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Transcript: White House Enemies List?
Written by Chris Wallace / Published October 26, 2009 / Fox News Sunday
The following is a rush transcript of the October 25, 2009, edition of "FOX News Sunday With Chris Wallace." This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
CHRIS WALLACE, HOST: The White House war against Fox News has gotten plenty of attention recently. But this week there were reports the Obama administration has targeted other so-called enemies.
Joining us are Bruce Josten, executive vice president of government affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and Mike Tuffin, executive vice president for America's Health Insurance Plans, the trade group for private health insurers.
And, gentlemen, welcome to "FOX News Sunday."
Mr. Josten, you were quoted this week as saying the following about dealings with the White House, and let's put it up on the screen. "When you're on their side, it's all OK. But if you're not, they rain hell down on you."
What do you mean "rain hell down"?
BRUCE JOSTEN, U.S. CHAMBER OF COMMERCE: Well, there's been a number of invectives that have come out of the White House, such as trying to neuter the U.S. Chamber of Commerce or trying to marginalize the U.S. Chamber as we continue our efforts and work to represent our members to get the best possible outcome on health care legislation, which we strongly need and want; on cap and trade legislation with respect to climate change; and with respect to the financial consumer product safety agency.
Now, we have some differences of opinion with respect to the legislation, unlike earlier in the year when we worked with the White House to help move the stimulus package forward, to help move the auto rescue package.
But things seemed to change when we had a difference of opinion.
Mr. Tuffin, you've talked about the White House trying to villainize the private health insurance industry, trying to stifle dissent. Does this go beyond the normal hardball politics in Washington?
MIKE TUFFIN, AMERICA'S HEALTH INSURANCE PLANS: No, I think it's normal hardball politics. But what's different now is the stakes have never been higher. We're talking about one-sixth of the U.S. economy. This is something we have to get right.
We support health care reform, but it's got to be affordable, and it's got to be sustainable. And there shouldn't be a penalty for speaking out and introducing data into the public domain.
WALLACE: And you feel there is a penalty?
TUFFIN: Well, there's been a political public relations campaign run against people who put data out that says specific provisions are going to increase costs.
For example, if we have a plan that says wait until you get sick to get insurance, everyone who has looked at that says that's going to explode the insurance market and make it less affordable.
If we tax health care, it's going to drive up costs, not bring them down. And so we're going to keep talking about those issues. But we're also going to keep working with both parties to get this done.
WALLACE: Mr. Josten, let's talk a little bit about the chamber, because the chamber does, as you point out, now oppose the White House on several issues — the public health insurance option, certain specific — not the overall policy, but certain specific aspects of cap and trade, and certain specific aspects particularly of the consumer financial protection agency.
The president called the chamber out this week, and let's take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: That's how business has been done in Washington for a very long time. In fact, over the last 10 years the chamber alone spent nearly half a billion dollars on lobbying. Half a billion dollars.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Now, you say the White House has launched — your words — a frontal assault on the chamber, and let's talk some specifics.
You say they've cut the chamber out of meetings. They've made an end- run and talked to CEOs of top companies without going through the chamber. And Energy Secretary Chu has said that it's wonderful that some of these big companies are resigning their membership from the chamber. Is that so bad?
JOSTEN: Well, I think the White House needs to appreciate a couple of things. I mean, first off, I'm not sure what Chu means by it's wonderful that a couple of companies, a handful of companies, have left the chamber out of 300,000.
We do have a disagreement with Secretary Chu, who earlier this year suggested that the new clean energy technologies largely being developed by American companies be given away to emerging market countries.
Nobody's going to invest billions of dollars which are necessary to get to the kind of outcome we need if it's going to be given away.
WALLACE: But to get — to get to my point, what do you see as the purpose of all of these moves by the White House?
JOSTEN: Well, in their words, not mine, it's, again, to try and neuter us and marginalize us. What we think they're missing is that they simultaneously talk about small business being the engine of job growth.
And as I've said, I am certain they get good advice from the corporate CEOs. These are smart people running huge companies. But they're not the engine of job creation. And we need to get to that point.
We need health care. And I agree with the president. He even acknowledged Mike's point. Unless we get everybody into a fully insured marketplace, meaning the young invincibles who continue to opt out, it's not going to work.
