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CBS "Face The Nation" -Transcript


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MR. SCHIEFFER: Good morning, again. Joining us from New York this morning, Chairman Charles Rangel; with us from New Orleans, Congressman Adam Putnam -- he is there because his Florida Gators played LSU last night in New Orleans, and that part of the trip did not come out to Congressman Putnam's liking, but it made a lot of other people happy, I am sure.

Well, gentlemen, let's get right down to it. President Bush issued what amounted to the fourth veto of his presidency, vetoing legislation that would have provided health insurance to some children who are not getting it.

Congressman Putnam, let me just start with you. Why would the president pick a children's health insurance program to take a stand on fiscal responsibility?

REP. PUTNAM: Well, it didn't have to be that way, and that's the important point. The president, both in his veto message and his radio address, has laid out what we believes the appropriate compromise is to guarantee that children who are eligible to receive additional health insurance and enroll in health insurance programs through the states, are getting that assistance. Currently, though, we have a system where a number of states are using two-thirds or even 85 percent of their money, and shifting that away from the kids who deserve it. We believe that before we expand the scope of this program, and get distracted by other things, we should make every effort to enroll every eligible child in this very important program.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Well, let me ask Congressman Rangel. Congressman, simply, what's your response to that?

REP. RANGEL: The president's position is indefensible. I can see why Adam is not in his home district, because throughout even these United States even the Christian right would believe that investing in our young people's health is not only the moral thing to do, but if we're looking for a productive, educated future society we have to protect our young people.

I think the president has a big problem over the fact that we're putting a cigarette tax -- and then the president comes in saying no more taxes. But we had to choose between the cigarette tax and protecting 10 million children and giving them health care. The president would suggest that is socialized medicine. He didn't read the bill, and his Republican friends that voted against it obviously didn't either, because the bill provides insurance with insurance companies and hospitals. The president says that poor kids can go to emergency wards. Well, these are not the poorest of the poor, but they're hard-working people who don't have health insurance -- there are 48 million families in the United States. It's tragic, but this does take care of 10 million of the kids

MR. SCHIEFFER: Well, Congressman Putnam, what's wrong with putting the cost of this on the cigarette tax?

REP. PUTNAM: The issue with this bill has nothing to do with the cost. The issue with this bill is that states like New York, states like Minnesota and Wisconsin are diverting the money away from covering these poor kids who we do have a moral obligation to cover, and they're putting it into other things. We believe that we should cover the kids first. The administration and the Republicans in Congress believe that we should have a 90 or a 95 percent enrollment rate of those kids who are already eligible to receive this very important program before you divert that money into other things, which is what the Democratic bill does. Charlie Rangel presumably has read the bill -- he wrote the bill -- and he said on the House floor, "So what if it's the first step towards socialized medicine?" I think that is an important debating point.

But the most important piece is that we should not be shifting funds away from these poor kids who need the coverage into other things. And we should not be producing a bill that is forcing 2 million children out of private insurance -- coverage that they have today -- and into a government-run program. And the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has said that that's exactly what the effect of this bill will be.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Well, Charlie, Charlie Rangel, what's your answer to that? He's saying that the money is not going to the kids; it's being diverted to other places.

REP. RANGEL: You know, you can mistake the facts over and over and over. The giants of the Senate -- Senator Orrin Hatch and Senator Grassley, and so many of the giant Republicans in the House, overwhelmingly -- true, we didn't have two-thirds in the House -- disagree. And to say that the money is not going where it should - first of all, it's up to the federal government -- this is what we call a block grant. The money is given to the state where the governors -- and 48 of them support this bill. If they want to apply and it doesn't reach the standards of the federal government, it is denied. So when you say New York, you could also say California, and quite frankly the president already turned down New York's application. The truth of the matter is that this program is for working families with kids that are uninsured, and every organization -- I hope we can even include the far Christian right -- would believe that it makes more sense for the president -- and he says that money isn't a factor. Well, it isn't a factor when the president asks for $200 billion for this moral law.

MR. SCHIEFFER: All right, let me --

REP. RANGEL: But it should be a factor when we say invest in the health of our children. This is saving lives; not taking away lives.

MR. SCHIEFFER: All right, let me ask you quickly, Chairman Rangel, you probably need about 15 Republican votes over there in the House, by the latest count, to be able to override the president's veto. Are you going to try to get those votes, or are you willing to step back and talk to the White House about some kind of compromise? Where do Democrats go from here?

REP. RANGEL: The Democrats, working hard, as Senator Grassley and Senator Orrin Hatch are calling their Republican friends in the House, saying that they are misguided. I am certain that if Adam Putnam goes back to Florida to his home district that he would find people there -- no, they won't be on welfare, but there'll be voters and there'll be working people. So we're making an appeal. We need about 20 votes. We are almost convinced that if the moral thing is being done, and you listen to the children agencies, the churches and the synagogues and the mosques, that we'll have those votes to override the president.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Do you at this point -- are you willing to even talk about a compromise or are you going to simply try to override this veto, Congressman?

REP. RANGEL: The Senate Republicans already compromised our bill. We asked for $50 billion; they drew it down to 35. If we stay where the president is, we lose over a million kids. And these negotiations have been going on. Senator Orrin Hatch and Senator Grassley have been talking to this president.

Instead of replying to this, what did he do?

MR. SCHIEFFER: All right --

REP. RANGEL: He asked the Congress for $200 billion for the war. And we're asking for $7 billion a year for five years.

MR. SCHIEFFER: So I take it at this point no compromise?

All right, Congressman Putnam, you get a chance to respond.

REP. PUTNAM: That's a telling statement.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Can you keep those Republicans in line?

REP. PUTNAM: Look, this is a telling statement that he's more interested in playing political games than in compromising. The president has said, in his veto message and in his radio address, there's a way to work together. We Republicans in the House and in the Senate have said we believe in this program. Republicans and Democrats joined together to create this program; we can fix it. It is the Democrats in the House under Charlie Rangel's leadership who have delayed the vote on this by two weeks. We could solve this problem easily in less than two weeks if he would just sit down and work with us. We believe that we should cover the kids first. It's games like this that is the reason why Congress has a 14 percent approval rating. It doesn't have to be this say.

MR. SCHIEFFER: All right. Congressman, I take your point. I want to thank both of you. Obviously this is something we're going to hear a lot more about in the coming weeks.


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