Dem. Senator on Closed-Door Meetings

This is a rush transcript from "Your World With Neil Cavuto," October 21, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Now back to door number one. It's that Senate door. Behind it, Harry Reid and Democratic negotiators are set to resume their closed-door meetings on health care.

Democratic Senator Tom Carper of Delaware sits on the Finance Committee, but even he can't get through that door.

You're on the committee. I know these are the negotiators, Senator, but you could walk in. If they saw you at the door, you knocked, they'd let you in, wouldn`t they?

SEN. TOM CARPER, D-DEL.: Well, the other day, yesterday, the Republicans had their caucus lunch, I actually walked into the caucus lunch by mistake, they let me in. In fact, they asked me to stay.

I was in...



CAVUTO: Did they really? All right.

CARPER: I was in S-219 yesterday for our leadership meeting, I had plenty of opportunity to tell Senator Reid or Senator Dodd or Rahm Emanuel, with whom I spoke today, or others, Senator Baucus, what I think should be in the legislation. I got to help craft the legislation in committee. There`s an ongoing opportunity to provide input.

I think Olympia Snowe, the one Republican who's voted with us, has opportunity to provide input. I`m sure she's doing that. And I, frankly, expect her input to be welcome.

CAVUTO: All right. Now, because Olympia Snowe voted for this health care reform, at least in the Baucus committee, does she have a key to the room? Could she, like you, get in there if she wanted?


CARPER: I think the access to the rooms are actually controlled by the Senate Rules Committee, and she...


CAVUTO: ... because the counterpart in the House, Senator, he locked the darn thing. He locked it. So we just want to be on top of this potential constitutional crisis, that's all.

CARPER: I don't know if Olympia has the key, but what she does have is access to talk to people who are in that room, and I`m sure they`ll welcome her input.

CAVUTO: Senator, you're being a good sport here, but one of the things I want to examine, in all seriousness, is whether these closed door meetings are sending the wrong message from a president who has argued for a very transparent process, that a lot of this would be carried on C-SPAN, and it's not. What do you think about it?

CARPER: I think it's impossible to have every single meeting that goes on of consequence in the open with cameras and so forth, Neil. I`m not so sure that that`s always productive.

We have held public meetings, if you will, to explain what`s being proposed. The president has done that. We`ve had public hearings, public roundtable discussions where people come in and testify to us. We get to ask questions.

The entire markup of the bill, debating, amending the legislation in the Finance Committee was all done in the light of day, in public. And for weeks, literally weeks...

CAVUTO: It wasn't all done...

CARPER: I think at some point in time...

CAVUTO: You know, you've been a very straight...

CARPER: ... at some point in time...

CAVUTO: ... you've been a straightforward guy, Senator.

CARPER: ... it`s actually helpful to actually go into a room like that and have a discussion.

CAVUTO: But you've been a very straightforward guy, but I got to tell you, it hasn't all been in the light of day, and it hasn`t all been open.

So the only thing I'm asking or curious about is whether we get a package crafted essentially getting these two Senate committee bills together in secret and in the end more than 2,300 pages worth. And your colleagues, yourself included, are going to have to scramble to read that. I don't know if you ever took an Evelyn Wood`s reading course, Senator, but, you know, time`s a wasting, right?

CARPER: At the end of the day, when the two bills are merged together, we will have the opportunity for the Congressional Budget Office to actually look at them, review them, decide how much do they cost, do they — are they fully paid for, are the costs fully offset, is the — do the — does that legislation, that merged bill, does it actually rein in the growth of health care costs, does it increase the budget deficit or reduce it?

The bill coming out of the Finance Committee reduces the budget deficit by $80 billion over the next 10 years, by $400 billion to $800 billion over the 10 years after that. The — and it covers not everybody who doesn`t have health care...

CAVUTO: Do you buy that, by the way, do you buy that?

CARPER: ... but it covers a lot of people.

Oh, yes, it's not me, it's Congressional Budget Office. They're a lot smarter than this stuff on us. And they take the long view, they`re not Democrat or Republican.

And when the director of the CBO said about the House bills, the three House and the one Senate bill, oh, two months ago, that none of them reined in the growth of health care costs, they were all above the deficit, increased the deficit, and they`re all well over $900 billion, he said — that`s what the CBO said and it basically stopped the deal right in its tracks, and one of the reasons why I focus so hard in reining in the growth of health care costs, reducing the deficit, not increasing it, by — through the legislation, extending coverage.

But I have said — you've heard me say before, Neil, unless we rein in the growth of health care costs...


CARPER: ... we may try to extend coverage to people who don't have it, but we're not going to be able to sustain that unless we rein in the growth of health care costs.

CAVUTO: But in the meantime, while I have you here, Senator, you do not suspect that Doorgate, as this crisis is now being called, will ever reach the level of Watergate.

CARPER: I don't think so.


CAVUTO: OK. All right.

Senator, always fun having you. I appreciate it. Thank you very, very much.

CARPER: It's my pleasure. Thank you, Neil.

CAVUTO: Senator Tom Carper of Delaware.

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