Pelosi: Clock is Ticking on Seniors; Bush Prescription Drug Tax Only 12 Days Away
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi joined other House Democratic leaders at a press stakeout this morning after the Democratic Caucus meeting to discuss extending the May 15th deadline for seniors to sign up for the Medicare prescription drug benefit. She also discussed the sham Republican lobbying bill that the House will vote on today. Below are her remarks:
"It's a team effort to bring Democrats together, and we're unified, organized, disciplined, and focused. That was demonstrated today when we had a unanimous vote under the leadership of Congressman Pete Stark, the Ranking Democrat on the Ways and Means Health Subcommittee. We had a unanimous vote to say that America's seniors should not pay for the corruption and confusion of the Bush Administration. Just because the Republican Congress passed a bill a couple years ago in their role as handmaidens to the pharmaceutical and insurance industries doesn't mean that seniors should be paying the price.
"The prescription drug plan is confusing and the Administration doesn't even understand it fully enough to explain it. Physicians and doctors have told me: I am supposed to be providing health care, I'm not supposed to be walking people through the complex paperwork of this plan. It is not a good use of my time.'
"We hope that people can figure it out and can get the best plan by May 15. If they cannot because of the confusion contained within this plan, they should not be penalized for the Bush Administration's mistakes. This penalty - this Bush prescription drug tax on seniors - grows every month, and as the cost of prescription drugs increases these penalties increase over a lifetime. This is not a one-time penalty. This is for the rest of their lives. They will be paying a Bush prescription drug tax because of corruption, confusion, and incompetence on the part of the Bush Administration.
"Democrats are insisting on an act of fairness to America's seniors that says at least give them six more months in light of the admitted confusion and complexity in the roll out of this initiative. Give seniors six more months and some real compliance assistance to figure this out. The Administration has 12 days to get this done for seniors. The clock is ticking.
"Democrats are committed to saying that it's a disgrace in this bill that the Secretary of Health and Human Services is prohibited to negotiate for lower prices. That was a gift to the pharmaceutical industry. They insisted in having that prohibition that costs seniors and taxpayers, and put more money into the pockets of the pharmaceutical industry.
"We also talked in our meeting about lobby reform and the two issues are connected. The Republican sham bill is not reform, but a vote for that sham bill is a vote for higher prescription drug costs for middle-income seniors, a vote for $3 gasoline at the pump, a vote for that bill is a vote for higher costs for education, because they were all born from the corruption in this body.
"We are hoping that the bill will be defeated so we can start fresh. Democrats have a better idea. The Republicans would not put our substitute in order; they would not have a fair debate on what is real reform versus a ruse, a sham, a disgrace - pick your word from the headlines across the country. We will have a motion to recommit that contains the principles of our Honest Leadership, Open Government proposal, which we announced in January. Included in our proposal today is denial of pension for Members convicted of a felony in the performance of their duties, as well as a ban on corporate travel.
"The line is very clear between Democrats and Republicans. Democrats want to drain the swamp so that we can start honestly dealing with the challenges of the American people. Republicans want to take out a few drops of water and call that reform - the stench is still there, the corruption and cronyism is still there. The Republicans must be stopped so that the American people can have a chance."