Inside the Process of Passing the Health Care Bill

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," March 19, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Right now we are all closely watching the House of Representatives. But don't take your eye often United States Senate. Why? We went to Capitol Hill, and Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl went "On the Record."


VAN SUSTEREN: All right, a lot of activity. This place is almost electrifying. Let's just jump ahead. Suppose, hypothetically, that the speaker gets 216 plus votes and this passes the House side. Now what do you do?

SEN. JON KYL, R - ARIZ.: If it happens on Sunday we have one other bill to finish Monday, but we would take it up first thing Tuesday. There would be 20 hours of debate in the Senate. There could be amendments considered that time but most likely 20 hours of debate. And then we begin the process of amendment.

Points of order can be raised at any time. There will be several points of order that can be raised against this legislation.

VAN SUSTEREN: What are points of order?

KYL: You say, Mr. President, this bill violates the reconciliation act because this particular provision doesn't relate primarily to the budget. It is a substantive provision.

I'll just give you an example. The president wants to ensure that insurance companies can't raise premiums too high. That is not a budget matter. So if they stick that in, they will raise a point of order, the parliamentarian will rule that yes it violates the Reconciliation Act, and they would have to get 60 votes to override that.

They are not going to get 60 votes. We know we have 41 votes to sustain points of order. So that provision would be kicked out of bill.

VAN SUSTEREN: So the parliamentarian plays an important role at that point. Can the parliamentarian be overruled?

KYL: I misspoke. The parliamentarian makes a recommendation to the presiding officer, and the presiding officer rules.

VAN SUSTEREN: The presiding officer is going to be a Democrat. Is there any possibility whatever the parliamentarian says that the presiding officer would disagree?

KYL: The presiding officer has the total discretion to rule. Get it if the --

VAN SUSTEREN: So if the parliamentarian says I'm with the Republicans on this one, this definitely shouldn't be here, and the presiding officer, who is a Democrat, says tough luck, I get the final call, we are going forward.

KYL: He shouldn't do that.

VAN SUSTEREN: Ever seen it happen?

KYL: I'm told only once in anybody's memory did that happen. And the reason is that the Senate runs on tradition and comity, and the position you are in today may be the opposite next year. You have to play by the rules.

And if the parliamentarian says this provision violates the Reconciliation Act, we believe the presiding officer even though of the other party is going to rule correctly. And then his colleagues will have to vote to overrule his ruling.

VAN SUSTEREN: Presiding officer is going to be who?

KYL: It will different, they rotate one hour at a time. It could be Vice President Biden because he is technically the president of the Senate.

VAN SUSTEREN: If Vice President Biden is called upon to make that decision, he has a rich tradition of being a member of the U.S. Senate --

KYL: He will play it straight. If the parliamentarian says that provision violates reconciliation he will rule that way, and then his Democratic colleagues will try to overturn the ruling of the chair. I don't think they will be successful.

So my point is a lot of the provisions of the bill are likely to be stricken on these parliamentary rules.

VAN SUSTEREN: After the points of order are decided, what is next?

KYL: Then there is a period of unlimited amendments. Theoretically we could go all day, all night with amendments. There's no debate on amendments except one minute usually we allow by unanimous consent a minute of explanation for the amendment, a minute against the amendment, and then you vote. They are 10 minute votes and then you start the next amendment. You can go through 50, 60 such amendments in the course of a 24-hour period.

VAN SUSTEREN: How long could this last?

KYL: As long as members of the Senate don't keel over. I know Democrats are saying we won't let them offer too many amendments. I really don't think they need to worry about that, because at a certain point when you have been going at this all day all night and part of the next day, you are going to tire of it.

VAN SUSTEREN: What is going to happen? Assuming that the vote Sunday is one that goes in favor of Speaker Pelosi and the Democrats, play this out for me.

KYL: I don't think it will prevail. On the assumption it does, the Senate will debate and then deal with points of order on the legislation and then engage in a series of amendments. That process --

VAN SUSTEREN: Then what?

KYL: We will have changed the House bill. So it will have to go back to the House again for them to act on the version that we end up passing, assuming the Senate also passes the bill.

So, even though the Senate bill might have been passed and signed into law by the president, the House reconciliation bill will have been changed by the Senate, will have to go back to the House of Representatives.

The reason this is important is that House members who think we are going to fix the Senate bill that Speaker Pelosi says nobody likes, we are going to fix that the reconciliation bill, have to appreciate the fact the Senate is not going to fix everything in the Senate bill. Many of those things are going to be stripped out on points of the order or amended.

VAN SUSTEREN: Does that include the issue that Congressman Bart Stupak raises on abortion? That is a very important to him and to the 11 or 10 of his colleagues. Do you have any indication the Senate would fix that to satisfy him?

KYL: The problem there is that the House is not going to fix it. Speaker Pelosi, I'm told, is not going to agree with Representative Stupak and put his language back in the House reconciliation bill. He has a tough decision.

He has said before he won't support the bill if his language is not in there. And my understanding is they are not going to put it in. This is a matter of the House. The Senate won't be dealing with it.

VAN SUSTEREN: Have you in the course of the last week or so peeled off any Democratic senators who are leaning or going your way over here in the Senate?

KYL: I haven't tried. I don't know. In some sense it doesn't really matter, because by using the reconciliation process, it is no longer important to have 60 votes in the Senate -- 51 votes will prevail. You could have --

VAN SUSTEREN: You have to peel off 10, a lot.

KYL: You can get seven or eight Democratic senators change their vote and it wouldn't matter.

VAN SUSTEREN: Are you keeping track of the headcount on the House side?

KYL: Yes, as best we can.

VAN SUSTEREN: What is your number?

KYL: People right now say that is roughly tied. Neither side has 216. It is very close to 216, but there's still a bunch that have not declared one way or the other.

VAN SUSTEREN: Are you and the Republican Party pounding any of these undeclared? Are you reaching across the Hill and trying to get their votes?

KYL: Pounding doesn't work.

VAN SUSTEREN: You make calls?

KYL: Yes, I called a couple of people who are friends with some Democrat representatives. For example, one who voted against the bill before, I just called somebody and said she is a good friend of yours, yes. Give her a call and thank her for voting no the first time and encourage her to vote no this time.

VAN SUSTEREN: So I guess the phones are being worked.

KYL: I also was on a call and they said they can't through, the phones are absolutely jammed. This is a historic -- you called it that on your program and you're right, this is a historic event in Washington, D.C.


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