OTR Interviews

Health Care Reform Plan B in the Works

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," February 25, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Well, should the nation get ready for plan B? FOX News confirms the White House has developed a smaller plan B for health care reform. The president today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have a plan B?

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I've always got a plan.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAN SUSTEREN: Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich joins us live. Good evening, sir.

NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: How are you?

VAN SUSTEREN: First of all, what did you think of today?

GINGRICH: I thought it was interesting. I thought it was actually very positive of the president to do it. It gave the Republicans an opportunity to communicate with the country they wouldn't have had otherwise. I don't think it got a great deal done. I very much liked your interview with Lamar Alexander, who I think had a pretty balanced sense of where we are.

The core problem's pretty straightforward. The liberal Democrats want to spend a lot more than we have, for good reason, from their standpoint. They want a much bigger government. The Republicans and some moderate Democrats don't want to do that. And the question now is, What does the president do? Clearly, there was no breakthrough today. It was an interesting exercise. I suspect for most Americans, the real puzzle is, since this morning, unemployment applications went up, why didn't we have the same level summit on jobs? And why...

VAN SUSTEREN: Maybe we will.

GINGRICH: Well, I hope maybe...

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, my only curiosity is why isn't -- you know, we should have had this last -- I didn't like it when big drugs met behind closed doors last June, and we've had the Ben Nelson thing behind closed doors. But anyway, at least now we had transparency today. Plan B -- what do you think that the president has in mind in his plan B?

GINGRICH: It's the end of transparency. Nice six hours of transparency.

VAN SUSTEREN: Whatever. I mean, I -- I (INAUDIBLE) got that.

GINGRICH: Here's the challenge to the president. They clearly are willing to try to use reconciliation to pass a bill with 50 votes, plus the vice president.

VAN SUSTEREN: That doesn't seem like plan B. That sounds more like, Tough luck, I won the election and you're out of luck.

GINGRICH: Well, but here's why there's has to be a plan B. They -- and I don't think they can get this done. How do they write a bill which gets 50 votes plus the vice president in the Senate and gets 218 votes in the House?

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, you just heard the congressman who was just here. He said that he has problems with the Senate bill which would have to be...

GINGRICH: That's my whole point. I mean, this is -- this is really complicated. And people don't realize how very different it is.

VAN SUSTEREN: The two bills?

GINGRICH: Well, the House and the Senate and the way in which they deal with reality and the different kinds of approaches, the different kind of tensions. Every member of the House is up for reelection. In the poll that you were running just now from FOX, 59 percent of the country is opposed to them trying to pass a partisan bill.

Now, if you're a swing Democrat -- and there are -- Charlie Cook says there are now 92 swing Democrats because of the size of the Scott Brown victory in Massachusetts -- you're sitting there going, Well, I don't know that I want to try to get reelected this year if I vote for something that 59 percent of the country is opposed to.

VAN SUSTEREN: See, I...

GINGRICH: And so the tension is going to keep growing.

VAN SUSTEREN: I guess -- I mean, I know it's profoundly naive on my part. But you know, having seen people go through a real health crisis, is that it's so hard for me to think that these decisions by these, you know, men and women in Congress is based on the election thing because this -- this is a little different than almost any other topic. These are life and death -- people are suffering all the time. So you would think, you know, that -- you know, that they wouldn't make the decision necessarily on that. But I guess they do.

GINGRICH: Well, but remember the kind of bills we're talking about. We're talking about a bill where the one tax in the proposal becomes in effect in 2018.

VAN SUSTEREN: Which is -- and you know, that -- that is one of the most deplorable parts of this. And I guess we should explain it, is that - - that this -- that this -- (INAUDIBLE) Cadillac plans, right?

GINGRICH: Right.

VAN SUSTEREN: And it doesn't go into effect until -- even President Obama, if he gets a second administration, would be out. So it's the next president who has to deal with it.

GINGRICH: Right. So -- so...

VAN SUSTEREN: That is -- that is -- that's -- that's -- that's appalling.

GINGRICH: Well, I mean, I've -- I've -- I've had votes who were votes of conscience. And we've had votes on war, for example, that were really - - don't think about your district, do what you think is right, period. Now that -- now, however, they're being approached with a bill which has so many loopholes and so many complexities and is so confusing, it's pretty hard to make it a clear up-or-down vote. It's very hard to go to a member and say, This 2,000 pages is decisive for America's future. And so people start making calculations that are actually how we designed the Constitution. I mean, you know, people -- they're supposed to be representatives. They're supposed to actually have some relationship to the people back home.

VAN SUSTEREN: I guess I'm still fixated on that 2018 tax because the...

GINGRICH: Well...

VAN SUSTEREN: You know...

GINGRICH: It tells you how phony it is.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, you know (INAUDIBLE) I don't want to be had as a citizen. And you could see today the deep philosophical difference between the two sides. But if -- but if they've got in this -- well, they -- there is in this -- in this particular bill that the tax doesn't kick in until everybody is long gone, you know, that truly is political.

GINGRICH: Well, the country has -- the American people have a deep instinct that if you can't write a bill that attracts some people from the other side, maybe there's something innately wrong with it. I mean, they don't have to go much below (ph) that. When we passed Welfare reform, which was our biggest reform, we split the Democrats evenly. We got 101 yes and 101 no. Now, people back home could say that that's probably a pretty good bill because people on both sides of the aisle came together and said, yes, let's pass this.

VAN SUSTEREN: But it's even more than that, though, because you don't even have to have bipartisan -- they shouldn't have even needed a Republican to win this. They had White House, they had the House and they had a filibuster-proof Senate and they still couldn't even convince their own. So if you can't even moderate the legislation such to get your own group to vote for it, I mean, that's a bigger sign.

GINGRICH: Well, at the Center for Health Transformation, we just did a poll with Public Opinion Strategies and Bill McInturff, and Bill made the point that people in the country, to a remarkable degree, know the Democrats are in charge. And people around the country say, Let me get this straight. This bill is bad enough that even with a 60-vote margin in the Senate and a big margin in the House, you couldn't pass it? And so there's an automatic kind of -- I mean, the average person doesn't read a 2,500-page bill coming out of the Senate. But they can sense it's too big, it's too complicated, and they distrust politicians.

VAN SUSTEREN: To what extent does this blame the House and Senate leaders and the president? Who really dropped the ball for the party?

GINGRICH: Oh, I think -- I think they collectively tried to do something you can't do. I just think it's too hard.

VAN SUSTEREN: Mr. Speaker, thank you, sir.

GINGRICH: Good to be with you. Thank you.

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