This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Bret Baier" from December 17, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SECRETARY OF STATE HILLARY CLINTON: The important point for the next two days, is not to talk about how we would fund money that we haven't agreed to fund, but to make the agreement that that's what we're going to do.

DAVID AXELROD, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISER: This is a critical issue. I don't think the president has given up on achieving something valuable in Copenhagen. We're certainly going with that intent. If others don't have the same intent, then we'll make less progress. But we believe we can.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRET BAIER, HOST: Well, the president is heading to Copenhagen for the U.N. climate change conference, but what exactly will the U.S. sign on to at the end of this week?

Let's bring in our panel: Fred Barnes, executive editor of The Weekly Standard; Mara Liasson, national political correspondent of National Public Radio, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer.

Mara, what's the expectation?

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Well, we don't know. It is real high-wire act. It looks like it's falling apart one minute and then maybe coming back together another minute.

What you saw Secretary of State Hillary Clinton doing was kind of calling China's bluff, saying we're going to put serious money on the table. But the Chinese have to put real limits on their emissions and so far they haven't done that.

I think that, at the minimum, they'll have some kind of agreement on deforestation, which is not a huge thing to bring home, but it's unclear if they're going to get the kind of deal that includes real money for developing countries in exchange for them to do something about their emissions.

BAIER: Charles?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I think Copenhagen will go the way of Kyoto and that means nothing of importance will come out for a simple reason: the American people aren't stupid. As they said in 1999, by a vote of 97-0 in the Senate to the Clinton administration, they are saying to the Obama administration and it's listening.

The American people will not accept an agreement where we have serious cuts in carbon emissions imposed on the United States, which will mean a serious constriction of the U.S. economy, a lowering of our standard of living, if the Chinese, who are the largest CO2 polluters on the planet, and the Indians, who are rising in their pollution, increasing in their pollution, do not accept limits, as they will not, because the result of that is, a, there is no effect on warming, whatever coal plant America shuts down, the Chinese and Indians are going to open, and so there will be no effect on the climate, and, b, it will, in effect be a huge transfer of wealth and jobs out of the west, out of the American economy, into China and India.

Adding on to that is the Clinton proposal of a fund of $100 billion a year of which America will ultimately contribute probably a third, it always does at these international agreements, from our treasury, our money from taxpayers, directly into the treasuries of the poorer countries, the majority of whom are kleptocracies, and some of whom like China and India are lenders.

It makes absolutely no sense and Americans are simply not going to accept that, which is why nothing of importance will we sign out there.

BAIER: Fred?

FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I think it was Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona, who is a Republican of course, who said it makes no sense, because here we would be borrowing money from China and then we would be, on the other hand, be sending them these money to stop global warming allegedly. I mean, it is just a crazed idea in the first place.

What I was struck by is something Charles talked about, and that's the kleptocracy angle. You have 130 developing countries, Third World countries, and what do they want? They're there because they want money. Evo Morales, the president of Bolivia, is demanding reparations from the West and the United States. They gave a standing ovation for Hugo Chavez when he attacked capitalism and praised socialism. Of course, they want the money that capitalism produces.

And, look, we know from the history of foreign aid since World War II what foreign aid does. It's money that rarely goes into development but it corrupts the governments that get the money. Obviously, this would, too.

And for Hillary Clinton, the secretary of state, to stand up there and talk about, as Charles said, not just $100 billion, it's $100 billion a year to funnel money down to these countries, it's crazed.

I mean the White House ... the American public is not for it. The science now of global warming is in doubt, further in doubt now that we learn from Russia that the coldest parts of Russia, a huge part of Russia, which is a huge part of the Earth, the calculations from those on global warming from those temperature stations were not included in the figuring on global warming by the folks in England and at the U.N.

BAIER: Mara, a senior aide on the way over said no matter what happens in Copenhagen, the president is still going to push really hard for legislation in the Senate, even though it appears to be stalled.

LIASSON: It certainly does appear to be stalled. And I think he can push for it. I don't know if he will get anything for his efforts.

BAIER: Even after the push for health care?

LIASSON: Well, the push for health care — I think health care stands a much better chance of passing right than the climate change legislation...

BAIER: We'll get to that next.

