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CBS "Face The Nation" - Transcript


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BOB SCHIEFFER: And we're back now with yet another view on health care. The Republican
leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell. Senator, thank you for coming this morning.
You heard what these two Democratic senators, Senator Nelson and Senator Lieberman just
said. They said if you took out the Medicare buy-in proposal, if you took out the so-called class
action proposal, and Senator Nelson says if you change the language on abortion, you could
get more than sixty votes, and you'd get some Republicans. Are they right?

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL (R-Kentucky/Republican Leader): Well, it's noteworthy that
you had to have three Democrats on to explain the Democratic position. In fact, there are more
Democratic positions than you'd find in a stack of newspapers, and therein lies the problem.
And let's just talk about the core of the issue here. The American people are saying "Please
don't pass this." Your own CBS poll indicated opposition. The CNN poll said sixty-one percent
were opposed and only thirty-six percent in favor. The government's actuary data at the Center
for Medicaid and Medicare Services (sic) said that it will drive up health care costs by a quarter
of a trillion dollars. Republicans uniformly, without exception, believe that cutting a half a trillion dollars out of Medicare, raising four hundred billion dollars in new taxes, and providing the increase, the actual increase in health insurance premiums for everybody else, is not reform. So you can see why, Bob, the Democrats are deeply divided. I doubt if those adjustments that were suggested by my three colleagues representing three different points of view about this bill right before me would get there. I think they're in serious trouble on this and the core problem is the American people do not want us to pass it.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, I mean-- but that's just-- I mean it's a hypothetical question obviously--


BOB SCHIEFFER: --but do you think that that would attract some Republican votes if they
would do what Senator Lieberman says?

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL: No. You still-- there are two Democrats, one of whom is here
and one of whom is not here who've been voting with us against the Medicare cuts. Senator
Ben Nelson has also objected to the half a trillion dollars in Medicare cost-- cuts. Senator Jim
Webb of Virginia has objected to the half a trillion dollars in Medicare cuts. So even if you were
able to fix these peripheral matters that-- that you all were discussing, you still have the heart of the bill, Bob, which has a half a trillion dollars in Medicare cuts that Ben Nelson voted against
those cuts and Jim Webb voted against those cuts.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Give me your-- your version of why this buy-in to Medicare is not a good

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL: Well, Medicare is already unsustainable now. It's gone broke
in seven years. Under the Reid bill, it's being used as a piggyback, a piggyback. They're taking
a half a trillion dollars out of Medicare not to make it more sustainable but to start a whole new
entitlement program for a different set of Americans. And the Medicare buy-in would create even more problems because everyone anticipates a lot of very sick people would buy and it would exacerbate the problems that Medicare has and it's already unsustainable before you even get to this bill that has been styled health care reform. What we really need to do is to stop and start over and go step by step to deal with the cost issue, which is what the American people thought this was all about.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Let me just put up on the screen here what the chairman of the Republican
Party Michael Steele said the other day. He said "Democrats have accused us of trying to delay, stall, slow down, and ultimately stop them from experimenting on our nantion's-- nation's health care. They are right. We do want to delay, stall, slow down, and ultimately stop them from experimenting on our nation's health care. And guess what, so do a majority of Americans." Is that your position as well?

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL: Well, I think that it's clear that the American people do not
want us to pass this twenty-one-hundred-page bill that-- that seeks to restructure one-sixth of
our economy. But the Democrats have sixty people in their conference in the Senate. They
could do anything they wanted to, Bob. You had three different points of view right here around
this table a few minutes ago. That's the problem. They can't get together themselves.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Do you think no health care reform would be better than what the Democrats
are proposing?

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL: I'm not in favor of no health care reform. I think we ought to
go step by step to fix the cost problem, target junk lawsuits against doctors and hospitals, have
interstate competition among health insurance companies, incentivize wellness programs that
the companies like Safeway have shown can bring down the cost.

There are things we can do to improve what is already the finest health care in the world.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Do you think you can keep your caucus together here on this?
SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL: Republicans do not think a half a trillion dollars in Medicare
cuts, four hundred billion dollars in new taxes and harsh insurance premiums for everyone else
is reform. We want to reform the health care system. We do not believe this bill--this twenty-
one-hundred-page monstrosity--is health care reform.

BOB SCHIEFFER: You've been getting a little heat yourself on this--
(Senator Mitch McConnell laughing)

BOB SCHIEFFER: --from some Republicans. I noticed that last week Rush Limbaugh was really
on your case. He says you're not putting up enough of a fight. He says you're helping the
Democrats by letting this debate go on.

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL: Look, the Republicans are together. Republicans who have a
vote on this issue in the Senate are together. We all would like to see health care reform.
We do not think this twenty-one-hundred-page bill with its half a trillion dollars in Medicare cuts,
its four hundred billion dollars in new taxes, and its higher insurance premiums is the direction
we ought to go, we ought to--

BOB SCHIEFFER (overlapping): He thinks you ought to use every parliamentary device that
you have to slow this down and strangle it. If it comes to that, will you do that?

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL: Well, we haven't seen the bill, yet. You-- you know, none of
the Democrats you had here have seen the final bill. The assistant Democratic leader has not
seen the final bill. First, we need to see the final bill. That'd be a good place to start before you
even get to whatever parliamentary techniques may be available.
Look, I think their biggest problem, Bob, is not forty Senate Republicans. It's the American
people who are saying "Please don't pass this bill."

BOB SCHIEFFER: What is wrong with the setting up these nonprofits, which seems to be
another part of this proposal that would be overseen by the government to offer health care,
which the government would negotiate the rates on?

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL: You mean the government insurance issue?


SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL: Well, you know, there's been a lot of discussion around that
here inside the Beltway. Whether the government insurance option is in or out, you still have a
hugely controversial core of the bill that is not likely to change in whatever iteration of this bill
comes out of Reid's conference room at the-- at the end. That's not likely to change. Most of us
feel that the government getting in the insurance business is the first step and there was a
Democratic congressman from New York who said that this week the first step--what's called
the single-payer system--that is a European-type government-run health care system. We know the American people are not in favor of that. So, I think the Democrats have a dilemma--do they put it down, do they take it out. They still got the core of the bill that's very controversial.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Do you think there's any way that any kind of a bill could be passed before

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL: With the American people as overwhelming opposed to this
bill as they are for the Democrats to-- to basically arrogantly take the position that we're going to ignore public opinion and jam this through before Christmas, I think that's really a stretch.

BOB SCHIEFFER: One quick question. Larry Summers, the President's economic advisor, said
this morning on one of the other shows that he thinks the recession is over. Do you think it is?

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL: Well, the ten percent of the Americans who are without work
don't think it's over and the eleven percent who are unemployed in Kentucky don't think it's
over. I hope he's right that we're beginning to come out of this economic slowdown. But,
unemployment is the key.

BOB SCHIEFFER: All right. Senator McConnell, thank you so much.


BOB SCHIEFFER: Back in a moment with some final thoughts.


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