Pelosi Remarks at Democratic Women’s Working Group Press Conference Calling for Immediate, Bipartisan CHIP Reauthorization
|Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi joined the Democratic Women’s Working Group, led by Reps. Lois Frankel, Brenda Lawrence and Jackie Speier for a press conference calling on House Republicans to drop their dangerous partisan pay-fors and work with Democrats to reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Below are the Leader’s remarks:
Leader Pelosi. Excuse me for stepping out but we are trying to keep the government open. But let me just talk about CHIP for a moment because this is a subject that many of us have been involved with for a long time. The health and well-being of our children is a primary responsibility for those of us in Congress – for me, personally, my motivation for me to be in politics is the one in five [children] who live in poverty in our country, go to sleep hungry at night in America, the greatest country that has ever existed in the history of the world. That we should be addressing their health issues is without question, and even if you are oblivious to the concerns – and it’s amazing how much patience people have for other peoples’ suffering – the threshold is so high for other peoples’ suffering. But nonetheless, this issue should have been done by September 30 when the reauthorization ended. The Republicans – because they wanted to pay for it in a strange way – we could not come to an agreement on it. But the reason is – the problem is that they were making children pay for children’s health, for example. I’m very comfortable up here –
They were making children pay for children. For example, the Walden bill, which they continue to put forth, is a bill that says, 5-year S-CHIP – we’ve been fighting for this for so long so it used to be called State Children’s Health Insurance Program – 5-year reauthorization of CHIP must be paid for, it sunsetted, and it must be paid for at the same time that the Republicans have given a nearly one and a half trillion dollar tax break, permanently, unpaid-for, to corporate America. So where is their value system? Corporations are people, okay, so corporate people get more attention than little children to that ratio of difference – that’s intolerable, that’s unconscionable.
So, okay, right now, again, we’ve been working for a few months to find respectable pay-fors for this, recognizing that this has to be paid for. We’re working in a bipartisan way to get that done, but nonetheless Republicans are still insisting on putting forth the Walden bill, which says we are going to use money that would be used for childhood inoculations – for you, my friend from Michigan – I was thinking of Flint but she’s not from Flint, nonetheless, Flint area – lead poisoning – all those kinds of issues.
They are taking that money to pay for Children’s Health Insurance Program – get out of here – I mean, really, what are you thinking? Not thinking. So, anyway, that is what has been holding it up for nearly three months and that is really unfortunate because, as has [been] said by my colleagues, states are running out of money – some states have already run out of money. We must do this. We must do it very soon and, again, they are sticking with their bad plan, the same plan that they put on the Floor that we all voted against because it was cannibalizing children’s health care in order to pay for other children’s – another version of children’s health care. What was the question?
Congresswoman Frankel. Whether or not the CR was going to keep the government going –
Leader Pelosi. Did you want to formulate it? I stepped out of the room. The government will be open by the Republicans because they have the votes. They have the votes in [the] House, the Senate and they have the White House – they control whether government is open. We are very proud of our unity in our Caucus: 100 percent against their terrible tax bill, which has implications on the budget side as well, and we’re waiting to see what they put forth, but we have very serious concerns about what they might have in the CR. More than you want to know on this subject? The question is about parity. We have a budget agreement that we would have parity. That means whatever you increase defense by, you increase domestic discretionary budget by. This is more than you’d ever want to know in your life. They said 54 for defense, 37 for domestic discretionary – that’s not good math – 17 billion dollar difference. Especially when you recognize that the domestic discretionary is one-third is Homeland Security, Veterans’ Affairs, anti-terrorism activities of the Justice Department and the State Department – 34 percent of the discretionary is that.
We are having that fight on the numbers and we have bipartisan suggestions on the 17 billion, whether it’s opioids, veterans, institutes of health – very bipartisan interests where that money could be invested. So that’s part of the discussion. They have to, in their own Caucus, come up with a CR where they have the votes. So far they haven’t. You have to ask them.
