Nov 10, 2020
Joe Biden Press Conference on Affordable Care Act Transcript November 10
President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris held a press conference on November 10 to address the Affordable Care Act. The Supreme Court heard arguments for “a case that could strike down the Affordable Care Act in its entirety” that same day. Read the transcript of Biden and Harris’ remarks here.
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Kamala Harris: (00:03)
Good afternoon. Today, the Supreme Court heard arguments in a case that could strike down the Affordable Care Act in its entirety. If the Supreme Court agrees with the opponents of the act, their decision could take healthcare away from 20 million Americans. It could take away protections from more than 100 million people with pre-existing conditions in our country, and hurt the millions of Americans who have come to rely on the Affordable Care Act.
Kamala Harris: (00:33)
Getting rid of the Affordable Care Act will take us backwards to a time when people could charge a woman more for her healthcare than they could charge a man simply because she’s a woman, to a time when pregnancy could be considered a preexisting condition. It will take away free birth control and contraceptive coverage for women. This is all happening at a moment when our country is suffering through a pandemic that has claimed more than 238,000 lives. And we all know that if the Affordable Care Act is struck down, communities of color would be hit particularly hard: black, Asian, Hispanic, and native American, because they are at a greater risk of pre-existing conditions from asthma to diabetes, to lupus. And they are also three times as likely to contract COVID-19, and twice as likely to die as others.
Kamala Harris: (01:35)
Now, I know we all know that we just had an election in America, an election where healthcare was very much on the ballot. Our country had a clear choice in this election. Each and every vote for Joe Biden was a statement that healthcare in America should be a right and not a privilege. Each and every vote for Joe Biden was a vote to protect and expand the Affordable Care Act, not to tear it away in the midst of a global pandemic. And Joe Biden won the election decisively with more votes than have ever been cast in American history. It amounts to 75 million voices and counting, calling on the Supreme Court to see this case for what it is: a blatant attempt to overturn the will of the people. And the president-elect and I cannot let that happen. And now it is my honor to introduce President-Elect, Joe Biden.
Joe Biden: (03:08)
Thank you, Kamala. Good afternoon, everyone. This morning, as was stated, United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the case of grave importance to the American people. This case represents the latest attempt by the far-right ideologues to do what they’ve repeatedly failed to do for a long time in the courts and the Congress and the Court of Public Opinion over the last decade to eliminate the entirety of the Affordable Care Act.
Joe Biden: (03:38)
Twice already the Supreme Court has upheld the landmark law. In 2012, and again in 2015, and the Congress expressing the popular will of the American people on a bipartisan basis has rejected numerous attempts, numerous efforts by president Trump to erase the law as well. Now, in the middle of a deadly pandemic that has infected more than 10 million Americans, nearly one in every 32 Americans, often with devastating consequences to their health, these ideologues are once again trying to strip health coverage away from the American people.
Joe Biden: (04:19)
The goal of the outgoing administration is clear from the brief they filed in the Supreme Court. It asserts, and I quote, “The entire ACA thus must fall.” End of quote. Now, I’m not naive about the fact that healthcare is an issue that has divided Americans in the past, but the truth is the American people are more united on this issue today than they are divided. Recently as last month, a leading survey found that American people want to keep the Affordable Care Act in place by an overwhelming margin of 58% to 36%. 79% of the American people, including nine out of 10 Democrats, eight out of 10 independents, and two thirds of republicans want to keep the ACA protections for people with pre-existing conditions, which would be eliminated if this lawsuit were to succeed.
Joe Biden: (05:12)
This doesn’t need to be a partisan issue. It’s a human issue. It affects every single American family. We can’t subvert the growing consensus of the American people based on an argument put forward in the briefs seeking to invalidate the law that even many conservative legal scholars, including in a national review considered to be, “ridiculous.” Let’s be absolutely clear about what’s at stake. The consequences of the Trump administration’s argument are not academic or an abstraction. For many Americans, they’re a matter of life and death in a literal sense. This argument will determine whether healthcare coverage of more than 20 million Americans who acquired under the Affordable Care Act will be ripped away in the middle of the nation’s worst pandemic in a century.
