Press Conference with House Speaker Nancy Pelosit (D-CA) and Other House Democrats Subject: SCHIP
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SPEAKER PELOSI: Good afternoon.
Today we advanced our cause in insuring 10 million children in America. Health care for these children is of the highest priority to us. We have been pleased to work in a bipartisan fashion to send a bipartisanly crafted bill to the president of the United States. In the next two weeks, we intend to send the president another bill that insures -- that provides health care for 10 million children in our country.
Over two-thirds of the American people -- indeed, today it was at 82 percent of the American people expressed their support for health insurance for America's children. This isn't even an issue anymore; it's a value. It's an ethic. It's a consensus in our country from which the president appears to be isolated.
I've said it before, we will be not -- we will be happy to sit down and meet with the president anytime he is ready. We hope that will be soon. Republicans and Democrats in the Congress, like our distinguished chairmen, Chairman Rangel and Chairman Dingell, who's joining us momentarily, and in the Senate Chairman Baucus and former Chairmen Hatch and Grassley, have all worked together to put together a compromise bill.
The vote on the floor today, we only need nine Republicans to come over to the side of the children. The president and his allies in Congress today may have stopped the SCHIP bill today, but we still will not allow that to deter us from our goal, which is to insure 10 million children in America.
With that, I'm pleased to yield to my distinguished -- our distinguished Democratic leader, Mr. Hoyer, and in doing so acknowledge his leadership and that of all of our colleagues. Let us stipulate to a fact: they're all distinguished, they are all -- (laughter) -- (inaudible) --great leadership, they are all committed to the -- providing health care for America's children. For us, it is of the highest priority. Mr. Hoyer.
REP. STENY HOYER (D-MD): Thank you very much, Madame Speaker.
I said on the floor today that this would be a defining moment for the Congress of the United States. It would test for the American public, who is overwhelmingly in support of the CHIP bill, the Children's Health Insurance bill that we passed overwhelmingly in a bipartisan, compromise fashion, and which the president vetoed, the American public were overwhelmingly for that. Children's advocates throughout our country were overwhelmingly for that. So many organizations were for that. The majority of our people, the majority of Democrats overwhelmingly for this; the majority, and overwhelmingly so, of independents for this bill; and overwhelmingly Republicans were for this bill.
Notwithstanding that fact, too many Republicans decided not to side with all of those people and all of those groups, but rather to side with the president of the United States, who said no to including more children. This was directly contrary to his promise in 2004 that he wanted to add millions of children to the Child Health Insurance Program which were then eligible but not included. The bill that failed to have its veto overriden today did exactly what the president promised to do.
We will not rest, we will not stop our efforts, until such time as we add 10 million children to the health insurance program in existence today in America. That is our pledge to the children, to their parents, and to our constituents, because it's the right thing to do for our country and for our children.
This was about children today. They advanced, as Speaker Pelosi said. If every member had voted, we would have had 277 votes, 11 or 12 votes short. That is approximately 10 votes, 11 votes more than we had when we got 265. So we have moved ahead in this process. We will continue to move ahead.
I want to thank Chairman Rangel and Chairman Dingell for their extraordinary leadership in getting to this point.
REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D-SC): Thank you.
Let me thank the speaker, the leader, the chairs, the vice chairs, the assistant to the speaker for their great work on this bill.
I don't know what happened between the president's acceptance speech at the Republican Convention, when he promised the country that, with a second term, he would be seeking to expand Children's Health Insurance Program -- something happened between then and now. But whatever it was, I do believe that he has turned a deaf ear to more than 80 percent of the American people who think that this is a good program.
And I listened to some of the debate today, and I find it very interesting the mischaracterizations that took place about this bill. This bill, the Children's Health Insurance Program, is not about only poor children. This is a middle-income program designed to give relief to middle-income families -- families whose income is too much to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to afford health care in the private market.
We believe that the American people are on our side in their belief that all children should be covered, and we are not going to stop until we get 10 million children covered under the Children's Health Insurance Program.
