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GOP Not Wild About Harry's Health Care 'Slavery' Analogy

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Sen. Harry Reid (AP)

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

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Here's an idea. Insult those who disagree with you! That, of course, was Senate majority leader Harry Reid's strategy today. Persuasive, stupid, or very stupid? Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HARRY REID, D - NEV., MAJORITY LEADER: Instead of joining us on the right side of history, all Republicans can come up with is this: Slow down, stop everything, let's start over. If you think you've heard these same excuses before, you're right. When this country belatedly recognized the wrongs of slavery, there were those who dug in their heels and said, Slow down. It's too early. Let's wait. Things aren't bad enough. When women spoke up for the right to speak up, they wanted to vote, some insisted they simply slow down, there'll be a better day to do that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAN SUSTEREN: Earlier, Republican Senator Judd Gregg went "On the Record."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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

SEN. JUDD GREGG, R - N.H.: Greta, always a pleasure. Thank you for having me on.

VAN SUSTEREN: And I love seeing your conference room. I've never been in this conference room before.

GREGG: Thank you. I appreciate that. We tried to put a little touch of New Hampshire down here in Washington.

VAN SUSTEREN: And of course, we should say that this was Senator Biden's office before he moved on to a different job.

GREGG: That's right. He left us, so I was lucky enough to get his office.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Now, having listen to Senator Reid on the floor, I have a question for you. Are you in favor of slavery?

(LAUGHTER)

GREGG: I was stunned. I have to -- I mean, I was very surprised. I think he just got carried away in the emotion or maybe the hyperbole of the moment and threw those lines in there. It was just so foolish and really out of context and totally inappropriate, obviously. And I'm sure if he had to do it again, he probably wouldn't have said something like that.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, is there anything to prevent him from going on the floor and apologizing or calling up people -- I mean, have you heard an apology?

GREGG: I think probably the best thing you should do is just forget it and move on. You know, I mean, it was such a foolish statement that -- let's move on and talk about the real stuff (INAUDIBLE) which is what we're doing to people's health care and how big this company -- country's going to -- government is going to grow if we don't do something about limiting the size of the government.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, one other sort of issue in terms of just the procedure on that, is Senator Durbin has accused the Republicans of dragging their feet and even pointing you out...

GREGG: Yes.

VAN SUSTEREN: ... saying that the emphasis on the parliamentary procedures, that you were somehow -- these are my words -- the architect of this dragging the feet?

GREGG: You know, that's ridiculous. And I find it -- I find it a reflection of the failure of their arguments on the substance of their bill. They obviously can't defend their bill, so they're -- they're attacking the fact that we want to be informed about the rules. Now, the rules, of course, were developed by Thomas Jefferson, by the way, and they basically reflected what Washington said, which is that the Senate is the saucer into which the hot coffee is poured. It's supposed to be the place where things are cooled down. We take a harder look at the bill, at the legislation. We amend it, try to improve it. And we take some time.

This is the biggest piece of legislation this Congress will undertake and that I'll undertake in my entire career. And we need to take time with it because it's 16 percent of our economy. Everybody's life is going to be affected by this. It grows the government by $2.5 trillion, cuts Medicare when it's fully implemented by a trillion dollars. This is a big bill and it has huge impacts. And we need to spend some time talking about it. And to do that, as the minority, we have to use the rules in order to enforce our rights of being able to bring up amendments.

VAN SUSTEREN: So I take it that you and your Republican colleagues are not opposed to health care reform, you're opposed to this particular bill as you understand it now. Is that a fair description?

GREGG: Greta, you're absolutely right. We think that this bill is a total failure, first in the area of delivering health care. We think it's going to stymie innovation. We think it's going to raise people's premiums. We think it's going to force people off their present health care plan and into the government plan. We think, inevitably, that seniors are going to be negatively impacted in a dramatic way because of the huge cuts to Medicare.

And we think it expands the government, creates the cost too much -- increases the cost too much, $2.5 trillion. We've suggested a step-by-step approach, and we got six or seven really good ideas as to how you can improve health care and get coverage, get everybody under the -- under the umbrella of some level of coverage, which is -- is comprehensive in nature. I have a bill of my own. I'm co-sponsor of a bipartisan bill to do that...

VAN SUSTEREN: Bipartisan with?

