'Kabuki Dance' at Obama Health Care Summit?

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This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," February 24, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: We're only hours away. It starts tomorrow morning. President Obama's guests arrive, and the cameras -- well, they're going to start rolling. Griff Jenkins is on the story.

GRIFF JENKINS, FOX CORRESPONDENT: Greta, the much anticipated bipartisan White House health care summit will take place here at the Blair House. The meeting will begin at 10:00 AM and last until roughly 4:00 PM. And to give our viewers an idea of where we are, the Blair House sits directly across the street from the White House. This is Pennsylvania Avenue. The Blair House is the official guest house of the president, houses heads of state and VIPs when they're in town.

Now, the purpose of this meeting to air an open, bipartisan discussion of care reform, try and get Democrats and Republicans to come together for legislation that they can all support and pass. But it's sizing up to be as much political theater, if you look at the criticism being directed at it and the amount of detail in planning for this televised meeting.

We asked to speak with someone in the White House directly involved with the planning. They declined. So here's what we know. The president, the vice president and the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, will lead the discussion revolving around four basic themes. They are controlling cost, insurance reform, reducing the deficit and expanding coverage.

In attendance will be the leadership for both parties. You will see House -- Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, the Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid. For the Republicans, you'll see the Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell, and the House Minority Leader, John Boehner. All of those folks being allowed to invite four or more guests, but some of the familiar faces you'll see -- for example, for the Republicans, you'll see Senator John McCain. For the Democrats, you'll see Senator Max Baucus, who led the health care agenda in the Senate. Now, one of the sticking points for the Republicans, no governors are being allowed here. They made a lot of noise over that, but it doesn't look like that's going to change.

Earlier today, staffers for that leadership came here to the Blair House for an official walk-through to see where their bosses would sit, apparently, at tables in a hollow (ph) form, to see their name tags and to learn that they will be served lunch. We tried to speak with some of those staffers when they were leaving, and one of them told me, quote, "No chance in hell I'm going to talk to you."


JENKINS: Can you tell us about the walk-through, how'd it go?

Hey, you guys, staffers, can you tell us about the walk-through? How'd it go?

Any comment for how the walk-through went?


JENKINS: Which I think is an indicator of how tight-lipped this meeting is here in Washington and how much is riding on it.

Another indication of the value of this meeting, President Obama will sit in for the entire meeting, all six hours or more, to try and shepherd through what he considers his top agenda. Only time will tell what it will produce.

VAN SUSTEREN: Republican senator Judd Gregg has his own plan for health care. So is he going to show it to the president tomorrow? Not exactly. Earlier, Senator Gregg went "On the Record."


VAN SUSTEREN: Senator, the president has said that he wants a plan from the Republicans. I know the Republicans put one on line in November. You also have a plan. When did you come up with your plan, first of all? And how does it differ from the president's?

SEN. JUDD GREGG, R - N.H.: Well, we came up with ours last - - I'm losing track of time, we've been at this for so long -- but about last May. And basically, I put it out there in the public domain, sent it down to the White House, even, when I first introduced it or introduced the concepts. And then a few weeks ago -- a couple weeks ago, I sent it down again because the president said, I'd like ideas, so I said, Here's some ideas.

VAN SUSTEREN: Sent down in what form?

GREGG: I sent it down in an outline form so that...

VAN SUSTEREN: In a letter, then? It's snail mail?

GREGG: Well, I sent a letter with an attachment that outlined what (INAUDIBLE) It's a very comprehensive proposal. It basically creates what I think a major movement towards getting our health care system to be more inclusive so everybody would be able to have access to health care insurance, catastrophic. And secondly, it aggressively promotes prevention and healthy lifestyles. And thirdly, it aggressively promotes getting providers to deliver health care services on the basis of quality, rather than repetition and quantity and having cost-plus (ph) health care.

VAN SUSTEREN: What's the major difference between -- or the starkest defense between your proposal and the president's that he posted the other day?

GREGG: Well, the one he posted the other day was an addendum to the Senate bill, and you can't look at it separately from the Senate bill. But basically, mine uses the private sector. Mine is not a massive expansion in the size of government. The president's is about $2.5 trillion increase in the size of the government. At least, that's what the Senate bill ended up being. And mine uses the marketplace to incentivize people to be more effective in the delivery of health care and control health care costs.

