This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," December 17, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Tonight: Can you keep a secret? Well, apparently, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid thinks you cannot because he's not telling you or the Republicans or even members of his own party what is in that health care bill. Does that worry you? Well, that is exactly what Senator Lindsey Graham is worried about. He says there's political panic in Washington. What does that mean? Well, we'll ask Senator Graham, as he joins us live.
Senator, political panic? What is that? And is there political panic in Washington?
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, R - S.C.: There's political panic among our Democratic friends. It means that you're trying to rounds up the votes and you forgot what you're voting for. You have just want to pass a bill, and you really don't care what's in it. You make up a new idea every week and see if it will stick to the wall. And if it doesn't work, you replace it with another idea. And you keep the details away from the American public and your political opponents so they can't see what you're doing. That's somebody in a panic.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right. We have the governor of Nebraska coming up in a second. His -- one of his United States senators, Ben Nelson, seems to be the one that everybody's eyes are on. Senator Harry Reid really wants him, needs him. Without him, it's off.
VAN SUSTEREN: What are the Republicans doing to lure him? Because you guys want him. What are you doing to get him?
GRAHAM: The only advice I would give Senator Nelson is do what's best for Nebraska, what's best for the country. And when you look at the polling on this bill nationwide, there's not one poll where people want this bill passed. And I can only imagine the polling in Nebraska.
If Senator Nelson said, Let's stop, let's slow down, let's have a transparent process, let's see if we can start over and agree upon things with 75 votes, like doing away with preexisting illnesses, he would be doing the country a great service. We're rushing to judgment, trying to pass a bill by Christmas Eve, and I have no idea what's in the thing. So he would be doing the country a great service and the people of Nebraska if he said, Stop, go home, come back in January and take another shot at this thing.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right. You say -- OK, so when I hear that, if I were Majority Leader Harry Reid, I'd think, OK, if he just wants to do what's, quote, "best for Nebraska," I might try to buy him off. You know, maybe he wants a few hundred million dollars or something for the state of Nebraska, or there's something that -- you know, We don't want to close something or do something.
VAN SUSTEREN: Does he bring him into the office, and, I mean, to make it so that it becomes so unattractive for him because the people of Nebraska say, Look, we want some of that? Is that a possibility?
GRAHAM: No, the people of the country and Nebraska look at this bill in totality. The $500 billion cuts in Medicare can't be made up by opening up a hospital in Nebraska. The $450 billion in tax increases that the people of Nebraska will feel and it will increase their premiums are not going to be made up by any project given to Senator Nelson. This has a national problem associated with it that will hurt Americans across the board and people in Nebraska across the board.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right, explain to me because Senator Bill Nelson -- not Ben Nelson, but Bill Nelson from the state of Florida -- told me or told us last night -- I think it was last night -- that Medicare is not being cut by this bill. Is Medicare...
VAN SUSTEREN: ... being cut or not?
GRAHAM: Yes, ma'am. There's $450 billion taken out of Medicare over a 10-year period, money not given to doctors and hospitals. And every senior watching your program knows it's harder to find a doctor to service Medicare patients than it was five years ago. Imagine how hospitals and doctors will be hit if you reduce Medicare by $450 billion-plus.
VAN SUSTEREN: How come he said that isn't happening?
GRAHAM: ... so it does affect the patients. Well, it is happening. I like Senator Bill Nelson...
VAN SUSTEREN: Well, so is he making it up?
GRAHAM: ... but I can prove it to you. I can prove to you that this bill reduces Medicare payments to doctors and hospitals over a 10-year period by almost $500 billion. And if you think that doesn't affect the quality of health care to American seniors, that's crazy. That's why this bill is going into the tank. People understand the taxes and the Medicare cuts are going to diminish the quality of health care. And we need to slow down and start over instead of jamming something through right before Christmas.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right. I believe that $500 billion coming out of anything is going to hurt somebody. I'm with you on that.
VAN SUSTEREN: But why -- I mean, why -- why is it that Senator Bill Nelson thinks that $500 billion isn't coming out? I mean, like, how can the two of you be -- give me such different answers?
GRAHAM: Well, let's get the bill. Don't rely on me. Get the Fox researchers to look at this bill and see whether or not my statement that Medicare payments to doctors and hospitals and other providers are diminished over a 10-year period by almost $500 billion. You go -- you decide. Those are the facts as I believe them to be. You decide.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right, well, we can't get Fox to research it...
GRAHAM: I challenge...
VAN SUSTEREN: I think -- I think we're going to have to get some thieves to break into the Senate majority leader's to see what this bill is (INAUDIBLE)
GRAHAM: I will bring you that part of the bill.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Oh, good.
