Interviewer: Ed Schultz
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I have to say, Congressman, welcome to the show tonight. You get absolutely an "A" for innovation. I love it.
REP. KEITH ELLISON (D), MINNESOTA: Thanks a lot, Ed.
SCHULTZ: Whats happening? I think the American people want to know tonight, Keith, could the Blue Dog Democrats in the House screw this thing up?
ELLISON: Well, you know, Ed, were just going to keep on talking to our friends and telling them how important it is to have a public option in order to drive down costs so that we can have a really affordable public health care system so that we can actually move forward and cover everybody. The fact is, is that a public option actually just provides competition so that these private industry insurance companies can not inflate costs and have to get in there and compete with the public option.
This is capitalism.
SCHULTZ: The point here is, Keithwhat the people want to know, Keith, Congressman, is can the Blue Dogs create enough problems where it would derail the public option clause in the House side?
ELLISON: I dont think so. I think our friends are going to see the light. Theyre going to see that a public option is necessary, important, and its what the people want.
And I just want to say, I know its tough out there. You know, the industry, the special interests are spending $1.4 million a daya day, Edin order to getto stop health care reform. But theyre not going to succeed, because in the end were all going to come together around this public option.
SCHULTZ: All right. Well, it seems to me that these Blue Dogs are going to be pretty obstinate about it. And the only way that were going to turn this thing around on them is just to call for a third party.
ELLISON: Well, you know, lets give them a chance, Ed. Lets keep on chatting and talking to our friends. And it wouldnt helpexcuse me, it wouldnt hurt if Americans, all 72 percent who believe in a public option, start calling into their elected officials and letting them know how they feel.
SCHULTZ: All right.
Congressman Keith Ellison with us tonight here on THE ED SHOW.
Thanks so much for joining us, Keith. Have a great weekend.
ELLISON: You bet.
SCHULTZ: Congressman Zack Space, now hes a Blue Dog from Ohio. And he was one of the 46 that signed the letter questioning the public option.
He joins us tonight.
Congressman Space, explain your position on this. Are you against a public option?
REP. ZACK SPACE (D), OHIO: No, Im not against a public option, Ed.
SCHULTZ: Well, then why did you sign the letter?
SPACE: Because I think we need to refine this. Right now, what Id like to do is get the input of the hospitals that are so important not just to the provision of the medical care to the people I represent, but its also an economic engine in our district. Theyre the largest employers in the district.
I want to find out from them how this public plan affects them. Is it going to drive them out of business?
Look, I believe we need a public plan, but I think it needs to be actuarially sound. It has to be designed to do exactly what leadership has said they want the public plan to do, and that is compete with the private market.
We want to bring out whats best about the market forces and suppress whats bad about them. Thats the problem with the system nowits not done that. Im all for public option, I just want to make sure its done right.
SCHULTZ: Well, now, Im under the understanding that the 46 Blue Dogs that signed on to this said that they dont want the public option.
SPACE: No, thats not the case at all.
SCHULTZ: Well, then, what is it that youre concerned about? I mean, the hospitals?
SPACE: Yes. Well, the public option, as it now stands, looks as though its going to extend Medicare reimbursement rates to the public option. Many of our hospitals are losing money under that formula.
Wed like them to be able to opt into those public plans, as opposed to being required to go in, so that the reimbursement can be negotiated. I think thats sensible. It makes sense for the hospitals, it makes sense for the public.
SCHULTZ: So, Congressman, you can guarantee to your constituents in Ohio that youre going to fight for a public option and youre going to give competition to the private sector?
SPACE: Thats what Im going to do. Im going to fight for a public option that is legitimate, that enhances quality, that brings down costs, increases transparency, and makes the system more affordable, and brings higher quality to the system.
SCHULTZ: Well, you know, thats all great talk. But are you going to support a public option? I mean...
SPACE: Yes, I am, Ed. I want to support a public option if its done properly.
SCHULTZ: OK. Then whats in the letter? I mean, were getting conflicting reports here, because its in the letter that the conservative Democrats arethe Blue Dogs, specifically, 46 out of the 52 -- have serious reservations and want significant changes, and they question the public option. And they cant stand up right now and say youre going to support it.
SPACE: Well, Im standing up right now and Im not going to speak for all my Blue Dog friends, but I can tell you, a lot of us do agree with the public option. We just want to make sure its measured properly.
And the other thing we have concerns about are moving a little bit too fast on this issue. We all know that health care has to be addressed. Its got to be addressed this year.
Id like the ability to go back to my providers, go back to my consumers and my constituents, and get their reaction. We dont even know how this is going to be paid for yet.
