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Special Report

Lame Duck Session

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," November 4, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER, HOUSE MINORITY LEADER R-OHIO: Beyond repealing Obamacare, we're going to do everything we can to sto p this bill from being implemented, to make sure it never happens. And frankly if we're successful, this will become the number one issue in the presidential election of 2012.

BRET BAIER, HOST OF “SPECIAL REPORT”: You criticized the president for spending too muc h time on healthcare. If you spend a lot of time trying to repeal it when it's not a reality in the Democratic Senate or in a presidential veto, won't you get criticized for that?

BOEHNER: There are a lot of tricks up our sleeve in terms of how we can dent this, kick it, or slow it down to make sure it never happens.  And trust me; I'll make sure this health care bill never, ever, ever is implemented.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAIER: The presumptive House speaker today talking about repealing health care, where to go forward. Meantime, the Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell speaking out about the same subject, saying today we may not win every vote against the targeted provisions in health care, but we can compel the administration to attempt to defend this, quote, "indefensible health spending bill."

What about all of this? Let's bring in our panel, Jonah Goldberg, at-large editor of National Review online, Erin Billings, deputy editor of Roll Call, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I think the idea is right. I have would haven't used the phrase "tricks up our sleeve." You probably want to say I want to work in the rules and the constitution and get this changed or stopped. But I think the idea is right.

Look Obamacare was clearly the overriding issue in the campaign because it stood for, it was the epitome of what Obama had tried to do, the liberal agenda. It was not as Obama pretended yesterday a response to a crisis. It was an idea that Democrats had for 50 years and it represents principle of theirs and it was soundly rejected with Democrats all across America either losing over it or running away from it.

And remember, in '09 and this year the Democrats have tried to get it done quickly and behind them. Remember there was a deadline in the summer of 2009. Well, that didn't hold in November of 2009. They wanted it behind them because they understood it was unpopular.

What they discovered is that it remains unpopular and increasingly so. As purely tactical issue, although the Republicans oppose it on principle as well, if you keep it out there for another year-and-a-half it will hurt the Democrats enormously, and you set it up for the major issue in 2012 because that is the only chance you have with repeal as if you elect a Republican president.

If you set it up as the major issue and the way it was in '10, you win.

BAIER: Erin?

ERIN BILLINGS, DEPUTY EDITOR, ROLL CALL: Look, we know what the line-up is here. The Republicans have the House; they can tee up votes on repeal, repeal, repeal. They probably will. We'll probably see it in the lame duck. The Senate is still Democratic and the president is still is in the White House--

BAIER: But they are going to move forward with this. They are going to try to get this all the way through. I asked him how much time he'd spend on it, and he said as much time we need to take.

BILLINGS: I just don't think that realistically they can do anything until 2012. And I think that is how they set up the argument. They will tell the American people you have to give us the Senate and the White House so we can really get this done.

BAIER: Because he said the number one issue or he hopes in the presidential election.

BILLINGS: Right. So as they tee up a lot of the issues, as they try to follow through on this Pledge to America, they'll continue to do it over the next two years. But what they say is you have to give us the rest so we can actually deliver. Obama is blocking us, the Democrats are blocking us.  Help us get there.

JONAH GOLDBERG, NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE: I agree with that.  The tactic is different. I think they are going to have a very quickly out of the gate of an up or down vote for repeal. It's not going anywhere for all the obvious reasons.  But I think the real power in the House is going to be subpoena power.  They're going to be able to call, one administration official after another say how did you make the sausage again? Where did you get this budget number? Where did this estimate come from?

BAIER: So the thing starts to unravel in committee hearings.

GOLDBERG: Because it was made so slap dash and so ugly and with so much sleight of hand, I think you can unveil that in a very professional, reasonable manner and build a public consensus against the legislation as it exists to build this argument towards 2012.

BAIER: And so there is a pressure on the Democratic Senate and the president to start over. That's highly unlikely, right?

