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Boehner: 'Arrogance of Power' in the Health Care Debate

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," October 7, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: We are live in New York City. And did you hear about the phantom amendments? Are Democrats trying to sneak things into bills under the radar? House Minority Leader John Boehner goes "On the Record" about that and what he calls the Democrats' arrogance of power.

But first, Minority Leader Boehner on the ethics probe of Democratic congressman Charles Rangel.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VAN SUSTEREN: Congressman, nice to see you, sir.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER, MINORITY LEADER, R - OH: Nice to see you.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, well, today, you had some action on the floor having to do with Congressman Rangel, who is currently the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. What happened?

BOEHNER: Well, there was a resolution to ask Mr. Rangel to step aside until the Ethics Committee completed its investigated of his -- his tax problems and other issues that he has. They decided to just bury the resolution by sending the resolution itself to the Ethics Committee, which, frankly, does nothing.

Listen, Charlie understands that the right thing to do here is to step aside as chairman of the tax-writing committee until these tax issues have been resolved by the Ethics Committee and the U.S. attorney.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, now, of course, he's presumed innocent and he hasn't been accused of any criminal behavior, but Congress isn't a criminal forum and it's simply the question of whether it makes any sense, whether it even looks good to the American people to have this -- essentially, the head tax guy, when he's got his own tax issues -- does he not see that? What does he say? What does Speaker Pelosi say?

BOEHNER: Miss Pelosi said before she took control that this would be the most open and ethical Congress in history. And time after time, she's ignored her own statement by allowing people like John Murtha to remain as the chairman of a subcommittee at defense, allowing Charlie Rangel to stay as chairman of the tax-writing committee even though he apparently forgot to pay taxes on some properties that he owns for a long period of time.

And so it's really important that the trust of the American people is in their representatives, and when you've got clouds hanging over you like this, you really should step aside until such time as the issue has been resolved.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Did any Democrats vote that he should -- that they should go forward to having him step down as chairman while this is pending, or was this strictly along party lines?

BOEHNER: No, there were two Democrats who joined Republicans in opposing their shoveling this off to the Ethics Committee itself, and so -- which is a change from what we've seen in the past. And so at least we've got two Democrats who have joined with us. And I can say this. It is not right for Charlie Rangel to remain in that position while these questions are out there, and we're going to continue to press this case until Mr. Rangel does the right thing.

VAN SUSTEREN: Yes, this actually -- this one surprises me because this one seems rather basic, you know, just out of appearance of impropriety, that it would be smart step aside. I'm also curious if any Republicans vote to shove it off to the Ethics Committee, essentially vote with -- - with Congressman Rangel.

BOEHNER: Not that I'm aware of.

VAN SUSTEREN: OK. All right. Now let's switch to the health care reform bill, something that all the nation's eyes are on. What's the story with these phantom amendments going on across the way in the Senate? What are they? I realize you're in the House and that's the Senate, but what's going on with those Senate phantom amendments?

BOEHNER: Well, what's really been interesting is that the Senate Health, Education and Labor Pensions Committee produced a health care bill that looks a lot like the House Democrat bill. But between the time the bill was actually voted out of committee and before anyone saw it, there was about a two-month lapse, which is -- raises a lot of questions in my mind. But over that period of time, some 75 changes were made to the bill without a vote of the committee.

And I know, I used to be a committee chairman here in the House, and every time we moved a bill out of our committee, it was posted on line by the end of the close of business that day so the American people could see what it was we did in committee that day. And to have a bill tied up in oblivion for two months and then have all these changes made, you begin to wonder how are they operating?

I'm going to introduce a resolution here in the House that would require all committees to post within 24 hours the actions taken by their committee. I think the American people have a right to see what goes on in their Congress. They have a right to be able to read these bills, just like members of Congress should have the ability to read these bills.

VAN SUSTEREN: Why in the world don't we have that? I mean, the word "transparency" -- I mean, why could -- why is anyone opposing putting bills on the Internet so the rest of us could see it? You know, a lot of us -- you know, a lot of Americans have complained, said members of Congress don't read the important bills. OK, so be it. At least let us do it. Put it on the Internet so we can see before you vote. What's wrong with that? Why is there opposition?

BOEHNER: Well, it's really surprising to me because this is the most common sense thing in the world. We've had this effort to require bills that, before they come to the floor, they should be posted on line for 72 hours so members and the American people get a chance to see what's in these bills. But it seems to me that Democrat leaders want to rush these bills through Congress before anybody has a chance to read them.

