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Transcript: Rangel and DeMint on 'FNS'

The following is a rush transcript of the August 2, 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: President Obama's top domestic priority, reforming health care, will remain unfinished business, at least until Congress returns to work in September.

Where does the plan stand now? For answers, we're joined in New York by Congressman Charles Rangel, chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, and with us here, Senator Jim DeMint, a fierce critic of the Democratic plan.

And, gentlemen, welcome back to "FOX News Sunday."

SEN. JIM DEMINT, R-S.C.: Thanks, Chris. Great to be with you.

WALLACE: Senator DeMint, you said famously a few weeks ago that if you could delay health care reform until the August recess that voters (sic) would go back to their home districts, hear from outraged voters, and it would be the president's Waterloo.

So now we're at the beginning of a five-week recess. What do you think that will do to health care reform?

DEMINT: Well, people are starting to figure out that the president is on record, Congressman Rangel's on record, for wanting a single-payer government health care system in America.

So the debate's really between the Democrats and the American people right now. And what we wanted mostly is to be able to put the — the bill itself on the Internet and the airways so that the American people know what's in it.

They know it's going to cut Medicare. They know it's going to raise taxes on the small businesses that create jobs. And they know it's going to eliminate jobs across the country.

WALLACE: So what do you think will end up happening as a result?

DEMINT: What's — what's going to happen is you're going to see Americans take to the street in August, and go to their congressmen's office, and they're going to go to town halls, and I think they're going to let congressmen and senators know that they need to keep their hands off their health care.

WALLACE: Congressman Rangel, according to the polls, support for the president's health care reform plan is dropping. How worried are you about what's going to happen this August in terms of the battle to define health care reform?

REP. CHARLES RANGEL, D-N.Y.: I'm not worried at all. The president polls — we in the Congress, in the Senate and the House — we should have his numbers in terms of — of his falling.

But I'm really surprised at Jim being so negative with a problem that all Americans recognize face this nation. There's not any American, any adult American at least, that doesn't have a horror story of what has happened to them under this terrible system.

And the Republicans and Jim — they have nothing in terms of responding to this — very serious needs. And for him to have to say that we have a single-payer plan means that he's not aware of the plan that we have in the House, he's not working with the Republicans in the Senate.

And if — I cannot think of anything except a fiscal crisis that warrants more of a bipartisan attack on a serious problem.

So I'm looking forward to the House getting together and having one bill in there. Fortunately, there are more positive-thinking Republicans in the Senate, and I hope we can come up with...

WALLACE: All right.

RANGEL: ... a bipartisan...

WALLACE: Gentlemen...

(CROSSTALK)

RANGEL: ... as well.

WALLACE: ... let — let — let's break it down and let's talk about the two big issues at the center of this debate. And the first one of them is how to pay for health care reform.

Senator DeMint, it looks like the House is going to pass Congressman Rangel's proposal to raise a half a trillion dollars by imposing a surtax on top earners.

Now, combined with other Obama tax policies as well as local and state taxes, that would raise the top marginal tax rate in 39 states to over 50 percent.

And take a look at this. The top tax rate in Denmark is 60 percent. It would be over 57 percent in Oregon, almost 57 percent in New York and California. That's higher than Sweden and Belgium. Senator DeMint, what would that do to the economy?

DEMINT: Well, half of the so-called rich are small businesses that create 70 or 80 percent of the jobs in this country, and it's a real jobs killer.

But the debate is not just about what this thing costs and how we're going to pay for it. The debate is are we going to protect the right of Americans to make their own health care decisions — moms and dads and grandmas and...

(CROSSTALK)

WALLACE: Well, let me just stop you right there, because we're — we're going to get to that. But I just want to...

DEMINT: OK.

WALLACE: ... talk about the taxes first. We're going to get to the...

DEMINT: Well, they cut Medicare to come up with some money, and they raise taxes on — on small businesses, and they penalize any American with a 2.5 percent tax if they don't have government-approved health care.

I mean, this is not the America we know. And the problem is not just with insurance. In fact, a lot of Americans are happy with it. We need to do a lot of things to make it work better. But a government takeover is going to work just like the "cash for clunkers" program, Chris.

WALLACE: Well, we're going to get to that as well, because some people think that's worked well.

Congressman Rangel, please respond to that, about the high tax rate, the top tax rate in your plan, as well as the fact that according to independent studies, two-thirds of small business profits would be hit by the surtax.

