This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Bret Baier" from November 18, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
BRET BAIER, HOST: This is a Fox News alert. You're looking live at Capitol Hill. In just a moment Senate Majority Lead er Harry Reid is expected to discuss his healthcare reform bill, and also the Congressional Budget Office's price tag that they put on it of $849 billion.
As you wait for the senators to walk in here, we are getting some news from our producer up there, Trish Turner up on Capitol Hill. She s ays there have been changes to the Senate bill, and they have done some changing to the taxes on the Cadillac plans, the high-cost plans, the individual plans worth $8,500.
There you see Senator Reid walking in — also changes to the abortion language. Each state will be required to offer one plan that covers abortion and one plan that does not.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid surrounded by other Democrats up on Capitol Hill. We are going to listen into this as he rolls out the Congressional Budget Office's score. He just had a private meeting with the Democratic caucus on Capitol Hill.
SEN. HARRY REID, D-NEV, SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: We just completed a caucus. It was really very, very good. We all acknowledge this legislation is a tremendous step forward. Why? Because it saves lives, saves money, and protects Medicare, makes Medicare stronger.
We've traveled really long ways to where we are, and tonight begins the last leg of this journey that we've been on now for some time.
The American people, President Obama, have asked us for health insurance reform. It does two things. One, makes it more affordable for the American people.
Remember, this past year 750,000 Americans filed bankruptcy. Over half of those bankruptcies dealt with health care costs. More than half the people filed bankruptcy because of health care costs had insurance.
So, not only do we make it more affordable for every American, we also certainly do it in a fiscally responsible way.
We're not going to add a dime to the deficit — in fact, quite the opposite. We'll cut the problems we have with money around here by as much as three-quarters of $1 trillion dollars.
And this bill is going to do good things over the next ten years for so many different people in our society — 98 percent of the American people, those that have Medicare, will be included in that number, will have health insurance. And we'll make sure that 30 million more Americans who don't have health insurance today will soon have it.
I want to repeat. We not only protect Medicare, we're making it stronger.
The numbers I just have gone over are pretty impressive, and I have no doubt that the American people agree with that.
Although we're proud of these figures, these numbers that we have given you, we can't afford to really overlook what this is really all about. More accurately, we can't afford to overlook who this is all about.
This is about a parent, for example, my friend Jeff Hill from Searchlight, Nevada, 23-years-old. He goes off his parents' health insurance policy. Within six weeks, he is diagnosed...
BAIER: OK, that was Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid as he continues to roll out his health care reform bill, the Congressional Budget Office scoring it tonight.
We're going to move on right now, but you can see the rest of this press briefing, this event streaming live on Foxnews.com. Just log on to the site and go to "watch live" banner at the top of the page and you can see it in its entirety.
We're going to talk not a little bit about this rollout, change gears a bit, and bring in our panel, Steve Hayes, senior writer for the Weekly Standard, Mort Kondracke, Executive Editor of Roll Call, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer.
Steve, they are very proud of these numbers that the Congressional Budget Office has given them, $849 billion in the cost, and they say reducing federal deficits by a total of $127 billion over ten years.
STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: It will be fascinating to jump into the details and get into the weeds on this.
What I think is most remarkable about the rollout tonight is that it was so long in coming. Remember, this is a party and a president who had said he was going to show these deliberations on television on C-Span and they were, in fact, done behind closed doors.
We're now seeing the product of what they did behind closed doors, and it will be up to the media and others to scrutinize it.
BAIER: And we are going to scrutinize it.
Mort, one important thing to point out is that this does not include the $200-plus billion doctor fix, the payments to doctors Medicare payments.
MORT KONDRACKE, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, ROLL CALL: Right. So if it is $127 billion over ten years saved but it is $215 billion over ten years spent on the doctor fix, that is a net loss.
And, you know, the fact is that this is going to cover more people. That's the good side of this reform. The bad side is everybody is going to pay for it in higher insurance premiums, and it's not going to, as they say, bend the curve on the total cost of health care in the United States.
BAIER: Charles, with this rollout, with the differences that are pretty wide between the House and the Senate versions, what are the chances, do you think, of passage?
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, it will depend on whether these numbers are anywhere near real. We just heard Harry Reid throw out a number, and I don't know where it came from, three-quarters of a trillion dollars he said are going to be saved as a result of this. I don't know where that came out of this. If that holds up, I will eat my hat.
There are already loopholes that Mort talked about, which is the doctor fix, and there is something else. In the House bill, and I'm sure in the bill that we will hear about tomorrow in the Senate, it's ten years of people paying in, and six or seven years of health care because it kicks in later.
So that is how you make the numbers look good, but annually, it runs at a huge deficit.
When we hear about the details of this, we're going to have an idea if any of this is real. I suspect it is all smoke and mirrors in the numbers.
BAIER: And we also have the issues of abortion, illegal immigration, what's in this.
KONDRACKE: And the public plan. The public plan is not a problem solved yet. He can't get 60 votes for a public plan.
BAIER: OK, we're going to dig into this obviously and have a full report tomorrow. And again, you can see that briefing in its entirety as it goes on on Foxnews.com.
