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Transcript of Today's Speaker Pelosi Press Conference -- September 10
[September 11, 2009]

Transcript of Today's Speaker Pelosi Press Conference -- September 10

Sep 11, 2009 (Congressional Documents and Publications/ContentWorks via COMTEX) -- HOUSE SPEAKER NANCY PELOSI News From Speaker Nancy Pelosi Thursday, September 10, 2009 Contact: Brendan Daly/Nadeam Elshami/Drew Hammill, 202-226-7616 Transcript of Today's Speaker Pelosi Press Conference Washington, D.C. - Speaker Nancy Pelosi held her weekly press conference in her office in the Capitol this morning. Below is a transcript of the press conference: On the Importance of Health Insurance Reform Legislation to Members: "It's probably the most important initiative any of us will ever be a part of in the Congress. Members know that responsibility. They understand it, and they're ready to work to achieve that goal of health insurance for all Americans that is accessible, quality, and affordable." On Provisions in the Health Insurance Reform Bill: "As issues emerge, let's drill down on public option, let's drill down on what this means to small business, let's drill down on what this means to seniors. There are excellent provisions in the bill. Probably because I see in the press statements that are baffling to me, you may not know the public option saves tens of billions of dollars, contrary to reports on some significant networks that it's going to cost a trillion dollars. It saves tens of billions of dollars. It's important for Members to have all the facts and figures available." Thursday, September 10, 2009 10:45 a.m.

Speaker Pelosi. Good morning. Last night President Obama delivered what I believe to be one of the greatest speeches ever delivered in the Congress of the United States. He talked about his vision for America and the character of our country. He demonstrated knowledge and judgment on an issue of concern to America's families -- health care.

He presented his plan for how we would go forward, and he spoke with great eloquence and connection with the American people and their aspirations.

It came at a time when Members came back from the August break, having listened to their constituents, communicated with them about the value of the legislation that we plan to put forward. Members were steely in their resolve, steady in their course, and they came back ready to go forward.

They brought ideas that were generated in their communities, and we will be informed by what they have learned. It was make it a better bill, and it will be legislation that will pass health care reform, health insurance reform that will work for the American people.

It's about, as the President as said, lowering cost, improving quality, expanding coverage, and retaining choice. If you like what you have, you can keep it.

Our Members know their district very well. Whether it was teleconferencing or town hall meetings, Congress on your corner, government in your grocery, individual meetings, and the rest, they came back. They know how to communicate with their district, and they came back enriched by that experience.

And now, we go forward. We have had our first -- had our first caucus [since the break] yesterday which was very, very positive. We engaged in a series of meetings with different elements and sectors of the caucus. And there are some issues that are emerging that are the remaining areas to be resolved.

As the President said, in the four bills that have passed the House and Senate already, we're at least 80, 85 percent in harmony. We have to resolve the remaining pieces of it. That is very much within range. We will take the time it needs to do that, and when we are ready, we will bring our legislation to the floor.

It's very exciting. It's probably the most important initiative any of us will ever be a part of in the Congress. Members know that responsibility. They understand it, and they're ready to work to achieve that goal of health insurance for all Americans that is accessible, quality, and affordable.

This week, as you know, we observe the anniversary of the 9/11 tomorrow. Yesterday, we had three ceremonies, one where we dedicated a plaque to those who went down in Pennsylvania. The families were gathered here. Their names are now emblazoned on the wall of the Capitol for all who visit here to be able to honor the memory specifically of the people on that flight. We then had our memorial service in Statuary Hall where we could further honor the families and thank them for their sacrifice. They turned their sacrifice -- their grief into action to make America safer. We'll be forever in their debt, and we will never forget.

We mentioned that -- the Members did on the floor of the House in our resolution yesterday as well.

So it is -- while we stop to mourn our loss and to remember their valor, to declare over and over again that we will fight terrorism, that we will not be deterred by the terrorists, we continue our work. And right now, health care is the order of the day, but we will be addressing our education bill in the week ahead and regulatory reform and other issues that we want to finish in this session of Congress.

