This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," February 23, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: All right, stop crying. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says Republicans should stop crying over the possible use of reconciliation in the health care bill. Senator Reid warns nothing is off the table and that reconciliation, which requires just a simple majority to pass legislation, has been used 21 times before.
South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham joins us. Good evening, Senator. And I guess...
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, R - S.C.: Good evening.
VAN SUSTEREN: Are you crying?
GRAHAM: I'm pretty happy. It's a great...
VAN SUSTEREN: OK, you're not crying.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right, what about -- what about reconciliation? The Democrats say it's been used 21 times before so any Republicans who are complaining about, quit crying.
GRAHAM: It's never been used this way. It's never been -- it was never meant to be used this way. You know, we need health care reform, and obviously, we need better hearing in Washington because if our Democratic friends don't understand what Massachusetts was about, that's scary. Scott Brown took Ted Kennedy's seat in Massachusetts, the bluest of blue states, running on the idea that he'd be the 41st vote against this massive health care bill. So what's their response? To accuse us of crying when they try to jam it through with 51 votes and to ignore the American people by making it bigger? I think they've lost their mind.
VAN SUSTEREN: What are the senators saying behind the scenes? I mean, I know that -- I hear what everybody says publicly. But when you run into them in the halls, what are the Republicans -- I mean, what's the real story among the Democrats and Republicans on this?
GRAHAM: Well, this is a little of base politics. The left, who wants single-payer health care and a massive takeover of health care, their ideas were rejected by the American people, the Massachusetts vote, pretty clear referendum on health care. And they're upset and they're mad and they're angry. That happens on the right when our people get upset that we don't get what we would like. But the middle of this country has spoken on this health care issue. Now's the time to come up with some common sense solutions. And behind closed doors, I think reason will prevail. If they do this, Greta, if they try to jam through this bill...
VAN SUSTEREN: What makes you say that?
GRAHAM: Well, I just believe...
VAN SUSTEREN: ... reason will prevail because, I mean, the lines have been drawn in the sand.
GRAHAM: Yes. Sure. Well...
VAN SUSTEREN: I mean, it's pretty...
GRAHAM: ... we've done that before.
VAN SUSTEREN: It's pretty clear. And the things that are said are rather strong on both sides.
GRAHAM: Well, I was in the "Gang of 14." Remember when we were -- the Bush judges were being filibustered, we were going to change the rules. Seven Democrats, seven Republicans said, Slow down, changing the rules will change the Senate.
And you know, at the end of the day, I want health care reform, but I want a Senate that works and slows down bad ideas and sometimes, unfortunately, good ideas. This will be the end of the minority rights in the Senate as we know it, and the casualty of this whole debate would be the loss of the United States Senate as a real viable institution. It will become the House. And no bill is worth that.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right, so play this out for me. If you say that reconciliation or "nuclear option," depending on, you know, who's saying it, what do you want to call it, where it's 51...
GRAHAM: Right. Right.
VAN SUSTEREN: ... rather than 60, if that doesn't happen, if it doesn't go to reconciliation, what does that mean? Because it does not seem like the Republicans or Democrats are even remotely close on this particular bill.
VAN SUSTEREN: Does this mean no health care reform?
GRAHAM: This means that this big bill means (ph) will never pass. But there's plenty of room for compromise. There's competition could be introduced into the system to lower cost, legal reform. At the end of the day, a lot of Americans don't have health care coverage because it costs too much.
You know, I'm on a bill with Senator Wyden, seven Republicans, seven Democrats, mandate coverage, but you get to buy your coverage in the private sector using the tax code. So there's a bipartisan solution to this, it's just being rejected for a big government takeover. At the end of the day, I would counsel my Democratic colleagues not to do this because moderate Democrats will become political kamikazes if they go down the reconciliation road.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right, if reconciliation doesn't happen...
VAN SUSTEREN: ... and thus, this big bill will not -- this comprehensive big bill won't get passed...
VAN SUSTEREN: ... the next question is whether sort of, like, you know, little bitty steps or little reforms will happen.
VAN SUSTEREN: And at that particular...
VAN SUSTEREN: That's what the Republicans are looking for. But at that point, then do the Democrats sort of dig their heels in the sand and say, We're not even going to do those? Or are they sort of brought to their...
GRAHAM: No, I hope not.
VAN SUSTEREN: Are they brought to their knees and they've got to do it, at that point?
GRAHAM: It's not about bringing people to their knees, it's about listening to the public. I mean, how can you say that Massachusetts's election wasn't a signal about how the country as a whole feels on this bill? I mean, if we stop listening to the people, we don't deserve our jobs. You know, they've done more for the Republican Party by doing these kind of things than the Republican Party's done for itself.
President Obama talks about bipartisanship. If he pushes reconciliation, then everything he said is just basically a fraud. If he wants bipartisanship, you have to go seek it. I'm a guy that does like common ground, where I can find it. There are plenty of Republicans and Democrats who have similar ideas about lowering cost.
VAN SUSTEREN: If it gets to reconciliation, if Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says, OK, we're going to go the reconciliation route, do you expect or would you -- would you expect President Obama to pick up the phone and tell him not to do that?
GRAHAM: I would hope...
VAN SUSTEREN: Because of all the things that you lay out.
GRAHAM: Good question. I would hope that he would, for the good of the Senate, for the good of the country because the consequences of taking one sixth of the economy, after all the public input and ignoring the public input, is arrogance on steroids. It would be, really, the end of the Senate as we know it. It would be a debacle for health care as we know it because you couldn't really do it through reconciliation. It would be a move that would have long-term consequences to the country far beyond health care, and I think it would be, quite frankly, a destructive act in American politics not witnessed in a long time, quite frankly.
VAN SUSTEREN: Senator, thank you. All eyes, of course, are on this Thursday. So anyway, we'll find out what happens. Thank you, Senator.
GRAHAM: Stay tuned.
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