Sep 2, 2021
House Speaker Pelosi and Texas Rep. Doggett Healthcare, Abortion Access Press Conference Transcript
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Texas Rep. Lloyd Doggett discussed healthcare and abortion access in Texas during a press conference on September 2, 2021. Read the transcript of the briefing here.
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Speaker 1: (00:00)
… It’s nonprofit provider of affordable housing in central Texas. In addition to housing, we provide a whole range of education, health, and financial stability programs at our housing facilities, and in our two prosper centers. In this building, just like at our prosper center in North Austin, we provide free-tax preparation, college support services, financial wellness programs, and health insurance enrollment assistance. Since the first affordable care act, and open enrollment period in 2013, our incredible team of staff and volunteers has helped over 44,000 people enroll in affordable health insurance, and they’ve secured $259 million in credits and subsidies to make healthcare more affordable.
Speaker 1: (00:59)
This afternoon, we’re gathered to hear some important updates about the progress of federal health care policies that will strengthen healthcare access for Texas families. And as a member of a Texas family, I can tell you we need it. Today, we’ll be hearing from speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi. US Representative Lloyd Doggett, who is also chair of the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee, and our mayor, Steve Adler. And our Congressman Doggett and Mayor Adler have been long-time friends of Foundation Communities and have visited us often. And we so appreciate all that they do to improve the lives of the people that we serve.
Speaker 1: (01:41)
But on behalf of our staff and volunteers, some of whom are here today, I just want to say what a distinct honor it is to host you speaker Pelosi at our prosper center.
Speaker 1: (01:53)
Before I hand things over, I want to quickly remind everyone that open enrollment for marketplace health insurance is less than two months away. Our team of health insurance experts will be available throughout the six-week open enrollment period from November 1st to December 15th, to help thousands of central Texans sign up for affordable health insurance. So if you or someone you know needs health coverage, please remember our prosper centers. Now, please join me in welcoming our Congressman, Representative Lloyd Doggett.
Rep. Doggett: (02:28)
Thank you very much. I’m so very pleased to welcome back Speaker Nancy Pelosi to our community, and especially here at the prosper center. I was here at this podium only a few weeks ago, last month, with a number of you, as we discussed the success of the child tax credit. And I know that a number of you work here at the prosper center. So pleased with the leadership also of Cory Hadamer, and all of you who actually are helping people get the child tax credit. The full tax cut for families with children that our neediest neighbors deserve. And the fact that, right here in the next room, you will be able to counsel families about the affordable care act.
Rep. Doggett: (03:15)
Next week, with the speaker’s very active leadership, the House Ways and Means Committee will vote to extend the child tax credit. The tax cut for families with children. So that it does not expire in the near future. And we know what a difference, as you’ve heard from families, and as we have talked with families around the community, that that makes.
Rep. Doggett: (03:37)
Throughout the pandemic, we have been so fortunate to have a mayor who believed in medical science, and actually let that direct his policies and the policies of our community. He’s demonstrated courage and compassion. And despite continual interference from Governor Abbott, even now, as so many children are being exposed to infection in our schools, he stood firm. We appreciate his leadership and I’m pleased he’s here to welcome the speaker today. Mayor.
Mayor Adler: (04:15)
Madam Speaker, congressmen, people here in Texas know what it looks like when the cavalry is coming over the hill. I want to thank Foundation Communities. Real proud last week for the city council to pass a big grant to co-invest with Foundation Communities, deeply affordable housing, and to help with some of the permanent supportive housing for those experiencing chronic homelessness in our city. But the House of Representatives right now poised to take historic action to invest in America, in cutting taxes for working families, really going to help us here in Austin.
Mayor Adler: (04:53)
First, you pass the American rescue plan. You help keep businesses open and you kept unemployment rates down, just announced yesterday, Austin’s unemployment rate, 3.9%, lowest of major cities in the country, would not have happened without the American rescue plan dollars. They kept a lot of businesses open and surviving, and kept workers’ jobs available to them.
Mayor Adler: (05:17)
And now, we need you guys to take the next step. More affordable housing, bring down the cost of prescription drugs, elder care, make it more affordable. I understand you’re going to consider free universal high-quality pre-K, clean energy tax credits. You’re going to allow women to get back to work, but the focus for us in so many ways is on healthcare.
Mayor Adler: (05:40)
Here in Travis County, one of six people under 65 have no insurance, due in large measure to the fact that our state leadership will not expand Medicaid, which is just outrageous, and has a huge impact on our community. That makes our uninsurance rate 50% higher than the national rate. And that should not be the case in Austin, Texas.
