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WALLACE: And hello again from Fox News in Washington.
Kathleen Sebelius has stepped down as secretary of health and human services. But with confirmation hearings ahead for her replacement, the battle over ObamaCare is entering a new phase. We've invited members of one of the Senate committees that will hold those hearings to discuss what happens now.
From South Carolina, Republican Tim Scott, and from Rhode Island, Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse.
Senator Scott, after the disastrous rollout of ObamaCare, did Kathleen Sebelius have to go? And how do you explain the timing of her resignation?
SEN. TIM SCOTT, R-S.C.: Well, there's no doubt that she had to go. When you think of Healthcare.gov being synonymous with failure, there has to be changes. The real questions that we should be asking ourselves is if we look at the upcoming confirmation hearing, will the next secretary have Americans first or will they have the administration's policy and try to carry the water for the president as their primary responsibility?
WALLACE: Well, I think it's fair to say that all of the glitches with the Web site followed Sebelius right through her resignation.
Here she was on Friday in the Rose Garden.
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HHS SECRETARY KATHLEEN SEBELIUS: Their stories are so disheartening about finally feeling secure and knowing they can take care of themselves and their families. Unfortunately, a page is missing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: And that night, Sebelius sent out this e-mail, "I will be passing the baton to my friend and colleague Sylvia Burrell." In fact, the woman named to replace her is Sylvia Burwell.
Senator Whitehouse, did Sebelius have to go? And what do you make of the timing of her resignation?
SEN. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE, D-R. I.: Well, I think she gave a lot of good service to the president and to the country. She was there nearly six years and in an extremely tough job at a very consequential time through the whole health care bill and through the rollout with all these malfunctions. I think it probably is a good thing to have a new face going forward.
And Sylvia Mathews Burwell is a very good choice. She has a lot of goodwill on the Republican side and she has a lot of experience and ability. She was President Clinton's deputy chief of staff. She was Treasury Secretary Rubin's chief of staff. She had an important behind-the-scenes role in the recent budget agreement. She brings a strong set of credentials.
WALLACE: You are both members as we said of one of two Senate committees that's going to hold confirmation hearings on Sylvia Burwell. Senator Scott, when Burwell was confirmed 96-0 just a year ago to being the budget chief, you voted for her. And the question I have for you, Senator Scott, is might you vote against her now because of your concerns with ObamaCare?
SCOTT: There's no doubt she was a good choice for OMB. That does not necessarily make her guy choice for HHS. The real question we have to dig into is how ObamaCare and the role of the secretary of HHS, how they have been woven together and what it looks like to the American people.
What we learned over the last several months is that only thing that are increasing ObamaCare are the premiums. Premiums are higher than they used to be. We know there was a double digit increase in premiums both in the individual market and the small group market. We also know that out-of-pocket expenses as well as deductibles are increasing.
The only thing that's gone down so far under ObamaCare are the number of doctors in your network. The number of hospitals in your network, the number of specialists you can see.
WALLACE: But, Senator, are you going to vote against Burwell because you don't like ObamaCare?
SCOTT: Absolutely not. But the questions that we have to get to, however, is whether or not Director Burwell will be serving for the president of the United States with his agenda as the primary objective or will she get into the details of the numbers and she's obviously strong on the numbers and figure out whether 7 million people actually signed up and paid, or whether it's other independent sources suggest, that we've had fewer than 5 million sign up and pay, as well as looking at the fact that when you have 6 million cancellations and 7 million signed up by the president's suggestion, that what is the actual number of those who have signed up and paid?
So, we're going to have an opportunity to discuss with Director Burwell her approach to making sure that American people are the primary objective and not politics.
WALLACE: Senator Whitehouse, I mean what you're hearing is -- I think this can happen for some red state Democrats seeking re-election as well as Republicans, that the confirmation hearing on Burwell can end up being a referendum on ObamaCare.
WHITEHOUSE: Well, we couldn't be happier to have that conversation. I'm hearing in Rhode Island from people who have been on health insurance for the first time in their lives, from people who because they got on health insurance for the first time in their lives, had a checkup that revealed a significant illness at a time that can still be treated. This was a single mom. So, her daughter's life has been turned around by the fact that her mom caught this illness in time to treat it.
And over and over again, people on the health care benefit from the -- the seniors who are getting their pharmaceuticals paid for -- I'm struggling for the donut hole. There we go.
It's been very good for most Rhode Islanders. And there are good stories for people to tell out there. And we think there is going to be great opportunity to tell the real human stories and not just the political attack ad lines that the Republican Party is bringing to this conversation.
WALLACE: Well, Senator Scott, are you going to use and will your fellow Republicans on the committee use the confirmation hearings as leverage to try to get information documents from the administration? If so, what specifically and what policies specifically are you going to go after?
SCOTT: Well, I think the first thing we have to do is make sure that we keep the folks on the American people not on politics. The way you do that is to figure out first and foremost who actually has benefited from the so-called success of ObamaCare and its rollout.
What we know about controlling cost is that we can't find the key ingredient to controlling costs in ObamaCare. When you spend $2 billion to promote the enrollment process, you don't save money; $2 billion have gone to marketing agencies, TV commercials, $700 million of that number for the Healthcare.gov Web site.
Here's what we should do, is focus on the fact that that means that's 2 billion that did not go to doctors, did not benefit a patient, but it did benefit politicians. And so, what we're going to dig into is how do we make a fast forward this health care law? My request is figure out what will make this work? Because the premise of the health care law was flawed from inception. Seven million young people signing up in order to reduce the price for elder Americans.
WALLACE: Senator Scott --
SCOTT: This led to adverse risk selection.
WALLACE: Let me ask you another aspect. There are 36 unilateral changes by the White House. Are you going to be seeking some assurance from Sylvia Burwell that that's going to stop? If there are any more changes, they'll come back to Congress and ask them to actually change the law?
SCOTT: Well, Chris, we have had that assurance before from Secretary Sebelius that there would be no more delays. Unfortunately, what we realized is that the definition of delay must have changed because we've had several delays even since she said there would be no delays.
We've learned very consistently that even March of last year, there were suggestion that's the premiums would be higher. We heard exact opposite along the way. So, we have not found a place where we can hear what they say and see what they did and have those things be the same. So, we're going to continue to look for real information.
WALLACE: Senator Whitehouse, you just said a moment ago you look forward to the confirmation hearings because that's going to be an opportunity for you to talk about the good news of ObamaCare. But I want to take a look at the latest public opinion polls. According to the latest Real Clear Politics average of recent polls, 39.8 percent now favor ObamaCare, while 52.3 percent oppose the law. Doesn't this confirmation hearing mean that Democrats are going to be stuck defending what is still a relatively unpopular law and not doing what the president seemed to be doing and Democrats in the senate seem to be doing recently, which was trying to change the subject to income inequality?
WHITEHOUSE: As I said, bear in mind that this law has immensely helpful to real people, real families all across this country. And they are true stories. They're human stories. And those, I think, are important stories for us to get out there.
I think that that will add value. I think it is important. I think it's also important to remember that of the people who disapprove of the ObamaCare law, a lot of them are people like me who would have liked to have seen a single-payer option, who would have liked to have seen a public option, who feel that it didn't go far enough in terms of being a really efficient national health care option.
WALLACE: Senator Scott, Senator Whitehouse, we're going to have to leave it there. I want to thank you both so much for coming in today. And we look forward to the confirmation hearings. Thank you, gentlemen.
SCOTT: Thank you, Chris.
WHITEHOUSE: Thank you.
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