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Press Conference with House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH); Rep. Jim McCreary (R-LA); Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX); Rep. Adam Putman (R-FL);


Location: Washington DC

Press Conference with House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH); Rep. Jim McCreary (R-LA); Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX); Rep. Adam Putman (R-FL); Rep. Mary Bono (R-CA) Subject: SCHIP

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REP. BOEHNER: Ten years ago, Republicans and Democrats came together to create the Children's Health Insurance Program to serve children who are poor that did not have adequate health insurance, yet weren't poor enough to be on Medicaid. We did this in a bipartisan way. And the SCHIP program has been a successful program, but many of us think it could be even better. There are still a half a million low-income children that are eligible for this program today who are not covered. Yet, at the same time, there are some 700,000 adults who are covered under this program. I think this weakens the program and shortchanges the poor children that need health insurance and shortchanges those who the program was intended to help.

This year, we had a chance to refocus SCHIP on these children. Unfortunately, the bill that we represented and the bills presented to the White House not only did not refocus it on poor kids first, but expanded it to cover many more adults, I think, and again, at the expense of poor children. I'm disappointed that we've reached this point because I think we missed a golden opportunity to work in a bipartisan way to insure poor children first. Republicans want to renew the SCHIP program, as do Democrats here in this chamber, yet there has been no opportunity to work together.

And I'm hopeful that now that we've sustained the president's veto that Republicans and Democrats can sit down and work together to resolve our differences and make sure that the poor children who this program was intended to help are in fact helped first.

REP. BARTON: I want to thank Leader Boehner for his leadership on this issue. As I said on the House floor, we're ready to work with Democrats. When you get through all the rhetoric, the real debate about reauthorizing SCHIP is not about the low-income children, they're covered by Medicaid. It's not about the children between 100 (percent) and 200 percent of poverty, they're covered currently by SCHIP in most states, although some states have used their funds to cover adults. If we're going to expand the program, how do you expand it about 200 percent of poverty?

And once we've sustained the president's veto, which we will in the next three or four minutes, we're more than willing Leader Boehner and Mr. McCrery and myself and people like Congresswoman Bono and work with the Democrats in both the House and the Senate and the president to come with a program that does cover America's children. We have an honest policy debate difference about illegal aliens. We don't think illegal aliens should be covered. And over time, we don't think adults should be covered.

As Mr. Boehner pointed out, there are some states that cover more adults than children. That's been done because of the waivers that have been granted, that's a true statement, but that doesn't mean in the future they should be continued to be covered. So we're going to have a sustaining veto today and then we stand ready to meet, beginning tomorrow, to work out a program that can be brought to the floor in the next week or two, and reauthorize the program and get on with covering our low-income children in America for their health care needs.

REP. PUTNAM: This was so avoidable. You know, this is a confrontation that need not have occurred over a program that enjoys broad bipartisan support. The fundamental problem with this piece of legislation is that it fails to cover the kids who are eligible for this program, but are not enrolled first before having that money devoted into other uses. It misses a golden opportunity to bring together the two sides, as the American people would have us to do, to really solve the problems facing health care in America.

It creates a situation which draws too many young kids out of insurance coverage into a government bureaucracy, and all of these issues could be worked out. Chairman Emanuel has said no compromise. Leader Reid has said no compromise. Speaker Pelosi has said no compromise. But the Democratic governor of New York has said, I'm willing to compromise because this is such an important program to my state, we have to move it forward. And we have stood here for weeks now saying we believe there is a way forward. We are the parents of this program, just as the Democrats are, going back to its inception. We can come together to expand it and make it more relevant and more modern for the needs of today if only they would sit down and work with us to solve the problem facing America's uninsured children.

REP. BONO: Hi, I'm Mary Bono from California, and I am one of the 45 Republicans who supported the second SCHIP vote we had and voted, actually, with the Democrats today. But I'm here to tell you that I have been very frustrated by this process all along. I am one of the, I believe, likely Republicans who would have been approached to work across party lines on a good SCHIP bill and was never approached. I am hoping that the Democrats put the political gamesmanship aside and come together with us to work with us. The president, clearly, is not supportive, is not going to be supportive, and it is important we move something forward.

I know that my colleagues are very serious about working with the Democrats on a bill that can be very, very bipartisan. I have seen Chairman Barton work -- Ranking Member Barton work on bills that in the origin would have been pretty much contentious, and brought people together on both sides of the aisle. And the Ryan White (Care Act?) comes to my mind immediately as one of those bills. So I'd like to call on the Democrats to put aside the political gamesmanship, work with us, and pass a bill that is good for America's children and the president will sign. Thank you.

REP. MCCRERY: Well, I might note, I think you all know, Chairman Rangel and I have a very good relationship. We've worked together on a number of pieces of legislation this year. We worked together to craft a bipartisan agreement on trade that has allowed us to move forward, albeit slowly, on the trade agenda. And unfortunately on this issue, SCHIP, the chairman and I were not invited to work together. We never had the opportunity to work together. We never spoke about the details of any kind of bipartisan approach to this bill.

