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Pelosi Remarks at Press Availability on Health Insurance Reform

WASHINGTON, March 2 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Speaker Nancy Pelosi held a press availability this afternoon on health insurance reform in the Capitol. Below is a transcript of the press availability:

Speaker Pelosi. Good afternoon. How are you all? Anybody have a question?

I know that some of you asked me on the way here about the President's letter. We welcome the President's letter, which he sent to the bipartisan leadership of the House and Senate. In it he spelled out our areas of agreement that had emerged from last Thursday's meeting- not that there were new-but that he emphasized our common ground in keeping cost down and fighting waste, fraud and abuse.

Where we disagreed, which I think was clear from last Thursday's meeting and the President points out in the letter, is that we disagree on holding the insurance companies accountable. Our legislation does just that. Republican legislation does not. That is a major difference. Left to their own way of doing things, the insurance companies have hurt the American people, and our legislation will have legislation that is affordable for the middle class and holds the insurance companies accountable in doing so. We hope to incorporate some of the suggestions, I think many of the suggestions, the good suggestions, are already in the bill that relate to waste, fraud and abuse and keeping cost down, looking at a couple of others that are suggested by the President in the letter.

With that, I would be pleased to take any questions you may have. The letter brings us just another step closer to passing the bill to lower cost, improve quality of care for many more people in our country. Again, we continue to work on the issue.

Q: I know you don't have bill language or another proposal from the President yet. However, it seems pretty clear that two of the issues that are going to be very difficult to handle procedurally are issues
that really can't be done under reconciliation yet they are important: abortion and immigration, in particular. Give a sense of how you plan to go about bridging the gap which was so wide in the first place, abortion can't be handled under reconciliation, doesn't seem so anyway, so how do you get that?

Speaker Pelosi. Just for those of you, we are talking about a process where we use the simple majority to pass the legislation, so without any fancy names a simple majority. That's a budget resolution. Under the budget resolution, you can only deal with issues that are central to the budget. None of these policy issues are, so they won't be dealt with in the budget. Neither of these issues is central to the bill. This is not an immigration bill. It is not an abortion bill. It's a bill about affordable health care for all Americans and that is the momentum that will take us to a majority vote.

Q: Is that your message to your Democrats? These issues are not central to the bill? Because they are in Senate bill...

Speaker Pelosi. They are not central to the budget, now see I just said in order to be in part of the budget bill, it has to be central to the budget. That's the rule. And it's a very strict rule. It's a discipline. And that's the point I am making: it's not central to the budget. And that is, make a difference in the cost in the bill.

Q: [Inaudible] vote on the Senate bill, though. That's my question.

Speaker Pelosi. Well, we'll see. I hope...the President is still hopeful that he can get 61 votes. There could be some hope for some bipartisanship as we go forward, and I wish him well with that. I think he's a great President. He strives so long for one solid year, six weeks after his inauguration, he hosted a bipartisan meeting, Democrats, Republicans, House and Senate, outside stakeholders had an interest in quality health care for all Americans and advancing that cause. For one solid year, that was March 5th of last year, for one solid year he has striven for that bipartisanship, took us all through the summer, the fall and to now up until last Thursday. So, what we will, you know what we will do is hope that he can still find 60 votes, but if not, we will have to go the simple majority. And that simple majority confines the issues that we can address.

Q: Can you describe how you are going about courting votes from Members who voted no last time but you might hope to...

Speaker Pelosi. I'll tell you where we are, we are right now freezing the language on the legislation. Once we have that and a report back from the CBO, so it is about the substance. Secondly, we will see what the Senate can do in this regard. And then we will take that substance and that to our Members. But our Members want quality, affordable health care for all Americans, and I feel very confident that we will accomplish that.

Thank you all very much.


SOURCE Office of the Speaker of the House

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SOURCE Office of the Speaker of the House
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