During a marathon 18-hour markup of the Ryancare proposal to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Democrats on the House Ways & Means Committee engaged in a long struggle to amend the Ryan alternative.  They were concerned that, as written, the proposal robs the most vulnerable Americans, including millions who were only recently able to afford healthcare due to the ACA, in favor of payoffs to corporate health insurers and the wealthiest Americans.  Ryancare was introduced without a Congressional Budget Office score, so no one knows how much Ryancare will cost taxpayers or contribute to the deficit.  Without the benefit of a CBO score, Democrats estimated that Ryancare proposes $191 billion in tax cuts for tanning companies, pharmaceutical manufacturers, and other corporations, and that Ryancare will cost American taxpayers $597 billion.

 In a process that the Republican majority structured to cut-off debate and limit the possibility that expert witnesses might reject Ryancare in their testimony, the introduction of amendments afforded the Democrats time to discuss the proposal and make their opposition clear.  Democrats felt one of Rep. Lewis’s amendments was so strong that it should close the proceeding.  After 18 hours, at almost 4:00 am this morning, Rep. Lewis offered an amendment to scrap Ryancare and begin again to craft the kind of proposal the American people deserve. 

This is the statement Rep. Lewis made when he introduced the amendment  (video link):  

 Mr. Chairman, I have an amendment at the desk.  Mr. Chairman, my amendment is very simple.  This amendment would strike the entire section and restart the process by establishing clear principles for any health reform legislation.

 Mr. Chairman, the bill we are considering today is fundamentally flawed. Tax cuts for the rich, wealthy, and corporations are the priority. The sick, the elderly, the middle class, and working Americans are left out and left behind.  

The American people cannot — must not — bear the burden.  This is not right; this is not just.  You can do better; you must do better.

Even though there was a secret bill and a closed process, we came ready to work.   We tried and tried to fix this terrible proposal.  (more)

 But today, Committee Republicans have rejected every, single Democratic attempt to give a helping hand to the sick, the elderly, the middle class, and working families.

 After all of this debate and all of these hours, the very core of this bill is still broken and corrupt.  

 For this reason, Mr. Chairman, my amendment takes us back to the basics.  It is clear and concise.  

 Gandhi once said, “All compromise is based on give and take, but there can be no give and take on fundamentals. Any compromise on mere fundamentals is a surrender.  For it is all give and no take.”  This amendment returns to the roots of this country founded by We, the People, not by corporations.  

 

It reminds us of our responsibility to promote the general welfare of the American people, not just a select few.  My amendment is crafted in the spirit of the words on the Statue of Liberty –

 

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” 

 

My amendment rejects the idea to reward the rich and punish the people.

This amendment draws upon the words his Holiness Pope Francis shared when addressed the U.S. Congress.  He reminded us of the importance of compassion in public policy.  

 

The Pope preached on the importance of building the greatest common good and to never forget the golden rule – “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”.  

 

Mr. Chairman, this legislation ignores each and every one of these principles.  

As a result, the only option is to start again from scratch.  

 

The American people expect and deserve more.  My amendment puts us on the right track, where people take priority over the rich and corporations. 

 

I urge each of my colleagues to support this basic, common-sense amendment.  

 

It is the right thing to do.  It is the just thing to do.  Thank you. 

 

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