Obama Health Care Speech Draws Line in the Sand

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

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: The stakes could not have been higher for President Obama tonight, and according to a new poll released hours before his speech, 52 percent of people disapprove of the way President Obama is handling health care. That number has spiked nine points since July. Did the president do anything tonight to convince his critics?

Joining us live is Republican Congressman Pete Hoekstra.

Nice to see you, Congressman.

REP. PETE HOEKSTRA, R – MICH.: It's good to be here. Thanks.

VAN SUSTEREN: You heard the speech tonight.

HOEKSTRA: It was a very partisan speech. I think that the president didn't listen to what happened during the month of August. You know, he came back and said, "What we did in July is what I now want in September, and what happened in August was irrelevant."

VAN SUSTEREN: Yes, I was sort of curious why he did that, because 52 percent of the people are against him on this. And his words we just played, you know, he called it a partisan spectacle. He said "unyielding ideological camps," the bickering, I mean, the people who disagree with them.

But sort of the peculiarity of it is -- is in his final words, he talks about "one of the wonderful unique things about America has always been our rugged individualism, our fierce defense of freedom and our healthy skepticism of government." So he insults some in the beginning. It just tactically isn't how I would lay it out.

HOEKSTRA: I wouldn't. You know, tonight, this is what he -- this is what we got before the speech started. You know, usually, we get a copy of the speech. Tonight, we got all -- nothing but talking points.

VAN SUSTEREN: What is this, a laminated card? Looks like a menu at a -- at a nice bar.

HOEKSTRA: It's a laminated card with all...

VAN SUSTEREN: What is this?

HOEKSTRA: A summary of all of the talking points that you would give to maybe your supporters, but that's what we got tonight, instead of a copy of the speech, which told you very quickly this is all -- this is going to be all about making and scoring political points, not changing the debate, not you know, saying I'm going to embrace a bipartisan approach. It's kind of like we're going to sell. We're going to sell hard. We're going to convince the Democrats that this is a partisan issue. And they need to come home, and they need to pass the bill that we were working on in July.

VAN SUSTEREN: I'm just curious. You get these where you, like, walk in. They got handed out to you, like -- like at a football game or something?

HOEKSTRA: No, we were all sitting there. And usually a few minutes, 10, 15 minutes before the speech, they hand out copies of the president's speech. And this is what they handed us tonight, no copies of the speech, but the talking points.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. A little shame on your side of the aisle. A congressman -- congressman from South Carolina who -- who yelled out, Representative Joe Wilson, something like "That's a lie" or something like that. He has -- I should tell you that he has just apologized to the president's chief of staff Rahm Emanuel.

And he said to the -- in his apology tonight, for yelling out "That's a lie" to the president, he said, "This evening, I let my emotions get the best of me when listening to the president's remarks regarding the coverage of illegal immigrants in the health-care bill. While I disagree with the president's statement, my comments were inappropriate and regrettable. I extend sincere apologies to the president for this lack of civility."

So a little bit of lack of civility on your side of the aisle tonight.

HOEKSTRA: Absolutely. Congressman Wilson did the right thing. We will have a debate about the substance of the bill, about what it does with illegal aliens, what it does about abortion, whether it increases the deficit or not. That debate will take place over the next couple of weeks.

VAN SUSTEREN: Are you -- when I say you, the Republican Party -- you've been part of this whole discussion about the bill? I mean, that's the one thing I don't quite understand. I mean, the president -- I mean, the Democrats are basically saying that you guys are just sitting there and not suggesting anything. Are you suggesting something, and have you been invited to the table to talk?

HOEKSTRA: We haven't been invited to the table in terms of having the dialogue to shape the bill that was given to the committees to work through the process. I mean, that bill landed on our doorstep. We had the opportunity to review it, try to make amendments in committee. Most of those were voted down.

But we haven't been in the initial stages of crafting a piece of legislation, a give and take process that you normally would do.

We've had plenty of ideas about how we would address the uninsured, how we'd address pre-existing conditions, how we'd address competition and costs. There are lots of those ideas out there. They have not been incorporated in the process.

The president didn't open the door tonight, either, for saying, "Hey, we're going to significantly modify the bill. We're going to open it up for these recommendations and changes."

VAN SUSTEREN: When you were walking out tonight, did any of your Republican colleagues pull you aside and say, "You know, he gave me something to think about"?

HOEKSTRA: No, I think...

