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Public Statements

Congressional Black Caucus

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. BUTTERFIELD. Mr. Speaker, I thank Mr. Horsford for yielding me this time, and I thank him for all the work he does here in the House of Representatives and say he represents his district well.

Mr. Speaker, I come to the floor tonight, quite frankly, very frustrated. I am frustrated as I stand here right now. Our Federal Government is shut down. This is the seventh day of a shutdown that did not have to happen. This is political theater at its best--or at its worst. And who's paying the price? It's the American people who are feeling the pain.

This shutdown has been engineered and manufactured by House Republicans. Anyone paying close attention to what's happening here in the House will come to the quick conclusion that it is not the Democrats who have manufactured this crisis; it is the Republican majority that has done so.

There are votes on the floor tonight that could pass a continuing resolution to get this behind us. I can tell you that most, if not all, Democrats will vote for a clean CR, and many, many of my Republican friends would do the same. I dare not call my Republican friends by name, but there are many of them. I had two visit with me tonight on the House floor to say they are willing to do it.

Yet Republicans feel that somehow they can use the budget crisis as a means for defunding the Affordable Care Act. It will not happen. It is the law of the land. It is fully implemented. It has been approved by Congress, signed by the President, tested by the U.S. Supreme Court, and it is now fully operational as of October 1.

Open season for the health insurance marketplace began several days ago, and nearly 3 million people have visited on the first day alone. Americans who before lived with the constant fear of financial ruin if they got sick because they never had health insurance flooded the Web site in huge numbers to sign up for coverage.

Right now, there are more than 600,000 Americans living in a household forced to file bankruptcy because of unpaid medical bills. More than 60 percent of all bankruptcies filed last year were because of medical bills that could not be paid. Many people forced to file for bankruptcy because of medical expenses actually had insurance but were hung out to dry by insurance companies that dropped them from coverage simply because they had that power. ObamaCare makes that a thing of the past.

Beginning on January 1 of next year, Americans can no longer be denied coverage or dropped from coverage for having a preexisting condition. All plans must include coverage for outpatient and emergency services and maternity and newborn care, mental health, and prescription drugs. I am very proud of this plan. There will no longer be a yearly or lifetime limit on how much insurance companies will pay out for care.

That the House Republicans would hold the Federal Government and its more than 4 million employees hostage over a law that, on all counts, seems to provide a great benefit to Americans defies logic.

Mr. Speaker, this is not a game, though my Republican colleagues seem to think that it is. They are not working with any sense of urgency and don't seem to comprehend the seriousness of the Nation's fiscal crisis.

Just yesterday, on national television, the Secretary of the Treasury, Jack Lew, warned us of what the consequences could be. This isn't about who wins or loses. We aren't keeping score, but the American people are keeping score, and they can't figure out Republicans' outright obsession with ObamaCare while the Federal Government isn't open for business. It makes no sense.

Democrats have come to the floor for the past week asking and begging for House Republicans to permit a vote on the Senate's clean continuing resolution. I will repeat for the last time: It would pass this House tonight if the Speaker of the House, Mr. Boehner, will put it up for votes. The votes are here right now to pass the Senate version of the continuing resolution.

I urge the Speaker of the House, who is a decent individual whom I have gotten to know over the years since I've been here, I hope that he will finally say to the extreme right in his caucus that he has done all that he could to lift up the issues that they care about, but now it's the future of the country that we must all care about. Speaker Boehner, this week, sir, please bring the continuing resolution to the floor and see if the votes are here. They will be here, and we can reopen the government, and then we can sit down and reconcile our differences.

I thank all who are standing strong in this debate.


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