GREGG: With Ron Wyden from Washington state. And there -- I think there are 20 sponsors on it, 10 Republicans, 10 Democrats, and it's a comprehensive bill. And it doesn't cost as much as this bill does and it doesn't grow the government as much and It doesn't wipe out your ability to stay with your private insurance company or your employer insurance, if you like it.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, you mentioned the seniors. I understand that you had a Medicare amendment, an amendment related to Medicare?

GREGG: Right.

VAN SUSTEREN: What -- what happened -- what was -- what was your amendment and what's happened to it?

GREGG: Oh, we had a lot of posturing around here. You know, sometimes we do some posturing in this place.

VAN SUSTEREN: You're kidding.

GREGG: I'm very surprised. And people were saying, well, they weren't going to cut Medicare, and they certainly weren't going to cut Medicare and use it for something else. Well, actually, that's what the bill does, cuts Medicare in the first 10 years by almost half a trillion dollars. And then when it's fully implemented, it cuts Medicare by a full trillion dollars over the next 10 years.

And it takes that money out of the Medicare system, out of seniors' benefits, and moves it over to fund brand-new entitlements and spending and I think probably buying a few votes to get this thing past that have nothing at all to do with Medicare. And so my -- there have been some votes (ph) that said, you know, the were sense of the Senates, where they're meaningless political cover votes that said we wouldn't do that.

So I had an amendment that enforced those votes, that said, We cannot use Medicare money for the purposes of funding other activity that is not related to Medicare, and it was enforceable. So you couldn't take the Medicare savings in this bill, which is half a trillion dollars in the first 10 years, and use it to fund a new entitlement or to expand Medicaid or to create some program that helps somebody down in some other state because you need their vote.

VAN SUSTEREN: And the response was it was shot down.

GREGG: It was, unfortunately.

VAN SUSTEREN: On party lines?

GREGG: Well, there were three Democrats who voted for this amendment, which I very much appreciated, obviously.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. In terms of the procedure that's -- as we sort of look in the future and sort of guess, is there going to be a health care reform bill on the president's desk at some point?

GREGG: Yes. Yes, it appears that way. It's a very interesting situation, and I think the American people should pay a little attention to this. We got this bill, 2,074 pages, that was written in camera, behind closed doors, by Senator Reid and a group of colleagues. Took them eight weeks to write it. We've now had it on the floor for five days. They're going to try to shut down the debate here at some point, probably within the next week, week-and-a-half, pass it, and send it down to the White House as is, pretty much.

It's a major piece of legislation, probably the biggest, as I said earlier, that I'm ever going to see and it's the largest expansion of government in the history, that I know of. And it's going to affect everybody's health care. That's the important part. It's going to really substantively affect the way you get health care and the quality of health care you get, and I don't think it's going to affect it in a positive way for most Americans.

VAN SUSTEREN: Senator, thank you, sir.

GREGG: Thank you, Greta.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAN SUSTEREN: President Obama says he wants bipartisanship. So when the president made a special trip to Capitol Hill yesterday, he must have met with Republicans, right? Well, no, not exactly. The president only met with Democrats. So what's the deal?

Joining us live is Republican senator John Barrasso. He is also an orthopedic surgeon. Good evening, Senator.

SEN. JOHN BARRASSO, R - WYO.: Great to be with you. Thank you.

VAN SUSTEREN: Senator, this -- everyone wants bipartisanship. Were you disappointed the president didn't meet with Republican senators yesterday?

BARRASSO: Well, this is a president that promised transparency, promised openness. And I was on the floor of the Senate and I challenged the president, said, Come out here to the Senate. You've been a former member. Come and talk to the other party. He just wanted to visit with Democrats.

You know, when the going gets tough, the Democrats go into hiding and that's what they do. They went into hiding to write the bill. The president went into hiding in the -- in the -- in the White House, cutting the deals with the drug companies and the insurance companies and hospitals and others. They don't do anything in the open, in spite of the fact that the president promised negotiations would be on C-Span.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, did anyone complain when he was up there? I mean, I realize that you said that on the floor, but I mean, was there a response from the White House why the president didn't meet with Republican senators?

BARRASSO: Well, he's not been too interested in talking to the Republican senators. I think we have a lot of good ideas on how we can get down the cost of the care. The president's plan doesn't do that. We have ideas about...

