Here is the transcript for today's House Republican Leadership Press Conferenc You can find photos and audio by clicking here.
Conference Chairman Pence:
This administration is speaking of late about a growing consensus in America. We believe there is a growing consensus that the American people want to see health care reform that lowers the cost of health insurance, but they don't want to see a government takeover paid for with nearly a trillion dollars in news spending, higher taxes and mandates.
But remarkably, despite that consensus, after weeks of backroom negotiations and all happening behind closed doors, Democrats have emerged in the Senate with legislation that includes the very public option that hundreds of thousands of Americans gathered at town hall meetings and forums this summer to reject. The Democrats apparently are trying to sell this public option with something called a state "opt-out" provision. But millions of Americas are asking Washington, D.C. "when did we opt-in on a government takeover of health care?"
This week, House Republicans will take to the floor and take to the airwaves of this country and to our districts to talk particularly about the impact of Democrat health care plans on seniors. The president said famously, "If you like your current plan, you can keep it." Apparently, the president wasn't talking about American seniors.
As reported in newspapers across the country today, working in conjunction with lobbyists at the AARP, the administration and Democrats have negotiated enormous cuts in Medicare Advantage. Other elements of the plan would not only cut that popular program by $162 billion but their changes would result in a 20 percent increase in prescription drug costs to seniors, according to CBO.
House Republicans will take to the floor today at noon and fan out across this country to make sure that seniors are able to count the costs of their plans for a government takeover of health care. The Democrat healthcare bill is a bad deal for taxpayers, but it's a worse deal for American seniors, and Republicans are determined to make sure they know that.
Conference Vice Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers:
Good morning, everyone. This morning I find myself thinking about a recent town hall where there were nearly 1,000 people and the majority of them were seniors. And they weren't very happy. In my district alone, in eastern Washington, it's estimated there are 20,000 seniors that get their health insurance through Medicare Advantage. And yet, that program right now is going to be cut dramatically $162 billion in cuts. And what that means for seniors is that they are going to be losing their plans and they're going to be facing higher premiums. And for many seniors that means the difference between them being able to have health insurance at the expense at the cost of living, their home, their clothing and their food.
And as was mentioned, seniors are also facing a hit when it comes to prescription drug costs. In this bill, there's a 20 percent increase in prescription drug costs. House Republicans believe that when it comes to health care we need to start taking steps to reduce the costs of health care and that can be done through medical liability reform, by focusing on health IT, electronic medical records. There are ways we can control the cost of health care without it being financed on the backs of our seniors.
Republican Whip Cantor:
Good morning. The latest news is reflecting some sort of momentum on the other side of the aisle and the other side of the Capitol, with a public option opt-out plan. Our message today is fairly clear: if the Democrats want Republican support, then perhaps they ought to be providing for seniors to opt-out of the nearly $500 billion in Medicare cuts. Perhaps they ought to begin thinking about allowing small businesses to opt-out of the mandates and penalties and higher taxes that are within their health care proposal.
We turn, very quickly, to what will happen in Virginia a week from today because there are beginning, now, to be a lot of stories already written about the narrative of this campaign. I can tell you, number one, we have a superb candidate in Bob McDonnell, who is running for Governor. The polls have him, as we've seen, his latest this morning, significantly ahead of his Democratic candidate Creigh Deeds. The two of them ran against each other last cycle. There were only a couple hundred votes that separated them but Bob McDonnell has been a leader in this campaign because he has stayed focused on the issues that are important to the people of our Commonwealth and that is, number one, jobs and the economy.
I think that we will see an overwhelming victory a week from now and that is due to Bob's focus on the issues of concern to the people, as well as his understanding that we as a party are standing in opposition to the policies that this administration and this majority in Congress are promoting. An out and out rejection, I believe, of those policies will result in an overwhelming victory for us a week from today in Virginia. What this does, I believe very much, is it puts us as a party in position to speak to the American people over the course of the next year to ensure that there must be some balance restored here in Washington. To the policy making agenda, there must be some balance. We injected a check on the unfettered political power that's being exercised by the other side.