VAN SUSTEREN: One of the sort of -- I'd use the word "interesting" if it weren't so serious. "Interesting" sort of understates the importance of this, but -- is that the president has said that he has not heard from the Republicans on a proposal. That apparently is not so. Or at least -- has he responded to your proposal?

GREGG: Well, actually, I had a couple of discussions, my staff with his staff and myself with the chief of staff at the White House, on this proposal.

VAN SUSTEREN: So they've -- they've had it, they've heard it, they've considered it. They probably just don't like it particularly well.

GREGG: Seems that way. Didn't make it -- didn't make it past the cutting room.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Are you going tomorrow?

GREGG: No, I'm not. No.

VAN SUSTEREN: Were you invited?

GREGG: My leadership came to me and asked me whether or not I'd be interested in participating. I think they went around to a number of members and asked that question. I said, Well, if I can present my ideas, I will be. But as a very practical matter, it's probably not the best forum for me.

VAN SUSTEREN: Why wouldn't you be able to present your ideas? The president has said that he wants to hear from people. You don't -- you don't believe that, or the leadership wasn't going to let you give your idea? Why wouldn't you...

GREGG: No, I have to be honest. I think there's going to be a bit of a kabuki dance tomorrow. You know, I honestly don't -- you know, I know everybody's going to make their position clear and they're going to say the words that everybody says about being positive and constructive and we all want to be working together. But in the end, I think we're headed towards an exercise in reconciliation here.

VAN SUSTEREN: Reconciliation -- we keep -- we're hearing a lot about that right now, but there really is nothing to reconcile at this point, is that right?

GREGG: Well, that's the point. We are hearing that they want to run a reconciliation bill through the Senate, which would reconcile the Senate bill that hasn't passed yet. Now, reconciliation is a term of art, but basically, what it means is you change the law to adjust spending or taxes which already exist in the law. Well, if the Senate bill hasn't been passed yet, how do you reconcile it? But that's the proposal that's being floated around here.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, now, there's a lot of controversy over the use of reconciliation.

GREGG: There should be.

VAN SUSTEREN: There should be?

GREGG: Sure. This is a railroading of the system. It's basically saying no amendments, 20 hours of debate, we're going to pass the most significant piece of public policy in my life experience, which is a massive rerun -- rewrite of our health care system with a huge expansion of the federal government, a huge intrusion of the federal government into the private sector. A lot of people will lose their private insurance and be forced onto these exchanges.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you really expect that reconciliation will be the route? And I guess we should say reconciliation means that it doesn't get a 60 vote -- doesn't need 60 votes, but it needs 51.

GREGG: That's right. Needs 50 votes, 20 hours of debate, no amendments are really debated. There can be amendments offered at the end, but they get one minute of debate. And you have an up-or-down vote for 51 votes. And the purpose of reconciliation is to basically adjust the budget numbers in order to correct inconsistencies between spending and what your budget says.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is -- and one of the things that I've heard is the Democrats say, Well, the Republicans have done it before, and the Republicans say the Democrats have done it before. On the issue of reconciliation, have the Republicans done anything remotely similar? Not that that should necessarily be an excuse to change procedures now. But is your party guilty of doing that, sort of shoving it down someone's throat in an area that shouldn't be subject to reconciliation?

GREGG: No. Not in my opinion. Reconciliation, in my experience, has been used three times, and twice it was done in a bipartisan way. And once it was done on tax reductions that President Bush put in place. But you've got to remember that's adjusting rates, you know? And adjusting rates is a fairly clean event, as far as the policy involved and as far as what the issues are. And the language is very simple. You know, I'm going to raise this rate, I'm going to lower that rate.

We're talking now about changing the entire way that health care is delivered in this country. We're talking about taking the federal government and growing it from 20 percent of the economy to 25, 26 percent of the economy. We're talking about changing the way that you and your doctor interact and you and your hospital -- and your hospital treats you. These are huge public policy issues which really are way outside the reconciliation concept because they need debate. They need discussion. And they need to be subject to amendments on the floor of the Senate in order to do them correctly, or at least to have a proper airing of them and a fair treatment of them.

VAN SUSTEREN: One last quick question. Are you going to watch tomorrow?

GREGG: Well, we've got -- we've got Chairman Bernanke before the committee that I serve on up here, so I may be listening to Chairman Bernanke. But I'll certainly tune in as often as I can.

VAN SUSTEREN: Or maybe TiVo.


GREGG: Yes. Well, I'm sure there's something happening in the Olympics.


VAN SUSTEREN: Thank you, Senator.

GREGG: Thank you.


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