This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Bret Baier" from March 12, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HOUSE SPEAKER NANCY PELOSI: I'm delighted that the president will be here for the passage of the bill. It's going to be historic. Any hesitation anybody might have about do you trust the Senate is offset by the great vision that they have for health care. It will take a little faith but what we do always does.
HOUSE MINORITY WHIP REP. ERIC CANTOR: I know right now the speaker does not have the votes. And I know the president and the speaker can go about the next several days trying to convince their members to vote on the bill the American people have rejected.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRET BAIER, "SPECIAL REPORT" HOST: Speaker Pelosi and Republican Eric Cantor about the back and forth on health care reform.
Where are the votes on the House? Here is a quick breakdown of what we have as far as the numbers, the whip count and the latest tally back and forth. As of right now, five Democrats would change their votes from yes the first time on the House vote to no, including Representative Luis Gutierrez from Illinois who said today he is a no over the issue of immigration. There you see a tally 211 to 220, shy of the 216 needed.
What about all this back and forth? Let's bring in our panel, Bill Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard, we welcome Ruth Marcus, editorial writer for The Washington Post, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. Bill?
BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Well, they do not now have the votes. If they had the votes the speaker would have scheduled the votes for Wednesday and the president would be going off on long trip on Thursday.
I worked at the White House eons ago, and these foreign trips take a lot of work and there is a lot of coordination with foreign governments and foreign presidents, they have schedules too. To postpone a trip is fairly serious.
It doesn't mean they couldn't get the votes in the next week, and it doesn't mean that they're not going to keep the president here to let it go to late next week and really try to lock it down. But it is just a fact they do not now have the votes.
BAIER: There is another issue, Ruth, in this abortion issue. And it's the prochoice Democrats versus the prolife Democrats. Today Bart Stupak was on a radio show and talking about a conversation he had with Congressman Henry Waxman from California, and it was back and forth about the abortion issue. Take a listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. BART STUPAK, D- MICH.: He came back awhile later and said, "But we want to pay for abortions." I said, "Mr. Chairman we disagree. We don't do it now and we're not going to start." "But we think we should." I'm sorry, but the House has spoken. We had that debate. We won 240 to 190. If you want to move health care, keep current law."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: That caused quite a stir, and just a few moments ago Henry Waxman had this release from his office. "My position has been clear and consistent. I do not believe health care reform should be used to change current law which prohibits federal funds from paying for abortion."
What about this?
RUTH MARCUS, WASHINGTON POST: I have to think that this particular chapter in the Stupak amendment debate, which has been ongoing for months now, is just a misunderstanding between Chairman Waxman and Congressman Stupak, because everybody has acknowledged on the Democratic side what Congressman Waxman said in his statement. They do not want to change current law. They do not want to allow federal funds to be used for abortions.
And there has been a big dispute about what it will take to accomplish that goal, whether you have to go as far as the Stupak amendment or not.
I have always thought it this was actually a very dumb argument from both sides, from the prolife side. If you want to reduce the number of abortions, the best thing that you could do is to guarantee health care for babies that are born and for women that need contraception.
From the prochoice side, of all the important things to worry about in health care, having — since the government already doesn't pay for abortions, worrying about what's permitted in the exchanges is very kind of silly issue to me.
BAIER: Two things. One is the Stupaks and others have concerns that the Senate bill existing does not hold current law the same, and two is, do you think that Democratic leadership are just now saying you know what we are going to take our chances with the prolife Democrats, that we can get around it?
MARCUS: Well, first of all, I think with all respect that Stupak forces are wrong. As a practical matter as language of the Senate bill will make it all but impossible and certainly unattractive for insurance companies who participate in the exchanges to offer abortion coverage, just so many hoops.
And then I think that the Speaker Pelosi and the House Democrats are kind of forced to take their chances with Stupak allies because they can't fix this in reconciliation. They can promise maybe to do something else, to write the Hyde amendment into law, but you but their hands are pretty tied as a parliamentary matter.
KRAUTHAMMER: I think the dispute with Stupak and Waxman is not a misunderstanding. I think for Stupak and company it's a betrayal, because, remember, the bill in the House passed only by five votes. We wouldn't be anywhere near here, health care would be dead had it not passed in the House last year.
How did they acquire the votes? By having the Stupak amendment included in the House bill. And they were assured that was going to stay in there.
Now, what happened is it's now returned. The House Democrats who assume that the prolife language would be in there and that was the deal they struck last year are now seeing they are entirely abandoned on this. They will have now a bill that will be stripped of that language, and whatever understanding they had in assurances they had last year are now null.
And it's ironic that you hear Pelosi in the clip that we saw speaking about faith and trust. Now the pro-abortion — the antiabortion folks are going to be asked to trust again in a process that's even more obscure unlikely of the Senate amending its own — changing its bill after it's signed into law? That's absolutely improbable.
And I think if you are Stupak and company, you feel you were stabbed on the back on this.
BAIER: Bill, now Speaker Pelosi has talked about putting in student loans, a change to the student loan program in the vote for health care reform.
What about that? This is the student loan legislation that would end private lender's involvement in the original student loans and the Department of Education would essentially take over?
KRISTOL: Yes, the government would be the direct loaner to the students. Well that passed the House by a larger margin last year. So they are adding something that they think is more attractive to try to bring home few extra members to the bill.
