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Lee: States Suing Before Reading Law

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Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas (FNC)

This is a rush transcript from "Your World With Neil Cavuto," March 25, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, ANCHOR: Fourteen states now are suing to block this health care bill, and that list growing day by day — now one lawmaker accusing those states of rushing lawsuits when they haven’t fully read the bill.

With us now, Texas Democratic Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee.

Congresswoman, good to have you.

REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE D-TEXAS: It’s a pleasure to be with you and your viewers. Good afternoon.

CAVUTO: Ma’am, I know what you said about them not reading the bill, but, I mean, a lot of your colleagues didn’t read the bill either, because they thought it was going to cover all kids with all preexisting conditions on day one. And, as it turns out, ma’am, it didn’t.

So, I guess a lot of people aren’t reading this, right?

JACKSON LEE: Well, I think it’s not a question of them not reading the bill. It will cover all children with preexisting disease, except that it is over a period of time, which is the good news about this bill, because it allows many of the elements of the health care coverage business in America, which includes the medical profession, as well as insurance companies, to be able to incrementally implement the impact of the bill.

That’s the question that I raised.

CAVUTO: Well, Congresswoman, that might be so, but, when I was in Washington last week, that was a key selling point, that, right now, right away, day one, everyone covered. Now, mistakes happen. People don’t read the fine print, but I’m telling you, a lot of people are saying that’s just the tip of the iceberg. And these A.G.s are saying the big old iceberg is — is the illegality of doing this, forcing people to buy insurance. And that’s what they’re resting their case on. You say it’s no case?

JACKSON LEE: I’m saying it’s frivolous. I think these lawsuits are politically motivated, if you will. And I don’t know the individual motivations of the individual attorney generals.

CAVUTO: Well, you have one of them — one of them is a Democratic — one of them is a Democratic attorney general of Louisiana. So, what is his story?

JACKSON LEE: I give him no — I give him no respite either.

I don’t know what he is suing on, other than for his own interpretation. This is a question of the authority of the Congress and the Constitution, and those two coming together. Under the Commerce Clause, the federal government has a right to regulate interstate commerce. And that includes the insurance and the medical care of Americans.

Now, let me say this. As well...

CAVUTO: Well, that — see, ma’am, that’s what they’re opening up to considerable debate here. They say the government — and, again, I don’t know what the ultimate legal truth is here, but they say the government cannot force that issue on all of its citizens, to buy a product in this case for which they might be morally opposed.

JACKSON LEE: Well, first of all, that’s the point the point that I’m making. They have not read the bill. They’re not giving the bill the chance to be implemented, and, therefore, coming in with standing...

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: But, no, that feature, that’s the part they under...

JACKSON LEE: Neil, let me finish.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: No, I’m just saying, that’s the big part they are objecting to. That part of the bill, they have read, and they don’t think you have the power to do that.

JACKSON LEE: Well, let me just say this.

They don’t know what the impact will be, and, therefore, they’re really coming into the courts without standing. Their argument is that it’s going to negatively impact the vast numbers of Americans.

Well, I come from the state of Texas, and 12 million, close to 13 million individuals will have improved medical coverage out of this bill. Almost 20,000 businesses will be able to get — excuse me — almost half-a-million businesses will be able to get insurance for their employees. And we will have another 20,000 or so that will leave or be able to get out of bankruptcy. This is about...

CAVUTO: So, what do you make, ma’am, of all these — what do you make of all these companies, led by Caterpillar and so many others, Verizon now saying it’s going to impact jobs, a lot of them, thousands of them, maybe millions down through the years?

JACKSON LEE: Well, what I would say, Neil, is that they, too, have not waited for an assessment on how this will help lower the cost of medical coverage for Americans. When so many are uninsured, that’s a burden on business. It’s a burden on the federal government.

Let me just say that there were many who opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act. There were many states` rights activists of how drastic this bill was going to impact those individuals. It was a question of empowering people from second- and third-class status to first-class status.

What we’re doing now with this health bill is making all Americans with the status of first-class, and not second-class. How do you find a response in the courts, how do you get a response in the courts on that basis?

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: OK, but Congresswoman, you’re not comparing — you’re not comparing civil rights marchers — you’re not comparing civil rights marchers...

JACKSON LEE: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. Absolutely.

CAVUTO: No, wait a minute — who risked their lives and got shot at, including one prominent one who got assassinated, with those who are advocating coverage for everyone in this country, are you?

JACKSON LEE: What I am suggesting is — well, you are taking it to the extreme. They have a special place in history.

But this is a significant legislative initiative that does equal to civil rights for people who have been denied health care insurance and therefore have lost their lives.

CAVUTO: Congresswoman — all right, Congresswoman, you are — you are...

JACKSON LEE: What is the basis — what do you characterize the opponents...

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: You’re a patriot. And I take nothing away from your good intentions.

But you know what, ma’am? I know Nancy Pelosi. She’s not exactly a friend of mine, but she ain’t no Martin Luther King, OK?

JACKSON LEE: Well, you know, let me say this, Neil. Come on. I knew you would make that kind of comparison, and it’s atrocious.

What I’m suggesting to you is, there have been individuals...

CAVUTO: Well, you guys have. You have equated — you have equated the two struggles.

JACKSON LEE: No.

CAVUTO: They’re very different.

JACKSON LEE: There have been individuals — there have been individuals, and rightly so, who have suggested that this is a significant piece of legislation, and it has taken people who are in second-class status as relates to health care...

CAVUTO: All right.

JACKSON LEE: ... those who still live, because we have lost 45,000 a year for decades...

CAVUTO: OK.

JACKSON LEE: Now we have the opportunity to give them health insurance.

These are frivolous lawsuits.

CAVUTO: All right.

JACKSON LEE: They’re politically motivated. And they don’t have a basis in Constitutional law. Now, I will watch what happens, and we will see. I hope they will be dismissed.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: OK.

Real quickly, if they’re not, if any one of them are not, and they succeed, is this thing totally undone? If it goes to the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court says, yes, they’re right, this thing is finished, right?

JACKSON LEE: I’m an optimist, Neil.

CAVUTO: OK.

JACKSON LEE: And I believe the cup is half-full.

We have passed this bill. We’re getting ready to pass the reconciliation bill. More Americans will have health insurance coverage than ever that we have had in the history of America.

CAVUTO: All right.

JACKSON LEE: And let me say this.

There are many who are waiting on the sidelines to file amicus briefs and to fight this case.

CAVUTO: OK.

JACKSON LEE: And I can assure you that we will have as many people fighting against these individuals as we — as they might think that they will have.

We will fight this in the courts. And we hope that the Supreme Court will uphold the Commerce Clause, and this legislation will be upheld.

CAVUTO: We’re watching it, Congresswoman. Thank you very much. Good having you.

JACKSON LEE: It’s a pleasure to be with you. Thank you, Neil.

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