This is a rush transcript from "Your World With Neil Cavuto," October 9, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: All right, well, Bob Dole speaking out and stirring up the GOP, urging Republicans to get more involved in health care reform and not just be the party of no.
The former Republican presidential nominee joining me now by phone for this exclusive chat.
Senator, always good to have you. Thanks for coming on.
BOB DOLE, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Happy to do it.
CAVUTO: I was talking to Mitch McConnell yesterday, Senator, who — and I`m going to play a bit after I ask you this initial question, but he didn`t seem to take to favorably your comments that, you know, Republicans are just, you know, stalling. That'ss not what you said exactly, but just being the party of no.
What do you think of that, that you have agitated some Republicans by your comments?
DOLE: Well, my message is not telling them what to do or how to vote or what bill to vote for. I have not endorsed any of them.
But I think we need to stay in the game. I mean, that is not a criticism. That is a reality, because I have been around long enough, or was around long enough, to know that these things are never over. And there will be opportunities for Republicans, if — if they are in the game.
And they can amend — they are probably going to carry some amendments, if they offer amendments, to the Baucus bill. It is not any criticism. It is just my feeling, having been the leader for 10 years, that, if you hang in there, things will happen. They will have to make some compromises. They are not going to get everything they want. And neither party ever does.
So, that is the essence of my comment. It was not any criticism.
CAVUTO: All right. And I think both you and Senator McConnell were trying to deal with this in a gentlemanly way, but this is what your successor had to say on this very subject. This is from yesterday, Senator.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CAVUTO: When Senator Dole says something — we`re already hearing from some high-ranking Republicans that we shouldn`t do that. That is helping the president. He later went on to say very prominent Republicans, who happened to be the Republican leader of the Senate — in other words, constantly saying no is not the way Republicans should be advancing this.
What do you say?
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: Well, I say this is not about the president. This is about the issue, the policy, and I don`t think a half-trillion dollars in Medicare cuts, $400 billion in new taxes, and driving up the cost of insurance premiums is the way to go.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAVUTO: Senator, so, what he is saying, if it`s bad is bad, and there is no way you can negotiate bad.
What do you think?
DOLE: Oh, me? Well, I think I agree with everything Mitch said.
They`re going to buy on to all the excise taxes that Senator Baucus put on the bill. It`s going to drive insurance companies out of business. We believe in the private sector. I do. Mitch McConnell does. And — and he knows, and he is probably doing it.
That`s why I say I hope he didn`t think I was directing it personally at him. But, if we are not in the game, if we're — you know, if we are just sitting on the sidelines, nothing good is going to happen.
This is a very complicated piece of legislation, probably the most important vote that — no domestic policy that members will vote on during their tenure in the House and the Senate. And I think Republicans have a lot of good ideas. They ought to put them together in a bill.
And there ought to be a vote on that substitute, I guess you would call it, because the — everybody is for health care reform. Mitch McConnell is. Bob Dole is. John Boehner — I talked to John Boehner. He said he was going to have something for the House Republicans to vote on. And I think that is the way we ought to go. If we lose, then they can vote against the bill or vote for the bill. It is up to them.
CAVUTO: Do you have any regrets, Senator, then, being the leading Republican who effectively stymied and then stopped Bill Clinton`s health care reform efforts?
DOLE: Yes, I — as I said in a speech in Kansas city a couple of days ago, we all can accept blame because there is no health care now. And, certainly, I`m in that group, though we did give it our best shot. We stayed two weeks during the August recess, before Senator Mitchell finally gave up and pulled the plug. He was the Democratic leader. I was the Republican leader.
DOLE: But we had — we appointed — I appointed people and Senator Mitchell appointed people to try to come together and compromise. And it just about got there, but didn`t make it. The result was no bill.
And it got pretty political at the end. I think...
CAVUTO: I remember.
DOLE: I think — frankly, I think the Clinton people got a little too partisan. And that drove away some Republicans.
CAVUTO: Senator, if this does go down to defeat, Republicans seem to say that they are going to politically benefit.
CAVUTO: Do you agree?
DOLE: I think, short-term, yes, and maybe long-term. But, short- term, I think most people are satisfied with what they have. But let`s — and there are not 48 million — never been 48 million people who are uninsured. That number has been dropped now to a much lower number.
DOLE: My view is, if everything is failing, why not take care of the 20 million low-income Americans, vulnerable Americans, handicapped Americans, and, you know, pass something around that?
Certainly, we can come together on — on that kind of an approach. But this over — over — you know, we`re — we are changing the whole system. And I can see why Republicans and many Democrats, for that matter, are having second thoughts — thoughts. I don`t think this is the partisan vote. I think this is the survival vote. And if you are running for election in the next cycle, you are going to want to be very careful before you vote for these things that raise taxes and have Band-Aids, which I know Mitch is very much — Mitch McConnell — very much opposed to.
I supported mandates in the compromise that our little group worked out, Mitchell, Dole, Senator Baker, and Senator Daschle...
DOLE: ... former Senate leaders. And we got rid of the public option. That is not in our recommendations.
So, — I mean, we did a lot. And we didn`t think we could do anything. But, after 14 months, we finally gave — came together, and everybody swallowed hard. And we think we came up with a pretty good package. It`s within the cost much below the $900 billion, because we didn`t go as far as — as the president goes.
CAVUTO: Boy, it seemed like a bargain. It seemed like a bargain.
Senator, very good having you on. Continued good health.
DOLE: Yes. And if Mitch is listening, Mitch, I hope you didn`t misinterpret what I said.
CAVUTO: No, I`m just trying to fester something here, Senator. That`s all.
DOLE: Oh, I know, but he is a...
DOLE: ... he is a good guy, and he`s smart, and he`s a good leader. And so we don`t...
CAVUTO: All right.
CAVUTO: A real honor. Thank you, Senator. Good seeing you — hearing you.
DOLE: And thanks for your note. Thank you.
CAVUTO: Senator Bob Dole.
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