Obama's Health Care Bill: Camouflage for a GOP Trap?

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," February 22, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Republicans -- they're here, and they are steamed, asking what's the point? What's the point of having a bipartisan health care summit if President Obama already is unveiling his health care plan?

South Dakota Senator John Thune joins us. Good evening, Senator. And have you had a chance to look over what President Obama has posted on the Web?

SEN. JOHN THUNE, R - S.D.: A little bit. But we're trying to digest exactly -- it's 11 pages. The Senate bill, of course, is 2,700 pages long. And so this is sort of an addendum to it, but they really haven't filled in the blanks. They haven't filled in the details. We know it's going to be more expensive and it's going to raise the payroll tax, Medicare payroll tax even more, cut Medicare even more. It looks like it makes it a lot worse.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you know if his -- I mean, the way his -- his proposal looks more in line with the Senate proposal than with the House proposal. Is that your understanding of it?

THUNE: It is. I think what he took is that he took -- for the most part, they took the Senate bill and they're trying to do a few other things now, most of which, again, increase the costs of the bill. And it seems to me it's the same song, second verse. I don't know how they can -- you know, the American people have passed judgment on this version already. And it looks to me, at least, that what they're trying to do is ram something through the Congress. And this is an attempt to probably attract some Democrat votes. I don't think it's going to attract any Republican votes.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you see the posting on the Web today as an effort to sort of say, OK, this is what I'd like to start with, let's take a look at this, or do you see this as a gesture, like, almost take it or leave it?

THUNE: I think it's kind of a -- it seems to me, at least, by doing this before the summit -- you know, if you say you're interested in bipartisanship and cooperation and openness and transparency and all that, and you're going to have this summit at the White House, that when you unveil this thing now and sort of put it out there and say, This is the deal -- I'm not sure what role we play in this. I know it's a lot about public relations. It's a lot about appearances to let the American public at least think that the president's trying to be bipartisan and trying to reach out to Republicans, but this should have happened a year ago. I mean, right now, this is the bill. They're taking taken the Senate bill, essentially, and adding a few things to it. But in most cases, I think things that are going to make the bill much worse.

VAN SUSTEREN: How about any of your -- have you heard from any Democratic colleagues in the Senate who've said, I don't like the president's idea, who might sort of -- are any of those peeling off from the president?

THUNE: You know, I think if he decides to use reconciliation, which is the most partisan approach that they can use -- and they're saying that that -- that they're going to reserve the option, the right to use that, both the Democrat leadership in the Congress are saying that, as well as the White House -- I just think it's going to be -- I think they're going to lose some Democrats.

I mean, they believe they have enough -- they can get 51 in the Senate, instead of the 60 that they would need doing it under regular order. But I think even that's going to be a heavy lift because a lot of Democrats are saying, We don't like the way this has been pushed in the first place. They're hearing from their constituents back home. And they're seeing a bill that raises taxes, cuts Medicare, increases spending, grows government and looks a lot like a takeover of the health care system to them.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, one other question I have to ask you (INAUDIBLE) everyone's always suspicious, your plans -- everyone's suspicious because you're going to a number of fund-raisers that you have your eye on the White House. So I got to ask you, any thoughts about the White House?

THUNE: No, I'm on the ballot in 2010 this year in November. I am trying to help my colleagues...

VAN SUSTEREN: But you have no opponent and you're raising money. So that makes everyone suspicious. You have no Democratic opponent, right?

THUNE: I don't have an opponent yet.

VAN SUSTEREN: Yes. You don't have one.

THUNE: I will. I will.

VAN SUSTEREN: So it's not like you're raising one (ph) for this huge fight in November, at least not right now.

THUNE: Well, I think you have to be prepared. They are running TV ads against me in South Dakota, even though I don't have an opponent yet. But I want to help my colleagues. And I think we have a real opportunity this time to grow our majorities, or I should say to get the majority back in the House and in the Senate, and hopefully, by helping some of our colleagues around the country raise resources, they'll be in a better position to win those races.

VAN SUSTEREN: So (INAUDIBLE) it's fair to say I didn't get a yes or a no, I got a dodge.


THUNE: You got [it], I'm going for re-election.


VAN SUSTEREN: All right, fair enough.

THUNE: That was the answer.

VAN SUSTEREN: But I couldn't let you go (INAUDIBLE) at least asking you. Senator, thank you very much.

THUNE: Thanks, Greta.

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