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FOX News "Hannity" - Transcript

Interview

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SEAN HANNITY, HOST: Blue Dog Democrats have been a thorn in the side of left wingers who have tried to jam reform through Congress. But what is it exactly that they oppose in this health care bill? Now, most Democrats in Congress, well, they don't want to talk to me.

But Congressman Jason Altmire was kind enough to let me ask him a few questions.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HANNITY: Alright so here you are, a bit of an anomaly. You're a Democrat, and you've been pretty outspoken about the differing bills that have been going through the House of Representatives, where you are, and also in the Senate. Tell us, why -- why are you opposing what is being proposed?

REP. JASON ALTMIRE, D-PENN.: I voted against the bill that came through the committee on which I serve, primarily because of the impact it had on small businesses. I thought it was punitive. If you're a small business owner that doesn't offer health care to your employees, it's not because you're a bad person. It's because you can't afford it. And to have an eight percent payroll tax on top of that doesn't make any sense.

I think we should use a carrot and not a stick and help small businesses find a way to offer health are for their employees, not penalize those who don't.

Most importantly, cost containment. This has to be about bringing down the cost of health care for families, for businesses, and certainly, for every level of government. We're on an unsustainable growth path. And the bill I had to vote on in the House did not do anything about that.

And the tax increase, I thought, was misguided and misplaced as part of the health-care debate. The bill I had to vote on had an income tax increase primarily for the wealthy. I don't think this is the place to have that discussion. This is a health care reform bill.
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HANNITY: What do you make of the fact that -- that Nancy Pelosi saying that it must have the government option? And by the way, the Baucus bill in the Senate does not have the government option.

How do the Democrats reconcile this? Because they have taken, you know, pretty -- pretty strong positions on both sides.

ALTMIRE: I think the House bill will probably have the public option. The votes are likely there. The Senate, I think, is likely to not have the public option. So we're going to go into conference, and we'll see what happens.

But for me, the public option, if it's in there, has to be airtight. It cannot have a public subsidy, a taxpayer subsidy, can't have anybody that's forced into it. Has to be totally voluntary. It would have to meet all the same regulatory requirements that the private insurers have to meet. And these are the things that I think that, if there is a public option in the House bill or the final bill, that it would have to meet.

HANNITY: Has there been any pressure brought to bear on you by the leadership in the House because of your position?

ALTMIRE: Well, I think they would think, like everybody, they would like to have your vote, but I will say that I feel like my voice has been heard. I voted against the bill in committee. I've had discussions about why. I described it in the same way I just described it to you.

I think the bill is a little bit better now than it was over the summer when I had to vote for it. I don't know that it's in the place where it needs to be for me to support it. But I do feel like my voice has been heard.

HANNITY: Congressman there is -- another congressman from Oregon -- his name escapes me at this moment -- but he's got a discharge petition that he's circulating. And I don't think your name is on it yet. And that would guarantee the American people 72 hours to read this bill before there is a vote that takes place in the House. Will you support this discharge petition?

ALTMIRE: We have been guaranteed or promised by the leadership that there will be a 72-hour window between the time that the last "I" is dotted and "T" is crossed and the time the bill is brought to the floor.

One of the many reasons I voted against the cap-and-trade bill in the summer was specifically because of this issue. You had an amendment that was put in, 300 pages in the middle of the night. And we had to vote on it only a few hours later. That's not the way business should be done. So I think that there is going to be a waiting period.

HANNITY: All right. Last question, if Anthony Wiener and Nancy Pelosi are going to insist on the government option, and then you have the Blue Dog Democrats that are going to say they can't support it with the government option. Really, the in-fighting is within the Democratic ranks, because I think the Republicans have pretty much been pushed to the side.

Do you think they'll be able to find a way to reconcile that? Considering I think the Blue Dogs, if they vote for this, they're walking the plank. I think their careers are in jeopardy. And Nancy Pelosi doesn't have that problem. What happens when -- if that's what this comes down to, what do you predict happens?

ALTMIRE: Every member is accountable to their own district. I know when I go home and talk about health care reform, I hear a difference of opinion on a lot of the things that are in this bill. Everyone in the end is accountable to their own constituents.

So we'll see what the blue dogs do, but as a group -- but in the end, it's up to each individual to go home and explain to their constituents why they voted the way they did.

HANNITY: All right. Congressman, thanks for being with us. Appreciate it. And by the way, it's interesting to get a little different voice in the Democratic Party. I've got to be honest. There will be -- there will probably be retribution for coming on this show. But we appreciate you being here. Thank you.


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