All-Star Panel: Running on the Affordable Care Act in 2014

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," August 12, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


REP. JAMES CLYBURN, D – S.C.: We will be running on ObamaCare in 2014. In fact, we set it up to run on it in 2014. We fully expect to run on it, and we expect to win on it.

REP. MARSHA BLACKBURN, R - TN: At this implodes, what we want the implosion to do is tilt towards the free market. Those that have wanted that single payer system, they want enough of it to be done away with that it would only go toward a single payer system. We want to delay, defund, repeal, replace, and get rid of this. It is not ready for primetime.


SHANNON BREAM, ANCHOR: Members from both sides of the aisle say that 2014 is going to be time to talk about ObamaCare, in the midst of an election. Let's get back to our panel. Charles, do Democrats really have a choice here? James Clyburn comes out, congressman saying we're going to embrace it, it's going to be a winner for us. But Republicans were clearly going to make it an issue whether they wanted to talk about it or not.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I think what he's doing, he's putting up a brave front. They have no choice. They're all in on this. It is like Romney on RomneyCare. Once you passed it, once it is yours, you own it. There's no point in running away from it.

I think what Republicans ought to do is a two-pronged attack. Number one is to talk about the unfairness. And you can really be very specific about this. You make the case that employers have gotten a pass, individuals haven't gotten any. So if you're big, you're rich, you have influence, you have a lobbyist, you got a pass. You got a suspension of the requirement, individual mandate remains.

And secondly, I think this is a small issue. It isn't a lot of money at all, but I think it is a symbolic one. The fact that if you're a member of Congress, and it's held in pretty low repute, you get a subsidy in the exchanges that is only supposed to go to somebody who is poor. You're making $175,000 a year and your staff as well, and yet it is now the laws has been jimmied so that you get a 75 percent subsidy from the government.  Anybody of your income who isn't in Congress gets zero. I think you ought to focus on those two issues. And as for the train wreck of implementation, you don't have to talk about it. Let it happen, let it unfold. And then you comment on it.

BREAM: Well, but along with maybe the train wreck aspect, that some including Max Baucus and Harry Reid have talked about it -- two key Democrats in this -- Dan, there are good things, good parts of -- attractive parts of the law that are rolling out ahead of the midterms. So Democrats clearly will have some positive things to talk about.

DAN BALZ, WASHINGTON POST: They will. And the president in his press conference last Friday before he went on vacation talked about a number of those and basically said, what do the Republicans want to do? Do they want to get rid of all those things?

There are some things that people do like that are already there that they are going to be able to stress. Charles, we don't know at this point whether it's going to be a train wreck on implementation. There are clearly problems. We know that. It is a huge, complex thing that they're trying to do, and they are going to have some problems. The question is public opinion at this point is so divided and has been so firm for some time, that the question is will that shift as we see the actual implementation in a way that is harmful for the Democrats or helpful?

BREAM: You mentioned the president's press conference. We want to play a little of that and back and some forth with Louie Gohmert as well, about how this could play out for the GOP and the perception of what they're doing.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The really interesting question is why it is that my friends in the other party have made the idea of preventing these people from getting health care their holy grail, their number one priority. The one unifying principle in the Republican Party at the moment is making sure that 30 million people don't have health care.

REP. LOUIE GOHMERT, R - TEXAS: That's a false narrative. He said we're trying to keep people from having health care. That's just not true.  That's an absolute, blatant lie.


BREAM: But if it is said enough, Bill, will voters believe it?

BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Look, I think Dan made a key point. Public opinion in general on ObamaCare is critical, even hostile, but it hasn't changed that much. It's 55-45, 60-40, or something. The Democrats figure they'll just make the case, they'll take a little hit better than trying to get cute. But on particular elements of it – like the two Charles mentioned -- I've looked at the polls, on the individual mandate, that's like eight or nine one against. When they poll, do you think congressmen and their staff should be treated differently from other people in the exchanges? That's going to be overwhelming.

And I think if you ask on the exchanges -- we can have a huge debate about it -- but shouldn't we ask the security and privacy arrangements have never been tested yet and there's all of this reporting about how there are going to be fundamental problems on that and other aspects of the exchanges to delay it for a year. I think if the Republicans focus on those three elements, and make that the core of their September ObamaCare strategy, it would be hard actually for Democrats to explain why it isn't reasonable to delay the exchanges, equalize the relaxation of the mandate, the individual mandate and employer mandate, and fix the special exemption that congressmen and their staff have been given.

BREAM: And Dan, having just written a book on the 2012 election and how this played out, looking at this specifically for the midterms, there are a number of key Republicans who are split on this. You have the top Republican in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, as Carl Cameron reported, not signing onto the letter, talking about the funding issues. But there are other very vocal Republicans doing barnstorming tours across the country on this specific point. How do you think it factors into the ballot box essentially?

BALZ: Well, we will get a better sense of that in the fall when this plays out in the immediate budget battle. Part of it is just the strategic decision of how hard you go and what you do and what you try to extract in terms of trying to get this changed. There is a risk for Republicans that if they shut down the government on this, it could back fire against them.  But there are some Republicans who don't think that's the case, and we have to see the leadership try to figure out the path forward on this. I mean, Bill may be right that there is a step or two short of that that you could get something done.

BREAM: Final word?

KRAUTHAMMER: If you're going to make a threat, if you're going to do something, make sure it's something that you are prepared to do. It will be nuts for the Republicans to end up shutting down the government. It always ends up hurting them. You should make other demands that are less -- that are less impossible and you might actually succeed. Otherwise, it's a mistake.

BREAM: We'll see if they take Charles' advice. Gentlemen, thank you. That's it for the panel, but stay tuned. Politicians know voters don't always want to buy what they're selling, so sometimes they have to get creative. That's next.

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