RANGEL: Well, under our statistics, 96 percent of small businesses would not be hurt by this tax. It's less than 1 percent of the wealthiest people in the United States that would be taxed, and that's at a 1 percent tax.

There's just no question that the way that they're talking about paying for it — that they don't take in consideration the cap that we're going to have on premiums.

They don't take into consideration the number of people that have no insurance now that can walk in any hospital, any doctor's office, and be fully insured.

They don't take the productivity in having a healthy, educated workforce.

And they don't consider that America is the only industrialized country that doesn't have a national health plan.

And so there is just no question that at the end of the day, America saves money, it's more productive, and this is something that is long — very long — overdue.

WALLACE: Congressman, negotiators on the Senate Finance Committee — in effect, your counterpart on the Senate side — have already rejected your idea of a surtax, and they're talking about imposing a tax on insurance companies that offer gold-plated benefits.

Would you be willing to accept that kind of a tax on insurance companies instead of your surtax?

RANGEL: I hope as a result of this exchange Jim DeMint would at least say whether he agrees or not that he's willing to work with the Democrats in the Senate to see what we come up with.

I, for one, am not prepared to reject anything. Whatever they do in the Senate, they have to combine two bills. They have to bring it to conference. We have three bills in the House that we successfully passed. We have to get one bill. We have to go into conference.

And I don't think either side, Republican or Democrat, should be saying at this point in time what we're going to reject and what is not acceptable. The truth of the matter is when this is over, all Americans should feel more secure as it relates to national health insurance. And that's what I'm working toward.

WALLACE: All right. All right.

Let's get to the other issue, and this is something you wanted to talk about, Senator DeMint, and that is whether the government should offer a public health insurance option.

Now, the moderate Democrats, the so-called Blue Dog Democrats in the House, have forced House committees to rewrite the rules and, in effect, to make it a more level playing field where the public option would have to compete in negotiating prices with the private insurers.

Does that make it more acceptable to you?

DEMINT: Well, no matter what you call it, Chris, this is a government takeover. Barney Frank admitted this week that the whole reform effort is a way to move towards a single-payer government plan.

There are better ideas, and I will work with Charlie Rangel and others in the Senate if we'll focus on making the system work better and not replacing what's working right now.

There are a couple of things we could do, Chris. If we just had tax fairness for those who didn't get their insurance at work, we could get every — we could give every family $5,000 a year to buy their health insurance.

And if we just allowed interstate competition — they say we need a government plan for competition, yet Charlie Rangel and others have fought us on opening up competition. Right now we have a state-by- state monopoly system.

If people in New York, where Congressman Rangel lives, where they pay twice what they pay in Pennsylvania, could just buy policies in Pennsylvania, you'd see a competitive market develop very quickly, and a lot of the problems they talk about would quickly go away.

WALLACE: Congressman Rangel, I want to pick up on one point that Senator DeMint made, and I want to play for you Congressman Barney Frank, one of the top Democratic leaders in the House of Representatives — what he had to say this week about the public option. Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. BARNEY FRANK, D-MASS.: I think if we get a good public option, it could lead to single payer, and that's the best way to reach single payer. The best way we're going to get single payer — the only way is to have a public option and demonstrate its strength and its power.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: Congressman Rangel, here's a top House Democrat saying the Republicans are right, that the public option is a stalking horse for a single-payer government takeover like we see in Britain or Canada.

RANGEL: Well, we've got 435 members of Congress, and I'm — I'm very pleased that Jim DeMint says that he's willing to work with me and other people to get national health insurance.

I don't know what he's got to work with. There is no Republican plan. All they have done is to be critical.

But this is not a — what a — single payer. What we are talking about is that if we have 50 million people there, just makes a lot of sense, and they don't have any insurance, we shouldn't just turn them over to the private insurance company that have denied people insurance because they've had pre-existing conditions, that have excised conditions in the contract when they found out that people were sick.

Those people out there made billions of dollars in the private sector, and all we're saying is that the people, Americans, are entitled to an alternative. And that's the public option.

And so I don't think there's anything for the private sector to be afraid of. And what the Blue Dogs have done is just increase the costs in terms of negotiating.

But why in the heck Jim DeMint would be afraid of a public option, where people will have a choice as to which insurance plan they want, knowing that 50 million Americans have no plan at all...

WALLACE: Well, wait, wait.

RANGEL: ... and about half that number...

WALLACE: Congressman, let's give Senator DeMint an opportunity to...

RANGEL: ... are under-insured...

