Today, Speaker Pelosi, House Leaders, Committee Chairs and newer Members of Congress held an enrollment ceremony to sign the revised Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act to improve the Senate-passed bill, and send it to President Obama for his signature into law:
The House passed the bill last night, completing the second of two bills on comprehensive health insurance reform, by a vote of 220 to 207; the Senate passed it yesterday afternoon by a vote of 56 to 43. Speaker Pelosi explained it “is with great pride and even more humility that we come together today to enroll this important legislation”:
Transcript of the Speaker’s remarks:
“Good morning. It is with great pride and even more humility that we come together today to enroll this important legislation. In doing so, Congress will act as others before us did to do something very important for the American people, very significant to their daily lives.
“Others before us brought forth Social Security, Medicare, the Civil Rights Acts, some of the landmark legislation in our country's history. And today, we have the opportunity in the House to sign this legislation to enroll this important legislation to send to the President of the United States for his signature.
“We calmly reviewed the events of the last week or so, which brought us to victory in passing the base bill, the Senate bill. Essential to its passage was the passage of a second bill, which would make significant improvements on the Senate bill. Only then would we be able to pass the Senate bill. A matter of trust between the House and the Senate — we were able to pass the Senate bill here knowing that the Senate would pass the House improvements. Senator Reid did a remarkable job keeping everyone together — we were thrilled yesterday to see very substantial victory yesterday for these improvements.
“What happens now is the result of the work of many people. You have heard me sing the praises of our leadership over and over again, and of course, the President of the United States. But the victory that we have is largely attributed to our newest Members of Congress. We've had generations of working on this legislation. Mr. Dingell, what an honor it is to serve with you. You have been our inspiration. [Applause.] And his father before him — my father served with Mr. Dingell's father — his father before him introducing every term in Congress, universal health care for all Americans.
“And that legacy, that tradition was reinforced with the election in 2006 and then in 2008 to increase our ranks, to strengthen a Democratic majority, to pass this legislation. Not only was it about the numbers, more important than that, it was about the significant improvement in the legislation. Because of some of the Members who are here and their colleagues in the class of '06 and the class of '08, the legislation we enrolled here today makes this health care reform more affordable for the middle class.
“It makes it more accessible to many more people. It has more equity for the states by removing the Nebraska arrangement — state equity. It holds insurance companies more accountable by improving the reforms that were in the original legislation. It changes because of the work of the '06 and '08 classes. It changes the pay-for, making it fairer again to the middle class. It closes the donut hole for seniors, closes the donut hole for seniors. And that is really very important. If you are not a senior, as I am becoming even more and more by the minute, the donut hole is the disparity and the inequity that seniors face in terms of paying for their prescription drugs.
“So again, more affordable for the middle class, more fairness to the states, more accountability for the insurance companies, better pay-for in terms of the middle class, closing they donut hole.
“Something that captures why this is so important came home to me last night when I was reading some letters. Listen to this, Cindy Mercer Jones Wynne wrote: 'My beautiful daughter, Courtney Leigh Huber, 23 years old, died on January 5, 2010, just a matter of weeks ago. She was an insulin diabetic who was kicked off her father's insurance the day she graduated from college. She wasn't able to find a job that provided insurance or even a reasonable income to buy her medical supplies. I helped her financially as much as I could, but being a teacher and single mother of five, my income was also limited. To try to conserve her insulin, she attempted to wean her off her nighttime insulin dosage, resulting in ketoacidosis. She slipped into a coma and never woke up.' 23 years old, no health insurance, unable to afford her full insulin supply.
“Now when this legislation is all signed, sealed and passed and into the law, Courtney Leigh Huber would be able to stay on her father's insurance policy until she was 26 years old. This makes a tremendous difference in the lives of the American people.
“Another important part of this — and we passed the President's budget last year–two of the pillars of his economic stabilization and job creation were investments in education and investments in health care. When we did the reconciliation it was on a dual-track. And thanks to the leadership of George Miller and members of the Education and Labor Committee, many of whom are present here today — this education piece is in this reconciliation.