REP. RAHM EMANUEL (D-IL): When I worked in the White House with President Clinton and helped negotiate this bill, the original bill -- this reauthorization is exactly what the original intent -- the SCHIP program was intended to do: to help middle-class children, children of working parents who have no health care in their private place of employment, get health care.
Dolores Sweeney (sp) in my district works for an insurance company. She has three kids. She doesn't get health care through her employer. SCHIP provides Dolores Sweeney's (sp) children the health care they deserve and need. Dolores Sweeney (sp) earns a paycheck, not a welfare check. SCHIP is designed for Dolores Sweeney (sp) and her children, to ensure that they have health care, and whose mother and father work full-time but don't have any health care.
My Republican colleagues always like to say, some of them, that we need to take care of poor kids. That's why Medicaid is there. And it also raises the question, why would you cut $8 billion from Medicaid if you believe in taking care of poor kids?
They also say that this is excessive spending in describing SCHIP. My question then is, why would you vote for $680 billion for the war in Iraq, no questions asked, when it comes to excessive spending?
They also say they're against a government-run health care program, yet SCHIP provides the same health care that those members get from a government-run health care program, their own kids. And if it's good enough for their kids, then it's good enough for Dolores Sweeney's (sp) children, and that should be the standard.
This is exactly the type of program and initiative people across this country want -- Democrats and Republicans, working across party aisles, House and Senate, governors finding common ground to solve a problem the American people face. It is now time, since we are very close on the edge -- we're literally on the goal line from achieving what we need to do to get the 290 votes to pass a health-care initiative for 10 million children. Reaching across party lines, solving problems for the American people, who -- people who work for a living, doing right by their kids.
REP. JOHN DINGELL (D-MI): Mr. Rangel.
REP. CHARLES RANGEL (D-NY): Dingell.
REP. DINGELL: No, no, no. Rangel first. Go on.
REP. RANGEL: Let me stipulate it that we all are distinguished, then we can move on, right?
REP. PELOSI: (Laughs.)
REP. RANGEL: I don't know what part of this bill the president just doesn't get. One thing, if he's talking about socialized medicine that's been indicated, this is not so. If he's talking about this mysterious $83,000 group, he's talking about my great state. We read the bill, and it said that if you had extraordinary situations and people could buy in, and you were helping working poor and a family of four, you could ask the president whether he would consider it. Guess what? The president said no. And then went on to have an executive order that says you can't even ask for it anymore. So the myth that -- the balloon was raised by my state; he shot it down before it even was considered. So that is not there.
The bill really goes after getting incentives away from adults and increasing the amount of young people. If he's talking about fiscal responsibility, without compassion -- because I know they say he's a compassionate conservative -- how many billions of dollars will we be saving as millions of kids will be able to be examined to determine whether their inability to learn is due to lack of intellectual capacity or maybe they didn't hear, maybe they couldn't see, maybe they had something wrong with them that their parents did not have any way of detecting.
And along the line, as we move toward globalization, how many of these youngsters are going to be productive, to be our scientists and our mathematicians? I cannot think of a better fiscal investment -- and I don't want to talk about the war -- a better fiscal investment than in 10 million young Americans, none of them illegal -- which we have to score because it makes some people feel good -- to be able to produce for this great nation an opening of the opportunity for prosperity to be for more people.
I reminded my Republican colleagues on the floor today, in the spirit of bipartisanship, that when they go to the polls in November, President Bush is going to be at the Crawford Ranch, and the truth would have caught up to the misrepresentations they made about this great bill.
And let me tell you what a pleasure it's been for me to work with the speaker, the leadership, and especially with John Dingell. He has shattered the myth of the combative nature of jurisdiction between our committees. He cares about people, he cares about solutions, and our staffs have taken this and working well together. And he comes to this Congress with a tradition of caring in health care, and it's been my honor, my pleasure to work with him on this bill.
Chairman John Dingell.
REP. DINGELL: I can only say what a privilege and a pleasure it is for me to have worked with my very dear friend Charlie Rangel, who has done such a superb piece of work on this very outstanding piece of legislation.
I want to commend our speaker and Steny Hoyer and the leadership here. They're great and they have done a superb job.