VAN SUSTEREN: Is the message getting to him, though? I mean, like, you know, it's, like, is this just sort of aides to aides or something? Does the president really get that the Republican senators really do want to meet with him? I assume that this isn't a stunt, right? You really would like to talk to him?

BARRASSO: We would. You know, Tom Coburn and I are the two physicians in the United States Senate. Between us, over 50 years of experience practicing medicine, taking care of -- of patients, operating on people, knowing what their needs are and knowing how the system works. And we have ideas that will help improve the system, ways about letting people buy insurance across state lines, letting people have the same tax breaks if they buy their own insurance. The president's promised, you know, $2,500 cheaper insurance for families, but his own budget office says no, insurance for families is going to go up $2,100. That's a swing of $4,600 over what the president promised.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, I'm curious -- I mean, the -- we've spoken to a congressman over on the -- obviously, on the House side, who has tried to - - who's sent letters to the White House and they go unanswered, doesn't even get a response, like, you know, Tough luck, buddy, doesn't get anything at all. Is there -- is this White House -- and maybe the Republican White House did this to the Democratic senators, but is this White House at all receptive to your ideas, at least listening to them? They may not accept them, but listening to them.

BARRASSO: Not at all. This White House is not receptive to Republican ideas, to other outside of their small clique! And I don't think they're receptive to a lot of Democrat senators' ideas. This bill was written behind closed doors in Harry Reid's office. That's where all the negotiations are being done. He's trying to get to 60 votes, Greta, and when he does, he's going to have a substitute bill he's going to plop down on the Senate floor and say, This is it, my 60 have now agreed to this, in spite of the bill and the negotiations and the amendments that we're bringing and have people voting on, on the cuts in Medicare that are going to happen, and all these Democrats are now on record saying, yes, they're willing to cut almost a half a trillion dollars from Medicare.

VAN SUSTEREN: Senator Reid made that unfortunate remark about slavery and women's rights, suggesting anyone who disagrees with him or is slowing things down -- is that sort of -- I mean, do you sort of give a little pass on that sort of the enthusiasm or passion of the moment, or -- or do you think he really buys that?

BARRASSO: You know, it's hard to tell. I was on the Senate floor this morning, Greta, when he did that. I mean, it seems desperate to me on his part. But the -- but the reality is...

VAN SUSTEREN: Was there a gasp among senators when he said that?

BARRASSO: Well, it was more like raising your (INAUDIBLE) there goes -- there goes Senator Reid again. But this is -- this bill, if this passes, is going to take freedom away from people, which is the exact, you know, opposite of what we're -- it's going to take away freedom from physicians practicing medicine, providers. It's going to take freedom away from patients to make decisions about what kind of care they want and keeping the care that they have. And it's going to take -- going to take freedom away from people that pay for their health care because their rates are going up.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, one of the issues sort of is the fiscal issue. You have Senator -- you have Senator Nelson and Senator Bayh, both who have been governors, and you probably have another one or two senators, Democrats who have been governors of their states.

BARRASSO: Well, Mark Warner in Virginia.

VAN SUSTEREN: Mark Warner. Are those senators on board with the president, or do they have sort of a different viewpoint? Because Senator Nelson has seemed to be very interesting in the bottom line on this one because he's been a governor.

BARRASSO: I think there a lot of senators have a different viewpoint, but as the president told them yesterday...

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, are they going to vote that way?

BARRASSO: I'm not convinced they're going to have the courage to do that. The president is up there giving them a pep talk, saying, you know - - you know, Do this for history, make history. So I don't know if he's twisting arms or if he's telling them to walk the plank or, you know, giving them marching orders. But I think they're taking health care in this country right off the cliff.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, if it turns out that they vote only for history and they don't believe it, that is going to come back to haunt them.

BARRASSO: They're going to be history!

VAN SUSTEREN: They're -- maybe. We'll see. Anyway, Senator, thank you, sir.

BARRASSO: Thank you.

Content and Programming Copyright 2009 FOX News Network, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2009 CQ Transcriptions, LLC, which takes sole responsibility for the accuracy of the transcription. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material except for the user's personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon FOX News Network, LLC'S and CQ Transcriptions, LLC's copyrights or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

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