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Deal or No Deal? Why Reconciliation on Health Care Is Not Enough for Some Democrats

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," March 11, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Tonight: If he says no, health care is over. Democratic congressman Bart Stupak goes "On the Record." So what is his beef? The language in the health care bill that bars federal funding for abortion is it (ph). Congressman Stupak uncut and "On the Record."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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

REP. BART STUPAK, D - MICH.: Good seeing you again.

VAN SUSTEREN: Congressman, let me give you a hypothetical in terms of procedure. Suppose that it goes this way, is that the House passes the Senate bill. It goes to the president for signature and comes back for reconciliation. Is that a procedure could you live with?

STUPAK: No, I don't think so. What assurances we would have that the Senate would take up another bill to correct the many errors we see within the Senate bill -- this was sort of proposed today at the caucus, and many members spoke up, said, No, it's not good enough. We're not -- we're not going to pass a bill -- first of all, members don't like the Senate bill, especially with the special deals in it. So why would we vote on it or vote for it, send it to president so he could sign it, it becomes law, then the special deals are law, and then trust that they're going to fix it later? It's not just me, many members said they don't agree with that process.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is it they don't trust the Senate when it comes back?

STUPAK: It's not so much trust this chamber or that chamber, it's just those of us who've been here for a little while knows that tomorrow never comes. You know, We'll fix it tomorrow. Never happens.

VAN SUSTEREN: So what do you -- where are we now in terms of this bill?

STUPAK: Well, there's really about four different procedures they could use to pass this legislation. And quite frankly, we're tired of the Senate's always saying, Well, we can't do anything because we need 60 votes. Well, look, if the president really wants this bill, the president has to work this bill a little harder. Those of us in the House would love to see a national health care bill. We want to see health care reform for the nation.

But it seems like every time we try to propose something that the House would like to do or what we think is reasonable, it's always, like, Well, we can't get 60 votes, so we can't do that. And tell you, that argument is wearing thin with members, and the president's going to have to weigh in and get a bill, if that's what he wants.

VAN SUSTEREN: What could the president do?

STUPAK: Well, there's different procedures you can use. Some of them, like reconciliation, they talk about 51 votes, a simple majority. You can do a corrections bill, enrollment (ph) correction bill, which needs only 51 votes.

VAN SUSTEREN: Would that be at the same time? Is that...

STUPAK: It's sort of like a tie-bar. It almost goes the same time. And what the bill really says is, it does not become law unless this other piece of legislation becomes law. So there's...

VAN SUSTEREN: So there's a protection in there...

STUPAK: There's a protection in there, and that's what members are looking for. The president worked with most of the Senate. And if this legislation is of value and can stand on its own merits and not through sweetheart deals, then I would think the president could sell this bill, if you will, to the Senate, to members of the Senate. He worked with -- he knows them all. So I mean, the problem is not the House here in this whole process, it's the Senate and its 60-vote majority that they -- or supermajority that they always claim they have to have for everything.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, I'm not sure that this will happen that way just because the president's leaving for Asia on the 18th. And what I understand...

STUPAK: What, the legislation can't wait until he gets back?

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, you know, I -- I mean -- I mean, that's not -- I mean, these aren't my deadlines, believe me!

(LAUGHTER)

VAN SUSTEREN: You know, but -- so -- so you would -- you'd be -- you'd be satisfied to let this wait until he returns.

STUPAK: Yes. I mean, he's not going to be there forever. I mean...

VAN SUSTEREN: (INAUDIBLE) not going to be there forever.

STUPAK: Well, even if the House passes it, you're not going to tell me the Senate's -- see, what they're saying is, House, you do it, and then we'll sign it. Then we can say we have something done. So this promise, We'll fix things later, doesn't ring real true with a lot of us.

VAN SUSTEREN: Has Speaker Pelosi or even Congressman Hoyer -- have they spoken to you in the last four or five days?

STUPAK: Mr. Hoyer and I had a good meeting yesterday.

VAN SUSTEREN: "Good" meaning what?

STUPAK: Well, we talked about parts of the bill, the procedure which -- and the abortion language were the two things we talked about. And Chairman Waxman and I continue to have good discussions, trying to resolve the issues between us.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you feel any closer, though? I mean, you know, we look at what comes out of these meeting and what we can sort of piece together, and if you're saying that the Senate has got to move off the dime -- they don't look like they're going to move off the dime. The president's got to do something. I don't know if the president can do something. And you have your viewpoint. I don't see where this -- where any of this looks, quote, "good" for a health care bill.

Watch Greta's interview with Rep. Bart Stupak

STUPAK: As of right now today, I agree with you. I don't see how they're going to get the votes to pass health care, no matter what procedure they use, if they want to do it by March 18th. And I wish they never would have put those deadlines out there. But I don't see it.

I mean, the Senate bill -- not just abortion issues, I mean, you have cost containment, the Senate is very weak. We had quality provisions we put in the House bill to really revamp the way we make reimbursements to health care providers. That's not in the Senate bill. There are -- how you pay for the bill is completely different. Now the president's talking about a third way. Instead of taxing the insurance plans, now he's talking about 2.9 percent tax on people who make more than $250,000 on their dividends, their stock.

So you -- there's so much in play here, and no one has a final draft of what the bill is supposed to be that we're supposed to vote on. But yet they claim in caucus today, You will have seven days to look at it. Well, seven days, if my math is right -- today is the 11th, seven days is the 18th, and they expect us to vote on it. So they have to have that bill done by midnight tonight? I mean, these are the unanswered questions, and they're making...

VAN SUSTEREN: It almost -- the way you (INAUDIBLE) it almost sounds crazy, though, from my viewpoint. I mean, with -- that nobody can seem to agree and these deadlines and -- it doesn't -- this doesn't seem like it's happening.

STUPAK: I agree. I mean, we've been having a lot of caucuses. We're here tonight. We finished up, but they're going to make us stay so they can have another caucus tomorrow morning.

VAN SUSTEREN: What happens at these caucuses? What do you do?

STUPAK: Oh, nothing. The same people get up and talk.

VAN SUSTEREN: And say, like, what, though? I mean, like, what, do you guys all sit in a room and...

STUPAK: No, no. In fairness, today -- in fairness, today Nancy-Ann DeParle came in -- that's the president's health adviser -- and said, Here's what the president would like to see. And we think this will happen. And we'll say, Well, can we see the score from CBO? You say it's going to cost this much? Has anyone independently checked those figures? And they would say things like, We'll get it to you. And we'll say, When? If the clock is ticking on the seven days we're supposed to have, when is all this going to occur?

VAN SUSTEREN: And what's the answer when you say "When?"

STUPAK: Oh, we'll get it to you.

VAN SUSTEREN: That doesn't sound -- that wouldn't satisfy many people.

STUPAK: I guess we've (INAUDIBLE) that that's the standard answer. Will they get it to us? Sure. But when? How long before we vote? Members are asking for information. These caucuses have been good in saying, Here's what we're thinking. Here's the process, how we see it. Tomorrow is these procedures. You mentioned, Well, we got to pass the Senate bill, goes to the president, he signs it and we fix it later.

Tomorrow will be that discussion about whether or not members will accept it. And I can tell you right now, members are not going to accept that. We're not going to accept this, Trust me, we'll fix it later. There has to be something more.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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