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Health Care

Floor Speech

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Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. KINGSTON. I appreciate the gentleman yielding.

I was looking at the Tea Party list of priorities, which they call a contract from America, which you know, this is a grassroots deal, just popped up. And there are even different Tea Party groups. But they have nationally been surveying their members on what their priorities are.

The number one priority is to cut the size of the Federal Government spending. The number two priority, would the gentleman from Iowa like to guess? The number two priority of all of these thousands of participants on a grassroots' basis is, do not put something in the bill that doesn't belong in the bill.

So as the gentleman talks about these secret deals to the senator in Nebraska, the senator from Florida, the senator from Louisiana, people don't like that at all. If it's such a great deal for the good people of Nebraska, maybe it ought to go for the rest of the 49 States and maybe it doesn't need to be brokered in some smoke-filled back room.

So what you're saying is very important. It can't be understated. If this bill is such a great deal, why do you need to have all of those special interest side deals in order to get the votes from Nebraska or from Florida or from Louisiana?

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Mr. KINGSTON. I can't imagine what the Harry Reid U.S. Senate was thinking. How stupid do they think the American people are? How callous can they be to the sense of fair play? What kind of almost thuggery is it when you do that to people? It just doesn't sound right for the taxpayers all over the country to have to float the bill for one State. And as the gentleman from Missouri pointed out, there was also a special interest deal for Florida.

And I think the presumption was people are Christmas shopping, they're getting ready to have their families in. They're not paying attention. Let's just push through whatever we can.

Well, a funny thing happened in Massachusetts. They were apparently paying attention, and I think that that has woke up a lot of people around here.

We have a group in the House called Blue Dog Democrats. I am not exactly sure what a Blue Dog is because they certainly vote like the yellow dog Democrats from what I can understand. But I don't think there is any distinction except there is a lot of Democrats right now who are saying, Hey, I saw what happened in Massachusetts, and if this bill comes back, I think I am going to vote ``no'' and maybe make up for my ``yes'' vote previously.

Mr. AKIN. I just have a question if I could jump in.

Tomorrow there is going to be this big drama, I guess, 6-hour--maybe it will be pretty boring. I don't know. But it's supposed to be dramatic. Six hours of people sitting around a table talking about this same old health care plan basically.

And there were different people that were chosen to go to participate in this. And I am just wondering if you know--I know there were a few Republicans invited, but were there any Democrats that voted ``no'' on the bill that were invited to participate? Do you know of any?

Mr. KING of Iowa. Reclaiming my time, I can't name a single one. I haven't looked over the list of the Democrats but that would be quite unusual. It would be unusual to see Democrats in there negotiating a vote of ``no'' on the bill. I'd be very surprised if there was even a token Democrat that voted no.

Mr. KINGSTON. How many Democrats did vote ``no'' in the House, do you remember? It was 220. You need 218. So there were two votes over 218.

Mr. KING of Iowa. I would guess that was nearly 32 Democrats that voted ``no.'' It would be in that neighborhood somewhere.

Mr. KINGSTON. You would think they would probably have something to say at the White House. They would be a little more moderate and have some good productive contribution to make.

Mr. KING of Iowa. Wouldn't you want to know what their objections are? I would think that would be important.

Bart Stupak on the pro-life amendment worked very closely with Smith and Pennsylvania Representative Joe Pitts. They worked very hard to pass, and they received 64 votes on a pro-life amendment to that.

I understand that Bart Stupak is not on this negotiation either. And what we're seeing come out and what came out of the Senate, it looks to me like the package that's there--there's going to be a bill that still funds abortion and compels Americans to fund abortions through their premiums in one fashion or another, or brokers them through an exchange, and also one that funds illegals. And those are two things that are completely egregious to me, to think we compel taxpayers to do that.

Mr. AKIN. I got another question for you.

After tomorrow, after this 6 hours of drama, do you think people are going to say that you and I and my good friend Congressman Kingston, do you think they're going to say that we're obstructionists? I am trying to figure out--I wish it were true that we could be obstructionists, because if we were obstructionists, that meant if we vote ``no,'' it would stop the bill. But they have got 40 more votes than we do, so how in the world could we be obstructionists?

I need some help on that because the logic seems to be very hard for me to grasp.

Mr. KING of Iowa. There are a lot of things that get spun around this thing, as you know in this town. It's been, Republicans are blocking the bill. We have no capability of doing that, obviously, not from a vote-count standpoint, when the Speaker of the House has 40 votes to burn, a 40-vote advantage, and they're sitting behind closed doors cooking up a closed-door deal. They can't get enough Democrats to pass 218 votes here. I don't think today they can bring a bill to the floor and get it passed.

