Town Hall Rage Redux

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This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," January 12, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Tonight: Well, he got blasted! A U.S. senator gets blasted at a town hall meeting, Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold getting an earful at a town hall in Pewaukee.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you need help also helping the poor, I'm not against that or the illegals. But maybe you could use the leftover stimulus money. That might help.


SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD, D - WIS.: I think that these proceedings should absolutely be on C-SPAN. I think it's stupid to not do it. The Finance Committee proceedings were televised.


FEINGOLD: They were. The Finance Committee proceedings -- the Senate proceedings were -- you know, the votes were televised. And there should be as much transparency...


FEINGOLD: That's right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Then you agree?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have sent you e-mails, faxed information to you, and we get no response from your office.


FEINGOLD: You mentioned financial transactions. I was concerned this summer at town meetings when people said that there were provisions that allowed people's personal bank accounts to be accessed. We checked this carefully. There is no language that does that. In fact, they put special language in the Finance Committee bill, in the Senate bill, to make absolutely sure that wouldn't happen. So my understanding...



FEINGOLD: My understanding is that that isn't a concern. But in fairness, because you did raise the issue of the individual mandate, I'm not sure, for sure, whether the Supreme Court will approve that piece. I think they will. I think they will. I think they will. And I would not vote for it if I believed it would be struck down. But by the way, the authors of the bills are crazy if they put a provision in there that's going to be struck down by the Supreme Court because then they'd be back to zero. So -- and here's the thing...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Read the Constitution! You know (INAUDIBLE)

FEINGOLD: Somebody said to me -- somebody said to me, Why don't we just ask the Supreme Court in advance? Well, you can't do that. You can in some countries. You have to actually send them passed legislation before you can find out.

They believe this bill is a significant benefit to Wisconsin and...


FEINGOLD: And I can document it. Would you like to hear why I say that or...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How in the world can you consider this piece of legislation to be consistent with our nation's Constitution?



VAN SUSTEREN: Craig Dedo joins us live. Craig was at the town hall and asked Senator Feingold a question. Craig, I guess that was your question about the constitutionality. Or at least you asked one, is that correct?

CRAIG DEDO, ATTENDED SEN. FEINGOLD'S EVENT: Yes, it is. And that was me.

VAN SUSTEREN: And was the senator certain (ph) about the constitutionality of the response to your question or not? And tell us what your question was.

DEDO: No, he was not. What I did was, I recited briefly the intentions of the Founders to put restrictions on the power of the federal government, and then quoted the 4th, 9th and 10th amendments to the Constitution, and then asked him, in light of this, how in the world this health care bill as passed by the Senate could be consistent with the Constitution of the United States?

VAN SUSTEREN: And the senator said what to you, sir?

DEDO: The senator said that he thought that it was constitutional, that the only reservation that he had was the individual mandate that's in the bill. He said that would probably have to go to the Supreme Court, but he believed that the Supreme Court would approve it as being constitutional.

VAN SUSTEREN: OK. Now, about how many people were present at this town hall meeting?

DEDO: By my guess, around 280. There's 240 seats in the lecture hall, plus there were roughly 40 people standing either by the walls or sitting in the aisles. All the lecture hall seats were filled.

VAN SUSTEREN: OK. Now, the Pewaukee, as I understand -- I mean, that's generally considered a pretty conservative area. Do you consider yourself a Republican, Democrat, independent?

DEDO: I'm an active member of the Republican Party of Waukesha County.

VAN SUSTEREN: What percentage -- do you have some sort of sense of what percentage in the room were Republicans and what percentage were Democrats?

DEDO: I have no idea, but I do know that someone else took a straw poll of how many people favored this piece of legislation and how many were opposed. There were exactly 12 people in favor of it and everyone else opposed. So that would be roughly 90 percent opposed and 10 percent supporting.

VAN SUSTEREN: How about the senator...

DEDO: Or 95 percent opposed, actually.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. You guys pretty much -- you grilled that senator pretty much, Senator Feingold. How'd he do?

DEDO: He was very cool, very professional. Obviously, he knew that it would be foolish to express any anger or rancor or resentment. He knew that he was in territory where his position was heavily outnumbered in the population. He got only 35 percent of the vote the last time around in Waukesha County

VAN SUSTEREN: Craig, thank you very much for joining us.

Joining us now is Joe Petrie, reporter for The Waukesha Freeman. Joe, did you go to the town -- you covered the town hall meeting?


VAN SUSTEREN: What -- tell me about it. Tell me -- tell me a little about the community. Tell me about the reaction, how the senator did?

PETRIE: Well, the senator -- surprisingly, he really didn't lose his temper as much as somebody you would think would that was being -- the way the answers (SIC) were coming at him. But basically, people there were very passionate. They were crowded into the amphitheater. They were sitting in the halls. They were even outside. They were all over the place. And they were mad. I mean, everyone was saying something as soon as he would have something he would say.

VAN SUSTEREN: Why do you think Senator Feingold chose that community? If he stayed in Madison, for instance, he would have had a lot friendlier crowd in general than that -- I mean, that's a very conservative community. Why did he pick that one?

PETRIE: Well, the thing with Senator Feingold is, one, he's not someone who's afraid to go and talk to a community that is against him. And secondly, he also, ever since he was first elected back in the early '90s, has had this where he goes to every county during the year to have these town hall meetings. But the thing that makes this different this time around is there's something that people are very passionate about. In the past, these same meetings might have drawn maybe 12 people, as opposed to 200, 300 people.

VAN SUSTEREN: Did Senator Feingold say with certainty that he's going to vote for health care, at least as it's contained in the current Senate bill? Did he have any reservation at all?

PETRIE: He said that no bill is perfect, but he believes it could be brought better into perfection. He's indicated that he's willing to vote for it, but he said he does want to see some changes.

VAN SUSTEREN: What about the part where -- the constitutional question, whether or not it's constitutional to mandate people -- to require people to get insurance? It sounds like the senator is a little bit uncertain as to, you know, what would happen with that or it'd have to wind its way up to the Supreme Court, and he thinks it is constitutional, but there's some level of uncertainty.

PETRIE: Yes, he did seem to have a little bit of uncertainty about it. But at the same time, I mean, he did -- he is standing behind it, that it is something he believes that should be at least investigated.

VAN SUSTEREN: Did anyone ask him about the great deal Nebraska got, the $300 million, deal why he -- Senator Feingold couldn't get one for the Dairy State?

PETRIE: He said that Wisconsin could actually possibly get a better deal than the one that was out there, but he did not elaborate on exactly what it would be.

VAN SUSTEREN: Joe, thank you very much for joining us.

PETRIE: Thank you.

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