Reid: I'm Doing 'Fine' in Polls, Country's Skepticism Over Health Care Bill Has Changed

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," April 5, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Now, the most powerful United States senator goes "On the Record," Senate majority leader Harry Reid. Now, we went to Senator Reid's home in Searchlight, Nevada.


VAN SUSTEREN: Why do you think that there was such -- and I don't want to use a term that overstates it, but there were an awful lot of people who didn't like it. More people were unhappy, I think, with the bill, the health care bill, than were happy with it. Why do you think that?

SEN. HARRY REID, D-NEV, SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: Because the loud minority made a lot of noise. Now that the legislation passed, it is amazing how much different people attitude is. I mean traveling on an airplane people are so nice to me. We have people -- it wasn't that way before.

We have people coming, sending me notes in church. "I have a disabled daughter. Thank you very much for taking care of her." People have changed. Even the Republicans have changed their tone.

I was in Salt Lake doing church business this past weekend, and it was interesting -- the newspapers there and the conservative bastion of America, Utah, even the Republican leaders up there are saying we don't want to change the things that are already in effect. What we want to improve some of the things that are going to happen later.

So everybody acknowledges with rare exception that what we did was terrific, and if there are some problems in out years we'll be happy to look at them.

VAN SUSTEREN: That's such a different sort of concept I have -- I realize I'm at Fox News, and so many people come up to me who are unhappy with it.

When I was in Boston, which is such a huge Democratic City and of course Massachusetts a Democratic state, people were coming up to me and they would say, I've been a Democrat my whole life. My entire family has been Democrat. I've never not voted Democrat.

I'm so mad at what the Democrats are doing in Washington on this health care and stimulus bill, I'm voting Republican. And sure enough, you got a new United States senator, a Republican. I heard the opposite.

REID: Well, first of all, Massachusetts was a totally unique state. They already had health care. They were afraid we were messing with their health care. Most states have no health care. And the campaign wasn't all health care. We had a few other problems. Without denigrating the campaign or anything about --

VAN SUSTEREN: Coakley? I thought she ran a good campaign.

REID: Massachusetts didn't agree.

VAN SUSTEREN: She was up 19 points on December 20th.

REID: Until she came back from her three week vacation?

VAN SUSTEREN: What happened I think is you met with Senator Ben Nelson and gave the Nebraska deal. In Massachusetts, they were absolutely furious about the Nebraska deal. I think that sunk her.

REID: Perhaps. But remember, the Nebraska deal was terrific for our country. Why do I say that? Because now everybody has a Nebraska deal. Every state in the union has the Nebraska deal.

VAN SUSTEREN: I don't think a lot of people feel like do you, senator, on that. I think a lot of people were disturbed about the fact on the eve of the vote that two United States senators meet, and President Obama had promised transparency.

And so all of a sudden, Senator Ben Nelson walks out and says "I'm going to vote on this." It wasn't your promise on transparency. I'm going to vote on this and I got a special deal from my state. The other states are saying what about us?

REID: Did you think it would have been better if I let the bill fail?

VAN SUSTEREN: I don't --

REID: You're speechless.

VAN SUSTEREN: Speechless? This is the way it appeared to the American people. This senator, Senator Ben Nelson, was for sale. That's the way it looked like. It was a sale that all the other American taxpayers are paying for. And nobody understood, even people in Nebraska didn't understand why he got this?

REID: Greta, let me say this. I know Fox loves to berate anything that is Democratic in nature. But let me just say this. Ben Nelson is an honorable, a really good senator that represents his state extremely well.

And Ben Nelson and I worked on a number of issues. We worked on the Medicaid issue. He's a former governor of the state and understands it very well. I knew if I got this for Nebraska I would have it for everybody, and that's what happened. And I'm totally comfortable with that

Watch Greta's entire interview with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid

VAN SUSTEREN: Two things. No one ever said that after he walked out. There was a long time before we heard about everybody else getting this. That's the first thing.

The second thing -- I was actually quite surprised that Senator Nelson didn't come out say to his constituents, what are you complaining about, I got you something that no one else got.

REID: I was a little surprised about that myself.

VAN SUSTEREN: The fact that he came out so weak with his hat in his hand made me more suspicious why he wasn't -- I would have thought, I would have expected a different advocacy for it than the one he gave. I thought that added to sort of like, what's up?

REID: I said, "Ben, if I had gotten that for Nevada, I would have yelled from it the rooftops." He didn't and that's a decision he made.

VAN SUSTEREN: If you thought everybody was going to get that day when you Senator Nelson, why didn't you offer it to everybody?

REID: Because I didn't have it for everybody at that time. I thought I could get it as we moved along in the legislation, and I did.

VAN SUSTEREN: You're telling me when Ben Nelson got that, when the two of you sat down, you said Ben, Nebraska's got it now -- obviously my words -- but after we get this passed we go for everybody?

REID: No. He got this for himself. He wanted it. I said to myself, good. That's a way I can help Medicaid in Nevada and the rest of the country, and that's what I did. But I didn't trumpet it to my other senators. By the time we finished this with our meetings in the White House and other places, everybody got it.


VAN SUSTEREN: Next, more with Senator Reid. The polls do not look particularly good for Senator Reid. In fact, they look bad here in Nevada. Is Senator Reid he worried he's about to lose his seat? Find out next.



VAN SUSTEREN: We are live at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada. And earlier Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid went "On the Record" at his home in Searchlight, Nevada.


VAN SUSTEREN: Now that you are back in Nevada you are kicking off your campaign, a bus trip?

