House Majority Leader Hoyer Versus The 'Party of No'

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," December 8, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: We have breaking news here in Washington about the health care battle. Senate majority leader Harry Reid says 10 moderate and liberal Democrats have reached a "broad agreement" on a package that could possibly replace the government-run public option. The proposal is being sent to the Congressional Budget Office for an official analysis and score. Now, at this hour, Senator Reid will not give us information about this plan, but the Associated Press has reported, based on sources, that the proposal includes a private insurance arrangement supervised by a federal agency and an expansion of Medicare to uninsured Americans beginning at age 55. Now, we're going to let you know more about the plan as we get more information.

But now you are taking a field trip to the Washington office of House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. We went there for answers. Will your taxes to go up to pay for the health care bill or not? Will federal funding for abortion be in the final bill or not? But first, why did Congressman Hoyer call the GOP "the party of no"?


VAN SUSTEREN: Nice to see you, sir.


VAN SUSTEREN: And of course, I love your office. It's beautiful.

HOYER: I love these offices, as well. I'm very lucky to be here. And of course, this office was greatly expanded under Tom DeLay. So I'm the beneficiary of Tom DeLay's actions, maybe the only one, but at least that one.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, the whole Capitol's always beautiful, all the different buildings to sort of wander through. It's too bad more people don't get to come into these sort of inner sanctum of all these offices.

HOYER: It really is a shame. Nobody that I've brought to the Capitol hasn't left awe-inspired. And of course, I still -- having started here when I was in my early 20s, working here on the Hill while I was in Georgetown Law School, I still drive up to the Capitol at night and see the dome lit and get goosebumps.

VAN SUSTEREN: Indeed. I probably have a million pictures of it because I keep taking pictures of it.

HOYER: Right.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, the big bill is being battled out over in the Senate right now. You've recently called the GOP "the party of no."

HOYER: Well, I don't know if that's original with me, but it is an accurate designation, I think, where the Republicans essentially, from the very beginning of this year, have decided to oppose -- in my view, for opposition's sake -- and have really not engaged constructively in suggesting alternatives, working on alternatives. Whether it was on the economic recovery plan, on the health care plan, on the energy plan, you name it, they really have taken the position that if we can defeat the Democrats from acting, if we can defeat President Obama's agenda, we will win by default. That may be temporarily good for their party, but it's not good for the country.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, but let me just tell you what's going on on the other side of Capitol Hill. The GOP senators over there are saying that the words of the Senate Majority Leader Reid used calling anyone who opposes the health care bill is essentially for slavery.

And the other thing is that President Obama was up on the Hill this weekend and talked only to Democrats. I think they feel sort of iced out on this debate. Unfair?

HOYER: Unfair. And the reason it's unfair is because President Obama when he took the election night on election said that while we won a victory of party tonight, that should not be a sign that we do not want to work together and bring a new stability and a new cooperative environment to Washington, D.C.

And when he got here, he did exactly that. Republicans down to the White House. He came here to talk to Republicans, you recall, about the Economic Recovery Act.

And the interesting thing was that one hour before he got to speak to the Republican caucus, an hour before, it was announced that the Republican caucus was going to unanimously of opposes his program.

So it is a little hard to take with credibility a party that opposes before the president even has the opportunity to talk to them. So there is not much incentive for the president to talk to the Republicans when they have consistently -- and Jon Kyl in effect said it very early on in this health care -- if we can defeat health care, we can defeat the president.

VAN SUSTEREN: It's very interesting from my perspective, because I talk to both sides. And you talk to both sides and both of them are throwing things at each other saying that the other side will not listen or participate.

I have never seen such inability from my perspective of the two parties to talk.

HOYER: Let me tell you why I think that is. I think the Republican party over the last six years has become a narrower and narrower and narrower base party, where their base -- I do not mean members, but their bass demands a real rigidity.

The perfect example of is New York 23 where the Republicans had a nominee for John McHugh's seat in northern New York, a seat the Republicans had held for 150 years. She won the primary, she was nominated by her party.

But the conservative wing of the Republican Party said she is not good enough. And so they pushed her out. So finally, she had to resign, and, of course, we won that seat.

