Washington, D.C. -- Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivered opening remarks this morning at a forum held by the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee that highlighted the urgent need for comprehensive health insurance reform. Below are the Speaker's remarks:
“Good morning. We come together in this historic moment for our country because we are closer than ever before in history to passing health insurance reform.
“I'd like to thank our three Chairmen who have led the way: Chairman George Miller, who is also the Co-Chair of the Steering and Policy Committee and the Chairman of Committee of Jurisdiction as Chairman of Education and Labor Committee; Chairman Henry Waxman, the Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee; and Chairman Charlie Rangel, Chairman of Ways and Means Committee -- three original committees of jurisdiction. I'd also like to commend Chairwoman Louise Slaughter of the Rules Committee, which will play a very important role now and bring these bills together with any amendments through the Rules Committee to take the bills to the floor. I want to thank Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, also a Co-Chair of the Steering and Policy Committee. She and Mr. Miller once again are bringing us together.
“We had a hearing of this kind on a recovery package, which is now demonstrating that it is reaping benefits for our country. We learned a lot at that hearing in January and we hope to be informed -- I know we will -- by our witnesses today. I want to thank all of them for coming, congratulate them on their leadership in the field of health and health insurance, and small business issues that relate to America's seniors.
“The President has called for his principles to be honored in legislation -- legislation that provides affordable, quality, accessible health care to all Americans. We are determined in the legislation that what we are putting together will lower costs, improve quality, expand coverage, and make sure that people still have a choice of what they have now. If you like what you have, you may keep it. If you want to change it, you may, and if you don't have health insurance you will get it. This is essential, it is essential as an economic issue, and as a health issue, of course. The health and well being of America's families, the health and well-being of our country -- a healthier America is our goal.
“It's also an economic issue. It's an economic issue for America's individuals and families; it's competitive issue for our businesses; it's an issue for our economy on how do we compete nationally and globally if we do not have health insurance affordable and accessible for our workers, and it is essential for us to have this health insurance reform for our budget.
“As President Obama has said: ‘Health insurance reform is entitlement reform.' We must reverse the upward spiral of increasing cost, which again, adds an additional priority to our budget and to future generations. We have a moral responsibility to stop that and to reverse that.
“We also have a moral responsibility to pass health insurance reform and we will do so this year. It is a moral imperative, a health issue, it is an economic issue. I believe that we can do so best by increasing competition, and by increasing competition we will again, improve quality, lower costs, expand coverage, and maintain choice. I believe that a public option is the best way to do that.
“I look forward to hearing from the testimony of our expert witnesses. I thank them for their leadership in their fields, for their presence today, and I look forward to benefitting from their wisdom.
“I again want to commend the Steering and Policy Committee members who are present. We have many chairmen of committees who are here whom you will be hearing from. Right now, I want to yield to the distinguished Co-Chairs of the Steering and Policy Committee, thank them for bringing us together today. With that, Chairman George Miller.”