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MSNBC "The Ed Show" - Transcript

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SEN. ARLEN SPECTER, (D) PENNSYLVANIA: Nice talking to you, Ed.

Thanks for the invitation. Thank you.

SCHULTZ: Yes, yes, sir. There seems to be a narrative going around

right now. Hey, we"ve never done this before. Well, I thought I"d ask a

veteran. Have we done this before? Has the procedure that"s being

discussed right now, in the House and the Senate, has it been done before?

SPECTER: Yes. 22 times. I filed a statement today which is just

about a legal brief on the subject, pointing out where it has been done in

the past on similar circumstances. For example, Welfare Reform in 1996.

For example, Cobra, Changing Insurance Policies. For example, children"s

health. For example, Medicare advantage. And I have cited in this legal

brief the specific Republican Senators who used it and who are now

complaining about it.

It is well established. It is a legitimate way--look, Ed, we"re

really facing more than health care reform.

SCHULTZ: Yes.

SPECTER: We are really facing the confidence to govern. You have 40

Republican senators saying no, all of them. You have 176 out of 177 in the

House saying no. We have to fight fire with fire. This is legitimate.

It"s a question of whether Washington can govern.

SCHULTZ: Well, it looks like the American people, the polling that"s

coming out, they"re disgusted with it. They"re politically exhausted with

this story. And they just want change, whether it"s Republican or

Democrat, it seems like right now. So how pivotal, in your opinion, is

this for President Obama"s presidency?

SPECTER: Well, I think it is very important. Look here, I crossed

the aisle, in fact, I may have crossed the aisle one time too much to suit

my Republican colleagues who were outraged when I voted for the stimulus in

order to avoid sliding into a 1929 depression.

Now President Obama"s on the spot, but Congress is on the spot to see

if we can legislate. If we get tied up in knots it"s really a suicide

pact. Justice Jackson said years ago that the constitution is not a

suicide pact. Well, technical rules are not a suicide pact. Especially in

the context where they"ve been used before. But this is a real test as to

whether President Obama can act, whether the Congress can act. I predict

we"re going to do it, Ed.

SCHULTZ: Yes and senator, for our viewers across the country tonight,

give us a sense of what it"s like in the halls of Congress right now.

Passing one another in the hallway. These demonstrations that are taking

place outside. The moment of history here and the angst amongst the

American people. What would you compare it to, Arlen?

SPECTER: Well, I would compare it to a hurricane. I would compare it

to a tsunami, to a volcano eruption. This is a question as to whether

government can function. And there"s a lot of anger that"s flowing both

ways. Look, I went to those town meetings. I went to Lebanon, the guy was

apoplectic waving his arms at me. America is furious and largely about the

gridlock and inability of Congress to govern. And it is more than health

care. It is more than a piece of legislation. It is more than any of us

who hold office about re-election. It"s a matter about whether our system

can function.

SCHULTZ: Senator I have to cut you off, I got to do you a favor. You

have to go vote. That"s what I"m told. Good to have you with us.

SPECTER: Okay. Thank you, Ed.

SCHULTZ: Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania with us tonight.

America undoubtedly I believe is sick of the fight. The numbers are going

to be showing that. They want Washington to get this bill passed and just

to move on and let"s get to the polls.

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