Joe Biden: (06:02)
Over 100 million people, as the vice president-elect pointed out. Over 100 million people with pre-existing conditions like asthma, diabetes, cancer could once again be denied coverage, whether complications from COVID-19 like lung scarring and heart damage will be the next flood of preexisting conditions that could be used as an excuse to jack up premiums or deny coverage altogether. For millions of survivors who have struggled, won and fought the coronavirus, fought against the loss of their life. This argument is going to determine whether women, as is pointed out, will once again be charged higher premiums, just because they’re women, or seniors will see their prescription drug costs go up. And like kids whether or not they can stay on their parents’ plan, til age 26, whether annual lifetime benefits will be reimposed, so someone can walk in and say, “Die in peace. You’re run out of your coverage.”
Joe Biden: (07:05)
This ain’t hyperbole. It’s real. As real as it gets when a family is faced with the awful news of a child’s diagnosis of leukemia or a mom forced to battle against breast cancer, an accident that leaves loved ones unable to live the life they’ve always known. It stops your heart. It stops your heart and wrenches your entire world right off its axis when that happens. And many of you know that from your own personal experiences. Believe me, I know the feeling, and too many American families do as well. And that moment, the very last thing on your mind, the very last thing that should be on your mind, is whether you can afford the treatment. The Affordable Care Act was created to put a stop to that inhumanity. It was created to ensure that families, thrust into their worst nightmare of their lives, could focus not on money, but on the fight that really matters.
Joe Biden: (08:07)
Obama Care is a law that every American should be proud of. It’s why people with pre-existing conditions are protected in this country. It’s a law that delivered vital coverage, as I said before, for 20 million Americans that did not have coverage. It’s a law that reduced prescription drug price costs for nearly 12 million seniors. It’s a law that save lives and spared countless families from financial ruin. So, this effort to bypass the will of the American people, the verdict of the courts in the past, the judgments of Congress, in my view is simply cruel and needlessly divisive.
Joe Biden: (08:50)
Regardless of the outcome of this case, I promise you this: beginning on January 20th, the vice president-elect Harris and I, we’re going to do everything in our power to ease the burden of healthcare on you and your families. I promise you that. As I said, I will protect your healthcare like I protect… as my own family, and we’ve been unfortunately significant consumers of healthcare. That starts by building on the Affordable Care Act. With the dramatic expansion of healthcare coverage and bold steps to lower healthcare costs, my transition team will soon be starting its work to flesh out the details so that we can hit the ground running, tackling costs, increasing access, lowering the price of prescription drugs.
Joe Biden: (09:36)
Families are reeling right now. Particularly the reporters in this room and others listening, you’ve interviewed a lot of these people around the country as you’ve gone all over the world, all over the country. Enduring illness is faced with risky choices, losing their employer plans in droves. Over 10 million have already lost their employer plans. They need a lifeline, and they need it now. They shouldn’t have to hold their breath, they shouldn’t be in that position. Waiting to see if the Supreme Court is going to wrench away the peace of mind they’ve come to now rely on.
Joe Biden: (10:09)
We’re going to get right to work. I promise you. Addressing the issues that families are talking about around the kitchen tables this morning, making sure that they can get in bed tonight with the peace of mind that they deserve, and fulfilling our moral obligation to ensure that here in America healthcare is a right for all, not a privileged for a few. So, come January, we’re going to work quickly with the Congress to dramatically ramp up healthcare protections, get Americans universal coverage, lower healthcare costs as soon as humanly possible. That’s the promise I make to you.
Joe Biden: (10:50)
We’re going to fight for your family’s health coverage the same way we fight for our own family’s health coverage. We want every single American to know if you’re sick, if you’re struggling, if you’re worried about how you’re going to get going to get through the day, we will not abandon you. That is a promise. We’ll not leave you to face these challenges alone. We’re going to get through this. We’re going to get through it together. And we’re going to build a healthcare system that puts you and your families first, and that every American can be proud of.
Joe Biden: (11:24)
I want to thank you all for listening. May God bless you. May God keep you safe in this COVID environment, and may God protect our troops. Now, I’m told that we’re going to have… You’re going to take five questions?
Speaker 3: (11:40)
Joe Biden: (11:41)
Speaker 3: (11:41)
Joe Biden: (11:44)
Speaker 4: (11:49)
Thank you, Mr. President-elect. During the campaign, you said you were not naïve about how difficult it would be to unite the country. It’s now three days after you were projected as the president-elect, the president himself says he has won this election, his own administration has not moved forward to give you access to what you need to do to begin the work of your transition.
