Transcript: Press conference Rep. Nancy Pelosi on the Supreme Court health care ruling

Edited by Jenny Jiang

Transcript of remarks by Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the health care law on June 28, 2012: 

“Good afternoon. Pretty exciting day.

“The decision that was announced by the Supreme Court is a victory for America’s families.

“It was a victory for America’s families when we passed the Affordable Care Act and the President signed it into law. Since then tens of millions of people in our country are already benefitting from the legislation.

“As you know, as the President said so eloquently, children cannot no longer be denied coverage due to pre-existing condition.

“Young people, children, and students and young people can stay on their parents’ policy until they’re 26 years old.

“Seniors are paying less for prescription drugs and have access to free wellness and preventive visits.

“When the bill comes into effect, being a woman will no longer be a pre-existing medical condition. It’s a great victory for women.

“It’s about wellness. It’s about prevention. It’s about the health of America, not just the health of care. It’s pretty exciting.

“Earlier this morning, I met with our caucus after the decision was announced. It was, as you know, no surprise to us. We knew – we thought we were on solid ground in terms of interstate commerce, on solid ground in terms of the Constitution. It’s just a question of what the vote would be.

“And with that confidence, we happily embraced the decision that came down.

“Now we can move forward to the full implementation of the law, and when that happens for the American people the best is yet to come.

“I want to say a word about Sen. [Ted] Kennedy. I spoke to Vicki Kennedy this morning and to Patrick Kennedy before coming here, thanking them for the important role that he played – a lifetime of commitment – to making health care a right not a privilege in our country. He called it ‘the great unfinished business of our country, of our society.’

“I knew that when he left us, he would go to heaven and help pass the bill. And now I know he was busily at work until this decision came down, inspiring one way or another. And now he can rest in peace. His dream for America’s families has become a reality.”

Press conference Q&A:


“Madame, the President has said himself on numerous occasions that the individual mandate is not a tax. Do you think the individual mandate in the health care law is a tax?”

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.):

“The court has upheld the legislation, and I think – and I have see the specific language – that they identified with how we wrote the bill in the House as part of their documentation for the decision. Call it what you will, it is a step forward for America’s families. And you know what? Take yes for an answer. This is a very good thing for the American people.

“What you’re talking about here is Washington talk. What is happening out there is children – families with a child with a pre-existing medical condition, which means for a lifetime they will be discriminated against in terms of insurance. Not anymore.

“Same thing when the bill is fully implemented. That’s what’s really important to people. Technical terms – that’s for us here. What means something to the American people is what it does to them.”


“Republicans have said that this decision raises the stakes for the elections. It brings clarity and even opportunity for them. Do you think it’s dangerous for the Democrats and the President that the health care debate is re-opened?”

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.):

“I think we all have to take a step back and say, ‘Why are we here?’ We are here to do a job for the American people. We’re here to act upon our beliefs, and a belief that many of us share is that health care is a right not a privilege in our country. We believe that a health care bill needed to be passed so that families would not be pauperized because they had a diagnosis or an accident that heap health care costs on them. We believe that it’s about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness that people can now pursue their aspirations depending on their talents and, again, their aspirations without being job-locked because a child has a pre-existing condition or a fear of a diagnosis. They can be a writer. They can start a business. They can be self-employed. They can change jobs.

“This is about our responsibility to reduce the deficit. If there were no other reason to pass the health care reform act, then because of cost – cost to individuals, cost to families, cost to businesses large and small, cost to our economy in terms of it being a competitiveness issue, and cost to federal, state, and local budgets – then we would have had to do this.

“And so the politics be damned. This is about what we came to do. And anytime we want to waste time seeing it through a prism of what does this mean in terms of the election, we undermine our purpose in coming here and acting upon our beliefs.

“We’re very, very excited about this day – this is historic. It ranks right up there when they passed Social Security and Medicare, and now being upheld by five justices of the Supreme Court.”


“Chief Justice John Roberts on the Medicaid expansion called it a gun to the head of states given that it was designed so that states have to comply or face losing all their federal Medicaid funding. Why was it designed that way? And do you think that…?”

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.):

“Well, I – with all due respect here, your characterization of it and his – here’s what it does, and we wrote this very carefully because, again, we wanted to have balance in the legislation. We wanted it to have legitimacy and be well-received.

“And what is does is it says for 3 years states will receive 100% of their Medicaid funding for this bill without any matching funds. I don’t think that’s a gun to the head. I think that the House language has more clarity that we wrote in our original bill and it addresses that concern.

“But 100% of the money without matching funds – and Medicaid has matching elements to it but not as part of the expansion Medicaid in this bill – I think that we’re not bothered at all by the decision in regard to Medicaid. And I would think that most governors would probably accept 100% funding without matching funds.”


“What is your message to Republican House members who are scheduling a vote to repeal – to go forward with this idea of repealing the health care bill the week after the July 4th break? What’s your message to them?”

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.):

“Well, first of all, I haven’t seen their hearings. Have they had hearings on this legislation that they’re just going to come back a few days after? Are they going to have a vote to say if your child has a pre-existing medical condition and no longer can be discriminated against, we’re going to overturn that? If you’re a senior and you’re paying less for your prescription drugs and you’re getting free preventative check-ups and the rest, we’re going to overturn that? If you’re 26 years old and under and you’re on your parents’ policy, pull the plug on that as well?

“They make their own decisions. I think that it clearly points out that even with a decision by the Supreme Court on a law passed by the Congress of the United States, signed by the President, upheld by the Supreme Court, they’re still fighting the fight. They have always been and continue to always be the handmaidens of the special interests in our country. They take a loyalty oath to not bring in revenue rather than honor to protect and defend the Constitution. They fight for the health insurance industry over and over again at the cost to the taxpayer and consumers.

“So this is just more of the same. No surprise about it. It’ll be interesting to hear their arguments.

“But if it’s anything like what Mitt Romney said this morning, you can’t have it both ways. He gets up there and says they won’t be able to discriminate against you if you have pre-existing condition. He’s for overturning the bill as the Supreme Court in dissent did – the four dissents for overturning the entire bill. He said he supports that. And yet, I don’t know, maybe he’s going to pay for it out of his own pocket that he’s going to cover the pre-existing condition costs of people who have children who have pre-existing conditions. You cannot have it both ways.

“And I think this offers us an opportunity for clarity as to what the bill is actually about instead of being at the mercy of the $200 million negative campaign of misrepresentations – some would call them other things – that they put out there that created such a screen of confusion that makes it very hard to talk about what the bill does.

“But now that we have a decision and they’re talking about overturning it, we can say with clarity this is what the bill does, this is what they want to take away from you, this is how they want to increase your costs, and let the public decide.”



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