KRAUTHAMMER: It's resisted. But you will get senators, 23 of them will be up for reelection in '12 who are going to have to vote again and again on upholding Obamacare. So it will hurt them.

And on the issue of hearings, it won't only be about the history of the bill and how it was put together. All the regulations, there are hundreds of regulations that are going to be written in next year or two. They will be arbitrary and unpopular and costly.

You bring in an administrator every time a regulation is issued you’re going to have an issue right there. You publicize it and you make the case. I think this is a nightmare for Democrats because Obamacare in essence is symbol of the overreaching of Obama liberalism.

BAIER: But it's a fine law to draw -- or to walk, rather, isn't it, Erin, for Republicans if they go too far here as far as the positive things that people do like, at least according to the polls, about healthcare. I know it's not much overall in the big picture. But keeping kids until they're 26 on your health insurance, the no preexisting conditions, that kind of thing. With repeal all that goes out the window as well.

BILLINGS: Well, there certainly are some very popular items.  The public doesn't really know what they are because it hasn't been messaged well on the Democratic side.

BAIER: They’ve talked about it a lot.

BILLINGS: Essentially Republicans if they get control of everything in 2012 repeal it all and then try to tee up the popular things that they could bipartisan support for and say we're actually addressing the things that people like. But I think right now this is really an "us versus them" game, and they've got to just go for repeal.

BAIER: And Jonah, the president says he concedes on the 1099 issue, a big issue for small businesses. But once they start doing that, the funding for bill comes in question about how much the whole thing is going to cost.

GOLDBERG: That is another thing that comes up in the hearings.  In hearing after hearing, the costs, they are going to get an honest accounting of a lot of these things.

And just to add on to the point that Charles made, it's not just that there are 23 senators up for election in 2012, the Nelsons from Florida and from Nebraska, you got Jim Webb who’s already basically entire Democratic delegation is gone in Virginia, wiped out. Casey in Pennsylvania, McCaskill in Missouri, this is all red states or anti-Obama states or marginal swing states.  These are not going to be places where the senators are going to want after this election to all of a sudden get Obama's back to the hilt.

BAIER: Just a couple other things, Charles. On Afghanistan, Boehner says he supports the president fully even though Democrats will probably not. They're more liberal now that the blue dogs are gone.

Boehner said he’s going to allow all amendments so when the Barbara Lee's of the world, the Dennis Kucinich's say we will stop funding on Afghanistan, he going to allow votes on that.

Secondly, quickly, he said that this Republican Congress when he takes over will stop funding for anyone, any administration effort to transfer detainees from Gitmo to U.S. That’s a big deal.

KRAUTHAMMER: It is. And you have the power of the purse. You can curtail what the president will do. You can't actively do stuff if the president isn't inclined, but you can stop it. If he wants to the closing of Guantanamo and bring prisoners to America because nobody else will take them, the House will stop and the country will be grateful.

BAIER: You will be able to see my entire interview with presumptive Hose speaker Boehner on our homepage at FOXnews.com/SpecialReport a little later this evening.

Up next, the lame duck session of Congress.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRESIDENT OBAMA: The immediate focus is going to be what we need to get done in the lame duck session. I mentioned yesterday, we have to act in order to assure that middle class families don't see a big tax spike because of how the Bush tax cuts have been structured.

It is very important that we extend those middle class tax provisions to hold middle class families harmless.

BOEHNER: We do not want to raise taxes on any American.

BAIER: I know. The president is saying he wants to reach out; he wants to meet with you. He thinks there could be a deal here. You are saying no.

BOEHNER: Listen, Democrats still control the Congress for the next two months. And I suspect we'll have a whale of a fight over taxes and spending.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAIER: The president and the presumptive House speaker talking at expending the Bush era tax cuts. The president in the cabinet room today said these are the priorities for a lame duck session of Congress.  This is with the current congress, extending the Bush tax cuts. He talked about the middle class version, unemployment insurance, business tax extenders, and the START Treaty. That's what he talked about today.

