Pelosi Floor Remarks Opposing the Republican Rules Package

Jan 3, 2017
Press Release

Contact: Drew Hammill/Caroline Behringer, 202-226-7616

Washington, D.C – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi spoke on the House floor in opposition to the Republican Rules Package.  Below are the Leader’s remarks:

“Thank you, Mr. Speaker.  I thank the gentlewoman for yielding, and I join our colleague, Mr. Lewis, in praising her leadership as Ranking Member, formerly Chair of the Rules Committee. 

“It is an honor to serve in this House.  Every day we step foot on the Floor, it is an exciting moment because we have been sent here by our constituents to represent, as I’ve said earlier, their hopes and their hurts.  To serve with John Lewis is something beyond a privilege.  To call him colleague is something that is an honor for all of us, to call him friend is a joy in our lives.  Thank you, Mr. Lewis, for your leadership on so many issues, but for speaking out so consistently on this public health issue of gun violence in our country.  We could not be better served. 

“When in fact the Sit-In on the Floor occurred under your leadership, and with your inspiration, the leadership on the Republican side said, ‘It's a publicity stunt,’ and you replied, ‘That's what they said the march on the Selma Bridge was – a publicity stunt.’  It's not a publicity stunt.  It's about conveying truth to the American people, and that's exactly what the Republican leadership does not want the American people to hear – the truth about obstacles to legislation coming to the Floor that would reduce gun violence in our country. 

“So here we are with this rule that has come to the Floor that is outrageous in so many ways, in some ways very esoteric and may mean nothing at first glance to the American people, but let me tell you a few things as to why you, as a person in our country, should be interested in what is happening on the Floor today.  You would expect that after an election that was so hard-fought and so focused on the economic security and stability of America’s families that the first order of business would have been to say, ‘How can we find a bipartisan path to greater economic growth that creates jobs, good-paying jobs, increases salaries and contributes to the financial stability to America's working families?’  Giving them the confidence that they will be able to buy a home, again, address the aspirations of their children, whether that’s a college or other training for the workforce and also to retire with dignity.  

“But instead, we come to the Floor with, first, a proposal that was so outrageous that the Republicans even had to back off it.  Even a Republican – the President-elect Donald Trump criticized the first actions of the Republicans in the House, and so they backed off that for the moment.  For the moment they backed off their attempt to harm, to harm the way we deal with ethics violations in the Congress.  We should be draining the swamp.  They're backing off. 

“But I'm here because we're talking about, again, a big public health issue – gun violence in our country – and when Members of Congress spoke and the response from the public was so great, Republicans decided that in this rule today they would do something so outrageous it's a violation of freedom of speech on the House Floor.  It's an insult to the intelligence of the American people that they should not be able to hear this.  It violates the constitution by saying the Sergeant At Arms can take money out of your salary if he doesn't like your behavior on the Floor.  It's absolutely ridiculous, but our distinguished colleague from Georgia, Mr. Lewis, has spoken, as have others have spoken to that point. 

“I want to just go to another point, and it's a health issue as well, and that is what every family in America should be concerned about – about what's happening in this Rule package today.  I recently, over the weekend, heard from my friend that a grandchild of that family was diagnosed with Leukemia – three years old, diagnosed with Leukemia.  What does that mean?  And what does this Rule mean to that child's life?  Well, this Rule is a setup to overturn the Affordable Care Act.  What the Affordable Care Act is doing for that child is to say, ‘You cannot be discriminated against because you have a pre-existing medical condition,’ which that child will have for life.  You cannot be – insurance companies cannot have limits on your annual or lifetime limits on what kind of benefits you can receive.  You're 3 years old.  A whole lifetime of benefits.  Up until you are 26 years old, you can be on your parents' policy.  That would be eliminated as well.  The issues go on and on and on that that would affect that child, [if] that child's grandparent is on Medicare, that family is affected too because in this legislation there's a provision that would harm Medicare by changing from mandatory to discretionary.  ‘Inside baseball,’ I know, but when you realize that the Republican budget has a provision in it to take away the guarantee of Medicare and say to seniors, ‘You're on your own, you have a voucher.  You're on your own.’  Now this family is being assaulted at the earliest years, 3 years old – Medicare in the meantime for grandparents. 

“In between, it's important to note the following about the Affordable Care Act – while we talk a great deal and with great pride about the fact that 20 million Americans have received health benefits now, have health insurance now because of the Affordable Care Act, we're very proud of that.  It's a wonderful thing, but it's only a part of the picture.  75 percent of the American people [aside from seniors] get their health insurance through the workplace.  100 percent of them have increased benefits because of the Affordable Care Act.  100 percent of them have the rate of growth of cost of health care greatly diminished – the lowest rate of increase in over 50 years they have measured these rates of increase. 

