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Public Statements

The Progressive Message

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. GARAMENDI. Thank you, Mr. Ellison. Thank you so very much for your consistent and strong voice on what we really need to do here in America to take care of people.

At the beginning of the day and at the end of the day, our task is to fulfill that message of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This day really, in many ways, fulfills that.

Think about it. Can you have life without health care? Well, probably not for very long. Most everybody I know has had a sickness at one point or another. If you don't get health care, you may very well lose your life.

Happiness? We know that most of the bankruptcies--this is before the great crash--are a direct result of health care and not having sufficient insurance or not having insurance. With regard to happiness, wow.

Of course, liberty. You just think about the number of Americans that are literally chained or tied to their job because they have health care there. If they want to leave, if they want to pursue a different course, they want to improve, they can't, because they are tied to their job because of health care. They can't get it.

Today, the Supreme Court said that what this House did with the Affordable Health Care Act is constitutional. It is constitutional. It is possible for us. As we just heard from Mr. Kucinich, it is possible for us to reform the health care system.

My thoughts are so happy for America, so happy for that man that I saw 5 years ago that was on his deathbed, and he said, If I can just live another 5 months, I'll be on Medicare and I can get the treatments that I need without bankrupting my family. Today he probably will be able to get that. It's a good day.

I was the insurance commissioner for 8 years in California. And if only I had this law, if only this law were in place, I could have hammered those insurance companies that were discriminating against people who had preexisting conditions. But I didn't have this law. So they were able to get away with discriminating against women because they are women. Because they are of child-bearing age, they may have a child; and it might cost the insurance companies money.

My chief of staff had a child who was born with an ailment. That kid, from the day of conception to the day after he was born, had insurance. As soon as the insurance company found out that that child had a serious problem, they stopped the insurance. The family almost went into bankruptcy; but for the friends and support around them, they would have done so. That is over.

Every child born in America will continue to have health care coverage, whether they are healthy or not. It's a good day. It's a good day for the children. It's a good day for the people of America.


Mr. GARAMENDI. And, of course, women--millions across this Nation--will receive free coverage for comprehensive women's preventative health services: Pap smears, breast x rays and the like. In 2011, 32.5 million seniors received one or more preventative services. In 2012, 14 million seniors have already received these services.

105 million Americans will no longer have a lifetime limit on their coverage. Before this bill was in effect, if you go up to $100,000 or $200,000--if you had a serious illness, you could go through that, bam--that's it. You don't get any more coverage. No longer. No more limits. Lifetime limits are gone.

Seventeen million children with preexisting conditions can no longer be denied coverage by insurance companies; 6.6 million young adults--what you were just talking about--you are talking about my daughter. She graduated at the age of 21, 22; lost her insurance. The day after this bill passed, she said, Dad, can I get back on your policy? The answer was yes. Actually, it took 6 months, but it did happen. 5.3 million seniors in the doughnut hole--this is the drug coverage portion--have saved $3.7 billion on prescription drugs already.

Now, our good friends, the Republicans, want to repeal all of this. So you go through this list: 13 million Americans will not receive a rebate if the Republicans succeed in repealing the bill; 54 million Americans will not receive preventative services; 6.6 million young Americans will not be on their parents' coverage between the age of 21 and 26. There are a lot of takeaways from what the Republicans want to do with their repeal.


Mr. GARAMENDI. Thank you so very much, Mr. Ellison. And thank you for your leadership on this and so many other issues.

I'm looking at that sign next to you: ``Republicans' No-Jobs Agenda.'' A repeal of the Affordable Health Care Act and the Patients' Bill of Rights is not going to create jobs. In fact, it is going to make it very, very difficult for small businesses because the Affordable Health Care Act actually helps small businesses.


Mr. GARAMENDI. They don't have the mandate. Small businesses don't have the mandate. But what they do have is an opportunity. They have an opportunity to get health insurance at an affordable cost, which they've never had before. Small business, one-person, or husband and wife, perhaps, and two or three employees, it literally was impossible for them to get affordable health insurance for themselves and for their three employees.

Under this bill, they can get it. It's subsidized, to be sure. But they can finally get insurance. And across the State of California and across this Nation we're finding thousands upon thousands of businesses for the first time going into the insurance market, able to buy insurance, getting coverage for themselves and their employees while providing what insurance must do, which is the knowledge and the stability that is necessary for the finances of that business to succeed.

