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Public Statements

Affordable Care Act

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Ms. NORTON. Well, I want to thank you, Representative Tonko, and my other good colleague, Representative Garamendi, for leading this special order and for offering the perspective that you've begun this hour with, something that our fathers and grandfathers are responsible for, the Greatest Generation, and now has been embraced by the American people. And as proud Democrats, we are very, very proud of that, of these very important reforms.

I wanted to come to the floor as well to offer some real-life, real-time evidence as people try to judge what they've heard on the floor today and what they heard on the floor yesterday about the health care bill. We teach our children fair play, you win some, you lose some. And when you lose, then you've lost that one; you try again another time.

What they've seen in the House this year and last year are the Republicans trying to repeal financial reform. They lost that. It's as if the law of the land weren't the law of the land. Now they're trying to repeal health care reform even when the Supreme Court announces the law of the land. They've come to the point where they do not recognize the law of the land as announced by passage in the Senate and the House, signature of the President, and, in the case of the health care reform bill, the imprimatur, which is the last word, of the Supreme Court.

But as I heard the debate, I was concerned that the American people would be concerned in the face of this economy about what they hear our colleagues on the other side say the health care bill will do to the economy, and attempt to essentially frighten people, especially yesterday when the Republicans came forward with a usual set of horribles, this after the bill was passed, now when we ought to be thinking of the best ways to implement it. But none of those horribles about what was going to happen because of the health care bill was data based.

We ought to ask ourselves: Why would the Republicans not use the one existing experience that we have, the 6-year experience of the Massachusetts health care law, which is the very model for the health care law we passed? And that, of course, was a law that was engineered by their own candidate for President, Mitt Romney.

Well, I had occasion to look at the experience under that bill because, as you may know, our colleagues had hearings all around the House yesterday on health care reform as a prelude to the repeal vote on the floor. And I was in the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and the hearing was on the impact on jobs. Now, if you want to scare the American people, tell them that the bill is going to add to the problems in their jobs.

One of the witnesses was a State senator from Massachusetts, who has been a State senator for 2 years. He was not in the senate when Governor Romney's bill was passed. He is the CEO of Cape Air. That's a 1,000-employee company. It's a tough business because it's the airline business. It's a regional airline. And he had some real-time experience for us.

And I think it's important just to say a few words about what Massachusetts Senator Daniel Wolf said who for 6 years served on the Federal Reserve Board's Advisory Council of New England, who was board chair of one of the largest chambers of commerce in Massachusetts and is a trustee of the largest mutual bank in the Cape and Islands region. He is a small businessman of the kind we have in mind when we talk about small business. This is what he reported: That his premiums today--under the Massachusetts bill which this bill, our bill, is patterned after--are roughly 3 percent of his company's gross income. And to quote him: ``Health care reform has not stifled business.'' Since the passage of the Massachusetts health care reform bill, the very bill that is the model for our health care bill, this company has added 15 percent more Massachusetts-based jobs.

He talked about premiums. Importantly, he said that just before the passage of the Massachusetts law, premiums were going up 15 to 20 percent. They are down now--going up 5 percent. And he said last year he was able to negotiate a 5 percent decrease. My friends, part of this, a great part of this, has to do with the large insurance pool that, of course, Massachusetts citizens are in now when you see these reductions.

The State spending for health care reform programs last year represented a 1.4 percent increase in the State budget. Two-thirds of their residents support the health care reform.

It was extraordinary testimony from a businessman who had no reason to come forward. He's not a politician. Yes, he's in the State senate, but he has the credibility of being in the Senate and being a quintessential small businessman.

I want to suggest to my colleagues that there's a reason why our colleagues do not point to the only real experience that could tell us something about what is going to happen with this law, and that is because they are not driven by data, but by some ideology that is not understandable. But once you get it in your head that if you're against the bill even when it's passed, you've got to do all you can to kill it--If it's health care reform, you kill health care reform. If it's financial reform, even after the worst recession since the Great Depression, then you try to kill that.

I think that in hearing what has happened in Massachusetts that you would think Mitt Romney would be shouting from the hilltops about it. When you see what's happened in Massachusetts, what the Republicans, what we ourselves should be doing is studying in depth the experience of Massachusetts, seeing what their mistakes were, looking at their successes, instead of throwing horribles out there based on no data and based on nothing.

I thank you for coming forward to start a discussion that helps give the American people some broader sense of what this struggle is about and helps them to understand that when they hear the word ``repeal,'' it is not what it means. In order to repeal, you have to get both Houses and the signature of the President.

People should be alerted that this law is here to stay. It is almost impossible--it will be almost impossible, unless there is a Herculean change in the House, the Senate, and the Presidency, to change the Congress in the direction of those who oppose the law. Absent that, every Member of this House who believes in law and order, who believes in the rule of law, has an obligation to sit down together to make this law work and not try to undermine it. To the extent that you undermine it, you are now undermining the health care of the citizens of the United States of America.

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