Video: McConnell to HHS: Call off the speech police

posted at 10:55 am on September 23, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

On Monday, we noted that the Obama administration had begun a probe into Humana’s attempts to communicate with its customers on ObamaCare. Humana told customers that the proposed changes would result in reduced benefits for its members on their Medicare Advantage plans, and the White House accused them of spreading faslehoods. Of course, the CBO now says exactly what Humana argued all along, but even absent that, the Obama administration has no business investigating the exercise of free speech.

Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) scolded the Obama administration on the Senate floor for its arrogance and overreach. In this conclusion to his remarks, McConnell says the politicians attempting to infringe on free speech should be the ones getting warned:

“I would remind my colleagues that I have spent my career defending the First Amendment rights of people to criticize their elected officials, including me. I would make the same argument if this were a company based in San Francisco or Helena or Chicago.

“The right to free speech is at the core of our democracy. Free citizens have a First Amendment right to petition their government for a redress of grievances. This gag order on companies like Humana and those in all our states, in my view, is a clear violation of that right. It’s wrong.

“Employers that warn their customers about the effects of legislation aren’t the ones who should be getting warnings here. Senators who threaten Americans’ First Amendment rights are.”

And McConnell makes this rather telling comparison:

“Is this how citizens and companies can expect to be treated if health reform passes? That any health provider that disagrees with a powerful Senator will be subject to an investigation and a gag order?

“How is this any different than what the Washington Post and New York Times have done in lobbying for a reporter shield law? Would we stand by if the Judiciary Committee asked the FBI to investigate the media for taking positions on pending legislation we don’t agree with? Of course not.”

It’s no different at all. The Times and the Post have every right to communicate with their customers on political issues, including those that directly impact themselves. Humana has that same right. Only an administration that thinks of American citizens as children would think that we cannot weigh the facts and come to our own conclusions. Arrogance is a mild term indeed for this incident, especially given Douglas Elmendorf’s testimony that completely corroborated Humana’s mailers.

Full speech here:


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