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Pelosi, Democratic Leaders Remarks Today at News Conference on Legislative Accomplishments

WASHINGTON, July 31 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, Majority Whip James Clyburn, Democratic Caucus Vice Chair Xavier Becerra, and Assistant to the Speaker Chris Van Hollen held a news conference this afternoon in the Capitol to discuss the New Direction Congress' accomplishments ahead of the August district work period.

Below are the Speaker's opening remarks, closing statement, and a question and answer session.

Speaker Pelosi Opening Remarks:

"Good afternoon. It's a pretty exciting week for us. Forty-four years ago this week, Medicare was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson. Here we are this week in committee about to move closer to health care reform than we have ever been in history -- when we have our third committee report out the bill.

"On that note, and the note of passing renewed Cash for Clunkers and legislation -- we go home into August, to promote health care reform and to inform the public of the considerable accomplishments of this Congress, this New Direction Congress.

"Right from the start, we passed an economic recovery package -- the largest in history and in record time. 100 days later, just over 100 days later, we passed the President's budget on his 100th day in office. In between, he signed legislation -- SCHIP for children, Lilly Ledbetter for non-discrimination for women in the workplace. Our colleagues will address many of these issues more specifically.

"But we had the economic recovery act to begin with -- helping Americans save their homes, the Edward Kennedy Serve America Act -- as one end of bookends in our economic recovery package, and then 100 days later -- the budget. The President called for three pillars to turn our economy around: investments in education, in health care and a new energy policy for America. And we did just that.

"I congratulate the distinguished Majority Leader for the fact that we have passed all 12 of our appropriations bills. No small feat. And if it were not accomplished, it would be a large feat to do. But in terms of quality health care, not only do we have our health care reform, we have SCHIP as I mentioned, Food Safety, FDA regulation of tobacco, and the list goes on. Clean energy, you know about the clean energy act, Cash for Clunkers, the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act, fiscal responsibility, our budget blueprint, and once again, the Leader taking responsibility for passing the statutory PAYGO legislation, protecting consumers, credit card holders, fraud enforcement, military procurement reform, Lilly Ledbetter I mentioned, strengthening the oversight of TARP. And of course, the very important responsibility we have to protect the American people -- in passing the supplemental that we did earlier this year and our UGAI bill for America's fallen troops. And now you see some of the recovery act provisions for public safety being distributed to the country.

"So we're very proud. It's sort of a time to pause and reflect on this very productive Congress. And to do so as we go out to promote health care reform for all Americans that has quality, affordability and accessibility. That will be done in a fiscally sound say that will save the American people money, make our businesses more competitive, be an infusion of energy into out economy, and reduce the cost of our entitlements to the American people.

"So we're very, very proud of the work that we have done. And we look forward to the Energy and Commerce Committee passing out its health care reform bill this afternoon so that we will then have all three of our committees reporting out, will prepare in August for how we will go forward, and my colleagues will spend more time on that subject.

"But I want to commend all of the leadership. We've acted not only as team, but as a partnership. And our Members have the stamina and the courage as well as the intellect and the determination to get the job done for the American people because it all comes down to them. What it means in their lives. How relevant it is to their kitchen table discussions.

"And the person who has that foremost in mind as we proceed with our legislative agenda is our distinguished Majority Leader, Mr. Hoyer."

Speaker Pelosi Closing Statement:

"I thank my colleagues for their presentations and for their leadership. As you see, we take great pride in the advancements that we have made for the American people and we present it to you with all of the commitment and specificity that will make a difference in the lives of the American people and take our country in a New Direction.

"One other pillar of the President's budget is education. Chairman Miller is not with us here, but his Committee has already passed out the education bill which will be part of our agenda when we come back in September on the floor. And that's about early childhood education -- it's many more young people getting Pell Grants and a higher rate of Pell Grants and just making higher education more affordable. Nothing brings more money to the Treasury as well as grows the economy more than the education of the American people.

"So again, we've heard the commitment, the specifics, the array of legislation that we're very proud of, to take the country in a New Direction. But again, they honor the principles of our budget: education, health care, energy policy, to create good jobs for the American people, to turn our economy around, to do so in a fiscally sound way, which lowers the deficit, again, creates jobs, and gives tax cuts to 95 percent of the American people.

"And in that spirit of celebration and pride that we take, I'd be pleased to take any questions that you may have."

Q: [Inaudible. Question on schedule for appropriations bills.]

Majority Leader Hoyer. We have worked very hard to get the appropriation bills done on time; we accomplished that objective. We've been working with Senator Reid, the leader in the Senate with Chairman Inouye and the Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. I know that he and Mr. Obey have been talking on a regular basis. They have passed four bills now. We will work on trying to get agreement on conferences on those four bills. I talked to Senator Murray -- She's part of the Senate leadership. At the last leadership meeting they are working very hard to getting another four or five or six bills to the floor in September. They may not get all eight of the remaining bills to the extent that they do. We hope to conference those and have as many bills passes prior to September 30th when the fiscal year ends. If it does not end, we may need a very short term CR. For the remaining bills, we hope there are very few of them, but for the remaining bills which we would then hope to complete certainly in October.

Q: [Inaudible. Question on CBO scoring preventive measures.]

Speaker Pelosi. They certainly should but they should also measure the benefits of prevention to our health care system. I appreciate your question. Certainly, you will be hearing a great deal from our Members about the health insurance industry and what it has done to the health of our country.

