CNN "State of the Union with John King" - Transcript
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KING: Madam Speaker, thank you for spending some time with us.
PELOSI: My pleasure.
KING: I want to begin with the big issue of the day, which is, of course, health care. The Senate says now it will wait until the fall. The president says that's not what I would like, but I'm OK with that. But you want to press forward, why? What's the rush in the House?
PELOSI: It's not a question of rush, it's a question of the American people who have been waiting a very long time for health insurance that gives them confidence that if they have a preexisting condition or if they lose their job or change their job or start a business that they will have health insurance.
KING: But if you had more time, perhaps you could better settle some of the disputes within your own party.
PELOSI: We believe that we have a good bill, this isn't about rushing, we've been talking about this for a very long time and the American people have been waiting a long time. And we have -- we have three committees, two of them have reported out a bill, the Energy and Commerce Committee is the last one to report out a bill.
And they have some differences of opinion, differences of opinion about the public option, which has the overwhelming support of the House Democratic Caucus. A robust, level playing field, public option, and that's one of the sticking points. KING: But it is the speaker's job sometimes, and you're doing a lot better than I, to referee disputes within the family. Are you worried your family is coming apart on this? And that you might not...
PELOSI: Absolutely not.
KING: ... have the votes on the floor?
PELOSI: Absolutely, positively not. When I...
KING: You have the votes.
PELOSI: ... take this bill to the floor, it will win. But we will move forward. This will happen. Americans, again, with preexisting medical conditions or concern about losing their jobs or changing their jobs or the health care that is available for their children and their families with a big dose of prevention and the rest can take heart and comfort in knowing that this bill will pass.
KING: Do you worry at all when you have these conservative Democrats saying this bill doesn't control costs, I can't support it, I won't vote for it, that this is bad for our party, it's not fiscally responsible? Do you worry that that gives pretty fertile ammunition to your Republican critics?
PELOSI: No. I -- we are all attempting to squeeze as much as possible out of the cost of this legislation. Some of us in the House do not support agreements made with the Senate to, say, limit the cost-savings from the pharmaceutical industry, from the hospital industry, and the rest.
So we think there are more savings that can be gained. But in doing so, we will have a bill that is over 50 percent savings and only half -- less than half will need a revenue source. Maybe not.
As I said, squeeze it all out, keep squeezing until we can't find another drop of savings in the bill. That's something that we are all doing.
KING: You want more money from the pharmaceutical industry, the insurance industry, but do you trust them? They're cutting these deals with the Senate and with the White House. Do you trust them to keep their word and to come up with those savings?
PELOSI: Oh, I think they will come up with those savings because there's much more savings they can come up -- much more savings I think...
KING: So the White House and the Senate is not getting enough?
PELOSI: I don't think so, but let's see how we go forward. But what is important about all of this is that as we have reforms in the bill for the delivery of service and reforms in the bill for health insurance that the costs come down, as well.
This is very important as how we go forward as we make the systemic change. You mentioned the CBO, the Congressional Budget Office here, in their accounting, they don't give any credit for prevention. We know and the president knows that prevention saves hundreds of billions of dollars. And it can be documented, except they don't count it. So we know that as we go forward, the cost of health care will come down, the quality will go up, the choices will expand, and the peace of mind will be established for the American people.
KING: One of the other questions that comes up a lot in my travels, and I've been to high-end facilities like the Cleveland Clinic, I was this week at a public hospital in the Dallas-Fort Worth area that is doing the lord's work, letting people without insurance or very limited coverage come in and get everything from emergency room to cancer treatment.
And those doctors say they share your goals but they're a little worried that in the short-term, the day after you throw this switch, if the bill passes that when you squeeze Medicare and squeeze Medicaid, that you will drive more providers to say, forget about it, the reimbursements are too low, I'm not participating.
PELOSI: Well, in the legislation and in our broader agenda here, we have initiatives to promote more doctors, especially in primary care, but perhaps if they're more familiar with what the bill actually does. And that's why we want to finish this third piece so that we can have a document that people can make judgments about.
But you have to be careful when you're squeezing it down that you're not scraping seniors or affecting care.
KING: But when we spoke a few weeks back, you were adamant that the final bill would include a public option.
KING: You gave an interview this week where you were asked if you could support a bill that didn't have one in the end, and you said, I don't think so. Is that some softening?
PELOSI: No, no, no, no, the president has said he believes the public option is a way to keep the private insurance companies honest. But he said, if you can find another way to do this, show it to me.
KING: So is that non-negotiable? If the Senate passed a bill that did not have a public option or that had a public option that, say, had a three- or five-year trigger, let's see what happens, see if we can make reforms, and if we don't, then a public option would kick in, is that non-negotiable with the speaker?