Mayor Adler: (06:07)
One of three Hispanics under 65, in our city, have no insurance. Among the horrible things that Texas legislature is doing right now in their 600-700 bills that they’re passing is to take away the right for cities to be able to see that all the workers in their town have sick leave. We need federal action. We need you guys to step in to help. We need the federal government because our state is not protecting us the way that it should. We support the goal of building an economy from the bottom up and the middle out, not just from the top down. Healthcare coverage should be a right for everyone and not just a privilege for the wealthy. Welcome home, Speaker.
Rep. Doggett: (06:55)
Thank you, Mayor. Exactly one week from today, about this time, I’ll be at the Ways and Means Committee in Washington, as we take up the bill back, better bill. And while that bill covers so much that the Speaker can describe, and that the mayor has just referred to, as a health sub committee chairman there, my concern is particularly on health, and the mayor has made reference to some of this, but because Governor Perry and Governor Abbott were so ideologically opposed to taking 100% federal funding, to start Medicaid expansion here in Texas, an estimated two million of our neighbors have never gotten any benefit out of the affordable care act that we approved over a decade ago.
Rep. Doggett: (07:41)
Strengthening Medicare is a second concern. We know that, as important as Medicare is to so many of our neighbors, that it does not cover benefits for hearing, vision, and dental. I have legislation that has been co-sponsored by 100 members plus of our caucus, to expand that coverage. And we’re working through that in negotiations with the Senate right now, hoping that not only will we close the Medicaid gap, but we will also close the Medicare gap to provide more comprehensive coverage.
Rep. Doggett: (08:17)
Finally, thanks to the Speaker’s leadership, the affordable care act, which has offered so much hope to so many, literally millions of people, and without the Speaker’s leadership, we would never have had an affordable care act back, a decade ago. But with additional improvements that we made in the American rescue package, the affordable care act marketplace insurance plans are now more affordable for many of our neighbors. And we hope to extend that, so that it does not expire this year. So with the Medicaid gap, with Medicare expanded coverage, with an affordable care act that provides more protection to the middle class, the question is, how do you pay for that?
Rep. Doggett: (08:59)
And we get a kind of a twofer here, because one of the principle ways that we pay for it is by dealing with the problem of the outrageous cost of so many prescription drugs. And through, again, the Speaker’s leadership in dealing with the prescription price abuse, we have the opportunity not only to save consumers money, but to save taxpayers money, and then to use that money to fund these significant improvements. Our Speaker, almost solely responsible for the importance of the child tax credit, and for these improvements, she handles these very tough struggles with grit and grace. And we are fortunate that, working with president Biden, we’re about to have, I think, the biggest improvement in the social and economic safety net that we’ve had since the new deal. Our Speaker, Nancy Pelosi. Thank you.
Speaker Pelosi: (09:57)
Thank you. Thank you very much, Lloyd Doggett, for your …
Speaker Pelosi: (10:03)
Thank you. Thank you very much, Lloyd Doggett, for your very kind words, for your great leadership, and the pride you take in representing this magnificent district. It is an honor for the mayor to be with us today. I’m the mayor’s daughter. My father was mayor from when I was in first grade. Went away to college, he was still mayor of Baltimore. My brother was mayor of Baltimore. So when the mayor shows up, that’s a really important occasion. Thank you, Mr. Mayor, not only for your presence, but for your kind words about the rescue package and where we go from here, and for your great leadership of this wonderful city of Austin. Are we keeping it weird enough? Is that the deal? Okay. Okay.
Speaker Pelosi: (10:39)
Julian, I can’t tell you how your words are music to my ears and to anyone who is in public service, to hear the mission that you have, how you fulfill it, the volunteers who participate. Thank you to you, to Foundations Communities, and your prosper center here, and thank you to the volunteers who are here and many who are not, but all of them important, because the public policy that we put forth to help people for the people has to be accessible to them, whether it’s linguistically, culturally, just informationally. And thank you for making those connections. It’s again, an honor to be here.
Speaker Pelosi: (11:27)
I want to take up where Mr. Doggett left off. First of all, I accept any compliment on behalf of the House Democrats. None of this would be possible without the courage, the integrity, the values based attitude that they have. And when people compliment me for bringing them together, I say, “Don’t. I don’t bring them together. Our values bring us together.” And our overriding value is to help America’s working families to lower healthcare costs, by increasing paychecks, by having cleaner government. And we can talk about that too, with what’s happening with voter suppression.