With that, I'd be pleased to take any questions you may have.

Q: Last night, Leader Hoyer mentioned that there was some consideration being given to sanctioning Congressman Wilson in some way. I'm wondering if you could talk a little bit about any decision that's been made and why.

Speaker Pelosi. No, I've not had that conversation with Mr. Hoyer. As far as I'm concerned, the episode was unfortunate. Mr. Wilson has apologized. It's time for us to talk about health care and not Mr. Wilson.

Q: In retrospect though, when it happened, you seemed stunned. Was there something in the rules that you could have gaveled him out of order or instructed the sergeant-at-arms to remove him or anything like that when that incident occurred? Speaker Pelosi. Well, it was stunning to hear such a statement made on the floor of the House when the President of the United States is speaking. I remind you the rules of the House, while Members can go to the floor and misrepresent from morning until night and tell things that are not true about legislation, if you said, "The gentleman is not telling the truth," your words would be taken down. It's against the rules of the House to -- no matter how absurd the statements are that a Member might be making.

But let's not spend time on that. Yes, there is a procedure that could have been implemented. I think that the President did the right thing; just continued on from it and didn't give it any more attention than it deserved.

Q: Did you think about gaveling him out of order though? Speaker Pelosi. No. Well, if he had continued, but the sergeant-at-arms -- the Parliamentarian passed me a piece of paper that said what the options were and I said we're just going to move on.

Q: Madam Speaker? Speaker Pelosi. On that same subject? Q: On health care, actually.

Q: Madam Speaker, could you tell us what your timetable is on getting a health care bill to the floor" And secondly, could you please address whether or not an extension on unemployment benefits is necessary" What kind of bill do you think would be best for hard-hit states" And have you talked about Mr. Reid about something that would be able to pass quickly? Speaker Pelosi. Well, certainly, the unemployment insurance is essential. We cannot let that run out. And that is on our agenda to be dealt with. I don't want to go into the particulars right here.

It's pretty clear cut though. There's no mystery to it. This is very necessary for us to address that.

In terms of our timetable on health care, when we are ready, we will take the bill to the floor. We are waiting for the Senate Finance Committee, so it's very good news that they will be marking up a bill soon -- that we will see a bill soon -- I think, next Tuesday -- so Members have an idea of what's in that bill.

From what we've heard of it, there are many good things that are consistent with what we have in our bills and some things where there are areas of disagreement. But that's the legislative process. I don't want to say disagreements, they're just different proposals, and we'll see how we resolve the different pieces of legislation.

But I'm confident the President will sign a bill this year.

Q: Madam Speaker, are there any non-negotiable demands that you have for this legislation" And in particular, is a public option that you have long supported one of them? Speaker Pelosi. Well, what the President said last night is what he has said over and over again. He thinks the public option is the best way to keep the insurance -- well, he said originally at the summit the best way to keep the insurance companies honest, to increase competition so that we can lower cost, improve quality, expand coverage, and retain choice. If you like what you have, you can keep it.

If somebody has a better idea, put it on the table, that's what the President said. Well, in the month of August, while people were complaining about the public option, they only put on the table -- they hit us with their best shot: distortion, misrepresentation, and obstruction.

So, so far, we haven't seen a better idea, but it could be there. So this is about a goal. It's not about provisions. As long as our goal of affordability and accessibility and quality, meeting the four -- which you don't want me to repeat again -- goals that we have in the legislation, then we will go forward with that bill.

Speaker Pelosi. But you never go -- I don't think you ever really go into a negotiation and say that some things are non-negotiable. One of those would be that we not pass a bill, and that seems to be the goal of many here. But as the President said, the status quo is not sustainable.

It's not sustainable for individuals. It's not sustainable for businesses. It's not sustainable for our economy. And it's certainly not sustainable for our budget. And the cost to Medicare and Medicaid and -- and their -- the increased cost will take us so deeply into debt, we must pass a bill that is paid for, at a certain limit, establishing priorities, that bends the curve, that lowers cost as we go into the future.