More of the panel's comments on the big interview today, President Obama's interview with Fox News, including the president's take on taking criticism.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: There may be some tax provisions that can encourage businesses to hire sooner rather than sitting on the sidelines. So we're taking a look at those.
I think it is important, though, to recognize that if we keep on adding to the debt, even in the midst of this recovery that at some point people could lose confidence in the U.S. economy in a way that could actually lead to a double dip recession.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: President Obama sitting down with our senior White House correspondent Major Garrett in China. That statement and others made a lot of headlines on wire services and newspaper sites online.
We are back with the panel about this overall interview overall. Charles, first on that statement, the focus and concern about the debt?
KRAUTHAMMER: Let me say how good it was to see the president sit down with Major. It constitutes the most important truce in our history since the Korean armistice in 1953, and I would say that we are South Korea in this particular analogy.
It was interesting what the president said on this. He said people are warning us about a loss of confidence. He means the Chinese and the others whom he has been speaking with, meaning that he is a little bit wary about attacking the jobs issue with another huge stimulus because the people who buy our bonds, who he has been speaking with in Asia, are extremely nervous about that and are discouraging any attempt to blow up our debt on the jobs issue, also on healthcare and other of Obama's ambitious domestic agenda.
So it looks as if he wants to scale back. And in fact, the example he used, he mentioned earlier in the interview, which we said one thing we could do is to increase our exports to Asia by one percent, that would create a lot of jobs and it wouldn't be a drain on the treasury, and that is so. But if he wants any progress on that, he's got to get Chinese to redo, to readjust the currency. And on that he just got stiff. He spoke about it in a press conference earlier in the week.
But on Sunday, at the APEC summit, the Asian summit, the clause in the communique that called for a market-oriented currency exchange, which is a code for raising the Chinese currency, was stopped and didn't enter the communique at all. So he didn't have any success on that, and he knows he's not going to get an increase in exports.
KONDRACKE: All that is exactly right. The best idea is for creating jobs would be a payroll tax cut or an investment tax credit or an acceleration of military — building military hardware that we're going to buy anyway. But all that costs money and all that will raise the deficit.
Now, the Obama administration has not been cutting spending all this time. The appropriations contained earmarks. The healthcare plan will cost more money than is anticipated. So it is already raising the deficit.
And if he wants to stimulate the economy in order to create jobs, which is very hard to do, he is going to have to raise the deficit and the Chinese are not going to like it.
BAIER: Steve, other issues that perhaps caught your ear?
Guantanamo Bay, he officially said they will not make the January deadline of closing but hey will make it sometime next year.
HAYES: I thought it was disingenuous for the president to say that he wasn't disappointed that he wasn't going to make the deadline that he had set.
If you go back and you look at May 21st speech at the national archives, he sort of doubled down. He said, look, there are costs to keeping Guantanamo Bay open. And every day it is open, we are incurring those costs as a nation in terms of our moral authority and things of that nature.
So he said, again, we need it closed within a year and I intend to close it within a year, that's why I did it. So of course he is disappointed that it's not going to be closed within a year. And I think it marks something, a failure.
The other thing he said thought that came up today on the Guantanamo issue was Eric Holder today testifying and talking about 100 Gitmo detainees being prepared for transfer. That is a huge jump in the number of Guantanamo detainees that may be transferred. I think the president and attorney general need to explain exactly who those people are. People need to see that.
BAIER: The president is saying also today that these alleged 9/11 conspirators will be convicted, Eric Holder saying that again and again and again in Senate testimony.
Another issue, Israel and the settlements, Charles, seemed to make a little news there.
KRAUTHAMMER: Well, he returned — he has got his hard line again, in which he says that Israeli settlements are making it hard for a re-launch of the peace negotiations.
Well, look, apart from what anybody thinks about the virtue of a settlement or not, the ideological import of it, look at the historical fact. For 16 years in the absence of a freeze of settlements, there were negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. In fact, a year ago Abbas, the leader of the Palestinians, was deep in negotiations with the Israeli prime minister at a time when there was an increase in settlements.
So it was Obama who comes in. He calls for a settlement freeze. The Palestinians, of course, endorse it, and then say that unless Israel imposes a freeze, that there won't be any negotiations. This was a self- inflicted wound on the part of the administration, completely unnecessary, and that's what has stopped the negotiations.
KONDRACKE: In another interview today, he said that his travels all over the world, he's the most traveled president in this — for this period in office of any in history, that he has significantly improved America's standing in the world.
Yet on every issue — China, Iran, Iraq, the Middle East — it's more difficult than he anticipated. Of course it is, because popularity and high poll ratings on the president's behalf do not change the fact that this is a very difficult world and he has not solved any of those problems yet.
BAIER: Lastly, Steve, do you think that the White House now looks at this interview and says maybe we should have done this all along?
HAYES: Yes, well, I think they actually thought that before the interview took place. And I think there were people in the White House who have regrets about this whole thing from the beginning.
But yes, Major is a serious journalist. He asked serious questions. The president gave answers that I disagreed with for the most part, but reasonable answers. Interviews aren't that hard.
BAIER: We are going to talk much more about this on the online show after this broadcast. That's it for the panel here.
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