Speaker Pelosi: (12:08)
But as we do that, he also mentioned, at closing his remarks, President Biden. President Biden has made all the difference in the world. He came into office with a vision to build back better. And when the Senate was passing the infrastructure bill, he made it very clear, I want to work in a bipartisan way to the extent that I can, and I want to have bipartisan legislation. And he passed that in the Senate. But he said, “I will not limit how I go forward, my vision to what’s in that bill. We must build back better.” And what that entails, in addition to many of the health provisions which I will return to, that Congressman Doggett has taken the lead on and mentioned here, that meant build back better by building back better with many more people participating in the economic prosperity of our country.
Speaker Pelosi: (13:07)
I like to think of it as build back better with women, but women, minority, people of color, many new people into it. And many of the healthcare provisions are what are liberating for people to participate. If we can have family and medical leave, paid, paid family and medical leave, if we can have what was mentioned about the home healthcare for our seniors, for people with disabilities, even for our children, that enables people to be able to be more free to be in the workplace. Childcare, childcare, childcare, very liberating for mostly moms, but dads too, to be in the workplace. As was mentioned early, I mean, universal pre-K, so important for the children, but also children learning, parents earning. So it’s all connected to building back better. And the list goes on, workforce development and the rest.
Speaker Pelosi: (14:08)
One of the pillars of the … When we did the affordable healthcare, we thought we were establishing a pillar to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and the Affordable Care Act, but we knew we could do better, and we did in the rescue package. And as the mayor indicated, many of the provisions in the rescue package, it was remarkable. President came in. That bill that went out there was immediate and urgent. Vaccines in the arms, money in the pocket, children safely preparing for school workers safely in the workplace. Money in people’s pockets, very important. So now we have to build on that, go beyond what was immediate for COVID, but to extend, as Representative Doggett mentioned, extend it, whether it’s child tax credit, whether it’s Affordable Care Act provisions, which are an improvement, but they need to be extended.
Speaker Pelosi: (15:03)
Central and vital to it all is the Medicaid expansion. This is something that we absolutely must do. It is almost an immorality to say, “I will not accept money from the federal government for 100% paying for the Medicaid. My decision is I will cut millions of people in my state or hundreds of thousands in another state from having access to healthcare.” Because healthcare is a health issue. It’s also a financial stability issue for families. It’s where it all comes together. So we will have more permanent provisions to make the Affordable Care Act more available to many more people at a lower cost. We will have Medicare expansion, as Mr. Doggett mentioned, with visual, hearing and dental benefits that we will have in the bill. We will have Medicaid expansion, but we have to see how much and for how long. That depends on the total package.
Speaker Pelosi: (16:06)
And we have to do all of these things right now, in a way that gives people liberation, freedom to be in the workplace, because their parents, their children, their siblings who may need care, are cared for. And again, it’s not just about that. It’s about education, about educate, investing, and construct, school construction, workforce development, community college, and the rest. It’s about housing. Housing, Julian mentioned. It’s about housing. Several hundred billion dollars in there to have more housing stock and affordable for low income people and some provisions to enable that to happen more readily. And it’s about saving the planet.
Speaker Pelosi: (16:57)
So when we say build back better, we say, “That’s a good infrastructure bill you had that you have in a bipartisan way, but we want to build in a way that preserves the planet.” And we will have provisions in there that are very important. In a health sense, the air our children breathe, the water they, in my case grandchildren, well my children too. Okay. For the children, the air they breathe, the water they drink. For our jobs to be in the lead in the world on green technologies and the rest. It’s a security issue. Our security experts tell us migration, the drought, rainfall, all different aspects of climate have an impact on access to habitat and resources and the rest, and are cause for conflict. Health, jobs, security, morality.
Speaker Pelosi: (17:56)
If you believe, as I do, that this is God’s creation and we have a moral responsibility to be good stewards, or even if you don’t and you just understand that we have a responsibility to future generations to pass this planet on, then we need to have those provisions in the reconciliation package to compliment some of what was done in the infrastructure bill. The list goes on and on, just to give you a taste of the array, because it all comes down to the education of our … I always say the three most important issues facing the Congress are the same: our children, our children, their children, their health, their education, the economic security of their families, a clean, safe environment in which they can thrive, a world at peace in which they can reach their fulfillment.
Speaker Pelosi: (18:45)
In the Congress of the United States, Lloyd Doggett has been a champion on each and every one of those issues. There’s almost nothing you can talk about that you can’t say, “Lloyd did this, was in the lead, initiated the idea,” and the rest. So thank you, Lloyd Doggett, for your great leadership, relentless, persistent, dissatisfied, effective, making it happen. He knows of what I speak. He’s just been spectacular.
Speaker Pelosi: (19:17)
I can’t talk about Lloyd without talking about Libby. If there ever were a team of two people coming to Congress and representing their district with great pride and great values and the rest, it’s Lloyd and Libby Doggett. So thank you to Lloyd as well. So thank you for sending both of them to Congress.
