Rep. Peter Roskam makes remarks at White House health summit

CQ Transcriptions
Thursday, February 25, 2010; 5:30 PM

BOEHNER: I want to yield to Peter Roskam from Illinois.

ROSKAM: Thank you. Mr. President, thanks for your hospitality.

You know, for the benefit of the group, I want to take you for a couple of minutes to an experience that I had with then-State Senator Obama in the state of Illinois when he took on a very controversial initiative regarding the death penalty situation.

Unless you think that death penalty is sort of a junior varsity issue, it's not. It's crimes. It's claims of innocence. It's penalties forever. And then-State Senator Obama approached Republicans and said, look, let's fix this. Let's recognize the problem here. Let's fix it.

But it was very different that what I sense is happening today. What I sense is happening is, what is it going to take for you Republicans to vote for our bill? That's the subtext that I'm getting.

My sense is that this is -- this is a problem of message. It's not a problem with the messenger. We've got an incredibly skilled messenger who has been out these past several months in joint session speeches and a whole host of other venues, interviews, talking. You've all seen it. You've all participated. You've all listened.

And I think the American people, when the conversation first began about expanding coverage, lowering costs, were actually hopeful, and it wasn't just a bumper sticker. I think they were actually hopeful about what was going to be happening, and they listened, and they listened, and they listened, and my sense -- now, I can't speak for every one of your districts, but in my district, they've begun increasingly disappointed with what they have seen come out of this process.

And this is not a prop. This is the Senate bill. And my district says, you know what? That's sure looking like just -- just something that's now being popped in the microwave, taken out, a little salt, a little pepper, some Republican breadcrumbs on the top, and put it back in front of the public to say, well, do you like it now?

And my district really doesn't. I don't know. I suppose we represent some districts that do. And I think one of the problems -- to get to this coverage issue -- is that the premise of this bill is that coverage is expanded through Medicaid, welfare.

Speaker Pelosi a couple of minutes ago or a couple of hours ago, as she said, that health care reform is entitlement reform.

PELOSI: No, no. Yes.

ROSKAM: Yes. I would -- I would put a brighter light on that and say it's entitlement expansion. Think about what we're doing. You know, the CBO, when they wrote to Harry Reid -- wrote to Senator Reid a couple of months ago, they said, look, there's about 15 million people that are going to be put on Medicaid. And Medicaid is a house of cards. Medicaid is not something that is serving the public very well.

Their state comptroller in Illinois -- and we all come from states with real trauma -- state comptroller in Illinois recently -- recently wrote that, "As bond-rating agencies continue to downgrade Illinois rankings to the lowest in the nation, the state can't afford further jeopardizing."

This bill, section 2001 of the Senate bill, takes away all the flexibility as it relates to changes in Medicaid. That is making our state, I think, ultimately hidebound in how they approach these things. This is -- this is something that, in my view, isn't sustainable.

Governor Brian Schweitzer of Montana said -- let me give you a quick quote -- one of the least effective programs in terms of health care in the history of the country is called Medicaid. About 20 percent of America is on a Medicaid program, and they'd like to shift -- they, meaning Washington -- would like to shift it and grow it to somewhere around 25 percent or 30 percent.

Now, Medicaid is a system that isn't working. Almost everyone agrees. But what Congress intends to do is to increase the number of people on Medicaid so that they can do it on the cheap. It isn't working for anybody.

Look, the foundation of the expansion is Medicaid. And in my view, and I think the view of folks in my district and I think many, many people across America, it is a flawed foundation. And we can do much, much better.

A Republican proposal that's out there would reduce the number of uninsured by 3 million people.

So, look, you've heard it today in many, many forums. This -- remember the old -- in closing, you remember the old game you used to play as a kid, Etch A Sketch? And you'd start out with the Etch A Sketch, that little thing where you try and draw something, and you dial the dials, and over a period of time, the more you dial, the more crazy it looked? And then, finally, you'd say, oh, let's just go like that and do the Etch A Sketch.

I'll tell you what: A year's worth of work and this is what is come up with? The American public, as far as the ones that I have heard from, are vehemently opposed to this. And they say, look, take the Etch A Sketch, go like this, let's start over, let's do incremental things where there's common ground.

I yield back.

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