WASHINGTON – House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (MD) made the following Floor statement today regarding the House’s role in investigating abuses of Iraqi prisoners and legislation being considered in the House for Covered the Uninsured week:
“Mr. Speaker, before I discuss legislation that will be considered on the Floor this week, I want to comment briefly on the continuing revelations about the abuse of Iraqi detainees in American custody and the need for vigorous congressional oversight through full and open committee hearings.
“I could not disagree with my friend, the Majority Leader, more when he says the idea of a congressional investigation is like (quote) ‘saying we need an investigation every time there’s police brutality on the street.’
“The abuse of Iraqi detainees, as we are learning, is not isolated, and responsibility extends up and down the military chain of command.
“We must not abdicate our constitutional responsibility as an independent, co-equal branch of government – as many Republican members of the other body have stated.
“For example, the Senate Majority Leader is quoted today in CQ as saying: ‘The Senate will continue to do its duty. We had several hearings last week. We will continue to maintain a close watch on the unfolding situation.’
“This shocking episode demands a full, open inquiry. It demands a bipartisan approach. I urge the Republican leadership to work with this side of the aisle in getting to the bottom of these abuses, in holding the responsible parties accountable, and in ensuring that it never happens again.
“The world expects no less, we should expect no less as well.
“Now, Mr. Speaker, while the other body exercises vigorous oversight, this body will consider a Republican bill that will actually increase the budget deficit – which is projected at more than half a trillion dollars this year alone – and three health care bills that would do virtually nothing to help the uninsured.
“This Republican majority is not responding to America’s needs. We can – we must – do better.
“The Republican bill to make the 10-percent income tax bracket permanent could win overwhelming bipartisan support if only it were paid for. But it is not.
“Instead, it would add an estimated $218 billion to the deficit over the next decade. Our children and grandchildren will pay that debt.
“The Democratic substitute, in contrast, is paid for.
“Unfortunately, Republican leaders believe that tax cuts are a freebie. In fact, the Chairman of the House Budget Committee (Mr. Nussle) said in March: ‘We don’t believe that you should have to pay for tax cuts.’
“It’s that mathematically challenged philosophy, that denial of reality, that continues to stall negotiations on the fiscal 2005 budget.
“House Republicans refuse to pay for tax cuts; House Democrats, a bipartisan majority of the Senate and the Chairman of the Federal Reserve support pay-as-you-go budget rules. In fact, if my Republican friends missed the comment of Chairman Greenspan last week, let me repeat it. He said (and I quote): ‘The free lunch has still to be invented.’
“This week, the Republican leadership will also put three health care bills on the floor – apparently in recognition of ‘Cover the Uninsured Week.’ Today, in America – the richest, most powerful nation on the face of the earth – 44 million Americans do not have health insurance, and that figure has increased by 4 million since George W. Bush took office. Yet, none of the Republican health care bills directly addresses this growing problem.
“We’ve already passed two of these three bills – on medical liability and association health plans – and the third (on flexible savings accounts) would mostly benefit those who are already insured.
“House Democrats, by comparison, will introduce three health care bills this week that, together, would provide health insurance for more than half of the 44 million uninsured. These bills are aimed at three growing groups of insured – those with low income, retirees, and small businesses and the self-employed.
“I say to my friends on the Republican side: our constituents did not send us here to pretend to legislate. They sent us here to solve problems and fulfill our duty. This week, there is ample evidence that we are doing neither.”