This is about, though, the public criticism of shutting Republicans out and about this bill being negotiated in secret. Those are the two things that the President seeks to resolve tomorrow. Six hours of C-SPAN time, and then he'll say, Listen, we're doing what I promised we'd do. We're negotiating this bill out in public, and, by the way, we're doing it with Republicans, so who can complain?

Well, for me, it controls the entire format.

Here's the real centerpiece that I don't think anybody has articulated at this point yet.

The President of the United States, as Senator Obama and as candidate for President, said to the Iranians, If you just simply unclench your fist, we will offer our hand. We will negotiate with the people that we have been at odds with since 1979, the Iranians and Ahmadinejad--with no preconditions whatsoever--and offer an open hand to the guy with the clenched fist.

And yet the President of the United States refuses to come to the negotiating table with Republicans with a blank slate. The President has insisted and demanded upon preconditions. He has to have his conditions of his bill that has failed, his concepts that have failed. And he also puts out there the threat that they have been putting together behind closed doors, too, of reconciliation. Reconciliation is what President Obama and others called ``the nuclear option'' when it was Republicans looking at a 51-vote opportunity on the other side of the aisle.

In fact, this is posted today on the Web site, biggovernment.com. This is a statement of our President, and we think about reconciliation. This is what blows things up in the Senate. This is the nuclear option. This is how they would circumvent the anticipated and very legitimate legislative process by taking a Senate version of the bill that sits over here on the calendar of the House, pass amendments to the Senate version of the bill in the Senate called a reconciliation package, then both bills would be here on our calendar.

Then the House, under the direction of Speaker Pelosi, would take up the fixes that the House Members have insisted on which is called the reconciliation package, pass it first, and then pass the Senate version of the bill, message them both to the White House where the President would sign them in the proper sequence, one bill amending the first bill. Then this would be, as far as I know, the first time in history that the White House has replaced a legitimate conference committee, which would be the Members of the House and the Senate, Democrats and Republicans, having an open dialogue about resolving the differences. And what did President Obama say about this reconciliation nuclear option?

Here is what he said: Passing a bill with 51 Senate votes is an arrogant power grab against the Founders' intent. That's what President Obama said. The point is, he said that in 2005, not 2010.

Mr. KINGSTON. Well, I would say if the gentleman is saying it's an arrogant power grab, he certainly is accurate, and that's apparently the model that he wants to have. The gentleman may also have quotes from Senator Joe Biden, who denounced using this nuclear option, as well as Harry Reid.

When they were in the minority, I think they were right. When we were in the majority, I think we were wrong. I don't think you should do that. I think that it is a desperation thing. And if you can't get the requisite number of votes, maybe you need to start all over on the legislation. But you do have very strong, unequivocal statements by Senator Obama, candidate Obama, Senator Reid, Senator Biden and yet total hypocrisy, that's what it is, is hypocrisy at this point.

The gentleman was talking about needing Republican votes. They do not need a Republican vote to stop anything or to pass anything. It's not just with this $950 billion health care bill; they could pass a jobs bill without a Republican vote.

They could pass the tax-and-trade bill without it. They could get out of Iraq or Afghanistan without a single Republican vote. They could have energy independence without a Republican vote. They could pass that card check, that special interest bill for unions, without a Republican vote.

Why aren't they doing it? I just think that they had no idea that America was not asleep at the wheel. They found out in Massachusetts, and they're scared to death, hey, this might not be an isolated election. So we are seeing a lot of backpedaling right now. It's hilarious when you see some of these people, like the Senator from Nebraska who had the special interest deal on the health care bill. Now, he is all over this jobs bill. Oh, too much spending. You've got a $950 billion health care bill which he supports and a $15 billion jobs bill that he is against because of the spending.

Only in this town.

Mr. KING of Iowa. Let me suggest to the gentleman from Georgia that the problem is, no, Republicans can't stop anything that Democrats decide they want to get together and vote for because of the margin of 40 votes to burn here in the House, 19 in the Senate.

But the problem is, Democrats can't agree among Democrats on what they want to push for policy. If they can't find the votes among all of these extra Democrats that there are and they still point their finger back over at Republicans and say, you guys, you wouldn't vote for the stimulus package, you won't support a health care, most of us wouldn't support that abysmal cap and tax, that cap and trade bill that, by the way, passed off the floor of this House. A bill that didn't exist passed off the floor of the House of Representatives and a bill that didn't exist was messaged to the United States Senate. That's another part of this component.

