This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," December 21, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
MARK STEYN, GUEST HOST: Good evening, I'm Mark Steyn in for Sean Hannity tonight. And over the next hour we'll have continuing coverage of the health care debate unfolding on Capitol Hill. It was just after 1:00 this morning when Senate Democrats won a key vote to move their health care plan forward.
But the vote passed without the support of any Republicans and sweetheart deals were dished out to a number of moderate Democrats who appeared to be wavering. And that brings us to our headline tonight: "Cash for Cloture."
Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson turned out to be the clinching vote for the Democrats, but his flip-flop came only after his state was exempted from ever, ever having to pay for its share of the expanding costs of Medicaid. And now thanks to this outrageous backroom deal, the federal government will have to foot the bill, which means you get to foot the bill.
All of this sets the stage for a final vote on the Senate plan likely to take place on Christmas Eve. If that vote passes, the Senate and House bills would find themselves on a collision course and key differences between the bills would have to be resolved, particularly on the subject of taxpayer-funded abortions.
And that won't be easy, considering the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has announced its opposition to the Senate plan. And a key Democrat in House, Congressman Bob Stupak, has called the Senate's abortion language, quote, "unacceptable."
Opponents of this massive power grab by the government have been put on notice by far left elements of the Democratic Party. Just listen to the words of liberal Senator Sheldon Whitehouse.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE, D-R.I.: They are desperate to break this president. They have ardent supporters who are nearly hysterical at the very election of President Barack Obama. The birthers, the fanatics, the people running around in right-wing militias and Arian support groups. It is unbearable t o them that President Barack Obama should exist.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEYN: So if you oppose this health care bill, you're a birther or a supporter of Arian militias. I think not, Senator. Incidentally, where does that put the liberal editorial board of The Seattle Times which came out against the bill?
Joining me for analysis of this weekend's events, always a pleasure to have him with us, the author of "Catastrophe," Dick Morris is in. Great to see you, Dick.
It keeps moving forward. We're going to get — they're going to get something through and that has to be bad news for the country whatever form passes.
DICK MORRIS, "CATASTROPHE" AUTHOR: Well, let's be specific about it. You'll wake up the morning after it passes, and if you're one of the 10 million Americans who are on Medicare advantage, your premiums will be up, your benefits will be cut and you'll basically have to cash it in and get Medi-gap coverage, which isn't as good.
If you're uninsured, you're going to have to write out a new $750 check to the government each year, as a fine for being uninsured, or if you're particularly masochistic, pay $4,000 or $5,000 for health insurance you don't need, because whenever you're sick, they have to cover you anyway.
MORRIS: And if you're elderly, you're going to go to your doctor and suddenly there's going to be this big elephant in the room, the government. And he's going to say, no, I'm sorry, you can't get that hip replacement. You're 84. And I think you only have two or three more quality years remaining, and the guidelines won't permit me to do this.
And, you know, I'm very sorry you have colon cancer, and normally you'd survive, but now you can't because you're not allowed to use this very expensive drug, which was used a week ago before this bill passed.
So those charming conversations are going to be going on throughout the United States. And I think they're going to be the death knell of the chances of the Democratic Party to hold Congress in 2010.
STEYN: But in a sense, the Democrats have figured all this in. Because you rightly say that if you look at individual groups, they'll all suffer under this bill. What we seem to, in effect, have come up with is a government health care bill that's all government and no health care, that you'll have massive new embryo bureaucracies in place, and that is really what the Democrats are after.
You can point out these problems and they'll say, well, we'll reform those down the road. But the point is they've got the architecture for government control of your body in place, and that's what they wanted all along.
MORRIS: Well, what they're doing is venting this on the elderly. The changes that Lieberman made in the bill protect everybody under 65, but those over 65 are going to be walloped. They're going to see immediately a gigantic difference in their health care, and I think that's going to retard, not advance the prospects of this happening for everybody, because we'll see what it's doing to our parents.
MORRIS: And our parents will see that. But, listen.
STEYN: You could make that same argument in Canada or the United Kingdom, where people see the way the elderly are treated, and yet government health care, once it's in place, never gets rolled back.
MORRIS: Well, Medicare has been in place for a long time, and this makes it draconian. It makes it something that hurts people's access to care, rather than enhances it. But it's no — but I don't think it's going to become national socialized medicine any time soon.
