30-SOMETHING WORKING GROUP -- (House of Representatives - November 07, 2005)
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Mr. RYAN of Ohio. That did not happen. The Republican majority in this Chamber rejected the proposal.
Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. If the gentleman will yield, I think we should expand this conversation beyond just what this budget reconciliation, budget cut proposal that we will consider this week means. Because what was initially rolled out by the Republican Study Committee after Katrina was this chart that you have right here. I think it would be helpful for us to go through just exactly what the true intentions are of the Republican Caucus. How many Republican members are there in the caucus?
Mr. DELAHUNT. There are 228 Republican members here in this Chamber.
Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. So 228 members of their caucus and more than 100 of those members, it is my understanding, are members of the Republican Study Committee. So the vast majority of the Republican Caucus subscribes to this proposal that the Republican Study Committee put forward which is really what they would do if they could get their moderate Republicans who are not members of the study committee to swallow it. And because they know that they are in a precarious situation in their own elections in many instances, they are the ones that have been waffling on the fence here.
Let us go through what the Republicans would do if they had their way. They would delay the Medicare prescription drug bill for 1 year which the gentleman from Ohio already mentioned. They would reduce Medicaid administrative spending. But they would go further than that. They would increase the allowable copays in Medicaid. Let us describe what that means. Fully one in four children in the United States of America today get their health care from Medicaid. Often I know when people think of Medicaid, they think of it as really just purely a health care system that provides health care access to the poor. But if one in four children are getting their health care from Medicaid, that means you have that many children living in poverty in the United States of America. What this proposal would do by increasing the copays is requiring poor children's families to come more out of pocket to pay for their health care.
Mr. RYAN of Ohio. I just want to expound on that point for just one second. Those people who will see an increase in their copay will then not go to utilize the care and the service, and they will end up like Americans who do not have any health care, they will end up in an emergency room much sicker than they were when they originally could have had the problem taken care of because they were covered under Medicaid, and the taxpayer is going to end up footing the bill in the long run. We are not making this argument solely for moral reasons, but this is an economic argument that is going to save the taxpayer money in the long run and I think the Republican majority has proven in many ways that they do not know how to govern, and one of the reasons is they would rather spend more money on the tail end than do the right thing and spend it up front.
Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. If that were not bad enough, if making poor children's families pull more money out of their pocket to pay for their health care were not bad enough, the Republican Study Committee, in fact, more than that, this budget cut proposal that we are going to consider this week would allow increases in premiums for the first time and it would also let health care providers, physicians and other health care providers that are Medicaid providers, refuse care if a beneficiary cannot afford the copayment. Right now they are not able to refuse that care. There is a change in this proposal that would allow people who provide health care to Medicaid recipients to refuse care if they do not have the money to pull out of their pocket. Often we hear the argument made about the skyrocketing costs of Medicaid, the greater percentage that Medicaid has taken of the Federal budget and of State budgets. While that may be true, what the gentleman from Ohio has just outlined is absolutely accurate. These cuts, which are supposed to be representative of savings, there is not going to be savings. It is just going to be more cost shifting of health care costs. Because these people who are on Medicaid now, they have to get their health care from somewhere. Most good parents, any good parent is not going to let their child suffer. What they do is instead of being able to take their children to the doctor for well baby visits and well child visits and make sure that the health care is preventive as opposed to reactionary and sickness and disease based, they have to wait till their child is sick enough to take to the emergency room.
I was walking door to door when I first ran for the State legislature and knocked on the door of a younger woman, it turned out. Usually when I was knocking door to door, it was senior citizens who took a long time to get to the door. But this woman, I was surprised when she answered the door, was young. Her foot was swollen to a grotesque proportion. I could not help but ask her what happened. She said I actually had caught her just as she was about to go out the door to the emergency room because she did not have health insurance and she was not able to go to the doctor when the problem on her foot was small, she had to wait till it was so infected that she had to go to the emergency room. Of course she had no health insurance and she did not qualify for Medicaid in this instance. So now what we should do is talk about the gap between people who qualify for Medicaid and people who have health insurance. There are a vast amount of people in the middle who fall through the crack.
Mr. RYAN of Ohio. That woman probably called off work and there was a ripple effect.
Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Loss of productivity by her employer. Just think about the impact of people who cannot go to work when they are sick.
Think about the skyrocketing costs of health care and this administration. Ask yourself, Madam Speaker, ask yourself the last time you heard President Bush say anything about health care. I have not heard him say a word about health care. I have not heard him speak out against Medicaid cuts. I have not heard him speak in favor of helping poor children and their families afford health care. Where is the outrage?
Mr. RYAN of Ohio. Let us look at another provision on here that the Republican Study Committee is also looking to do: Increase the Medicare Part B premium by $4.6 billion.
Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. That might be a little bit of Washington-speak. I think people might get the letters confused. What is Medicare Part B?
Mr. RYAN of Ohio. Medicare Part B is the senior citizen program, the Medicare program that insures our parents and our grandparents. This is where the Republican Study Committee is going to go to pay for the tax cuts, to pay for the $16 billion in subsidies that they are giving to the oil companies, to pay for the subsidies that they are basically giving to the prescription drugs. They are going to go to our senior citizens and ask them to give up $4.6 billion in 2006 and $84 billion over the course of the next 10 years. These are senior citizens that, as I am sure they are in your district, whose pension is not going up, if they can even keep their pension. Health care costs obviously are going up here, the cost of natural gas and gasoline, heating oil, all of this is affecting how our seniors can actually survive day-to-day; and our friends on the other side are making another wrong decision by going after them and asking them to foot the bill.
Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Madam Speaker, if the gentleman recalls a few months ago when we were talking about Social Security privatization and the impact that that would have on our seniors, imagine if that proposal had gone through and, hopefully, we are going to continue to be able to keep that off the table. But when we were on the floor during the 30-Something Working Group, my colleagues will recall that one of the things that we talked about so often was that we have so many of our senior citizens who are on fixed incomes, whose Social Security is their only source of survival.
Now, if what the Republican Study Committee would like to see happen happens, where they increase Medicare Part B premiums, which is out-of-pocket money that these seniors have to pay, and one day soon we privatize Social Security, how are these people going to be able to afford to live?
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Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Thank you. And you know it is totally understandable why you are emotional about it and why we are all emotional about it. We are all bristling with indignation here because to add insult to injury, the nightmare scenario you are describing for veterans if this budget reconciliation bill actually becomes a reality is just the tip of iceberg. Just a few months ago, I mean, I am a freshman. I just got here. And there are a lot of things that have shocked me, not the least of which is what you referred to a little while ago which is that we almost never meet in a bipartisan fashion. The idea of actually seeing Members from the other side of the aisle sit down at a meeting like you just described, at the beginning of this year, you know, to me would have been a usual matter, like we did in the legislature, coming together on most things and arguing about only the most basic of Republican and Democratic differences.
Here it is like they think we do not take showers or something. I am not really certain why it is that they will not actually sit down with us and try to work things out. But what was more startling just a couple of months later was that, you know, we have talked about the number of Cs that apply to their ability to govern. There is corruption, there is the cronyism, and then there is the lack of competence. I mean, I could not believe that in June we had to actually appropriate $1.5 billion for the Department of Veterans Affairs because there was a shortfall in their budget that they were denying for months. Months. We kept insisting there was a shortfall. Veterans were having to wait months and months for health care. The 6-month wait for access to health care at the VA was a true reality.
And we were saying there is something wrong here. The American Legion was saying something was wrong here. And finally they owned up and realized oh, yeah, we do have a shortfall and we are going to need, we had to go and pass an emergency appropriations bill to get them the rest of the money they need.
You know, we talk about the third-party validators here. Now there is a proposal to cut $600 million out of this budget in veterans health care, which would be enough funds to care for nearly 100,000 veterans. The American Legion, this is this evening's third-party validator for me on veterans, expressed concern that that cut would mean rationing of care, hiring freezes of medical personnel, delaying repairs on facilities, growing backlogs of medical equipment, and many other fiscal-based constraints. And that was a letter that they wrote on October 17.
Mr. MEEK of Florida. Ms. Wasserman Schultz, would you just yield for a second.
Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Yes, I would be happy to.
Mr. MEEK of Florida. What holiday is coming up?
Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. I think that would be Veterans Day, and that is Friday.
Mr. MEEK of Florida. And it is very interesting because Members are going to be trying to run out of here and catch planes and falling over each other to go march in a parade with those that have laid down, literally put their lives on the line, lost limbs. Some will be pushed in wheelchairs. Some will be remembering the fallen members of our country that went and fought in all of the past conflicts. And just before Friday, there is a vote scheduled to set them back and what we told them we would do for them and provide them for health care. I yield back. I just wanted to talk about the gall of this whole thing at this particular time.
Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Gall is a soft word, the softest word you could use. I really want to go ahead and transition to Mr. Delahunt, who is going to go through some more of this.
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Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. The gentleman from Ohio (Mr. Ryan) was referring to the guts that they lack. It has been clear to me, and increasingly clear as the months go by, that they do not have the guts or the ability in their constitutional makeup, like the gentleman said, continuing with the C-word theme, it is their culture of cronyism that does not allow them. Their culture that propels them to take care of the people at the top and only those at the top.
So they do not have the ability to comprehend at least not the way I perceive it, that they are doing the wrong thing.
The culture of corruption and cronyism just continues, and although it is somewhat off topic, I think it is important because the last few times we have been here we have been talking about just their general lack of ethics and their commitment to taking care of their cronies as opposed to the American people.
We have been calling on the floor of this House for the President to fire Karl Rove, to at least ask him to step down, to eliminate the weight that is standing on his chest and the chests of the American people and our ability to actually move forward.
Do you know what his response was to calls across the country to get rid of Karl Rove? He ordered his staff in the White House to take an ethics course this week. That is what he has asked them to do. Right there in black and white, the Associated Press reported it. His response to this entire mess is that his White House staff should take an ethics class.
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Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Can I just tell you, it gets worse. It is not just the fact that they are responding to this entire fiasco, ethical conflict, with ethics classes for the White House staff. Do you know who is giving the classes? The White House counsel's office, Harriet Miers' office. That is part of their pattern. It is not like they decided they should go somewhere outside the White House, because clearly the White House has not been emblematic of an ethical place where you could actually learn ethics from someone inside the White House. You would think they would have gone outside the White House, but they do not believe in independence.
We asked them to establish an independent Katrina commission. No. Their answer was to do it internally and create a special committee here that is lopsided, 11 Republicans and right now no Democrats because we refuse to serve on a committee that is not going to be fair and objective and really get to the bottom of it.
The bottom line, the reason I brought this up is because your point is from the top to the bottom, the culture of corruption and cronyism and incompetence just runs right through. There is not any light at the end of the tunnel, and it gets worse with every page you turn in this administration.
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Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Just one quick statement. We want to remind everyone that tomorrow is election day in many places, Virginia, California, New York, New Jersey. We want to urge our generation to come out in the record numbers that they came out during the 2004 elections.
Mr. MEEK of Florida. Mr. Ryan.
Mr. RYAN of Ohio. Just a reminder to send us e-mails at email@example.com, any articles or whatever, Madam Speaker, from our colleagues here so that we can talk about them on air. That is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mr. MEEK of Florida. With that, we want to thank the Democratic leadership for this block of time, and I yield back the balance of our time.