Speaker 4: (12:11)
Just a few minutes ago, The Secretary of State, when asked if he would cooperate with a smooth transition, he said, “There will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration.” I wonder if you have a message for the president who may well be watching right now, and how do you expect to be able to work with Republicans when so many have thus far refused to even acknowledge your victory?
Joe Biden: (12:32)
Well, first of all, we’re already beginning the transition. We’re well underway. And the ability for the administration in any way, by failure to recognize our win, there’s not a change to the dynamic at all in what we’re able to do. We’ve announced yesterday, as you know, the health group we put together. Today, we’re going to be going, moving along in a consistent manner, putting together our administration in the White House and reviewing who we’re going to pick for the cabinet positions. And nothing’s going to stop that. So, I’m confident that the fact that they’re not willing to acknowledge we won at this point is not of much consequence in our planning and what we’re able to do between now and January 20th.
Speaker 4: (13:27)
You’ve a response to Secretary Pompeo? And I’m also wondering you warned during the campaign that as the walls closed in on the president, he would behave more erotically. Yesterday, he fired his defense secretary on Twitter. Are you worried that he’s disabling the government? And what are you saying to the world leaders who are calling you at this point about the situation here?
Joe Biden: (13:47)
Well, first of all, I’m letting them know that America is back. We’re going to be back in the game. It’s not American alone. Number one, I’ve had the opportunity to speak with now six world leaders and the response has been very fulsome, energetic, and they’re all looking forward to being able to, from Great Britain, to France, Germany, to Canada, et cetera, and Ireland. So, I feel good about the ability to… I said when we announced that the next president is going to inherit a divided country and a world in disarray, the reception and welcome we’ve gotten around the world from our allies and our friends has been real, and I have a number of other calls to return, and so I feel confident that we’re going to be able to put America back in the place of respect that it had before.
Speaker 4: (14:53)
Thank you, sir.
Speaker 5: (15:01)
Mr. President elect, senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, has suggested today that he may not recognize the outcome of this election until the electoral college meets next month. Have you spoken to your long time friend in the Senate, Mr. McConnell, and what do you make of his specific comments over the last 24 hours?
Joe Biden: (15:25)
I haven’t had a chance to speak to Mitch. My expectation is that I will do that, not too distant future. I think that the whole Republican Party has been put in a position, with a few notable exceptions, of being mildly intimidated by the sitting president. But there’s only one president at a time. He’s president, we’re going to have a electoral college will be making their judgment in December. It’ll be announced in early January. But in the meantime, I hope to get a chance to speak to Mitch.
Speaker 5: (16:05)
I’d like to follow up. Without transition funding, will you be able to go through with a proper transition that’s needed? Would you like access to the PDB and will you authorize legal action or would that be too divisive, do you believe?
Joe Biden: (16:19)
We can get through without the funding. We’re in a position that we feel very good about our… there’s nothing that slows up our efforts to put things together. Obviously, the PDB would be useful, but it’s not necessary. I’m not the sitting president now. And so we don’t see anything as slowing us down, quite frankly.
Speaker 5: (16:42)
Speaker 6: (16:48)
Thank you, Mr. President-elect, and congratulations to you both. Have you tried to reach out at all to the president, and if he is watching right now, what would you say to him?
Joe Biden: (16:57)
Mr. President, I look forward to speaking with you.
Speaker 6: (16:59)
And you say that you are being able to move ahead without interruption, but to Jeff’s point, presumably at some point you will need access to more classified information to secure facilities and the like. What options are you considering? How will you move ahead if the president continues to refuse to concede?
Joe Biden: (17:17)
Well, look, access to classified information is useful, but I’m not on a position to make any decisions on those issues anyway. There’s one, as I said, one president at a time and he will be president until January 20th. It would be nice to have it, but it’s not critical. So, we’re just going to proceed the way we have. We’re going to do exactly what we’d be doing if he had conceded and said we’ve won, which we have, and so there’s nothing really changing.
Speaker 6: (17:52)
But not ruling out legal action?
Joe Biden: (17:54)
No, I don’t see a need for legal action, quite frankly. I think the legal action is you’re seeing it play out with the actions he’s taking. And so far there is no evidence of any of the assertions made by the president or Secretary of State, Pompeo. Secretary of State Pompeo.