Q: Madam Speaker, I'd like to change the subject for a moment. The latest revelations in the case against Chairman Rangel include unreported income on his financial disclosure forms in excess of $200,000. I'd like to ask you, given your pledge at the outset of your tenure as Speaker to run an ethical House of Representatives, what -- what is your view towards these latest revelations" And do you still have confidence in him" Should he step aside while the Ethics Committee finishes their investigation? Speaker Pelosi. I do not think he should step aside. I think the purpose of the Ethics Committee is to do the -- he asked, by the way. Mr. Rangel asked for the Ethics Committee to investigate his situation. They have been doing that. They will be making a recommendation to the Congress following their own investigation. And that, I think, is the appropriate time for any decision of that kind to be made.

Q: Back to health care for just a moment here. The President has made his address last night and talked about the Senate Finance Committee working on its bill here. Do you have a road map in your mind how you go about blending all this together, the three bills" Can you sort of illuminate us on that a little bit, how you blend these bills? Speaker Pelosi. Do you want to know this much about it" It may be more than some of you may want to know. No, in the course of the month of -- by the day we left, our three committees in the House have reported out their bill, and, as you know, one bill in the Senate, which is very consistent with the principles and provisions in a House bill.

In the course of that month, we had conference calls on a regular basis with our full caucus and then some other conference calls or meetings as we traveled around the country on this subject. Members, as I said, knowing best how to -- to communicate with their constituents, had their meetings -- Congress on your corner, government in your grocery -- one-on-ones, teleconference, town hall meetings, and all different kinds of coming together and communication.

They have brought us back the benefit of the wisdom of their thinking of their constituents. And we've been having -- we had a caucus as soon as we got back, and now we've been having a series of meetings all day yesterday, some of the meetings today. They will be ongoing as to what are the priority issues that people would like to see, more clarity or additional resources or fewer resources, whatever it is.

So we're in very close contact with our Members. We had another caucus this morning. By the way, all of these meetings have been very, very positive. I am very proud of our Members. I think that they sustained the effort admirably during the break, more than admirably. And, again, we're in a better place to go forward.

As issues emerge, let's drill down on public option, let's drill down on what this means to small business, let's drill down on what this means to seniors. There are excellent provisions in the bill. Probably because I see in the press statements that are baffling to me, you may not know the public option saves tens of billions of dollars, contrary to reports on some significant networks that it's going to cost a trillion dollars. It saves tens of billions of dollars. It's important for Members to have all the facts and figures available.

Secondly, seniors. Seniors benefit greatly from this legislation, despite the fear tactics that had put -- been put out there. Closing of the donut hole, 400 percent of poverty in terms of subsidies, very, very important to seniors, especially those in the 50- to 65-year-old, believe it or not. None of you is affected by that, but there are some in the room who are, and that is an important issue for seniors not old enough to be on Medicare, but maybe having lost their jobs and not having health insurance.

The third one is small business. This is a great bill for small business. That's why the Small Business Majority has been so forceful in its advocacy for it. But Members have to have the particulars. They have some suggestions, refinements, and the rest. And that's what we are talking about -- issues like that.

For some other issues like interstate portability, regional disparities in Medicare reimbursement -- I told you, this is going to be more on the subject than you may want to know -- the list goes on. The President mentioned tort reform last night -- where we will also be bringing Members -- interested parties together with knowledge and judgment on the subject to make recommendations to our caucus.

What the President suggested, by the way, on tort reform last night that he was going to do in a regulatory way, we already have in the Energy and Commerce bill. And, again, it was a President Bush initiative originally.

So that's it. Now, next Tuesday, I want you all to mark your calendars. At nine o'clock, I think, in the morning, we will be having a steering policy hearing on many of the issues I just mentioned. We have experts coming in for outside views on the subject, validation, in many cases, of our bill, suggestions on how we can do better. And that will have the full participation of our Members.

Sometimes, we have these experts come in, they speak to the caucus, and we think, "Gee, I wish the rest of the country could hear this." Well, now, the rest of the country will. Similar to the one that we have with the recovery package in January -- Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro and George Miller are the co-chairs of that committee. They will preside over that. It's very important.

