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Pelosi House Leaders, Committee Chairs Remarks at Press Conference on America's Affordable Health Choices Act

WASHINGTON, July 17 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel, House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller, and other House Democrats held a news conference in the Capitol this afternoon to mark the successful passage of the America's Affordable Health Choices Act by Rangel and Miller's committees this morning.

Below are the Speaker's opening remarks, closing statement, and the question and answer session.

Speaker Pelosi Opening Remarks:

"Good morning, and a good morning it is indeed. Our Chairmen have been up very late and have produced historic results for us. The Congress indeed has made stark progress of health insurance reform that will put patients and doctors back in charge and ensure quality, affordable, and accessible health care for America's middle class.

"This level of progress has never been made before. Three major Committees of the House and the Senate have reported out legislation already, two more to go. As you know, the Health Committee in the Senate passed out its bill on, was that Wednesday, Mr. Miller? A couple of days ago. And last night, Mr. Rangel's Ways and Means Committee, was in until the wee small hours of the morning. And he will report on their success and Mr. Miller until 6 a.m. this morning and then back at 9 a.m. to finish off the votes. So they have worked very hard and very wisely on behalf of the American people. And we are here to celebrate success that they have had as we again, make progress and move forward.

"The goals that we have, as you know, are universality, affordability, and accessibility, and we want to do this in a way that continues to lower costs and strengthen the package.

"As America's Affordable Health Choices Act moves through the legislative process, we continue to build more momentum as we go along. Expressing support for America's Affordable Health Choices Act, the leading voice for America's physicians, the American Medical Association, wrote that the legislation includes a broad range of provisions that are key to an effective, comprehensive, health care system. If you don't have that letter, you should see it, because it's an eloquent testimony to the merits of our House bill. And over the coming days, Congress will continue working with President Obama to provide stable prices, secure coverage, and quality care for all Americans.

"I am very pleased that we have the support, not only of the doctors, but as you saw with President Obama the other day, the nurses. And we certainly have the support of the American people.

"With that, I am very pleased to yield to the distinguished Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee with admiration and respect for the excellent work that the Committee is doing and gratitude to him personally for his leadership, Mr. Rangel."

Speaker Pelosi Closing Statement:

"Thank you very much. And 'we will.' I like that. And 'we will' -- that was wonderful. We all associate ourselves with the Leader's remarks and 'we will.'

"We also mention Mr. Dingell who is also in committee as you know -- the Energy and Commerce Committee will be marking up for a few more days. But I think it's important to note that, as some of you know Mr. Dingell said yesterday, that the endorsement for the American Medical Association is not only great for their legislation, it is historic. He said that since the 30s, when the country began a debate on health care, the AMA has never endorsed a health bill. As Mr. Dingell said, the AMA has never endorsed a health care -- a health insurance reform bill, and they have endorsed the House legislation. And as we go forward, as I mentioned before, the endorsement of the nurses, so many organizations, and that list continues.

"We are very proud of the reform in the package, very proud of the cost savings -- of course we want more.

"And we'd be pleased to take any questions."

Q: [Inaudible. Question about three Democrats on the Ways and Means Committee who voted against the bill.]

Chairman Rangel. The Ways and Means Committee -- we had one of the most civil discussions. The amendments that the Republicans raised were substantive and not political and it's unfortunate that we could not come together with one bill that we could negotiate. But this is just the beginning. We don't know what else is going on and if you listen to the three Democrats that didn't vote with us, you would get the impression that they were just waiting for the opportunity to be able to do that.

So I felt very comfortable as Republicans and Democrats, who didn't vote alike, recognized the need to get together on health reform. And we're not there yet.

Q: [Inaudible. Question about being able to pass health care.]

Chairman Rangel. Well I think that Steny Hoyer said it, "yes we will."

Speaker Pelosi. Yes we will. And George, do you want to speak to that?

Chairman Miller. Well, I concur on what Chairman Rangel said that throughout our very long 20-hour markup, we expected a number of amendments from the Republicans. We worked out arrangements to work on amendments that we did not accept that we thought had merit -- they thought had merit. Their staffs are getting together to do that.

And so, I'm not sure that they ever end up voting for the kind of health care that President Obama has presented to the nation. The kind of security that he's presented, the kind of cost-cutting that he's presented, the kinds of getting rid of all of the exclusions and co-payments and the rest. But the point is this -- that our Members are in full force to come to the floor and work with this legislation and they will all report for duty at the time that that vote is taken.

Q: [Inaudible. Question about being on schedule for House vote.]

