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Pelosi Remarks at 'Health Care Thank You Rally'

Washington, D.C. - Speaker Pelosi delivered remarks at a “Health Care Thank You Rally” for workers and union leaders today in the Longworth Fountain Plaza.  Congressional leadership addressed union activists who advocated for the health care law. Below are the Speaker's remarks:

“Good afternoon.  Leo Gerard said that he invited us here so that you all could say thank you to us for passing health care reform.  We are here, the Democratic Members of Congress, to say ‘thank you' for helping make that victory possible. [Applause.]  

“This success sprang from our working together for our unity around the principle that health care in America is a right, not a privilege.  [Applause.] This came from unity in our Caucus, and I want, this is a representative group of the Members who worked so hard to put this package together.  We had great chairmen, George Miller, Henry Waxman, Charlie Rangel and then Sandy Levin and Louise Slaughter, who all worked very hard in the House.  Senator Baucus and Senator Kennedy, God rest his soul, Senator Harkin in the United States Senate.  [Applause.] 

“This was a magnificent collaboration.  But let me give you some names of people who were part of weaving together a carefully woven fabric of strength, of strength for the American people, their good health.  Richard Trumka is here.  Richard Trumka!  [Applause.]  What a great leader, what a great supporter for what we are doing.  Richard, let me just say, introduce our House Members.  Gene Green of Texas.  [Applause.]  John Tierney of Massachusetts.  [Applause.]  Jane Harman of California.  [Applause.]  Mike Michaud of Maine [Applause.]  Lynn Woolsey of California.  [Applause.]  Chairman Pete Visclosky is here.  [Applause.]  Our Members will be coming and going. 

“And we are so pleased, and we take special pride in a Member of the Senate Democratic leadership who formerly served with us in the House, a friend of America's working families, Dick Durbin.  Senator Dick Durbin.  [Applause.]

“I want to thank Richard Trumka for the leadership up the labor movement and the AFL-CIO in helping to pass this bill.  You know, there for a while, people had some doubts, they had some doubts as to whether this would pass, and after Massachusetts this or that.  And they said to me: ‘Are you going to pass the bill?'  I said: ‘Yes, we are going to pass the bill.'  They said: ‘Well, how are you going to do that?'  I said: ‘We are going to do it because we are going to push the gate open, and if the gate doesn't open, if it is locked, we are going to climb over the fence.  [Applause.]  And if the fence is too high, we are going to pole vault in.  [Applause.]  And if that doesn't work, we are going to parachute in.  But we are going to get on the other side, and we are going to declare victory for the American people.'  [Applause.]        

“So after we passed it, they said: ‘Well how did you get in?'  I said: ‘We just pushed open that door.'  All these Members of Congress working together, all of you, the steel workers, the AFL, AFSCME, SEIU, many groups are represented here.  But all of us, I'm sorry?  Women in Steel!  I love it!  [Applause.]  And we are talking about Women in Steel!  Let's hear it for the nuns! [Applause.]

“But anyway, all of you, all of you helped push open that gate.  And that is why we got on the other side.  Our Members, with their courage, with their knowledge, with their commitment, with their values about what is important to the American people, pushed open that gate.  And now we are in a different place.  And we couldn't be there, I want to acknowledge again, the leadership of the labor movement in this fight and the rapid response network.  Let's hear it for the Rapid Response Network!  [Applause.]  The Rapid Response Network, because you organized, and because you marched, you helped us to succeed.  Now no American will be denied coverage due to a pre-existing medical condition.  Thank you, Rapid Response. 

“No one will lose coverage because they are sick.  Seniors will have access to affordable prescription drugs.  Young people will enter the workforce without the fear of being kicked off their parents' policies.  And being a woman is no longer a pre-existing medical condition. [Applause.]      

“There are many stories.  There are many stories I would like to tell you about seniors and about children and about young people and workers and small business owners and the rest that moved us to action because it is spelled out so clearly the urgency.  But I am just going to tell you this one story.  The night we passed the bill, we heard from the President, and he was very happy.  The next morning, he called again and said: ‘You know, I want you to know that last night, when you all passed the health care bill, I was happier than I was the night I was elected the President of the United States.'  Isn't that a beautiful sentiment?  [Applause.] Realizing that the health of the American people was more important than anything.  I said: “Mr. President, I was pretty happy last night too, as were our colleagues.  But I wasn't happier than the night you were elected President because if you weren't elected President, we wouldn't be having this victory today.'  Thank you, Barack Obama, for your leadership. [Applause.]

“I am pleased that we have been joined by Senator Specter, who was such an important force in this, Senator Arlen Specter. [Applause.]  I know you will be hearing from all of them. 

“But let me say to our friends in the Senate: we are so proud of the job you were doing on Wall Street Reform.  Thank you for having that debate.  The message should be clear to Wall Street.  We passed our bill.  They are passing theirs.  We will go to conference.  And never again will those who would be reckless on Wall Street make people jobless on Main Street.  [Applause.]

“Never again should they think that they can privatize the gain of their reckless investments and nationalize the risk.  When they win, they win.  When they lose, taxpayers pay.  That day is over.  That day is over.  That day is over.  [Applause.]  

“I want to acknowledge that we are joined by our colleague, Chairman Nick Joe Rahall of West Virginia.  [Applause.]  Nick is helping us.  He is Chairman of the Natural Resources Committee.  He reminds us that we are here because we are different.  We are taking the country in a New Direction. 

“When it came to health care, we said, ‘Let's rein in the insurance companies,' the Republicans said, ‘No.'  We're for the people's interest, they're for the special interest.  When it comes to the credit card companies, the financial institutions, who would risk your jobs for their gain, we were with the people and reining in those financial institutions.  The Republicans in the House said, ‘No.' And when it comes to Big Oil, we passed our legislation saying we want clean air, clean water, and we want a very diverse domestic supply and production.  But it has to be something where the taxpayer is not at risk and the health of America's children are not at risk. 

“So when it comes to the oil companies -- Big Oil -- whether it is Big Oil, big mining interest, who do not support the workers -- any of those categories -- Democrats are with the people, the Republicans are with the special interest.  That is the distinction we will make in these campaigns.

“Now the road to this victory started at the ballot box.  So, while I thank you for going door-to-door and on the phone and all the rest to win support for this vote, I also want to thank you for helping elect strong Democratic majorities in the House and in the Senate and electing Barack Obama, President of the United States. [Applause.]  

“And in thanking my friend Leo Gerard for his relentlessness in that regard, and thanking Richard Trumka for his great leadership and thanking each and every one of you.  There's more to come.  Onward to victory.  Thank you, thank you, thank you to the American steelworkers.”  [Applause and Chanting.]