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Will Democrats Go At It Alone on the Health Care Bill?

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," August 19, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Voters want answers on health care. What they don't want is for the Democrats to go it alone. Now, according to one poll, 59 percent of people say Congress should not approve a health care plan if it's not bipartisan. But will the Democrats go it alone anyway, shut Republicans out of the health care debate? The New York Times reports that Democrats do not think the GOP is going to cooperate on health care reform. The Times quotes White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel as saying, "The Republican leadership has made a strategic decision that defeating President Obama's health care proposal is more important for their political goals than solving the health insurance problems that Americans face every day."

In a press briefing today, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs pulled back from the report.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We are focused on a process that continues in the Senate with both parties. The president again met with Senator Baucus on Friday in Montana, and they discussed the progress that was being made among Democrats and Republicans on the Finance Committee. That's our focus.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAN SUSTEREN: Senator Chuck Grassley is ranking Republican member of the "Gang of six," a bipartisan group of senators working for a deal in the Senate on the health care bill. and according to The New York Times, the White House sees criticism by Senator Grassley as a sign there is little hope of reaching a bipartisan deal. Is that true?

Senator Grassley joins us live. Good evening, Senator. And is there little hope of a bipartisan deal, sir?

SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY, R - IOWA: I haven't given up yet, and I haven't said anything new since we adjourned for the summer break that I've been saying for the last three months. So for the White House to draw any conclusions other than what I've told the president right to his face -- and I've said a couple things that are very important, and I've said them before. I've told him for several weeks that, number one, it would really help get bipartisanship if he would make a statement that he would sign a bill that didn't have a public option, or what some of us call a government-run health plan, in it.

And the second one was, in response to a question he asked me about would I be (ph) three or four Republicans going along with the Democrats to make a bipartisan issue, and on that issue, I answered him the same way I've been telling a lot of people for three or four months, that I would not go along because that's not bipartisan.

What you have to have when you're rejiggering one sixth of our U.S. economy, and when you're dealing with health care because that's life-and- death issue for every American, affecting every American citizen, it's got to be done with lots of Democrats and a lot of Republicans, and that's bipartisanship. And it's my responsibility to do something that would get broad support among Republicans, and it's Senator Baucus's Republican to get something that would get broad support among Democrats.

VAN SUSTEREN: Senator, when you put the question right to the president, straight up to the president, Would you sign a statement, no public option, what did he say?

GRASSLEY: Well, I bet you know what he said. He didn't answer me. But then you've got this weekend. You have the secretary of HHS saying -- Ms. Sebelius, saying that maybe it -- a public option's not so important. And then the next day, the left hits the White House with regret about that and they back off of it. So they run a trial balloon up, you get hopes up that maybe they want to compromise, and then you find out it's a little bit like when we brought up the issue of capping (ph) the exclusion. It looked like the White House might go for it, then they got some heat and they backed down. So you don't really know where the president's standing, and that's part of our problem.

VAN SUSTEREN: Did the president -- when you said to the president, essentially -- I don't mean to paraphrase you, but that three or four Republicans joining the Democrats is not bipartisan, when you put that to him, what did he say?

GRASSLEY: He expressed appreciation about how you work and working together and how, you know, it's politically sensitive, but there wasn't anything really definitive in his statement to me.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, now, at 9:00 PM tomorrow night, you as part of the Finance Committee have a -- have a teleconference, is that right, with the other members of the so-called "Gang of six"?

GRASSLEY: That's right. That's one of two meetings that we want to have during this interim so we don't waste the whole month of August in our talking together to try to reach an agreement.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. What do you think is the most important issue? Tomorrow night at 9:00 PM, what do you expect to put on the table?

GRASSLEY: Well, it's not quite that easy, Greta. I think we're going to have a general discussion among the six of us, what are we learning or - - from our town meetings because there is strong feeling at the grass roots that you've seen expressed on the town meetings, and there's going to be some analysis of that, whether that affects the situation. And then I would expect a little bit of negotiation and talking on some minor issues.

But I don't think you can do much over the telephone of reaching conclusions that's going to say, We've moved a long ways tonight. That's not going to be possible tomorrow night. But we're going to continue talking, as we have, and -- and I think that what comes out of it is that you're -- you're -- you're still going to have a commitment to continue to talk. But he knows? August could make a big difference.

Now, when I say that, a lot of your people in journalism like you have read things into it that I haven't meant, so I hesitate to talk about it. But if democracy means anything, and you have town meetings, you know, you've got to take that into consideration. You got to listen to your constituents or else you don't have democracy.

VAN SUSTEREN: Senator, thank you, sir. And enjoy your recess at home, sir.

GRASSLEY: Thank you.