Speaker Pelosi. We are. We expect that Mr. Waxman will put his bill out the middle of next week and then we will be preparing for our rule to take the bill to the floor. And when the American people see what this means for them in each individual Congressional District -- over a hundred thousand people in many rural areas in America, over a hundred thousand people will have health insurance who didn't have it before.

Over $100 million dollars in meeting the needs of public health hospitals will be there, and that just a very few people called upon to help get the revenue stream.

It's pretty exciting, it's transformational, it will make a difference. And again, we have Members from across the political and geographic spectrum. Their concerns are regional and we believe that they will be addressed as we go forward. We're very proud of this.

Q: Inaudible. Question about OMB Director Peter Orszag's letter about MedPAC.

Speaker Pelosi. Let me -- the letter that you're referring to was is a letter that Peter Orszag sent to the three Chairmen when he said: "I wish to express the Administration's strong support for the health care savings proposal in the Tri-Committee health reform discussion draft dated June 19...Virtually all of these policies are consistent with those put forward by the Administration and are essential to our shared goal of reforming health care in a fiscally responsible manner...Adopting deficit neutral health reform that expands coverage is not enough because it would perpetuate a system which is -- which best practices are then universal and costs are too high. I commend you for proposing delivery systems reforms that will begin the process of transforming our health system so that quality is improved, cost-growth is contained, and waste is reduced."

He goes on to say some other things. And then he says, "We agree as you introduce and make-up the legislation as the gentleman had done, urge you to maintain and strengthen these policies." And that is a very positive letter.

Q: [Inaudible. Question about a different letter, which came out today regarding MedPAC.]

Speaker Pelosi. You're talking about MedPAC? Yes, you're talking about MedPAC, I think. That is something we have been discussing with the Administration and with Mr. Hoyer. I hope he will come back to address it, because he had some concerns about it.

But we think that we tasked -- even before seeing this letter -- tasked the staff to figure out how we could come together so that we get the savings that MedPAC would put forward, but the responsibility of Congress would be reflected in the criteria that we put forth and that the Administration can have what they want. I'm not here to announce that that is final. I'm just saying that is something that under certain circumstances we would be receptive to.

Q: [Inaudible. Question about will House vote regardless of whether Senate votes.]

Speaker Pelosi. We are hoping when we are ready with our legislation. Our plan is to move forward to have a bill on the floor. Well, we have to see what the Senate is going to do. Again, the idea that we may change MedPAC and the rest is something that we have to take up and hasn't been taken up in the committees. Perhaps it will be taken up in Energy and Commerce. But we are on our schedule to bring up the legislation before the break, and we continue to be on that schedule.

Any comments from our Chairmen on that subject?

Q: [Inaudible. Question about letter from freshman Democrats expressing concerns about impact on small businesses.]

Speaker Pelosi. I haven't seen the letter. I haven't seen the letter yet. But you know what? I have so many letters on my desk, so many. This is the giant kaleidoscope -- you turn the dial and you get a new set of letters. I do meet regularly with the freshmen and I know of their concerns about small business, and some of those changes have already been made in the Ways and Means Committee in terms of lifting the limit and the rest. But again, we'll see what people are putting forth to stipulate to a set of facts what really is the case and then go forward. I have full confidence -- I have no doubt that we will come to agreement on all these issues.

And this legislation -- for example, that Congressional district I mentioned where over $100 million went to the public hospital, and over 123,000 more people would be insured, 23,000 small businesses would be given tax credits to provide health insurance. The public has to know what the upside of all of this is in a quantified way. What it translates to them in numbers.

It's transformational, it's momentous -- it's important and relevant to the lives of the American people. And while we get everybody's letter and take into consideration their suggestions, if they take it further in the direction of lower costs, better quality and enhanced choices for the American people in a fiscally sound way, we are very receptive to what we feel they're comfortable about that.

Q: [Inaudible. Question about Freshmen going to the White House today.]

Speaker Pelosi. Yes, I know that. Very happy about that. . .

Q: [Inaudible. Question about what the President should say to the Freshmen.]

Speaker Pelosi. Are you suggesting that I should be suggesting something for the President to say? I wouldn't even presume to go to that place.

Q: [Inaudible. Question about the status of the health care bill.]

Speaker Pelosi. Well, you know what, we are in very excellent shape. This is the legislative process where as the bill takes shape, people say "OK" as its coming more clearly into focus, as the committees have acted upon it. They say "Here are some suggestions we have to go to the next step."

This is the wholesome dynamism of what we do here. This is what we came to do. Many of us in our careers came here to pass health care reform for all Americans. And we will do that, and we will do it with the full participation of our Caucus, and the full consideration of suggestions they may have.

Unfortunately we have votes, so we'll have to leave now.

SOURCE Office of the Speaker of the House

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