Washington, D.C. -- Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke on this House floor early this afternoon in support of H.R. 2, the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) Reauthorization bill, which later passed by a strong bipartisan vote of 289 to 139.
“My colleagues, this is a day of triumph for American children. With what I expect to be a strong bipartisan vote, the House will bring us one step closer to providing health care for 11 million children in America.
“With this action and with the legislation last week to ensure equal pay for equal work for women, Congress makes clear that we put women and children first. It is important that we have this legislation up so soon in this new Congress because children are our top priority. We would like to be considered a Congress for the children, a Congress for the future.
“At a time of economic crisis, nothing could be more essential than ensuring that children of hardworking families receive the quality health care that they deserve. Many of these children are from families of hardworking Americans who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own. It is sad to say that Americans lost 2.6 million jobs last year. Over half a million jobs were lost in the month of December. 500,000 jobs were lost in the month of December. It was actually 526, 000 jobs.
“Each month until we have an economic recovery initiative, we will continue to lose at least 500,000 jobs per month. With such job loss, Americans see the health care coverage that we all need for our children disappear. For every 1 percent increase in the unemployment rate, it is estimated that as many as 1.5 million Americans will lose their health care coverage. A record 47 million Americans, including 9 million children, are without health insurance now.
“Ensuring that children have access to affordable health care just makes sense. It's not just about addressing their health needs when they are sick, it's about keeping them healthy in advance. It's about prevention. It's about diet, not diabetes. It's about prevention, not amputation. It's about a healthier America.
“Contrary to the views of some, an emergency room is not good health care on a regular basis. An emergency room is as it is described -- for emergencies. Not for ongoing health care. So for those who say that all people in our country have access to health care, they can go to an emergency room, I don't know what they could be thinking.
“By ensuring health care coverage for 11 million children, families will have regular doctor visits and preventive care. We will ensure that children get the care they need and that the health care costs are not inflated, due to expensive emergency room care. That is why more than 80 percent of the American people support this legislation. It is bipartisan. It is fully paid for by a 61-cent tax on a pack of cigarettes -- as a major part of its funding. And it represents a new direction, because it is for good health care for American children and it is paid for.
“We have fought in the last Congress together -- Democrats and Republicans in the House and in the Senate -- to pass this legislation, which we did, but it was vetoed. At the time, President Bush said we could not afford this legislation -- that we could not afford to insure America's children. Forty days in Iraq equals over 10 million children in America insured for one year. We certainly can afford to do that.
“We look forward to bring this legislation to President Obama's desk as one of the first bills that he will sign. And when we do, we owe a great deal of gratitude to Chairman Henry Waxman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, Chairman Rangel of Ways and Means, Chairman Emeritus John Dingell, who worked on this issue for a very long time and engineered it through the last Congress. Thank you Mr. Dingell, Congressman Pallone- the chair of the subcommittee, Congressman Stark- the chair of the appropriate committee on Ways and Means, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, which led the fight to ensure that legal immigrant children are covered under this legislation, and our CBC -- Congressional Black Caucus, and all elements of our caucus, of our Congress, and coalitions on the outside.