'Seniors Have Waited Too Long, Fought Too Hard To Be Sacrificed
on Altar of Special Interests'
D.C. -- House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi spoke early this morning
on the House floor in strong opposition to the Republican Medicare
prescription drug bill. Below are her remarks:
I want to thank our Democratic conferees, who have been true champions
of a defined, affordable, guaranteed prescription drug benefit under
Medicare for seniors: the dean of the House, and Ranking Democrat
on the Energy and Commerce Committee, Mr. Dingell; the distinguished
Ranking Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee, Mr. Rangel; and
a true champion for health care, Mr. Berry, all for their leadership
on this issue.
the Republicans would not let these appointed conferees into the
conference room, and this bill does not have the benefit of the
thinking and experience of our very diverse caucus. That is a great
loss to this debate and to our country.
the Democratic Party has made ensuring the dignity and security
of our seniors a cornerstone of our mission for generations. Nearly
40 years ago, a Democratic Congress and Democratic President Lyndon
Johnson honored that mission by making Medicare the law of the land.
since, Americas seniors have known where Democrats stand --
we created Medicare and we want to protect and strengthen it.
seniors have also known where Republicans stand -- for 40 years,
they have waged war on Medicare. When Congress passed Medicare in
1965, only 13 Republicans in Congress supported it. When Newt Gingrich
and Republicans tried to gut Medicare in 1995, President Clinton
stopped them. That same year, Newt Gingrich made his intentions
about Medicare clear. He said, 'Now we didnt get rid of it
in round one because we dont think thats politically
smart . . . But we believe its going to wither on the vine.'
the Republicans want to deliver the final blow. On behalf of Americas
seniors and disabled, we must stop them.
the desperate need of Americas seniors, Democrats proposed
a guaranteed, defined, affordable prescription drug benefit under
Medicare. Instead of seizing this historic opportunity, Republicans
have offered up a Trojan Horse - a deceptive gift intended to win
their 40-year war against Medicare.
say that this is a first step toward a real prescription drug benefit.
The Republican proposal is not a first step. It is a false step.
It is a mistake.
profits for HMOs and big pharmaceutical companies over seniors,
providing a $12 billion slush fund for HMOs and giving drug companies
$139 billion in windfall profits over eight years. It doesnt
lower prices of prescription drugs -- it prohibits the government
from negotiating lower drug prices. It privatizes Medicare and pushes
seniors into HMOs. It makes seniors pay more to keep the Medicare
they know and trust.
all this for a deceptive plan that makes most seniors pay $4,000
out of their first $5,000 in prescription drug costs. How do you
explain that to Mom? Nearly half of all Medicare beneficiaries --
up to 20 million seniors and disabled Americans -- will fall into
a coverage gap, meaning they will pay premiums all year
without receiving benefits all year. Under the plan, most seniors
will be worse off than before, and millions of retirees will lose
their existing employer-provided coverage.
priorities are clear: They place the special interests of HMOs and
pharmaceutical companies before the public interests of Americas
seniors and disabled. This is not the beginning of a real prescription
drug benefit under Medicare. On the contrary, this is the beginning
of the end of Medicare as we know it.
seniors across America learn about the details of this scheme, the
less they like it and the more they want us to keep fighting for
a real prescription drug benefit that answers their real needs.
this is the hour of decision. Tonight there is only one way to improve
this bill and to provide the benefit seniors need and deserve, and
that is to vote 'no.' I urge my colleagues to vote against this
Republican hoax. I urge them to send all of the conferees -- Democrats
and Republicans -- to the conference room to produce a bipartisan
bill that will be sustainable over time. I urge them to stand with
the 40 million seniors and disabled Americans who look to us for
help and hope at this defining moment.
on the day when he signed Medicare into law, President Johnson said
that this nations commitment to its seniors was part of a
noble tradition that 'calls upon us never to be indifferent toward
despair, never to turn away from helplessness, never to ignore or
to spurn those who suffer untended in a land that is bursting with
the hopes of 40 million seniors and disabled Americans rest upon
us. They have waited too long, fought too hard, and endured too
many broken promises to be sacrificed on the altar of special interests.
we must not, and we will not, abandon them now."