Late yesterday afternoon, I had the opportunity to speak with Rep. Rush Holt about the then-upcoming vote in the House to repeal the Health Care bill passed and signed into law last year. In addition to thanking the Congressman on behalf of Blue Jersey, we discussed a few things about the vote to repeal, and also noted that it was a good day for New Jersey Democratic Congressmen – Rep. Pallone took a high profile role in denouncing the political theater that the House Republicans were performing and Rep. Andrews not only spoke out as well but also had a very entertaining discussion with a Republican Congressman on Tuesday night’s Hardball.
Rep. Holt’s floor speech from yesterday afternoon can be seen here, and below the fold is a flavor for what we discussed during a roughly 20 minute discussion (I tried to get exact quotes but since I couldn’t type that fast, assume that below is roughly what was said but maybe not exact):
On the cost of repealing the bill: “It’s hard to believe they are talking about same bill. Republicans say that this bill will cost hundreds of billions, while Democrats point to the unbiased Congressional Budget Office analysis, which says this will save money year by year, so to repeal would cost, not save money.” After pointing out how the Republican response to the CBO analysis was essentially “you have your numbers, we have ours” we discussed how that is a typical Republican response – taking unbiased analyses and comparing them to their think tanks. The Congressman then pointed out that this bill is “good not just for health reasons, for families, for standing up to insurance companies, but for economic reasons too” and that “for first time ever, we are saying to all Americans that the days of ‘you’re on your own for healthcare’ are over”.
If you haven’t yet seen his floor remarks, please take a look, as there were a number of examples that Rep Holt cited for people here in New Jersey who are directly benefitting and would be adversely impacted by a repeal.
On the cost of vote, debate: We had a good laugh about this and it was on the Congressman’s mind as well. While the Democrats aren’t sure how to calculate, Rep Holt said that it is “worse than a waste of time because there is a cost and today’s debate takes us no farther toward improving health care in America. As best I can tell, the only reason we are doing this is because some Republicans said they would do this first thing. I haven’t heard of any reason – nothing that will lead to better legislative thinking that will lead to better legislation down the line. Taking a bill that will do a lot of good for hundreds of millions of Americans and just wanting to repeal it. It is a pointless exercise – if through debate we can come up with sharpened ideas and a vision of improvements that is one thing, but this isn’t any of that.”
and replace“: Rep Holt commented that all he has heard in terms of the “replace” for any health care bill is that “they say they will have a resolution to direct committees to think about a replacement. This is backwards [as with Medicare, which has had many improvements over the years], Congress should find improvements and replace those parts that need improvement with the improvements. They (the Republicans) have nothing yet (in terms of any ideas). The party of obstruction is now the party of destruction. Nothing about this will lead to better healthcare. Now saying ‘no, no, no, I don’t like the way you did it…so I’m going to upset your checkerboard’. This is not a mature or constructive way to behave.” (my note: this was my favorite line of his and it is so spot on as it relates to not just this, but to so many things).
On the benefits of the Health Care law: “We still have an obligation and opportunity to communicate the benefits of the bill. In NJ there are already tens of millions of dollars that will lead to better healthcare. There is money for HIV prevention, advanced nursing education, capital expansion of health centers, expansion of primary care physicians, early childhood home visiting programs, national health service corps, $140 million covering NJ with preexisting conditions, to arm people with info needed to stand up to insurance companies, just to mention a few. Not to mention the tens of thousands of adults who can obtain insurance through parents’ plan and millions who now have protection against elimination of their existing insurance plans” (due to preexisting conditions).
On what are Democrats are doing to get the word out: “I am doing more Town halls, sending emails, speaking on the floor (of the House), educating nurses to speak out on what is in the new law”. We talked about the many lies and falsehoods that have been spread, and one that the Congressman shot down (in addition to us laughing about the ‘death panel’ canard) was about Congress itself. “it is absolutely not true that Congress ‘foisted a bill’ that they wouldn’t submit to themselves. Congress and their staffs are going to be buying insurance from the same exchanges as citizens who have no insurance”. Our discussion ended with a very poignant and hopefully promising comment – all in one: “a lot of education needs to be done, a lot of education should have been done last year”.
Ain’t that the truth……Thanks again, as always, to the good Congressman for taking the time to talk with Blue Jerseyans and I look forward to more of this in the future.