Obama Bipartisan Health Care Summit: What's the Motive?

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," February 9, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Moments ago, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor went "On the Record."


VAN SUSTEREN: Congressman, nice to see you, sir.

REP. ERIC CANTOR, HOUSE MINORITY WHIP: Greta, good to be with you.

VAN SUSTEREN: Congressman, you have a February 25th meeting at the White House with President Obama on health care. Two quick questions on it. What do you think provoked this invitation for this meeting, number one? And number two, how did you hear about it?

CANTOR: Well, let me start with the last first. I heard about it when the interview was taking place, I think it was on Sunday, and he indicated that he was going to have Republicans in to a live, televised meeting. So that's a little bit unusual, but we heard about it.

And Greta, the reason why I think they're doing it is because, you know, health care reform is dead in Washington right now. It's dead because, frankly, they don't even have the votes on their own side of the aisle, much less to try and breathe (ph) some bipartisanship. And my sense is, you know, if the president and Speaker Pelosi are going to begin to listen to the American people finally, then perhaps we can make some progress. Otherwise, it's really a non-starter.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, you've written a letter -- you and Congressman Boehner have written a letter to Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, and you said -- in the first paragraph of the letter, you say that you suggested this or asked for this last May. Did you -- how ask for it? And has there ever been any effort to sort of create this forum that is now going to apparently occur on February 25th?

CANTOR: Well, it's true, Greta. And last May, we were at the White House and we tacked with the president. We responded in writing with some of our thoughts on health care reform. We've been requesting all along the opportunity to sit down with Speaker Pelosi and the president to try and forge some type of solution on positive health care reform.

And the way we see it is this. We've got to start with reducing health care costs, and there are a lot of ways that we can work in a bipartisan way to do that. The fact is, the bill that failed to pass the House -- that is, the Senate bill -- as well as the bill that did pass the House, have been resoundedly (SIC) rejected by the American people. We don't want that bill. The American people don't. So we do need to work together to push that aside and see how we can go about reducing health care costs, and there are a lot of ways we can agree on that.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, the reason why I asked specifically about the May -- when did you start proposing that you do this bipartisan meeting with the president is because, at least as I understand it, the president is not going to start all over, is not going to start from scratch. And one of the things that you asked for in your letter to the president's chief of staff is that -- is that you start all over and work together. It sound like the president's got the House bill, the Senate bill, and that's going to be your baseline. So now what happens?

CANTOR: Well, you know, again, we want to participate in the discussion and certainly welcome the transparency, for once. But you know, if -- if the president and the Speaker are wed to a government replacing of our health care system, we're not for that. They know we're not for that. And frankly, enough of the members on their side of the aisle are not for that, either. So that is a non-starter.

What we need to do in a bipartisan fashion is focus on how we bring down costs. That's where this debate began almost a year ago and that's where we need go, and there are a lot of things we can do, such as put in place malpractice reform, such as put in place real competition so that people can have a choice and there'll be a market to bring down costs, about purchasing across state lines, and there are other solutions. But really, we need to go about focusing on cost reduction. That's where the debate needs to go.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, the thing that's sort of -- from a -- from our perspective, from the media and I think from citizens' perspective, is that this February 25th meeting is going to be televised, which is great because that's the one thing, you know, we've been -- we've been pounding the White House about. But if this is going to be -- if this -- if the baseline is going to be the existing bills and deals, that means that we don't get a chance to fully understand why the unions get a special cut-out carve-out deal. We don't fully understand Nebraska. And so I guess I'm sort of urging that to be part of the dialogue so that we truly can understand what is going into this bill, what is going into this process. Will you demand at least there be a discussion abut that so we understand it on the 25th?

CANTOR: Absolutely, Greta! And that's why I started with the notion that the president and the Speaker have got to begin listening to the American people! They reject the "Cornhusker kickback." They reject the "Louisiana purchase." They reject the whole process by which the Senate came up with their bill! And frankly, the same about the House bill. There was no open discussion on these bills. They were done and negotiated behind closed doors on an issue that is important to every single American, Republican, Democrat alike!

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, you know, I -- you know, I think most people do welcome this whole television finally on February 25th. But I think we truly need to sort of go backwards and study the history of this so that we truly do understand whether these are good ideas. Maybe it's a great idea that Nebraska gets that. We don't know. We just sort of hear it after the fact. It doesn't sound -- no, it doesn't sound good, but you know, we have no understanding because it was done behind closed doors. And I think that's -- you know, the February 25th -- you know, I hope we get to revisit the transparency of the process so that we're informed and not uninformed of the process.

CANTOR: Absolutely. And again, we welcome the acceptance that perhaps we need to work together. We've been asking for this for a long time now, for over a year. The American people deserve this.

VAN SUSTEREN: And of course, we're going to have our eyes on the Republicans to see whether or not it is as the Democrats say, whether you have truly been obstructionist or not. So all eyes on both parties for this, sir!


CANTOR: Listen, Greta, you know, and we've spoken before, the House Republicans have put a plan on the table. We voted on it when the Democrat bill came to the floor. We have solutions. Those solutions have been validated by CBO, the Congressional Budget Office, to bring down health care premium costs. That's where we caught to be focusing because that will produce really a reform that people want.

The premise of the Democrats' bills thus far has been expand existing government programs to a point where it's unsustainable because it imposes taxes on small businesses, imposes unfunded mandate and costs on states when they can afford it least.

VAN SUSTEREN: And we'll see how -- we'll hear the discussion on February 25th. And can I be so bold as to trap you? Will you join us the night of February 25th?

CANTOR: We will -- we will do that, Greta. Love to be with you.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. All right, thank you, sir.


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