VAN SUSTEREN: He said, "The line is drawn"?

HOEKSTRA: I think the president actually drew the lines deeper and broader in the sand today than what they were when he came in. I think many of us were hoping, you know, it would be more conciliatory. He was very confrontational, talking about the Bush-era tax cuts and all of those types of things. You know, he -- he made it tough for us to embrace what he was saying tonight.

VAN SUSTEREN: Here's what I -- I was hoping to hear tonight how it was going to be paid for. He said this is not going to -- it's not going to -- it's not anything to add to the deficit. And so I was trying to sort of dumb it down so I can understand this. This is enormously complicated.

And I think to myself, it's a little bit like having Thanksgiving dinner and someone suddenly say, "OK, you're going to have six more people coming to Thanksgiving, but it's not going to cost you more."

You know, it is going to cost us more. I mean, are -- are we really going to pick it up in efficiency? Where are we going to get this money if we add more?

Nobody's insurance can change who likes their insurance. That's what the president said. If you like it, you get to keep it. Nothing is going to change for those of us who are happy, but we're adding these people.

HOEKSTRA: You're adding a whole bunch of people. You're adding a whole bunch of services. You're adding a whole new category of folks with the preexisting conditions and all of these types of things.

The one thing that I've learned in Washington is when we start talking about waste, fraud, and abuse, we never find it. I mean, we recognize it's out there.

VAN SUSTEREN: That's the -- that's the theory that's going to pay for it. I want people to have health care. I want people to have access to it, because I think it is -- you know, my heart goes out to people who don't have it.

But I'm just trying to figure out, you know, exactly where it is we're going to find this money. And so is it -- it's the fraud that we have supposedly in the system and the lack of efficiency?

HOEKSTRA: The waste of fog and the lack of efficiency.

VAN SUSTEREN: How do we know that?

HOEKSTRA: It's anecdotal. I mean, people would come in...

VAN SUSTEREN: So we hope for the best?

HOEKSTRA: And you hope for the best, and when you're hoping for the best in this area, almost every time we said, "We're going to find the savings, government historically has been very, very bad at finding it, identifying it, and ripping it out of the system. We don't do that very well.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, who -- well, who are these little -- little elves that are coming up with these numbers some place? They're figuring these anecdotes out that it's going to cost us...

HOEKSTRA: We haven't seen the numbers on this yet. All the president said is, "We're not going to..."

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, then, is it going to cost us anything?

HOEKSTRA: He said that. But we haven't seen that peeled back and actually seen the numbers that say, "OK, I'm going to find this much in this area in savings." And going through and saying, "This is how I'm going to come up with the $900 billion" that he says this plan is going to cost. He never outlined how he's going to find the savings or where the little elves have found the savings that will justify him saying it's going to be zero or a zero decrease into the deficit.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Republicans are obviously critical of the president and the Democrats' bill. Do you have specific ideas, a plan, a bill that you'd like to craft that would solve the problems of health care in the country?

HOEKSTRA: I think some -- I think one of the things that -- you saw members holding up pieces of paper today. You know, a thick wad of papers.

VAN SUSTEREN: Those wasn't those little menu cards?

HOEKSTRA: No, those weren't the menu cards. Those are actually the bills that we have out there.

VAN SUSTEREN: I think I'll have the Caesar salad, by the way.

HOEKSTRA: That deal with tort reform, that deal with pre-existing conditions, that deal with competition, and that deal with tax reform. All of those things are outlined very clearly in specific bills, and that's what the American people told us in August. Break this into pieces, fix what's broken. Don't throw out the whole thing.

VAN SUSTEREN: And can I tell you -- and can I tell you as a lawyer, you're never going to fix tort reform unless you put a limit on fees on both sides. They always want to just put it on the plaintiff's lawyers, not on the defense lawyers.

And it's like having a marriage and saying that only one person has to be faithful in a marriage. You've got to -- if you're going to do that, you've got to fix that.

HOEKSTRA: Yes, I think we'd be more than willing to take -- we'd just love to have the discussion on tort reform. The president opened that up slightly tonight and said he may try some things on an experimental basis from state to state.

But he didn't make it an integral part of his plan, saying, "Here's my plan, and, by the way, we're going to try some things on tort reform," which means he's not committed to it. It won't happen.

VAN SUSTEREN: Congressman, thank you, sir.

HOEKSTRA: Good to be here.

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