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SEN. DEBBIE STABENOW (D-MI), BUDGET COMMITTEE: Right.
O"DONNELL: Then you would immediately amend that bill--in effect,
substitute the reconciliation process for what would have been your
conference between the House and the Senate to get to an identical bill.
O"DONNELL: Bob Dove, the former Senate parliamentarian, has said he"s
never seen anything like that happen before. Will it work?
STABENOW: Well, I believe that it will, Lawrence. And it"s wonderful
to be with you tonight. And it will happen because we are using the
democratic process. We passed in the Senate health care reform with a
supermajority--that as we know, in a democracy, it takes a majority. We
all know that.
When we vote, when we go to the polls, when we"re participating in
various organizations, it"s one more than the opposition. That"s how we
make decisions in a democracy. So that"s what this is about.
And I want to just say that the reason we are so motivated to do this
Lawrence, 14,000 people got up this morning with health insurance and
will go to bed tonight without it, and most of them because they lost their
job. Five thousand people lost their homes today because of a medical
bankruptcy and most of them had insurance.
So, we are committed to tackling and bringing down health care costs
and making sure that people who have health insurance are getting what
they"re paying for.
O"DONNELL: Is the--is the House demanding of the Senate some form
of guarantee--I don"t know what that could be--that the Senate can pass
the reconciliation before the House votes on passing the Senate bill?
Meaning, do they want you to say something to them that gives them the
confidence, then, to allow them to pass the Senate bill?
STABENOW: Well, I think it"s fair for the House to know. And, in
fact, what we"re doing right now, is negotiating agreements as to, you
know, what changes in the bill would be acceptable to all sides. And I
think it"s reasonable that they know what we agreed to and that we know
what they agreed to. And then we will need to indicate that--to indicate
that we"re ready to go forward. And so, I think we can get this done.
O"DONNELL: We saw something develop today that you rarely see in the
Senate, maybe once a decade or less. Attacks--public attacks on the
Senate parliamentarian, Alan Frumin. What you make of that?
STABENOW: Well, I find it very perplexing, Lawrence, because this was
a parliamentarian that was appointed by the Republicans when Trent Lott was
in the majority. And they said that he was being appointed because he was
fair, that he adhered to the Senate rules, that they totally trusted him.
So, I think, unfortunately, for Alan--who is somebody that I think is
very fair--he"s getting caught up in what is just a continuing effort to
You know, it"s so easy to throw sand in the gears. If that"s all you
want to go, throw sand in the gears and stop everything.
But the people in this country expect us to get things done, jobs, at
the forefront. Health care, which relates to jobs, because we"re losing
jobs because of health care costs. And they expect us to do things that
are going to make a difference in their lives. Not just for a few people,
but for the rest of us.
And that"s really what we"re about as Democrats.
O"DONNELL: Just to stay on the parliamentarian for another minute,
Senator. And you and I both know, there"s no one more uncomfortable being
discussed this way than Alan Frumin.
O"DONNELL: But do you--do you sense that what"s going on here is
that there"s actually something going on here in the Republican"s attempt
to communicate with wavering House members? What they"re, in effect,
saying to them is: remember, in reconciliation in the Senate, the
parliamentarian has to rule on several procedural motions that require 60-
vote thresholds sometimes to pass. So, you can"t be guaranteed of getting
out of the Senate reconciliation bill what you think you might get out of
it because the Senate parliamentarian has extraordinary powers to rule
things out of order.
A wordy way for me to say it, but that seems to me to be what the
Republicans in the Senate are trying to communicate to House Democrats: Be
wary of that Senate parliamentarian, he can ruin all of your plans.
STABENOW: Well, Lawrence, they"ll say whatever they need to say to
stop us from solving this problem and getting this done. So, I"m not
surprised. I"m not surprised at bullying or intimidation.
But I can tell you this: we have some pretty smart people in our
caucus that understand the rules of this process going forward. And we
will adhere to them and we will do everything possible and respect the
decision of the parliamentarian.
But in the end--again, this is not about games on the floor of the
United States Senate. This is about the people of the country who deserve
to have health care that they could afford and that they can count on it
when they"re paying for it, and that they"re not going to lose their job as
a result of spiraling health care costs. And that"s what we"re focused on.
O"DONNELL: Can I just go back to one quick technical point? You just
said that you will respect the rulings of the parliamentarian. There has
been public speculation that if Joe Biden is presiding over the Senate and
the parliamentarian advises him to rule a certain way, that he might, if he
doesn"t like the parliamentarian"s advice, simply rule the way he wants to.
Are you saying now, publicly, that the Democrats are going to stay
with whatever the Senate parliamentarian"s ruling is on any one of these
questions in the reconciliation bill?
STABENOW: Well, I"m saying that we respect the process.
Now, I can"t on any individual situation speak for the vice president
or speak to what might happen. But I will say that we are working very
hard, studying the rules, and intend to work within the parameters of
As you know, very, very well, this is a process that only allows for
changes in budget processes. You can"t do insurance reform through this
process. It has to be items related to deficits and to budget issues. And
so, that"s the parameters under which we are working.
It"s a limited number of changes. I mean, we"ve passed health care
reform with a supermajority. This is a limited number of changes to
improve the bill, things that I think are very important to make health
insurance more affordable and do some other significant things. And we are
going to move ahead within the rules that are available to us to get this
And I would say finally this, Lawrence, people in my state care don"t
care if all Republicans solve problems, all Democrats solve problems, all
people with red hair solve problems. They just want us to get things done
that affect their lives, so that the middle class know that they can look
to a future and be confident that they"re going to be able to prosper in
America. And that"s what I"m focused on. That"s what we"re focused on as
O"DONNELL: Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan--thanks for your
time and insights tonight.
STABENOW: Thank you.
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