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ROBERTS: This week, the House of Representatives will vote once again to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Here to discuss that measure and what can be done about the stalled economy are Congressman Tom Price, the chairman of the Republican Policy Committee, and Congressman Xavier Becerra, the vice chair of the House Democratic Caucus.
Gentlemen, thanks for joining us.
So, you've got this repeal vote, Congressman Price, coming up on Wednesday. You've been there many times before, the outcome not likely to be different. Why do you feel the need to go back and do this again?
REP. TOM PRICE, R-GA, CHAIRMAN, REPUBLICAN POLICY COMMITTEE: Well, it's a really important question because the status quo on health care is unacceptable. As a physician, I spent over 20 years taking care of the patients. And I can tell you that the current system out there doesn't work, doesn't work for patients. It doesn't work for doctors.
Now, the president's law takes in the wrong direction. It violates all of the principles of we hold dear in health care, whether it's affordability or accessibility or choices or quality. The Supreme Court has said that it's constitutional, and it doesn't make a good policy for the country.
So, what we believe we need to do is to provide that contrast, that positive upbeat contrast for the American people to say, hey, those are the folks that are fighting for us in Washington for patient-centered health care, which means patients and families and doctors making medical decisions, not Washington. That contrast is important so that people, as they move in to the fall, recognize that they have a choice here in Washington.
ROBERTS: But because the vote won't go anywhere in the Senate, nothing will change. So, Congressman Becerra, is this more of a political show than anything?
REP. XAVIER BECERRA, D-CALIF., VICE CHAIR, HOUSE DEMOCRATIC CAUCUS: That's where we come, John, is to the point where we're going to re-litigate what we did two years ago. That's the point we've reached, the state of denial where now the three branches of our democracy have spoken and said, guess what, the affordable care law is not just valid, it's sound. And so, we should move forward, try to help, what is it, 6 million Americans who get Medicare who are now paying less for the prescription drugs because we're closing the donut hole, talk to the 3 million Americans who are young adults, who got to stay on the parent's health insurance as a result of affordable care law.
All those folks ware benefitting, we are getting rid of preexisting conditions which the insurance companies used to use to discriminate against individuals applying for health insurance. All that's going, what we should be doing is building on that. But quite honestly, John, job one in Congress should be creating more jobs, working with the private sector, to build an economy that will create the jobs.
ROBERTS: We'll get to that in a second.
But, Congressman Price, you're chomping at the bit here.
PRICE: Look, what the chief justice of the United States said in his ruling was the court does not express any opinion on the wisdom of the Affordable Care Act. Under the Constitution, that judgment is reserved to the people. And the people understand that they don't want Washington running their health care. That there are wonderful ways to solve the challenges that we face, whether it's affordability or pre-existing, or getting folks covered.
But you don't have to put Washington in charge to do that.
ROBERTS: All right. So, you want to repeal the law. I know that you've had your bill, HR-3000 for a while. It hasn't gone anywhere yet.
But to Congressman Becerra's point, if you start to lose some of those things that people do like and decide the preexisting condition. And I think more than 80 percent of the population likes that idea, what do you replace it with? Because there is no concrete plan yet.
PRICE: Well, the point about this, the Affordable Care Act, is that what preexisting condition will be covered is what Washington says will be covered. What we believe is that the way that you solve that challenge, without putting Washington in charge, is to make so that you have robust pooling mechanisms around the country, so that individuals who are in the individual and small group market, those are only ones that are challenged by --
ROBERTS: How do you that, though, when the ability to buy health care insurance across state lines is very limited this time?
PRICE: And that's why you need positive patient-centered reform. As I said, the status quo is unacceptable. You need to be able to purchase across state lines. You need association health plans to be able to pool together so that you get the purchasing power of millions, let insurance work the way it's supposed to work, not Washington working for health care.
BECERRA: John, that's what the affordable care bill does. It's let you pool together and have these exchanges where you can buy insurance. Exactly what Tom just talked about.
You don't have to go back and re-litigate what we did two years ago. That's the change that we need.
But on top of that, we are busy bringing on bills that are going nowhere, while we have Americans who want to go to work. We can fight, we can argue, we can have these political debates, but the court, the Supreme Court, the executive branch, and now, the congressional branch, have all said this law is sound, let's move forward and build on it.
ROBERTS: So, are you saying let's move beyond this now?
ROBERTS: Would you tell your colleagues in Congress to run on this in the fall, to run on this -- what the Supreme Court determined was a tax in the fall?
BECERRA: We should build on the reform that is we saw in the Affordable Care Act, because we want to make sure that every American has the quality health care they want. But on the penalty -- it's a penalty not a tax. Ask Mitt Romney who for six years say it was a penalty.
ROBERTS: The Supreme Court clearly said it's a tax.
ROBERTS: In his opinion the chief justice said, you know, Congress wants to call it a penalty. You can call it anything you want. You can call it a penalty, you can call it a horse, it's still a tax.
BECERRA: That's right. The Supreme Court's role and justice's role is to tell us whether a law before it for debate is constitutional. And when he said it is --
ROBERTS: As a tax.
BECERRA: How the justices decide to interpret that is up to them. But the bottom line, is it constitutional? The Supreme Court, some of these justices --
ROBERTS: He said, though, it's constitutional as a tax.
