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Providing for Consideration of H.R. 596, Repeal of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act

Floor Speech

Date: Feb. 3, 2015
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. McGOVERN. Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the gentleman from Texas for the customary 30 minutes.

I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I rise in very strong opposition to this closed rule and to the underlying bill. Let me just say to my colleagues, to make it crystal clear, that this is an absolutely closed rule.

This bill had no hearings in any of the committees of jurisdiction; it was not reported out by any of the committees of jurisdiction; and the Committee on Rules decided last night that no Member, no Republican or Democrat, has the right to offer any amendments. This is a closed process.

Whatever happened to regular order?

So, Mr. Speaker, here we are again, back on the House floor with yet another pointless attempt by the Republican majority to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Today's exercise in time-wasting gamesmanship marks the 56th time that we have been down this well-traveled road.

Fifty-six. Let's see. That is two score and 16. It is 4 1/2 dozen. But no matter how you add it up, it has to be some sort of world record in political futility.

So it is tempting to say that nothing has changed, but that is not exactly true because, in fact, a great deal has changed since my Republican colleagues first tried to repeal the ACA. Here are some of the things that changed:

The number of uninsured Americans has dropped by 10 million people; 3 million young adults have been able to gain coverage through a parent's plan; insurance companies can no longer discriminate on the basis of a so-called preexisting condition, like, say, being a woman; lifetime limits and caps on coverage have been eliminated; seniors have saved more than $11 billion in prescription drugs, an average of $1400 per Medicare beneficiary; copays and deductibles for preventive services for Medicare patients have been eliminated, and the solvency of the Medicare trust fund has been extended by 13 years; and the growth in health care spending in this country is the slowest on record, while health care price inflation is at its lowest rate in 50 years.

All that has happened thanks to the Affordable Care Act. If the Republicans get their way, much of it will disappear in an instant. If Republicans get their way, millions of Americans would lose their health care coverage, millions more would lose the subsidies they receive to purchase plans, millions of children would lose CHIP coverage, millions of seniors would lose benefits, and the deficit would increase.

So let's be crystal clear, Mr. Speaker: this is no longer a theoretical political exercise; this is very, very, very real. If this Republican bill were ever to become law, then real people would see real benefits taken away. That is why President Obama has said very plainly that he would veto this bill if it ever reached his desk.

There is something else new about this 56th version of Republicans banging their heads against a brick wall. For the first time, according to Politico:

House Republicans want to postpone the full repeal of ObamaCare for 6 months to allow time to come up with a replacement plan.

I have to say, Mr. Speaker, when I read that, I actually laughed out loud. The health care crisis in this country has been happening for years and years--decades. How many studies have been done? How many reports issued? How many hearings and debates and news stories? But after all of that, my Republican friends still need another 6 months to come up with a replacement plan.

Here is an idea. Let's vote down this rule with the understanding that in 6 months--actually, I will give you 7, until after Labor Day--that in 7 months you will be back here with your magic replacement plan, which I assume will be flown in on a unicorn sliding down a rainbow.

I will tell you why, Mr. Speaker. Because Republicans have absolutely no intention of actually doing the hard work of health care reform. This is just a gimmick. It is a chance for their new freshmen to cast their symbolic vote against ObamaCare so they can put out

a press release and act like they have accomplished something.

As the Washington Examiner reported:

Republicans know that the repeal legislation isn't ever going to become law. ``We are just getting it out of the way,'' one GOP aide told the Examiner when asked about the repeal vote.

Just getting it out of the way, Mr. Speaker? What a cynical abuse of this House. It is a sham. It is a waste of everyone's time. It deserves to be defeated in this House, and if it ever makes it out of the Senate, it deserves the quickest veto President Obama can muster.

I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. McGOVERN. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

I want to thank the gentleman from Texas for the wonderful commercial for Texas. We all should visit Texas.

He said something that I thought was particularly interesting. He said: We're bringing this bill to the floor because every freshman deserves a vote on the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

I guess I would ask the chairman: Does he believe that every freshman also deserves a vote on increasing the minimum wage or on comprehensive immigration reform or on adequate child care for our children in this country or on a whole number of other issues which we have routinely been denied the right to even have a vote on these issues on the House floor, which is supposed to be the greatest deliberative body in the world?

What he neglects to tell everybody, including these freshmen--some of whom are Republicans--is that under this rule, you can't amend anything. You have been totally locked out.

The committees of jurisdiction didn't hold a hearing. The committees of jurisdiction didn't hold a markup. Nothing was reported out of any of these committees, notwithstanding the fact that they have been constituted and organized--nothing.

It just shows up in the Rules Committee, and they bring it to the floor under a completely closed process. This is a lousy way to run a Congress.

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Mr. McGOVERN. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman for his comments. There is no replacement here. All the Republicans want to do is repeal the Affordable Care Act and take away all these important benefits that people have received as a result of it.

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Mr. McGOVERN. Mr. Speaker, if we defeat the previous question, I will offer an amendment to the rule for consideration of legislation that would encourage schools to provide career education about local manufacturing jobs.

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Mr. McGOVERN. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, I am puzzled by what I just heard from the gentleman about all these alternatives to fix and improve our health care system.

Four years ago, the Republicans passed an identical bill like the one we are considering today in which they said they ordered their committees to report out alternative replacement language or their vision of what a health care reform should be. That was 4 years ago.