VAN SUSTEREN: Now, you just heard from the top Republican from the "Gang of six." And I say "Gang of six" with the most respect, but that group used to be the gang of seven until Republican senator Orrin Hatch walked away from bipartisan health care talks last month. So what does Senator Hatch say now? Well, let's ask. Senator Hatch joins us live.

Good evening, Senator. And Senator, what's the definition of "bipartisan"? I just had the discussion with Senator Grassley. He says three or four Republicans joining the Democrats -- that's not bipartisan. What is bipartisan to you, sir?

SEN. ORRIN HATCH, R - UTAH: Well, we're talking about one sixth of the American economy. This is a pretty important thing. And I always look at bipartisan bills as somewhere between 75 and 80 votes, both Democrats and Republicans. And one reason why I decided to leave the group of seven is because -- well, there were a number of reasons. Number one, I don't think they've given Senator -- the Democrats have given Senator Baucus very good flexibility to really be able to put something together. Eighty of the top Democrats in the House are insisting upon a government option or a government plan. I can't be for that, and I don't think -- I don't know of any Republican who is really for that.

Number two, they seem to -- they want to have some sort of a version of an employer mandate. It's a job-killing part -- approach to the bill. If they do that, then guess who gets hurt the worst? It'll be the -- it'll be the low-income workers. They'll either lose their jobs or be cut in pay or the business will go overseas. I mean, let's be honest about it. It's going to kill jobs.

And thirdly, they are doing everything they can to push as many people as they can into Medicaid. Some of the groups have said as many as 119 million people would be pushed into Medicaid, which would destroy the public insurance industry and the whole program and we'd be going to what they really want to get to, and that is in increments, they want to go to a single-payer system or socialized medicine. That's what the Democrats are all about, and I just can't support that.

VAN SUSTEREN: Senator, in terms of negotiating or talking with President Obama, how does it differ with -- with -- you've been in the Senate for a long time -- negotiating, talking with President Clinton? What's the difference between these two men in these situations?

HATCH: Well, you know, I've negotiated with everybody from Henry Waxman, who is one of the most liberal members of the House, to Ted Kennedy, one of the most liberal members of the Senate. I've negotiated with both President Clinton and President Obama. I like every one of them. They have different perspectives than I do, so we try to work together, but when we do -- when we put the Hatch-Waxman together -- bill together that created the modern generic drug industry and has saved taxpayers -- consumers, I should say, $10 billion every year since 1984 and more today - - it was an overwhelmingly supported bill.

When we did the CHIP bill, Senator Kennedy and I, the Kennedy-Hatch bill, or Hatch-Kennedy bill it was called at the time, we had a wide bipartisan support for that, and it's worked -- it worked amazingly well until they started pushing Medicaid people into CHIP, and now -- again, an incremental step to try and get us to a single-payer system.

If we go to a government-run system, I've got to tell you, everybody in America is going to be very sad. Look at Canada. Just this last week, the leading Canadian woman on health care came out and said that that situation is ready to implode. They can't continue the way they're going, and that's a single-payer system up there.

VAN SUSTEREN: If -- if Senator Kennedy is unavailable to vote, and let's say Senator Byrd is unavailable to vote, and the Democrats, though, do have all these votes in the House and the Senate and the White House, is this going to pass?

HATCH: Well, the Democrats should be able to pass it. They have overwhelming majorities in the House, and they have 60 solid votes in the Senate. The only people they can't control are the American people, who are expressing their opposition to these type of things. But they certainly have the ability to pass something.

But like I say, there are a lot of Democrats who don't want this government plan, knowing that -- look, Medicare is now $38 trillion in unfunded liability, goes bankrupt within the next 10 years. You know, you look at the budget and the deficits and all the other things that are adding up. We're adding -- we're doubling the budgetary deficit, you know, the national debt, within five years and we'll triple it in 10 years. You know, and then they want to add to this, you know, a single-payer system that basically is going to cost an arm and a leg and won't do the job anyway.

VAN SUSTEREN: Senator, nice to see you, sir, and...

(CROSSTALK)

HATCH: Could I say one other thing?

VAN SUSTEREN: Yes, sir.

HATCH: Could I say one other thing? You know, why would we throw out a system that 85 percent of Americans have and basically approve of and exchange it for 47 million people? By the way, of that 47 million people, when you deduct the ones who could have insurance through their employers but don't, you deduct the 11 million that basically qualify for CHIP or Medicaid but dot realize it, are not enrolled, you deduct those who are over $75,000 a year in income but just won't purchase their own health insurance, and then 6 million people who are illegal aliens, my gosh, when you put that all together, it leaves about 15 million people. So we're going to throw out a system that works...

VAN SUSTEREN: And I got to...

HATCH: ... for 15 million people.

(CROSSTALK)

VAN SUSTEREN: Thank you, sir. Thank you, sir.

HATCH: OK.


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