Gov. Tim Pawlenty on Health Care Reform

This is a rush transcript from "Your World With Neil Cavuto," August 19, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


JASON MILLER AND MAX VON SYDOW, ACTORS: The power of Christ compels you! The power of Christ compels you! The power of Christ compels you!


NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Where is Linda Blair when you need her? Because, if it can work for exorcisms, who is say religion can't work for selling — maybe even salvaging — health care reform?

Welcome, everybody. I'm Neil Cavuto.

And who says the president's reform plan doesn't have a prayer? Signs at the White House right now that heaven can't wait and neither can they. The president is set to speak with religious leaders shortly. And what do you think he plans to talk about? Bingo: health care.

But at this stage in the game, is this preacher pass more like a hail Mary pass — too late, too desperate, too obvious?

With us now, not too impressed, Tim Pawlenty, the Republican governor of Minnesota.

Governor, what do you make of this now, incorporating maybe religious leaders to get behind it?

GOV. TIM PAWLENTY, R-MINN.: Well, Professor Cavuto, it's good to be with you again. But I think faith leaders and faith perspective is a good place for President Obama to consult, but I hope he'll also ask him about the concerns that conservatives have about how this bill might affect end-of-life decisions, taking away people's right to make those decisions, potentially the issue of publicly funded abortions, and many other issues that faith leaders might be interested in.

So I hope he has the full discussion with them about those issues, because I know a lot of at least conservative faith leaders would be concerned about those issues.

CAVUTO: If he can calm them on those issues, the two prominent ones you talked about, and he wins over this ecumenical crowd gathering with him, that could be a deal changer, could it not?

PAWLENTY: Well, I think faith leaders have a tendency, of course, to share the general goal. And in this case we should all acknowledge that our health care system in this country is important, but that it's broken and the main definition of why it's broken is because too many of our fellow citizens can't afford it anymore.

And so I doubt that they're going to get into the mechanics of the bill. But I hope faith leaders, as well as all Americans, would be quite concerned about the degree to which the Obama administration is having government intervention in the private market. We're a country of entrepreneurs. We're a country of private sector growth, not government growth. And even faith leaders, I think, would share concerns about those kinds of issues.

CAVUTO: And not just faith leaders, Governor. Recently I had a chance to talk to the former Washington Redskins coach and born again Christian Joe Gibbs on this very subject, about the religious and how they view how Jesus would view providing health care.

This is from my discussion with him:


CAVUTO: The argument you hear from those who support it, Joe, is that it is the right and decent thing to do.


CAVUTO: Even the Christian thing to do. That everyone should have this what they call basic human right.

GIBBS: Right.

CAVUTO: Do you agree with that?

GIBBS: Well, I think we definitely want to do that. I think there's — everybody admits that there's a real concern for those that don't have health insurance. That's obviously a big deal.

I would also say there's a real concern for a lot of us that, you know, is the government going to run everything?


CAVUTO: Which wins out, do you think, Governor, the cost or the moral commitment?

PAWLENTY: Well, they're related, Neil. I mean, you can't say that people are lacking health care insurance and therefore we're just going to focus only on expanding access without regard to how much it costs or affordability. Those two things are connected, where people are being denied access in part because it's not affordable.

We're not debating whether the country should provide more access or make it more affordable, we're debating how to do that. And the Democrats want to do that by having the government, the federal government, take it over. The Republicans would like to provide assistance to consumers and individuals directly in a marketplace.

The federal government has run every entitlement program they have essentially into the ground: Medicare is broke; Medicaid is broke; Social Security is broke. They have run every program they have in that nature into the ground. Why would we give them another one to run and manage into the ground?

CAVUTO: You know, when Bill Clinton took up the same issue 16 years ago, he also used a lot of the same tactics to either put the fear of God into folks if we didn't pass this or warn of economic disasters if we didn't move quickly on it. This is from 1993, Bill Clinton:


FORMER PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: Our families will never be secure, our businesses will never be strong and our government will never again be fully solvent until we tackle the health care crisis. We must do it this year.



CAVUTO: Now, we know an economic boom followed shortly thereafter. The former president takes credit for that. I know Republicans like to take credit for that. Nevertheless, we had a boom without health care reform.

But are we just risking eventually that not happening?

PAWLENTY: Well, two things. You're asking me initially about the faith community and faith perspective on this, Neil. President Obama's a former community organizer. He needs to be reminded that our definition of community is not the federal government and the federal government is not our God. There are other ways to approach these issues and reach reasonable progress.

We do not want the health care to continue the way it is. We should stand up against bad ideas. President Obama's proposal is a bad idea. It should be defeated.

And when it is, then we should gather back the ideas, the right and the left, common-sense Americans can agree on, set aside the things we can't agree on, and move forward. And there are a lot of those things that are common-sense ideas. We can and should and must have health care reform, but what they're proposing now in Washington is a bad idea.

CAVUTO: You have said that there will be a GOP surge if the president's attempt at health care reform fails. There are many others in your party who argue just the opposite, that if it looks like the Republicans just block everything, that there will be hell to pay at that.

And James Carville, among others, who have said let the Republicans go ahead and torpedo this so we can finger them for the blame down the road.

What do you think wins out?

PAWLENTY: I think it's important to stand up for principle. I think it's important to call out bad ideas when we see them.

And initially people had the view that you just described, that that would be somehow politically damaging. But now I think the country has figured out that these health care proposals are a bad idea. They're trending toward supporting the Republican perspective on it. So I don't think defeating it would even be politically damaging.

But more importantly, standing up and opposing this is the right thing to do, and I think it's actually encouraging and revitalizing the Republican Party.

But it's also important, Neil, that we not just be the critics in chief, that we offer our own solution and vision for health care reform, and that's what we've tried to do. That's what I have tried to do and other leaders have tried to do in recent weeks.

CAVUTO: Now, as you know, Governor, the Democrats have given very clear indication now that if they can't get Republicans on board, and it doesn't look like they can in either the House or the Senate, they're just going to go it alone, and this won't be bipartisan, it will be sort of rammed down your throats. What do you make of that and what do Republicans do with that?

PAWLENTY: Well, elections have consequences, Neil, and they won. They have complete control of the White House and the Congress. And I think it's going to be a character test for the Democratic Party.

Character is revealed not just in times and moments of adversity, but it's also revealed as to how you wield power. And if they're going to wield their total power in a way that just jams this down the country's throats, even though it won't be bipartisan, even though it will fly in the face of the rhetoric that President Obama ran on, on how he was going to be a uniter and how he tried to be, at least in his message, somebody who was going to try to work across the aisle, I think it'll be deeply disappointing.

And I also think it will be a raw display, if not abuse of power.

CAVUTO: Governor Pawlenty, thank you for joining us.

PAWLENTY: OK. Thank you.

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