Rep. Dave Reichert:
Good morning. This is my first appearance at this forum. I represent the 8th Congressional District of Washington state. My name is Dave Reichert. My past life, I was a sheriff, an investigator. Since I've been in Congress, this is my fifth year and I still have that sort of investigative mind. So, in 2007 when there was a suggestion that if you cut $200 billion from seniors' health care to fund SCHIP and AARP supported that, I got a little curious about why AARP would support cuts to seniors' health care. Well, that cut went away and the SCHIP bill was passed, but today we're talking about a half a trillion dollar cut to seniors' health care and now my investigative mind is a little bit more inquisitive. So we have begun to ask AARP some questions.
We've fired off two letters to AARP. I think their first response to us was inadequate, it was vague, and frankly, it didn't answer the questions that I asked in the first letter. So now we're becoming more specific in the questions that we ask. Why are they supporting this half trillion dollar cut to seniors' health care, $162 billion to Medicare Advantage? The answer is that they benefit from this. Their revenues from royalties from their Medigap programs have increased from 11 percent in 1999 to 60 percent now today. So we're going to continue to ask these questions. We're going to continue investigate. We know that seniors are going to pay more. We also know that they're going to lose benefits, and these are the words of the CEO himself who now runs United Health Care, supported by AARP. Thank you.
Rep. Vern Buchanan:
I'm also, as my colleague mentioned, my first time here, I'm Vern Buchanan from Florida. We have introduced a resolution called the Sunshine Resolution. In Florida, we have a sunshine law. You cannot go into a backroom and cut any deals, any members of Congress. It's very open. The American people want more transparency. My resolution, on a bipartisan basis, what we are asking for is to bring that sunshine law in Florida to Washington. We've got to open up the process. I can tell you, in my area in Florida, it's a 90 percent issue. The American people want to be more involved in the process.
We don't want to end up when we get into conference over a period of two to three weeks, end up with a 2,000 page bill that we've got one day to respond to, the American people or Members of Congress. That's the sense up here right now. My resolution, we've got Democrats on it as well, is to ask the House, as well as moving into the Senate, to be much more open and transparent where the whole conference process goes through a hearing process like Florida does. And I think it'll make what the American people want, and I think it's better for the policy in general.
Republican Leader Boehner:
Good morning, everyone. As we stand here this morning, Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Reid are behind locked doors writing a health care bill. The Majority Leader yesterday gave us some indication of one little piece of it, but it's pretty clear that this is a clear violation of what the President of the United States, when he was campaigning for office said would not happen. He said we're going to do this out in the open. We're going to have a C-SPAN camera in there, so that the American people can see exactly who's on what side. Well, I'm ready to see this, and I think Vern Buchanan's resolution is a big step in the right direction.
Now, it's no secret to us why they're doing this in secret, because the American people do not support this plan in no way, shape or form. Not only do we have this big government-run option, but don't forget, there are 53 boards, agencies and commissions that are going to require tens of thousands of new federal employees. This giant federal bureaucracy is intended to be in place so that they can get to their single payer national health care plan, which they all want. This thing is going to cost well over a trillion dollars, and so you're going to raise taxes, you're going to have mandates on individuals, mandates on employers. But I think the worst part of this is there's about $500 billion worth of cuts to Medicare, and you know, the president said if you like your health insurance you can keep it. Well, he either wasn't honest about it, or didn't know what his colleagues on the Hill were proposing, because Medicare Advantage, about 80 percent of those seniors are going to lose their health care benefits because it's no longer going to be offered.
It's time to stop all of this. It's time to hit the reset button, and start over in a bipartisan way. There are many ideas that we have submitted to the president, that we have submitted to our Democrat colleagues, that would make common sense reforms to the current health care system to make it more affordable for all Americans.