Well, it isn't over. We're going to keep fighting to get those 10 million kids covered. They need it. They deserve it. It's in the best interest of the country. It's a wonderful investment. It's a great shame that we aren't going to be covering 15 million because that's the number that, in fact, we have eligible.
I grieve greatly that we did not prevail today. And I also grieve that the president was apparently misled by bad advice by bad advisers. I will observe to you that if you look, you will find almost every single complaint without exception that the administration brought forward about this bill was, in fact, not correct and not factual.
We are going to see to it that we cover the kids. We're going to try and see to it that we address the problems of getting this legislation into law. And we're going to try and see to it that that it is a good, strong piece of legislation enacted at the earliest possible minute. And we will start the process immediately when we conclude this meeting.
Having said that, I would just tell you this was a great piece of legislation. It did not cover illegals. It did things which were very, very important in terms of adding new kids to the list. It saw to it that the -- that there were no families which were left out.
And I would observe one thing which is important. They made the point that this was going to cover well-to-do kids and that it was going to do away with existing health care coverage under the private system. Both statements are false. I would observe to you that anybody who is not covered, such as illegals or persons or greater means, is covered either by inaction and poor administration, or by waivers which had been granted by this administration. So if there's a complaint, call 456-1414 and complain to George Bush because he's the guy who's responsible for these things.
Having said this, we're going to start, we're going to get the kids covered, and we're not going to be delayed or deterred from writing a good bill because of a very unfortunate veto which was unwisely sustained by a very unfortunate and partisan vote.
And -- oh, and I'm delighted to now recognize my good friend --
SPEAKER PELOSI: Just a second.
REP. DINGELL: I'm sorry, Madame Speaker? I'll let you be in charge.
SPEAKER PELOSI: No, no, no, no, that's fine.
REP. DINGELL (?): Mr. Larson.
REP. JOHN LARSON (D-CT): I want to thank the dean of the House.
It is indescribable to me to consider that we have a president frozen in the ice of his own indifference towards the children of this country. But what we're heartened about is the warm glow of national unity that comes from the American people. And under the persistent leadership of Nancy Pelosi is what we're going to do is continue through the warm hearings that Mr. Dingell will have to turn up the heat and make sure that the president sees again and again this legislation on behalf of 10 million children.
REP. XAVIER BECERRA (D-CA): What hasn't been said in Spanish I will say.
Thank you very much.
REP. DINGELL: (Off mike.) (Laughter.)
SPEAKER PELOSI: We've just heard from Xavier Becerra, a distinguished member of our leadership, for those who didn't know.
Q Speaker -- Madame Speaker -- (off mike) -- this legislation again? Is that how you're going to move forward?
SPEAKER PELOSI: We will be making an announcement to that effect, but the president will have a bill. It is our intention to put a bill on the president's desk within two weeks.
Q Speaker Pelosi --
Q Madame Speaker --
Q -- are you willing to consider another -- (off mike)? The president has said one of his objections is to an increase in tobacco taxes?
SPEAKER PELOSI: No.
Q Madame Speaker, with this vote today, combined with the FISA situation yesterday and the Armenian controversy, do you consider these setbacks?
SPEAKER PELOSI: No, this is the legislative process. As a matter of fact, we do have the votes for FISA and we'll be taking it up, as the majority leader mentioned, next week. There's -- in terms of Armenian genocide, the Congress will work its will on that. The committee has, and we'll see where we go next.
But our top priority here this week is SCHIP. We think we made tremendous progress today. We held the Republicans, we increased our number there. There are only 10 Republican members of Congress standing in the way now of 10 million children getting health care in America. We think that's a number that is very doable, and when we bring the bill up again we believe we will have those votes to put the bill on the president's desk.
Q What will be different in the bill?
SPEAKER PELOSI: Hmm?
Q What will be different in the new bill?
SPEAKER PELOSI: When we announce the bill, you will be the first to know.
Q Madame Speaker --
Q Madame Speaker --
SPEAKER PELOSI: I just want to know -- Steny, did you want to speak to any -- the question about FISA or anything like that?
