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CNN "Lou Dobbs Tonight" - Transcript


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LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Lawmakers across the country are holding those town hall meetings on health care, and many have decided not to. Those who are facing emotional, often angry constituents, but these town hall protests, will they actually affect the outcome of the health care debate? That is the subject of our debate tonight in our "Face Off," and joining me, two of the leading members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which approved the health care bill last month. In Nashville, Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee. Congresswoman, good to have you with us.


DOBBS: Here in New York, Congressman Frank Pallone of New Jersey. Congressman, good to have you here.

REP. FRANK PALLONE (R), NEW JERSEY: Good to be here.

DOBBS: Let's take a listen to this statement made at senator specter's town hall meeting just this morning.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't believe this is just about health care. It's not about T.A.R.P. It's not about left and right. This is about the systematic dismantling of this country. I'm only 35 years old. I've never been interested in politics. You have awakened a sleeping giant.

DOBBS: Well, Congressman Pallone, obviously there is great emotion we have heard from your leadership, that people are un- American who want to demonstrate loudly at these -- at these town hall meetings. We've heard from Robert Gibbs that this is all manufactured Astroturf. What's the deal here?

PALLONE: I don't know that I know for sure, but I will say, Lou, that many times that I've had town meetings, there were very few people there, so to the extent that we get people to turn out and participate in town meetings is probably a good thing.

DOBBS: Absolutely. Congresswoman?

BLACKBURN: Yes. You know, one of the things that I saw in the three town halls that I did last week was to say we're very organic. We had great crowds. We had sometimes five and six times the number of people that we thought we were going to have. And, Lou, they come asking very specific questions. They are very concerned. As the young lady in the clip said, what they are beginning to feel is the pressure from T.A.R.P., from the stimulus, from the omnibus, from the housing, from cap and trade and now health care. And they're going, wait a minute, this is not the kind of change that I wanted. I want congress to get itself in order. DOBBS: Are you hearing, I mean, anybody angry? You're obviously a Republican. And we're seeing what's happened in Democratic town hall meetings. Is there -- is there a quality here? Are you getting any of your feathers ruffled?

BLACKBURN: Oh, well, I have some people who disagree with me on issues. But I invite them to participate with us. And one of the town halls that I held last week out in a parking lot, because we were too large for the facility, I had --

DOBBS: Because you were what?

BLACKBURN: Our crowd was too large for the facility.

DOBBS: Oh, for the facility. I'm sorry.

BLACKBURN: Where we were going to be. And, you know, it was so interesting because we had plenty of give and take from people that were attending the event.

DOBBS: Congressman Pallone, you're getting ready for some give and take here later in the month.


DOBBS: How many town hall meetings are you going to hold?

PALLONE: I'm going to have one, actually two altogether. Part of the problem is you have to give your notices out, and it takes weeks to reach everyone with our notices. We'll have one in the southern part of my district and one in the northern part.

DOBBS: Are you going to have it wide open?

PALLONE: Oh, sure.

DOBBS: Are you concerned about the give and take?


DOBBS: Because it's been pretty noticeable. We've seen legislators, whether they be congressman, whether they be senators, who like they're a little off-put by the very temerity of their constituents to ask questions whether civilly or uncivilly.

PALLONE: I've had town hall meetings for 20 years I've been in congress.

DOBBS: This isn't your first rodeo.

PALLONE: This isn't the first one. It's sometimes that people come up and they are not happy. If people show up and obviously we don't want violence, but it's important to express their views because they're important to me.

DOBBS: We obviously don't want violence in any of this. It also seems peculiar that we've seen the attempt to marginize these demonstrators. It's not your first rodeo and it's not congresswoman Blackburn's. 96% of the congress gets returned to office. So, suddenly, there seems to be this, I mean, sometimes somebody is a shrinking violet. People are a little concerned. Is this a political ploy by the Democratic Party, or is there suddenly a --

PALLONE: Well, I think, Lou, if you think about it, during the presidential campaign, this was a major issue. I think it's become an even more a priority in the last six months in part because of the economy. And we see people losing health insurance. A lot of people can't afford the insurance they have. So, I think -- I think people are responding to it because it's a big priority for them.

DOBBS: And Congresswoman, I mean, what is your sense? Is this -- you know, honestly, I can't find the Republican Party leadership on this issue. I can see what's happening with congresswoman -- a congresswoman like yourself, but there seems to be a strategy here as well on the part of the Republicans, which to sort of, you know, get out of the way and let what happens happen, is that the case?

BLACKBURN: Well, I would disagree with that a little bit. We have presented alternative plans. And as Chairman Pallone knows, we've had the shaddic plan, we have the RFC plan, we have several different bills that would reform what needs to be reformed without doing a government-controlled system. What we know is that the people are very frustrated because congress does not seem to be listening, because the American people do not want government-run health care.

DOBBS: Let me ask you both, actually, you know, I'm going to ask you, Congressman Pallone, you're the top fellow. Do you kind of wish that you all had extensive, substantive public hearings from the outset? Do you think we'd be better off? Because there wouldn't be misinformation, there wouldn't be some of this nonsense that's going on.

PALLONE: No, we had full meetings in the energy and commerce committee and I've had town hall meetings over health care.

DOBBS: You don't see a problem.

PALLONE: No. We're still working on this. This is still a work in progress.

DOBBS: The president called upon you and your leadership to pass this legislation by august 1st.

PALLONE: Well, obviously that didn't happen and we're slowing down a little bit. But I think the more input the better as we move along.

DOBBS: All right, let's hope that's the case.

BLACKBURN: You know, Lou --

DOBBS: I'm sorry Congresswoman, I'm overtime. If you can do it very quickly, I'd appreciate it. BLACKBURN: A couple things --

DOBBS: Just one thing, because I have 15 seconds.

BLACKBURN: We published via Facebook. The American people want to be heard and they want to see the changes that they want made.

DOBBS: Congresswoman Blackburn, and Congressman Pallone, thank you very much.

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