Yet we have a piece of legislation that's moved through the Senate that has vastly weakened that obligation that those people get in.
WALLACE: The Chamber of Commerce, I don't have to tell you, has a lot of clout in Washington. I want to put up some numbers. And these are numbers about lobbying done here in Washington.
Since 1998 the chamber has spent $488 million on lobbying. That's double the American Medical Association, which is number two in Washington lobbying at $208 million.
White House official Dan Pfeiffer says the insurers, the chamber and other special interests had the run of this town for the last eight years. That's not true any more.
Question: Is it just that there's a new sheriff in town and you don't like it?
JOSTEN: Well, we certainly didn't have the run of the town. There are a number of other chamber priorities that we worked on, such as comprehensive immigration reform for more than two years — would have been enacted into law.
We also went through...
WALLACE: But they're talking about in terms of dealings with the White House.
JOSTEN: Well, we have dealings with the White House. But what I have said is being invited to auditoriums with 130 or 150 people where the president comes and gives prepared remarks, calls on a couple people in the audience, is not a consultative outreach. That's not an exchange of ideas. That doesn't even come close to a negotiation and an open vetting process to understand where both sides are (inaudible).
The president, when he was a candidate, said people should vigorously and passionate defend their positions, and we should undertake those debates in a civil manner. I don't know where the name calling suddenly came from.
WALLACE: Mr. Tuffin, your group, the AHIP, the American Health Insurance Plans, issued a study and ran some ads opposing one version of health care reform. The White House said some of the data in your study was misleading. Here's how President Obama reacted generally to the efforts of AHIP.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: The insurance industry is rolling out the big guns and breaking out their massive war chest. They're earning these profits and bonuses while enjoying a privileged exception from our antitrust laws, a matter that Congress is rightfully reviewing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Question: Do you review — do you view that reference to possibly taking away your antitrust exemption as a threat, as punishment, for the fact that you're opposing the president and Democrats?
TUFFIN: No, we don't, Chris. That is a very limited federal exemption. It has nothing to do — every analyst who has looked at this has said it has nothing to do with competition or costs.
WALLACE: No, no, but that's not my question. My question is why do you think the White House and the president are bringing it up right now.
TUFFIN: Well, I think it's a good talking point. I think it's a good talking point. But at the end of the day, it's not going to bring down the cost of health care for the American people. So what are we really accomplishing?
And that's what we'd like to return the focus to, is affordability and sustainability. Get everyone in, as Bruce said. There is broad agreement in Washington, unprecedented agreement. So rather than playing politics and pitting people against each other, we should focus on common ground, get everyone covered and bring down costs.
WALLACE: Mr. Josten, there's a report this weekend that White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel has accepted an invitation from the chamber to speak to your board of directors early next month. What do you hope to get out of that?
JOSTEN: Well, we traditionally invite members of the cabinet to chamber board meetings to speak. We invited Rahm earlier this year. He had a conflict, which is understandable. He couldn't make it.
We're glad he finally accepted this invitation and have an opportunity to present the views and hear back from our board members with respect to an exchange, hopefully, that would be a constructive exchange of ideas and goals and objectives.
WALLACE: Are you trying to dial down tensions with the administration?
JOSTEN: Well, that invite has been out for several weeks, and he apparently had clearance on his schedule to come, and we welcome the fact that he accepted it.
WALLACE: But you didn't answer my question. Are you hoping that somehow you can dial down the tensions with the administration? When you talk about them raining hell on you, obviously...
WALLACE: ... you'd like the rain to stop.
JOSTEN: ... let's be clear. We haven't raised up the cane. It came from their side of the street. We intend to remain focused on our goals and our responsibilities to represent the American business community, and get the single best outcomes for the economy and the American worker, and do what we do.
We're not going to take the bait and engage in a name-calling campaign here of invectives back and forth. We're going to stay focused.
WALLACE: Mr. Josten, Mr. Tuffin, We want to thank you both so much for coming in today.
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This week: We'll have an exclusive interview with Sen James Lankford (R-OK), member of the Appropriations, Homeland Security and Intelligence Committees.