OTR Interviews

Questions About Health Care 'Coercion' in Hearing on Multistate 'Obamacare' Case

A look at a key federal court hearing on a multistate challege to President Obama's health care reform law


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," June 8, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Remember that big health care ruling in Florida? Federal Judge Roger Vinson, in a huge decision a few months ago, ruled the 26 state attorneys generals are correct and he declared the new health care law unconstitutional.

The Obama administration then cried foul. And just a few hours ago President Obama's lawyers went to the United States court of appeals for the 11th circuit asking that Judge Vinson's decision be reversed. Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi was there and joins us. Pam, nice to see you. Always a big game of voodoo as we try guess what the judges think. Tell me your impression of the questions that the appellate judges asked? What scared you and what made you confident?

PAM BONDI, FLORIDA ATTORNEY GENERAL: Greta, nothing really scared me. They were well prepared. They asked very educated questions. They asked a lot of questions about coercion. The federal government tried to argue -- about coercion. The federal government tried to argue this was inducement telling people to purchase health care.

Judge Marcus called out Florida and said federal government, if you can force Florida to raise the eligibility pool to 133 percent we will cut you off from billions of dollars of funding that's yours, how is that not coercion? The federal government dodged the question.

VAN SUSTEREN: They were very specific when was passed. They didn't call it a tax at all. Who is now admitting tonight that is a tax? Certainly it's politically unpopular to pass it, but there's a legal issue as to whether it is a tax or not. Who is saying it is a tax?

BONDI: The lawyer for the federal government in court today said this is a tax. That was huge because of course under the commerce clause they wouldn't be able to -- that's the only way they would have an argument they could regulate this is if it was a tax.

And the legislation is very clear, saying it is a penalty or fine. Our president said it wasn't a tax. And now the lawyers for the federal government today stood up and said it was a tax. The judges questioned him about that and says it says that nowhere in the health care legislation.

VAN SUSTEREN: I guess your lawyer as warped with the quotes when it said specifically it was not.

So it's a three-judge panel somebody is going to win, somebody is going to lose. I take it if you lose you will try to go directly to the United States Supreme Court or have the entire court of appeals 11th circuit sit. Is it too early to make that decision?

BONDI: Most likely we will try to go directly to the Supreme Court to expedite this. This is a case of national importance. We know the whole country is realizing -- watching, and we realize that and we want to get there as soon as possible.

VAN SUSTEREN: Of the 26 states in this case, how many had attorneys general today?

BONDI: Well, five current attorneys general were there. Multiple attorneys general had tear staff there as well.

VAN SUSTEREN: So the court was crowded.

BONDI: Packed.

VAN SUSTEREN: Any specific question that made you feel like ka-ching, ka-ching perfect question and I'm so glad the judge asked it?

BONDI: A lot about the coercion and the mandate. Our lawyer said, in 220 years there is no case on point, no case that says the federal government can do this. And make this leap. And force the states to do this. And the judge asked the federal government that. They dodged that question. They could not come up with a case.

VAN SUSTEREN: I'll take the last word. You go to appeals and the judge asks questions that are favorable for you and lo and behold you are surprised at the decision when you lose.

BONDI: That's right.

VAN SUSTEREN: Nice to see you.

BONDI: You too.