Speaker Pelosi: (19:34)
Before I go, I want to acknowledge Mike Forbes, a former colleague of ours, Deacon Mike Forbes, a former colleague of ours from the Congress who’s now here. Thank you, Mike Forbes, for being with us. But in any event, we’re very grateful to our president, Joe Biden, for insisting on his vision to build back better in a way that takes us in a transformative way into the future as we meet the needs of the people. I just want to say that-
Speaker Pelosi: (20:03)
… the needs of the people. I just want to say that when we talk about healthcare, we have to talk also about women’s reproductive rights. What happened in the last several, what 36 hours or so, has been stunning. The Supreme Court making the decision that it did, not only disrespected women, it disrespected the Supreme Court and its former decision, its precedent that had established this Roe V. Wade. When we go back to Washington, we will be putting Roe V Wade codification on the floor of the House to make sure that women everywhere have access to the reproductive health that they need. I say that as a mother of five children and I respect everyone’s their personal decisions, but that’s why we have to give them the ability to make those decisions. It’s really kind of sad, but nonetheless, people know now what the challenge is.
Speaker Pelosi: (21:03)
And many of the women who will be disadvantaged in this are women of color and poor women and the rest. It’s an injustice, [inaudible 00:21:12] disrespect of all women, but an injustice. So we want women in Texas and everywhere to have the respect they deserve for their decisions about their own reproductive health. And again, much of what we can do, we can do better if we can pass HR1, which is the bill to end voter suppression and we’ve had your Texans in Washington welcomed them time and again, with great pride and it really leaders for the country and kept the momentum going on that, and we hope to pass that legislation as well. With that again, it’s an honor to be at a Community Foundation Prosper Center to be with Julian and to be with the mayor of the great city of Austin, Mayor Adler and with the great member of Congress, a leader for our country, Lloyd Doggett. Thank you all very much.
Rep. Doggett: (22:11)
I think with that, we’ll just throw it open for questions from the press and then have a chance to visit briefly with the Speaker before she had store 3:15 appointment. So she’s here to answer the questions. Please proceed. Anyone with a question out there? Yes, sir?
Speaker 2: (22:32)
[inaudible 00:22:32] what other steps can and should the federal government take [inaudible 00:22:48].
Speaker Pelosi: (22:48)
Well, first and foremost, we have our responsibility in House, which is legislation. And we have, as Lloyd and as many of you know, we operate in three ways. One is with funding, one is with the tax code and one is with making policy. And we have been able to show our respect for a woman’s right to choose, not only in our own country, but globally to make sure that women have access to family planning and the rest. But to codify Roe V Wade, it will make a tremendous difference, and that is where our focus will be. Yes, in terms of a whole government response, I fully appreciate that. And that really will just mean increasing some of what we had done in the past that was curtailed, so we say in recent years, but we look forward to working with the president to prioritize that.
Speaker Pelosi: (23:43)
We have our Reproductive Freedom Task Force in the House and they’d been working on this. When we do codifying of Roe V Wade, I just want to make one point, we will have an amendment to it to make sure it captures the, shall we say, action taken in Texas that makes it difficult to explain, but nonetheless we will mitigate for that damage that they’re causing here as well. Did you want to say anything?
Rep. Doggett: (24:17)
Just to agree with you hardly. This is a real setback, I think justice Sotomayor’s descent was so powerful regarding the disgrace of this court and the injustice to women all over the country. Other questions? Yes, sir?
Speaker 3: (24:40)
[inaudible 00:24:40] how might that shape a response?
Speaker Pelosi: (24:42)
Sorry, I didn’t understand.
Rep. Doggett: (24:45)
He was just asking if other states may follow, what they may do.
Speaker Pelosi: (24:49)
Oh yes, there may be copycat legislation. Right now, the case that will probably come before the court is from Mississippi, which is 15 weeks. We’ll see how they judge there, but there will be other states that want to copy the Texas model, which is not a state action, but of private action, which is clever, very, very dangerous. And so know we expect to see copycats. And that’s why it’s necessary for having the national law pastor of Roe V Wade, protecting women’s rights wherever they live across the country, whatever their economic status is.
Speaker 3: (25:31)
Speaker Pelosi: (25:36)
I really don’t speak for the Republicans. They like it that way. So do I. I don’t know. I would just close by saying this: Lloyd has heard me say this so many times, President Lincoln said, “Public sentiment is everything. With it, you can accomplish almost anything, without it, practically nothing.” But for public sentiment to prevail, people have to know. Well, right now people do know the danger that reproductive health is in. And we’re talking about termination of a pregnancy here, but understand this: in the Congress Republicans have been opposed to contraception, family planning, anything that would minimize the need for somebody to make such a decision. They like to talk about extreme cases, but what they’re deflecting attention from, family planning, birth control, they don’t support any of that, they do not support any of that.