Speaker 7: (18:22)
Thank you, Mr. President-elect. Democrats are on track to lose a handful of seats in the House of Representatives, that could make it harder to pass legislation with just democratic votes. So, I’m just curious: how does that impact your plans for what priorities you think you can get through this Congress, especially if the Senate remains in GOP control? And during the lame duck, will you be coordinating with Speaker Pelosi on how she should be negotiating with Republicans?
Joe Biden: (18:48)
Well, I’ve spoken to the Leader and I’ve spoken to the minority Leader in the House. And one of the urgent things that need to be done is people need relief right now. Right now. Small businesses, people who are about to be evicted from their homes because they can’t pay their mortgage, unemployment insurance. What’s going to happen is you’re going to see… what people don’t realize is the failure to provide state and local assistance, you’re going to see police officers, firefighters, first responders laid off. And I think the pressure is going to bill.
Joe Biden: (19:24)
But the fact is that I would hope that the president at least has the sensitivity and knowledge to know that a lot of people are in real trouble right now, between now and the time we get elected, that we get sworn in. And so it’s my hope and expectation, I’m sure that the Speaker of the House, as well as the Minority Leader, are working right now with the priorities they have laid out.
Speaker 7: (19:57)
But do you plan to be active in those negotiations, working with Speaker Pelosi to represent Democrats in the table?
Joe Biden: (20:04)
Well, we’ve been talking and they know my views, and I support what they’re doing.
Speaker 7: (20:10)
And then my second question was about the Senate. Do you plan to campaign in Georgia before your inauguration to help Democrats in the two runoff races there as they try to flip the Senate? And how important is a democratic-held Senate to your agenda?
Joe Biden: (20:22)
Obviously, it’d be much better if we had a tie in the Senate, which means that [inaudible 00:20:29] vice president become incredibly important beyond what she already is, but we’re going to do anything we can that they think we can do to help.
Speaker 7: (20:38)
And does a Democratic Senate help your cabinet chances? Does that change how you consider who you nominate to cabinet posts?
Joe Biden: (20:45)
No, I don’t think so. I take McConnell at his word. I understand he said that he will make it clear who he’s prepared to support, not support, and that’s a negotiation that I’m sure we’ll have. Look, one of the things that I would do as president-elect and when I become president is layout to Republicans, as well as the Democrats, who we intend to name for each cabinet position.
Joe Biden: (21:14)
I hope we’re able to be in a position to let people know at least a couple that we want before Thanksgiving. And we’ll just work this out. Look, I am not a pessimist, as you know, and I think there are enough Republicans who’ve already spoken out, and I think there’ll be many more… Not many more, there’ll be a larger number once the election is declared and I’m sworn in, to be able to get things done. I think they understand. For example, I can’t imagine there not being a willingness on the part of Republicans. There’s going to be significant pressure to deal with healthcare. Their own constituencies are in that position. I think we can get a lot done.
Speaker 7: (22:03)
Speaker 3: (22:03)
Okay. We’ll have one last question [inaudible 00:22:05].
Speaker 8: (22:10)
Sir, what do you say to the Americans that are anxious over the fact that President Trump has yet to concede and what that might mean for the country?
Joe Biden: (22:17)
Well, I just think it’s an embarrassment, quite frankly. The only thing that… How can I say this tactfully? I think it will not help the president’s legacy. I think that I know from my discussions with foreign leaders thus far that they are hopeful that United States’ democratic institutions are viewed once again as being strong and endured. But I think at the end of the day, it’s all going to come to fruition on January 20th, and between now and then my hope and expectation is that the American people do know and do understand that there has been a transition. Even among Republicans who are people who voted for the president, I understand the sense of loss. I get that.
Joe Biden: (23:18)
But I think the majority of the people who voted for the president, a lot voted for him, a significantly smaller number, but a lot voted for him, I think they understand that we have to come together. I think they’re ready to unite and I believe we can pull the country out of this bitter politics that we’ve seen for the last last five, six, seven years.
Speaker 8: (23:45)
And just to follow up on a previous question, how do you expect to work with Republicans if they won’t even acknowledge you as president-elect?
Joe Biden: (23:52)
They will. They will. Thank you all so very much.
Speaker 3: (23:57)
Joe Biden: (23:57)
Speaker 3: (24:05)
Thank you, guys.
Speaker 9: (24:06)
[crosstalk 00:24:06] take it.