Mr. KINGSTON. If the gentleman will yield quickly, a bill that was still being amended at 3:30 a.m. before we started debating it at 9 a.m. in the morning, a bill which you could say truthfully in your heart of hearts believe that not one single Member in the United States House of Representatives had read.

Mr. KING of Iowa. To the gentleman, in fact, I can say that with a factual knowledge, and I don't have to ask any of the 435 Members, did you read this bill, because I was here on the floor that night when we suspended the debate for 35 minutes to resolve, where is the bill? I mean, sometimes they will say to us, you don't have any ideas, where are your bills?

We have a lot of bills. We have 40 some bills that we've filed on health care. But we said, where is the bill that we are debating? This is actually Louie Gohmert from Texas that deserves a lot of credit, and Joe Barton also was very good on that night. So we looked down here at the well. The bill didn't exist. There was an old bill. There was an amendment that had never been integrated. Actually, even the amendment wasn't here. It wasn't findable.

So what was going on was we were debating a bill that didn't exist, so it was impossible for anyone to have read a bill that didn't exist. That bill was then passed and messaged to the United States Senate. A bill that didn't exist was passed and messaged to the Senate, so no one read the bill.

I yield to the gentleman from Missouri.

Mr. AKIN. The funny thing is, a number of us have served in legislative bodies for a number of years. One of the rules has always been the public never pays any attention to the process of how we go about passing legislation. You can complain about different stuff like we had a bill that was done here, where we had a choice of voting for either a big tax increase or voting for a cost of living and we had to take a choice between the two. The process or the procedure there is unfair. Anyway, we got this bill here, 300 pages of amendments passed at 3 o'clock in the morning, and we're here on the floor. The Congressman from Texas, he has sort of the sense of humor of Eeyore, and he just asks in this plaintive kind of way, is it normal procedure that we have a copy of the bill on the floor when we are going to be debating a bill?

There is muttering and talking to the Parliamentarian and he says yes, indeed there is supposed to be a copy of the bill on the floor. So he comes back a couple of minutes later and says, I've been wandering around the Chamber and I'm having trouble finding it. Is it north, south, east or west or something like that. Pretty soon the Speaker starts laughing and we go back and forth about four times in a row. Finally he says, I've come up to the podium, and the place where you say there is a copy of the bill there isn't because the Clerk is still trying to stick 300 pages of amendments in this bill. So here we are passing a bill that doesn't even exist.

And the funny thing was--I guess it wasn't funny--the public was paying attention. They understood that we passed a massive tax increase on energy that's affecting very many small people who have to pay that power bill. Everybody who flips a light switch is going to get taxed, along with a massive amount of red tape. And it was done, they thought, in the secret and in the dark of night. But the public was paying attention, and, in my opinion, that started a lot of that Tea Party movement, that very event that we actually were standing here on the floor for.

Mr. KINGSTON. Let me just ask both of you, should Republicans take over this House, would you be willing to change the House rules to say any bill has to be posted online at least 72 hours before it's voted on; would you support that?

Mr. AKIN. I would support that in a heartbeat. If you're not proud enough of it to put it out there, then you shouldn't be sticking it out there at all.

Mr. KING of Iowa. Not only would I support that, but I would go further, and I would have a lot more bills come down here under an open rule. I would sign the pledge and the oath that every appropriations bill would be open rule.

Mr. KINGSTON. I am an appropriator, and I can tell you, generally all appropriation bills have been open rule. There have been a few rare occasions when we were in the majority that we had maybe a modified rule or a closed rule, but traditionally open rules were always the case on appropriations bills. When all else failed, at least there were appropriation bills to allow the minority party an opportunity to put in some amendments.

But the iron hand of the oppressive majority has closed down that system. It's not about Republicans versus Democrats; it's about 435 people who have been elected by 600,000 people to represent their views in their Nation's capital.

Mr. KING of Iowa. Another thing that happens around this town is the hole in the wall gang, the Rules Committee, sits up here on the third floor in a place where you very seldom see any press from the room. And only on one occasion have I seen a television camera in the room. They control what gets debated here on the floor and what is voted on on the floor. The last time we had a legitimate open rule on our appropriations process was in the spring of 2007. That was when Speaker Pelosi first came in and got the gavel before this draconian shutdown of the open debate process.

In that spring period of time through the appropriations process, I was successful in getting passed--not those I introduced--but those that actually passed this floor, nine amendments. As far as I know, that's the most amendments of any Member of Congress during that period of time.

