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And, Senator, welcome back.
MCCONNELL: Good morning.
WALLACE: You just heard White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew say the court has spoken, it is time to move on. Are you persuaded?
MCCONNELL: He is doing the best he can with a really tough situation. The president said it was not a tax. The Supreme Court, which has the final say, says it is a tax. The tax is going be levied, 77 percent of it, on Americans making less than $120,000 a year. So it is a middle class tax cut -- tax increase.
Beyond that, Chris, the core of the bill, it is worth reminding people, is half a trillion dollars in cuts to Medicare. That is hospitals, nursing homes, home health care, and the like, $500 billion tax increase.
The Congressional Budget Office says it is also a job-killer. That it will cost the economy between 800,000 and a million jobs. This is the single worst piece of legislation that has been passed certainly in modern times. And it will be an issue, a big issue in the fall election.
I think the chief justice basically said, this is up to the American people to decide. We have one last chance here to defeat "Obama-care." We can do that in the November election.
WALLACE: Now, since the Supreme Court justice -- Chief Justice Roberts came out with his ruling declaring that the mandate is actually a tax, you have been hammering the president for imposing a new tax on the middle class.
But Mitt Romney has a mandate in his Massachusetts health care reform plan and the people in Massachusetts paid more than $20 million last year in that mandate penalty, tax, whatever you want to call it, so isn't that a Romney tax on the middle class?
MCCONNELL: Well, I have two thoughts there. Number one, that was a Massachusetts decision, not a national decision. And number two, every single Senate Democratic -- every Democratic senator voted for "Obama- care." It passed with not a vote to spare. Every single Democratic incumbent on the ballot this November was the deciding vote to pass this bill. This law is deeply unpopular with the American people. These Senate races across America will, indeed, be a referendum on this job-killing, health care, tax-increasing measure.
WALLACE: But if I may, sir, I mean, you didn't answer my direct question. If the Obama mandate is a tax on the middle class, isn't the Romney mandate a tax on the middle class?
MCCONNELL: Well, I think Governor Romney will have to speak for himself about what was done in Massachusetts. I can tell you that every single Democratic senator voted for this tax increase and these $500 billion cuts in Medicare. And it will be a huge issue in 2012.
The chief justice has in effect said this will be decided by the American people. That is why we have elections. And we will have one the first Tuesday in November.
WALLACE: All right, let's move on. If voters elect a Republican president and a Republican Senate, your top priority will be, you say, to repeal and replace "Obama-care." And I want to drill down into that with you.
One of the keys to "Obama-care" is that it will extend insurance access to 30 million people who are now uninsured. In your replacement, how would you provide universal coverage?
MCCONNELL: Well, first, let me say the single the best thing we could do for the American health care system is to get rid of "Obama- care," get rid of that half a trillion dollars in Medicare cuts, get rid of the half a trillion dollars in taxes.
In other words, the single biggest step we could take in the direction of improving American health care is to get rid of this monstrosity.
WALLACE: But if I may, sir, you've talked about repeal and replace. How would you provide universal coverage?
MCCONNELL: I will get to it in a minute. The first step we need to take is to get rid of what is there, this job-killing proposal that has all of these cuts to existing health care providers.
Secondly, we need to go step by step to replace it with more modest reforms. There will not be a 2,700-page Republican alternative. We will not take a meat axe to the American health care system. We will pull out a scalpel and go step by step and make the kinds of more modest changes that would deal with the principal issue which is cost.
Things like interstate sales of health insurance. Right now you don't have competition around the country in the selling of health insurance. That is a mistake. Things like lawsuit reform. Billions and billions of dollars are lost every year by hospitals and doctors in defensive medicine. Those kinds of steps...
WALLACE: But respectfully sir, because we are going to run out of time and I just want to ask, what specifically are you going to do to provide universal coverage to the 30 million people who are uninsured?
MCCONNELL: That is not the issue. The question is, how can you go step by step to improve the American health care system? It is already the finest health care system in the world.
WALLACE: But you don't think the 30 million...
MCCONNELL: What our friends on the other...
WALLACE: You don't think the 30 million people that were uninsured is an issue?
MCCONNELL: Let me tell you what we are not going to do. We are not going to turn the American health care system into a Western European system. That is exactly what is at the heart of "Obama- care." They want to have the federal government take over all of American health care.
