WASHINGTON, DC – House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) released the following statement after President Bush’s statements today on Medicare and the progress of a prescription drug benefit bill in Congress. The bill remains mired in conference because of demands from conservative Republicans and quarrels between Chairmen Charles Grassley and Bill Thomas. Many Senate Democrats and all House Democrats have been completely shut out of the process. The following is Rep. Hoyer’s statement as prepared for delivery:
“Once again, the President’s rhetoric on Medicare today does not match reality. And the reality is that Republicans have not followed through on their promise to create an effective prescription drug bill. Instead, this much-needed legislation is falling victim to Republican infighting and special interest demands.
“The President said that ‘just a few difficult issues remain’ with the Medicare bill. There are more than a few difficult issues that need to be resolved before seniors can be assured that this prescription drug legislation will be a benefit, not a hindrance. He also said Democrats and Republicans have come together, when in fact, Democrats have been almost completely shut out of the Medicare conference.
“To resolve this impasse, President Bush needs to talk those in his own party who want to privatize Medicare which would force seniors to leave their doctors and move into HMOs and other private plans. President Bush needs to acknowledge that House Republicans, in particular, are pushing for a bill that leaves a glaring gap in coverage and disadvantages seniors in rural areas, would force seniors into private for-profit plans, and most importantly, does not guarantee benefits or premiums.
“Republicans have created a quagmire of their own making with this Medicare bill. By enacting fiscally reckless tax cuts, they’ve sent the deficit soaring, and left Congress with few resources to protect this program and provide a drug benefit.
“Democrats call on President Bush to acknowledge the reality of the situation and sit down with Republicans and Democrats to resolve this issue – so that seniors can get the affordable, guaranteed prescription drug benefit they deserve.”