Washington, D.C. -- Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke on the House floor early this afternoon in strong support of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). The House approved the measure this afternoon by a vote of 290 to 135. The Senate approved the same bill last week and it will be signed into law by President Obama later this afternoon.
“Thank you very much Madam Speaker. This is a very happy day for me, for the Congress, for our country, and for all of America's children.
“I thank my colleagues for their extraordinary leadership in working on this very important legislation, which is strongly bipartisan, very carefully crafted, and again, a giant step forward for our children.
“Almost two years ago, when we first talked about this legislation -- we have been talking about it for years -- of course, its been the law, and now we are expanding it. But when we first brought it into the previous Congress, on that day, it was late in the afternoon when I came to the floor, and while the sun was setting in the sky -- coincidentally I came at a time when it was, in poetry described as the ‘Children's Hour'.
“I quoted it then, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem:
‘Between the dark and the daylight,
When the night is beginning to lower,
Comes a pause in the day's occupations,
That is known as the Children's Hour.'
“Today, the ‘Children's Hour' has come to pass. With the bipartisan vote of this House, and the signature of the new President of the United States, we will provide health care to 11 million children in America.
“We owe a great deal of thanks to our Chairman Mr. Waxman, to the Chairman-Emeritus John Dingell, Subcommittee Chairman Frank Pallone of the Energy and Commerce Committee; Chairman Rangel and Pete Stark with Ways and Means Committee.
“So many women on the committees have worked for this: Congresswomen Schakowsky and Baldwin and DeGette and Eshoo, and many others. This has been a product of many women focusing on this important issue that involves our children.
“But our success really springs also from the outside mobilization that went with this. The coalition of more than 300 organizations -- everyone from AARP to YMCA, March of Dimes, Easter Seals, every organization in between -- supported providing quality, affordable health care to America's children.
“More than 80 percent of Americans support our bipartisan children's health insurance bill because they understand that with 2.6 million jobs lost last year now even more children do not have health insurance.
“For every 1 percent increase in unemployment, it is estimated as many as 1.5 million Americans will lose their health care coverage.
“American people know that preventive care is more cost effective than relying on our nation's emergency rooms. That phrase was used in the debate over the past two years: ‘Everyone in America has access to health care; all they have to do is go to the emergency room.' What a ridiculous statement. What a disservice to the debate.
“They know also that reducing smoking, which the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids says this legislation will do, means healthier children leading longer lives.
“The bipartisan, fully paid for children's health insurance bill represents the New Direction that Democrats have fought for. Now today we join with our Republican colleagues to bring it to the floor. This is the beginning of the change that the American people voted for in the last election and that we will achieve with President Barack Obama.
“We look forward to this afternoon when the President of the United States will sign this legislation.
“Some of our new Members of Congress -- I see Congresswoman Betsy Markey and Congresswoman Kathy Dahlkemper on the floor, and others are not here but have taken a major interest -- Tom Perriello from Virginia -- have taken a major interest in this legislation too. And I commend them because their coming to Congress has already -- in only a few short weeks in the Congress -- has already made a difference in the lives of the American people.
“It is a very happy day for me because as you know each time I have been sworn in as Speaker, I have gaveled this House to order in honor and on behalf of all of America's children. And right now, we are observing a ‘Children's Hour' that signifies that we are a Congress for those children.
“I urge all of my colleagues to support our effort to pass this with a tremendous, tremendous margin, and then also to celebrate the signing of the legislation this afternoon.'