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(WASHINGTON, D.C.) - Mere hours after the President vetoed critical Medicare legislation, the U.S. Senate sent a message back to the White House that caring for America's seniors should not be subject to partisan politics.  The Senate overrode the President's veto by a vote of 70-26.   Earlier in the day the House overrode the veto by a vote of 383-41.

"Today the Senate put politics aside and did the right thing for America's seniors and their doctors," Senator Murray said. "At a time when our economy is struggling and health care costs are rising, President Bush's veto was simply the wrong thing to do.  Nearly a half century after Congress first created the Medicare program, we came together again and overrode this veto to keep our commitment to caring for our seniors."

Prior to the vote, Senator Murray took to the floor of the Senate to urge her colleagues to stick together and override the Presidential veto. 

Listen to Senator Murray’s speech

Murray's floor speech follows:

"Forty-three years ago, we created Medicare because this country recognized that no American should go without health care – especially once they reach retirement age.

"As he was signing the bill into law, President Johnson praised Congress for its ability to, “see beyond words to the people that they touch” – to put politics aside, and create legislation that truly transforms society.

"Today President Bush failed to heed those words – to see beyond politics and think of the seniors who have spent their lives paying into the Medicare system – and of the doctors who treat them.

"Instead, he told millions of struggling American seniors and military families that he simply doesn’t care.  He vetoed a bill that would make vital improvements to the program that has helped ensure that millions of seniors and the disabled can get health care.

"One of the most important provisions of the bill would have postponed a 10.6 percent reimbursement payment cut for doctors – a cut that could have forced many doctors across the country to stop seeing Medicare patients, severely limiting access to health care for millions of Americans. 

"The President was wrong to veto this bill. 

"But we can still stand up for Medicare.  We did it last week when we came together and voted for this bill by a veto-proof margin.

"And I hope my colleagues will join me again today by overriding the President’s veto and making sure that the 44.1 million seniors enrolled in Medicare – and all of the military families that rely on TRICARE – can continue to have access to health care.

"My colleagues – including the Majority Leader and Chairman Baucus – have thoroughly explained the improvements this legislation would make to the Medicare program.

"But I want to touch briefly on a few provisions that illustrate why we need to pass this bill.

"First, many rural communities in Washington state – and across the country – are struggling to provide health care services.  This bill would help them strengthen their health care networks and extend the services that are available.

"This bill puts an emphasis on preventive care – which will help seniors stay healthy – and help keep costs down by enabling patients to get care before they become seriously ill. This bill would improve coverage for low-income seniors who need extra help to afford basic care.

"This bill would enable more seniors get mental health care.  Currently, co-pays for mental health care are 30 percent higher than those for physical care.  This legislation would treat mental and physical health care the same.

"And this bill would block the cut in reimbursements for providing Medicare services – and ensure that doctors can afford to take Medicare patients. All of the improvements I have listed are important.  But it’s critical that we take action as soon as possible to ensure the cut in payments to doctors doesn’t go into effect.

"No doctor should have to choose between staying in business and taking patients.  But if we don’t override this veto, that’s exactly what would happen.  And seniors and the disabled would end up paying the price. 

"A cut in payments would mean seniors face longer drives, closed doors, and fewer choices – even though they spent their lives paying into the Medicare system.

"In our rural communities, the problem would be even worse, because we already face a shortage of doctors, nurses, and other health care providers.  Finally – this cut could also limit access to health care for our military retirees and service members – at a time when we have thousands of troops returning from war.

"TRICARE uses the Medicare formula to pay their doctors, too.  And doctors have said that lower reimbursements would force them to drop TRICARE patients.  I think we can all agree that this country can’t afford to jeopardize health care for service members – especially not during a time of war.

"This country took a huge step forward when we created Medicare in 1965 – when we agreed as a nation that all seniors should have access to health care services. We can’t afford to let this country to fall backward.

"We have the opportunity now to do the right thing.  Let’s support our seniors and our military families. Let’s stand together to override the President’s veto – and keep our commitment to the people who depend on it."