Health Care: Obama's Kryptonite

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," July 20, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: President Obama is slipping. According to a new Washington Post/ABC poll, 49 percent of people approve of President Obama's massive plan to overhaul health care. That 49 percent, however, is down from 53 percent approving less than one month ago. Does this spell a bad omen for President Obama, or just a blip?

Joining us live is former senator Rick Santorum. Nice to see you, Senator.

FORMER SEN. RICK SANTORUM, R - PENN.: Thank you, Greta. Welcome back.

VAN SUSTEREN: Thank you very much. So 49 percent, down from 53. It's still a good number. But?

SANTORUM: Well, it's not a great number. I mean, it's under 50 percent. And what you're seeing on this issue and a variety of issues, there's now becoming a distinct separation between Obama's personal popularity and what he's doing on the issues. And whether it's the failed stimulus package or whether it's cap-and-trade or whether it's health care, his union -- his union organizing bill, there's a disconnect now taking place, and that's really important for members of Congress.

Members of Congress love to have a popular president, but they don't look at his favorable number. When I was in Congress, I never looked at George Bush's favorable number. That's a personality issue. I looked at his job approval number because that reflects upon me because I'm working with this guy, and if his job approval number goes down, that means my numbers are going to be affected on election day.

VAN SUSTEREN: In terms of job approval, though, I mean, how much -- how disparate can this be from how much they like him from his job? I mean, how bad can that gap be?

SANTORUM: It can get huge. And I think in the case of Obama -- in George Bush's case, it wasn't huge because the media beat up on him personally, as well as his politics. But Obama is a very personable, likable guy. The public does like him. They -- they are enamored with him as a star status. And even though his numbers are still -- his popularity numbers are still very high, his job approval numbers on a lot of subject areas are starting to tank.

And the House, in particular -- I got to tell you, these guys over in the House have to be just sweating because they have been put through the ringer once on stimulus, put through the ringer twice now on cap-and-trade. And now they're going to be asked to cast big votes on big spending, on big taxes, on a bill that is now starting to -- you know, starting to take on some water. This ship is starting to take on some water.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, also, the taxpayers are now so acutely aware of the fact that a lot of these members of Congress are voting, at least on the health care, 1,000-page bill, having never read it!


VAN SUSTEREN: I mean -- I mean, that -- I think the taxpayers have finally said, That's it! If you're going to vote, read it.

SANTORUM: Yes, in this case, you have three congressional committees in the House working on this bill. And they're going to try to take these three committee bills and meld them together, sort of force them together into a plan, which I guarantee you no member of the House will have read this, will have really understood it.

VAN SUSTEREN: That's terrible! (INAUDIBLE) we did a poll on Gretawire, and it was, like, 99 percent of the people expect that they're going to read the bill. Expect it.

SANTORUM: No. And to be honest with you, this is so complex. The size and scale of what they're trying to do is mind-boggling!

VAN SUSTEREN: But I mean, mind-boggling is -- it's incomprehensible. I mean, that -- I mean, do you really understand it?

SANTORUM: I've worked in this area a long time. Do I understand everything they're doing? No. A lot of the things...

VAN SUSTEREN: OK, well, see -- all right. You -- OK, that's what you say. I looked at it. I go through it a bunch of times (INAUDIBLE) and I finish reading whatever I -- you know, all the material again, I don't understand it.


VAN SUSTEREN: And that's not a good sign...


SANTORUM: And your average House member is just going to take the word that -- and you hear this all the time -- Look, we'll fix it. If there's a problem in the bill, we'll -- you know, vote for it now, we'll fix it in conference. That's the famous -- the famous thing...

VAN SUSTEREN: But the problem is, is that -- I mean, that may very well be, but the problem is, this bill, if it gets passed, it goes out to these hospitals, out to these insurance people, and they don't even know how to apply it, if it's confusing to begin with, and the members of Congress don't even know if it's confusing if they haven't bothered to read it!

SANTORUM: And we've seen that in dozens and dozens of...

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, that's it! We're done with it!


VAN SUSTEREN: I mean -- I mean, I'll tell you, the American people, they're sick of this!

SANTORUM: I hope you're right. I mean, look, I think that what is going on in this health care bill is the greatest threat to the future prosperity of America and the future health of Americans that we have ever seen.

VAN SUSTEREN: But how -- how can anybody -- I mean, you may be right, but nobody can even reach that judgment when it's so convoluted, so complex, 1,000 pages, and you hear, you know, 15 different stories every single day!

SANTORUM: I would say, number one, the fact that it is that complex has to give reason for pause. Just -- just the size and scope...


SANTORUM: ... is reason for pause. Number two, the costs associated with it, you're seeing Congressional Budget Office, all sorts of organizations now coming out, talking about how much it's going to cost. You're talking about huge tax increases. You're talking about big Medicare cuts.

One of the things that really has surprised me about this bill is you have Democrats, who have been the great defender of Medicare, holding that up as the model of efficiency, the model that we need to really direct this national plan toward, and they're ripping the guts out of it! Huge cuts, both in the House and in the Senate, to this -- to Medicare. At a time when Medicare already is the worst payer of all the health care payers, they're going to cut reimbursements ever more! This is going to have a profound effect on seniors!

VAN SUSTEREN: It just -- I don't want to go far afield, but when my mother was living, I'd look at her Medicare papers. I couldn't figure them out. I put them in a drawer and hoped for the best. I mean, I'd get these -- all these pages and pages and pages all the time. I would just hope for the best.

SANTORUM: Yes. What Obama is counting on is that they do this quickly, that they get this...

VAN SUSTEREN: Why does it have to be done so quickly?

SANTORUM: Because...

VAN SUSTEREN: What's his rush?

SANTORUM: Because it will not stand up to scrutiny once people -- once people...

VAN SUSTEREN: That's terrible!

SANTORUM: ... see what...

VAN SUSTEREN: That's terrible.

SANTORUM: Well, of course it's terrible! That's how the get things done around here. And the thing that really makes you -- makes you -- it irritates me is that this was a man who was going to do things differently.

VAN SUSTEREN: Transparency!

SANTORUM: And had he done things -- look, if Barack Obama had come in -- and we've talked about this many times. Had he come in and done a stimulus package and given Republicans a quarter of the bill and said, Look, put your tax cuts in there, put your pro-growth things in there, and give us the other three quarters, we'll write the bill together, he'd have gotten 70 votes in the Senate, he'd have gotten 300 votes in the House, and Republicans would have owned part of this economy.

He didn't do it! He decided, I'm going to let the Democrats in the House write this bill, the Democrats in the Senate write this bill, get virtually no Republican votes, and -- and squeeze this through. He's done the same thing with cap-and-trade in the House, basically (INAUDIBLE) the Democrats write the bill, and he's doing the same thing now! He is owning this problem more and more, and it's going to be a big noose around a lot of Democrats' necks come next November.

VAN SUSTEREN: I don't know why it has to be a thousand pages, not read, not put on the Internet, so that at least somebody can sort it through. I just think it's -- it's so...

SANTORUM: They don't want you to know!

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, you know -- well, we're getting -- we're getting wiser to that one!


VAN SUSTEREN: Anyway, Senator, thank you.

SANTORUM: You're welcome.

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