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Pelosi, Governors' Remarks Before Meeting on Health Care

WASHINGTON, June 24 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Speaker Nancy Pelosi held a brief a press availability this morning with Governors Mike Rounds of South Dakota, Jim Douglas of Vermont, and Chris Gregoire of Washington before their meeting in the Capitol to discuss health care reform. Below are their remarks:

Speaker Pelosi. It's really an honor indeed to welcome three very distinguished governors to The Speaker's Office - Governor Rounds of South Dakota, Governor Douglas of Vermont, and Governor Gregoire of Washington state.

We have worked together before on the stimulus and the recovery package at the beginning of this year. Over time, Governor Douglas and I have worked together on the State Children's Health Insurance Program, and today we're going to be talking about how we move forward on comprehensive, quality, affordable, accessible health care for all Americans.

Governors' views are very important to us as we go forward with the legislation, so I am very honored to welcome them to the office and look forward to hearing what they have to say as we move forward. Governor Douglas.

Governor Douglas. Well thank you, Madam Speaker, for this opportunity to chat about this issue that is of extreme importance to the American people.

Health care continues to be an increasing percentage of our gross domestic product. It's increasingly a high percentage of the state budgets in all the states, with which my colleagues and I are wrestling. And it's important that we establish some meaningful health care reform so that we can improve the health of our population, control cost, and have the best quality outcomes from the health care system for the American people.

I think the focus on cost containment is key because health care costs continue to rise at multiples of inflation. It's important that the states have the flexibility to do it their way. We've had a lot of experimentation in my state, for example, with a program called Catamount Health that has reduced our uninsured rate and reduced the cost of Medicaid at the same time. And it's also important, I believe, that states not have unfunded mandates.

I think another important suggestion I would offer to you and your colleagues is to approach it on a bipartisan basis, because this is such an important issue to the American people. We learned in Vermont with a Democratic majority in our legislature and a Republican governor, we were able to work together to find a solution that made a difference. And it's obvious that both Republicans and Democrats are facing these challenging cost increases, both Republicans and Democrats have chronic disease, it's important that Republicans and Democrats work together to find solutions for the American people.

So thank you for this time, for you making this a priority, and we look forward to working with the Congress to affect some meaningful reform for the American people.

Speaker Pelosi. Thank you very much, Governor, for you leadership and for being here today. Governor Gregoire.

Governor Gregoire. Well again, I too, would like to thank you for your leadership and allowing us to come and join you today. As Governor Douglas has indicated, we as governors come in a bipartisan way. We want comprehensive health care reform and we want it this year. We want universal care as much as possible as a goal for the people of America. We want quality health care and we want affordable health care.

So I come ready to do everything that I can to help you in your leadership role so that this country can move forward and provide that kind of health care for America.

Speaker Pelosi. Thank you very much, Governor. Governor Rounds.

Governor Rounds. Well, thank you for the opportunity to visit. I don't think there's anybody who doesn't want to make health care better in America. I think the challenge will be how we will do it in such a fashion that it will work. It has to be something that we can afford to do, it has to be something in which the states can continue to experiment and find better ways.

In South Dakota right now we have 91 percent of our people within a plan for how they get their health care. We still have 9 percent of our people that we want to do better with. We look forward to finding ways to make that happen without injuring a process that currently works for the other 91 percent. I know there's going to be a great deal of debate, that's the reason that we're here. I think our goals should be the same, and this is to make health care better in America. How we get there will be the real discussion.

Speaker Pelosi. Well, I think the visits that you are making here in Washington -- you'll be meeting with the President later today, the visit to Capitol Hill, and I know you'll meeting with your own representatives from Congress along the way -- are all very important to us.

Yes, we strive to do this in a bipartisan way; I think that is very important. Yes, we realize that the states have taken the lead on some very good ideas on how we go forward. And we not only want to improve health care in America, we want to make our country healthier -- to focus on prevention and wellness -- and I know that all three of you have had that focus in your states as well, so I look forward to hearing your ideas. The current thinking that you have, your ideas are well known, and I thank you again for the honor of your presence in the Speaker's office.

Q: [Inaudible] Republicans across the line, Governor Douglas?

Governor Douglas. Well, this has got to be a bipartisan approach. Republicans have good ideas on health care reform, Democrats have good ideas. We need to get all those ideas on the table, pick the best from the lot and put something together that we can all embrace. I think it's too important an issue not to work together.

Speaker Pelosi. And if I may just add, Governor Rounds said that we want something that works. So, it's not about whether or not it's from the Democrats of Republicans. Put it on the table, establish our priorities, find out what we can afford, and see what works.

Q: Madam Speaker, do you think that you have enough votes to pass the climate change bill?

Speaker Pelosi. What a way to change the subject. We're doing just fine on that subject.

Q: And any response to environmentalists who say that its been so watered down that you should just start over?

Speaker Pelosi. I would just like to say that we have very strong environmental support, and I was very pleased that Vice President Al Gore, who is a champion on this issue, is very supportive of our legislation.

SOURCE Office of the Speaker of the House
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