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Minority Leader Rep. John Boehner on individual mandates at White House health summit

CQ Transcriptions
Thursday, February 25, 2010; 5:02 PM

OBAMA: John, go ahead.

BOEHNER: Mr. President, I want to say thank you for having us here. I think it's been a useful conversation. And as I listened to you open up this meeting, I thought to myself, I don't disagree with anything that you said at the beginning of the meeting, in terms of the premise for why we're here.

The American families are struggling with health care. We all know it. The American people want us to address this in a responsible way. And so, I really do say thanks for having us all here.

I think our job on behalf of our constituents and on behalf of the American people is to listen. And I spend time in my district, I spend time a lot of places. I've heard an awful lot.

And I can tell you the thing that I've heard more than anything over the last six or seven months is that the American people want us to scrap this bill. They've said it loud, they've said it clear.

Let me help -- help understand why. The first thing is, we've just talked -- we've heard from the two budget directors about our fiscal condition. We have Medicare that's going broke. We have Social Security that's going broke. We have Medicaid that is bankrupting not only the federal government, but all the states.

And yet, here we are having a conversation about creating a new entitlement program that will bankrupt our country. And it will bankrupt our country.

It's not that we can't do health insurance reform to help bring down costs to help save the system. This bill, this 2,700-page bill will bankrupt our country.

And, secondly, Mr. President, I'd point out that I think this is -- this right here is a dangerous experiment. We may have problems in our health care system, but we do have the best health care system in the world by far.

And -- and having a government takeover of health care -- and I believe that's what this is, is a dangerous experiment with the best health care system in the world that I don't think that we should do.

So why did I bring this bill today? I'll tell you why I brought it. We have $500 billion in new taxes here over the next 10 years. At a time when our economy is struggling, the last thing we need to do is to be raising taxes on the American people.

Secondly, we've got $500 billion worth of Medicare cuts here. I agree with Kent Conrad, we need to deal with the problem of Medicare.

But if we're going to deal with the problem with Medicare and find savings in Medicare, why don't we use it to extend the life of the Medicare program as opposed to spending that $500 billion creating a new entitlement program.

But it's not just, Mr. President, the taxes or the Medicare cuts, you've got -- you've got the individual mandate in here, which I think is unwise, and I, too, believe is unconstitutional.

You've got an employer mandate in here that says that employers, you've got to provide health insurance to the American people, or you're going to pay this tax. It's going to drive up cost of employment at a time when we have over 10 percent, or near 10 percent unemployment in America.

And beyond that, a lot of employers are going to look at this and say, "Well, I'll pay the tax," and they're going to dump their employees into the so-called exchange, because in five years, every American is going to have to go to the exchange to get their health care. And who's going to design every health care bill offered in the exchange? Under this bill, the federal government's going to design every single health care bill in America within five years, once this bill were to pass.

I could go on and on and on.

Let me just -- let me just make one other point. I'll save you -- I'll save you. For 30 years, we've had a federal law that says that we're not going to have taxpayer funding of abortions. We've had this debate in the House. It was a very serious debate.

But in the House, the House spoke. And the House upheld the language we have had in law for 30 years, that there will be no taxpayer funding of abortions.

This bill that we have before us, and there was no reference to that issue in your outline, Mr. President, begins -- for the first time in 30 years allows for the taxpayer-funding of abortions.

So, Mr. President, what we've been saying for a long time is let's scrap the bill. Let's start with a clean sheet of paper on those things that we can agree with. Let's take a step-by-step approach that'll bring down the cost of health insurance in America, because if we bring down the cost of health insurance, we can expand access.

Mr. President, I told you the day after -- maybe it was the day you were sworn in as president, I would never say anything outside of the room that I wouldn't say inside the room. I've been patient. I've listened to the debate that's gone on here.

But why can't we agree on those insurance reforms that we've talked about? Why can't we come to an agreement on purchasing across state lines? And why can't we do something about the biggest cost driver, which is medical malpractice and the defensive medicine that doctors practice?

Let's start with a clean sheet of paper and we can actually get somewhere, and we can get it into law here in the next several months.

OBAMA: John, you know, the challenge I have here -- and this has happened periodically -- is we're having -- every so often, we have a pretty good conversation trying to get on some specifics, and then we go back to, you know, the standard talking points that Democrats and Republicans have had for the last year. And that doesn't drive us to an agreement on issues.

There are so many things that you just said that people on this side would profoundly disagree with -- and I would have to say, you know, based on my analysis, just aren't true -- that I think that the conversation would start bogging down pretty quick.

Now, we -- we were trying to focus on the deficit issue. And the fact of the matter is, as we indicated before, that according to the Congressional Budget Office, this would reduce the deficit.

Paul has different ideas about it. Other folks may think that there are better ways of doing it. But, right now, what we're doing is focusing on the issue of federal entitlements and whether we can make some changes.

I will come back to you, I think, at the end of this session to answer a range of the questions that you just asked.

Right now, what I want to do is go to Jim Cooper, who I think everybody knows cares pretty deeply about the federal budget. He's been championing this for a very long time.

Jim, do you want to address some of the issues that have been raised in terms of both Medicare and Medicaid?

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