Now, we were the beneficiaries, but the real loser in that was any kind of diversity and breadth in the Republican Party. Senator Specter felt the same way when he joined in a bipartisan way to on the Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Essentially he was pushed out of his party.

How was he pushed out of his party? Because the Club for Growth head in Pennsylvania said OK, if you want to work in a bipartisan fashion, we will get you, and is running against him. And Senator Specter felt that there was no place for him in the Republican Party.

So it has become a narrower based party, a more confrontational party, a frustrated party, and a party that is difficult to sit down with and solve problems.

VAN SUSTEREN: I do not want to belabor the issue, because it is just so extraordinary how I talk to one side and it says the exact opposite of the other.

HOYER: Can I do another example?


HOYER: Talk about bipartisanship. September, 2008, George Bush, Secretary Paulson, Ben Bernanke came to the Democratic leadership -- we were in charge of the House and the Senate, came to us and said there is a crisis in America to which we have to respond.

A few days later they sent us up an extraordinary bill asking for $700 billion. We fleshed out that bill. The Republican leadership was supporting their president. We put that bill on the floor in concert with the Republican leadership.

And as you will recall, 142 Democrats voted for what a Republican president and Republican secretary of the treasury, and a Republican appointed head of the Federal Reserve asked us to do, and only a third of his own party supported their own president.

And then when Obama comes in a few months later and said this same economic crisis is even getting worse. We need to respond and I want to sit down with you and talk about it, that's when they said an hour before he came to meet with them...

VAN SUSTEREN: But, look, I could pick some out things the Democrats have done that have challenged me. For instance, there was a big push in February for the stimulus bill, a big push, push, push, push.

In fact from Ohio the Democratic senator came in quickly to vote on Friday night and he had been out there because his mother had died. And so they had to quickly bring him back because it was such an emergency. And then the bill was passed and then president did not sign it until Tuesday.

HOYER: Why did they bring him back?


HOYER: Why did they have to bring him back? Because in the Senate you need 60 votes. And there are 40 Republicans in the Senate. Not one Republican...

VAN SUSTEREN: I understand, but there are a lot of shenanigans on both sides from my viewpoint. I do not want to defend the Republican Party on this, believe me. But I also sit here and see some of Republican propose get shot down by Democrats.

So in my view, both sides could be a little bit more giving to each other in terms of trying to resolve these things.

HOYER: It takes two to tango, and it takes two to be bipartisan.


VAN SUSTEREN: Up next, more with Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. And bottom line, will your taxes go up to pay for the healthcare bill or not? And will federal funding for abortion end up in the final bill or not? Answers, next.



VAN SUSTEREN: Continuing with House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer.


VAN SUSTEREN: Health care, the health care reform bill. Some quick question -- does anyone have to pay more on this?

HOYER: Is anyone going to have to pay more? There may be people that will pay more.

VAN SUSTEREN: At what level?

HOYER: At the upper levels, the people may have to pay a little more depending on their tax status. Obviously we've taxed people over $1 million in income, $500,000

VAN SUSTEREN: So those are the people, $500,000 and up, those are the ones that will pay more?

HOYER: We will be ask them to pay a little more to help fund this program, which we think will give access, affordable health care to 30 million more people.

VAN SUSTEREN: OK, in terms of another controversy in this bill, the abortion, the Stupak amendment, do you anticipate that in the final bill, when both sides come together, that there will be any federal funding at all for abortion or not?

HOYER: I think that there is agreement that there should be no federal funds to fund abortion. The difficulty has been that there are now three or four different alternatives, all of which opponents believe accomplish that objective of no federally funded abortions.

For instance, in one of the alternatives there was a provision that said if you want a policy for insurance that covers abortion, that cost has to be paid separately by the individual.

The response by opponents was no, because there are subsidized dollars that go into the policy, even if they are not those particular dollars, dollars are fungible, and therefore that did not fly. But some people said there no money for abortion, no public money for abortion, and all that.

So the real difficulty has been from the opponents' standpoint an absolute preventing of any kind of coverage of abortion if any insurance policy receives any subsidized money.

