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Providing for Consideration of H.R. 1549, Helping Sick Americans Now Act

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Ms. SLAUGHTER. I thank the gentleman for yielding me the customary 30 minutes, and I yield myself such time as I may consume.

We begin this week the way we've begun every week since January: spinning our wheels.

As we speak, sequestration is hitting communities across our country. Flight delays have started, Head Start programs are turning away children, and unemployment benefits are being curtailed. Despite the calls from me and all my Democratic colleagues to stop the sequestration, the majority refuses to act. In fact, the ranking member of the Budget Committee, Representative Van Hollen, has come four times to the Rules Committee with an amendment that would repeal sequestration, but the majority has rejected it every single time.

The majority has also left the job of passing a budget unfinished. With budgets passed by both the Senate and the House, it is now time to finish the job, and for the majority that constantly calls for regular order and concerns itself with no Senate budget, they now refuse to appoint the conferees. And they must, if we're going to get the budget.

Instead of taking meaningful action on these two important issues, the majority is proposing a bill that is nothing more than a political gimmick. As everyone knows, there's no chance that the Senate will consider this bill. Even if it did, the President's senior advisers have stated that they will recommend the President veto the bill.

In the short history of the 113th Congress, I have been repeatedly dismayed that the leadership of this Chamber has refused to bring forth meaningful legislation that has any chance of becoming law; and today is a telling example of the majority's failure to lead.

In news reports earlier this morning, we were told that today's bill, dubbed by reporters as "CantorCare,'' may even be pulled before it gets a vote. One Member of the majority was purported to say that today's bill does nothing but shift money from a program he doesn't support to another program he doesn't support. And, indeed, given the fact that not a single Republican voted for the Affordable Care Act, it seems incongruous to me that they are now here today with great bleeding-heart concerns about the people with previous conditions that keep them from being insured.

So given the multiple reports of dissent within the majority, I have to ask, If no one supports this bill, then what are we doing this afternoon except, as I pointed out earlier, what we do every week? Even if we continue to move forward on the bill, it is already clear the legislation is solely designed for political gain. For while the majority claims that they want to strengthen the Affordable Care Act, their intent is clear: they want to repeal the law.

Last week, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius testified before the Senate Finance Committee where she was criticized by GOP Senators for using her legal authority to fund the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. As Secretary Sebelius replied in her testimony, Congress' failure to pass a budget has forced her to take the independent action, which she's allowed to do, in order to fund the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. It's as simple as that. In the face of an unproductive Congress, Secretary Sebelius has done everything she can to provide the lifesaving health care to the American people.

While reporting on Secretary Sebelius' testimony, Washington Post columnist Ezra Klein explained the majority's approach towards the Affordable Health Care Act. In part, Mr. Klein wrote:

"Insofar as the Republican Party has a strategy on ObamaCare, it goes like this: The law needs to be implemented. The GOP can try and keep the implementation from being done effectively, in part, by refusing to authorize the needed funds,'' as they did in this case. I think it was $1.5 billion.

"Then they can capitalize on the problems they create to weaken the law, or at least weaken Democrats up for reelection in 2014. In other words, step one: create problems for ObamaCare. Step two: blame ObamaCare care for the problems. Step three: political profit.''

The legislation before us is little more than a continuation of these games.

If the majority were making a serious attempt to expand health care coverage, they wouldn't be funding their proposal with money from a different program in the Affordable Care Act. Specifically, the majority wouldn't be removing $4 billion from the Prevention and Public Health Fund. This is a fund that is already helping States research ways to reduce instances of cancer, obesity, and heart disease.

Preventive health measures are vital to reducing the cost of health care in the United States because we know it is always cheaper to prevent disease than to treat it. In an age where more than 33 percent of our population is overweight or obese, when heart disease is the number one cause of death and the number of diabetes cases continue to grow, including children, gutting our Nation's only Federal preventive health program is not a responsible budget decision; it is simply an underhanded attack to dismantle the Affordable Care Act one program at a time.

Finally, the majority's newfound concern for people who are uninsured because of preexisting conditions might be more believable if they had allowed one of the numerous commonsense amendments presented to the Rules Committee to come to the floor. Among the amendments were responsible proposals to cover Americans with preexisting conditions by ending tax breaks for Big Oil, ending subsidies for owners of corporate jets, increasing taxes on cigarettes--a preventive health measure in its own right. Proposals like these would expand health care to those who need it while protecting the preventive health measures included in the Affordable Care Act. It is truly unfortunate that, in yet another restrictive process executed by the majority, these amendments were denied a vote on the House floor.

The majority and the press have made it clear that today's bill is not a serious effort, but a political gimmick that has no chance of becoming law. I urge my colleagues to vote "no'' on today's rule and the underlying legislation, and I reserve the balance of my time.

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Ms. SLAUGHTER. Madam Speaker, I yield myself such time as it takes me to read this message. It needs to be answered, and I want everybody in America to listen up. You've been told it's a job-killing bill and that it has caused all this grief. Let me say:

Since the passage of the Affordable Care Act, the United States has added more than 6 million private sector jobs. The health care industry alone, which many opponents of the law predicted would face job-killing new regulation, has added more than 750,000 jobs.

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Ms. SLAUGHTER. Madam Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

First, at the end of my remarks I will insert in the Record the Democratic amendments that were disallowed last night from the Rules Committee.

In closing, Madam Speaker, we've heard a lot today, but I think probably one of the most important things for America to know--because you hear constantly how many jobs this bill is going to be killing--is the fact that we have produced 6 million new jobs, 750,000 in health care alone.

So the most important thing we can do for Americans with preexisting conditions, which is the subject today, and for every American seeking quality and affordable health care is to support the full implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Unfortunately, the proposal put forward by the majority today is an attempt to dismantle a crucial part of that important law.

SUMMARY OF DEMOCRATIC AMENDMENTS NOT MADE IN ORDER BY THE RULES COMMITTEE FOR H.R. 1549--HELPING SICK AMERICANS NOW ACT

(SUMMARIES DERIVED FROM INFORMATION PROVIDED BY SPONSORS)

LISTED IN ALPHABETICAL ORDER--PREPARED APRIL 24, 2013

Amendment #4

Sponsor: Capps (CA)

Description: Removes the public health and prevention trust fund as a pay-for and instead pays for the bill by ending the section 199 domestic manufacturing deduction for oil and gas production.

Amendment #5

Sponsor: Green, Gene (TX)

Description: Makes the same changes to the PCIP program that the underlying bill does, but is paid for by requiring a minimum term and a remainder interest greater than zero for new Grantor Retained Annuity Trusts (GRATs)

Amendment #10

Sponsor: Horsford, Steven (NV)

Description: Requires the HHS Secretary to transfer all of the monies in the Fund for the next four fiscal years to the PCIP program except those monies from the fund that are used for reducing health disparities among minority populations.

Amendment #1

Sponsor: Pallone (NJ)

Description: Makes the same changes to the PCIP program that the underlying bill does, but is paid for through a 4 cent per pack increase in the tax on cigarettes.

Amendment #2

Sponsor: Pallone (NJ)

Description: Makes the same changes to the PCIP program that the underlying bill does, but is paid for by continuing the solvency of the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund by increasing the per-barrel amount that oil companies are required to pay into the fund by four cents.

Amendment #3

Sponsor: Schakowsky (IL)

Description: Extends funding for reopening enrollment under the Preexisting Condition Insurance Program (PCIP)

Madam Speaker, I ask unanimous consent to insert the text of the amendment in the Record, along with extraneous material, immediately prior to the vote on the previous question.

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