And when the bill left the House and the Senate passed a bill, a different bill, there was no conference, of course. There was some informal gathering of members to which we were not invited, the House Republicans. And I don't believe Chairman Rangel is very happy about that process or that procedure, and I think there are a number of Democrats who would like to at least allow us to the table to have an opportunity to discuss a true bipartisan approach to this very important issue. And certainly, as we have said, we Republicans in the House have said time after time that is what we seek with the president's veto and with our sustaining the president's veto, which you can see has already been accomplished by the vote. So we hope that that's the result of today's action, that we get together and try to craft a compromise that we can all support in the spirit of the 1997 bipartisan passage of this legislation.

One last thing, I held up on the floor, if you were watching, a sheet of paper from this Congressional Budget Office.

I submitted this for the record. It clearly puts the lie to the assertion that this bill is paid for. Now, the statement "this bill is paid for" is true, the bill is paid for. But what the bill does, as illustrated by this report from CBO that we got last night, it demonstrates very clearly that under the bill the number of people covered in 2012 would be 7.8 million, and under the bill in the year 2017 the number of people covered: 1.3 million. That's why the bill is paid for because the bill anticipates a reduction of some six-and- a-half million people being enrolled in the program.

Now, if you want to say the bill is paid for using that kind of shenanigan, fine, but we know, any reasonable person examining these figures knows that that's a lie. The bill is not paid for. The program is not paid for. And let me rephrase it: the program is not paid for as it is designed in the bill. And it is fiscally irresponsible to promote these kinds of expansions of the program and claim that it's paid for when the CBO says, given these figures, if you want to keep the program as it's designed in the bill, it will cost an additional $40 billion. So, just throw that out for your enjoyment. Questions?

Q Mr. Boehner, Chairman -- I mean, Mr. McCrery just sort of touched on it, the point about the -- (inaudible) -- and I think he -- (inaudible) -- a lack of involvement of committees on SCHIP -- (inaudible) -- the --

REP. BONO: (Off mike.)

Q Okay, how could I forget -- (inaudible). Why has it been so rough? Why has it been such a rough week for the speaker? Is it because of a lack of involvement of committees? What other factors? What does she need to do?

REP. BOEHNER: Well, running the House is a difficult job, but trying to run it yourself is an impossible job. And if you look at our management approach, we involve the leadership, we involve the chairmen and the members, and collectively come to decisions on how we move forward. That is not how she has chosen this year to manage the House, and it's not surprising to me that she's having a rough week. Yes?

Q Mr. Boehner, the president, yesterday at a press conference, said he was exercising his veto power because it's a way that he can ensure that he's still relevant. What does this vote demonstrate about the president's strength or lack of strength on Capitol Hill?

REP. BOEHNER: Well, I think that the president vetoed this bill because it expands the program exponentially at the risk of ignoring those very children the program was designed to cover. I've outlined the numbers. And I think that the president expects the Congress will work in a bipartisan way to put a bill on his desk that he can sign.

Q Does this vote show that he's still relevant? Is he?

REP. BOEHNER: The president is the president and will be the president. I'm not going to get into characterizations of how you want to describe it.

Q Mr. McCrery, do you have any thoughts on that.

REP. MCCRERY: Yes. (Laughter.) As the leader said, the President of the United States is always relevant. He has powers under the Constitution, as demonstrated with this veto. And for all of the substantive policy reasons that the president has no (merit?) -- I mean, we have no (merit?) on the floor of the House. We were able to sustain his veto, and certainly that's a picture of relevance.

Q You all talked about sort of the things you'd like to see changed. You talked about enforcement mechanisms for illegal immigrants. You talked about not having adults on the program. Can you describe how you're going to be working with -- (inaudible) -- and other people from the White House? And what, kind of, what are the pieces of what you're going to bring to the table?

REP. BOEHNER: Well, we're hopeful that we'll be able to sit down with Democrats in the House and Senate in a bipartisan way, work with the White House on producing a Children's Health Insurance Program that focuses the program on poor children who need health insurance. It's as simple as that. I'm not going to negotiate with you or with the press in terms of what I'd be for and what I wouldn't be for, but I'm hopeful that we'll be able to sit down in a room and do that.

Q Do you have a number in mind also? I mean, is it more than 5 million, for example?

REP. BOEHNER: No, I think it's -- I think, again, we'll sit down and have that conversation with the White House and with our Democrat colleagues hopefully now that this veto has been sustained and try to come to some number that we can agree on.

Q Apparently Steny Hoyer is going to meet with Heather Wilson today to start hammering out some sort of compromise. I'm wondering when are you meeting with Steny Hoyer? Did you know that that was happening?

MR. BOEHNER: I have not been invited by the majority leader to sit down and talk, but I would certainly sit down and talk with him if he'd invite me.

Q So, okay -- so, no plans right now?

MR. BOEHNER: I have not received any invitations. Thank you all.

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