The budget resolution that Congress passed last April included instructions for the House and Senate to enact reforms to both our health insurance system and federal student loan programs through the budget reconciliation process. Now, the reconciliation bill that the House will consider this weekend includes not only improvements to the Senate-passed health insurance reform bill, but also the student aid bill the House passed last September. The student aid bill is the largest investment in aid to help students and families pay for college in history — and at no cost to the taxpayer.
Yesterday, Speaker Pelosi, Education and Labor Chairman George Miller, Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin, and Congresswoman Yvette Clarke held a press conference on the East Front Steps of the Capitol with students and youth advocates to discuss benefits for young Americans in health insurance reform and the expansion of federal aid for college students. The group heard from Eric O'Connor, who until recently was one of millions of Americans denied health insurance because of a pre-existing condition, and Samuel Obergh, the first in his family to go to college:
Speaker Pelosi talked about how vital both bills are to our future as a nation — creating more opportunity and freedom for young Americans:
We stand here on the steps of the Capitol, surrounded to monuments to the past, which we respect as part of our tradition. Our responsibility is to the future.
President Obama made it very clear when he stood on the steps of the Capitol, the other side, that we would need swift, bold action now to take our country in a new direction. And the budget that he presented to us later talked about two pillars of opportunity: education, investments in education, investments in health care. Today, after passing these bills in the House, this week we are considering how we make this the law of the land, improving the lives of our young people, honoring our responsibility to the future. Innovation, competitiveness to make our country strong economically, that innovation begins in the classroom. We want every young person to have the opportunity to reach his or her fulfillment. That's why I am so pleased that the President's budget has this emphasis and that this budget reconciliation has that focus.
Opportunity, though, we want a level of freedom. So that if somebody is sick or doesn't have insurance, that they are not confined, tethered–Eric used the word–tethered to a situation because they don't have other options for health insurance.
Think of an economy where young people could get the education they need, come out of school and be able to if they wanted to be self employed, if they are an artist, a musician, a cameraman, a writer. They start their own business if they are entrepreneurial and have an idea, working with their young friends graduating without the worry of having no health insurance. Think of the freedom they have to leave a job and start a business or again be self employed without worrying about the cost of health insurance, especially as time goes by if they have a family and they have a pre-existing condition.
This is about our young people. It is about their opportunity. It is about the competitiveness of our country.
View more photos from the event: