This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Bret Baier" from March 15, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HOUSE SPEAKER NANCY PELOSI: When we have a bill, then we will let you know about the votes. But when we bring the bill to the floor, we will have the votes.
We are taking a vote and anticipate having the support of those who support health care reform and will not be deterred by any misrepresentations as to what the language says.
PAUL RYAN, R-WIS.: This is the vaunted transparency that the president promised? The arrogance, the paternalism, the condescension to the American people is just breathtaking.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRET BAIER, "SPECIAL REPORT" HOST: The House Budget Committee started the process today with the bill, looking at the Senate health care bill. And they are not talking about the language of what the bill will look like or the price tag yet, but they are moving it forward. Here is where we are on the head count in the House, what we call the whip count. So far we have five Democrats who have now changed their votes from yes to no. This is the same tally. We haven't seen it move one way or another. It's still five votes shy of the 216 needed by our estimate. Obviously a lot can change in a matter of days. Let's bring in our panel, Fred Barnes, Executive Editor of The Weekly Standard, Juan Williams, news analyst for National Public Radio, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. The president told ABC tonight, Fred, he is going to have the votes this week.
FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Well, if they — look, if they bring the bill to the floor, they will have the votes. If they don't have the votes, they won't bring the bill to the floor. So, I don't know whether he made that little qualifier in there the way Nancy Pelosi did in the bite of what we just saw of what she said, but maybe so.
They don't have the votes right now. Otherwise, President Obama wouldn't have announced that he was going to shave three days off his foreign trip to stay here to get this through. If they thought they had the votes now, he would be off on a longer overseas trip.
I think they are somewhere between 10 and 15 votes behind. I would count more than five. I go by the whip count of John McCormick of The Weekly Standard who follows this thing as closely as anyone. And so you are going to have obviously Bart Stupak and the question is how many people is he going to have with him as part of his coalition.
BAIER: This is the congressman from Michigan who is a pro-life Democrat.
BARNES: Right, and they are not bargaining with him anymore. They given up on getting Stupak's vote because they figure if we have that sort of anti-abortion language in it, then we are going to lose a lot of particularly liberal Democratic women. So, they figure they have a better chance by forgetting about Stupak. I think he is going to have seven or eight people with him.
Then there is a list of 15 or 20 other Democrats who voted yes before, like Stupak, and his folks, who would sure like to vote no, and they are seeing all kinds of problems they have and so on.
In any case, we have seen people go, voted yes in November in the House, to no. We haven't seen a single person who voted no among Democrats, 38 of them a single no go to yes.
There are about 10 of them that I think the White House is focusing on, and they can make a pretty good promise to them. They say your best chance is if you vote for Obama-care then you will stir up the liberal base and you might have a chance of winning. And if you don't win, we will give you a job in the Obama administration.
BAIER: Juan, one of those votes that they're trying to get is Dennis Kucinich. He flew on Air Force One today to the president's speech. Is that the pool that they are going after, the progressive Democrats who voted no because there wasn't a public option?
JUAN WILLIAMS, NEWS ANALYST, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Exactly right. I mean, it's not only Dennis Kucinich. There are about five people like Jason Altmire Pennsylvania, John Boccieri also of Ohio, along with Kucinich. The president was in Kucinich's district today with Boccieri is right next door.
And they are after people like this who voted against it and are on the edge. And as you saw, the president even had the audience hectoring Dennis Kucinich today saying vote yes, vote yes. We need that vote.
So what you get here is a situation. You have got also people who are retiring. You think about Brian Beard in Washington State, Bart Gordon of Tennessee. They are saying you guys are retiring. The consequence for you is do you want to make history on this vote? This is what you will be remembered for.
And I know Fred, my friend Fred is laughing over here.
BARNES: There's good history and bad history.
WILLIAMS: I apologize to your audience. I'm trying to control him. But is he laughing because, yes, the Democrats' argument is you want to be remembered as someone who in the tradition of Social Security or Medicare did something for the American people.
BAIER: Senator Mitch McConnell the minority leader in the Senate says you will be history if you vote for this bill. Charles?
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I was just smiling. I wasn't laughing out loud. I was being polite there. But, you're right, the guy will have to be remembered because he won't be around.