We're back with the panel. Jonah, let's start with extending the tax cuts. How big a battle will it be?

GOLDBERG: I don't think it's as big a battle as a lot of people are talking about. I think that the Democrats know that they are on the losing side of this. There were already senators in the -- Democratic senators not eager to support the Obama administration on this stuff.

BAIER: But to hear Boehner, he is saying they will fight for all of them and maybe temporary extension is not going to suit them.

GOLDBERG: Yes. I don't think it's necessarily that tough a fight.

Whether truly permanent on the over $250,000 thing I don't know.  Maybe extension will be two years or something. Kick it past 2012.

I think that, the blue dog Democrats who just all lost in the House are not eager to fall on their swords anymore for Nancy Pelosi. The Senate has gotten more conservative. I think it's an easier fight. It's a lot screaming and loud and Paul Krugman will get very upset but I think it goes Republican way.

BAIER: Erin?

BILLINGS: I tend to agree. I said I thought they'd extend them on short-term basis. I think that’s still probably the likely outcome and that will play well for Boehner and Republicans assuming they continue to do well in the next election. I just don't see us spending Christmas Eve here talking about the Bush tax cuts. But, I guess --

GOLDBERG: The tax is a big part of this. That has much bigger legs than people realize.

BILLINGS: Look, there’s a lot of listening going on. But the Democrats aren't stupid. They don't want to add insult to injury. They know people are tired of the spending; they’re tired of the economic crisis. If they are looking at having less money in their pocket come January, that's not going to be good for the Democrats. They don't want to make things worse.

I just have a hard time believing they won't come up with some compromise, get it done and get out of here.

BAIER: So Charles, does the list get finished?

KRAUTHAMMER: On the cuts, what you’re going to get -- the Republicans understand if you split off the upper income from the middle class, it's a trap because then you go into the presidential election where the middle class already has the cuts, it's a permanent one. And the issue is the wrong one. Do you want to lower taxes on the rich, which is not easy argument to make because the middle class will have already had theirs?

So I think the Republicans will press and insist on it. I think there will be a lot of Democrats who support them on this. Either you extend them all indefinitely or you extend them all for a couple of years, which is incidentally what Peter Orszag had recommended, a former Obama budget director. On START, it's a non-starter. There’ll be nothing on the treaty until you get the new Congress. And if nothing happens on December 1, payments due by Medicare to hospitals and doctors is going to go down by over 20 percent and then 30 percent. Hospitals are going to shut. They’re going to have to do something and I think it's nearly unanimous to wave it, this reduction, as it's waived every year.

BAIER: It wasn't put in the healthcare bill now law because of the numbers.

KRAUTHAMMER: The numbers. And now the numbers are going to start to get real.

BAIER: Anything else that’s not on this list that at one time we talked about nefarious things when it came to the Republicans thinking, card check and other things.

KRAUTHAMMER: When you suffer a defeat of this magnitude, all nefarious stuff is off the table.

BAIER: Jonah, you agree?

GOLDBERG: I agree with that. I think one interest thing we might see developing in the lame duck session is replay in some way of '94 or '95 with NAFTA where these trade agreements might come up. Obama says he wants them.

BAIER: Boehner talked about it today.

GOLDBERG: And the Republicans will help out. Obama will probably only get them if they come up with more Republican votes than Democratic ones because the Democrats who are left behind are anti-free trade.

BILLINGS: I don't think he needs to, though. There are enough - - in the Senate is never a problem with the trade agreements. It's always the House.

So why waste the lame duck time on that. He could come in January and get it all done. I really don't see them trying to shoehorn that into lame duck. I think they're dealing with the emergencies, doctor fix, tax cuts, keeping the government running, and then get out of here.

BAIER: Last word. Does Pelosi stay on as minority leader or in her post?

KRAUTHAMMER: She got a lot of opposition. It would be humiliating if she tried and lost. I think the better part of valor for her is probably step down and have a legacy of having achieved Obamacare and other stuff, which as a liberal she will think was a great achievement.

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