Double Standard in Health Care Reform?

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," March 24, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Well, there's breaking news tonight. The Senate is in the middle of "Vote-a-rama," voting on Republican amendments to the reconciliation bill. Now, an amendment introduced by Senator Chuck Grassley has just failed by a vote of 56 to 42. But wait until you hear what that amendment was.

Earlier, Senator Grassley went "On the Record."


VAN SUSTEREN: Nice to see you, Senator.

SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY, R - IOWA: Glad to be with you once again.

VAN SUSTEREN: Senator, I've got a little research here on my BlackBerry sent to me, and I'm -- I want to talk about this individual mandate. You're compelled to buy health insurance. If you don't buy it that first year, according to the phase-in, the penalty the first year is $95. If I buy insurance, it's going to cost me much more than $95. So aren't I better off getting caught, paying $95? If I don't get sick, I don't pay any more. And if I get sick, I can just buy insurance at that point because you can't reject me.

GRASSLEY: That's one of the shortcomings of it, outside the fact that I personally think and I think constitutional lawyers think that the mandate in itself is unconstitutional because never before in the 225-year history of our country has the federal government said you had to buy anything. Now buy health insurance and then have it enforced by the IRS? And it looks like we have to have 15,500 IRS agents do it at a cost of several billions of dollars. So a lot of people are going to be after you.

VAN SUSTEREN: They're -- well...

GRASSLEY: They're -- they're going to...

VAN SUSTEREN: ... they may be after me, but if I'm willing to pay the penalty, I can game the system.


VAN SUSTEREN: And if I get sick, then I'll buy health insurance. And the whole point of having everyone insurance is to bring that pool down. But if people game it...

GRASSLEY: And a lot of people besides you are going to have that figured out. So the goal of having 94, 95 percent of the people in this country have health insurance is going to be a lot less because these penalties aren't what they ought to be. I'm not in favor of the penalties because I'm not in favor of the mandate. But if there is going to be a mandate, if it turns out to be constitutional, then there's a lot of people because you don't -- you can't deny insurance for preexisting conditions, they're going to wait until the day before they go to the hospital to buy insurance.

VAN SUSTEREN: And of course, it does go up, but it only goes up, the penalty right now, to $750, and even that might be a bargain. All right, now, you introduced an amendment Monday about including everybody who works here on Capitol Hill into this exchange. What's your amendment?

GRASSLEY: And it goes beyond that because in my original amendment going back to September last year, which part of it was in the bill the president signed, doesn't include the president, vice president and political appointees in the executive branch.

VAN SUSTEREN: Meaning they don't have to buy into the exchange. They get the old health insurance.

GRASSLEY: Oh, yes, they sure do. And the point of my amendment is this. Similar to what I've done over the last 15 years, I've gone through great efforts to make sure that Congress didn't carve itself out of a lot of laws that apply to the rest of the country because that's the way it was for several decades. I got a bill passed to eliminate that. So in the same spirit, my constituents said, Are you going to be covered by it? Well, in the spirit of my previous actions, I got an amendment adopted so congressmen and our staffs were not -- would have to buy from the exchange. Senator Reid pulled a fast one in the secrecy of the office. He took out leadership staff and committee staff.

VAN SUSTEREN: So they don't have to be in the exchange?

GRASSLEY: No. No, but my amendment would put them back in the exchange, plus putting the president in the exchange. But you know, the president thought about my amendment, and today he said that he was going to be covered by the exchange.

VAN SUSTEREN: Now, that's voluntary by the president. The exchange doesn't go into effect until 2016. So in theory, he could -- if he doesn't get reelected, he can back out. But let me ask you this. If he doesn't get reelected and there's another president (INAUDIBLE) come down the road, he's not bound by the president's statement today that he would be in the exchange.

GRASSLEY: That's right, and that's the purpose of my amendment, to make sure that this president and future presidents are covered by the same health care program that other people are covered by, and that would be the necessity of buying from the exchange. Chuck Grassley, if I'm still in the Senate, would have to buy from the exchange. My staff would. I want to fix it so that the leadership staff and committee staff would because they were carved out.

VAN SUSTEREN: Why would they carve out leadership staff? Why was leadership staff under this bill, the Senate bill, not included with the rest of the congressional staff?

GRASSLEY: One-word answer, chutzpah. That's what they -- they can get away with it, and they took the opportunity because nobody knew that it was happening until after the bill was out before the Senate.

VAN SUSTEREN: So they got -- they cut themselves a better deal.

GRASSLEY: Yes. And I offered an amendment to include them, wouldn't let me vote on it before Christmas. Then didn't even want to put it in a manager's amendment.

VAN SUSTEREN: So this is not a mistake. You notified the other side that they've carved out this sort of -- this select group in -- on Capitol Hill.

GRASSLEY: Yes. Yes. Take care of yourself, you know? That's kind of the strategy behind it. But the president -- I can't say the president was -- carved himself out of anything. I just (INAUDIBLE) not include him in my original amendment. But since this has become law and the president thinks it's a great deal, I think he ought to be covered by it, too.

VAN SUSTEREN: And while today he voluntarily said -- this president says that he himself will go in the exchange, but it doesn't bind future presidents.

GRASSLEY: That's right, and that's why we need it as a matter of law and that's why I'm going to push for my amendment this very night.

VAN SUSTEREN: And what's the reception been so far?

GRASSLEY: Oh, very favorable.

VAN SUSTEREN: Oh, so you think you'll win this one?

GRASSLEY: Well, I hope so. But I got to tell you, too, that Reid said several days ago that he's got 51 votes to pass it, and 51 votes to pass the bill and then 51 votes, you assume, to kill any amendment we might offer.

VAN SUSTEREN: Are these amendments -- do you actually -- I mean, besides this particular amendment, are there any other amendments that you think are going to get passed that are really going to change bill, this reconciliation bill?

GRASSLEY: Not if Reid really has 51 people knocked (ph) down not to change anything that passed the House on Sunday. I don't think so. But we don't really know, so I guess the best answer for me to give you, I don't know, but I don't think any amendments might be adopted.


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