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Pelosi Floor Statement Urging Override of President's Veto of SCHIP

Washington, D.C. - Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke on the House floor this afternoon urging Members to override the President's veto of the State Children's Insurance Program (SCHIP) bill.  Below are her remarks:

'My colleagues, as I listen to the debate today, I hear a lot of subterfuge and distractions, but the fact is that this is a discussion about America's children.  And it is a discussion about America.  There is no industrialized country in the world that any one respects that does not provide health insurance for its children.  We are the exception.  Not a designation to be proud of.  But the American people in their wisdom have this, not as an issue, but as a value, as an ethic. 

'That is why I am so proud of what has transpired since we took our first vote on this bill.  That day I said we could establish ourselves as the children's Congress.  And we did.  The work remains to be done to bring that to fruition. 

'But in the meantime across our country, Democrats and Republicans, governors and mayors, people who work with children or have a responsibility of delivering on our system of health care, have been advocating for this reauthorization of SCHIP that we have before us today. 

'Our country has put poor children first.  The poorest of the poor children in this country are able to receive health care through Medicaid.  I wish you could have heard the stories of some of the parents told us.  Bethany Wilkerson's parents were in the other day, and the press asked them if they were afraid if their family would come under attack because they were lobbying for SCHIP.  'We are already under attack, but we're proud to come forward to support this initiative,' they said. 'We're not proud of the fact that we are low-income.  We're trying very hard to left ourselves up higher into the middle-class.  We work very hard not to be on Medicaid, but to be among the working poor, it's not something we brag about, but SCHIP is something that we need.' 

'So when the President wants to insure 4 or 5 million children instead of 10 million children in this initiative, is he the one, the decider, who wants to go that family and say, 'Your child is out?'  Bethany had heart problems from birth; she turned 2-years-old in July.  She has been told by some people as they lobbied: 'Well, the baby is better for now, you don't need SCHIP anymore.'  But she does.  But they said, 'We're not just lobbying for Bethany, we're lobbying for all the children.'

'But that does not include people earning $83,000 a year.  So while some of you may use that as an excuse not to vote for this program, I hope you know intellectually that it is not a reason to vote against SCHIP.  They are currently no children enrolled in SCHIP with family income of 400 percent of the federal poverty level, $83,000 for a family of four.  In fact, 91.3 percent of the children enrolled in SCHIP are in families of four that make less than 200 percent of poverty.  And 99.95 percent of them are in families under 300 percent of poverty. 

'So this is a sad thing.  We're asking people working hard, they're playing by the rules, and they're taking care of their families. They could have stayed out of work and stayed on Medicaid.  But that's not what we're encouraging people to do in our country.  We're encouraging them to move on and upward.  And these families have to come forward and say why they have not attained the American dream of enough wealth to afford $1,200 a month in health insurance premiums and that's a big order. 

'I'm so pleased, though, with the work that the groups have done.  Easter Seals, the March of Dimes, the Red Cross, all the organizations, working with the governors and mayors.  Now 81 percent of the American people support this initiative.  And let me also say that there are some myths about SCHIP.  I don't really think they're myths, I think they're excuses not to vote for the bill.  I mentioned one of them.  Another one is about illegal aliens.  Clearly, the bill states no federal funding for illegal aliens.  It is also the law of the land.  Illegal aliens do not get benefits.  So don't use that as an excuse to deprive 10 million children in our country who are eligible for enrollment in SCHIP that they shouldn't get it. 

'This has been a bipartisan effort.  And some of what has been said about this is simply not true.  But don't take it from me.  Senator Orrin Hatch, former chair of the Health Committee, in the Senate now, a ranking member said: 'I believe that some have given the President bad advice on this matter because I believe that supporting this bipartisan compromise to provide health coverage to low-income children is the morally right thing to do.  If we were truly compassionate, it seems to me we'd endorse this program.'  Senator Orrin Hatch, Republican of Utah. 

Senator Charles Grassley, former chair of the Finance Committee, another committee of jurisdiction, now the ranking member said: 'The President's claims about SCHIP are flatly incorrect.  The SCHIP bill is not a government takeover of health care.  Screaming 'socialized medicine' during a health care debate is like shouting 'fire' in a crowded theater.  It is intended to cause hysteria that diverts people from looking at the facts.'  Senator Grassley, Republican of Iowa. 

'And so my colleagues, we have a decision today to override the President's veto, which would be in my view the right thing to do for our children and for our country.  It's not about compassion, it's about fairness.  And this is a bill that has been bipartisan in its development and required enormous sacrifice from the Democrats in the House of Representatives.  We had a much higher goal.  This is what is achievable for the children.  It should have been signed by the President.  There is no reason that he has given that is consistent with the facts.  And so I urge my colleagues to think about the children, to think about Bethany and the other children.

'The President is isolated in this.  Don't join him in his isolation.  Come forward on behalf of the children and let's truly send a signal that we are about the future.  I tried to do that when I was sworn in as Speaker surrounded by children.  It was a spontaneous moment, but it was one that was clear in its message: we are gaveling this House to order on behalf of the children. 

'There is nothing more important that we have to do in our work than make sure that our children are healthy and safe.  Today, we have an opportunity to do that; let's not miss that opportunity.  Let's give a vote for the children and against the President's veto.'