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WASHINGTON, DC - House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) gave remarks on the House Floor today in opposition to House Republicans’ ramming their Affordable Care Act repeal bill through committees in the dead of night. A video and transcript of his remarks can be found below.
Watch a video of the remarks here.
“Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I just came from the Energy and Commerce Committee. That Committee, along with the Ways and Means Committee and the Education and Workforce Committee, are seized of the responsibility to consider the harmful American Health Care Act being offered by the Republicans as a better way. It is anything but a better way.
“Mr. Speaker, they don't want the American public to see what they are doing. They met all through the night. They have been meeting now for over 24 hours without sleep. Without rest. Without reflection. And with no opportunity, Mr. Speaker, for the American people to see what's going on. In the dead of night, out of the sight of the public, they are hiding their bill and rushing to judgment.
“Why? Because they know, as they have seen in town meeting after town meeting after town meeting – that is, of course, those Republicans who have had town meetings – that the American public are extraordinarily concerned and worried they are going to lose the health care that they receive through the Affordable Care Act. They are going to be concerned about the premiums and deductibles that they have to pay skyrocketing because of the Republican bill that is being proposed. They are concerned that Medicare and Medicaid are going to be decimated and the life of Medicare reduced in terms of its ability to pay the benefits promised.
“Mr. Speaker, the President stood at that rostrum, and the President said he had a health care bill that was going to give health care coverage for everybody, not just some but everybody at less expense and greater quality. There is no such bill that the President has provided us with and, if there is, and if he has such a bill, Mr. Speaker, I will support it. But it is certainly not the bill that Ways and Means Committee ended its work at 4:30 a.m. this morning.
“The American people, Mr. Speaker, ought to be asking, what are you hiding? What's the rush? You have had seven years to consider this bill. Seven years. We're meeting tomorrow. We're meeting next week. We're meeting the week after. It's not as if we're going on a summer break that we need to rush to judgment. It's not that we need to keep the American people out of consideration of this bill.
“Mr. Speaker, Democrats in committee and on this Floor are doing everything we can to slow down this process, to open the doors, open the windows, keep the lights on so that the people who deserve to know how a Republican bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act will impact their lives and the lives of their family and their children.
“House Republicans are marking up this bill without holding a single hearing. Not one hearing. Not one hearing for a bill that gives $600 billion in tax cuts and cuts hundreds of billions of dollars from health care. And the tax cuts go to the wealthiest in America.
“Perhaps that’s why there are no hearings. Perhaps that's why they didn't invite any witnesses. Perhaps that's why they're rushing to judgment before the Congressional Budget Office, which is nonpartisan, and will give us an accurate estimate of its cost and who's going to be hurt. Mr. Speaker, apparently they don't want the American people to get those facts before their Representatives have to make a decision.
“I know they voted for repealing the Affordable Care Act almost 65 times here in this House. Democrats have voted against that because we believe that the Affordable Care Act is working. Is it working perfectly? No. Do we need to join together and make it work better for the American people? Yes.
“This bill will impact, Mr. Speaker, every single American family and business. If enacted, it will force Americans across the country to pay more for less coverage and fewer benefits. Shamefully, Republicans are hoping they can jam this bill through the House and Senate before Members have to go home and face their constituents in April. That's why we're having to rush, because they don't want their Members to go home in April and say: this is what we're considering, what do you think? Because they know, because they’ve had hearings, town meetings – they haven't had any hearings but they had town meetings – and every American has seen the reporting of angry Americans who are fearful that they are going to lose benefits that's absolutely critical for them and their families.
“They continued marking this bill up through the night using the very same tactics they claimed we were using when considering the Affordable Care Act. We had over 79 hearings, not in the middle of the night, during the day. We had over 181 witness – that's opposed to zero, zero, zero witnesses on this bill. Shame! It gives a lie to the representation of transparency and openness and accountability that our Speaker said he would operate this House to ensure those happen.
“They used the same tactics that they claim, as I said, that we were considering. In fact, here's what Tom Price, who was then a Member of the House of Representatives, now the Secretary of the Health and Human Services, said: ‘the negotiations are obviously being done in secret, and the American people really just want to know what they are trying to hide.’ He said that on January 6, 2010. One hundred and eighty witnesses, 79 hearings, a year and a half or more of consideration.
“And yet, we have a bill that was introduced Monday night. Today's Thursday. Monday night it was introduced. No hearings. Wednesday and deep into the night and this morning this bill is being marked up.
“Kevin Brady, the Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, who held a markup until 4:30 a.m., said this, ‘I think there's never a more critical time for the American public to weigh in on an important issue than health care today, and there is a lot about this bill we don't know.’ He said that in a town hall [on] August 10, 2009. Well, now he's Chairman of the Committee, and apparently he's decided that the American public doesn't need to know now. When we were in charge, he thought the public needed to know and that's why we had those 79 hearings and those 180 witnesses, and thousands of meetings and town halls around the country on the Affordable Care Act. Mr. Brady apparently doesn't think that's applicable when he's in charge of the Committee.
“And then former Speaker John Boehner said this, ‘can you say it was done openly, with transparency and accountability, without back room deals struck behind closed doors, hidden from the people? Hell, no, you can't.’ Now the shoe is on the other foot, and my Republican colleagues are in charge, and they are full speed ahead and the doors are closed, the windows are shuttered, and the blinds are drawn.
“The process we had in 2009 and 2010 to write and adopt the Affordable Care Act included, as I said, 79 hearings versus zero hearings on this bill. Zero. None. 181 witnesses that I referred to. Zero witnesses. Zero Americans included from the public in this process. We had a two-year process that was open and recognized how consequential the legislation would be, ensuring Americans from all over the country, including doctors, health care organizations, providers, insurance companies, and average citizens could weigh in.
“Now in their rush to pass repeal, Republicans are doing everything they said was wrong and much more. Republicans are terrified that the American people will find out what's in this bill. The problem they have is a lot of their Members have found out what's in this bill and they don't like it. Hardly any newspaper in America likes it. We think the public is thinking they're moving too fast and are going to hurt them. They're afraid, however, of having to face angry constituents who will see that this bill will take health care coverage away from 20 million Americans and cause out-of-pocket costs to go up for millions more.
“This bill could destabilize even the employer-based insurance market. That's people who know nothing about the exchange but they have insurance through their employer. This bill will destabilize their insurance as well.
“The point is, Mr. Speaker, we don't know for sure how bad it is. We know it's bad, and that's information we ought to have before being asked to vote on the Floor or in committee on such consequential legislation. My Republican friends will say, we will have a CBO score by the time we mark it up -- excuse me -- consider it on the Floor, but they don't want that information out for very long because it's going to be very, very, very negative.
“So Democrats will continue, Mr. Speaker, to do everything in our power to slow down this process and throw back the curtain that Republicans have pulled over this bill and this process and attempt to hide the details of their dangerous plan from the American people. We're ready, as I said, to turn the lights out in this Chamber before we let the Republican repeal bill turn the lights out on coverage and care for millions of our fellow Americans.
“I yield back the balance of my time, but I do not yield my conviction to oppose this bill as strongly, as long as I possibly can.”