This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," December 16, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Tonight: What is that? Do you hear a clock ticking? Well, you should, on health care reform, because we are down to the wire. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is putting on heat in the United States Senate to get it done and get it done now.
Well, how about his opponents? Well, he does have them, and they are slamming on the brakes, as well, using every trick in the book, today Republican senator Tom Coburn forcing a nearly 800-page amendment to be read word by word aloud on the Senate floor. Now, Senator Bernie Sanders was forced to pull that amendment to restart the debate.
So who is your money on? Who's going to win this? We have both sides of the aisle covered tonight. First Republican senator John Thune joins us. Good evening, Senator. And senator, it seems like every possible effort the Republicans make to try to sort of jam the works, require Senator Sanders to read his amendment on the floor -- you guys are pulling out all stops. Is that a fair assessment?
SEN. JOHN THUNE, R - S.D.: Good evening, Greta. It is. We're doing everything we can to stop it. Obviously, the Democrats are looking for that elusive 60th vote. And at the time I think that they have -- they think they have 60 votes, they will probably try and move to a cloture vote and try and bring this to a final vote.
But we are going to employ every tool at our disposal to try and defeat this bill because we think it's a bad bill for America, for health care, for our economy, for jobs. And so we are -- we're doubling down our efforts to make sure that we try and stop it, at least to allow a break over the Christmas holiday for people to get home and hear from their constituents. We think the more people -- more members of Congress and more of our Senate colleagues here hear from their constituents back in their states that it may shape their views with respect to how they vote on the final bill.
VAN SUSTEREN: Well, this bill has almost become sort of, like, the secret bill, at least from my perspective, because, I mean, not only hasn't the Republican members of the United States Senate seen it, but a lot of the United States senators, the Democratic Party, haven't seen, you know, this last sort of round that went out to be scored. Do you have any sort of grasp on exactly what this bill is, or is it almost like a secret bill? Is that a fair way to describe it or unfair?
THUNE: No, it's very fair. I think it's a process -- it's a back room deal. We have not seen the, quote, "manager's amendment," which is the final legislative, I think, proposal that we'll be voting on. And it was interesting. There was an exchange on the floor a couple of days ago for -- which perhaps you saw, where Senator McCain was having a discussion with Senator Durbin from Illinois, and Senator Durbin, who's the number two person in the Democrat leadership, said, I'm as in the dark as you are. And so you got a handful of people in a room who are cooking up, basically, the reordering or restructuring of one sixth of our economy and going to try and jam it through here in the next few days.
So like I said, we're going to do everything we can to stop it. We think it's the wrong approach. We think there are things that should be done, that health care needs to be reformed, but it needs to be done in the right way. And we're going to try and stop this bad idea and get back to the drawing board and do this in a step-by-step way that actually will meaningfully reduce health care costs for people in this country.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right, talk about health care costs, yesterday, Senator Bill Nelson of Florida, a Democrat, introduced a bill to allow for medications from approved countries to come into this country, to basically compete on the prices. Did you vote for that or against that?
THUNE: I voted for that. I've voted for it in the past, and I think it makes sense. I think it is something that actually would lower the cost of medications and lower health care costs.
But the basic core elements of this bill, Greta, remain the same, and it's Medicare cuts, it's tax increases and it's premium increases. And even though there are some things that we're trying to do to improve upon it, those core features of the bill have not changed, and that's why it needs to be defeated. You've got all the experts saying that it's going to raise health care costs in this country. The Congressional Budget Office, the actuary at the Center for Medicare Services, you got all the small business organizations coming out against it because they know it's going to kill jobs. This is a -- this is a bad bill, and it needs to be stopped and we need to start over.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right, so how do you peel off another Democrat -- or how do you peel off a Democrat to go your way, or what's the next thing you do to sort of pull out the stops to prevent this from going forward? What's the Republican Party strategy?
THUNE: We have been trying up until this point to get votes on amendments that we believe do start -- strike at the very heart of this bill. So we've addressed the Medicare issue. We've had, you know, a number of amendments with respect to Medicare, to try and eliminate some of the cuts to Medicare. We have had votes to try and get rid of the tax increases in the bill. We think it's to get, you know, hopefully, some people on the record, Democrats who might be persuaded to be with us in the and if they're willing to vote against some of the core elements of the bill.
Now it looks like all bets are off. I think that Senator Reid is essentially sort of shutting down the amendment process. And at some point, we expect him to file cloture and try to move to a final vote. Our hope is that there will be enough pressure coming from constituents back in these states -- and Nebraska's a good example with Senator Ben Nelson of one where that might make a difference because I think right now, the only thing that stands between us and government-run health care is the American people.
VAN SUSTEREN: Senator, thank you, sir.
THUNE: Thanks, Greta. Good to be with you.
VAN SUSTEREN: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is scrambling for every Democratic vote. He must have every one. Will he get his Democratic colleague from Florida's vote? Well, let's ask. Senator Bill Nelson joins us. Good evening, Senator. And you know, the first question I must ask you is have you made up your mind?
SEN. BILL NELSON, D - FLA.: Greta, would you ask that again?
VAN SUSTEREN: Have you made up your mind? Which way are you going to vote? Are you still thinking about it, sir?
NELSON: Oh, no. I'm going to vote for it.
VAN SUSTEREN: You're going to vote for the bill?
VAN SUSTEREN: Does the bill -- does the bill cut Medicare?
NELSON: What it does is -- Medicare Advantage -- that is a 14 percent boost to insurance companies -- which is Medicare Advantage, it's a Medicare HMO -- what it does is it tapers that out over time. But what I did was in the Finance Committee say that we need to certainly get the efficiencies over time, but it's not fair to take it away from the people that already have this additional 14 percent. And so in the Finance Committee, I grandfathered in those that have it, particularly with regard to my state.
So that's the lay of the land. That was done for some other states, as well.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right, that's the Medicare Advantage. What about Medicare itself? Are people going to lose some of the benefits that they have had under this Democratic bill?
NELSON: Well, the answer to that is no. As a matter of fact, what this bill does is save Medicare in the future because if you don't change Medicare right now, it's going bust within a few years. This brings the cost curve down over time, so that Medicare will be solid. And where it gets the efficiencies is the doctors, the hospitals, other health care providers have to come off of some of the reimbursements that they get under Medicare. That's how you get the efficiencies.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right, you introduced a bill to allow for drugs to come in, medications from other countries to compete. That was shot down. You're still going to vote for the bill, even though that cost -- that would certainly be a way to save costs and let people to compete. That -- you're still going to vote for this bill in spite of that?
NELSON: Well, I was actually trying to get a lot more out of the pharmaceutical industry. In the Finance Committee, I had offered that the pharmaceutical industry would indeed give discounts for selling drugs to Medicare recipients who are actually eligible under Medicaid because they're poor. And this would save the American taxpayer $106 billion over 10 years.
Well, my amendment didn't pass, so we tried this reimportation amendment, and that didn't pass, either. But what's happened is, since the deal was struck between the White House and the pharmaceutical industry, what the deal is that when the bill gets into conference with the House of Representatives, they are going to fill this imaginary doughnut hole, which is where Medicare drug recipients had to pay the entire cost of drugs until they get to a much higher level of expenditures, somewhere around $5,300.
VAN SUSTEREN: Senator, thank you, sir.
NELSON: OK, Greta. Thank you.
Content and Programming Copyright 2009 FOX News Network, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2009 CQ Transcriptions, LLC, which takes sole responsibility for the accuracy of the transcription. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material except for the user's personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon FOX News Network, LLC'S and CQ Transcriptions, LLC's copyrights or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.