But my understanding is, now, the can has been kicked down to five o’clock tonight where their Rules Committee will meet and we’ll see what they put forth. The other piece of it is disaster assistance on the supplemental – totally inadequate in terms of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands so that’s problematic as well, whereas other states that are being treated well, like Texas, don’t think it’s enough. So, again, that question is better to ask to the Republican Caucus but, as far as we’re concerned, we haven’t seen anything reached out to us that we would support.
Q: Have there been recent negotiations on CHIP?
Leader Pelosi. That’s been ongoing. We have people who are very knowledgeable and the ramifications of any change – they might do a CHIP patch, and how that’s funded has ramifications as well. When I say patch, I mean a short-term CHIP but we shouldn’t be doing it short-term, we should be addressing proper pay-fors in order to have certainty on how people can provide health care to our children – our children – all these children are our children – they are America’s children.
Q: On the tax bill, Republicans are convinced that this is going to help them win elections in 2018. Do you think the tax bill is going to help Republicans win elections?
Leader Pelosi. Let them think that.
Q: Are there any circumstances under which Democrats would vote to extend government funding?
Leader Pelosi. Well we haven’t seen any bill to that extent, but it isn’t up to us to keep the government open, it’s up to them. We have never supported shutting down government but they have the votes and they have the signature so they have the power. Just to remind [us] when the government was shut down before, the current Speaker of the House, the current head of the – the Office of Management and Budget – they all voted to shut down government and when the vote came to open the government 17 days later, they voted to keep it shut down – so you understand where they’re coming from.
Q: So, is your sense that this continuing resolution is a more minimalistic way of –
Leader Pelosi. Yes, I would imagine. I don’t know, you have to ask them.
Q: You know better than any of us –
Leader Pelosi. Let me say, that would be a course of action that might work for them. To hear the Senate talk – to hear certain Senators talk – they’re going to have issues related to health care and all the other things on there. I don’t know if that will be the case. The question is – we pass something, it goes to the Senate, they put on health care, is that what their promise was? It comes back here. Do the Republicans support that? You really think these Republicans are going to support that? So, probably a minimalistic approach would be better for them but I don’t give them advice.
My colleagues, anyone else want to weigh in on this?
Q: A question back on tax reform for a second – in 2010, you passed Obamacare and for years you had problems messaging it when it was unpopular. Do you expect Republicans to have similar issues on this tax bill?
Leader Pelosi. Well, let me just say: there is no equivalence on this subject. When we did the Affordable Care Act, we did scores of hearings, took hundreds of amendments – probably took hundreds of them – took some, probably modified some just the way we treated Democratic amendments. So we had a full airing of that – because they have a bill now that will affect the economy to the tune of trillions of dollars in which they have had no hearings, no expert testimony. I only wish they could listen to the people in wheelchairs with disabilities that we heard from yesterday to what it would do in their lives, to listen to health care professionals or even listen to their own people.
The person who was the master [Bruce Bartlett], who worked with [Congressman] Jack Kemp, master of trickle-down, supply-side economics said, ‘Anybody who tells you this will pay for itself – it’s not true, it’s nonsense, it’s B.S.’ Except he used the whole word in an open hearing – an open hearing that the Democrats had because the Republicans refused to hear the truth about the bill. The other statement that was made yesterday by the former head of an institution that deals with these matters said, ‘Anyone who says this is for the middle class – it’s completely untrue. Eighty-[three] percent of the benefits go to the top one percent – 8 percent of the benefits go to the top one percent.
So, they’ll try to message it. They were able to mischaracterize what the Affordable Care Act was. I would say I take some responsibility – we thought others would have been messaging it and we probably [should] have been doing it ourselves clearly. But when people understood what it was about, it has broad support. These people who have pre-existing conditions and families and stress and the rest of it say to me, ‘Why? How cruel can they be that they’re possibly stripping 13 million people off the Affordable Care Act? Why are they doing this?’ Why are they doing this? To give a tax break to the rich. To give a tax break to corporations. In some cases, to ship jobs overseas. That’s who they are – that’s in their DNA – trickle-down economics and its trickling all over the middle class and it’s not giving them any benefits and it never did.