Look, the federal government can't handle the health care it has already got. Medicare is in trouble already. Medicaid is in trouble already. We need to clean up the health care the federal government is already responsible for before we start immodestly trying to take over all of American health care. That is a big step in the wrong direction.
WALLACE: Let me ask you another question. "Obama-care" guarantees that people who have preexisting conditions and who don't currently have health insurance cannot be denied coverage because of that preexisting condition.
If you repeal "Obama-care," how will you protect those people with preexisting conditions?
MCCONNELL: There are over half of the states that already have these high risk pools that deal with that issue. That kind of state innovation ought to be encouraged by the federal government.
I don't think anybody thinks that the federal government can take over this whole area, all of health care for 300 million Americans, and make it better. We can't even handle the health care we have already got. That is the kind of thing that ought to be dealt with at the state level. We he ought to be encouraging that.
WALLACE: But insurance companies say that they can't afford to make this deal, that they are going to take anybody, even if they have a preexisting condition, unless they get all of those customers, the millions of customers from the mandate.
MCCONNELL: That is what the state-based high risk pools are for, Chris. That is exactly what I'm saying.
WALLACE: And you are saying that that would take care of people who don't have insurance, who want to get insurance, but are being denied it because of a preexisting condition?
MCCONNELL: I'm saying that this ought to be dealt with at the state level by these state-based high risk pools that over half the states I believe have already developed.
WALLACE: Even if you win a majority in the Senate chances are that Democrats are still going to have enough votes to be able to conduct a filibuster. And some of your Republican colleagues are suggesting that the way, even with the Republican majority but not a filibuster-proof majority, that you can undo "Obama-care" is through a budget process called reconciliation where you only need 51 votes.
WALLACE: Now that is what the democrats used, the 51-vote reconciliation, to pass "Obama-care." Would you consider using reconciliation to undo it?
MCCONNELL: Yes, the chief justice said it is a tax, and taxes are clearly what we call reconcilable. That's the kind of measure that can be pursued with 51 votes in the Senate. And if I'm the leader of the majority next year, I commit to the American people that the repeal of "Obama-care" will be job one.
By the way, I think we will also be insisting that we have a vote on "Obama-care" again before the election. But in terms of achieving it, it would take a different Senate with a different majority leader and a different president. But, yes, that could be done with a simple 51 votes.
WALLACE: The reason I ask is because when they were passing "Obama-care" through reconciliation you were very upset with it, you called it secretive, anti-democratic, hyper-partisan. Why the difference?
MCCONNELL: Well, the first time it passed the Senate it didn't pass through reconciliation. It got 60 votes. There were 60 Democrats and 40 Republicans, they were able to pass permanent law.
Look, reconciliation is available because the Supreme Court has now declared it a tax. They have unearthed the massive deception that was practiced by the president and the Democrats constantly denying it was a tax.
You heard the president's chief of staff continue to try to deny it was a tax just this morning, and the Supreme Court -- the chief justice has made it clear it is a tax. And as a tax, it is eligible for reconciliation.
I want to ask you, finally, about Chief Justice Roberts's ruling. Some conservatives are calling him a traitor for saving "Obama-care." But some other conservatives are noting that he sharply curtails Congress's ability to use the commerce clause to regulate everything.
He sharply curtails the federal government's ability to tell states what they have to do or punish them if they don't. How do you read the Roberts ruling?
MCCONNELL: Well, it was deeply disappointing. I think Justice Kennedy got it right. He found both the individual mandate and the Medicaid mandate unconstitutional, and said clearly Congress would not have passed the rest of it without those two pillars, which he found unconstitutional. He and three others, four of them, justices agreed that the whole thing should be replaced.
I'm sorry that didn't happen. This was a huge mistake for the country and the chief justices declared it a tax and therefore he has upheld it. Now the American people will have the final decision and I'm confident they are going to give us the votes to repeal it.
WALLACE: And do you not see anything for conservatives in what Justice Roberts said about the commerce clause and about the federal ability to dictate to states what they must and must not do?
MCCONNELL: Well, I agree with that and, of course, the other four justices felt that way as well.
WALLACE: We're going to have to leave it there. Senator McConnell thank you so much for coming in. Always a pleasure to talk with you, sir, and we will stay on top of this debate straight through to November.
MCCONNELL: OK. Thank you.
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