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Public Statements

CNN "The Situation Room" - Transcript

Interview

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BLITZER: Could health care reform be a top pick on President Obama's Christmas list? Congress could be close to giving him a health care reform bill, but could major disagreements still stop that?

Let's talk about that and more with Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

I want to get to the banks, Afghanistan and more. But will there be legislation that the president will sign into law on health care reform in the next few weeks?

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I hope not this bill.

BLITZER: I know you hope not, but will there be?

GRAHAM: No, I don't think they have 60 votes. They have got multiple problems, not just Joe Lieberman. They have got a lot of problems within their own caucus.

Claire McCaskill said she couldn't vote for one that increased health care costs. Well, this new score is $284 billion. You have got some people who are very concerned about the Medicare addition, 55 to 64.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Lieberman hates that, but, if you dump that, he probably will be on board. And he's a good friend of yours.

GRAHAM: Well, yes, he is a good friend of mine. But we will have to see it. They dump that. They dumped the public option. You have got Ben Nelson with abortion. They have got multiple problems.

Their biggest problem is the public. The biggest problem is the American people don't want this.

BLITZER: So, what I hear you saying is that the president is not going to get a bill. The Senate won't even pass something before Christmas; is that what you're saying?

GRAHAM: I don't think so.

I mean, one, we don't even know what the compromise is. They promised transparency. They promised a new way of doing business. I can't believe we're talking about a proposal that no one knows about, including Senator Durbin, that is being scored behind closed doors. This is not going to -- this doesn't look right, it doesn't smell right and it's not going to pass.

BLITZER: When you say being scored, that's what the Congressional Budget Office estimating how much it will cost.

(CROSSTALK)

GRAHAM: Scoring what? I have no idea. I can't sit here and intelligently talk to you about what they're proposing, because I don't know.

BLITZER: And you don't think one Republican, including Olympia Snowe, will be on board?

GRAHAM: No. I think that this bill is fatally flawed on multiple fronts, and I don't think any Republican could vote for it right now.

BLITZER: Did the president do the right thing in sort of lashing out at the big banking chiefs today and saying to them, you know what, we saved you, you got this country into a mess, we saved you, meaning federal taxpayers, and now it's your turn to come back and instead of giving yourselves millions and millions of dollars in bonuses?

(CROSSTALK)

GRAHAM: I think so. I think, one, we did save the banks.

BLITZER: On this issue you don't have a problem with the president?

GRAHAM: Not at all. I'm glad he did what he did.

And lending money is -- you can't get a loan now, no matter how solvent you are. The only people they will lend money to is people that don't need to borrow money. So, yes, we need to allow better lending. BLITZER: So, what else should the government do in terms of restricting bonuses? And they are talking about billions of dollars in bonuses to all these -- what the president calls fat cats.

GRAHAM: I think the fundamental problem is that banks aren't in the position to lend people money for some reason. The bonuses just don't sound right.

BLITZER: The banks are afraid that they're not going to get repaid. That's what they say.

GRAHAM: Well, the problem is, you have a crippled economy. You got lack of consumer confidence. You still got 10 percent unemployment, but the idea of jump-starting the economy with more access to capital is what I would be pushing for.

And the bonuses, yes, we need to look at people who have borrowed money from us, the government, make sure they are being responsible when it comes to bonusing money.

BLITZER: You agree with Larry Summers, the president's economic adviser, that the recession is over?

GRAHAM: Well, it depends. Well, I agree with the other person who said, if you're unemployed, you're not.

BLITZER: Christina Romer.

GRAHAM: But, technically, it is. But we're at 10 percent unemployment. The president's right. We shouldn't be declaring -- we have turned a corner. We have got stability. I voted for TARP. I want him to be tough on banks.

But at the end of the day it's about creating jobs. And we don't have a model to create jobs. This health care bill, the stimulus package is going to make it harder to create jobs. That's my problem with the administration.

BLITZER: On Afghanistan, you have got some problems with what the president announced, but Hamid Karzai says it's going to take him at least five years to get some sort of internal security going. The U.S. wants to start withdrawing within 18 months.

GRAHAM: Well, here's my problem. Once you say you are going to withdraw, no matter what, in July of 2011, you have compromised, in my view, the ability of the success of the operation.

The 30,000 troops are needed. And to train the Afghan police and army to take over in a robust way and secure the country in 18 months is a tall order. That's the one problem I have with the strategy, but I support the extra troops.

BLITZER: Did you have a problem -- today we are learning that all these Iraqi oil deals, they are going to China and Russia, Angola, and zero to the United States, after all the blood and treasure that the U.S. provided. GRAHAM: Well, they bought a bunch of turbines from General Electric. GE sold some electric generators to produce power.

But I would hope that the Iraqi people and the Afghan people would do business with us, yes. But it's a free country.

BLITZER: And they are acting free, I guess.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: Hey, Senator, thanks very much for coming in.

GRAHAM: Thank you.

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