Prepared Remarks Of House Republican Leaders At A Press Conference
Participants: House Minority Whip Eric Cantor; House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence; House Republican Conference Vice Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers; Rep. Roy Blunt
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REP. CANTOR: Good morning.
Welcome back, welcome to the new environment here.
We just had a conference in which our Members talked a lot about what they were hearing in their districts and clearly there is an indication that the American public is about at its wit's end in terms of the incredible expansion of government spending and the lack of accountability. This has become much clearer with the GM bankruptcy announcement on the heels of the Chrysler announcement and the frustration that we just don't know where this money has gone. We are in to the tens of billions at this point, with those companies alone, and clearly this is money that even the President admits we don't have. Even the Vice President yesterday, in alluding to the incredible amount of taxpayer dollars being spent, said, "of course there is going to be waste and there are going to be scams" because you're dealing with so much money. You know what? That's unacceptable.
This administration has got to step up, along with the Pelosi-led House, and insist on some accountability for taxpayers. We all saw interest rates tick up last week - that means trouble for homeowners and that means more trouble for consumers. The administration got the message because they went and fanned out across the world, talking to our creditors, insisting and imploring them to believe our intent, that we want to reign in federal spending. But if you look at what's on the floor this week, there is a disconnect. We are not doing what we should be to protect the taxpayers. We are not reigning in spending. There are bills on the floor to increase spending by a billion dollars and enhancing federal leave for federal employees. Four additional weeks of paid leave for federal employees - who is getting that in the private sector right now?
So, then we're looking at the supplemental that may be coming to the floor this week. The supplemental has in it an additional $108 billion for a global bailout. Again, as the President said, "we're out of money." This is money we will have to borrow from the Chinese to go and honor a commitment that the President had made. In times where we have got to demonstrate fiscal restraint, this does not make sense.
I would like to now call on the Vice Chairwoman of the Conference, Cathy McMorris Rodgers.
REP. MCMORRIS RODGERS: Thank you. Good morning everyone.
As we return after the Memorial Day recess there's certainly a whole host of issues before Congress. I think the issue of health care is probably one of the more important as I think about moms across the country because as a mom I can tell you that when your son or daughter is sick, there is nothing that is on your mind more than making sure you can get your child feeling better. And a lot of moms in the country are also focused on taking care of their parents or their in-laws, those that are elderly, and they're dealing with the challenges of lots of doctors' appointments and tests that have to be done, and they're also struggling to deal with insurance companies and Medicare.
Health is a very personal issue, and as we approach solutions to health care, I think Americans deserve first of all to know that they're going to have access to a doctor and nurse that they trust, and that doctor-patient relationship must be protected. It's really been the foundation of health care in this country. Secondly, we need to make sure that we continue to have a high quality of health care. America has had some of the best health care in the world. We've been the leader in innovation and technology and curing diseases, and we want to make sure that we continue to be that leader. And third, we must control some of the rising costs, and you're going to see Republicans coming up with reforms that will address the rising cost of health care, but doing so while protecting the doctor-patient relationship, and also ensuring that we continue to be the leader in innovation and new technology for health care. We look forward to working with President Obama and the Democrats on this issue. We have written a letter laying out what our principles are, and we are hoping that we can address these issues in a bipartisan fashion.
REP. BLUNT: Well thank you, Cathy.
The Leader asked me if I'd put together this health care solutions working group that Cathy McMorris Rodgers is on, that the ranking Republicans from all the committees that had jurisdictions are on. We sent our Members home for the break with a dozen pages of Republican principles and Republican solutions to talk about. Frankly, as we get more specific, the administration gets less specific. There's a whole lot less on the Obama website today than there was two months ago. Their eight points have become three points and they happen to be the same three points we've been talking about the last 90 days: a system that is more affordable, that everyone has access to in spite of any preexisting condition you might have, and that focuses on quality and the doctor-patient relationship. We think that can be achieved with significant reforms, but also just with a marketplace that works. We think that people need more choices in health care, not fewer choices, but we feel strongly, as Republicans, that one of those choices cannot be a government competitor. A government-run health care solution will not allow the competitive marketplace to work like it needs to work. We need a marketplace that's more competitive, not less competitive. We need a system that's not dependent on a government-run health care system.
