OTR Interviews

Does a GOP civil war over ObamaCare help Obama?

Will Republicans be hurt the most by debate over defunding ObamaCare and a potential government shutdown?


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," September 23, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: What's with the name calling? Fanatics, extremists and anarchists? No, it's not junior high, this is your Senate!


SEN. RAND PAUL, R-KY: People want us to stand up and fight ObamaCare.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: America has learned that it's not working.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Americans all over this country are suffering because of ObamaCare! It is the single biggest job killer in America!

SEN. HARRY REID, SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: The ransom demanded by House Republicans in exchange for keeping the government open is unworkable and unrealistic.

REP. NANCY PELOSI, HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: They are anti-government ideologues.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No American wants a government shutdown. I don't want a government shutdown. No one on this side of the aisle wants a government shutdown.

SARAH PALIN, FOX CONTRIBUTOR/FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: We don't have to shut down government, which is the hysterical cry of the left at this point, if we are to undo, unfund, defund one program, ObamaCare.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's no way we should be talking about shutting the government down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think Harry Reid and President Obama should shut down the government.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, R-S.C.: Here's the good news. We'll have a vote where every Republican votes to defund ObamaCare and practically every Democrat will keep it in place. And that will be the defining issue in 2014.

REID: So the question, are extremist Republicans really willing to shut down the government? Time will only tell.

BILL HEMMER, FOX NEWS HOST: Medicare cuts, the employer mandates delayed, and the subsidy verification delayed, out-of-pocket caps delayed.

GRAHAM: This bill sucks.

HEMMER: Sorry?

GRAHAM: This bill sucks. It really does.

PAUL: In the end, the Democrats have the Senate and the presidency. It's going to be difficult ultimately to overcome them.

REID: We will not bow to Tea Party anarchists in the House or in the Senate who ignore the fact that President Obama was overwhelmingly reelected.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What does he say? He says, Well, I'll talk with Putin, negotiate with him. I'll negotiate with Assad. I'll negotiate with Iran. But I won't even talk to anyone in the United States Congress about fixing this health care bill!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I believe nothing is hurting the American people more, nothing is hurting the economy more, nothing is damaging jobs more than "Obama care"!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Senate majority may have the upper hand, but the American people will and always must have the last word.


VAN SUSTEREN: And Senator Mike Lee joins us. Nice to see you, sir.

SEN. MIKE LEE, R-UTAH: Thank you.

VAN SUSTEREN: Before we get to the substance of the bill, let me ask a little bit about the U.S. Senate, Senator Harry Reid calling essentially you and Senator Cruz anarchists, fanatics, and also he accused you of promoting a "Thelma and Louise" style tactic.

LEE: Yes, I didn't know that's what we were doing. I thought what we were doing was standing on the side of the American people, standing on the side of the House of Representatives, and the leadership of speaker John Boehner, who last week bravely decided to stand with the American people and say, Let's keep the government funded, but let's protect the American people from ObamaCare, a law that's going to make health care more expensive and going to harm a lot of people.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, so you're getting sort of a rough reception from the Democratic side of the aisle. I'm curious. Are things a little chilly among you Republicans there?

LEE: Well, you know, we don't always agree all the time on every single vote. And sometimes we disagree. But I think, as Republicans, we do stand behind the idea that we need to stop ObamaCare. We need to fight it. We need to stop it any way we can, even though some of us might have different ideas about how best to get there.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, it seems that some Republicans believe that you're not going to stop it in the U.S. Senate and that they think that perhaps you and Senator Cruz and maybe even Senator Rand Paul, if he's going to join with you, are sort of out -- you're the party of three on this.

LEE: You know, just a few weeks ago, people were saying that even within the House of Representatives. They were saying, you know, it's -- there's no point in fighting for a continuing resolution that funds ObamaCare -- funds government but defunds ObamaCare. And we proved them wrong.

The American people spoke out. The House, to its credit, stayed with the American people. The House, to its credit, decided to back up the American people and say, yes, we're going to do everything we can to protect you from this law. And now it's the Senate's turn. It's our job now to move that forward and to stand behind what the House did and not let Harry Reid gut what the House of Representatives passed last week.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, so how do you do that? How do you prevent Senator Reid from essentially stripping out the defunding part of the House bill and sending it right back to the House, which is strictly the continuing resolution to be voted on? How do you stop him from taking out the defunding part?

