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ABC News "This Week" - Transcript


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ANNOUNCER: From the heart of the nation's capital, "This Week" with ABC's congressional correspondent Jonathan Karl, live from the Newseum on Pennsylvania Avenue.

KARL: Good morning. One of the most far-reaching bills in modern American history hangs in the balance this morning, and a handful of wavering Democrats will decide whether to vote for health care reform or let the president's signature issue die on the House floor.

We are joined this morning by two members of Congress keeping track of the vote count, John Larson, the chairman of the Democratic caucus, and, of course, Eric Cantor, the Republican whip.

So, Chairman Larson, where are the votes?

LARSON: We have the votes. We are going to make history today. Not since President Roosevelt passed Social Security, Lyndon Johnson passed Medicare, and today, Barack Obama will pass health care reform, demonstrating whose side we're on.

KARL: But let me pin you down.

LARSON: Go ahead.

KARL: You have the votes now?

LARSON: We have the votes now.

KARL: You have 216...

LARSON: As we speak.

KARL: ... commitments now?


KARL: Do you believe him?

CANTOR: Well, Jonathan, let me tell you something. The American people don't want this to pass. The Republicans don't want this to pass. There will be no Republican votes for this bill. And, frankly, I think if it does pass, it's because they're using everything in their political power and even some things they shouldn't have in their political power to cut political deals...

KARL: Like what?

CANTOR: ... to deliver the votes. Well, certainly, you have seen the kind of political kickback deals that have occurred. You've got states like Louisiana that are going to receive $300 million more for their health care than any other state.

And yet, if you look at sort of the comparison for this Louisiana purchase versus what Thomas Jefferson paid for Louisiana and do the analysis, this Louisiana purchase costs more than that original one-fifth of the land mass of this country. Those are the kind of political kickbacks that have facilitated this bill.

And the American people are just tired of it. And, you know, I hear all the...

LARSON: The only political kickbacks that are common are to people like Natoma Canfield, who became the poster for the American people today. What's happening in terms of people being denied because of pre-existing condition, having insurance policies rescinded in a gurney on their way to the hospital.

We have Dennis Moore in our caucus stand up and was getting an e-mail as he was speaking about a staffer who's just been diagnosed with cancer who will lose her coverage after he leaves Congress. This is what's...


LARSON: ... with the people in this country. That's the process...

KARL: I mean, the (inaudible) talk about these deals (inaudible) Nebraska came out or will come out with this reconciliation bill, but Louisiana's still in there.

CANTOR: Connecticut...


KARL: There's a new one for a North Dakota bank. I mean, why is that?

LARSON: What the -- what the American people want to see is a up-or-down vote after a year of debating this issue, after several decades of debating this issue. It comes down to, whose side are you on? Are you siding with the insurance industry or are you siding on behalf of the people who have been waiting decades for this passage?

CANTOR: Jonathan, that is a false choice, OK? The people...


CANTOR: The people -- the people of this country don't like this bill. There's a reason why it's taken so long. There's a reason why there's all this arm-twisting going on. And at the end of the day, if this thing does pass, the American people are going to be outraged. They are scared about this bill.

KARL: Well, let's listen. Of course, President Obama came and addressed your caucus yesterday. Let's listen to what he had to say.


OBAMA: And this is one of those moments. We are not bound to win, but we are bound to be true. We are not bound to succeed, but we are bound to let whatever light we have shine.


KARL: Chairman Larson, how many Democratic House members are going to lose their seats as a result of this vote?

LARSON: Well, every time you have a midterm election, you risk the chance of losing members, but it isn't about how many members are going to lose their seat. What the president said is right. It's about this moment. It's about the truth. It's every reason why you were elected to come and serve in Congress.

You have 47 million Americans...


LARSON: ... that don't have insurance, 14,000 dying a day. Excuse me, losing their insurance a day, thousands that are dying throughout this country because of lack of health care.

KARL: Some will lose their seats, though, as a result of this bill, right?

LARSON: That's quite possible.

KARL: Let me ask you about the way your -- your leader, the Republican leader, talked about this vote just yesterday.


BOEHNER: We're about 24 hours from Armageddon.

(UNKNOWN): You used the word "Armageddon." What did you mean by that?

BOEHNER: This health care bill will ruin our country. It's time to stop it.


KARL: OK, Congressman Cantor, come on. Is this bill going to ruin our country today if it passes?

CANTOR: Jonathan, what is going on from my perspective is the American people are full of fear about this bill. They see that this bill will take Medicare benefits from seniors. That's a scary thought. They see...

KARL: OK, but is this going to ruin our country?

CANTOR: Jonathan, it is about the fear. There is a better way, but that -- that's what's going on.

KARL: But I'm asking a specific question. I mean, we heard from the Republican leader in the House say that this is Armageddon, it's going to ruin the country. We have the vote tonight.

CANTOR: This is a bad bill that people are frightened -- they're frightened that they're losing their jobs right now, and here we're going to tax small businesses to the tune of $2,000 per job? You've got...

KARL: Does that ruin the country?

CANTOR: You've got folks -- you've got families thinking, how are we going to pay for the trillion-dollar debt that is going to occur from this bill alone? And how are our children going to pay for it?

What it is, Jonathan, it is about trying to attack the American ideal. That's what's going on with this bill. People are beginning to think they won't have the life that they've had for their children. That's what's going on. And I think that's...


LARSON: ... Social Security. I respect the fact that they want to...

CANTOR: Come on.

LARSON: That's true.


LARSON: Here's the thing. Here's the thing. Everybody ought to ratchet back just a little bit. And when you have two members of Congress, two respected members of the Congressional Black Caucus spat on and hurled epithets that were just...

KARL: Racial epithets.


LARSON: ... that were horrible, horrible.

CANTOR: Jonathan -- Jonathan, nobody...


CANTOR: ... nobody condones that at all. There were 30,000 people here in Washington yesterday. And, yes, there were some very awful things said.


CANTOR: But, I mean, come on. Nobody condones that kind of...


KARL: Is it time to ratchet it back a little bit...


LARSON: ... ratchet it back.


CANTOR: You know -- you know what it is time for? It's time to listen to the American people, and that is the stunning thing about this. You know, John said that there -- there will be some members who will lose their seat. This is a legacy vote; there's no question about it.

LARSON: It is.

CANTOR: It's a legacy vote...

KARL: On that note of agreement, we are -- we are out of time. And we'll be watching. You've told us you already have the votes. We'll be watching to see if you're right.

LARSON: We do.

KARL: Congressman Cantor, Congressman Larson, thank you for joining us here on "This Week."

LARSON: Happy to be here, Jon.

CANTOR: Thank you.


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