Yet I have taken dozens of amendments up to the Rules Committee and submitted them, and I can't think of a single one that they ever allowed to be debated. That process has to change. That's got to be out in the open. We need the Rules Committee on television, out front, meeting in a published hour so that they can be watched by the press and the public and then, additionally, while we are here watching what goes on with the rules and the shutdown of what's going on, we need more sunlight.

Mr. KINGSTON. If the gentleman would yield, I want to tell you one of my rules experiences at the Rules Committee. Now, remember, the Rules Committee, when the bill is passed by, say, the Agriculture or the Education or the Energy Committee, it goes to the Rules Committee and they determine how long it's going to be debated and what amendments will be allowed and what amendments won't be allowed. That's why they're called rules. Four hundred thirty-five Members, you've got to have rules, strict rules, or you won't get anything done.

I was going to the Rules Committee. I had submitted an amendment, and I was waiting my turn to present my amendment to the Rules Committee for their consideration. And a staffer wrote me an e-mail and said, Your amendment has been rejected. Do you still want to sit in here and present it?

I said, Well, how could it be rejected? I haven't presented it and until I present it they can't reject it.

And my staffer said, I have some inside information. I've got a friend on the majority. Your amendment is not on the list.

I said, Well, what list?

The list of amendments they're going to allow.

I said, Well, this is just a total farce. You have Members of Congress sitting in a crowded room waiting their turn to present an amendment, and the Rules Committee behind closed doors had already decided which ones they were going to take and not take.

Mr. KING of Iowa. Because they got a list from the Speaker as to what amendments to approve and which ones not to approve. And on this health care bill, this monstrosity here, I was before the Rules Committee at 1:30 in the morning, I offered 13 separate amendments, to ask to be able to debate them and get a vote on to approve this health care bill. And I was chastised by members of the Rules Committee because I had wasted paper and staff time to have them drafted up, because I should have known, as the gentleman from Georgia apparently should have known, that they weren't going to allow these amendments, so why should I try.

But any Congress that can pass a bill that doesn't exist, debate a bill that doesn't exist here, pass a bill that doesn't exist here, and message that bill to the United States Senate, I suppose can also put out a list and say, we're going to reject the amendment that you never offered in advance.

Another thing that happens in this Congress--and it happened on this floor today--is committee action. And the committee action that goes on is designed to take this language apart, take a look at it, examine the ramifications, hold hearings, get educated, evaluate the impact of legislation and then bring that legislation through the committee and amend it and perfect the legislation when you have a debate where you can focus it with people that are experts on the subject matter.

The legislation that came through today on this insurance across State lines political bill that came to the floor, had been amended in the Judiciary Committee with an amendment by Dan Lungren, passed by a majority of members, Republicans and Democrats voting for the Lungren amendment. The bill passed out of the Judiciary Committee, and on its way to the Rules Committee it magically became a different bill without the Lungren amendment language in the bill. That's what we voted on on the motion to recommit today.

So we have committee action that's a farce, as well as the Rules Committee which is a farce, as well as the debate here on the floor of the House, which is a farce, when we are debating a bill that doesn't exist. That's just three egregious things that need to change in a Republican-run Congress. I will stand to change all of those with anybody else that will stand with me.

Mr. KINGSTON. You know what's interesting about that bill, though, is dispute that strange route that it went for the strange product that wasn't passed by the committee, we still had a decent debate on it and passed the bill.

The importance of that is if you want open debate on health care, we now have an example that shows, hey, you know what, it works. This was a health insurance related piece of legislation. We had an open debate on it. It didn't have special deals for Nebraska or Louisiana. It did not have a big price tag on it. It had some Republicans against it, some Republicans for it, and the thing passed.

Oh, hey, what about doing that on everything else about health care? Wouldn't that be an interesting experiment in democracy?

Mr. KING of Iowa. Well, I hope, as I reclaim, that what we see tomorrow is more than a dog and pony show. I hope it's not just a show that's designed to resolve the two things that seem to be giving Democrats and the President heartburn, which are the very legitimate point that they have shut Republicans out of the process and the very legitimate point that the President has promised that negotiations will take place on C-SPAN. That seems to be what is going to be presented tomorrow.

But I'm going to say again, the requirement of preconditions that the President wants to negotiate from his position--and by the way, he doesn't have a bill yet that I know of. He just has platitudes and bullet points that are out there. But to start with his platitudes and bullet points--and maybe we'll be guessing at the amorphous combination of the Senate and the House version of this, that all needs to go off of the table, and this threat of reconciliation, the nuclear option needs to be renounced and rejected by the President of the United States.

