Interviews

Gov. Bevin on GOP efforts to repeal, replace ObamaCare

This is a rush transcript from "Your World," January 10, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: I do want to step back, because, behind the scenes, and over at the Trump Tower, there have been machinations back and forth as to Republicans and their legislative strategy, not the least of which is how to proceed with repealing the health care law.

You might recall Rand Paul on this very show, the Kentucky senator, had said that he thought it would be a good idea, even though he hates the law as much as his fellow Republicans, to have a repeal vote in place with a simultaneous replacement. He said he had bounced that off the president- elect, Donald Trump, and Trump had agreed that would be a good idea.

Then, lo and behold, Donald Trump earlier today indicates he would be open to a quick repeal followed by a replacement measure in quick order.

The read on all of these crosscurrents right now is, Speaker Ryan has said that he would lean now in favor of a concurrent move on health care, that is, repealing the measure and then finding a replacement. But, again, it is confusing.

Republican Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin joining us right now.

Governor, thank you for taking the time.

I guess there's confusion.

GOV. MATT BEVIN, R-KY.: You're welcome, Neil. Happy New Year.

CAVUTO: To you as well, sir.

Some confusion out of your state, where, of course, you have the majority leader, Mitch McConnell, advocating steady as she goes. Then you have Rand Paul saying, I don't like the way we're going about this as Republicans.

Do you have any thoughts on this health care matter?

BEVIN: I think, in general, the majority of Americans are with Senator Paul in theory.

And that is, if you're going to replace something, do it at the time that you are repealing that which you're going to be replacing. So, to do this simultaneously, I think, makes great sense.

I think some of the reticence, some of the hesitancy on the part of others, maybe Speaker Ryan, maybe even now president-elect Trump, is somewhat driven by the sense that there may not be the will among the elected officials in Congress to move this quickly.

It's unfortunate, but I think that may be the reality. And whether people like it or not, reality does have to come in to play. And so, to that end, I think there are people wanting to not overpromise and then end up underdelivering.

So, I think people, in theory, like the idea of repealing and replacing, but they're also being pragmatic in trying to find the best way forward.  So, I think all people are not as far apart as these three seeming choices would indicate.

CAVUTO: All right, because the general rule of thumb had been there wasn't agreement within the party, Governor, on how to replace it, but all were in agreement how to repeal it and wanted to repeal it.

Rand Paul came along and said, well, the measure and the mechanism we're considering, a budget resolution, would make the deficit worse and the debt worse over the years to come.

Do you share his concern about that and any boomerang on your state?

BEVIN: You know, yes, it will affect our state. It will affect every state potentially.

We're a state that happens to be a recipient state. We -- of all of our Medicaid costs, for example, we as a state only pay 30 percent of it; 70 percent is paid by the federal government.

So, any measure taken at the federal level that affects health care is going to have a very significant impact on Kentucky.

So, I personally would like to see us come to a conclusion where we can replace this at the very same time that we repeal it. If that is not practical, then let's at least get it out of the way and come up with the very best approach that we possibly can.

CAVUTO: You know, Governor, you have been pushing making Kentucky a right- to-work state and changing the way typically states look at their work force, their public work force, more to the point. Update us.

BEVIN: I mean, as it stands as of just this week, we are now a right-to- work state. We're the 27th right-to-work state. We were the last state in the South to have not passed this.

The opportunity cost to us was high opportunity costs from an economic development standpoint. We know CFOs and CEOs repeatedly have stated when asked that they do not want to expand in or move to a state that's not a right-to-work state. So, this was always a detriment to us, relative to states around us. So, that's been remedied.

Just this week, our legislature did the following things. We repealed the prevailing wage requirement in the state. We passed right-to-work legislation. And we passed paycheck protection. All three of these empower the individual, empower the employee, encourage the employer, and create a better economic possibility for, in this case, the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

So, I'm excited. It is a fantastic new day here in Kentucky.

CAVUTO: Nevertheless, obviously, a lot of union protests. This is something that has been familiar in states that led such efforts, as you know. Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin comes to mind.

But the union guy says that you let them down and shafted them. What do you say?

BEVIN: No, I think that's absolutely not substantiated by the facts.

And I would encourage, frankly, people who are still confused by this to look at the actual lay of the land. If you look at the fastest growing union membership, it's only in states that are right-to-work.  Interestingly, the five fastest growing states in America for union membership, increasing, are all right-to-work state, Tennessee, number one in the country, the state of Indiana, which went right-to-work back in 2012, has 50,000 more union jobs today than they did in 2012.

Michigan, we have seen a similar trend. Wages increase, employment goes down, and there's more opportunities for both union and non-union workers alike. We need more jobs. And when there are more jobs, there will be good opportunities for all people, regardless of their union affiliation.

CAVUTO: But this is a little different than Wisconsin, isn't it, Governor, in that -- and maybe other states that have tried this -- where you aren't sort of reinventing the books here; you are allowing people the choice, right?

BEVIN: That's exactly right.

We are giving people the ability to not be forced to be participants in a union. In our state, prior to the enactment of this law, it was in certain shops that were unionized a condition of employment. There's nothing more American than having the freedom of choice.

