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Are Democrats Going 'Nuclear' Over the Health Care Plan?

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," August 20, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: All right, is the plan to go nuclear? Are the Senate Democrats fed up and fired up, and are they going to invoke the nuclear option and push through health care reform? Democrats might use the nuclear option, which is slang for a parliamentary procedure called "reconciliation" to get health care reform passed. Now, the plan makes it possible for the Senate to pass bills with a simple majority instead of needing the usual 60 votes to avoid a filibuster. Is that what will happen?

Joining us by phone is Republican senator Jon Kyl. Senator Kyl, do you expect that the Democrats will invoke the so-called "nuclear option"? And I assume you object to it.

SEN. JON KYL, R - ARIZ. (Via telephone): Well, yes, of course we'd object to it. I don't know whether they will or not. Perhaps out of frustration they will, but I kind of doubt it because the reason that they're having trouble even among the Democratic majority -- and remember, in the Senate they have 60, Republicans only have 40.

But the reason that they're having difficulty is the American people are speaking out. They've now understood the nature of the bills that have been presented in the House of Representatives and the bill from the Health Education and Labor Committee in the Senate, and they don't like what they've seen and they've registered those protests in town hall meetings. It's evident in public opinion surveys. And this, of course, is causing great consternation with the Obama administration and the Democratic leadership. So they've now...

VAN SUSTEREN: In doing...

KYL: Go ahead.

VAN SUSTEREN: In doing your sort of -- in sort of doing your counting, do you have any reason to believe that any Democratic senators are going to vote no, at least on what we sort of know is the framework for this bill? I realize it hasn't been totally written, but I'm just trying to do the counting. Is there any reason to think the Democratic Party doesn't have 50 votes in the Senate?

KYL: I don't know. There are clearly a group of moderate Democrats who do not like the bill that is being discussed in the House and who do not like the bill that came out of the Health, Education and Labor Committee. And whether there are 8, 10, 12 or 15, I don't know. But clearly, they have a problem within the Democratic ranks. They are not together on how far they want to go with this.

And unfortunately, they have not given Republicans generally a seat at the table in general. There are three Republicans who are talking to three Democrats in the Finance Committee to see if they can come up with something. But thus far, the Democrats have not been willing to back away from the kinds of things that most Republicans, and clearly, the majority of the American people oppose.

VAN SUSTEREN: Have you -- do you know of any Republicans who are likely to go with the Democratic program? Or is -- I mean, is it at this point, the Republican Party going to be solidly against the bill, at least as what we know about the bill tonight?

KYL: Well, if you say "the bill" -- and let's identify the bill in the House of Representatives or the bill that came out of the Senate Health, Education, Labor Committee. I don't know of a single Republican that would support either of those two bills. And frankly, there are 10, 12 at least Democrats who I don't think would support it, either.

So that's why they're now considering other options about either trying to ram it through on sheer numbers of 50 or -- I would hope that they would recognize after the American people have spoken out here during the month of August, they'd come back and say, OK, let's sit down and start over here and get the Republicans involved and do something we can do on a bipartisan basis.

VAN SUSTEREN: If the Democrats are so certain that this is the answer -- and this -- tell me from a strategy point of view or a practical point - - and if they've got at least 50 votes -- maybe they don't have the 60 but the 50 -- what would mitigate against doing that? If they're so certain that this is the right answer in what we should do for the American people, why don't they just do that? I mean, what -- what would be the back-off?

KYL: There are two reasons why they might not do that. First of all, the reconciliation process, or the so-called "nuclear option," is not ideal for writing legislation like this. It's never been used to do something this sweeping. And there are many provisions that probably could not be written and still fit within that reconciliation process. It's primarily suited more for tax increases and things of that sort.

Secondly, I think if they did that, it would be very clear that they were thwarting the will of the American people, who now by every opinion survey that I've seen oppose the Democrat bill. And if they just tried to ram that through with sheer numbers in opposition to American public opinion, I think it would be a -- well, A, it would be bad for the country, and B, I think it would be bad politically for the Democrats.

VAN SUSTEREN: Senator, thank you, sir.

KYL: Thank you, Greta.


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