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Public Statements

Legislative Program

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. HOYER. We believe that the number one priority for us is to continue to grow the economy so that we will create jobs in this economy. As the gentleman knows, my perception is we have gone from losing an average of 726,000 jobs in the last 3 months of the Bush administration, to the last 3 months of losing, on average, 35,000 jobs. That is 95 percent in the right direction, but we need to continue to create jobs.

As you know in the bill that was just passed, which was passed in a bipartisan fashion in the Senate and to some degree here, we are trying to encourage the hiring of those who are unemployed through giving tax credits, and also tried to spur investment by giving businesses the right to write off items. We also ensure the continuation of the Highway Act; and in addition to that, as you know, we provided for a less expensive way for communities to expand public works and hire people to do that, public buildings and construction of public facilities.

So when I say the agenda, that was obviously a part of the agenda. We still are very concerned about lending, capital being available to small, particularly, but medium-sized businesses as well. The Senate is considering a jobs bill now, as you know, with a number of component parts. So when I talk about the jobs agenda, I am talking about ways and means and efforts to grow the economy and create jobs.

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Mr. HOYER. I thank the gentleman for yielding.

As the gentleman knows, I've expressed support for the policy being pursued by President Obama, and I certainly intend to continue to support that policy. The resolution is not consistent with that. So I think the gentleman is not going to be surprised at my expectation that this will be a bipartisan vote--perhaps on both sides of the proposition, yea and nay, but I certainly think it's going to be a bipartisan vote.

I believe the President's policy that he has articulated is a thoughtful, measured policy. And very frankly, I think he has done what perhaps we should have been doing for some period of time, focused on where terrorism was organized against the United States to ensure that we eliminate al Qaeda and prevent the Taliban from resurgence and reestablishing a base wherefrom terrorists might attack us. I think that is an appropriate policy that the President is pursuing, and I would hope that the House would support that policy on both sides of the aisle.

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Mr. HOYER. We hope that the budget resolution will come to the floor--and we're working on that--by the end of the month before we leave for the Easter break.

As you can well imagine, given the fiscal situation that confronts us, that's a very difficult document to put together. But Mr. Spratt is working very hard at that with the committee. I know Mr. Ryan, I'm sure, the ranking member, is also working hard on that. I am hopeful that we will be in a position to bring that to the floor before the Easter break.

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Mr. HOYER. It is the President's hope and our hope that that will be the case. As you know, the President has expressed that objective, and we have said that would be our objective as well.

As you know, we have been working on this issue for well over a year. We passed a bill many months ago; the Senate passed a bill over 2 months ago. Many of us have been working on that bill. As you know, we had a very substantial--historic, really, in many respects--discussion with the President at Blair House last week. I understand the President has incorporated a number of ideas that he felt were good ideas that Republicans put on the table at that meeting.

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Mr. HOYER. Well, I thank the gentleman for yielding.

As the gentleman knows, we provided for reconciliation in the budget resolution that was adopted last year, so that is available to us. That has been used 22 times, as the gentleman knows, since 1980; 16 of those times it was used when your party was in the majority. You utilized that to do what the American people think is usually the case: we pass things by majority vote, up or down, and the majority rules. Now, here, of course, when the majority rules, it really does represent a majority of the country. In the Senate, of course, even when a majority votes, it doesn't necessarily represent a majority of the people of the country because obviously every State, no matter how large or small, is represented.

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Mr. HOYER. I thank the gentleman for yielding.

Let me repeat, his 180 was incorporated as a way to go forward last year when we adopted the budget almost 1 year ago. So this is nothing new for the gentleman.

I told the gentleman his party has used this procedure 16 times out of 22 times that it has been used, which means your party has used it two-thirds of the time--over two-thirds of the time--that it's been employed. As a matter of fact, Judd Gregg, a Member of your party, a leader of the Budget Committee on your side, was chairman of the Budget Committee, now ranking member, when an objection was raised on that--we're using quotes--when an objection was raised to that said, as he turned to the Democratic side, ``What's wrong with a majority vote? I thought a majority vote was what should prevail.'' That was Judd Gregg of your party. I think it's ironic when we're saying, okay, you think a majority vote is good, we'll take a majority vote.

Now, the President's quote is a demonstration that we all say things that, unfortunately, then don't become reality. Well, I will tell you the reason they don't become reality is because, as Jim DeMint said, I think many of your party hope this is President Obama's Waterloo. That's a direct quote--you used quotes--from Mr. DeMint.

Your belief is, in my view--I do not attribute it to you--but my belief is, as Mr. Gingrich pointed out over and over again, if we fail, you win. The problem is if we fail, we believe the American people lose, and we think that is not fair.

