CNN "The Situation Room" - Transcript
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BLITZER: And joining us now from Capitol Hill, Senator Jim DeMint, Republican of South Carolina. He's the author of a brand new book entitled "Saving Freedom: We Can Stop America's Slide Into Socialism."
We'll talk about that in a few moments, Senator DeMint. Thanks very much for joining us.
SEN. JIM DEMINT (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Thank you, Wolf. It's good to be with you.
BLITZER: Why are you so afraid of a public option, a government- run health insurance company, if you will, that would compete with the private health insurance companies like Blue Cross and Blue Shield or Kaiser Permanente, or whatever?
DEMINT: Well, a couple of reasons, Wolf. First of all, I have yet to see a federal program that works effectively or anywhere close to the budgets that we talk about, but maybe the more important point is, if we really want competition between insurance companies, which I have been working for, for years, let's just allow interstate competition.
Right now, the federal government imposes a state-by-state monopoly essentially of insurance companies, where if I live in South Carolina, I can't buy a policy in Arizona. But if we allowed a national market where hundreds of insurance companies were competing for my business, we could lower costs, give people a lot more choices. But it's ridiculous to say that we need a government plan to have competition when we won't even allow people to shop outside their states.
BLITZER: Are you afraid, Senator, that a government-run plan would drive some of these private insurance companies out of business?
DEMINT: Well, I'm not just afraid of it. The Lewin Group and other outside analysts who have looked at this, nonpartisan groups, have said at least 80 million Americans will lose their private insurance if we have a government option.
BLITZER: Let me interrupt on that point...
BLITZER: ... because I want you to listen to what President Obama says specifically on that point.
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OBAMA: Well, why would it drive private insurance out of business? If private insurers say that the marketplace provides the best quality health care, if they tell us that they are offering a good deal, then why is it that the government, which they say can't run anything, suddenly is going to drive them out of business? That's not logical.
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BLITZER: All right. You're smiling.
DEMINT: Well, Wolf, look what's happening now.
Medicare and Medicaid don't pay doctors enough to see patients. And that cost has shifted onto private insurance now. One of the reasons private insurance costs as much as it does today is because government is shifting the cost to them.
If we add a government plan for the -- those who were uninsured today, we are just going to make private policies more expensive, because the government can mandate what -- what is charged, and they can require physicians to accept payment that is below cost.
These government plans are not working now. They are -- they're heaping trillions of dollars of debt on our children. The part of health care that's working, even though not perfectly, is when somebody has their own health insurance policy, and they can pick their own doctors.
That's what we're trying to do as Republicans, is expand those who -- who have personal health insurance. And we can do that with interstate commerce and with just giving people fair treatment from the tax code.
This is a proposal I introduced about a month ago, and -- and I want to talk about it more, because I was in business for -- for 20 years myself. I worked with hospitals and physicians for years. I understand the health care industry, and I know that what's being proposed now is not going to help health care.
DEMINT: Excuse me. Go ahead.
BLITZER: Yes. I was going to point out, this column written that was in the state in your South Carolina newspaper today, it really goes after you. It says this.
It says: "There is not debate, not even for Mr. DeMint, about whether health care need reform. Yet, our junior senator seems more intent on using this crisis as a bludgeon for turning the political tables in Washington than on seizing this opportunity to improve Americans' lives."
A clear reference to that controversial comment you made the other day: "If we are able to stop Obama on this, it will be his Waterloo. It will break him."
DEMINT: If you read the rest of that sentence, Wolf, it said, if we can stop him on this, we can go on to real health care reform.
I have probably introduced more health care reform proposals in the Senate than any Democrat today. In fact, President Obama voted against the very proposals I was talking about of interstate commerce, personal deductibility, using HSAs to pay for a premium, small- business health plans. He voted against all of these things, Wolf, which -- which leads me to believe that it's -- it is not health insurance he wants people to have, but government control.
BLITZER: There is some concern among some national Republicans that the party, your party, is becoming a -- sort of a Southern base. That's where the Republicans have their stronghold.
George Voinovich, your Republican colleague from Ohio, is telling "The Columbus Dispatch" this: "We have got too many Jim DeMints and Tom Coburns. It is the Southerners. They get on TV and go, 'Errr, errrr.' People hear them and say, 'These people, they are Southerners. The party is being taken over by Southerners.'"
BLITZER: I wonder what you want to say to Senator George Voinovich.
DEMINT: Well, he is apparently very frustrated. And he has decided not -- not to run again. And I don't mind him taking out his frustrations on me.
But the fact is, if you look at the Southerners, a lot of our elected leadership, like Lamar Alexander, John Cornyn, I mean, these folks are Southerners. And -- and we have got the -- probably the most constructive working members of the Senate, Johnny Isakson, Saxby Chambliss.
You look at Richard Burr. These are all contributing people. They're certainly not hurting the people right now.
But, Wolf, the point I have been trying to make is, Maine doesn't have to be like South Carolina or like California.
If we really take a federalist approach where we're promoting freedom out across the country, these different states can have different solutions for health care or education or energy. And that's what we're supposed to be doing in Washington, is allowing states and individuals more freedom and not trying to create one-size- fits-all solutions here in Washington.
BLITZER: The book is entitled "Saving Freedom: We Can Stop America's Slide into Socialism" -- the author, Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina.
Senator, thanks for joining us.
DEMINT: Wolf, great to be with you. Thanks.