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Public Statements

Protecting Access to Healthcare Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. JOHNSON of Illinois. Mr. Chairman and Members of the House, first of all, let me thank the chairman for his willingness to allow me to speak on an issue on which we do not agree. I appreciate the courtesy; I appreciate the lively debate that has preceded me in, I think, probably a far more articulate way than I'm going to be able to articulate. But let me just, Mr. Chairman and Members of the House, address this in a bigger sense and then maybe in a specific sense from the standpoint of a Republican Member of the United States Congress.

To begin with, I believe that this addition is largely unrelated and almost entirely disconnected from the underlying bill. I believe it demonstrates some concern--or I believe it reveals some lack of concern--for sensitivity, and I think in a lot of ways reveals the duplicitousness that I think is inherent in a discussion of this issue. I think it is statist and antithetical to our beliefs, at least my beliefs and I think most of the Members' on this side of the aisle, with respect to what America is all about.

I look at this from the standpoint of a Republican Member in a Republican Party who has been a forerunner and who has dealt with the issue of states' rights and, quite frankly, has attacked this health care bill--and the Attorneys General--on a states' rights and interstate commerce basis. It is a classic example, Mr. Chairman and Members of the House, of what has historically been an area for states' rights. Whether it's the criminal justice or domestic law or civil justice, our Founding Fathers set in place a Federal level and a State level of government, and this strikes at the core of states' rights.

In addition to that, Mr. Chairman and Members of the House, separation of powers. We have been critical--and I think legitimately--from this side of the aisle with respect to HHS waivers that have been granted. We've been critical of the EPA and the U.S. DOT and so forth for their administration and their promulgation of rules without legislative authorization. And yet this entirely desecrates, in some ways, our whole judicial function, our whole judicial function regarding liability and damages. It is an intrusion into the judicial arena, which is something that is sacrosanct, and I think that's essential to our viewpoint of what the Constitution is all about.

It also strikes at the core of our free market system. I have been involved from a number of standpoints in the law practice; and I see a system that, in an overwhelming number of cases, works to effect justice. Two attorneys or more, witnesses, jurors, a judge, and the common law of 200 or 250 years almost inevitably results in just results. And now we have a situation, despite that commitment to free market that we have, where we're now proposing that the Federal Government dictate an imprimatur to override this whole system that's already in place and I think infringes on our constitutional right to a trial by jury.

It also strikes, I think, Mr. Chairman and Members of the House, what we Republicans say we believe in in terms of individual worth. One of our attacks, quite frankly, on the passage of this bill, which I largely subscribe to the attacks, is one that deals with the deep personalization of the individual inherent in President Obama's health care approach. This bill is a collectivist attack on personal realities and is a disregard for age, circumstances, State or community of residence; and I think that addresses in a very serious way the concept that we have constitutional worth of the individual.

In conclusion, this bill has essentially nothing to do with revenue production. We all know that. It obfuscates the underlying purpose of the bill, which is, quite frankly, to dismantle the inherent bureaucracy in the health care bill, which I largely subscribe to. It injects politics into a legitimate debate on a substantive public policy and prevents Republican and Democrat Members from an up-or-down vote and strikes, I think, at our fundamental beliefs of states' rights, of individualism and on constitutional premise.

In summary, I believe that a ``no'' vote is a vote to preserve individual dignity. Our ``no'' vote is one to maintain constitutional values, and it is to safeguard states' rights and the separation of powers. I know this is well intended, but this is not the vehicle to do it in. The vehicle is Austin, Texas, or Albany, New York, or Springfield, Illinois. I have some serious concerns about State legislation that would also interfere with separation of powers, but this is not the arena to do it in; it is not the bill to do it in; and I think, quite frankly, it is one that, unfortunately for me, strikes at the core of why I'm here. I'm not here to dismantle our common law system; I'm not here to dismantle the free market system; and I'm not here to dismantle states' rights. I'm here to stand up for what I think the American people sent us here for.

I don't think the health care bill was well considered. I think it should be substantially addressed in terms of this and other legislation. But this bill doesn't do it, ladies and gentlemen; and I, with all due respect, ask my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to join with me in a ``no'' vote on what I think may be a well intended, but certainly misdirected, effort. And I join with my colleagues over here and some over here in urging a ``no'' vote.


Mr. JOHNSON of Illinois. You are very kind to do that, Mr. Conyers.

I think I probably pretty well addressed it. I think between myself and my inarticulate comments and your opposition and some opposition over here, I think the debate has been very good and good for the process. And this is one I'm with you on, sir.


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