PELOSI: I think the private insurance industry has had a long enough time to have a trigger. We know what happens left to their own devices. This is about having an alternative, to give much more leverage to the individual. And the president has said, if you like the insurance that you have, you like your doctor, you can keep them. Well, most people, many people feel good about all of that, but they don't know what's going to happen to the cost.
And the cost, that's an accessibility issue. And we know that a family of four -- average family of four, their health insurance costs will increase by $1,800 a year, that would be $18,000 by 2020. It's just not affordable. And therefore not accessible.
KING: If this bill passes and there's a public option, should that public option cover abortions?
PELOSI: That's not -- that's not the issue. The issue is people go out there to -- we'll be working on that issue. But that's not the issue. The public option doesn't cover -- insurance programs...
KING: But the public option would have a lot of -- the public option would have say on the marketplace about what is covered in certain plans. If...
PELOSI: No, but the insurance companies, as with private, would be treated just the way private insurance is treated now.
KING: So when you have somebody like Bart Stupak who says he wants language like the Hyde Amendment put into any health care reform bill?
PELOSI: Well, I don't know that that -- that Bart's language is exactly that. But those -- we have people who are working together to help promote health insurance for all Americans, that people will be treated the same in a public option as they are in a private option and that this issue should not be an issue, being respectful of Bart Stupak's concerns and respectful of full reproductive health care for America's women.
KING: What about illegal immigrants, what should happen to them if we have national health care reform? Should they be able...
PELOSI: I'm sorry?
KING: Illegal immigrants.
PELOSI: Illegal immigrants?
KING: If you're in this country illegally, should you be able to get health care?
PELOSI: No, illegal immigrants are not covered by this plan.
KING: And so what happens to a public hospital then if they walk into the emergency room? Again, the hospital I was at this week, they said, you know, they do 6,000 births a year there and 70 percent of them are for undocumented.
PELOSI: I don't know about that. But I do know that the law requires that if somebody comes in off the street and needs care, that it is extended. What we see in this legislation is that people will have access to affordable health care, and it will diminish the number of people going into those private -- public hospitals in the manner in which you described.
(END VIDEOTAPE) KING: Ahead, more with the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, including her take on whether it might take -- might be time for yet another stimulus plan to help with the country's punishing recession.
KING: More now of our conversation with the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi.
KING: Let me ask you about the politics of this for you. You were here, not in this role, but you were here the last time we had a Democratic president...
KING: ... and the Democrats in charge of both chambers of Congress, and the president wanted health care reform. It didn't pass, and his party was hammered in the mid-term elections -- not the president, he came out of it just fine, but you lost 52 seats. Do you have any worry that we're heading into a similar situation?
PELOSI: Absolutely not. I remind you, but I don't need to remind you, that the health care bill did not pass at that time. I think the American people want us to perform. They need this. This is urgent. It's urgent in terms of their health, their economic stability -- the economic stability of their families. And they want to see Democratic majorities in the House and Senate and the Democratic president in the White House to show that we can work together to have a positive impact on their lives by removing the instability that the uncertainty of access to health care causes for America's (INAUDIBLE)
KING: When you passed the stimulus bill back earlier this year, the administration said it thought the unemployment rate would average about 8.1 percent. It obviously hasn't turned out that way. It's approaching 10 percent now, 9.5. Most believe it will crack 10 percent in the months ahead. Did you underestimate the depths of the recession at the time? And is it maybe time now to go back and do more?
PELOSI: Well, one thing is for sure, if we hadn't done that stimulus package, the unemployment rate would be even higher. And I believe that as the -- it's like a time release capsule. As the initiatives are put forth in the timely fashion they were planned to, that more jobs will be created.
As you know, the job rate is -- joblessness -- there's a lag of turn in the economy and the lowering of the unemployment rate. So I believe that good times are ahead. I would rather just stick with the initiative that we have, get it out there faster, if we can, but not worry about doing another stimulus package.
I do think the health care bill is a stimulus package. I do believe that our energy bill was, for the creation of new green jobs, a jump start. I just remind you of this. When we passed our budget 100 days after the president became president, House and Senate both passed the budget that day, same day. And at that time, we passed a budget that had three pillars to turn the economy around, to create jobs and to lower the deficit -- energy, education, and health care.
These three bills are now out of committee -- in one case, energy, off the floor, in the House as we go forward. These are stimulants to the economy, as well. A new creation of jobs whether it's in the health care field, whether the energy field, and of course, energy and job creation begins in the classroom. So our education bill is part of that, as well.
KING: Madam Speaker, thank you.
PELOSI: Thank you.