Under George W. Bush, we’ve had this experience in recent memory and we have it further back. My colleagues?
Congresswoman Frankel. I think there are a few other questions –
Q: Has the Democratic Caucus decided who is going to replace Congressman Conyers on
Leader Pelosi. Excuse me, what did you say?
Others. The Judiciary votes.
Q: Who won?
Members. [Congressman] Jerry Nadler.
Leader Pelosi. [Congressman] Jerry Nadler won. We had two excellent candidates. Two fabulously excellent candidates, it was great to see their presentations and their nomination. Thank you for asking because I didn’t even know, I came right over here. Just to know, [Congresswoman] Val Demings filled the vacancy on the Committee and that was approved this morning. Law enforcement background, former police chief of Orlando – Val Demings, we are so proud and she will bring such an important voice to the Judiciary Committee. And I congratulate Jerry Nadler on winning and both Jerry and Zoe Lofgren were great campaigns.
Q: The repeal of the individual mandate – it’s fair to say the Republicans now own Obamacare. Is that correct and how do you feel about them owning it?
Leader Pelosi. Well, it’s not a question of owning Obamacare – it’s about owning the demise of Obamacare. But we do not agonize of these things – we organize and that’s our motto: don’t agonize, organize. We keep on fighting because we have to mitigate the damage that they are doing in the lives of the American people. Some of the people said yesterday how, with pre-existing conditions, you couldn’t get insurance – it was so unaffordable – then that went away. Now many more people – millions more will be subjected to that discrimination.
So, in any event, they may have won a battle yesterday but I think it will be a Pyrrhic victory for them because we [will] be continuing that fight.
Congresswoman Castor. I’ll [add] one quick thing. It shouldn’t be lost on anyone that because of the Children’s Health Insurance Program and the Affordable Care Act, we have reached levels of insurance for our kids. That means they get to see the pediatricians on a regular basis. They get the ever-important check-ups and vaccinations and this is good for America so we will be able to watch and keep up our fight for America’s kids as states inform families that CHIP is at risk and children are at risk.
Congresswoman Kuster. I just want to add, in addition to families all across America, that have been hit so hard by the opioid epidemic, particularly children – we, in New Hampshire, have skyrocketing [numbers of] foster children now. Children who are being raised by grandparents, who are in the foster system, that’s why children’s health insurance and coverage is so important. This is the only access many of my people have to treatment for opioid addiction and it’s the only access they have for health care treatment. So, I think our colleagues on the other side of the aisle talk the talk about opioid and the President talks about this being an emergency but we don’t see him walking the walk in terms of the taking care of Americans all across the country who need treatment for addiction and their children who are being left behind.
Q: Just back to government funding. The American people send people to Washington to fund the government. How do you answer the criticism that Congress has been unable to do its most basic job –
Leader Pelosi. You’re asking us? Why don’t you take that question to the Speaker of the House because all they have succeeded in doing is giving tax breaks to the wealthy. But your question is well-considered because the fact is they are anti-governance and so the next step is to underfund Medicare, Medicaid and they talked about, recently, this week, raising the age for Social Security. So there is a role – since the beginning of our country, in the beginning of our country, we have debated how much government – how much federal, how much local, how much state – but this is anti-governance. Just as they say, ‘Starve the beast.’ Who is the beast? The American people. Starve the beast. So they have not been living up to their responsibilities and that’s the fight we have.
We have to find a way to find common ground on how we invest in our future, reform our tax code to create growth, to create good-paying jobs – again, Better Deal: Better Jobs, Better Wages, Better Future, and that’s what this debate will be about and that’s what the elections will be about. To Kasie’s question, the Republicans say this will be a good issue for them in the campaign – a tax bill that has the lowest approval rating of anything that has been put forth – about a third of the American people – similar to the amount of people who support President Trump – the number is the same. So if they think that this bill is a good political argument for them, let them think that.