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Pelosi, Reid Remarks at Press Availability Following Meeting With President Obama

WASHINGTON, Sept. 8 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid held a brief press availability following their meeting with President Obama at the White House this afternoon. Below is a transcript of their remarks followed by question and answer session.

Speaker Pelosi. We had a very productive meeting with the President and the Vice President. The main subject was, of course, health insurance reform, but we talked about other issues that relate to the fall agenda and other issues.

In terms of health care reform, we've come together at a time where three bills have been passed out of Committees in the House, one in the Senate. Hopefully, soon, the Finance Committee will act and we have plenty to work from to pass comprehensive, affordable, accessible, universal health care. It's a pretty exciting time.

In the month of August our Members have heard from their constituents and have communicated with them -- they bring back the benefit of that thinking. They also have had a chance to explain to their constituents the opportunity that is in the bill. That again we have legislation that will lower costs, improve quality, expand coverage, and retain choice. You like what you have, you can keep it. If you have something you would like to improve upon, that can happen. If you are not insured, you will have that opportunity. This will be done in a fiscally sound way.

It is necessary for us to act. The present situation is unsustainable and as the President has said, "health care reform is entitlement reform." So, in order for us to reduce the deficit, it is essential that we have real health care reform.

So we go forward welcoming our Members back in a series of caucuses and meetings. We will be prepared to bring our three bills together in the House to prepare to meet the Senate in conference.

Senator Reid, Mr. Leader. . .

Senate Majority Leader Reid. The President and Vice President were very positive and it's in keeping with the conversation I had with my members the past week, that is we're reenergized, we're ready to do health care reform. Keeping in mind that it's even before the august recess, 80 percent of health care is already done. In fact it's the 20 percent we still had to work on. In our conversations today, we think we're up to 90 percent of things that are agreed upon. We have 10 percent that we need to work on and we can do that.

As far as the speech tomorrow, the President didn't give us a dress rehearsal of a speech, but he did tell us that he's going to be outlining to the American people and, of course, the Congress, the health care reform bill that he contemplates that we will do. And we're in agreement with him in that regard. I have every belief that when he finishes his speech tomorrow, the American people will be able to put aside some of the ridiculous falsehoods that have been perpetrated these past few weeks and focus on what're going to do for this country.

We have a lot of work to do, we understand that, but we're still approaching this in the form of bipartisanship. We want a bipartisan bill. We do not want to do reconciliation unless we have no alternative.

* * *

Q: There's no public option at this point?

Senate Majority Leader Reid. I think that -- I personally am in favor of public option. The majority -- in my mind, there's no question that the majority of -- I can't speak for the House caucus, but if I were betting and I think the majority of them also believe in a public option. And we're going to do our very best to have a public option or something like a public option before we finish this work.

Q: Why was there no place for Republicans at the table today at this meeting?

Senate Majority Leader Reid. You know, I think that. . .

Q: The President talks to Republicans, doesn't he?

Senate Majority Leader Reid. Yes, we've had a large table on the Finance Committee and Health Committee in the Senate -- there's always a place for them. And so I think that today it was again a very positive meeting and that's how I feel.

Speaker Pelosi. The President was meeting with the Speaker of the House and the Democratic Leader of the Senate. He has other meetings that we are not invited to that Republicans are at. So I don't know what the point of the question is. But the point is also, in our Committees in the House, three Committees have passed the bill out. All of them have strong numbers of Republicans on those Committees. I saw to that when we did our ratios. So they had a place at the table as our bills had come through the legislative process and that's what we're engaged in now -- the legislative process.

Q: (Inaudible) essential for House passage (inaudible).

Speaker Pelosi. Yes.

Q: And can you discuss any kind of schedule that would envision (inaudible) bill by the middle of October?

Speaker Pelosi. That's two questions, two separate questions. On the public option, I believe that a public option will be essential to our passing a bill in the House of Representatives because, as the President has said, and I listen to him very carefully -- he believes that the public option is the best way to keep the insurance companies honest and to increase competition in order to lower cost, improve quality, retain choice. If you like what you have, you can keep it -- and expand coverage in a fiscally sound way that saves money. And that's why -- but he said, if you have a better idea, put it on the table. And so if somebody has a better idea of how to do that, put it on the table. For the moment, however, as far as our House members are concerned, the overwhelming majority of them support a public option.

Q: Would a trigger (inaudible) be an acceptable alternative?

Speaker Pelosi. Well, you know, this, as I say, is the legislative process. And right now, we will have a public option in our bill.

Q: (Inaudible) said that (inaudible)?

Speaker Pelosi. We're very pleased, as Leader Reid has mentioned, that the President will be making his address [tomorrow] evening. I think that we have been on schedule, we continue to be on schedule. But this speech tonight will be a very important factor -- excuse me -- tomorrow will be a very important factor in how we go forward.

Q: Madam Speaker, Congressman Clyburn said that a trigger public option is a doable alternative because it saves the public option. Is that a fair assessment?

Speaker Pelosi. Well, I'm sorry. Out of context, I really can't speak to Mr. Clyburn's remarks. I do know that Mr. Clyburn is a strong supporter of a public option. Where we go, seeing what the Senate puts forth and the rest is another place. But I said it before and I'll say it again: The health insurance industry, which is out there fighting the public option tooth and nail because it does increase competition, which they don't want. They'd be better getting a public option now than one that is triggered because if you have a triggered public option, it's because the insurance industry has demonstrated that they're not cooperating, they're not doing the right thing, and I think they'll have a tougher public option to deal with.

SOURCE Office of the Speaker of the House
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