend his remarks during a recent speech on the Senate floor.

Franken, who was presiding over the Senate, said, “In my capacity as the senator from Minnesota, I object.”

Franken’s office said the Minnesota senator was trying to move the debate along and he was under orders from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to enforce a 10-minute speaking rule. An aide to Reid has echoed that assertion. Democrats also note that McCain similarly cut off Sen. Mark Dayton (D-Minn.) during the 2002 debate on the Iraq war.

Franken said on Wednesday that some Democrats are “overselling” the healthcare bill, noting that certain members have said that for most Americans, healthcare premiums will go down as a result of healthcare reform.

“But it’s also true that most healthcare premiums will go up, but they will go up at a slower rate than they would have if this bill weren’t adopted and that’s a really good thing. But this bill is going to pass so we want people to understand what is happening here,” he said.

Franken was critical of an op-ed written by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) that ran in the Wall Street Journal last week. Franken referred to the op-ed by its title, “The Health Bill Is Scary,” not by its author.