LIASSON: I think that the lesson this administration learned is it shouldn't get too far out ahead than its own Congress. And that's what happened with Kyoto, because the Kyoto Treaty, as Charles said, was roundly rejected.

And they won't go out into Copenhagen and agree with all these things that it knows it can't pass.

So that's why the president has been setting goals and doing things that he can do, some of them, you might say, are symbolic, but that's how he can show leadership, because he can't guarantee Senate action.

BAIER: Dead in the Senate?

KRAUTHAMMER: Absolutely, particularly since it's the same story that happened in the late '90's. If the Chinese and Indians and the others who are developing will not match our cuts, it makes no sense economically or even scientifically will have no effect on the climate, even if you accept all of the climate science and global warming as a reality.

So it has no effect and it is a transfer of wealth. It will never be accepted.

And the Chinese were clear today — they are not interested in arresting their own development on which the legitimacy of the regime depends. It is a dictatorship. It depends on a prosperous nation to stay in power. It is not going to jeopardize that in the name of the speculative warming claims, and if it doesn't, nothing is going to happen.

BAIER: Mara, quickly, did the White House consider not going?

LIASSON: Yes, I think the White did consider not going. All along it has considered not going.

BAIER: But I mean, as late as this week?

LIASSON: Yes, I think so, but once he committed to going into — going is now defined as American leadership. I don't see how he cannot go because he doesn't think much is going to come out of it.

BARNES: Look, American leadership in the wrong direction. Look, you talk, Mara, about Obama doesn't want to get out in front of the Democratic majorities in the House. How about the American people?

(CROSSTALK)

How about the American people? I can't think of another time in the history of America where the two biggest initiatives of an administration that they're pushing relentless were so unpopular. The American people have rejected the health care bill — Obama-care — and they have rejected cap-and-trade as well, and yet the administration fights on to get these things.

BAIER: That's good segue. Health care is up next.

But first, please join me for a special look at climate change this weekend: "Global Warming or a Lot of Hot Air?" That's this Sunday 9 p.m. Eastern time. I have been drinking a lot of hot tea, sucking on lozenges, my voice will be much better.

Another day, another set of problems for the Senate health care bill. We will talk about today's developments as teased by Fred Barnes in three minutes.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BEN NELSON, D-NEB.: It's a laundry list of concerns that I have. As you continue to go through the list, keep in mind, we haven't gotten the CBO numbers back from that package, so that alone would keep me in limbo until I have had a chance to see those.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAIER: Senator Ben Nelson from Nebraska. He is on the fence according to everybody up on Capitol Hill. A couple of big issues, abortion funding, federal funding for abortion, that's a big issue for him.

Also, as you heard there, the CBO, the Congressional Budget Office has not come out with its score, at least we haven't heard anything about it, about the Reid plan, the proposal that no one has seen. So what about health care reform? We're back with our panel. Mara?

LIASSON: Well, as Ben Nelson said, he's waiting for CBO. It's like "Waiting for Godot." I mean, we had heard we were going get the CBO numbers on Monday.

BAIER: Well, we weren't going to get them.

LIASSON: The Senate was going to get them. We were going to hear about them. I meant we, the American people.

Look, I think this is an amazing thing. When you need 60 votes to pass anything and you only have 60 Democrats, any one senator can be very, very relevant whenever they want to be.

First it was Joe Lieberman. Now it's Ben Nelson. They are really struggling to come up with some kind of abortion language that he could accept.

Now, there is a language on the House bill, the Stupak amendment which I think he likes. I don't know if you could pass something like that through the Senate, but there has to be a version of that to get him.

Now, in the past people thought if you lose one Democrat, maybe you can get Olympia Snowe, but that doesn't look likely at the moment. So this thing right now is all about Ben Nelson and I don't know what they're going to be able to do to satisfy him.

BAIER: Charles, you have been in the past conversations, very confident that Senator Reid would be able to get this through. Are you less so today? Do you think that perhaps there is a chance that this is not going to happen?

KRAUTHAMMER: I don't. We heard Nelson say he has a laundry list. It is a Christmas list and it's holiday time. He watched Mary Landrieu of Louisiana come home with $300 million, which is now called "the Louisiana purchase," to get her vote on cloture a couple of weeks ago.

He watched Joe Lieberman, watch Obama and Reid put a stake through the public option and killed it in order to win Lieberman's vote.