I want to use one more quote and then I will cease and yield back to you. October of 2008, Presidential campaign debate, national television, John McCain, your candidate, said, ``I want to see a plan that gives all Americans, all families availability of affordable health care.'' That was a quote that Senator McCain, your candidate for President, made just a few months ago. It was almost exactly what Mr. Obama said. So, from my perception, there was a consensus with respect to where we needed to go.

As a matter of fact, I think almost every Member on this floor believes that we need to reform the health care system. We've had a very vigorous debate, a very open debate, a very transparent debate over 1 year now on how this ought to be done. We have disagreement, and that is the nature of democracy. But if a majority of the representatives in this body and the majority of the representatives in the other body believe a policy ought to be adopted, then, frankly, that is the way our system should work.

There is nothing in the Constitution, as the gentleman well knows, about having--except for some rare instances--a supermajority, and certainly none on policy. There are on confirmations and overriding a President's veto, but other than that, the perception is the majority vote rules.

So it's a procedure that you used, and it's a procedure that we anticipated last March. We hoped that wouldn't be the case. Very frankly, we would hope that we could work in a bipartisan way to effect this end that at this point hasn't been possible, and Senator McConnell has made it pretty clear that he has no intention of participating in that kind of effort.

I yield back to my friend.

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Mr. HOYER. Well, I thank the gentleman for yielding.

We are still discussing exactly what procedure will be employed to effect a majority vote in both Houses and send something to the President in the same form, so I can't specifically answer that question at this particular time.

But let me say to the gentleman, he mentioned the forum we went to, and Republicans did put ideas on the table. We thought they were constructive. As a matter of fact, as you may recall, I responded to Senator Coburn, who is also a medical doctor, when we mentioned about fraud, waste and abuse. As you know, there is substantial investment in both the House bill and the Senate bill to eliminating fraud, waste and abuse. Senator Coburn observed he thought there was a lot of money that could be saved there. We think that is the case as well, so we have provided to go after that.

We also, I think, agree that reform ought to be based on a private, market-based system. As the gentleman knows, the exchanges that are set up both in the House bill and the Senate bill, they differ; but they are both based on private sector competition by private insurance companies.

We talked about wellness programs. Dr. Coburn also talked about that as did others. I think Dr. Boustany, Congressman Boustany, also talked about that.

We have a very substantial investment in wellness and, as Dr. Coburn pointed out, in practices that give cooperative care and are not reimbursed piecemeal but are reimbursed by the quality of care that is given, by the outcomes that are given as opposed to simply being process-oriented.

We also agree, I think, Mr. Cantor, on mechanisms to have competition across State lines. We believe the exchanges do that, but we also believe there is room for discussion in looking at how we might do that in other ways as well. So we think that that's an idea, and the pooling with respect to small businesses so they can create large groups so that they can have better competitive advantages. We believe that, when we put small businesses into the exchange, that's exactly what we give them.

For instance, in a large group, as all of us know and as we have in the Federal Employee Health Benefit Plan, we don't have preexisting conditions, because we are a large group. Most large groups don't. In the legislation you offered as a substitute to ours, of course, you did not cover preexisting conditions. Your legislation provided for about 3 million people having greater access to the system; ours for about 30 million. So, while we agree that we ought to have people have access, frankly, we believe that what we have proposed provides greater access.

Insurance pooling to acquire health insurance at lower prices, it seems to me we agreed on that as an objective. You disagree with the way we have done it in terms of our exchanges, which is, of course, what the Federal Employee Health Benefit Plan is that you and I participate in. It's a large exchange with many different insurers. In our area, we have about 25 or 26 different options that we can choose from. For the most part, they're private sector. As a matter of fact, for all parts, they're private sector to choose from.

So, yes, we have differences, but as I've told you before, I'm still prepared to discuss with you and to work with you on suggestions you have that get us to an objective that we think is appropriate.

Let me just lastly, in closing, say a recent polling shows a majority wants to keep working. You indicate, as you do on a regular basis, that there are polls that show people are against this bill. My view is what they are really against is this confrontation and contention regarding these bills, which is, of course, why the President said he thought having 60 percent would give a greater level of confidence. I agree with that. I would hope that we would have created that kind of consensus.

I want to read to you: 63 percent in a Washington poll said that we ought to pass comprehensive health reform; 57 percent in a Kaiser Family Foundation poll. February 22, 2010, Kaiser poll also finds overwhelming support for key elements of the reforms in our bill; 76 percent support reforming the way health insurance works in our bill; 71 percent support creating a health insurance exchange, which is in our bill; and 70 percent support expanding high-risk insurance pools.

So, when you go to the individual elements of our bill, we find very significant support for those individual elements, I tell my friend. I continue to look forward to working with my friend to reach common ground.

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