REID: We used to do this all the time, but it is kind of out of fashion because 90 percent live in the Las Vegas areas, but in rural Nevada they turn out much stronger than the population. I'm looking forward to doing this. It reminds me when I first got started when we used to do our tours throughout rural Nevada.

VAN SUSTEREN: How come your poll numbers are so bleak here in Nevada? You are the most powerful senator, the Senate majority leader. As I looked the polls, the most recent ones are probably a month old, but they are bleak.

REID: First of all, they are not as bleak as a newspaper here tries to make them. We're doing fine. The polls are fine. I'm not going to get into a poll battle, because the only poll that matters is the one in November.

But we are doing fine. Even the latest polls put out by the newspaper which is -- runs an editorial every other day against me, shows that with the multiple candidates in the race I win the election. But we are pushing this election, recognizing that the last serious I had was 12 years ago.

VAN SUSTEREN: And 400 some votes you beat --

REID: Yes, exactly 428. The last election was not much of a race.

VAN SUSTEREN: With 61 percent you won the vote.

REID: But that was really not a race. I never met my opponent. Since then, 12 years ago, we've had 500,000 600,000 people move to the stay. And there is no state has been hit harder by the economic downturn than Nevada. We led the nation in foreclosures sadly for a long time. We've had a difficult time, unemployment is high.

So there's a lot of things that are in the way of my going through an easy victory.

VAN SUSTEREN: Let's talk about the economic scene, because I imagine that has a huge bearing in terms of people going to the polls in November. Why is Nevada hit so hard? Your unemployment rate is higher than the national average. What is the economic explanation for that?

REID: Nevada led the nation in economic vitality for 20 years. It was a state where people could make money without even trying. Real estate you would put a house up for appraisal and by the time it came to the realtor they kept bidding higher than place. It was just a great place to be, and there was with a lot of overbuilding.

And when the economic downturn came, a lot of our construct stopped and people didn't come here as much as they did. And those that came here didn't spend as much money as they used to. So our tourism industry has been hit really hard.

VAN SUSTEREN: Why was the stimulus bill not seen an appreciable effect here? When do you expect it, because people are hurting here?

REID: First of all, all over the country, it is very difficult to say to someone who has lost their job, afraid they are going to lose their job, has lost their home, afraid they are going to lose their home, it's hard to say to them but for me things would be a lot worse.

We did some things to stop a worldwide depression, there's no question. But that's little comfort to people struggling now. If we hadn't done what we did, things would be much worse.

VAN SUSTEREN: Which then brings me to the thought of health care bill. I know there's this so-called "doctor fix," anywhere from $200 billion, $250 billion that will happen but wasn't included in which makes me think everyone is playing with the numbers since that is obviously health care. Why wasn't that included in the numbers?

REID: First of all, when you have both sides trying to jimmy the numbers, what you do is go to a referee, somebody that is independent and fair. That' why you have a referee at a fight, referees at ballgames that are not chosen by the two sides, they are independent. And that's what we did with health care.

The Congressional Budget Office is independent, nonpartisan. They determined with our legislation, the first 10 years we would save 140 billion dollars. The second 10 years, $1.3 trillion dollars. We would reduce the debt by that much, $1.3 trillion over ten years.

VAN SUSTEREN: Without the doctor fix, though.

REID: Let's look at the doctor fix. What we and the Senate have done, we have said, with the pay-gos that we have, there are certain things that we are going to exempt -- not very much.

One thing that we are going to do is take care of the doctors who take care of Medicare patients. That's what we are talking about. We have done that for five years. We believe that not all senators think it should be done by an emergency allocation. So we can pay for that. Why shouldn't we be able to pay for it?

VAN SUSTEREN: Look, I'm all for paying doctors what they deserve and a lot of them work really hard. The only thing I'm curious about is that when someone tries to sell me what someone costs and exempt something that is obvious to me health care and going to happen and then tells me it brings down the debt, I'm suspicious.

REID: Let's assume you are right. That the doctor fix is going cost -- the numbers are not right. Let's say it costs $150 billion dollars. Many believe that it should be paid for. But even if it isn't, you deduct $150 billion from $1.3 trillion you are still safe a huge amount of money

VAN SUSTEREN: The way I understand the bill is now, and correct me if I'm wrong, is I could scam the system with the way it is. I could have no health insurance at all.

REID: Most people aren't going to be looking for ways to scam the system.

VAN SUSTEREN: You don't think so?

REID: I don't think so. I think that most people are going to comply with what the rules are. And the rules are that people should have insurance. I think people are not willing to do that gamble.

If I become a quadriplegic, they will take care of me. What happens if instead of making me a quadriplegic, they need some kind of surgery for example, I don't know maybe appendicitis or something, or something not as drastic that deals with paralysis. I just don't think people would game the system like that.

VAN SUSTEREN: I don't mean to be a cynic, but I can point to members in the Congress and the Senate who are gaming the system. And I don't want to name names, but you've got members on the House side under investigation for doing sort of things, allegations, not convictions, of shady things in economics.

We've got people in our country who are here not legally. You've got people cheating on income taxes. I would like to think that everyone is so noble as you say, although I'm a little suspicious.

REID: If what we have passed doesn't work out, well, the reason we didn't kick in everything immediately is it is going to take time. There will still have to be hearings. If we have problems of things that won't kick in until 2014, we can take care of those.

But what we do know is immediate there are some things we call deliverables that take effect immediately. Children will be able to say on their parents insurance until they are 26. We're going to close the donut hole. We're going to allow small businesses to get 35 percent on their insurance and soon 50 percent.

It is going to be wonderful things that will take place right now. And then some of the things that you brought up, if they don't work out right we'll take a look and maybe try time prove the bill.


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