“On any given day, this would be an enormous victory for the American people — lower the cost of student loans, 8 million families affected, improving the Pell Grant for many, many people who need Pell Grants, assistance for community colleges and historic — $2.5 billion for minority-serving institutions — making college more affordable for the middle class and reaching out to make it more accessible for many, many more people. It's about training our workforce in our community colleges. It's about, again, reducing the cost of student loans.
“Thank you, Chairman George Miller, and members of the Education and Labor Committee. [Applause.] Dale Kildee and so many members of the committee are here — Rob Andrews. Well, I want to introduce the others, so here, but, so on that committee — Rob Andrews, RubÃƒÂ©n Hinojosa chaired the subcommittee that did the minority serving institution — I don't know if Ruben is here, but he has been relentless on this. That's why so many young people are here today. Their lives are affected by this legislation — not only in terms of staying on their parent's policies, but being able to afford their education. And again, eliminating of pre-existing conditions — being a woman, for example, has been one up until now — but not now.
“It's important to note, and Steny [Hoyer] would want me to make this point very strongly — that all has been, every step of the way in the education piece, we save $10 billion for the taxpayer. Overall, we save over $1.3 trillion for the taxpayer. So this is about improving affordability and access. Again, more affordability for the middle-class in terms of health care and education, but to do so in a way — but to do so in a way that saves the taxpayer money.
“And when it comes to our seniors, we protect Medicare and make it solvent for nearly a decade longer. We close the donut hole. And we have a better situation for preventive care in the legislation.
“So if you're young, if you're middle aged, if you're middle class — whatever your situation, this legislation affects you very directly. If there were not — only one reason to do the bill — fiscal soundness. This bill fills the bill. The President has said that 'health care reform is entitlement reform.' We cannot — family budgets and the federal budget cannot sustain the current system. He also said, 'we will measure our success here by the progress that is being made by America's working families.' With this legislation, which is relevant to their lives, we hope that they will be able to reach their aspirations, liberated from the weight of health care cost, free from the high cost of education, so they can honor the vows of our founders: 'Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.'
“And now I'm very honored to sign this legislation, which we will then send over to the President of the United States. So the wonderful ideas that we had will go from being ideas, to legislation, to the law of the land, to make a difference in the lives of the American people.
“But first I want to acknowledge — I mentioned that Steny was here — I'm going to introduce — Xavier Becerra, Chris Van Hollen — who else of our leadership? Our Chairman Sandy Levin, George Miller, I acknowledged. Mr. Waxman is not here. Now, a part of our leadership — Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro. Have I mentioned all of our leaders yet? They are well known to you and you see them frequently at these sessions.
“But, as I said, this day would not be possible without the vision in leadership, without the President of the United States, the inspiration of Senator Kennedy who has been with us every step of the way, including right now. But the difference — all the difference in the world and all the difference for America's working families was made by our class of '06 and '08 — our newest Members bringing their fresh-thinking, their tireless energy, and their deep commitment to the American people to bear on this legislation. Paul Tonko of New York, Steve Cohen of Tennessee, Mary Jo Kilroy of Ohio, Carol Shea-Porter of New Hampshire, Peter Welch of Vermont. They're mostly members of the committee — Ron Klein of Florida right here. Any other of our freshman?
“All of these young people back here who helped because actually all that we want to maneuver and win votes in the Congress is not possible without the outside mobilization of people who understand the impact of the legislation and make their voices known to the Members of Congress. Remember: nothing is more eloquent to a Member of Congress than the voice of his or her own constituents.
“So, many of our colleagues have already gone home to talk to their editorial boards, to see their families, and to meet with their constituents on this legislation.
“I thank our class of '06 and '08 who are here in their own right and as representatives. So let's hear it for our newest members. [Applause.]
“A couple of days ago I signed the big bill. This is a much smaller bill that we are signing now.” [Signing the bill.]