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MSNBC "The Ed Show" - Transcript


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SCHULTZ: Welcome back to THE ED SHOW. I guess you could say that

Easter is the new Christmas when it comes to health care and the health

care deadline. President Obama wants a final reform bill before Congress

leaves for the Easter recess on March 26th, and possibly even a week

earlier, before the president leaves for Indonesia.

The effort got a big boost today on the Senate side when the HELP

Committee Chairman Tom Harkin said reconciliation is a go. Here"s the

plan: the House will pass the current Senate health care bill as is. A lot

of progressives are going to have to take a leap of faith on this, because

Nancy Pelosi needs 216 votes. There are two vacancies in the House.

The House will then move to pass a second bill with fixes to the

reform bill. That bill will go to the Senate, where Democrats will try to

use reconciliation to pass the fixes with just 51 votes. It"s really a

tough needle to thread. But folks, it is the last, best shot the Democrats

are going to have at passing health care reform.

Joining me now is Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter. Senator, good

to have you with us tonight.

SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Nice to be with you, Ed. Thank


SCHULTZ: You bet. A couple of things. First of all, the president,

are you comfortable that he has exhausted every effort to make this

bipartisan? Is there anything else he can do?

SPECTER: I think he"s made every last effort. On Thursday, they went

the extra mile and a half. And it"s not a line in the sand anymore. It"s

in concrete. The Republicans simply are not going to do anything by way of


SCHULTZ: I"ve noticed that you are, if I may have a smile on my face

saying this, surging in the polls, because I don"t see any other Democrat

in this country opening up a lead as you have in Pennsylvania. You"re

leading your opponent 49 to 42, up against Mr. Toomey, the Republican

challenger. You still have to go through a primary, and you have a wide

margin in the polls on Congressman Joe Sestak.

Now, our team here on THE ED SHOW, we believe you"re support of the

public option and your support of EFCA have turned things around. Are we

wrong in that analysis?

SPECTER: Well, I think it"s a combination of factors, Ed. I think

those items are important. But perhaps the best reason is that I"ve been

on your show for so long. That"s the reason for the surge.

SCHULTZ: Well, I"m not going to deny that. I was going to let you

say that, not me, Arlen. The point being here is we were seeing a

challenge in Arkansas because of the public option. That"s the number one

issue. And the letter that"s floating around has now got 34 senators on

board. I believe that you are one of them. Is this that popular of an

issue that it would shift the base?

SPECTER: Ed, it is important. People want something done. This

whole issue has moved beyond the health care legislative matter, which is

enormously important, to something which is even transcendent of that. And

it"s a test as to whether we can govern.

Right now, our stock around the world is going down. I just asked a

question of Secretary of State Clinton last week, a week ago today. I read

a lot about the president"s popularity going down. Is this affecting our

relations and the president"s power to deal with people of China and Iran?

And she said, yes, plus the fact that there aren"t confirmations of


And the kind of gridlock shows that we are not able to govern. So

while this health care legislation is very important for the millions not

covered and the escalating costs on small business, it"s really a test as

to whether we can govern. And that has to be demonstrated.

This business on reconciliation--we"ve gotten very deeply involved

in it recently because of necessity. And the fact is that reconciliation

has been used 22 times under similar circumstances, on SCHIP, on Cobra, on

Medicare Advantage, on welfare reform. And the same people now who are

speaking against reconciliation were touting its virtue when they wanted to

use it.

SCHULTZ: Yeah. Senator, you"re a wealth of information. And if I

may end with this, your popularity may be going up because you"re on this

show. I want you to know it"s not hurting me at all either having you on.

SPECTER: Well, call me more often, Ed. I"m on campus all the time.

SCHULTZ: All right, senator, good to have you with us. Interesting

point about how we"re being viewed around the world on this, about

governing. Thank you, senator.

SPECTER: Thank you.


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