GRAHAM: I will bring you that part of the bill.
VAN SUSTEREN: OK. We'll see that part.
GRAHAM: I will bring it to you...
VAN SUSTEREN: All right, because that's been our complaint.
GRAHAM: ... and show you how it's done. I will bring that part. That part's...
VAN SUSTEREN: That's been our...
GRAHAM: ... mine.
VAN SUSTEREN: ... is that -- all right. Well, we've been complaining that the American people can't see this bill, that it's done -- you know, some of it's done in quite secret, but anyway...
GRAHAM: Well, this part...
VAN SUSTEREN: All right, Senator...
GRAHAM: ... you can see. This part you can see.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Good. We'll take a look at it. Thank you, Senator.
GRAHAM: Thank you.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right, well, talk about being popular, both sides want him, both sides need him, Senator Ben Nelson. He is a Democrat and he is undecided. Senator Nelson's fellow Cornhusker governor of Nebraska, Dave Heineman, has a message for Senator Nelson -- vote no. Why? Well, Governor Heineman joins us live.
Governor, you -- in fact, you've written a letter. I've got a copy of the letter written -- dated today, December 16th, if today's the 16th, in which you ask -- essentially, tell Senator Ben Nelson, Vote no. Have you talked to him?
GOV. DAVE HEINEMAN, R - NEB.: I have not talked to him. Again, we sent a letter. This bill is not in Nebraska's best interests. It is not in America's best interests. We need to improve our system. There's no question about that. But this has an unfunded Medicaid expansion, an unfunded mandate that would cost my state, a small state, hundreds of millions of dollars, along with the Medicare cuts that were just mentioned, skyrocketing premiums. People are very, very concerned in my state.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right, in the letter that you wrote to him, you talked about the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services' analysis that just came out, with rather extraordinary -- I mean, they're big numbers. And -- is this -- are these numbers that you think that Senator Ben Nelson was aware of? I mean -- what about these numbers?
HEINEMAN: Well, I think -- I think to some degree, he was aware of them because I've written him several times now. But we're close to the finish line. There's no doubt he's the 60th vote. I want him to appreciate, and I know he does, that, again, this bill is bad news for Nebraska. And Senator Nelson has always indicated that if the bill were bad news for Nebraska, he'd vote against it. And so I hope he honors that commitment.
And again, it goes beyond the Medicaid mandate. Again, you've got seniors concerned. The focus of this bill should be on reducing costs, the costs of medical care, skyrocketing premiums. For example, a major insurer in our state today, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska, had a news conference to indicate premiums would go up somewhere between 80 percent to 195 percent. Nebraskans can't afford that, and neither can Americans.
VAN SUSTEREN: Have you -- when was the last time you spoke to him? That's the first part of my question, two-part question. And second, what are you hearing from people who are close to him? Because I assume that, you know, people talk in your state, you know, politicians who are Nebraskan. What are you hearing which way he's leaning tonight?
HEINEMAN: Well, I haven't talked to him personally for a couple of weeks. We do run into each other at various functions, obviously, in our state. He knows my concerns. I think he's genuinely undecided right now. There was also a poll released today that showed by a margin of 67 percent to 26 percent, Nebraskans are opposed to this health care bill. Slow down. Get it right. There's nothing magical about getting this done by Christmas.
VAN SUSTEREN: You know, there's so much attention on Senator Ben Nelson about the issue about the language, whether it be federally-funded abortion in any way, but sort of the unique thing about Senator Ben Nelson is he was a governor of your state. So you know, he sort of brings to the job as a U.S. senator having run a state. So he's paying attention to these numbers, don't you think?
HEINEMAN: I think he is, absolutely. Senator Nelson and Senator Johanns, both of my senators, are former governors. They understand this. They've had to put a budget together, just like I have. You can't balance the budget with this large of unfunded Medicaid expansion. That's what I'm concerned about. I know he's aware of that. I know he's concerned about the abortion language. So am I. And again, when you look at this bill in total, it's not good news.
VAN SUSTEREN: Why don't you just call him? I mean, I see the letter. It's -- but can't you just -- I mean, it's, you know, good Midwestern guys. Can't you just pick up the phone and call him and have a conversation with him to tell him your views?
HEINEMAN: I could. But again, sometimes the best way to communicate is by letter because I know he's busy. He's tied up in meetings. And I just want to make sure that he's aware of our concerns. So sometimes, it's hard to, frankly, get a hold of him, and I know it's hard to get a hold of me, given my schedule, too.
VAN SUSTEREN: Governor, thank you, sir.
HEINEMAN: You're welcome.
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