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MS. KELLY: Well, the massive stimulus plan on its way to passage in the Senate today might have died if three Republicans had not crossed party lines in the Senate to save it. One of those senators is Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, and he joins us live this morning from the Capitol.
Good morning, Senator.
SEN. SPECTER: Morning, Megyn.
MS. KELLY: All right, so I have to ask you about this news we've been talking about all morning.
SEN. SPECTER: Sure.
MS. KELLY: And this is this health care business that's been put in this bill. According to Bloomberg, the bill allocates more funding to this health care program than it does to the Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force combined. According to Bloomberg, this thing promises to reduce costs and to help guide your doctor's decisions so that he operates less like a solo practitioner and more in the spirit of uniform health care.
That sounds dangerously like socialized medicine, Senator. What's it doing in this bill?
SEN. SPECTER: Well, it is intended to provide technology. And you may rest assured, Megyn, that we will not allow that provision to be broadened to look to the government to make decisions on what the treatment is, or to be a coordinating faction; but just to provide information on technology. And listen, one of the big problems with this bill, which I cited at the very outset, the first question I asked President Obama when he came to speak to the Republican senators is, "Why the rush?" Why are we wedded to February 13th? We have not followed regular order. And this is one of a number of provisions which was popped up that we have to revise and be very careful about.
MS. KELLY: So you do want to take a second look at this. You do think a revision may be in order. If, in fact, as this report claims, the bill creates, and I quote, a national coordinator of health information technology designed to monitor your treatments to make sure your doctor is doing what the federal government deems appropriate and cost effective.
I know you've been through the health care system more times than you'd like. You don't want the federal government monitoring what your doctor does and whether it's appropriate and cost effective, do you?
SEN. SPECTER: We -- we are not going to let the federal government monitor what doctors do. We fought that out with the Clinton health care plan more than a decade ago, when I had the famous chart which showed the complexities of it. We're not going to put the government between the doctor and the patient, under any circumstances. And Bloomberg has pointed out a potential problem, and there will be clarification to avoid having the government meddle in what doctors do.
MS. KELLY: Senator, how do you -- who put this in there? I mean, this -- health care, as you know, is a huge, huge issue in this country. It's a huge voting issue. You get tons of calls when a bill comes up in the Senate. How could something as important as this have been stuck in this bill and tried to be crammed down the throats of the American people in a way where even the president is threatening us with economic collapse if you guys don't sign off on it instantly?
SEN. SPECTER: Well, when you want to find out who put provisions in bills which are hundreds of pages long, it's a constant battle. And candidly, that's why you need more time to have hearings. We've never had hearings on this bill. We've never had a markup where senators go over it line by line.
And we are rushing to judgment, which I have protested about. And the only answer we get is that the situation is so dire and such an emergency, we have to act. But we will review these provisions, and we will make sure that these harmful effects about having the government interfere with what doctors do doesn't take effect.
MS. KELLY: You know, Senator, it's disconcerting, because you're going to review it line by line, but you, along with Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine, could stop this. You three -- you really only need two of you to put a stop to this bill. So is there a chance that you and perhaps one or more of those women, senators from Maine, will sit down and slow this thing down, or stop it altogether, if things like this remain in this bill?
SEN. SPECTER: We can be sure that provisions like this do not have the harmful effects which you have mentioned.
Listen, this legislation is a bitter pill to swallow, but we are facing a situation where the current economic problems could turn into another depression like 1929. The economists tell us that unless we act promptly and decisively, that there could be a catastrophe.
MS. KELLY: I understand that, but people, as you know, do -- they don't want health care decisions rammed down their throats in the name of stimulus. So are you saying here that, if this provision remains in this bill, you might change your vote?
SEN. SPECTER: We will get this provision clarified. I've made a commitment, Megyn, and I'm not going to go back on my word and on a commitment. But when we find problems of this potential, they can get -- we can cure them without upsetting the whole apple cart.
MS. KELLY: Well, it'll be interesting. And I know you always give it to us straight, and so I'd be interested to find out who is behind it. According to the report, this is the brain child, most likely, of Tom Daschle, who was going to be our Health and Human Services secretary, but basically got bounced because of his tax problems.
SEN. SPECTER: Well, it is --
MS. KELLY: But it looks like it's a page directly out of his book. So I'd be interested to find out who's behind it.
SEN. SPECTER: Whosever idea it is, it's a bad idea, and we'll get it corrected.
MS. KELLY: Senator Arlen Specter --
SEN. SPECTER: I just wish we could correct a lot of other things, too. We'll get it corrected.
MS. KELLY: Well, get on it! Come on! You're a U.S. Senator! Do that, and get back to us.
SEN. SPECTER: (Laughs.) Okay. It'd be a pleasure to get back to you, Megyn.
MS. KELLY: All right.
SEN. SPECTER: I'll do that.
MS. KELLY: (Laughs.) Thank you, sir. Always nice speaking to you.
SEN. SPECTER: Good talking to you. Thanks.
MS. KELLY: All the best.