Speaker Pelosi: (26:49)
And that’s most unfortunate. And I can say that as I say, I have five children, five in six years almost to the day, within the week. And that was a blessing that God gave us, that’s our family’s decision. Other people should have the choice to be able to do what meets their families’ prospects and the rest. So let me say this, I’m very prayerful about this. This is so personal for people. This is about who they are. This bill on Texas, it said they couldn’t even talk to their husband about what their decision might be. It doesn’t have an exception for rape and incest, incest. How disrespectful can you be of women and their reproductive rights to say such a thing? What could they be thinking? But in any event, what it does do is … because most people didn’t think this could happen. Nobody would ever do that. Yeah. Now they know that somebody would do that. So nothing is more eloquent to a member of Congress than the voice at his or her own constituents. So when they hear from their own constituents, then we’ll see how they would vote. But again, this is personal, people have their religious views and the rest, we want to be respectful of that. And we want them to be respectful of the reproductive rights of America’s women.
Speaker 4: (28:25)
I have a question related to Build Back Better. One of the reasons that Republicans in Texas have avoided the Medicaid [inaudible 00:28:41] is they say it’s not sustainable for covering that gap of uninsured Texans. I might have missed, but is there a provision to Build Back Better that this access to sustainability of insuring those Texans.
Rep. Doggett: (28:54)
Well, first I just want to emphasize the pain that I have seen in the eyes of a family talking just like we are, who have come up and I’ve had to tell them, “You’re too poor to get any federal assistance.” And that’s what’s happened here in Texas. Two million of our neighbors who have not been able to get access to a family physician with any federal or state support because of ideological objections. The plan that Texas was originally offered would pay 100 cents on the dollar for about three years, and it would be scaled down gradually over seven to 90%. I’ve actually introduced a separate bill that if all else fails, we would permit direct contracting with local governments, like the City of Austin, Harris County. We could cover half of the people who are eligible in Texas, just in three counties, letting them contract. Many of them are ready and eager to do it because getting 100 cents on the dollar for three years, and then eventually over seven being, being asked to cover just 10 cents on every dollar that is spent is really an important deal in some-
Rep. Doggett: (30:03)
… dollar that is spent is really an important deal, and some areas have even said they would cut local taxes if they could get this Medicaid expansion. So I think that the sustainability argument had nothing to do with economics or healthcare, and everything to do with political ideology, as we’ve had one governor after another trying to compete to be the Trump-iest. Are there other… I think we’re about there, then. Yeah, I would just close by saying while it’s understandable that after such a horrendous decision questions of all of us would center, and the need for action would be very apparent, but one week from today, those 2 million Texans who don’t have access to a family physician will get an answer, I believe, from our committee.
Rep. Doggett: (30:47)
And the millions of seniors who cannot see well, cannot hear well, or cannot eat well will get some relief through better Medicare. And thanks to what the speaker has already done, there will be more people coming to the next room here who are hardworking folks who will be able to get a no or low-premium affordable care marketplace health insurance policy, because we have made, for many more years, those tax credits available. That’s what Build Back Better is about in the healthcare area, and there’s so much more beyond that. Thank you very much, and thank you, Madam Speaker.
Speaker Pelosi: (31:27)
Because you mentioned eat well, food insecurity… Or as my kids say, “Don’t call it that, Mom. People are hungry.” Food insecurity in our country is rampant, and the president has been such a leader on this in his executive actions and the rest. Nutrition is a health issue. It’s a health issue. So in the totality of these packages, we’re trying to address all of the needs of the American people, for the people. And I just would say, getting back to the decision, again, I come from a pro-life family and the rest of that. And that’s nice for them, and my position is nice for me, and I respect everybody’s position for themselves.
Speaker Pelosi: (32:12)
In other countries like Ireland, they had a referendum on the ballot. They had two, actually, two different. One was marriage equality, was passed in the Catholic country of Ireland. And they had one about abortion, I don’t even like to use the word, in the past, because people did not politicize these kinds of issues. They shouldn’t be politicized. It’s very personal. And we want to make sure if we can take it back to a place, respectful of those who have their choices, to make sure that all women have theirs as well. Let us salute Lloyd Doggett again, Mayor Adler, Julian [Fuentes 00:32:53]. Julian, thank you.
Rep. Doggett: (32:53)
Thank you all very much.