And that's exactly the point. Let's let people read these bills. Let's let them digest it. Let's let members digest it so that we can make an informed decision before we vote.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, it's...

BOEHNER: You know, back in February...

VAN SUSTEREN: Yes. Go ahead.

BOEHNER: Back in February, they brought their over a thousand-page stimulus bill to the floor some eight hours after it was introduced at midnight. And I made the point on the floor that no one had read the bill because the fact is, no one had. And then in June, they brought out a 300- page amendment to a 1,200-page national energy tax, their cap-and-trade bill -- a 300-page amendment, where I spent an hour on the floor helping members understand what was in their 300-page amendment that was filed at 3:09 AM...

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, well, I...

BOEHNER: ... the day that we were considering the bill.

VAN SUSTEREN: I have something even more egregious about that February, when they had -- when there was that rush to vote. Not only that, but the poor senator from -- I think it was from your state was pulled back to vote. His mother had died, and he was brought back so that he could vote on it on that Friday. Saturday, it was not signed by the president. Sunday, it was not signed by the president. Monday, it was not signed by the president. It wasn't until Tuesday out in Denver. So there wasn't really that rush, so that easily could have been put on the Internet so we could have seen it, but...

BOEHNER: Absolutely. It just makes common sense in a day and an age now that when we have the types of communications devices are available to us and the number of Web sites available, all Americans ought to have a chance to read these.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right...

BOEHNER: And their elected representatives ought to read them, too.

VAN SUSTEREN: And of course, you know, some always think, you know, they -- they sort of work for us, but that's another aside. I mean, I mean that with all great respect, but anyway -- all right, do you ever, like, run into Speaker Pelosi in the hall or someplace else and say, you know, What about this transparency? I mean, you know, how is it handled sort of behind -- behind doors? Because it does seem rather basic that we should be able to see this stuff. What does she say, or what does anyone in the Democratic leadership say?

BOEHNER: They've done everything in the world to stop members from signing a discharge petition to bring this resolution to the floor to require 72 hours before any vote would happen on a bill. It would have to be posted on line. There's only six Democrat members who've signed onto this discharge petition to force it onto the floor. And it just seems to me that they want -- they want the flexibility to be able to bring these things out in the middle of the night and put them on the floor the next day. It's no way to run a railroad.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, when your party was in leadership in the House and there were issues about transparency, any recollection how you handled it? Did you guys resist it at all? I realize that different times, but did you resist it at all?

BOEHNER: Well, it was a different time. I can tell you when I was Majority Leader, at the time, in almost all cases, I insisted that members have at least 24 hours to read a bill before it came to the floor. But that was -- it's a different time. I've made a commitment, and as have my Republican members, that if we take the majority back, we will have a requirement that no bill will come to the floor that hasn't been out and available to the public and to the members for at least three days.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. In terms of different times, there was, though, still the Internet, and we could have done it when your party was in leadership, too. But so be it. We'll look forward and not backwards on that one. But I assume that, you know -- you know, even 24 hours doesn't seem like much time, and I have a hard time understanding any resistance to this one at all on either side of the aisle.

BOEHNER: No, I don't, either. And I think most members understand that this just makes common sense. But why Speaker Pelosi refuses to allow this to come to a vote is really beyond me.

VAN SUSTEREN: But I'm just...

BOEHNER: You'll have to ask her.

VAN SUSTEREN: But I'm just curious. I mean, do they sort of say, "Tough luck, we run the House?" I mean, what -- I'm just sort of curious, like, how -- what could possibly -- I know they use strategic rules or procedural rules to prevent it. But what do they say in the halls?

BOEHNER: Oh, Greta, you don't understand. They've got a majority. They've got a 40-vote majority. They don't talk to us about timing or when they're going to do these things. There's a real arrogance of power that's going on here in the House, the Speaker and the majority leader. It's -- these are their calls. They really could care less what we have to say about it.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Well, I hope that if the power should shift that you don't forget that we'd like to see this transparency, as well, if your party takes over.

BOEHNER: Greta, I made a commitment to my colleagues. I made the commitment to you and to the American people. And if the American people stay engaged in this process, this rule will happen and it will happen a lot quicker than a lot of us think.

VAN SUSTEREN: Thank you very much, sir.

BOEHNER: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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