Paying the Price for Health Care Reform

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This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," January 21, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: We are live in Washington, D.C. where the whole city is buzzing about one new face, Senator-elect Scott Brown. What happened when he met his new Republican colleagues? Senator Lamar Alexander went "On the Record."


VAN SUSTEREN: Senator, nice to see you. Is your office here?

SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER, R - TENN.: No my office is the next building. I walked over to see you.

VAN SUSTEREN: Thank you very much.

You had a guest today at year luncheon.

ALEXANDER: Scott Brown.

VAN SUSTEREN: You've met him before?

ALEXANDER: I met him 15 years ago when I was running for president in Massachusetts. He's been around for awhile. He's a state senator that's run for office several times. So he's been a Republican a long time.

VAN SUSTEREN: What kind of reception did he get?

ALEXANDER: I was trying to think of an analogy. It would be like a family waiting for the prodigal son or someone to come home whom they hadn't seen in 15 years. Republicans are overjoyed. We really think that Massachusetts helped start the country and may have saved it this week.

VAN SUSTEREN: Did he speak to the group?

ALEXANDER: He did for a few minutes. He just said thank you. He showed -- he's still -- he's been on his feet talking. And he showed -- we listened carefully. We didn't try to tell him anything. We should be listening to him.

And what I heard was an a very independent-minded person who was elected because he -- and the voters thought he will go to Washington and open up doors and make sure things are out in the open, and then of course he's the 41st vote again the health care bill.

VAN SUSTEREN: Any clue when he's sworn in?

ALEXANDER: I don't know. The Democrats seem to be resigned to doing that as soon as possible. Senator Reid said that and we appreciate that, and it is up to the Massachusetts officials. So we think -- I hope before the state of the union, because I think most Americans will want to see him.

VAN SUSTEREN: You've been quoted saying about the health care bill, "Senators who vote for this health care bill should be sentenced to serve as governor and try to pay for it."

ALEXANDER: They should. I was a governor, I was a university president. What I mean by that is I sat there as a governor, you get down to the end of the budget, and you either put the money into Medicaid or into higher education.

What this health care bill did was say we are going to expand Medicaid and send the bill to the governors. Governor Schwarzenegger said we have a $19 billion dollar deficit the last thing we need is another $3 billion dollar bill in Medicaid.

I wanted to say to these 60 senators, look, if you want to vote to expand the program here and then send the bill to the governors, then go home and see if you can pay for it, because you have to raise taxes or you would have to raise tuitions at colleges and community colleges.

VAN SUSTEREN: With the exception I guess of Nebraska, which doesn't have that problem.

ALEXANDER: Which is why people got so upset about Nebraska. It's absolutely true that if that bill were to pass in the form it is in Tennessee, we would raise college tuitions and state taxes, except Nebraska wouldn't have to because under the "cornhusker kickback" we pay for theirs.

VAN SUSTEREN: I'm surprised when I hear Republican senators say that, I'm surprised there isn't a march on Washington by governors, because the way you paint it is governors are in deep trouble with their budgets with this bill.

ALEXANDER: I was surprised that governors didn't object more. Some of them, to tell you the truth -- for the first three year the federal government pays 100 percent. It's after that the big hit comes.

So I think some of the governors were just saying this is the next governor's problem, and some were Democrats and didn't want to speak up against the Democratic Party.

But some did. The governor in Tennessee, a Democrat, said this is the mother of all unfunded mandates, and he was courageous and specific in pointing out how much it would damage higher educating if they passed the bill.

VAN SUSTEREN: I guess I expected more volume and more people if it is as bleak as it is painted.

ALEXANDER: Maybe we don't hear it because they are in their states. And maybe I'm giving the Democrat governors a little bit of a short shrift here because I did hear a number of them speak out. If the speak out in Connecticut, Wisconsin, or Tennessee, it's usually not on the front page in Washington.

VAN SUSTEREN: What is going to happen? You've got a new senator. You have Speaker of the House Pelosi saying that she does not have the votes to accept the Senate version of the bill. What is going to happen?

ALEXANDER: She would though about the House.

VAN SUSTEREN: She doesn't have the votes.

ALEXANDER: She doesn't have the votes. I don't think there are enough votes in the Senate for the Senate bill now. We have a new senator. I really mean this -- we've been thinking all day that Massachusetts may really have saved the nation with its election this week.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you think there will be tinkering with the existing bill or scrapped and started all over, or wait a year? What is your prediction tonight?

ALEXANDER: Some of it is up to the president. The president is still the president and the Democrats still have huge majorities.

Here's what we should do. We should scrap the 2,700 page bill we voted on in the middle of the night and had to pass before Christmas written in secret, just throw it out.

Then we should start over, and we should do what Republicans suggested on the floor of the Senate 173 times, I counted them last year, and this is set a clear goal of reducing cost, and the go step-by-step in that direction to re-earn the trust of the American people.

And we put in the first six steps, 181 pages, all rejected by the Democrats. There could be six other steps. But I think the big different is people are tired of these comprehensive, 2,700 page middle of the night bills and they want us to solve problems the way they do.

VAN SUSTEREN: President Obama has suggested maybe even stated expressly that the Republican obstructionists, maybe I'm putting words in his mouth, but he said you are not cooperating and there has been plenty of opportunity for you to participate and cooperate. Right or wrong? Dead wrong?

ALEXANDER: Dead wrong. I was here as a very young person when President Johnson the Democrat passed the civil rights act in 1968, and he did it in the office of the Republican legislative leader Everett Dirksen. He was able to get a very controversial bill passed.

And then the country looked up and said we may not like the bill, but we see the Democratic president, we see the Republican leader, and so we'll take it. The problem with this bill was the president did not give and the Democratic leadership did not give Republicans a chance to put our ideas in. It didn't get any votes and the country turned on it.

VAN SUSTEREN: He didn't try talk to you?

ALEXANDER: He's as nice as he can be but, and we all like him. But their definition of bipartisan was a bipartisan bill is a bill when you agree with me. Our definition is when we sit down and exchange ideas. We have laid out our six steps. We've laid out four steps on clean energy.

We have a lot to say about where the country wants to go, and now perhaps we'll have am chance to say something about it.

VAN SUSTEREN: Senator, thank you, sir.

ALEXANDER: Thank you, Greta.


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