Look, the reason that Pelosi sounded relatively uncertain is because there are two problems. Do you have enough votes in the House to pass the Senate bill as is? And I think she may not. And that's why they are talking about the Slaughter solution, named after the chair of the rules committee.
BAIER: Louise Slaughter.
KRAUTHAMMER: Louise Slaughter. And her idea is that you pass a rule how you treat the bill in the House. Then instead of passing the Senate bill itself, you pass amendments. And what you do is you include in the rule itself — this is a little bit complicated, but you include in the rule what's called a self-executing rule ,which will then deem the Senate bill to have been passed, but not ever having had an up and down vote on it.
This is Alice in wonderland stuff. This is twilight zone. As I read Article 1 Section 7 of the Constitution, it says "a law shall have passed the House and the Senate," not shall have been deemed to have passed.
It's because here the Democrats are about to change the sixth of the American economy and demanding ostensibly an up and down vote but are so unwilling to actually have it voted on that they want to have it deemed accepted in a vote on the rule.
It's because members of the House look at this as so toxic, so noxious themselves, they don't want to have their name on it. They don't want to make history.
WILLIAMS: I think —
KRAUTHAMMER: They don't even want to have an up and down vote on the Senate bill.
WILLIAMS: But Charles, part of this is I think anxiety on the part of House Democrats who aren't sure that the Senate will, in fact, keep its promise as part of the reconciliation to make the changes that they promised.
So the way we're going now is a two step. The House votes, and once the House votes, then the Senate gets to consider and make the possible amendment. Under the Slaughter deal, the House wouldn't have to make — take that step. They could say no, we were just looking at the rules and they could hold it in abeyance.
BARNES: Juan, Juan, if Republicans were doing this, you would be doing a war dance on the table, you would be so mad at what they are doing.
WILLIAMS: It's hard ball. It's politics.
BARNES: It is hard ball. I will concede one vote to you. Obama will get Dennis Kucinich's vote this time.
BAIER: What happens if the House parliamentarian and the Senate parliamentarian say listen with something like this you can't do the Slaughter rule. You can't deem it to pass?
BARNES: In the Senate the vice president can override that. And in this case if they are playing hard ball, come on, that would be —
WILLIAMS: That Slaughter thing is not going to happen.
BAIER: It's not going to happen?
WILLIAMS: Are you kidding. The Senate is going to say OK, we will wait on the House? It's never going to happen.
BAIER: That's the "thermal nuclear option"?
KRAUTHAMMER: It's Khrushchev banging on the table with a shoe. It's completely out there. And the idea that the Democrats would actually entertainment this — you have an issue of Democratic decency; it's rare enough, unusual enough, and really indecent enough to change a sixth of the American economy with a bill that has not a single support from Republicans.
But to do it by a procedure which doesn't even approve of the bill itself is simply staggering.
BAIER: We had more on health care. Save that though, Fred. You can go to Foxnews.com/special report for more on health care reform including the president's change of heart on those sweetheart deals found in the bill. We are going to explain that and the second health care reform panel in three minutes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We have made it clear to the Senate that the president's position in the final legislation should not contain provisions that favor a single state or a single district differently than others across the board.
DAVID AXELROD, OBAMA SENIOR ADVISER: The principle that we want to apply is that are these — are these applicable to all states? Even if they don't qualify now, would they qualify under certain sets of circumstances?
SENATE MINORITY LEADER MITCH MCCONNELL, R-KY.: I was disappointed to see the White House reverse itself over the weekend and endorse many of these sweetheart deals after the president said he would try to have them removed. Apparently they determined that removing the deals might jeopardize efforts to pass the bill.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: Well, no one really knows where we are on these special sweetheart deals and what will be changed in the existing Senate health care bill with the reconciliation process. There is a list of sweetheart deals here. They include Louisiana Purchase — $100 million there, the cornhusker kickback with Nebraska, a few other states, $1.2 billion.
Gator-aid — that's a deal shielding 800,000 Florida seniors from Medicare Advantage cuts. Hospital handout — $100 million for Connecticut, and Libby Montana asbestos deal is $300 million. These are at least some of the special deals we know are in the Senate bill.