I would be just as happy if he would just read his 2005 statement verbatim tomorrow. He should start out the meeting and say, Well, all in good faith, I want to talk about health care with you on C-SPAN. I know I made a campaign oath. It probably wasn't the best promise, but it was good political leverage and good theater at the time, so I'm going to try to follow through on that so that I can resolve some of the criticism. And by the way, I know we've shut you Republicans out of this thing. We've done so since clear back last September, but I'm going to open this up at least so we can have the semblance of negotiations take place, and to demonstrate my good faith--and then read from the 2005 statement.

Then the President should say, ``Passing a bill with 51 Senate votes is an arrogant power grab against the Founders' intent.'' That's what the President should say tomorrow. That's actually what the President said in 2005. That would demonstrate good faith. And then we would have a blank slate, a blank piece of paper, however you want to characterize it, except Republicans have their package bill. I'm suggesting we should concede that too. Slide that off the side of the table, really start with a blank slate, and then bring up, as the gentleman from Georgia said, a stand-alone idea can be debated and it be perfected and it can be passed. We need to do it with tort reform in a real way that takes the money out of the pockets of the trial lawyers as opposed to taking it out of the pockets of our senior citizens.

The gentleman from Missouri.

Mr. AKIN. It seems like, to me, what you're talking about is, in a way you are defining something that's bipartisan, where people in good faith come to the table, they all have some ideas, they talk about them and say, Well, I don't like this part of your idea, and they say, Well, I don't like this part. Well, what part can we all agree to and put together?

Now, my understanding is the way the President is defining bipartisanship tomorrow is that what he's going to do is go behind closed doors, come up with a legislative product, then give the Republicans the chance to agree with him. And Republicans aren't allowed to bring anything they have in, but he has something that he has concocted. He's going to kind of spring it on them and say, Now are you going to go along with me?

Is that your concept of bipartisanship?

Mr. KING of Iowa. You know, I think they have been sitting up behind closed doors cooking up this reconciliation/nuclear option. They've been doing this for over a month. Senator Harkin announced, after Scott Brown won the election in Massachusetts--again, thank you, Massachusetts, Mr. Speaker--announced that they had already reached an agreement within a couple of days before Scott Brown was elected in Massachusetts. This is a continuation of it, and the strategy was what I've described with reconciliation/nuclear option.

So, yes, they have worked behind closed doors. They are operating in secret, and they have cooked up this and they are going to say take it or leave it.

Mr. AKIN. Is that bipartisanship or is that ramming full speed ahead? That's what it seems like to me.

Mr. KING of Iowa. Well, it's truly not bipartisanship; it's only the show of bipartisanship designed for two things: so they can say, Well, we've negotiated with Republicans on C-SPAN. We didn't shut them out. That's really it.

The gentleman from Georgia.

Mr. KINGSTON. You know, the amazing thing is, I was in the State legislature, and we had, out of 180 members, 26 Republicans, and yet the philosophies were still reflective of the State of Georgia. You could roughly say one-third of the people were fairly liberal, one-third of the people were fairly conservative, and then another third were either right of center or left of center. And so you had to have the legislative deliberations to get a bill in order to get, for the Georgia House, 91 votes to pass something. So I assumed that Congress would be the same way, where you would have some people from really safe hard left, hard right districts, and then people maybe from more swing districts where it's reflective of the American people, but every bill would have the mark of both parties on it.

I was shocked when I came here and saw that it's full speed ahead with the majority party. I think that's why, when we took over the House in the 104th Congress, we had open rules. And you know what, we strayed from that. That was one reason the people threw us out and put the Democrats in. But now they've seen the Democrats, and they are sick and tired of this partisan stuff. They do want open debate on C-SPAN and amendments.

So you know what would really be nice? If Mr. Akin offers an amendment and I vote against it and you vote for it--and it's okay to vote against your party members. And maybe you prefer a Democrat one. But you know, once you understand something, you have the opportunity to debate it, as we did today, you get a better bipartisan product.

And so today, I don't know if the Speaker is in town, but perhaps she saw that and said, Oh, my goodness, so this is the way democracy works? Maybe we should do this on another dozen bills and cobble together a collection of health care reforms. Because it seems to me somewhere in the town meetings that's what people were saying; fix what's broken. Don't throw out the entire system. And if you did some one-shot bills, you could have targeted health care reform without some $950 billion government takeover of health care.

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