The other thing--and I'm just going to pick up one more that's very, very close to me--in California, the Affordable Care Act provided funding for 1,154 clinics. Way back in 1978, when I was in the California legislature, and in 1976 as a member of the Assembly, I authored legislation to establish the Rural Health Act. And that built clinics in the rural part of California. And today, as a result of that, there are clinics all across the State of California, and the Affordable Care Act keeps those clinics in business.

This is where many Californians and across this Nation Americans access the health care system. It's there in their community. These are the community clinics that are so critically important in providing the health care that Americans need. The call for repeal kills these clinics. These clinics will die if this bill is repealed.

So out across the State, even in the most conservative part of my new district, Colusa County, there are clinics that are dependent upon this legislation and will be able to continue as a result of the Affordable Care Act, found by the Supreme Court, including Chief Justice Roberts, to be constitutional. This is constitutional. The legislature, Congress, and the Senate and the President have the power to solve one of the great America dilemmas: The health care system.

Over time, we'll change this. We'll make modifications. Among those modifications ought to be an expansion of Medicare, which is efficient, effective, and universally available to every American over the age of 65. How good it is. How hard and how determined people are--if I can just live to 65, I'll have Medicare. It's a great program. We ought to expand it. We ought to make it universal.


Mr. GARAMENDI. Well, I do. And like most of my Democratic colleagues, we just walked out of this Chamber and said this is not worthy of the dignity of the House of Representatives. And we weren't going to honor this process with our presence.

Let's go back here. The Fast and Furious programs actually began in the George W. Bush administration, I think, around 2005, 2006. And there were two iterations of it, two different projects that were underway out of the Phoenix office of the ATF. And they were trying to find out who the gunrunners were. We've all watched the Western movies and the gunrunners. Well, there are American gunrunners that were running guns to the narco folks in Mexico. We wanted to find out what is going on here, where are these guns coming from. And that was, once again, during the George W. Bush administration and had gone on for 2, 3 years.

The Obama administration comes in. Eric Holder is chosen as Attorney General. And the program continued. The tragedy occurred. An agent was killed. And from there, Fast and Furious--this is now what we call the walking of the guns--became known. Eric Holder shut it down. In that process, a letter was written to the Senate committee saying that it didn't exist. Clearly, an error, I am told. But this House doesn't know today. Never investigated by the committee. But I am told that there was information that the office in Phoenix, Arizona, misled the office in Washington, D.C., and a letter was sent forth that was incorrect. That should be the subject of the investigation: What happened here; what actually went on in Arizona.

Not one witness from the actual operation was called to testify. Not one. So this is really a very strange and botched investigation. If you want to get to the bottom of it, you've got to talk to the people that actually did it. It didn't happen. The Democrats on the committee demanded several times: Bring forth the people who did the Fast and Furious from the Bush administration into the Obama administration. Bring them forward. Get their testimony. Find out what happened. Find out about the communications between the Phoenix office and the Washington, D.C., office. It didn't happen.

So in terms of an investigation, you have a partial investigation focusing on the end of the story rather than on the full story. And today, the first time ever in the history of this Nation, this body voted to hold in contempt a Cabinet official on a half-baked, insufficient investigation that purposefully ignored calling witnesses that were actually engaged in the Fast and Furious operation and who were responsible in the Phoenix office for that operation.

It was a farce. It was a political event, and we walked out. Not a good day.

And as you said a moment ago, there are things we must do. Men and women and families across this country are hurting. They're unemployed. They want jobs. They want to go to work. Transportation, where's the transportation bill? We never did get one out of this House that was meaningful. We just passed a little thing so we can get to conference. It had nothing in it, but it allowed us to go to conference. Where's that bill? How about student interest rates, where's that bill? And what about the jobs program?

What if the September 2011 proposal that President Obama put forward, the American Jobs Act, what if we had taken that up? Three million, 4 million Americans would be working today. What if we had done that? But it didn't happen. Our colleagues on the Republican side refused to bring it up in this House and refused to allow it to be brought up in the Senate. That's sad. That's a very sad thing for America. It is one of the great ``we should haves,'' but we were prevented from doing so.


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