They have done nothing but demagogue this issue for 4 years, and here we are again today, playing political gamesmanship with a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act and take away health insurance for millions of Americans, increase prescription drug prices for our senior citizens, raise taxes on middle class families, and they have nothing to replace it with. This is a waste of our time. This is an insult to the American people.

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Mr. McGOVERN. Mr. Speaker, if only we were debating another subsidy for Big Oil or another tax break for some special corporate interest, my colleagues would be down here with great joy advocating for it.

But when it comes to a bill to ensure that millions and millions of our citizens get health insurance, they want to repeal it. When it comes to protecting our senior citizens who are seeing their prescription drugs being lowered because of this bill, they want to repeal it. When it comes to eliminating preexisting conditions, they want to repeal it. I mean, that tells you all you need to know about where their priorities are.

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Mr. McGOVERN. Mr. Speaker, I just would remind the gentleman from Iowa that there was a Republican Presidential candidate named Mitt Romney who ran on the platform of total repeal of the Affordable Care Act, and he lost. And, by the way, Obama won Iowa by 51-46.

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Mr. McGOVERN. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself the balance of my time.

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I ask unanimous consent to insert the text of the amendment that I intend to offer in the Record along with extraneous materials immediately prior to the vote on the previous question. This would be the amendment that Ms. Brownley of California talked about, providing manufacturing training for our high school students.

The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the gentleman from Massachusetts?

There was no objection.

Mr. McGOVERN. Now, Mr. Speaker, let me begin by talking about the process. Let me say two words about this process: it stinks.

We have a bill before us today on the House floor that bypassed all of the committees of jurisdiction. And I say to my colleagues, Republicans and Democrats alike, if you are on the Energy and Commerce Committee, on the Education and the Workforce Committee, or on the Ways and Means Committee, you should be outraged that legislation that is under your jurisdiction never went to your committees. It just showed up in the Rules Committee last night. And on top of all of that, no amendments are allowed; nobody can offer any ideas.

I have heard some of my Republican colleagues talk about they have ideas for making the Affordable Care Act better or for replacing it. They don't have the opportunity even to bring those ideas to this House floor.

Four years ago, we voted on a similar measure which said that the Republicans would have the committees of jurisdiction report out alternatives. It is 4 years later, and we are doing the same thing over and over and over again. It is a waste of taxpayer time. It is an insult to the American people.

And as far as the substance of what my Republican friends are trying to do, I just wonder if any of my friends on the other side of the aisle would have the courage to say to people face to face, ``I am going to take your health care away,'' because that is what this

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bill would do. That is what this bill would do, and it is shameful.
When I first ran for office, I said to my constituents that one of the things I was committed to was to making sure that everybody in this country had health insurance. Health care ought to be a right. Nobody should have to worry whether or not they can afford to get the health care that, quite frankly, every American is entitled to and deserves. We have made a great stride forward with the Affordable Care Act.

Is it perfect? No.

Could it be better? Yes.

But to come up with bill after bill after bill, 56 times of repeal, repeal, it is getting old. It is getting boring. People are sick of this.

Let me just remind my colleagues about what this bill has accomplished, just because this is no longer a theoretical, abstract debate. These are some real things that have changed.

The number of insured Americans has dropped by about 10 million people. I mean, that is a good thing. I am sorry my colleagues have a problem with that. But I think most Americans, Democrats and Republicans, think that is a good thing.

Three million young adults have been able to gain coverage through a parent's plan. I think that is good.

Insurance companies can no longer discriminate on the basis of a so-called preexisting condition, like, say, being a woman. I think that is a great thing. I am sorry my colleagues have a problem with that.

Lifetime limits and caps on coverage have been eliminated. That is wonderful.

Seniors have saved more than $11 billion in prescription drugs, an average of $1,400 per Medicare beneficiary. That is positive. We knew that there was a flaw, the doughnut hole, in the Medicare prescription drug bill. This fixed it.

Copays and deductibles for preventive services for Medicare patients have been eliminated, and the solvency of the Medicare trust fund has been extended by 13 years. That is a good thing. Now, I know my friends on the other side of the aisle want to privatize Medicare or have no use for Medicare, but for those of us who want to see this program move well into the next century in complete solvency, this is a good thing.

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The growth in health care spending in this country is the slowest on record while health care price inflation is at its lowest rate in 50 years. This didn't happen by accident. This happened because we passed the Affordable Care Act, and if Republicans get their way, all of these things will disappear.

This is a debate, I think, about values more than anything else. This is about whether or not we believe that everybody in this country ought to have health insurance, whether or not we ought to make the reforms that I have just mentioned part of the permanent culture of this country.

I think this is good. I voted for the Affordable Care Act. I am proud I voted for the Affordable Care Act. My friends, this issue about health care and access to health care has been around for decades and decades and decades, and my friends have done nothing.

Their prescription for health care reform has been: take two tax breaks, and call me in the morning. That is the total reform that they have advocated in the time I have been here and in the time I have been paying attention to what has been going on in this Congress.

Mr. Speaker, it is time for us to appreciate that this Congress did something positive in passing the Affordable Care Act, and we ought not to let extremists on the other side take the protections away from the American people.

We are going to fight you every step of the way because we believe that people in this country are entitled to health insurance.

Mr. Speaker, I urge my colleagues to vote ``no'' and defeat the previous question. I urge a ``no'' vote on the rule, and I yield back the balance of my time.

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