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Senate Amendments To H.R. 3590, Service Members Home Ownership Tax Act Of 2009, And H.R. 4872, Health Care And Education Reconciliation Act Of 2010

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. HOYER. I thank my friend for yielding.

Today is March 21, 2010. On March 21, 1965, Martin Luther King, Jr., led a march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge. It was a march across that bridge for the vote in this democracy.

It was a march towards a greater freedom for many Americans. It was a march for a better quality of life for many Americans. Indeed, it was a march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge for freedom and a better realization of the promise of our democracy.

Today, March 21, 2010, we will cross another bridge. It is not a physical bridge, but it is a bridge that too many Americans find that they cannot cross; a river that separates them from the security of having available the best health care that is available in the world available to them.

We are here to conclude a day of debate, which concludes months of debate, in a national conversation that began more than a century ago.

But this much is beyond debate. American health care is on an unsustainable course. By the end of this debate, another family will have fallen into bankruptcy because someone had the bad fortune simply to be sick. More families will have joined them in paying more and more for less and less health coverage. More businesses will have weighted bankruptcy against cutting their workers' care and their workers will have lost.

We have before us a bill to change an unsustainable course. That is our choice this evening. It is a historic choice. It's a choice that all of us volunteered to be put in the position to make. It is a choice that we will be honored to make this evening. We stood in this Chamber tonight with John Dingell, John Dingell, who stood at that rostrum with the gavel that the Speaker will use tonight to gavel through Medicare, that ensured that millions and millions and millions of seniors would not be crushed by poverty and put into bankruptcy by the cost of health care.

Indeed, they will have been given the opportunity for a longer, better quality of life in America when John Dingell brought that gavel down on that desk and noted the passage of Medicare in 1965.

For more than 3,000 district events, more than 100 hearings, and almost 2 years of public debate, health insurance reform has stood up to the scrutiny, to criticism, indeed, to falsehoods. But this purpose is older than that. Before we were born, the task of bringing affordable health care to every American was on our Nation's agenda, waiting for this day. At the beginning of this decade in 2002, George W. Bush said, ``All Americans should be able to choose a health care plan that meets their needs at affordable prices.'' George Bush was right.

In 1976, Gerald Ford spoke of ``our effort to upgrade and perpetuate our total health care system so no individual in this country will lack help whenever or wherever he needs it.'' Gerald Ford was right.

And Richard Nixon said this, ``Let us act now.'' That was in 1974, when there were far fewer Americans who did not have health insurance and where health care was less costly. Richard Nixon was right in 1974 on this issue. Let us in 2010, in a bipartisan way, perhaps not a bipartisan vote, but recognizing that this has been a bipartisan objective, a bipartisan vision, for those Republican Presidents and Democratic Presidents whom I have not quoted but whom, as all of you know, were equally committed to that vision and that objective, affordable health care for all, for all Americans. It was embraced by both parties' nominees in the last campaign, Senator Obama and Senator McCain.

But what a campaign of fear this bill has faced this last year. Its critics call it, without justification, and we will hear it tonight, a ``government takeover.'' That's not true, but if you believe it's true, perhaps you think we ought to repeal veterans health care, which is clearly government-run health care. Perhaps we ought to repeal Medicare, government participated but private sector providers. Perhaps you believe Medicare should be repealed. I don't think you do; I hope you don't.

It is more control, however, for whom? For consumers, and less for insurance companies. It is the end of discrimination against Americans with preexisting conditions, and the end of medical bankruptcy and caps on benefits. It is coverage you can rely on whether you lose your job or become your own boss, coverage that reaches 95 percent of all Americans. Its critics call it tyranny. There is none.

It is a free, competitive, transparent marketplace where individuals and small businesses can pool together to buy private insurance at low rates. It is lower cost for the middle class and an end to the prescription drug doughnut hole that has faced too many struggling seniors. Its critics mock this as ``out-of-control government.''

In truth, it is the biggest definite-reduction bill any of us will have an opportunity to vote on in this Congress and, indeed, in other Congresses as well. Indeed, it's the deepest definite reduction since the Clinton budget of the 1990s that ushered in a budget surplus and historic prosperity.