WALLACE: Let's give Senator DeMint an opportunity to respond.

DEMINT: The congressman knows Republicans have a plan. Paul Ryan on his committee has filed a great plan.

I've introduced the Health Care Freedom Act that would force interstate competition, that would give every family who doesn't get their insurance at work $5,000 a year to buy health insurance, which is above the national average for the cost.

Lawsuit abuse reform, which the congressman won't touch because of the political side of this — and block grants to the states to set up pools or high-risk systems so people who have pre-existing conditions can have affordable insurance.

There are good ideas out here. The idea that we need a "Fannie Med" in every state to compete with insurance companies is ridiculous.

WALLACE: And that's the idea that it's going to be a Fannie Mae — whether it's a public option or a cooperative, it's going to end up being like Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.

DEMINT: Of course it is, and they're going to — we're going to have taxpayer-subsidized insurance competing with the private market, just now like General Motors is subsidized and they're competing with other companies.

I don't understand why the congressman is opposed to interstate competition of insurance companies.

WALLACE: If you could answer that briefly, Congressman, because then I want to move on to another subject.

RANGEL: I certainly can answer it briefly. When you're talking about Paul Ryan and you having a plan — what I was talking about — a plan that you had Republican support.

Paul Ryan's a great member. He's a Republican. He sits on my committee. He doesn't even have the support of the Republicans on the committee.

So I'm not saying that none of you guys have some idea. I'm saying you should come together with your leadership, compete with your ideas, and at the end have a bipartisan national health insurance program.

WALLACE: OK. Let's move on to "cash for clunkers," which most of us didn't even know about until about a couple of weeks ago. And this is the program that offers up to $4,500 rebates to anyone trading in an old car for a new, more fuel-efficient car. Now, as many as 250,000 cars, Senator DeMint, were bought — new cars — bought in the very first week. In the midst of a recession, why do you oppose putting more money into the program?

DEMINT: Well, this is another bill that congressman and senators didn't even read. The federal government getting in the used car business — and we think, "Hey, this is working great."

But my children and grandchildren are going to have to pay for these cars, and we're helping auto dealers while there are thousands of other small businesses that aren't getting the help.

The role of the federal government is not to run the used car business. And it's clear. You can look at Amtrak or the post office, and now "cash for clunkers." The federal government went bankrupt in one week in the used car business, and now they want to run our health care system.

I just think this is a great example of the stupidity that's coming out of Washington right now, and I think Americans realize the numbers that we're throwing around don't work. We estimated this would cost $1 billion. Now they're saying we need $2 billion more. Our children and grandchildren can't afford to make these car dealers well right now.

WALLACE: Real quickly, because it sailed through the House in a day -
- it's going to come up to the Senate next week — are you going to be able to block it?

DEMINT: Well, we're definitely going to debate it. And I've heard John McCain is going to stand up and try to stop it. And I'm going to work with him every way I can, because...

WALLACE: That means a filibuster?

DEMINT: ... it makes no sense. I don't know what it means right now, Chris, but this is crazy to try to rush this thing through again while they're trying to rush through health care, and they want to get on to cap and trade electricity tax. We've got to slow this thing down.

WALLACE: And finally, Congressman Rangel, there's a story today that one — because this recession has gone on so long that 1 million unemployed Americans are in danger of running out of their unemployment benefits very soon.

Do you favor and will you push to extend unemployment benefits for another 13 weeks?

RANGEL: There's no question, and they deserve it. They are the true victims of this fiscal disaster. And I do hope that the Republicans will come forward and realize by giving assistance to these people, they're allowing them to be able to put food on the table, to pay their rent and their mortgages.

It's the right — it's the moral — it's the — it's the — for us to do. And I hope that Jim would get the Republicans to work with us so that it's not a Democrat plan, but it's an American congressional plan.

WALLACE: Real quick, in 30 seconds, are you going to support extended unemployment benefits or not, Senator?

DEMINT: We need to take care of those who are unemployed, but we also need to make sure they get jobs. And if we do what Congressman Rangel wants to do, we're going to tax our small businesses that create the jobs, and we're going to have a whole lot more people on unemployment.

WALLACE: But yes or no on extending unemployment?

DEMINT: Yes. Yeah. We'll definitely support that.

WALLACE: All right. We're going to leave it there on a rare note of agreement.

Congressman Rangel, Senator DeMint, thank you both for coming in. No letup in this debate over health care reform. Thank you both, gentlemen.

DEMINT: Thanks.

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