REP. HOYER: We're moving ahead on FISA. The reporting today that there was a brilliant strategy that undermined it, there's the same strategy that's been pursued, a motion to kill the bill with an amendment that was already in the bill, and we would have taken had it been a forthwith amendment -- that is to say, not kill the bill. But we're going to bring it back. We think it's an excellent bill.
We think we have the votes. I want to say that that was incorrect. We didn't not consider the bill because we didn't have the votes; we had the votes.
With respect to that bill, I've talked to Harry Reid, the leader in the Senate. Frankly, I think we're in agreement on how we're going to proceed.
I think the headline in the paper today was inaccurate. In talking to Senator Reid, there is not agreement between the White House and the Senate. There may be agreement between the White House and a few members of the Senate. I talked to Senator Leahy yesterday, so that there is still a lot of negotiation that's going to go on in the Senate. We're going to, I think, pass the bill next week, and we'll move on.
Q Will it be the same bill?
REP. HOYER: Yes.
Q Madame Speaker --
Q Just one more, Madame Speaker. Is it your intention to just get enough Republican votes on SCHIP as opposed to working with the leadership? You just want to get --
SPEAKER PELOSI: Oh, well, we had said we would be happy to sit down with the president anytime he is ready to sit down to talk about SCHIP and how we can go forward to insure 10 million children and it's paid for.
Q The bill you intend to bring up within two weeks would be a bill intended to get 10 or 12 more Republicans --
SPEAKER PELOSI: Oh, we intend to get many more, many more.
Q Mr. Hoyer, on FISA, how do you intend to deflect this motion to recommit or whatever they might have up their sleeve?
REP. HOYER: Oh, we're talking about that, but we intend to have it next week.
Q Madame Speaker, you said you're willing to sit down with the president, but you want to bring up another bill to get Republicans. (He's been ?) willing to give; what are you willing to give?
SPEAKER PELOSI: No, the president -- we have said to the president right away that we -- yesterday and the day before that we would be willing to sit down to talk to him about where we go from here, and that remains true, as long as the bottom line is that 10 million children are covered. That is not negotiable.
Q So there's no room for compromise, then.
SPEAKER PELOSI: Who's going to decide which -- I mean, I -- let me say it this way, health care for children in America is a value. There isn't any industrialized country, or any country that has the wherewithal that you would respect, that doesn't insure its children. So we are behind on this. And so we intend to take the country in a new direction, which means that 10 million children will be insured. We have already compromised to that place in a bipartisan agreement, House and Senate, Democrats and Republicans. We're very proud of what has happened in America from AARP and the American Medical Association to the YWCA and everything in between, as Mr. Hoyer mentioned -- Catholic Health Association, you name it, Families USA, everyone who has to do with children supports this bill.
Earlier this week, the Easter Seals Association was here with hundreds of people, blanketing the Hill, advocating for the passage of SCHIP because they said we cannot meet the needs of children with prevention and nutrition and the rest if they don't have access to health care. Today the March of Dimes -- and I proudly wear their pin -- over 400 representatives of the March of Dimes, led by an eight- year-old boy, Zeek Taylor, to convey to the Congress of the United States that it is very important that children have health care.
Children are telling the Congress what we should know. The American people to the tune of 82 percent are saying this is a value that we all share that is a consensus in our country. What is it that the president doesn't get about this?
And as my colleague, Mr. Emanuel said, if this be socialized medicine, then so is the health insurance that we get as members of Congress. So if that's the premise, then we have a lot to talk about.
And if the president is saying we can't afford the bill, then I would just say and remind that for 40 days in Iraq, we can insure 10 million children for one year in America. And Mr. Rangel mentioned that this is about the leaders, the intellects, the innovators of the future, our children. It's also about our soldiers and sailors and Marines. So if we're going to have a strong America in terms of the health and well-being of our country, in terms of our military strength, we have to invest in our children. That's what this bill does. Eighty-two percent of the American people understand that. The president just doesn't get it.
REP./STAFF: Thank you.
Q Madame Speaker, what about the Boehner proposal to increase funds with tax credits? Is that anything that you would all be open to?
SPEAKER PELOSI: No.
Thank you all very much. (Laughter.)