Make or Break Time

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

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: OK, it's no secret. He is down to the wire. It is do or die for the president on health care reform. In less than 24 hours, President Obama gives an historic speech to a joint session of Congress. And the president wants to dazzle them! He must corral all his Democrats and peel off a few Republicans. Can he get any Republicans?

Republican Senator Jim DeMint joins us live. He's the author of the book "Saving Freedom: We Can Stop America's Slide Into Socialism." Before we get to tomorrow night's big speech, Senator, I want to ask you a question. We have from The Wall Street Journal -- they're going to have an op-ed in tomorrow's paper, and we have it hot off the press here, former governor Sarah Palin's answer to the president on health care.

Two things. First of all, it looks like she's still in play in politics, that she's fighting back.

SEN. JIM DEMINT, R - S.C.: I'm glad to see her pushing back. It's an excellent article. It actually focuses on some of the things in the "Health Care Freedom Plan" that I've introduced and a number of people over the years have introduced as common sense ideas to make the system work better. So I'm glad to see her back in the fight.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, it seems like one of the things that she's hammering on is a point that she raised earlier, is that (INAUDIBLE) she says that it would give unelected officials life-and-death rationing powers. That's been the subject of much controversy. Is that, indeed, true, that the House bill (INAUDIBLE) is it going to really be rationing?

DEMINT: It's no question about it, Greta. If you basically...

VAN SUSTEREN: Life-and-death (INAUDIBLE) life-and-death rationing.

DEMINT: If you make health care free, someone's going to have to decide who gets what when. And we're starting to see that in Medicare. We certainly see in what Medicaid covers. Someone at the higher level has to decide what these plans cover. And as you've got this huge group of people heading towards retirement, someone is going to make a decision. So it is in the plan. It's in the House plan. It's in the Senate plan. There are going to be people at the federal level deciding what's covered and what's not.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Her specific objection is to the independent Medicare Advisory Council as being the ones because they're going to have the job to contain Medicare costs, because as a practical matter, we do have health care rationing in this country at this point. Some get it, some don't as much. So I mean, as a practical matter, we have someone -- it's the life or death that she says is in this.

DEMINT: Well, those end-of-life decisions are the most costly, and it will be a decision -- we -- all you have to do is look to other countries, Greta, that are moving towards the same system the president wants, and there are end-of-life decisions being made by the government increasingly. And as the money runs out and as it gets more expensive, you'll see that more and more.

We don't know what's going to happen once this monster is created, but we know the decisions will not be made by individuals and their doctors.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, the president denies that there is -- that this is, indeed, true. So you disagree -- you and the governor -- former governor disagree with the president on this, at least at this point, whether there is this...

DEMINT: Well, I think we can see a lot of the things the president has said have not come true, and so we at least have to give them a reasonable scrutiny at this point. Once the federal government creates something, not even the politicians that create it can control it.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Now, the speech tomorrow night...


VAN SUSTEREN: Is he going to -- I mean, we don't know what it is, and he didn't tell Speaker Pelosi today, so nobody really knows. But can -- is he going to peel off any Republican senators, do you think? Is there -- is there anything he can to get a couple of Republicans?

DEMINT: Well, I think the president thinks that he can do anything with words. And he's still campaigning, and I'm glad he's taking this opportunity to talk to us and the American people, and we need to listen to what he says. But I want to hear him defend his bill. I want him to open up the House bill that was passed and actually point to sections, like people who've come to my town halls, and say, It is in there. Read it. They can read the sections on it.

I don't want to hear generalities. I don't want to hear any more false promises, you know, based -- based on these -- these government solutions. He needs to defend his plan and not just criticize those of us who are presenting alternatives.

VAN SUSTEREN: You know what I'd love to see? And it's not just to make it a gimmick or not, but during one of the town hall meetings that he held -- I think it was Missouri, in early August -- he said that, When Congress comes back, I'll go line by line through the bill with them so that they understand it. And not to make it a political gimmick, but this is one of those bills that's -- whether it's a good bill or a bad bill, we should at least understand it, and everybody who votes on it should understand it. And I -- I really would like to see everyone go through -- you guys, since you guys are voting on it...


VAN SUSTEREN: ... to go through it line by line with the president. Take him up on it!

DEMINT: Greta, there was a lady who came to one of my town halls. She said she had read 500 pages, and she actually took sections and read it to the group that was there. And a quiet came over the whole room when she actually read what was in this bill.

So this is not imaginary stuff and concerns that people are making up. This is very real. And what happens is even worse. Once the legislation goes into regulation, it becomes more complex, more burdensome...

VAN SUSTEREN: And then the judges interpret it, and then you call it activist judges! You can criticize the judge because they can't figure out what exactly you wrote!

DEMINT: Well, we don't know what it is when we write it. They judges don't know what it is when they interpret it, either.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you know what your Senate bill's going to be coming out of the Senate?

DEMINT: Well, there's one has passed, what we call the HELP committee...

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, the one that we're waiting for, the Baucus one.

DEMINT: No, we have no idea, but we do know they'll probably come up with something, say they've reached some magnificent compromise and they'll want us to vote on it the next day before we read it. We need to debate this for the next several months. To put an artificial deadline on passing a bill of this magnitude is crazy. I'm so glad to see the American people standing up and saying, Wait a minute. Read the bill. Let's talk about it.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you know any Democratic senators who are -- are any of them pulling you aside saying that they're getting, you know, a little weak-kneed about going with the president on this -- on this health care reform?

DEMINT: I know a lot of them got an earful during the August break, which makes me really happy. And so I don't know if they'll stand up to the special interests that are pushing this. The amazing thing is the president's says the special interests are against it, but all the special interests are lined up to support this government takeover of health care.

VAN SUSTEREN: How about the Republicans? Any Republicans sort of getting weak-kneed vis-a-vis the Republican position on this? I mean, you have Senator Olympia Snowe, of course, is part of the "gang of six" who's trying to negotiate something. Is she going to go with the president?

DEMINT: I'm not sure. I hope not. This is such an important decision for our country. If any Republican goes with any expansion of government at this point, they shouldn't call themselves a Republican because this is make-or-break for our country right now. Health care does not need to move into government hands. We need to actually take the government hands off of health care and let it work.

VAN SUSTEREN: Have you said anything to her?

DEMINT: No, I haven't talked to her about it yet.

VAN SUSTEREN: You going to?

DEMINT: I probably will. We'll probably talk about it in some of the meetings this week.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, well, of course, we'll all be watching. I just look forward to a bill that we can all understand...


DEMINT: I hope we can at least...




VAN SUSTEREN: Anyway, Senator, thank you.

DEMINT: Thank you, Greta.

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