OTR Interviews

Rhode Island to Join Health Care Fight?

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," May 11, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Right now there is a new fight, this time Rhode Island. And yes, it is about the new federal health care law. Rhode Island Governor Donald Carcieri wants to sue the federal government, but he hit a roadblock, the Rhode Island attorney general. Earlier the governor went "On the Record."


VAN SUSTEREN: Governor, nice to see you, sir.

GOV. DONALD L. CARCIERI, R-R.I.: Happy to be here, Greta.

VAN SUSTEREN: Governor, I've got a copy of a May 7th letter you wrote to your state attorney general. He's responded today by a press release. But first your letter -- why did you write your attorney general on May 7th?

CARCIERI: This has been an evolving issue, Greta. And the more people understand as people are digging deeper into this whole health care bill of 2,000 pages it seems like more bad news rolling out.

So I've been opposed to most of it from the beginning, but particularly worrisome is the individual mandate. Under our laws it requires the attorney general to act.

So finally I said, listen, we've got to take some action here. I think mandating our citizen to purchase a product like health insurance in my judgment is unconstitutional. I know a lot of attorney generals from around the country have said the same. So I'm asking you to do that.

I didn't really expect him to agree because he's been a big supporter of this administration. So we are looking at other options we have right now in conversations with Minnesota. They have a similar circumstance with the attorney general on the other side that doesn't want to act. So Governor Pawlenty is looking at possibly an amicus brief or something. We are in a lot of discussions right now.

But I think this is an extremely important issue for the states. The burden on states throughout this is enormous. In terms of the people we would have to cover that are not presently insured -- and we do a very good job, a number of people uninsured in our state is lower than the national average. Still it would add 50,000 people and cost $200 million a year.

VAN SUSTEREN: It is interesting in looking at the late comers to those who are either in the federal suit in Florida or those who want to join is that your state attorney general says, one of the reasons that he doesn't want to, he believes -- he doesn't use the term frivolous, but that's what I read in his press release -- but he also says it would cost the state of Rhode Island money.

It will not because someone is going to file the brief it has already been written. It's just symbolically joining it. But by the same token, joining it is symbolic because if the law is declared unconstitutional, if you don't join you will have the benefit or the lack thereof depending on your position. It is symbolic more at this point, is it not?

CARCIERI: I think it is. But that's an important symbolism. We had a case here before the U.S. Supreme Court regarding an Indian tribe. I think 20 states came in support of us in that case. And it gave me, gave us a lot of assurance that there are a lot of people with other concerns about this similarly affected.

I think it is an important statement that those states are not alone. That some of us agree. But because of the differences between the governor's office and the attorney generals and the way our constitutional laws are structured we can't participate. I would if I had that option.

VAN SUSTEREN: I think if the attorney general were here I would tell him his argument expensive to Rhode Island is a ridiculous one because it is not going to cost you a dime to say "me too."

He says he's philosophically, he believes the quality health care should be the rights of all it is doesn't not just the privilege of some citizens. So I guess the thought is he thinks the federal government should provide health care for the citizens of Rhode Island.

Do you have some objection philosophically? Do you think the state should provide health care for its residents? How do you respond to that?

CARCIERI: I think the states are already doing an excellent job. Most of the changes are going on in the states. I think these problems are better solved at the state level frankly than at the federal level.

All I have seen -- I've spent my whole career in the private world before I did this -- is bureaucracy is enormously inefficient, enormously resistant to change. And so I don't think the federal government's the right venue to do this, for starters.

But that's a philosophical different. I could take the other side -- where does it say the federal government can command one citizen must purchase service from a private provider? I think that's a violation of 10th Amendment from my standpoint.

So this is not a right health insurance. This is forcing somebody to acquire something they don't feel that they need or want.

VAN SUSTEREN: You are a Republican governor. He is a Democratic attorney general, is that right, sir?

CARCIERI: That's correct.

VAN SUSTEREN: He's running for your job. Are you term limited out?

CARCIERI: I'm term limited out. This is my last year, Greta.

VAN SUSTEREN: You two are not going to be running against each other for your office?

CARCIERI: No, not at all. I'm just trying to do what I think is best for our citizens. And mandating that our citizens have to purchase this or else pay a penalty I think is a violation of our constitution.

VAN SUSTEREN: Have you spoken to Governor Brewer of Arizona, or you mentioned Governor Pawlenty -- have you spoken to him directly?

CARCIERI: Yes I've spoken to Tim directly on this. He's in a similar circumstance. Under his constitution he's prohibited as governor from filing. He relies on the attorney general who has refused to do so. We've talked about how we can join together.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you have you that same sort of impediment in Rhode Island or can you file yourself as governor and go around your attorney general?

CARCIERI: No. Right now the reading on my team is that I don't have that option. Frankly, when I leave you I'm going back, because I'm not convinced, there may be -- there's an ambiguity that I believe may give me the right to do that, but so far I'm being told I don't have the right to do that.

VAN SUSTEREN: If you find out that you can, will you come back here and let us know first?

CARCIERI: Happy to, any time.

VAN SUSTEREN: Thank you, governor.

CARCIERI: All right, Greta, thank you.


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