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SCHULTZ: Welcome back to THE ED SHOW. I guess you could say that
Easter is the new Christmas when it comes to health care and the health
care deadline. President Obama wants a final reform bill before Congress
leaves for the Easter recess on March 26th, and possibly even a week
earlier, before the president leaves for Indonesia.
The effort got a big boost today on the Senate side when the HELP
Committee Chairman Tom Harkin said reconciliation is a go. Here"s the
plan: the House will pass the current Senate health care bill as is. A lot
of progressives are going to have to take a leap of faith on this, because
Nancy Pelosi needs 216 votes. There are two vacancies in the House.
The House will then move to pass a second bill with fixes to the
reform bill. That bill will go to the Senate, where Democrats will try to
use reconciliation to pass the fixes with just 51 votes. It"s really a
tough needle to thread. But folks, it is the last, best shot the Democrats
are going to have at passing health care reform.
Joining me now is Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter. Senator, good
to have you with us tonight.
SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Nice to be with you, Ed. Thank
SCHULTZ: You bet. A couple of things. First of all, the president,
are you comfortable that he has exhausted every effort to make this
bipartisan? Is there anything else he can do?
SPECTER: I think he"s made every last effort. On Thursday, they went
the extra mile and a half. And it"s not a line in the sand anymore. It"s
in concrete. The Republicans simply are not going to do anything by way of
SCHULTZ: I"ve noticed that you are, if I may have a smile on my face
saying this, surging in the polls, because I don"t see any other Democrat
in this country opening up a lead as you have in Pennsylvania. You"re
leading your opponent 49 to 42, up against Mr. Toomey, the Republican
challenger. You still have to go through a primary, and you have a wide
margin in the polls on Congressman Joe Sestak.
Now, our team here on THE ED SHOW, we believe you"re support of the
public option and your support of EFCA have turned things around. Are we
wrong in that analysis?
SPECTER: Well, I think it"s a combination of factors, Ed. I think
those items are important. But perhaps the best reason is that I"ve been
on your show for so long. That"s the reason for the surge.
SCHULTZ: Well, I"m not going to deny that. I was going to let you
say that, not me, Arlen. The point being here is we were seeing a
challenge in Arkansas because of the public option. That"s the number one
issue. And the letter that"s floating around has now got 34 senators on
board. I believe that you are one of them. Is this that popular of an
issue that it would shift the base?
SPECTER: Ed, it is important. People want something done. This
whole issue has moved beyond the health care legislative matter, which is
enormously important, to something which is even transcendent of that. And
it"s a test as to whether we can govern.
Right now, our stock around the world is going down. I just asked a
question of Secretary of State Clinton last week, a week ago today. I read
a lot about the president"s popularity going down. Is this affecting our
relations and the president"s power to deal with people of China and Iran?
And she said, yes, plus the fact that there aren"t confirmations of
And the kind of gridlock shows that we are not able to govern. So
while this health care legislation is very important for the millions not
covered and the escalating costs on small business, it"s really a test as
to whether we can govern. And that has to be demonstrated.
This business on reconciliation--we"ve gotten very deeply involved
in it recently because of necessity. And the fact is that reconciliation
has been used 22 times under similar circumstances, on SCHIP, on Cobra, on
Medicare Advantage, on welfare reform. And the same people now who are
speaking against reconciliation were touting its virtue when they wanted to
SCHULTZ: Yeah. Senator, you"re a wealth of information. And if I
may end with this, your popularity may be going up because you"re on this
show. I want you to know it"s not hurting me at all either having you on.
SPECTER: Well, call me more often, Ed. I"m on campus all the time.
SCHULTZ: All right, senator, good to have you with us. Interesting
point about how we"re being viewed around the world on this, about
governing. Thank you, senator.
SPECTER: Thank you.
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