This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," October 14, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
SHANNON BREAM, FOX NEWS GUEST HOST: Well, earlier, we went to Capitol Hill, where Republican senator Richard Shelby went "On the Record" about health care, Afghanistan and more.
BREAM: Senator Shelby, thank you so much for taking time today to go "On the Record" with us.
SEN. RICHARD SHELBY, R - ALA.: Thank you.
BREAM: We appreciate it. Let's start off talking about health care, consuming a lot of the energy and attention over here, obviously, in the Senate. I want to refer to something you said to our Chris Wallace back in June. In talking about what the president was proposing at that point, you said it could be the best step in destroying the best health care system the world has ever known. As this has played out, do you think that's what's happened?
SHELBY: I think that's what's about to happen if we are not able to stop what's going on. And the Democrats have the numbers. It's just a question, can we, you know, react to what will come down the road, and we don't know exactly what that'll be as yet. But we do have the best health care in the world, maybe not for everybody. But why destroy this system and start all over and get the government so involved in it when there are a lot of other options that we could incrementally build on the best health care?
BREAM: And I know the president has talked about -- and in his last major health care speech, he talked about the idea of bipartisanship, and he's continued to echo that. But just about every Republican I've talked to has said, We have floated ideas. We have our own bills. We're not getting any traction, though, with the White House. Has that been your experience?
SHELBY: Well, I think that's exactly right. I think the Democrats, led by the president, are determined, most of them, to force a health care bill on the American people that most Americans, according to the polls, really -- polls -- don't want and most people don't need. Most people in America, the majority, overwhelming majority, are basically satisfied with their health care.
BREAM: And the majority of Americans, we know from our polling at Fox, 90 percent-plus, have health care. So I know it's convincing people that already have health care to possibly give up a system that is, in some part, working for them. The Senate Finance Committee version that came out yesterday with the help of Republican senator Olympia Snowe's vote still only covers 94 percent of Americans. Do you think that's enough of a change in coverage to justify what they're proposing?
SHELBY: Oh, absolutely not. This is going to add so much money, as far as taxes, perhaps cuts of Medicare and Medicaid, if what -- if their proposal goes through. This is not going to be a panacea. This is not going to solve our health care problems. It could exacerbate what we have today. Of course, we haven't seen the marriage of the Finance bill with the HELP Committee bill. That could be an interesting thing that would be put together. But I'd say, from my -- I know about it now, it won't be good for America.
BREAM: What's your reaction to Senator Snowe's vote yesterday?
SHELBY: Well, I was disappointed. I was hoping that she would vote with the rest of the Republicans and would not do that. But you know, she has to answer that question herself. I've known Olympia a long time. We served in the House together. But I thought that might be coming down the road. She kind of signaled that from time to time.
But maybe -- maybe she'll change her mind. Maybe she'll change her mind, and maybe there'll be some Democrats to change their mind once they see what kind of bill they ultimately put together because it's going to be a combination, obviously, of the Baucus bill that came out and what came out of the HELP Committee with the government option, and so forth. I would venture to say at this early juncture, it will not be a good bill.
BREAM: You mentioned the public option, the government-run option. It wasn't part of the Baucus proposal, but just shortly after the vote, we heard Senator Nelson from Florida say, Well, the public option may come back on the floor. What do you make of that?
SHELBY: Oh, I've always thought it would. As soon as they got the bill out of the committee to the floor, and try to -- where they have more maneuverability, and the leadership, that they will -- if they feel that they can ram the public option down the Senate -- down the throats of the American people, they're determined to do it.
BREAM: I want to turn now to some international issues and ask you about Afghanistan. We know the president is meeting with some of his top national security folks again today in making the decisions about whether more troops will go to Afghanistan. What's your take on the situation and the timeline so far?
SHELBY: Well, I think the president is wavering one way and then another, from my perspective. I believe, at the end of the day, he should listen to General McChrystal and he should listen to Secretary of Defense Gates, and ultimately, he ought to listen to General Petraeus. General Petraeus was the author, was the originator of the surge that helped stabilize, if you can use that word, at least a lot more in Iraq.
We've got to do something like that, I don't say it's exactly the same, or lose the whole country in Afghanistan. He ought to listen to the commanders. We should not just cut and run out of Afghanistan. We've been there a long time. We probably ignored it too much with a lot of emphasis on Iraq. But it's very important. It will create -- if we leave, it will create the biggest haven for terrorists we've ever seen.
BREAM: And let me ask you, last Friday, The president was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, and there's been a lot of speculation about exactly what that was about, whether it was efforts he's already undertaken or a promise or something for the future. Do you think it will impact at all the decisions he's making about Afghanistan? Is there pressure on him now from the international community in any way that there wasn't before the prize was awarded?
SHELBY: Well, I thought the prize was premature. I thought the idea -- you know, it's always good to see an American -- or an American president or anyone else -- get awarded it. But I don't believe that he's earned it yet. Maybe he will. But I think the President of the United States, whoever he or she might be, should not worry about public opinion around the world, should worry about the security of this nation.
BREAM: Senator Shelby, thank you very much again for your time.
SHELBY: Thank you.
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