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James M.
Democrat MA 2

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  • Providing for Consideration of Senate Amendment to H.R. 3762, Restoring Americans’ Healthcare Freedom Reconciliation Act of 2015

    by Representative James P. McGovern

    Posted on 2016-01-06

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    McGOVERN. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

    (Mr. McGOVERN asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks.) Mr. McGOVERN. I thank the gentleman from Georgia (Mr. Woodall) for yielding me the customary 30 minutes.

    Mr. Speaker, as we begin the second session of the 114th Congress, there is a long list of important issues that we could be talking about today.

    We could be talking about ways to support job creation, to grow the economy, to improve gun safety, to strengthen national security, to pass an immigration reform bill, and many other important priorities.

    Instead, we are talking about H.R. 3762, the latest attempt by House Republicans to defund Planned Parenthood and to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

    As our economy continues to recover, we should be focused on expanding opportunity and helping more Americans get ahead. Instead, we are starting the new year by debating a bill that, if it ever became law, would put the health care of 22 million Americans in jeopardy and would further restrict women's access to vital healthcare services.

    This is yet another blatant political move by Republicans to appeal to and to appease their right-wing base. Republican leaders have said it themselves. Senate Republican Whip John Cornyn called this a ``political exercise.'' He said, ``I think we all recognize the President isn't likely to sign this bill so it's not going to become a law.'' Then, why on earth are we wasting the American people's time with this terrible bill? This month we have heard that Speaker Ryan ``will push to turn the House into a platform for ambitious Republican policy ideas.'' The 62nd vote to repeal or to undermine the Affordable Care Act. The 11th vote to attack women's health. Really? That is the platform for ambitious Republican policy ideas? I think the American people should sue Republicans for malpractice.

    When Speaker Ryan took the gavel last fall, there was so much talk about a new chapter and fresh ideas. Instead, we are starting 2016 with more of the stale and politically motivated bills we have become accustomed to in this Republican-controlled Congress. We are constantly being told by Republicans that they have better ideas and that they have a better approach to health care. Really? Where is it? I would remind my Republican friends that, in 2011, you passed a bill that actually tasked you to come up with an alternative to the Affordable Care Act. You came up with nothing. Just last year you passed another bill to come up with an alternative, and, once again, you came up with nothing.

    Now here we are again with a bill that repeals the Affordable Care Act and that tasks the Republicans to come up with an alternative. I am curious. Where is your alternative? Maybe it is in your notes. Is it hidden in some secret room in the Capitol? Maybe Donald Trump has it. Perhaps we should alert the Capitol Police. Better yet, maybe we could call the FBI to locate the Republican plan on health care.

    I remind my friends that you are in charge. You run this place. You can bring whatever you want to this House floor. Maybe you should bring a bloodhound to the House floor to try to find your alternative healthcare plan.

    Governing is something that my friends on the Republican side are not very good at. They are very good about saying no to everything, but they can't say yes to anything. The Republican plan on health care is, essentially, a sound bite. Their prescription is ``take two tax breaks and call me in the morning.'' Not only have the Republicans done nothing to expand health care for the American people--and, again, they are in charge--but they have actually consistently tried to undermine health access for millions of Americans, to take health care away from people in this country.

    {time} 1400 If the Republicans had it their way and actually repealed the Affordable Care Act, millions of young people under the age of 26 would be thrown off their parents' health plans, being a woman would once again be a preexisting condition, and much more of the progress made by the ACA would be rolled back.

    Mr. Speaker, contrary to what we often hear from Republicans, the Affordable Care Act is not killing the economy. I know facts get in the way of their arguments, but the fact is that America has seen a record 69 straight months of job growth and all signs point to this historic growth continuing.

    In September 2012, when unemployment was at 8.1 percent, the Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, claimed that the unemployment rate would stay at 8 percent if President Obama were reelected President. Well, President Obama was reelected President, and Mitt Romney was wrong. What actually happened? The unemployment rate has steadily dropped each year and is now at a 7-year low of 5 percent, with employers adding about 210,000 jobs a month through last November as more Americans get back to work.

    One of the frequent Republican claims that we have heard is that businesses would shift to part-time workers to avoid the Affordable Care Act's requirement to provide healthcare coverage to full-time employees. A new study released this week shows that the ACA resulted in little change in the number of hours worked, including the first 6 months of 2015 when the employer mandate first took effect for larger companies.

    As Politico noted, this study ``pokes a major hole in a beloved conservative talking point--that ObamaCare will force employers to cut employees' hours.'' The truth is that researchers found no major changes in the probability of people working fewer hours in 2013, 2014, or 2015.

    We have also heard Republicans' claim that the ACA's expansion of Medicaid would decrease employment among low-income workers, but another study released this week showed no major changes in the way low-income workers fit into the labor market during the first 15 months of Medicaid expansion under ACA. Contrary to conservative talking points, the new coverage didn't push low-income adults to switch jobs, move from full-time to part-time work, or rush to find new jobs.

    In fact, the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act has made a tremendous difference in increasing access to health care for America's most vulnerable families. Since October of 2013, more than 12.3 million Americans have been able to get coverage thanks to the expansion of Medicaid. As a result of marketplace coverage and Medicaid expansion, hospital uncompensated care costs were reduced by an estimated $7.4 billion in 2014, resulting in huge savings for consumers across this country.

    That is the difference between us. Democrats believe health care is a right and my Republican friends believe it is a privilege.

    To make matters worse, the bill before us today would also defund Planned Parenthood, which would put millions of low-income women--and men, I would add--at risk of losing access to critical health services. The fact is that one in five women has relied on a Planned Parenthood health center for care in her lifetime, and Planned Parenthood serves 2.7 million patients each year.

    Additionally, Planned Parenthood clinics often serve as one of the few affordable care options available for many women and men. Cutting off access to the critical health services Planned Parenthood provides to some of our most vulnerable citizens is simply wrong. It is unconscionable. Sixty-three percent of voters, including 72 percent of independents, agree. This whole effort to defund Planned Parenthood fits the Republican pattern of targeting poor people, and, quite frankly, Mr. Speaker, it is outrageous.

    While our Nation's community health centers do incredible work, the Republican claim that community health centers by themselves could suddenly pick up all the slack if Planned Parenthood is defunded is just not true, and my Republican friends [[Page H43]] know that. The idea that our community health centers could overnight suddenly step up and step in and cover millions of new patients is absurd. In fact, in 21 percent of the counties with a Planned Parenthood health center, Planned Parenthood is the only safety net family planning provider.

    Finally, let me just also voice my strong objection to the provision in this rule which extends for another year the unrestricted authority for four House committees to conduct staff depositions at any time, on any subject, for any reason. Some committees have barely used this authority in the past year, and, when they have, it has often been abused with the threat of subpoena held over people's heads.

    The power to compel American citizens to provide testimony under oath should be rarely used and specifically authorized. Quite frankly, Mr. Speaker, I think the American people are tired of the partisan witch hunts that we have grown accustomed to under this Republican leadership in this House.

    We are starting the new year, not by working in a bipartisan way to do the people's business. Unfortunately, we are starting the new year debating the same old same old, bills that put politics ahead of people. Mr. Speaker, that is truly sad.

    I reserve the balance of my time.

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