And Nelson has his list.

I'm sure he's a principled man and I don't want to sound cynical, but he wants something on abortion. I mean, the more I look at his objections, the distance between what he wants and what is offered is rather narrow. I can't imagine it can't be finessed.

And then he says he has other stuff he cares about. Well, I'm sure they're going to look at U.S. Treasury and find the funds to satisfy his other list and he will come onboard.

It is inconceivable that over these small differences that one senator is going to hold out and kill the whole bill. I may be wrong, but perhaps I'm not cynical enough.

BAIER: Even if he's looking at polls in Nebraska that are completely upside-down on this issue for Democrats and health care?

KRAUTHAMMER: But he can get language on abortion which is at least as strong as current law, and I can't understand why that would not cover him on the abortion issue.

LIASSON: Every senator gets to be a hero in this scenario. He can win for the pro-life forces of Nebraska.

BARNES: It was easier for Democrats to dump the Medicare buy-in and public option than it is to deal with abortion, because it is a more gut-level, emotional issue for Democrats. The Democratic Party is the pro-abortion party.

(CROSSTALK)

LIASSON: This did it in the House of Representatives.

BARNES: I think, but they did it knowing they would get rid of it in a conference or something, that it wouldn't go through.

LIASSON: Maybe.

BARNES: Look, Nelson is interesting because of this — he voted against all the funding for the health care bill. He voted with Republicans against the tax hikes, Crapo's amendments on the tax hikes, and is against all the funding.

You would think that intellectually that would make it hard, it would be difficult for him to ultimately vote for the bill. Well, stranger things have happened and it could happen this time.

My calculation is simply this: That when a president in what is essentially a tie, when the president steps in, the tie is broken in favor of the president. So I still think Obama-care will pass the Senate, too.

BAIER: On a bill this big, on a vote this big that everybody is going to remember — one-sixth of the U.S. economy — can a senator go in and say I voted for cloture to end debate and vote against the bill and get away with it?

LIASSON: Yes, he can, and I will tell you why: There is no doubt that...

BAIER: And get away with it?

LIASSON: Yes and here is why: Well, first of all, it depends on how tough your race is and Ben Nelson isn't up for this year. There is a lot of things that are going to happen before he stands for reelection.

However, there certainly will be ads run against him saying a vote on cloture equals a vote on the bill.

BAIER: It's already started.

LIASSON: It's already started. However, there was a big debate a couple of years ago about judicial filibusters. And Republicans made the very strong point in a lot of these conservative states, voters heard this loud and clear, things deserve an up and down vote on the floor, in this case judges. That was their argument.

Now the Democrats are saying this health care bill deserves an up or down vote on the floor. You can vote to get it on the floor and then vote your conscience when it comes to final passage. This used to be upside-down when we with talking about judges.

You know, I still think in the end, when you're talking about one lone holdout, unless he wants to be the Democrat who killed health care reform — and it's unclear — this thing will still pass.

BAIER: Fred, you have written about this, something this big being this partisan, with no bipartisan support ...

BARNES: None whatsoever.

BAIER: ... for a major bill like this.

BARNES: And every bill we have seen in domestic policy, whether it's Medicare, Medicaid, civil rights, whatever, over the last 50 years has been a bipartisan bill that was also popular, popular with the American people.

There is a Pew poll that shows folks that don't know much about Obama-care, about the bill, are evenly divided, but those who follow it and know something about it, not a lot, but something about it, they are two-to-one against it. And yet Democrats act like this is something that the American people demanding. They aren't.

BAIER: What we haven't talked a lot about it because a lot of people don't think it's real — is this liberal backlash. While it's very loud, you believe that they will all fold in the end?

KRAUTHAMMER: Well, the ones outside the Congress will be louder and louder, the Howard Deans, the Huffingtons and the other wingnuts will be against it and they will rail.

But if you're a Democrat in the House, in the Congress, and you're in the left, and you have a chance, as I've said again and again, to seize control of the a sixth of the American economy and you can later amend it and you can fudge it, you are turning insurance companies into utilities, which is a way of getting proxy control of the health care system, this is an opportunity you're not going to get again.

You're within an inch of getting it and you're going to sink it over a public option which is redundant and unnecessary, I think not.

BAIER: But it will be loud.

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