And, again, we will be having a regular caucus meeting. Is that, again, more on the subject than you want to know" But it is very important. The issues like you cannot be deprived of health care, health insurance because of a pre-existing medical condition. If you lose your job, you do not lose your health insurance. If you change jobs or want to be -- start a business, you'll still have access to health insurance.

There's a cap on what you pay in in premiums. There's no cap on what you receive back. Very important to the disabilities community. So no cap either annually or lifetime. The President mentioned that last night. So, again, this is -- it's a comprehensive -- there's a great deal of detail in it. That's why it's a long bill. And an overriding issue that permeates because it's all decisions that priority is cost. Lowering cost. If everybody in America was perfectly satisfied with the health insurance that they had and the health care they received, we would still have to go forward with an initiative to lower the rapid increase in cost in health care, again, to individuals, to businesses, to the economy, and to the budget.

Health care reform is entitlement reform when it comes to Medicare and Medicaid. So the -- taking down the cost and demonstrating -- as the President said, he will not sign a bill that adds to the deficit. We will send him a bill that adds to the deficit.

One more point I want to make on that. I did mention wellness. There's a big interest springing -- with an issue that we suggested some language -- Congresswoman Dahlkemper of Pennsylvania has suggested some language in terms of wellness and personal responsibility. That's another issue in our galaxy of issues to play into this legislation.

Q: The President said last night (inaudible) budget that he wants it to be paid mostly through Medicare and Medicaid cuts and savings.

Speaker Pelosi. Right.

Q: Is it possible to cut enough from Medicare and Medicaid to pay for the subsidies up to 400 percent of poverty? Speaker Pelosi. That's one of the ways that we pay for that will be at least half the bill -- half the bill will be paid for by squeezing excesses out of the system. And there is $500 billion to do that, and we're looking for more. That can be achieved -- waste, fraud, abuse, redundancy, whatever it is. Squeeze it out of the system, and that means out of the providers and the rest as well.

The second piece is the additional pay-fors. This bill will cost under a trillion dollars over 10 years but half of it will be paid for by cuts -- will be taken care of by cuts. Less than half of it will be in finding other pay-fors for it.

And to the extent that we can change the way health care is delivered and lower the cost, that's where we want to focus. But we will need some pay-fors.

Q: Will you support an up-or-down vote allowing an up-or- down vote on Representative Stupak's amendment to keep abortion funding out of the health care bill? Speaker Pelosi. It's out of the health care bill...

Q: He thinks that that amendment (inaudible) wants to introduce a limit on the floor of the House to keep abortion funding out.

Speaker Pelosi. I can't talk about an amendment until we see what the bill is. And the bill -- as the President stated last night, it does not expand any spending for abortion. You know, again, when we see what the bill is and if there's need for amendment, we're open to amendments in many categories as we go to the floor.

But you can't talk about amendments until you see what is in the bill. And when we have a bill, the Rules Committee will make decisions as to what amendments will go to the floor. And the Rules Committee, as we harmonize these three bills, the Rules Committee will weigh in as to what manager's amendment will go to the floor to -- to resolve some of the differences that still exist.

But everybody -- we'll probably have 435 up-or-downs that people want to have in the bill. We have to manage it in a way that gets the job done, that truly expresses a different view than what is in the bill.

Q: Regarding Afghanistan, I'm wondering if you've been briefed on the McChrystal report and if you are open to the idea of sending more troops? Speaker Pelosi. We have not been briefed on the McChrystal report, which I understand is an assessment of what is happening there, not a recommendation, -- but, again, I haven't been briefed on it.

But September 24th is fraught with meaning for us. This is the date, according to the supplemental, that the metrics as to what's going on in Afghanistan are to be reported to Congress. I'm more interested in that report. I hope that we will be briefed on the McChrystal report when the President receives it. Perhaps next week we will see that. I don't think there's a great deal of support for sending more troops to Afghanistan in the country or in the Congress.

Thank you.

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