WASHINGTON, Jan. 14 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and other House Democratic Leaders held a press availability this evening in the Capitol Visitor Center following President Obama's address at the Democratic Issues Conference. Below is a transcript:
Democratic Caucus Vice Chairman Xavier Becerra. I have the privilege on behalf of the Chairman of the Democratic Caucus, John Larson, who was called away back home on family matters — to speak as the Vice Chairman of the Democratic Caucus, Xavier Becerra.
And simply to say that we've had an outstanding session — talking about issues relating to jobs and national security, hearing from every president from our President Barack Obama to the President of Google — Eric Schmidt. And we have had a tremendous opportunity to talk about 2010 and where we lead this country. We are prepared to work with the President. The President outlined how he is prepared to help us this coming year — to let America know what this Congress, working with this President has been able to achieve and what we expect to accomplish for Americans from every corner as we move forward in 2010.
And I'd like to now turn over the microphone to our Speaker, our leader in the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi.
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you very much, Vice Chairman Becerra. I thank you and Chairman John Larson for putting together this excellent issues conference, securing jobs, securing America.
We talked about growing jobs in America, stabilizing our economy through innovation, the excellence of the presentations, the enthusiasm of the Members — put us on a good track for this year — to continue our work to take our country in a new direction.
Of course, the highlight of any issues conference for us is a visit from President Barack Obama. It comes at a very important time. We're on the brink of passing historic legislation to provide health care for all Americans. We talked about jobs. We talked about the economy. We talked about the security of America.
But we began our discussion in sadness — over the fate of the people in Haiti after the tragic earthquake there. We're all moved by the President's words and his public statement. His address to the people of Haiti: "You will not be forsaken. You will not be forgotten." It is very important to our Caucus. In the midst of our issues conference, we had a moment of silence on the floor of the House yesterday because of Haiti. So it's an issue that I can say I saw firsthand at the White House as we were discussing how to reconcile the House and Senate bills.
A President, who faced with the challenge of Haiti, showed his compassion as a person as he extended condolences. His leadership as Commander in Chief — as he deployed resources to help the people of Haiti. And as the President of the United States — as he communicated with other leaders in how our countries can work together to help the people of Haiti.
His comments to us today were, of course, very well received by my colleagues. And the issue at hand, of course, is the last time he was here speaking to our Caucus — it was at the time that we passed the health care bill. We went on to pass the health care bill. Now we're ready to pass that conference as soon as it is ready. And that was part of our discussion — well, you heard the President's speech. But that was part of our later discussion.
So again, we had an issues conference about jobs. We're on the brink of passing health care reform. We're very sad about the tragedy in Haiti and it has an impact on all of us. But we, again, are prepared to help the people of Haiti and we are prepared to help the people of the United States with universal, quality, affordable health care for all Americans and we intend to do that soon.
Again, I want to thank Xavier Becerra and John Larson for creating a forum for us where we could exchange ideas, hear from captains of industry, leaders on these issues. Last night, we were at the Library of Congress and one of the signs there as we were going through Thomas Jefferson's library said "A Revolution of the Mind." As we change the thinking of the people of America, how we address the jobs issue in a new and innovative way.
With that, I would be please to yield to any of my colleagues on this, or take any questions.
Q: Madam Speaker, labor leaders have said that they have an agreement, and White House officials have too, on the idea of taxing high cost plans. Have you signed on to that agreement? Your colleagues as well?
Speaker Pelosi. Well we are, I haven't seen, I am going to be very honest with you, I have not seen the agreement because we have been engaged here. But I am very pleased if that is so. I am not surprised that is because we have all been involved with that issue and it just says to that we are making progress to get closer to reconciling the House and Senate bills. As you know, in our House we did not have that particular tax on so-called high cost plans, I don't want to call it a Cadillac plan, but I guess I just did. And so it would have been difficult to pass legislation if that was, if that were in the bill.
Q: Madam Speaker, what is your timetable for getting some text to folks here? Some of the Members said they are in favor of what the principles are here, but they want to see text.
Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. We have indicated, the Speaker and I have both indicated, that people of America and every Member will have sufficient time to view whatever agreement is reached. We are still in the process of getting to that agreement. But the Speaker and I indicated today and reiterated what we have reiterated in the past, that certainly we will have at least 72 hours to review the product that will go to the House Members, the Senate Members, and the American public will have the opportunity to see it.
Majority Leader Hoyer. Well, it will be when we get this right. We don't have a deadline. We don't have a specific date. What we are doing is trying to conclude our discussions with the Senate as quickly as possible so that we can get this matter to the floor and have it adopted as quickly as possible. But as quickly as possible means when we get a good agreement for the American people and for America's families.
Q: … removed from the health care bill a surtax that was initially in the House bill. Is that officially now off the table?
Majority Leader Hoyer. Well, you asked me. The Speaker could speak to that as well. Nothing has officially been added or subtracted at this point. I know that the Speaker has told you and I have told you and others have told you: all the matters are on the table. We are obviously discussing all of them, and none of them will be decided until all of them are decided.
Vice Chairman Becerra. Thank you very much.
SOURCE Office of the Speaker of the House