There's nothing more un-American than being forced to be a member of something and then, adding insult to injury, to be forced to pay for that membership in something you may not actually want. We now empower the worker. An empowered worker is good for an employer.

And whether that employer is a union shop or not, empowered employees have always proven time and again to be more effective, more efficient, and more productive.

CAVUTO: I ask every governor of a state that becomes a right-to-work state, so I will ask you this as well, Governor, if you will indulge me, and that is the read from unions that say, well, that's fine for the governor to say, because all of these who didn't want to be part of the union are benefiting from the contracts that our efforts made possible.  

BEVIN: Certainly, for those that are right now under a current contract, nothing changes. It would be for on a going-forward basis, that is a possibility. And when contracts are renegotiated, this law that has been passed would apply in those instances.

And their argument might, in fact, be proven correct. But the counterpoint that I have said and would say to those who might take that to be gospel, if the unions truly offer for the $1, or $2, or $3 a day that they may charge in dues something that justifies why they're charging those deuce, people will gladly pay them.

People pay $3, $4, $5 a day for a cup of coffee because they're getting value for value received. They will pay less than that for union dues if the union is delivering through collective bargaining and other things the very types of things that they have historically offered and say that they're offering on a going-forward basis.

So, the onus now is on the union to justify and prove the value proposition to the individual worker who would gladly then pay if the value proposition is there.

CAVUTO: Governor, I know you're focused, as you should be, on what's going on in your fine state of Kentucky. But you also are a rising star in the Republican Party. And your win proved that when you were polling quite a ways back of your opponent and then ended up scoring a comfortable victory.

If you will indulge me on what's going in Washington, and this notion that Republicans might have stumbled out of the gate -- I don't mean to disparage the entire party, but with the Ethics Committee issue that obviously hadn't been run by Donald Trump, they shelved that, and now talk that the big tax cut, after meeting, might not be as big or as timely as was earlier envisioned. That could change.

And now on this pivot, or whatever you want to call it, sir, on health care, and whether it's going to be repealed and then replaced, repeal and replace, repeal and replace it real quickly or not so quickly, I think you get the idea that it's sending mixed messages to people.

And I'm wondering if it concerns you for your party that it is -- that the message isn't consistent.

BEVIN: It doesn't concern me, and I will tell you why.

What Donald Trump is realizing, and in fact I'm sure already knew, what the American people know deep down, even though some of them wish it were not the case, what I have come to realize as governor of this state, is that no one individual, whether they be a governor or in his case an incoming president, has a magic wand.

There is no ability to say we are going to do X and just will that that happen. That's what monarchies do. We're not a monarchy. We're a democracy. And at the end of the day, Donald Trump has to do exactly what I have had to do here in Kentucky, and that is work with the duly elected legislative body, both the House and the Senate, who may in their own respective caucuses not agree even amongst each other, let alone with one another, let one with the executive in this particular instance.

So, there are many moving parts. That is the greatness of America. That is also the challenge of America. And, frankly, great leaders find a way to thread that needle. And it takes time. And there's nothing being said about Donald Trump and this incoming administration that was not said at a more microcosmic level about our administration.

Everybody can easily throw stones. They can say what is not working perfectly, where somebody said X, but now they're doing Y. But this has ever been thus. And so I have absolute confidence. I'm not even a little bit concerned.

Mike Pence, who has been designated primary responsibility for the transition team, is brilliant. He is an executive. He is somebody with legislative experience in Washington. He's a man of the highest integrity.  And I have absolute confidence that this is going to be one of the greatest administrations we have seen in our lifetimes.

CAVUTO: As you know, tonight, sir, the president is going to give his swan song speech in Chicago. I know you're busy in Kentucky. FOX Business Network will be carrying it live. And I know, if you don't have it, you really will regret it, but hopefully you will and watch it on FBN.

Leaving that aside, you think he was a great president? You talk about great leaders. Do you think he was?

BEVIN: He being who?

CAVUTO: The president of the United States, Barack Obama.

BEVIN: Oh, I'm sorry, the outgoing one.

CAVUTO: The outgoing one.

BEVIN: I don't think he was a great president. I don't even think he was a good president. I really don't.

I don't think he was overly effective president. I think the American people learned a hard and painful lesson is that when you elect someone, regardless of their charisma, regardless of their ability to string phrases together in a compelling fashion, if the most experience that they have ever had is community organizing, America's in for a tough run.

The business community is in for a tough run. The ability to rely on, accountably, the kinds of things that are needed for business to be successful are in for a tough run.

And we had a tough run. For all of the hype and all of the fluff, it's not been a good eight years for America relative to our standing in the world and relative even to our standing amongst ourselves.

And so I believe there's a chance to chart a new direction. I haven't been that impressed with President Barack Obama. It's not anything personal. I just think he's been a highly ineffective president and one who frankly has done more to undermine some of the very core principles and pillars of America.

And you talk about wasted opportunity. Race relations, he is a man who could have done more than anyone in history, and he not only missed that opportunity, he exacerbated a problem that existed when he came in.

CAVUTO: All right, I will put you down as a maybe on Barack Obama, then, Governor.

Matt Bevin, thank you very much. Happy New Year to you. Good seeing you again.

BEVIN: Thank you, sir.

CAVUTO: Governor Matt Bevin of the fine state of Kentucky.

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