Health Care Bill Passes the House: A Story of 'Broken Arms' and Secret Deals?

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," November 9, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: A squeaker! The health care bill passed on Saturday night by a razor-thin margin of 220 to 215. And now another battle begins in the U.S. Senate. Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell went "On the Record" from his hideaway office on Capitol Hill.


VAN SUSTEREN: Senator, nice to see you, sir.


VAN SUSTEREN: I like your little hideaway here in the U.S. Capitol.

MCCONNELL: Yes, it's pretty nice of a room.

VAN SUSTEREN: Indeed, it is. All right, Saturday night, a squeaker for the Democrats in the House of Representatives. What do you think about it?

MCCONNELL: Well, they broke enough arms to finally get it over the top, but they lost one out of seven Democrats in the House who I think were responding to the American people's opposition to this bill. All the polls now indicate substantial opposition to this particular type of health care reform, particularly (INAUDIBLE) deep-seated opposition among senior citizens.

VAN SUSTEREN: So how do you break those arms or twist those arms to get those votes sort of on the eve of such an historic vote? I mean, what do you do? Because it was close. It's two votes.

MCCONNELL: Well, I think what the president was saying was that it was about him and his administration, not about the substance. I mean, they all understood that the substance was not supported by the American people. And I think they probably responded to an appeal by the president that this was about the success of his administration, about passing his signature subject. And I think, in the end, party loyalty got them over the top. But there were, as I said, one out of seven who were -- understood the American people are not for this.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, that's sort of an odd way to cast a vote, out of loyalty rather than out of substance, if, indeed, you're right. And if it's -- if this is -- if the vote is about the president's administration, what happens when it goes over to the Senate? Is it going to get that same vote here?

MCCONNELL: Well, a lot of congressmen on both sides are in safe districts, don't have any real competition, so they have a lot of latitude. Over here, we all represent entire states, and most of the seats are not just totally safe. You have to compete. But the third of the Senate will be up every two years, and there are a number of Democratic senators over here from reddish states, Republican-type states, who know that there's overwhelming opposition back home.

In addition to that, in the Senate, you have to get 60 votes. You have to get more than a simple majority to do almost everything, and certainly something this controversial. So the challenge the Democratic leadership has over here is to try to figure out if there are enough Democrats who'll take a bullet for the team to pass a really bad bill, which we know at its core will raise taxes, cut Medicare, and increase premiums for all Americans who have health insurance now.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you expect it to be, whenever this vote occurs -- do you expect it to be a squeaker like the House or not? I mean, sort of getting sort of your hands on what's happening here among the different members, Republicans and -- and Democrats -- do you expect a squeaker vote here?

MCCONNELL: Yes, it won't be a landslide. I mean, they'll be lucky to be able to pass it. I don't -- I think passing it is very much in doubt in the Senate, you know? All of the Republicans are opposed to it. Many of the Democrats are opposed to it. It'll be interesting to see how they try to get 60 votes because they're going to have to convince a significant number of Democrats, basically, to take a bullet for the team.

VAN SUSTEREN: When do you expect this vote to occur in the Senate?

MCCONNELL: Well, that'll be up to Senator Reid. I mean, he'll have to get 60 votes to start the debate and 60 votes to end the debate, and he'll have to decide at what point he has enough votes to begin the debate. And we'll be listening to what he has to say because I'm sure they've been bringing their members in one by one -- I know they have been -- trying to convince them to even start the debate. And we're a long way from finishing it.

To give you a timetable in the Senate, we spent four weeks last Congress on a farm bill. Within the last 10 years, we've spent eight weeks on an energy bill. This will be a multi-week, many-amendment process in the United States Senate on a bill of this magnitude, which seeks to reorganize one sixth of our economy.

VAN SUSTEREN: Tactically, when do you think Senator Reid would like to see that vote, sooner or later? Would he like a little breathing room, or does he want to hurry and do this on the sort of the wave of what's going on in the House?

MCCONNELL: I think it's going to depend entirely on his vote count. He's going to want to go to it when he thinks he's got the votes.

VAN SUSTEREN: How does that actually work? He actually brings a U.S. senator in, one member of his party, sits him down and says, you know -- you know, Where do you stand? Is that -- or the ones who are sort of uncertain? How does he...


VAN SUSTEREN: Is that -- do they actually come into his office?

MCCONNELL: Yes. I think so. What do you -- where do you stand and what do you need? You know, I'm told there were all kinds of special deals cut over on the House side in order to get enough Democrats to pass it. My guess is the same process will go on over here.

VAN SUSTEREN: And then after the Senate vote -- I mean, first it's got to get to the floor. It's got to get a vote. That's not the end of the game, then. It's still got to be reconciled, whatever comes out of the Senate, with the House.

MCCONNELL: Yes. Whatever passes the Senate, if something does pass - - and I hope it doesn't -- needs to be reconciled with the House version, and then it'll go back to both houses for a final vote. And that vote, too, will require 60 votes in the Senate.

VAN SUSTEREN: Senator, thank you, sir.

MCCONNELL: Thank you, Greta.

VAN SUSTEREN: Nice to see you.


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