LEE: We need to tell him in very clear terms there are a couple ways he can handle this. Number one, he can bring this bill up, the House- passed continuing resolution, and let us vote for it up or down, as is.

Number two, he can bring it up and say, We're going to allow amendments. We'll allow Democrats and Republicans to introduce amendments. We will debate those. We'll discuss them. We'll vote on them. Either one of those is just fine.

What's not fine if he wants to say, Oh, I want my cake and eat it, too. I want to have one amendment and one amendment only, and that one amendment will be to strip out the defunding language, to gut what the House did in support of the American people. We can't let him have that.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, well, that's behind door number three. And he is the Senate majority leader and he can pick what's behind door number three. In terms of door number two or door number one, which is the two options that you can live with, do you have even your Republican brethren who may not agree with you -- are they willing to push, for instance, to have open amendments to this bill?

LEE: Yes, I don't know any of my Republican colleagues who would oppose either door number one or door number two. I cant' speak for them, but I'm pretty confident that we would all be comfortable with either door number one or door number two.

What I'm saying ought to be off-limits is door number three. If he pulls door number three, we ought to, as Republicans, oppose that. We have to oppose him with everything we've got, with anything that's going to make it easier for him to undo what the House of Representatives did.

VAN SUSTEREN: If given the opportunity, are you willing to filibuster or -- I mean, do you plan on filibustering any aspect of this?

LEE: I'm willing to oppose any procedural motion.

VAN SUSTEREN: Does that mean filibuster?

LEE: Some people would call it that. The word filibuster carries a lot of different connotations in the United States.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, let me give you the one that a lot of people think, where you just stand up and keep talking until -- until someone finally cries uncle.

LEE: That's a possibility. It's not always a possibility, given the procedural framework in which we find ourselves, given whether or not there is a floor agreement governing time.

But another definition of filibuster includes voting no on what's called a cloture vote. And that is the mechanism by which we could fight Harry Reid on door number three, to vote no on what's called a cloture vote, cloture on the bill.

Some people might say that that would be voting against the bill, and they've got it wrong. What we would be voting against in that context is Harry Reid trying, through manipulation of the Senate rules, to undo what the House of Representatives did. We can't let him do that. We've got to oppose it.

VAN SUSTEREN: Now, apparently, on Sunday, Chris Wallace here on "FOX News Sunday" said that he had received talking points against Senator Cruz and that had gotten them -- he didn't name who his sources were. And Governor Sarah Palin came out -- came out and said that, you know, Name names. I mean, who is it that's talking within the Republican Party against Senator Cruz?

Where do you fall on this?

LEE: Well...

VAN SUSTEREN: Should -- should names -- should names -- would you like to see the names named so you know who's doing this?

LEE: I would be very curious. I would love to know who those names are. I found that very disturbing. I found it very surprising. And sure, I would love to know who those names are.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is it -- everything's gotten so hostile up there in the Senate in the Republican Party that -- you know, where it doesn't surprise you that people might be sending talking points against one of you within your own party?

LEE: Greta, most things in Washington don't surprise me anymore. That one did. That one does, and we've got to get to the bottom of it.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you talk to your leadership about that at all?

LEE: Haven't had...

VAN SUSTEREN: I mean -- I mean, what's going on with your -- I mean, is Senator McConnell sort of, you know, bringing you all sort of into a room and sort of slapping you all around and saying, Get it along and figure it out and at least work together as a party?

LEE: We're going to have a meeting tomorrow, and I have a feeling this might come up.


VAN SUSTEREN: You think you'll get that then.

LEE: Yes.

VAN SUSTEREN: Anyway, well, good luck, and we'll be, of course, watching, see what happens. When do you think the vote's going to be, by the way?

LEE: Well, I think we're going to have a vote on Wednesday. Where exactly it goes from there will depend in part on what Harry Reid pushes. But again, if what Harry Reid's going to try to do is gut the House bill, if what he's going to try to do is take this out, not let us have any amendments but put in only his amendment that would strip the defunding language, then I think we've got to oppose it.

VAN SUSTEREN: And then it goes back over to the House, and then what?

LEE: We keep fighting, and the House does something. The House helps us. We help the House. But we've got to stand behind the House in this one in order to show the American people we're standing with them. We're going to do everything we can to protect them from ObamaCare.

VAN SUSTEREN: Senator, nice to see you. Thank you, sir.