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Republican Senator Jim DeMint on Stopping Health Care Reform

This is a rush transcript from "Your World With Neil Cavuto," August 17, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Well, you wouldn't know it, judging from the harsh comments out of the president's more liberal backers today, including, a few moments ago, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi just saying the public option is still the best option, something echoed by Howard Dean.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HOWARD DEAN, FORMER DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: I don't think it can pass without the public option. There are too many people who understand, including the president himself, that the public option is absolutely linked to reform.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAVUTO: But is all of this an elaborate smokescreen to get just that, a public option, a bigger government role?

Let's ask Republican Senator Jim DeMint.

Senator, what do you think?

SEN. JIM DEMINT (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Whatever they call it, Neil, this is a government takeover.

Video: Watch Neil's interview

Now, they — they may try to call it a co-op. They can call it a public option. But you know they are all on record saying they want a single-payer government system. So, any Republican now that helps them pass a bill is helping them pass a government takeover of health care.

My hope is, we can stop this and start over with some real reform. A number of us have been talking about ideas that we know would work. But, unfortunately, this administration and the — the Democrat majority, they really don't want insurance reform at this point. What they want is more government control of our health care system.

CAVUTO: So, you think by — even taking them at face value that they're nixing the public option, per se, that these co-ops are in fact a public option; they are a government entity?

DEMINT: Well, they are a government-sponsored enterprise or what I call Fannie Med in every state. It is clear Howard Dean wants to — the Senate to pass anything, so it can go to conference with the House, so they can rewrite the bill the way they want.

So, any Republican senator who helps them pass something with — with a government stamp on it, the way they are talking about, is, I think, just betraying the American people. And everything I'm hearing from people around South Carolina is, they want the government to get their hands off of their health care and to focus on making health insurance work for more Americans.

CAVUTO: But you know what is going to be weird, Senator? And you're closer to the fire than I am. But the House will have this — this public option detailed out in their final bill, right?

DEMINT: Right.

CAVUTO: The Senate will not. And then you have got to go to conference to hammer out something that will ultimately get to president's desk.

That is a very wide chasm between the two branches, is it not?

DEMINT: But the — the — the Democrats control the conference between the House and the Senate. They can essentially write the bill with the public option right in the middle of it.

And then it is almost impossible for us in the Senate to stop it. And, of course, the House can pass anything with a simple majority.

CAVUTO: But you are arguing that, if they don't call it the public option, and just call it by another name, people might be hoodwinked into thinking the public option is out, when, in fact, it is still very much in there?

DEMINT: It is more government control, no matter how you look at it.

And if you try to set up a — a quasi-government cooperative at every state level to compete with the individual insurance companies, that makes absolutely no sense, when all we have to do is take away the barriers to interstate competition and force these insurance companies to compete with hundreds of companies all over the country.

CAVUTO: OK.

So, here we stand now with this public option, maybe an elaborate subterfuge here.

DEMINT: Yes.

CAVUTO: But, when Nancy Pelosi comes out very concerned that the president sort of has given up his nerve on this, and Howard Dean has effectively all but hinted that as well, and that they could lose a great deal of support in — in the House, certainly among Democrats, if they pursue this, that is a fairly elaborate hoax, is it not?

(LAUGHTER)

DEMINT: Well, it's getting complex. And it is more complex as these senators and congressmen go home and hear from their constituents, because, all over the country, Neil, as you know, people are standing up and speaking out against more government control of health care.

I had a town hall, this meeting with 400 people who came. And, fortunately, I am on their side, trying to stop this thing. But these are regular citizens. It was not manufactured. And they just want people to go up and fight this government takeover.

I have never seen Americans so alarmed and outraged. I have never seen so many people willing to stand up and speak out. This could be a good...

CAVUTO: So, handicap it for me, Senator — I'm sorry — that, if — if you had to state where things stand right now regarding health care reform, where — where do you place it?

DEMINT: I am not going to call it reform. I'm going to — where — the government takeover, because they are really against reform, Neil. But I think we have a 50/50 shot of stopping this.

CAVUTO: All right. Senator, thank you very, very much for coming on.

DEMINT: Thank you, Neil.

CAVUTO: All right.

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