According to the nonpartisan CBO, this bill is $143 billion in savings in the first decade and more than $1 trillion of savings in the second decade. We can add to those deficit savings real cost controls that bring down the price of the world's most expensive health care. Take those into account, says leading health care economist David Cutler, and America saves an additional $600 billion in the first 10 years and even more in the second 10 years.

Yet there are some who hope for the bill's defeat. They would see that, I think, as the defeat of one party. One Senator made that observation and said this might be the President's Waterloo. If this bill fails, the Waterloo will be that of the people who are without health care insurance, the people who are struggling to make sure that their children are healthy and well and safe. But it would be a defeat for them and for our country, for a healthy America is a stronger America.

They saw the same thing in 1993, my Republican colleagues, when to a person, as I believe will happen tonight, unfortunately, in 1993, to a person they did the same thing. My Republican friends voted without a single exception against the 1993 economic reform plan of the Clinton administration.

Congressman Boehner asked, ``Who does this spending stimulate except maybe the liberal faculty at Harvard or Berkeley?''

Congressman Kasich said, ``If it was to work, then I'd have to become a Democrat. ``

It did work, and he didn't change. It was a partisan vote, Mr. Speaker, a partisan vote that helped create 22.7 million new jobs, contrary to what so many of my Republican friends said that bill would do, and a record budget surplus of $5.6 trillion, contrary to the assertion of Mr. Armey that it would create deep debt.

That bill passed through a gauntlet of slurs, hyperbole, and untruths, and so did Medicare, which Republicans called ``brazen socialism,'' and so did Social Security, which a Republican Congressman called the ``lash of the dictator.''

I don't know whether there are any Republicans in this body tonight that believe that Social Security is the lash of the dictator. I hope not.

Those slurs were false in 1935, they were false in 1965, and, ladies and gentlemen of this House, they are false in 2010. Ladies and gentlemen of this House, this bill, this bill will stand in the same company, for the misguided outrage of its opposition and for its lasting accomplishment of the American people.

In closing, Mr. Speaker, I want to honor some of the ``little punk staffers'' who gave so much to help us bring this bill to the floor. I say to my friends on the other side of the aisle who did so much to bring your prescription drug bill to the floor, they need to be honored. They need to be thanked. They need to be respected for the work they do for this House, for each of us but, more importantly, for America.

From the Legislative Counsel's Office, Ed Grossman, Jessica Shapiro, Megan Renfrew, Larry Johnston, Henry Christrup, Wade Ballou and Scott Probst.

I also want to honor, Mr. Speaker, the tireless staffs of the House Committees on Ways and Means, Energy and Commerce, Education and Labor, Rules, and the Budget,

as well as the staff of the CBO, Doug Elmendorf, Holly Harvey, Phil Ellis, Kate Massey, Pete Fontaine and the whole CBO health care team, along with Tom Barthold, and everyone of the staff on the Joint Committee on Taxation, who contributed to their estimates.

Finally, two remarkable staffers in my office have made health reform the cause of their lives and just about every one of their waking hours for the past year, Liz Murray and Ed Lorenzen. Thank you very much.

Mr. Speaker, one of my staffers, my deputy chief of staff, has a 4-year-old daughter. She is a beautiful young girl, she is a smart young girl. Her name is Colette. A few days ago a neighbor asked Colette where her mom was, and I am told that she answered, She's at work making sure everyone can go see the doctor. Thanks, Mom. Thanks to all the moms throughout America who, when we pass this bill, will have a greater sense of security for their kids, for their families, for themselves.

I know this bill is complicated, but it's also very simple. Illness and infirmity are universal, and we are stronger against them together than we are alone. Our bodies may fail us; our neighbors don't have to. In that shared strength is our Nation's strength, and in this bill is a prosperous and more just future.

Unfortunately, much of this debate has been divisive, much of it has been irrelevant. We have seen angry people at the doorstep of the Capitol. Every President in this last century has said this is necessary for a great Nation to do.

My colleagues, how proud we must all be that our neighbors have elected us to come here in this, the people's House, to do this good work this night.


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