Dem Caucus Leaders: GOP Budget Déjà Vu All Over Again
WASHINGTON – House Democratic Caucus Chairman John Larson (CT), Vice Chairman Xavier Becerra (CA) and Rep. Jackie Speier (CA), held a press avail after the Democratic Caucus meeting today on the need for Congress to act on jobs as well as the GOP Budget and the benefits of healthcare reform. You can watch the avail and read the transcript below:
Chairman Larson: Good morning. Is everybody ready? Well thank you for joining us this morning and we're glad that we've been able to extend St. Patrick's Day and celebrate with the Taoiseach today at lunch and later in the White House.
Also this is a day where the Republicans have rolled out their budget and it's déjà vu all over again. Medicare is presented in a way that no one recognizes it from the original program and once again, as one of my constituents so aptly said, we feel like we're in the dark abyss of uncertainty.
We assure them that Democrats will be here fighting on behalf of full funding of Medicare and keeping the program so it's the beneficiary who remains whole, and we focus where we need to on eliminating the waste from medical devices, from big pharma, from insurance, from docs, from hospitals, from the trial bar, and not on the backs of beneficiaries.
Also, we note that Republicans are back, it's not clear whether we're going to take up a transportation bill and the country still needs to be put back to work and we've yet to see the President's jobs bill brought to the Floor of the House of Representatives.
I'm proud to be joined today by our Vice-Chair, Xavier Becerra, and also Jackie Speier, who did extensive work in her district that we want you to hear about. And with that, I'll introduce the Vice-Chair.
Vice Chair Becerra: Mr. Chairman, thank you very much. And 440 days: that's how long Republicans have been in control. And yet, no comprehensive jobs agenda has been presented to the American people by our Republican majority.
Not only that, but now we find that in their soon to be unveiled budget, Republicans have put millionaires ahead of Medicare. And so, we're left to wonder. If you're not going to do job creation, then at least take your foot off the brake so that the President and his agenda can move forward, to build on the close to 4 million jobs that have been created over the last two years with the work of the President and those in Congress who are willing to work with him on moving a jobs agenda. But if you're not going to do that, then at least do more than just words and do something with real action to create jobs, or at least to protect Medicare, not to eliminate it.
And what we find today is that, as the Chairman just said, that the Republicans are going to rehash last year's budget proposal which ends Medicare. It ends the Medicare guarantee for seniors. It cuts, obviously, benefits to seniors who need healthcare. And it puts a real bottleneck in the whole process of healthcare reform.
So we are hoping that we can have some opportunity to find common ground with our Republican colleagues to move the economy forward, to move an agenda for the American people forward with our Republican colleagues. It makes it tough.
Especially, when you find that the Chairman of the Budget Committee is spending thousands of taxpayer dollars to do video tapes — campaign style video tapes — to talk about his budget. And lecturing the American people on his budget instead of using the money to get a real budget out and help us create jobs in the private sector. It’s unfortunate that taxpayer money—probably more than is earned by a majority of Americans—has been spent by the Budget Committee Chairman to do a campaign style video tape to talk about his budget.
That’ where we are today Democrats are moving forward, we continue to work both here in DC and in our district to try convey to people that there is hope and there are opportunities to build jobs and protect Medicare for our seniors and someone who has been doing quite a bit of that is my colleague and friend from California Jackie Speier.
Rep. Speier: Thank you, Xavier. The message really is we are not going to allow the clock to be turned back. In my district this past week, that was a strong message. We’re not going to allow the clock to be turned back on women’s health; we’re not going to allow the clock to be turned back for a time when seniors didn’t have Medicare and we are going to be about building jobs.
So I had the eighth Job Hunter’s Bootcamp in my district. We had over 900 attendees and we had 37 employers there. It was also an opportunity for workers who wanted to get back to work to hone their skills. Whether it was brushing up on their interview skills or making their resumes top notch for the Internet and how we move forward.
And then I met with 200 young women and men at a state University where had many Sandra Flukes speak about what health care meant to them and what contraceptive and access to contraceptive meant to them.
We also had experts in health economy and experts in health care talk about how for every dollar that is spent on contraceptive pills, four dollars are saved in unnecessary costs associated with pregnancy and delivery.
It’s all about making sure you can plan a family and students in college certainly recognize the opportunities that avail them when they can finish their college education and then move forward with developing a family plan.
So it was a great week for us to connect with our constituents in our district. And it’s all about not turning the clock back.