VAN SUSTEREN: Here's another issue that many of our viewers have, they start paying for the bill now, health care bill, but it does not go into effect for several years. How do they justify this?

HOYER: There is a tax increase. And the tax increase is not related to health care receipt. It is not the insurance fund. It is additional revenues to fund a program that we think is very important.

But the important thing is that not only in the first 10 years -- because some people say that you are collecting revenues for the first four years that goes into effect in 2013, and you are only paying for six years.

In point of fact, however, the CBO, the score keeper, if you will, says that the bill is paid for both in the first 10 years and the second 10 years. So the funding stream continues and the bill is paid for not only in the first 10 years, but in the second 10 years as well.

VAN SUSTEREN: So you disagree with the assertion that we are paying for several years before it kicks in?

HOYER: You can't disagree with that. That's a fact. You are collecting revenues in the tax structure early on which will, yes, create a revenue stream early on that you are not paying out. And then you will start to pay it out.

For the first 10 years, people say it is not really paid for because your revenue stream, for four years you are not getting something in return. My point, I am mentioning the second 10 years, it is also paid for in the second 10 years, all of which it will be beneficial.

VAN SUSTEREN: You want to come in under $900 billion. That was one of the general goals from the beginning.


VAN SUSTEREN: One of the things, and my eyes have been on this, is the $250 billion doctor reimbursements.

HOYER: It's a little less than that, about $233 billion.

VAN SUSTEREN: If that were included in the current health care bill you would be way over your target. So it sort of has gotten slipped up. How is that not health care?

HOYER: Of course it is health care.

VAN SUSTEREN: How is it not a part of the bill? It looks like Congress is playing around with the numbers so it comes in under $900 billion.

HOYER: That's a good point. I will tell you why it is not accurate when it comes to score.

We have done this SGR, the doctor fix for many, many years without doing any health care reform. It is really unrelated. What it is, is under Medicare the formula for compensating doctors kicks in and has reduced that on an annual basis.

The problem with doing that is docs will drop out of covering Medicare patients. So for the last number of years we have funded it on an annual basis so that cut did not go into place. All that this bill does is make sure that we do not have a 21 percent cut.


HOYER: Let me follow that up.


HOYER: We would have to do that if we never considered the health care reform bill. So in fairness, this is a separate bill.

VAN SUSTEREN: And I got that, but you do not think of that is part of health care?

HOYER: Sure, it's part of health care, but it is not part of health care reform.

VAN SUSTEREN: I think that you being a bit clever with us in terms of the citizen, because doctors provide health care. This is part of the American cost of health care.

HOYER: Part of health care costs, no doubt about that.

VAN SUSTEREN: But the whole point of this health care bill is...

HOYER: To bring costs down.

VAN SUSTEREN: But it's to be comprehensive.


VAN SUSTEREN: Except that you have a slivered off $234 billion on this doctor fix aspect. You do not see it as part of the reform?

HOYER: Greta, the reason I do not see it as part of the reform is that if reform had never been mentioned, if reform disappears, we would have to do that.

VAN SUSTEREN: But we would still have to pay Medicare. But you don't spin that off.

HOYER: In the cost of the bill, all of Medicare costs are not included. What is included in there are the forms, which are largely in, as you know, the affordability credits, the payments for people who are required to have insurance but cannot afford to have insurance. So we need to subsidize them so we get them in the system.

We think that will save money. You and I are now paying insurance, about $1,100 of our annual premium goes to uncompensated care. So in effect we're going to replace that and not have uncompensated care, which is why the hospitals and the medical personnel are for this bill.

But I really do not think that it is fair to say that something that you would have to do anyway that is an anomaly in the Medicare system, which frankly we ought to fix permanently. We have not tried fix it permanently because we have kicked the can down the road for the last seven, eight, nine years.

So all we are saying is we are going to fix that. It is not part of the health care reform bill. It should not be accounted in the cost of the health care bill. Why? Because it is now part of the reform bill. It is part of Medicare. It is something that we need to fix. And we have fixed it on an annual basis.

VAN SUSTEREN: Thank you.



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