It shows how unpopular this bill is. It is jaw dropping to step back from the day-to-day thing. A year into president's top agenda health care is the Democrats favorite issue. They have had 30 point margins on it in polls over the Republicans for the last 15 years basically. And as this debate has gone along this bill has become so unpopular and toxic that they now can't pass it through a normal conference committee. They can't have a normal situation where each house passes its own bill and get together and have a compromise. They have to pass the Senate bill or nothing because they're terrified to go to conference. They are now terrified to let the members go home for Easter recess before a vote, so they are going to — the president is delaying his trip so they can jam the vote in at the end of next week, they hope by one or two vote margin. It's really stunning.
BAIER: Ruth, last word — right move for the White House to delay this trip, put it all on the line with the three days? Is that the right move?
MARCUS: Given that they had already doubled down, absolutely the right move. There was just no choice. The president couldn't go jetting off to Indonesia while Nancy Pelosi was pushing what is right now a faith based initiative.
BAIER: But if he doesn't get it, Charles, by the time he leaves and gets on that plane.
KRAUTHAMMER: All his chips are in the pot and then he loses the pot.
BAIER: You can read all about the ongoing feud over abortion language and all the health care debate by clicking on the link to our home page FOXnews.com/"Special Report." Check out some web exclusive stories.
Up next, your choice online, topic of the week, and the Friday lightning round.
BAIER: Every week on the FOXnews.com "Special Report" page viewers vote on what topic we should discuss first during this, the Friday lightning round. And as of 4:00 p.m. eastern time, 57 percent of you wanted to know can health care reform be repealed if it passes? So that is where we begin tonight's lightning round.
Back with the panel. Bill? Can it be repealed and how hard would it be?
KRISTOL: Sure, it can be, or huge chunks of it can be. What would be required with is a Republican president and Republican primaries in January of 2013 who would have campaigned on repealing on large parts of the legislation most of which would not yet have gone in effect.
BAIER: Ruth, even in 2010 if Republicans take both chambers you are still dealing with the veto pen of President Obama.
MARCUS: Exactly. My theory of repeal is it can be repealed but it won't be repealed, in part because so much of what would be passed, if it passes, won't take effect for so long, and some of the best things that happen, happen quickly.
So you are going to repeal the ability to let your children stay on your health insurance until they are 26 years old? Once benefits are put into law, nobody in either party likes to be taking them away from voters.
BAIER: But Republicans have at least threatened, Charles, to run on repealing if this vote goes through.
KRAUTHAMMER: Right. It will be a good issue, I think, for them. But it is impractical. It can't happen in 2010. The president would veto it. They are not going to have a two-thirds majority. In fact, in the Senate, even if everything is going their way, it might get 51. They are not going to get 60.
BAIER: The other issue we are going to talk about is Iraq. And this week was the parliamentary vote. And we are still waiting for results across Iraq. But Newsweek had a front cover that said this — "Victory at last." What about that? Are we turning the tide on looking back at the Bush years and Iraq? Charles?
KRAUTHAMMER: When liberals have declared the war lost in '06 they were wrong. When they declare the war won now they are also wrong.
Yes, the question of democracy in Iraq has always been an open one. I have always hoped it would happen. We are closer now than ever. However, it's not a done deal. It depends on the outcome of this election and whether they are able to establish stable government.
Remember, after the election of in '05 it took 156 days until a government was formed and that created a lot of instability. If it happens rapidly now and you have a strong coalition, it would be wonderful.
MARCUS: Never say the word "optimism" when you are talking about Iraq without the qualifier "cautious." Iraq looks so much different and so much better as a prospect now than it did several years ago. Certainly if President Obama had opposed the surge, that turns out to have been wrong.
But it's a long and complicated road ahead here and in Afghanistan.
KRISTOL: I'm struck by how much more sensible the American public is if you look at this Rasmussen poll then the editors of "Newsweek." They are withholding judgment. They want it to work. They are much more optimistic that it will work than they were three years ago.
The numbers are really striking. The majority now think the war in Iraq in the long term will be judged a success. Three years ago it was 27-57 that it will be judged a failure. So the American public correctly now sees the surge having worked that there is a reasonable chance of success.
They also see that we need to work hard and the Iraqis need to work hard to ensure it's a success.
BAIER: Final topic, White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel has been the focus of a lot of stories here in Washington about what he does behind the scenes, how good he is, whether he is leaving. We're back with the panel. Bill, what about the chief of staff?
KRISTOL: You know, it's never a good thing when your chief of staff gets a huge amount of press, I would say. But Barack Obama is rather — is a proud man and reserved in a way. Rahm Emanuel is a proud and somewhat arrogant guy who is also extremely aggressive. It's an odd pair to have together in the White House.
MARCUS: Actually, I think they are a good couple in that way because they complement each other's strengths and weaknesses. I'm personally a little alarmed of having the Eric Massa vision of Rahm naked in the shower without a "towel for his tush." This publicity is not good for Rahm or the president, but it will die down.
BAIER: Does he stay on?
MARCUS: Yes, he stays on.
KRISTOL: He stays on in the shower.
KRAUTHAMMER: I disagree. I think his career was on the skids when you had all the stories in "The Post" about how smart he was and how much of a dummy the boss was. But I think he has been revived by Eric Massa. Any guy who does an Easter promise like a steam room knockdown of another congressman in the full Monty deserves respect, and I think he will get it now.
BAIER: And do you think how this health care situation is being handled now is in some way redeeming for Chief of Staff Emanuel?
KRAUTHAMMER: Look, if they win, everybody is —
BAIER: A winner?
KRAUTHAMMER: Everybody is a winner and everybody is the father of victory. But if he loses, it will be Emanuel I think is going to be a real target, and he may be the fall guy.
BAIER: This is the topic of our weekend poll so check it out online over the weekend.
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