MORRIS: But let's not pass this bill yet. They still have to do it. The conservatives who sold out to stop this — let this bill pass are now going to face the liberals, who are going to demand key expansions of the government role. They're going to want a public option. They're going to raise the Medicare buy-in. They're going to say that it should be financed by a surtax on the income tax.
MORRIS: Not just by the premium stuff that goes on. They'll want a draconian fine for failing to buy insurance. They'll want much more subsidies to pay for the insurance and a higher total cost.
Now the conservatives have gotten their way and have gotten a bill shaped to their liking. It still is pretty terrible, but at least it passes their muster. Now the question is, who pushes and who pulls and who gives? And that's why we conservatives have got to keep up the pressure.
We've accomplished a great deal. Your fears about a month ago, I would say, were absolutely accurate. But I think the changes in the bill have largely militated against those coming true. But we've got to maintain.
STEYN: But just — yes.
MORRIS: But we've got to maintain that pressure, otherwise, it will all be undone in conference.
STEYN: So you're — I mean, isn't one of the lessons of the last weekend, where the fate of the republic hinges on a jelly-spine squish like Ben Nelson, a terrible indictment of the political culture of the United States, apart from anything else. But doesn't it also tell you something — I think as Jennifer Rubin over at Commentary magazine said that when it comes to the last ditch, every Democrat is a liberal and they'll sign on to the bill regardless of what's in it.
MORRIS: Yes, I think that's true. I think that there's a qualitative difference between the compromise Lieberman had.
MORRIS: Where he got rid of the public option for all of us and stopped the Medicare age from being dropped to a point where it's en route to zero and becomes socialized medicine.
MORRIS: And Landrieu and Nelson, who basically just got their 30 pieces of silver in the form of their getting Medicaid, you know, protection for their states.
MORRIS: But — and God knows what in private. Don't assume that these were just public sector bribes that they took. We have to closely watch what projects get approved for Nebraska, who contributes to whose campaign and what private deals are made with Senator Nelson and Senator Landrieu and Senator Lincoln, because believe me, they are likely to be personally and politically enriched by this vote.
STEYN: Right, right. Just to pick up on that, in defense of honest bribes, if I bribe you, I have to use my own money. When Harry Reid bribes Mary Landrieu and Ben Nelson, he's using my money and your money and every American taxpayer's money. This is worse than bribery.
MORRIS: I think that really, when we look at this whole process, we can come to the conclusion that there is no such thing as a moderate Democrat, that fundamentally all Democrats are Democrats, period, and that in any — any voter who says to himself, "I'm going to vote for Nelson. I'm a Nebraska Republican, but I'm going to vote for Nelson because he doesn't go along with that Washington crowd," is just kidding themselves. Ditto in Arkansas, ditto in Louisiana.
MORRIS: The only reason that some of these congressmen vote against the health care reform bill is because their votes aren't needed.
MORRIS: When their votes were needed in the Senate, every single one of them fell in line.
MORRIS: But that's not to say that our pressure was useless. The pressure that we all brought and need to continue to bear saved America from socialized medicine.
STEYN: So you're a glass half full kind of guy, even after what we saw at 1:00 in the morning.
MORRIS: Might be filled with arsenic, Mark, but it's only half full.
STEYN: Yes. I think the glass is 1/16 full and it's getting empty very fast. You're eternally optimistic. Isn't there a good point, though, that perhaps, you know, Republicans should have fought this in principle after the Hillary bill and they wouldn't be having to fighting it again now?
MORRIS: I don't get you.
STEYN: I meant that if we defeated that — instead of just defeating it procedurally, if we had won the argument in principle, we wouldn't have to be coming back.
MORRIS: No, I think Hillary's bill was destroyed. I think that, if anything, Obama learned a lot from it. I think Hillary's bill was eviscerated, but it recovered after — the idea recovered after 15 years.
STEYN: Yes, that's what matters, the idea.
MORRIS: But let's realize that the bill that the Democratic Party just is in the process of passing owes more to Newt Gingrich's budget cuts and Medicare than it owes to Hillary care. It was a bill that any reasonable Democrat, who was concerned about old people and concerned about Medicare and worried about the health care and not in the tradition of FDR and Harry Truman and Johnson and Kennedy, should have voted against that bill.
This bill basically steals money from the medical care of the elderly and gives it to the federal bureaucracy.
STEYN: Hey, thanks a lot, Dick. Got to leave it there.
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