Does a Filibuster Await the Health Care Bill in the Senate?

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," November 10, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: And if you thought the House battle over health care was brutal, just wait. It could be a bloodbath in the United States Senate. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid needs 60 votes for the health care bill. For Republicans the number is different, 41. Why? Earlier Senator Judd Gregg went on "On the Record."


VAN SUSTEREN: Senator, it's nice to see you, sir.

SEN. JUDD GREGG, R - N.H.: Thank you for having me, Greta.

VAN SUSTEREN: The question everyone wants to know, when the bill finally does emerge from the Senate and there is vote on it, will there be a filibuster? Can you get 40 votes?

GREGG: Hard to say right now. Certainly if it were the House bill we could, I think, sustain a filibuster because I think there are a lot of Democrats who feel very strongly that the House bill is simply too expensive and is not good policy in a lot of areas, especially the public plan area where you have the government taking over your health care.

But we don't know what the Senate bill is going to be. We haven't even seen it. so it's hard to say whether or not we would have the necessary votes, because we need 41.

VAN SUSTEREN: I should have said 41, not 40.

The Democrats are presumably working on this bill right now. You guys, the Republicans are sort of sitting, waiting to see what they come up with, right?

GREGG: That's right. We don't have any participation in this process at all, nor do most of the Democratic members of the Senate. It's being written by three or four, as I understand it, maybe five senators with staff behind closed doors in Harry Reid's office.

And nobody has seen it, nobody knows what the score and nobody knows what's in it. We know broad outlines but no specifics.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you ever run into Senator Reid and say, what what's going on? What's the timetable? How is the vote count?

GREGG: Sometimes we kid each other about it, but it's just in a kidding way.

I mean, obviously he has got a project. I mean, he is trying to pass a piece of legislation here which, in many ways, is not going to be healthy in our country, especially in the fiscal areas, where you're creating this brand new entitlement that's going to cost between $2 trillion and $3 trillion when we already have a debt we can't afford.

And then we have got this issue of whether the federal government should take over your health care and drive up your premiums. And those are big issues.

And so I don't envy him his job. He is not carrying, in my opinion, water that is very good for us.

VAN SUSTEREN: Seems to me that it looks like you are going to get the Republicans who are going to vote against it, maybe Senator Olympia Snowe will change her mind. I don't know where she is.

But Democrats like Senator Ben Nelson, are they real problems for Senator Reid?

GREGG: Ben is a pretty individual guy, you know. He keeps his own council and he doesn't mind taking independent positions. And he obviously looks into Nebraska's issues first and makes a decision based on that.

And so I know Ben has got real serious concerns about the financial implications of this bill. He's got serious concerns about the implications to people's insurance premiums and how much they go up. I suspect he has got a lot of good questions.

VAN SUSTEREN: Isn't the real concern for the Republicans not so much the Senate bill that comes out but rather once the Senate bill does come out and gets voted on because they have the numbers, is it goes to conference, and that's sort of where the sausage is made right there with the House and the Senate? Isn't that the real hurdle for you?

GREGG: Well, Greta, as usual you put your finger right on the issue. What's going to happen, I suspect, is they are going to take something reasonably benign across the floor of the Senate where they can get 60 votes, take it to conference where it will move dramatically to the left to the House proposal, which is a broad expansion of the government, extremely expensive, and bring it back to the Senate.

At that point the minority really only gets one shot at it, and it's a procedural opportunity where 60 votes would be required, and the final bill can be passed with 51 votes, so they can let a lot of their votes take a walk.

VAN SUSTEREN: So right now they sort of water it down in the Senate so they get their votes. They get the Senate votes, something that makes everybody happy. It's then later on that the foot gets put to the pedal.

GREGG: When you get in the conference, they throw in the government plan, they throw in the trillions of dollars of new spending, all the new regulations, drive up insurance policies, basically have the first steps down the road towards a single payer system, which is what the ultimate goal is here. I think we have to be honest about it.

VAN SUSTEREN: In the number of years you've been in the Senate, how important is this issue and this vote to you compared to the others?

GREGG: This is the single biggest piece of public policy I have ever seen just from the way it affects everyone -- 16 percent of the economy, everybody's health care is going to be impacted, and then the impact on our children with the size of this program, the impact on the growing of the government in such a dramatic way.

I can't think of anything that even comes close to it. Everything is dwarfed by this.

VAN SUSTEREN: How many constituents or even citizens from other states. What's the level of contact with your office compared to other issues?

GREGG: It's interesting. In August there was a tremendous amount of intense feeling and concern, and then that's sort of abated, and now it's starting to rise again, I think probably because people have looked at this House bill and starting to realize what it means.

And so it's starting to grow. There's real concern out there about what this will do to people's health care and their ability to see the doctor they want to see.

VAN SUSTEREN: Let me put you out on a limb, because I know you have no control of this, but prediction on timetable when things are likely to happen. Not what's going to happen, but when it is likely to happen.

GREGG: The president says he wants it by the end of the year. That's a hard timetable to reach because a bill like this to be done correctly takes four to five weeks on the floor, minimum if there is going to be fair and open amendment process. And so you are looking at sometime in January.

VAN SUSTEREN: And the president's role in the Senate? I know he was over at the House on Saturday working the House. Is he working the Senate members or not yet?

GREGG: Not me.


VAN SUSTEREN: I don't think he will be calling you.

GREGG: I haven't been on phone dial list for a while.


VAN SUSTEREN: Senator, thank you. Good luck, sir.

GREGG: Thank you, Greta.


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