Chairman Larson: Well thank you very much Jackie, and you know, of course, all across the country when we were home on this break, Members heard an awful lot. And the phrase, “turning back the clock,” doesn’t do these Republican presidential candidates justice. These are some of the leading minds of the 8th century that have put forward their plans for the American people.
And indeed, we are focused still on jobs and getting this economy back on its feet. The President has made gains and the nation is moving forward. But without a cooperative Congress, with them continuing to throw road blocks up, makes it very difficult to accomplish things. We wish that they would bring forward bipartisan legislation and use the example of the Senate with regard to transportation. But to date, that still remains uncertain. With the country calling out for jobs, calling out to get back to work, Republican Congress continues to say “no” to that idea because they think it hurts President Obama. And they would rather see President Obama hurt than the American people employed.
And with that, let me throw it open to questions.
Q: Congressman, a year ago when Congressman Ryan came out with his budget proposals, it was pretty much trumped by the prospects of the supercommittee. What’s changed since then? That was supposed to be an effort of bipartisanship, as you just proposed yourself.
Chairman Larson: It was supposed to be an effort of bipartisanship and again, what we saw is that, that collapsed in failure. And failure in large part because the other side was not willing to look at the excessive subsidies for oil companies and they would rather see a budget balanced on the back of beneficiaries and those who can least afford it, and to continue to squeeze the middle class as opposed to making sure that we have fairness in a proposal, that we tighten our belts, but we do so by a balance of both revenues and tax cuts.
Q: Congressman, what do you think will happen with Congressman Ryan’s plan this year?
Chairman Larson: I think Mr. Ryan’s plan, like I said before is déjà vu all over again. It’s the same plan, even Ryan himself… Listen Paul Ryan is a bright, capable guy, it must really bother him that he has to use his budget as a political messaging tool for the Republicans, which he pretty much admitted today in the press. That this is a messaging piece, that he knows it can’t possibly pass because what it does to average, ordinary American citizens and people who rely on Medicare. He understands that, and I think so do the American people.
Q: Congressman, many provisions in the President’s health care law are popular – the amendments and so forth, but the law itself is unpopular by about 10-11 points in the polls. Why is that?
Chairman Larson: Well, can you think of any other piece of legislation that has been steadily attacked since its inception before it was even on paper? And let me just point out one particularly because it is really just personal death panels for example. You’ve seen all those death panels from around the country right? But for more than a year people were harping on death panels. Let me tell you what a death panel is.
My mother has three congestive heart failures, she’s had multiple sclerosis for more than thirty years, she has the onset of dementia, she sat down with our family and her doctor because she just wanted to go on her own terms. She preferably wanted to be at home and she said in her words “I no longer want to be a burden on my children,” which she of course never is. But we were able to sit down with the doctor and her and she was able to say “I don’t want to be intubated. I don’t want to be kept alive artificially. Just let me go naturally.”
That’s what’s been called a death panel. This is something that I believe every American, if they choose, wants to do, wants to make sure, I know in my own and for my family that’s what I would like and I am sure all of America does as well.
So your point to the point that this whole affordable health care act gets a demonized, yes there are things that can be fixed in it, but look at the enormous benefits that have come from it: children able to stay on the policy until they are 26, preexisting conditions addressed, the disparity between what an insurance company charges for male and female, the enormous benefits that you heard Jackie extol about women’s health and what it means to them to put them on parity. No more screenings where you have to put up a co-pay so that the preventative side is there. The extensive work that’s being done making sure that we are able to link technology and efficiency. The stepping up of making sure we’re getting fraud out of the health care system. All of which haven’t received nearly the attention that demonizing the bill does.
And, of course, the more that the American people understand they appreciate this. And, just like Social Security and Medicare before it, now is the Affordable Health Care Act—or what the Republicans derisively call “Obamacare.”
You know what: the President likes it when they say that because Obama does care about the people of this country. The other guys still seem to be frozen in this indifference towards what this means to families.
I was in New Hampshire this past week and met with at least three or four families who came up to me and told me how they were personally impacted by the Affordable Health Care Act and what it will mean to them.
A mother back in my district, in Manchester, said “I have nineteen-year-old son who has inoperable liver disease; who’s waiting for a transplant. If not for the Affordable Health Care Act he’ll go off my policy before we get chance to do it.” These are the real life situations and you’re going to hear people continue to talk about that.
This week marks the anniversary of the signing and each day—yesterday, the Vice-Chair and Jan Schakowsky and Doris Matsui led a discussion about the impact of the Affordable Health Care Act on the elderly and this week we will continue to step that up.
Thank you very much for joining us today.