NEIL CAVUTO, ANCHOR: All right, ram it through, people will lawyer up -- a top Republican warning Democrats to expect legal challenges if they pass health care without a vote. And independent Democrat Joe Lieberman today saying that the so-called Slaughter rule is wrong, and will result in a public backlash.
So, does John agree with his friend Joe? I'm talking about Republican Senator John McCain, the former presidential candidate, who joins me right now in this exclusive chat.
Senator, good to have you. Happy St. Patty's Day.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN R-ARIZ.: Same to you, my friend.
And, yes, I believe it's unconstitutional. And I think there's a couple of precedents, Supreme Court rulings that indicate that. One had to do with the line-item veto. And I don't want to get into the arcane stuff, but there was a couple of Supreme Court decisions that clearly indicated that bills have to be passed by both houses of Congress, which doesn't seem like that would be too hard to figure out for most of our colleagues.
But -- so, I think there is a real constitutional challenge there. And, by the way, I was entertained that the president today said that, well, it really didn't matter. But, back when Senator Obama was faced with an attempt on the Republican side to have 51 votes for the confirmation of judges, he said it was a violation of our founding fathers' beliefs about how we should behave.
It's -- my, how times change.
CAVUTO: In fact, this issue and -- and other similar ones regarding how this is crafted, this health care package, came up in my friend Bret Baier's chat with the president a couple of hours ago.
I want you to react to this, Senator. This is from Bret's chat.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I don't spend a lot of time worrying about what the procedural rules are in the House or the Senate. What I can tell you...
BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: But will you support this -- this measure?
OBAMA: What I can tell you -- what I can tell you is, is that the vote that's taken in the House will be a vote for health care reform. And if people vote yes, whatever form that takes, that is going to be a vote for health care reform. And I don't think we should pretend otherwise. And if...
BAIER: But, Mr. President, this Monday...
OBAMA: Bret, let me finish.
And if they don't, if they vote against it, then they're going to be voting against health care reform, and they're going to be voting in favor of the status quo. So, Washington gets very concerned about these procedural issues in Congress.
This is always an issue that's -- whether Republicans are in charge or Democrats in charge.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAVUTO: We're too focused on procedure. What do you think of that?
MCCAIN: Well, I think first of all, we -- I would hope that the president would be concerned about Constitutional issues, as he was the last time that we went through a process like this.
But, look, I think that the president is vastly underestimating the attention the American people are paying to the process, as well as the product, the sleazy deals, the deal -- the Louisiana purchase, the Cornhusker kickback, the pharma deal, all the sleaze, the Chicago-style sausage-making that has been going on in the formation of this bill.
And then to top it off, to have it "deemed passed" or vote in a fashion that's not an up-or-down vote on what was passed through the Senate, I think, is going to rouse the American people in a way that is unprecedented.
CAVUTO: All right, so, Senator, I'm not putting words in the president's mouth here, but it seems that he's saying that, whatever you vote for, whether it's the Senate changes agreed to with the House, if you vote for that, you are -- you're for health care anyway, and, if you don't, you're not, and that's it.
What do you say?
MCCAIN: Well, the Constitution calls for a bill to be passed by the House, one by the Senate. Then they have a conference and they iron out their differences. Then those differences are voted on again in both houses.
Why aren't they doing it? Because of the election of Scott Brown to the United States Senate. So, they are basically circumventing the Constitution of the United States, in my view, or, even, if not that, then the -- what we -- the way we should be addressing these issues.
And I was entertained by your previous guest, who said, well, we will just fix it in future Congresses. We have a letter here that 41 senators have said, we will not vote for anything on "reconciliation."
CAVUTO: You know, there's also -- I haven't seen the final draft and whatever the CBO is scoring. I have no idea what it is, and -- but we're told that in the writing here is that you can't rescind, reverse or chop this up. In other words, when it goes into law, if it were to go into law, then future Congresses, assuming Republicans gain seats, some even insist - - your colleague John Boehner in the House says there's a good shot Republicans get control of the House -- who knows -- but that they can't dismantle it, it's etched in stone.
Is that true?
MCCAIN: No, it's not true.
But I would like to say another word about CBO. We all respect CBO. We all respect their findings and their estimates, but they are only as good as the assumptions they receive. And that's why you see this back- and-forth between particularly the majority leader of the Senate and CBO.
They would get -- give them an assumption. They didn't like the numbers that CBO gave, and so then they would change the assumption. So, I'm not blaming CBO, but the...
CAVUTO: In other words, they work with the math they're given, right? And, then, and if this is the formula., they do the same formula, and say, well, all right, if you use that formula with those variables, that's what you get.
MCCAIN: Sure. And this is how you come up with six years of benefits and 10 years of taxes. I mean, that is Bernie Madoff accounting.
CAVUTO: That's pretty good.
MCCAIN: So, I mean, really.
CAVUTO: That's pretty good.
MCCAIN: Yes. So...
CAVUTO: So, you say and then the devil here is really in the real outgoing years, when it gets out of control, right?
MCCAIN: CBO has stated they cannot predict what would happen in the second 10 years.
According to Paul Ryan, the smartest young man I have known for a long time around here, we're talking about a $2.5 trillion debt accumulated over 10 years. And let me say again, I think that there will be a -- a national movement for repeal if they pass this legislation, because it's clear that the overwhelmingly majority of the American people want us to start over and fix it.
And I -- and it's a false argument to say that we Republicans want to do nothing. We want to fix the cost of health care. We just don't want what the Democrats have called reform, which is actually an incredible debt on our future generations of Americans.
CAVUTO: Senator, what if the president, as some top Democrats are advising him to do, either postpones again his trip to Asia or cancels it outright? What do you think the message that would send, and what do you think if he does that?
MCCAIN: I think it means they don't have the votes.
MCCAIN: I don't think it's any more complicated than that.
And they have made a strategic decision that doing nothing would hurt them more than passing legislation which even the American people oppose, and in the most bizarre and unprecedented fashion for an issue of this magnitude.
Yes, there has been legislation that's been deemed. Yes, there has been reconciliation, but never, ever in history on an issue that revamps one-sixth of our gross national product.
CAVUTO: Senator John McCain, good seeing you again. Thank you, my friend.
MCCAIN: Thanks, Neil. And a happy Saint Patrick's.
CAVUTO: To you as well. Maybe, next time, a green tie. I have no idea. But you look good. All right.
CAVUTO: Senator McCain, thank you very much.
MCCAIN: See you.