In fact, repeatedly during the campaign, Senator Obama, at that time, said the American people should have access to a health care system just like his. He really failed to point out about three things about that system. One is, it's exactly the same system that every federal employee, a United States senator in his case, the park ranger, the postal worker, or the prison guard has, but he also didn't point out it has lots of choices. Some of which you pay a lot of money for, some of which, like a health savings account, you don't pay very much money for. The third thing he didn't point out is one of those choices is not a government run plan. If there's any group in America that knows they don't want to be part of a government-run health care plan, its federal employees. The government can barely run the government, let alone run a car company this week, or health care ever. This is 17 percent of our economy; it is important that people have confidence in this as well.
When Cathy was talking about when somebody in your family is sick, there's an old adage that when everybody in your family is well you have lots of problems, when somebody in your family is sick you have one problem.
And this, above almost all other things except knowing that your country is going to be defended, is a system that people don't need to have their confidence shaken in. A partisan solution, forced through the Senate perhaps with some budget rule that's only supposed to be used in a budget thing not changing the entire economy, a partisan solution will only guarantee that the American people are going to become concerned about health care rationing, about waiting in line, about a government-run health care program. We want a health care program that works better, there is enough agreement on the big issues here that Republicans and Democrats can come up with a solution that an overwhelming majority of the Congress can be for, but not if they don't talk to us. And we've reached out repeatedly to the administration, as well as individual Democrats, and individual Democrats, by the way, are a whole lot more interested it appears in talking to us about our solutions, than the administration is at this point. But we're ready to engage in this debate. Right before the break we had a markup on energy and talked about this cap and tax, national energy tax bill for the first time the American people are beginning to understand what was being discussed here.
I think as we now move to health care, this is a real important moment for Republicans to talk about alternatives that work better for families, and alternatives that work better for the American people than a government-run healthcare plan would. And leading all of those discussions in our communications effort for us is our Conference Chairman, Mike Pence.
REP. PENCE: Thank you, Roy.
It's always good to be home. Back in Indiana what was obvious from picnics I attended, the parades, neighbors with whom I spoke, is that the people of my state, the people of this country are hurting. This is an anxious time in the life of this country. There are economic anxieties, there's a loss of confidence in both private and public institutions that is striking in its magnitude. Everywhere we went I saw resilience, I saw faith, I saw Hoosiers and Americans around this country determined to work their way through these difficult times with courage. I also heard the last thing we need to do during a difficult economic time, is raise taxes on every American household and every small business in this country in the form of a national energy tax.
House Republicans just completed our first of what will be a series of energy summits around this country. We travelled to Pittsburgh, to Indianapolis, to San Luis Obispo, California. We heard from experts, we heard from business leaders, we heard from ordinary citizens. And everywhere we went, one American after another told us these are difficult times and don't, in the name of global climate change, raise the cost of energy to every American family with this national energy tax. Republicans are returning to Capitol Hill with a renewed commitment to oppose this irresponsible energy tax in the form of Cap and Trade. While there is talk about other legislation coming to the House floor this summer, we're going to stay in this fight on Cap and Trade. We're going to take our case to the American people from here in Washington and all across this country and not only will we oppose, but we will propose.
The American Energy Solutions Group that John Boehner asked me to lead will also be producing in the coming weeks a new version of the American Energy Act of the last Congress. I refer to it as the American Energy Act 2.0. We'll have an all of the above strategy; more domestic exploration to lessen our dependence on foreign oil, more exploration for coal and natural gas, more conservation, more fuel efficiency, and investment in new technology, and alternative sources like wind and solar, and a heavy new American commitment to nuclear power in this country will all be a part of what Republicans will unveil in the coming weeks. Everywhere I went from Indiana, to Pennsylvania, to California, I heard Americans who are alarmed about the idea of national energy tax in the midst of this deep recession and who know in their heart of hearts that we can do better. Republicans will have that outlined and I look forward to continuing to be a part of the debate.