BECERRA: If some of these justices also said that money is equal to speech, so therefore if you're wealthy, you have more freedom of speech under the First Amendment than if you're not so wealthy. So, the court has interpreted many different ways --
BECERRA: If I could just make this one point, the point is this -- we should be moving forward. Why are we going backwards and talking about what was already done, litigated, debated, passed and also affirmed by the Supreme Court. We should be talking about jobs.
You're talking about jobs in you first segment. We should be talking about jobs --
ROBERTS: One quick response from Congressman Price.
PRICE: Again, just because it's constitutional doesn't make it the right policy for the land.
PRICE: And the American people, whether it's a penalty or a tax, what they know is that they're going to pay it. And -- and that's the problem. People are...
BECERRA: One percent of Americans.
PRICE: People are having extreme...
BECERRA: One percent...
PRICE: That's the estimate prior to -- prior to the ruling.
BECERRA: It's only those Americans who decide to be irresponsible and be freeloaders. You don't pay the tax. Tom, you won't pay it. John, you won't pay it...
BECERRA: I'm saying it's not a tax. You don't pay this unless you're a freeloader. And you're being penalized if you decide to be a freeloader and ask someone else to cover your insurance.
PRICE: John, "irresponsible" in Xavier's definition means that you don't buy the insurance that the government says you must buy. That's hardly irresponsible.
OBERTS: Gentlemen, we'll be covering this all week. So we do have a lot more to say on this debate.
Let's -- let's move to jobs. The lackluster jobs report, 80,000, 69,000 in the month before. You know, can President Obama go out there, Congressman Becerra, and say "This is my record; re-elect me in November"?
BECERRA: Any time you can -- you talk about 28 months of job growth; any time you can talk about creating a job, 84,000 jobs.
ROBERTS: But we're not even treading water at this point.
BECERRA: Eighty-four thousand Americans went back to work last month, John. I think that's pretty good.
ROBERTS: But we needed 125,000 jobs to stay just above...
BECERRA: Four years ago -- what happened four years ago in June 2008 with jobs, we lost 280,000 jobs. What happened the first month that Barack Obama took office, or the last month, if you want to look at this way, that George Bush was in office, we lost nearly 800,000 jobs.
So when you gain 84,000, it's not enough, but it's sure better than losing 800,000 or 230,000. We're making progress, 28 consecutive months of jobs growth, but you've got to build on that.
But if Republicans would take their foot off the brake of the economic recovery, we probably could move a lot faster.
PRICE: Remember, John, what the president said. He said "Pass my stimulus bill" and the unemployment rate at this point, under his proposal would be 5.6 percent. Right now, we're at 8.2 percent and it's really a whole lot higher than that, as you pointed out previously.
The fact is that we're not putting in place the policies that will allow the job creators to create jobs.
Keystone Pipeline, for example -- the president has -- refuses to allow that. This is going to create 20,000 to 200,000 jobs, doesn't cost Washington a dime, and the president won't allow it. The red tape oppression that's going on across this country to keep small businesses and large businesses from expanding, making it so that they can't create jobs, the tax uncertainty and the tax increases, not just in ObamaCare but in all of the president's policies, increase taxes on businesses large and small and make it more difficult for jobs to be created.
ROBERTS: One quick point, and then I just want to move on to one other topic.
BECERRA: One quick statistic. I know my colleagues on the Republican side say that the health care law, which now has been affirmed by the Supreme Court, is a job-loser. Since its passage over 600,000 jobs created in the health care industry since the passage of the Affordable Care law. And so what we see is that jobs are increasing; we just have to work together to make sure that they increase for everyone.
ROBERTS: Let me throw one other thing out there quickly because this is a big problem that's living in front of us, as Congress goes back to work next week, and that is the fiscal cliff that we're going to hit at the end of the year.
There's been some suggestion, Congressman Price, and you've made it, that we signed something and kicked the can down the road for another year. Is that the right way to approach this or should the hard work get done to solve this problem?
PRICE: No, this is where the cooperative nature of Washington needs to exist. We have a huge fiscal challenge, over $500 billion in increasing taxes at the end of the year. There are also sorts of taxes that are coming due. You've got marginal rates going up; capital gains going up; dividends going up. And what we need to do is to work and solve those challenges.
What we will do in the House of Representatives is pass a piece of legislation before the end of July that says we ought to keep those rates exactly the same for at least a year, something that Governor Romney supports because he believes that that will stimulate the economy and provide certainty out there in the job market. What we hope...
ROBERTS: Do you agree with that?
PRICE: ... cooperation from the other side.
BECERRA: As I said before, these are bills to nowhere.
Tom knows they won't become law. And what we're doing is saying that we're willing to take the time of the people of this country, taxpayers' money to run a House of Representatives with...
ROBERTS: So what do you do? Do you let it expire? Is that the right thing to do?
BECERRA: No, you work together to come up with a real proposal that can pass both houses and get signed by the president, not just put bills up there that you know are going nowhere. It's time for us to do something together, rather than work against each other.
PRICE: John, you know, I couldn't agree more. You know, the process that allows that to happen is for the House to act and then the Senate to act. And then you come together and solve that...
BECERRA: ... bills that have a chance to pass in both houses, not just doing something that's a message piece and then dies.
ROBERTS: Gentlemen, we've got to go, but thank you so much for coming in this Sunday. We really appreciate it.
Up next, do the tough job numbers for the president mean momentum is shifting to Mitt Romney? We'll ask our panel where the race stands when we come back.
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