You have a situation where consumers in our country are at the mercy of the health care industry. You see CEOs of these industries making millions of dollars a year, indeed many of them a million of dollars a month, for their leadership in withholding benefits to people in need of help. But as far as we are concerned, we think that is why we need to have this new legislation and that it should have a robust public option in it -- to keep the health insurance industry honest, encourage competition, to provide better care at a lower cost for more people in our country.

Mr. Rangel doesn't ever have a problem promoting his message, as you well know. But certainly as we go out there with the President leading the way and with his commitment to universal health care for all Americans and us being a drumbeat, an echo chamber of that message, I think that you will see that change. We've been hard at work as you can see writing the legislation, building consensus in our Caucus as we convey a message and now we will be mostly focused on the message part. But the glory days are coming to an end to the health insurance industry in our country. I have said, their profits are obscene -- they have increased enormously over the past few years at the expense of America's consumers.

And that's why what's in it for the consumers in our bill is that no longer will an insurance company withhold insurance because of you have a preexisting medical condition. No longer can they pull back, resend your insurance if you get more ill. No longer will you lose your health insurance if you lose your job, change jobs, start a business, be self employed, you will still have health insurance. And think about what that means to the vitality of our economy so we can encourage entrepreneurship while people have the confidence that they will have health insurance and can take more risks.

There will be a cap on what you pay to the insurance companies each year, but no cap on the benefits that you receive. Do you know anybody who has cancer? Do you know any people with disabilities, with diabetes and the rest? They will not have a cap on the benefits they receive and this makes all the difference in the world in their health and their economic security.

The health insurance industry is the biggest opponent, the biggest opponent, of this legislation passing and with a public option in it. Because they know that the glory days are over of them. The leverage has switched to the consumer -- Congress and the President will remove the insurance industry from coming between the patient and his or her doctor.

Q: [Inaudible. Question on misrepresentations in health insurance reform debate.]

Speaker Pelosi. Is that what I called it? Did I call it that? I'm reluctant to ... Do you want to respond to that? [Laughter.]

Congressman Van Hollen. What we talked about was the not coming but ongoing campaign of distortions and disinformation that you see out there throughout the country. Because what the opponents of reforming the system are engaged in is the same kind of misinformation battles that they waged in previous years, back in the 1990s, even when we talked about reforming Medicare which we're pleased to celebrate the anniversary just a few days ago of the passage of Medicare.

You saw the same kind of tactics used. Sometimes they have been successful; fortunately, Medicare is a great example of where they were not successful. And we want to make sure that when our Members go home, they have the information they need and they do have the information they need, to talk to the American people about what this health reform legislation means for them.

As the Speaker said, it will bring down people's health care costs by providing more choice and competition. And it will make sure that people are not denied the coverage that insurance companies now denied through their own form of rationing health care. So, we're going to make sure that when our Members go back home, that they are going to be talking to their constituents and the American people about the importance of health care reform. Because as the President and others have said, the one way to assure that your premiums will continue to go up and the one way to make sure that you're going to continue to be denied care based on pre-existing conditions or having an insurance company take away a benefit you have paid for when you need it the most, is to support the status quo and do nothing.

Q: [Inaudible. Question on Democrats fighting back in health care message battle in August.]

Congressman Van Hollen. It will and I think what you've seen is you have a lot of allied organizations that support health care reform that are already out there carrying the message and will intensify that message over the next six weeks. AARP, of course, as an organization -- they have endorsed the legislation. The AMA, which was opposed to Medicare back in 1965 -- this time, is again on board in support of this legislation. And I think that if you look at some of the other paid media that people are seeing on television, you see people on board.

At the same time, you've got a lot of misinformation coming out of far right wing radio, talk radio, and other outlets and we need to make sure that we get the message out there through our Members as well as through these allied organizations that support health care reform.

And we're confident that the American people will support this legislation when we come home and we're going to make sure that health care reform does not get swift-voted during the month of August.

Speaker Pelosi. I would only add that I was kind of counting on you all. [Laughter.] I was hoping that you as reporters of the truth would put out the story and dispel the myths scaring seniors as the other side is doing when the AARP is supporting the legislation. Because if you are a senior, you are helped by the bill by closing the donut hole on prescription drugs and making Medicare more solvent and stronger. And if you are a small business, you will receive tax credits to provide coverage for your employees -- and this in a way that recognizes the special needs of small business. And if you are a person who becomes sick -- many families could escape bankruptcy each year due to unaffordable health benefits, but their needs are addressed in this legislation.

We have given our Members this card to take home, perhaps you have seen it: "Health Insurance Reform to Hold the Insurance Companies Accountable." We urgently need reform and this is available to all of you and it talks about what is in it for the American people -- I've spoken to many of these points already. But there will be a drumbeat across America, a positive drumbeat across America about what this means for the American people. For them individually and their families, for our businesses to be more competitive, for our economy to be dynamic, for our budget to be more in balance by reducing the upward spiral of health care costs having an impact on our entitlements. And it will be done, again, in a fiscally sound way that takes down the curve and again, to dispel the myths that are being put out there.

This is a shock and awe, carpet bombing by the health insurance industry to perpetuate the status quo. A status quo where they don't have to be responsible for anti-trust laws. A status quo where you can't -- did you know that you cannot sue them if they deprive you of a procedure that your doctor and your hospital tell you that you need? But this bill corrects a good deal of that. Doesn't go into the ability to sue, but it goes into the recourse that a person will have.

But make no mistake, facts mean nothing to them, mythology is their game. Misrepresentation is the currency of the realm and we intend to set the record straight. In some places by inoculating against their misrepresentations and in all place by educating as to what this legislation does.

I'm so confident of the wisdom of the American people and the fairness of the press that our message will come through.

SOURCE Office of the Speaker of the House
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