Transcript: Press conference Q&A with Nancy Pelosi on the Affordable Care Act
Transcript of press conference Q&A with Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), and Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.):
“Leader Pelosi, the Republicans introduced their budget this week, part of which would repeal this act. What is your reaction to the GOP’s budget, in addition to not only repealing the Affordable Health Care Act, but also lowering the levels from the BCA and cutting programs for other programs as well?”
Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.):
“Well, the gentleman’s question is about the budget in general, and it does have an impact on our conversation here, in terms of health care.
“Right from the start, the Republicans have tried to make an assault on the Affordable Care Act. It is hard to understand why they would be against ending preexisting conditions from keeping people from getting health insurance, and women from getting preventive care, and children from having the access to care that they need. But for whatever reason, they do. And bless their hearts, they act upon what they believe.
“They do not believe in this bill, and they are trying to roll it back. We cannot let that happen. At the same time, in their distorted priorities in their budget, I am a little hyped up about this today, because this bill is in the process of being written, their budget bill, before it comes to the floor. They pass their bill. We will have our alternative, I hope, but the fact is that in the bill, they break the guarantee, the Medicare guarantee, for seniors. That means seniors pay more, over $6,000 more, I think Steny mentioned that figure, over $6,000 more. And all the money you would have to save in advance, $182,000.
“What could they possibly be thinking? I will tell you what I think they are thinking, and I don’t question their motivation. They don’t believe in Medicare. And bless their hearts, again, they are acting upon their beliefs. Their belief is that Medicare should wither on the vine. And this budget is a step in the direction of Medicare withering on the vine. And so we see a situation where they put forth a budget which doesn’t even honor their own agreements, in terms of what the amount that budget should be, breaks the Medicare guarantee with seniors, raises costs, cuts jobs. It is simply not a statement of our national values that a budget should be…”
Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.):
“Let me say, one thing I do want to add is, there was bipartisan opposition to the budget that came out of the Budget Committee. It was a totally partisan bill, in terms of passage, but it was a bipartisan opposition to that bill because it has the wrong priorities. And in fact, in my opinion, it will make the debt, deficit, and the economy worse, and move in exactly the wrong direction, as well as undermining the guarantee and confidence that people have that Medicare and Social Security, and other programs, will be there for them when they need it.”
“Leader Pelosi, you and your Democratic colleagues have been spending the last few days marking the second anniversary of health care but President Obama has not. As the person with the biggest bully pulpit, perhaps in the country, should President Obama be using it to talk about health care this week?”
Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.):
“I think the President has been absolutely great on health care. Without the President, we would not have this bill. Every day, since the passage of the bill, the administration has moved in a very positive direction to implement it, so we stay on schedule, so many of the benefits that people are enjoying now are put forth.
“The Secretary of Health and Human Services, many Cabinet Secretaries, people in the administration are taking the message forward in the country. And without the President, no bill.
“I will just tell you this. The day after the bill was passed, the President called me and said: ‘last night, when the health care bill was passed in the House, I was happier than I was the day I was elected President of the United States.’ Is that beautiful? So I said: ‘well, I was pretty happy last night, too, Mr. President, but not happier than when you were elected President of the United States. Because if you weren’t elected President of the United States, we would not be passing this historic legislation to make progress for the American people.’
“We are very grateful to the President for his leadership.”
“Madam Leader, with the case coming before the Supreme Court next week, do you have any anxiety about what may happen next week, and if the court rules against the mandate and what you are talking about here?”
Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.):
“Well, I am thinking in a much more positive vein than you just posed it, but I guess that is a fair question. And again, if my colleagues have anything to say about the President’s participation, or the case next week. We knew what we were doing when we passed this bill. It is ironclad constitutionally. What happens in the courts is another matter. But we believe that we are in pretty good shape going into the court.
“It is interesting, though, because our Republican colleagues, this may be more on the subject than you want to know, but they have been opponents, they have been opponents of judicial review. They have said that the Congress, when the Congress acts and the President signs the bill, that is the law of the land, and they oppose judicial review, meaning the courts can review the constitutionality of a law.
“In fact, they even said Marbury v. Madison, which established the principle at the beginning of our country, was wrongly decided. That was then. So opposed are they to opposing their friends in the insurance industry, to whom they are handmaidens, that they have even broken with their opposition to judicial review to take this important bill, which means so much to the American people, to the courts.
“But I have faith in the courts and I have faith in the bill. And we will see what happens next week. Well, we won’t know next week, but I know all of America will be watching to see the proceedings. At least meaning every American who has a child with a preexisting condition, a family history that can be so described, any woman who is concerned about her health, or the health of her family, any senior who is concerned about Medicare and what that guarantee means to a person’s health and their economic security. It means anybody who cares about innovation in our country, for a new kind of health care that is not just about the health care in America, but the good health of America, about prevention and the rest, about innovation to take us to customized, personalized care, anyone who cares about lowering costs, expanding access, and improving the quality of health care. That sounds like it should include a lot of people, at least people who are aware of what is in the bill.
“So, I hope that all of you will help us make people more aware of what is in the bill, because it really honors the greatness of our country. Senator Kennedy, right as we were in the debate, and toward the end of his life, said: ‘this is the great, unfinished business of America, that all people should have access to quality, affordable health care as a right for all Americans, and not just a privilege for a very few.’ And so, in that spirit, we are proud of the work that was done. It was a compromise. It wasn’t the bill I would have written. But it is a bill that is making a big difference.
“I pray that the courts will make the right decision. But we have sent them, they have been sent the right bill. So I thank you all very much. Let us thank our real people who are here today. Thank you all.”
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