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MSNBC "The Ed Show" - Transcript

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Joining me now is Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter.

Senator, good to have you with us tonight.


SCHULTZ: And I asked our team--you bet. I asked our team if we could specifically get you on tonight because you"ve been in the Senate almost 30 years, and you have made a shift from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party.

If you could give our audience tonight some insight about how the Republicans might be thinking in caucus about the health care bill? Is it all about defeating President Obama and his agenda, or they really believe that denying Americans health care coverage is the right way to go?

Senator, if you can, give us some insight on that.

SPECTER: It"s strictly political, Ed. The statement came out of the Republicans Caucus that they want this to be President Obama"s Waterloo, that they want this to "break him." So that is where it is.

Not one Republican--only one Republican in the House of Representatives voted for the health care package out of more than 170, and only one Republican on the Senate Finance Committee voted it out of committee. It is strictly political, Ed.

SCHULTZ: That"s amazing to me, and I appreciate your honesty, because what I saw yesterday in Kansas City, Missouri--and I"m going to go to some other free health care clinics because I think this is the pulse of America. This is the middle class that we keep talking about on this show, and what we hear from the Obama administration about reinvigorating America and the economy, health care reform is a big part of it.

If I were to take a Republican senator to one of these clinics, they would say that it"s all about politics, we have to beat Barack Obama? Do you think they"d say that right in front of the very people who are being denied health care in this country?

SPECTER: Well, there are a couple of Republican senators who you might get to go there, but I don"t think you"d get very many to go, so they wouldn"t want to say something.

Look, Ed, I"ve been struggling with a health issue for a long time. For 10 years, I chaired the Appropriations Subcommittee, took the lead on National Institute of Health funding and community health centers. And there are many of us--I think there are 60 senators--and that"s what it takes to legislate--there are 60 senators who want to have a health care reform bill.

It"s not as good as I would like it, but I think we"re going to get there in a significant way. I"d like to have Republican help.

The American people would be a lot more confident about what we are doing if it was bipartisan. That"s a showing of balance. But we may be able to persuade a couple of Republicans to come forward, Ed, but not many.

SCHULTZ: Senator, this is a short interview that I had with just one of the people that I ran into yesterday. I want to play this for you.


LONA: We recently just had a baby, and so it"s been kind of rough with the income. So, you know, we"re just praying that the work that you guys are doing at MSNBC is enough to put pressure on the senators to get something for the people that work but can"t afford health insurance.


SCHULTZ: Senator, let me ask you, with all your experience in the Senate, give us a sense tonight. Does the Senate grasp the severity of what Americans are facing right now in this country when it comes to health care? Do you think the Senate gets it?

SPECTER: Most of us do. And that"s why we have been working on this plan. We"ve been working on it now, Ed, virtually nonstop for months. And the 60 of us on the Democratic side--and we"ve had input from a couple of Republicans--are trying very hard to structure it. So, in direct response to your question, the answer is yes.

We know millions are not covered. We know that people can"t afford it. We know that we need to give subsidies to people at the lower income levels. And we"re determined to take a big step forward. Not as big a step, I repeat, Ed, as some of us would like, but I think it is a significant step forward.

SCHULTZ: Senator Specter, good to have you with us tonight. Thanks so much. Appreciate your time.

SPECTER: Always a pleasure, Ed. Thank you.

SCHULTZ: You bet.


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