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WASHINGTON, DC - House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (MD) spoke on the House Floor tonight in support of the Children's Health Insurance Program reauthorization. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
"Mr. Speaker, today, the Members of this body must answer this fundamental question: Will you stand with millions of American children, who through no fault of their own have no health insurance coverage? Or, will you stand with the few – including President Bush – who are ideologically opposed to this legislation, and thus willing to leave millions of American children stranded without the health insurance coverage they need and deserve?
"Mr. Speaker, the bottom line is this: We must not sacrifice the health of our children on the altar of conservative, Republican ideology. We must pass this bill.
"The fact is, President Bush himself stated on the campaign trail in 2004: 'In a new term, we will lead an aggressive effort to enroll millions of children who are eligible but not signed up for government health insurance programs. We will not allow a lack of attention, or information, to stand between these children and the health care they need.'
"But now, the President – unfortunately – is threatening to renege on his campaign promise, and to veto this legislation.
"Let’s be clear: This fiscally responsible legislation will ensure that some 10 million children receive health insurance coverage. That’s approximately 4 million more than are covered under the children’s health insurance program today.
"The truth is, those 4 million additional children are eligible under existing guidelines. This legislation does not change eligibility guidelines. It simply strengthen’s CHIP’s financing, increases coverage for low-income children, and improves the quality of care they receive.
"In contrast, under the President’s proposal, more than 800,000 low-income children who are currently covered by the program would lose their coverage.
"It’s no wonder, Mr. Speaker, that this legislation has received strong support from members on both sides of the aisle, and from 43 governors.
"For example, Senator Hatch has stated: 'We’re talking about kids who basically don’t have coverage. I think the President’s had some pretty bad advice on this.' And Senator Grassley stated: 'The President’s understanding of our bill is wrong. I urge him to reconsider his veto message.'
"Now let me say, those who complain that this bill will induce people with private insurance to drop their coverage and enroll in the CHIP program are simply grasping at straws. The fact is, even America’s Health Insurance Plans – the largest insurance lobbying group – supports this bill.
"Finally, let me mention two other points. First, I am very pleased that this legislation includes a comprehensive dental benefit that will give low-income children the dental care they need, and will provide states with flexibility in how to provide such care.
"The death of 12-year-old Deamonte Driver of Prince George’s County, Maryland, was a tragic reminder of the importance of such care. Deamonte died after an abscessed tooth spread infection to his brain. His death could have been prevented by $40 worth of dental care.
"And second, I am very disappointed that Senate Republicans insisted that we remove the House-passed provisions on Medicare, as well as our provision that would have allowed legal immigrants – who pay taxes – to be eligible.
"We are absolutely committed to moving these provisions through the Congress, and intend to look for appropriate vehicles to do so.
"Mr. Speaker, we have a rare and wonderful opportunity today to do the right thing; to put aside partisanship; to elevate the practical, responsible and moral solution above the ideological.
"I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle: Let’s seize this opportunity. Let’s do the right thing. Let’s stand with America’s children – and pass this historic legislation."