SCHULTZ: Well, I wouldCongressman, I would suggest you take your name off that letter, becauseseriously. And Im not trying to diss you. I know the people in Ohio want this. Theyve got to havethey want...
SPACE: We desperately need health care reform. I know that, Ed. We want to do it right.
SCHULTZ: Were going to do it right.
SPACE: This is a profound issue. We have one shot to do it. We want to get it right.
SCHULTZ: Were going to do it right. Just get the Republicans out of the way. Just get the Republicans out of the way and well do it just right, because they havent done us any favors at all when it comes to health care in the last eight years.
SPACE: I hear you, brother.
SCHULTZ: Im glad to hear what youre saying tonight, Congressman.
Thanks so much for joining us.
SPACE: Good to be here.
SCHULTZ: All right.
Not all of the Blue Dogs are in my dog house. Congressman Adam Schiff is a Blue Dog Democrat from California. He did not sign the letter on the public option.
Where are the conservative Democrats on this, Congressman? Were getting mixed messages here tonight.
Where do you stand?
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, Ive always supported a strong public option, and I continue to advocate for that. And Ive written to the leadership to urge that we ensure we have a public option in the health reform.
But heres where I think the Blue Dogs are adding value and really the core of the conviction that were expressing to leadership, and that is thisand its not on the public option, whereas you can see were divided. But rather, its that we need to bring some real cost containment to the health care system.
We are spending 16 percent of our GDP on health care, which is the most of any industrialized nation. Were not getting great outcomes. Weve got 45 million people uninsured. Health premiums are going up four times faster than wages.
Ed, thats unsustainable. So we cant simply graft new beneficiaries onto a broken system. We need to bring about reforms. And as the president talked about during his campaign, reforms that move us to a value-based system, where were compensating providers for how well theyre doing in taking care of patients, not simply the volume of services that are provided.
SCHULTZ: So youre...
SCHIFF: So, that, you know, I think is really at the core.
SCHULTZ: So Congressman, Im hearing that you believe that theres no threat whatsoever of the Blue Dog Democrats getting in the way of a public option?
SCHIFF: Well, Im telling you, Ed, I support a public option, and there are many Blue Dogs...
SCHULTZ: Well, Im glad you do. Im glad you do. Youve told us that. But the issue here is that youve got a conservative group of Democrats in the House right now that are making some waves and threatening not to support it.
That is a mixed signal to the American people. I thought the Democrats in the House were OK on this.
SCHIFF: Well, the Democrats in the House are unified in wanting a massive health care reform, and to extend and bring about universal coverage. How we get there, there is no consensus that involves the entire Democratic Caucus. We are a big tent party, as you know, Ed.
Now, I can really only speak for myself and for those who share the same views. And as far as Im concerned, we need a public option not only because I think its a very cost-effective way to expand health care, but it puts pressure on the costs in the private system by bringing about necessary competition. So, for me, a public option is not only valuable in its own right, but in terms of cost containment, it brings about competition for the private plans, which I think is extraordinarily important.
SCHULTZ: All right. Let me...
SCHIFF: But Ed, the reason were in the majority, Ed, is because were a big tent party. And that means weve got very liberal Democrats and we have very conservatives ones representing some really tough areas. Thats why were working to get to consensus.
SCHULTZ: Congressman Schiff, respectfully, I dont disagree with the fact that were a bigger tent than what the conservatives had over the last eight years. But youre in power, in my opinion, because the Democrats went out across this country and talked about change and said that they were going to do something about health care.
And when I see the Blue Dog Democratsand I know how they operate. They go home and they play the conservative side of things. Theyre getting weak knees on this, and it would seem to me that somebodys got to hold their feet to the fire.
Now, let me ask you this. Do you think that the Democrats...
SCHIFF: Ed, let me say this. Let me justEd, let me...
SCHULTZ: ... in the Housedo you think the Democrats in the House have the votes to do this?
SCHIFF: Were going to have to have the votes to do it, Ed. And this gets to your basic point. And that is, youre right, the Democrats were put in the majority, and the president was elected because the American people want change.
And in terms of health care, we need change. So, basically, at the end of the day, Ed, were going to be evaluated based on whether we can deliver.
And the bottom line is, were going to have to deliver. Not only were we elected on that premise, but the country needs it. And I think its at a time like this where, you know, we have an opportunity and an obligation to do more than tinkering around the edges. And I think we need very substantial health reform. And were going to do it.
SCHULTZ: Congressman Adam Schiff, good to have you on the program tonight. We will obviously follow the story.
SCHIFF: Ed, great to be with you.
SCHULTZ: You bet.
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