Back with the panel. Juan, we really don't know what is going to be pulled out of it.
WILLIAMS: Well, we know that they said that the cornhusker deal, Ben Nelson said, you know what, I don't want it, because there was so much recrimination and flack that he was taking from people not only all over the country but in Nebraska, who said what kind of way is this to make legislation? They didn't like the sausage factory aspect of it. It was just noxious to them.
BAIER: At one point the White House said we wanted to strip all the deals, and this weekend it was a little bit shaded.
WILLIAMS: Because of this odd principle that David Axelrod enunciated, which if it can apply to everyone, then it's really not a special deal. You talk about double talk. I mean, to me that's double talk.
BAIER: How are you going to pay for it?
WILLIAMS: Not only that — you are going to keep the Louisiana Purchase, right? It was done as a special deal to get Senator Mary Landrieu's vote, and that's what it is. To say it's not that requires that I be an idiot.
Anyway, let me just say, it's not only that. I think the pressure we talked about earlier, like taking Kucinich into his district today, it's also being used in terms of saying to people you know what, you can get a personal visit from the president come campaign time. If you are looking for special aid on special projects down the road — all of that is in play.
But this is politics. I understand that this is health care for President Obama. If he doesn't get it, he could be mortally injured, I think.
BAIER: Fred, they are not talking about the specific deals pulled out yet at least on Capitol Hill. And if you are a Florida Democrat, and one of the things on the table is this Gator-aid, are you going to say pull it out?
BARNES: Well, you might. I mean, I mean, you are going to want it in there. And, remember John McCain at the White House summit on health care made a special protest about that. In Florida, you could keep it. You could keep on Medicare Advantage, which has some additional benefits. But in Arizona, his state, what did he say there were 300,000 people on Medicare Advantage, and they couldn't keep it.
And, you know what? I mean, this offer of the president, he will make a special appearance for you during your campaign. He would be better off saying I won't come anywhere near your districts or state because most of these people aren't going to want him. Obama is not quite as popular as he was before.
And his speech today in Ohio was — I'm not going to use the "d" word, "dishonest," but it came pretty close. He said — here is what he said. We have ended up with a proposal that is in the middle, one that incorporates the best ideas from Democrats and Republicans. I mean, look, Obama and the White House have been trashing Republicans for not joining in on their health care legislation, and now they say it's a 50/50 bill with Republicans and their ideas. Of course, any of the major ideas Republicans have aren't in there at all.
BAIER: Here is another thing he said today about Medicare.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: This proposal adds almost a decade of solvency to Medicare. And every senior should know there is no cutting of your guaranteed Medicare benefits, period, no ifs, ands, or buts.
This proposal makes Medicare stronger. It makes the coverage better, and it makes the finances more secure. And anybody who says otherwise is either misinformed or they are trying to misinform you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: He did praise the Congressional Budget Office numerous times, and the CBO released this statement earlier in the year — "To pay future Medicare benefits and financing new spending outside of Medicare would essentially double count the large share of those savings and thus overstate the improvement in the government fiscal position."
Charles, so basically either you use the $500 billion to pay for something else or you shore up Medicare.
KRAUTHAMMER: Look, I'm a pretty cynical guy, but this is a 10 on any Diogenes scale. This is really unbelievable. It's as if no matter how many times you drive a stake through the heart of this one, it comes again.
Look, here's how it works. President says the Obama care will pay for itself. It costs about $1 trillion. You get half a trillion in taxes and half a trillion in Medicare cuts. That's how it works.
Well, if you take the half a trillion in Medicare of cuts, and you use it for this new entitlement, insuring the uninsured, it is spent. Now, you can't use it again and put it in the trust fund to extend its life.
And it's not only that it doesn't extend its life, but it actually, it makes the Medicare finances worse because that half a trillion is the easiest half a trillion to cut. One day and soon you are going to have to make the cuts in Medicare in order that you can extend its life and the cuts will be gone, and that's why it actually injures the solvency of Medicare.
And to claim that it extends is simply remarkable cynicism on the part of the president.
BAIER: Something tells me we have a few more panels on in this week. But that's it for this panel
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