“So, if it’s a question of access, if it's a question of quality of care, if it's a question of cost, the Affordable Care Act has been a magnificent success.  Can we do better?  We always like to see implementation in how we can do better.  And we thought we could work in a bipartisan way to do that.  But the fact is, is that either the Republicans do not understand what this means in the lives of America's families or do not care what it means in that regard, that they just want to repeal.  

“They say ‘repeal and replace.’  ‘Repeal and replace’ has one thing going for it: alliteration.  Beyond that, it has nothing going for it because they would never even be able to get the votes to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.  It's just not possible.  That's why they don't have a replacement.  Want to know why they don't have a replacement?  They don't have the votes for a replacement.  Then they say, ‘repeal and delay.’  Delay?  For how long?  Delay is probably one of the most cowardly actions they could take because it says, ‘We don't know, but we know that it would be harmful to our politics if people lose their benefits or their costs go up, so we'll just delay the impact of our irresponsible action of repealing.’  So we have before us the makings, this bombshell of a rule, that undermines the health and economic security of America's working families in so many respects. 

“You'll certainly be hearing more from us about every aspect of it.  There are lifetime limits, ‘Oh, we're going to keep, no existing – no pre-existing conditions.’  You are?  At what cost and to whom?  We'd like to see that proposal.  So far, we haven't. 

“So for many reasons that are, as I say, too ‘inside baseball’ to go into – but think about your own life.  You out there who said, ‘Keep Government hands off my Medicare,’ they want to put their hands not only on your Medicare but to squeeze the guarantee right out of it.  The lifeblood of what Medicare is, is a guarantee.  They want to block grant Medicaid.  You understand if you have a senior in your family who is in need of long-term health care, whether it's because of one physical disability or another, and some related to dementia and Alzheimer's – at least 50 percent of the benefits of Medicaid go to long-term healthcare. 

“So families in America who want them to overturn the Affordable Care Act and all that that means for Medicare and Medicaid and their budget to boot, you're going to have mom and dad as Richie Neil says, living in your house.  You're going to be taking care of them right then and there.  That might be a welcome sense of community to you, or it may not.  It may deprive you of opportunity that you want to provide for your children because of an ideological view of Republicans that we should not have Medicaid and Medicare, which are pillars of economic security in our families.  And the very idea that in this bill they want to take this mandatory money and turn it into discretionary money, subjecting it to the will of the Congress in terms of appropriations, says that they have their eye on Social Security as well. 

“So be very, very vigilant.  Be very, very aware.  I don't want you to be very, very scared, but there is reason to be – if the Republicans work their will, based on the blueprint that they have both in this bill, this Rules package they're bringing to the Floor, as well as what they have in their budget. 

“Even their nominee for President, Donald Trump, has disassociated himself – in the campaign, anyway – from what they want to do to Medicare and Social Security and the rest.  We'll see how that holds up as we go forward, but you can be sure that the Democrats will have a big, bright, relentless spotlight on what is happening here because of what it means to you out there and your families – whether it's a child who is sick, a worker who gets benefits in the workplace, which now will be diminished, or a senior citizen who relies on Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.  There is a lot at stake. 

“There's an ideological difference between Democrats and Republicans on these issues.  I would hope that the issues would go away, that the public would weigh in in such a significant way that the Republicans would back off, as they backed off this morning when they chickened out of their very bad proposal relating to ethics.  But, in order for the American people to weigh in, they have to know – which takes us back to what Mr. Lewis was talking about.  They have to know.  If it is the determination of this body that the Sergeant At Arms can effectively silence the voice of Members on the Floor, deducting a penalty from their paycheck, which is totally unconstitutional, but I guess that doesn't matter to the devotees of the Constitution that what they're doing is unconstitutional – then how will the public know? 

“There's a method to this madness.  It's not just about the Sit-In on guns.  It's about how – as Mr. Cohen mentioned – what other ways they will deprive us of communicating with the American people about what is at stake for them,  America's working families, by actions taken on this Floor. 

“So with that, I urge my colleagues, of course, to vote ‘no,’ a thousand times ‘no,’ on this legislation.  But also, to continue the fight that will unfold if it becomes the new rules of the House.  

“It’s a very unfortunate day.  We should be starting with a big jobs package for America's working families, not threatening their financial stability by undermining what they have paid into, systems that they have paid into, now being subjected to the whims of an ideological majority. 

“With that, again, I urge a ‘no.’  I thank, again, our colleague, Mr. Lewis, for his extraordinary leadership over time, and up to the minute today, and look forward to following his lead as we go forward.  Thank you, Ranking Member, for your leadership as well.  And I yield back the balance of my time.”

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