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MSNBC "Hardball With Chris Matthews" - Transcript

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<br>MSNBC "Hardball With Chris Matthews" - Transcript

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BARNICLE: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Will Congress pass a health care bill that doesn‘t include a public option?

Congresswoman Chellie Pingree is a Democrat from Maine, and Congressman Gerry Connolly is a Democrat from Virginia, two people on the same sides, and yet not—maybe not on the same side so much.

Congresswoman Pingree, let‘s start with you.

If there is no public option included in the bill that hits the House floor at some point down the road, will you vote for it or against it?

REP. CHELLIE PINGREE (D), MAINE: That would be a tough one for me.

I have already said that I would vote against a bill that doesn‘t have a public option. It‘s a huge issue to me in terms of really reforming health care. Frankly, for my constituents, many of whom still think we should have a single-payer health care plan, this is middle ground, moving to the right.

And they‘re very worried about the debate that is going on. And, so, I would be concerned if we don‘t have a public option.

BARNICLE: But you—you—you‘re not going to tell you how you would vote, yes or no, right?

PINGREE: Right. Today, I would vote no.

I mean, you know, you never know what the next configuration would be.

BARNICLE: Right.

PINGREE: But I signed on to a letter saying I won‘t vote for a bill with a public option. I wanted to be very—without a public option—I wanted to be very clear to the president and to my colleagues that, in my experiences on health care—I come from Maine. We have done a lot of work with insurance companies.

You know, what I hear from people is, you know, why would you want to help out the insurance companies? That‘s where the problem is. When people say to us, well, it won‘t be a level playing field—field if you don‘t—if you—if you put a public option in, you know, I have to say, I didn‘t get elected to make sure insurance companies made huge profits, that CEOs got big salaries. I‘m here to make sure we have an equitable plan, that people can afford their health care, and that we really expand it and have major reforms.

So, for me right now, that is essential.

BARNICLE: Congressman Connolly, public option doesn‘t really hit your hot button in terms of a final version of the bill, is it?

REP. GERRY CONNOLLY (D), VIRGINIA: Well, it‘s not much that.

I support a public option. And I have endorsed a public option, but it‘s not a matter of theology to me. I want to overall—I want to get on a path to yes for health care reform legislation. I‘m not there yet. I have other problems with the bill.

But a public option, if it is an instrument that can broaden access and bring down health care costs, insurance coverage in particular, by providing competition, I‘m all for it. If there‘s another way for doing the same thing, I‘m for that too.

So, I‘m—I‘m unwilling to draw a bright line in the sand over that particular aspect of health care reform.

BARNICLE: You said you had other problems with—with the bill, as it‘s being drafted right now. Who are those other problems?

CONNOLLY: Well, there are lots of discrete issues that we could talk about, but two big ones.

I don‘t we have run out—enough by way of savings in the bill yet. And I don‘t like the surcharge that‘s being proposed here in the House. I think it hurts a lot of folks in my area of the world, in Northern Virginia, but it also hurts small businesses.

And, so, before we start talking about revenue enhancement, I want to be convinced and I think the public wants to be convinced we have done everything we have can, we have left no rock unturned, in trying to identify additional savings.

Example, the drug companies have put $80 billion on the table in voluntary savings. The Hospital Association has put $130 billion on the table for voluntary savings. The insurance companies, which Chellie mentioned—and I agree with her—the biggest profit-makers in the whole system, zero dollars on the table.

We can do better.

BARNICLE: Congresswoman Pingree, you just heard Congressman Connolly say that he wants to get to yes.

So, tell me, given the seemingly split—some say it‘s minor, some say it‘s major—between the speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, who‘s going to be speaking in a few minutes, I guess, and Steny Hoyer, a split over public option, how do you navigate to yes, if that, indeed, is your goal? Is it your goal, too?

PINGREE: Absolutely. I think we all want to get to yes.

And ,remember, I come from the state with Senator Olympia Snowe, who is busily working with the White House to see if there are other options in the Senate. So, I, as well as anybody, understand the importance of negotiating, the importance of getting a final bill that really allows us to move forward.

And I agree with a lot of things that Gerry says. And we have a huge freshman class, and all of us ran on this issue of bringing about reform in the health care system. Things like making sure that we negotiate with the pharmaceutical manufacturers to bring down the price of prescription drugs, you know, that‘s essential to lowering the cost here. So, I do think that there‘s a lot of work to be done in making sure that we lower costs.

On the other hand, if we don‘t come out with a very strong bill from the House—and I believe that has to have a public option, that it really has to fight back against the insurance companies, that has to show massive amounts of reform—when we get to negotiating with the Senate, we will already have moved too far in what will be a complicated conference process.

So while everybody kind of wants to know today, you know, Declare where you are, What are you going to do here...

BARNICLE: Yes.

PINGREE: You mentioned it earlier. This is sausage making. There‘s a lot of complicated maneuvering that‘s going to have to go on to get us from here to there. But I think everybody knows that the president wants to pass a bill. This Congress wants to pass a bill. And at least for me, with whatever dispute went on with our—you know, with out constituents this summer, the one thing I heard loud and clear was, Get this fixed. Work together. Find a solution.

CONNOLLY: And Mike, if I could, add to that, in some ways, it‘s an academic question. I think both Chellie and I would agree. It‘s highly unlikely anything would pass the floor of the House of Representatives without a strong public option.

BARNICLE: Congressman Gerry Connolly, Congresswoman Chellie Pingree, thanks very much for your views. We appreciate it.

Up next: Former Ohio congressman Jim Traficant is out of prison, and he has some advice for all of us. That‘s next on the “Sideshow.”

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

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