Sen. Graham on the Stimulus: 'This Bill Stinks ... We're Not Being Smart'

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record ," February 5, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Tonight: Hoodwinked! So much for burning the midnight oil. Senate majority leader Harry Reid said the Senate would be burning the midnight oil, debating that massive economic stimulus bill all night long, this one. He said they would pull an all-nighter because he knows how desperate Americans are for economic help. It's not happening. No all-nighter. Flim-flam. Senate went home. Reid closed up the Senate shop for the night well before 9:00 PM.

That being said, the debate has been raw all day. Senator Lindsey Graham was furious on the Senate floor, unleashing on his Senate colleagues.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: You can blame George Bush all you want to, but he didn't write this bill, y'all did. This is your bill. It needs to be America's bill. And we may get three or four Republicans to vote with you, but let me tell you what the country is going to inherit if we pass this bill in terms of substance and process. We're going to lose the ability as members of Congress to go to the public and say, Give us some money, let us borrow more of your money to fix housing, because this bill stinks.

The process that's led to this bill stinks. There is no negotiating going on here! Nobody is negotiating! We're making this up as we go! The polling numbers are scaring the hell out of everybody, and they're in a panic. They're running from one corner of the Capitol to the other to try to cobble votes together to lower the cost of the bill to say we solved the problem. This is not the way you spend a trillion dollars!


VAN SUSTEREN: Senator Lindsey Graham joins us live. What do you think about that guy who was just talking?

GRAHAM: He seemed to be upset. I think I...

VAN SUSTEREN: He did? What's he so mad about?

GRAHAM: Well, I think...

VAN SUSTEREN: He's a handsome fellow, though, isn't he?

GRAHAM: Well, I don't know about that. He needs to lose some weight.


GRAHAM: The one thing I've learned tonight is I need to lose about 10 pounds.

You know, my problem is that I think we need a stimulus bill. I think we need to do more than cut taxes. But the process has been terrible. The House passed this bill without one Republican vote, lost 11 Democrats. Nancy Pelosi said, We won, we write the bill.

It comes to the Senate. It grows in size. We started Monday. Here we are Thursday, trying to jam it through, had a mark-up on the bill that lasted an hour and 40 minutes. We're spending a trillion dollars to jump-start the economy.

This bill is not a stimulus package, it's an orgy of congressional spending unrelated to creating a job, and people are made and they should be. We're wait -- we're not being smart and we're not working together, and people want us to be smart and work together, and this has been a miserable failure on both fronts.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, now I want to know how you really feel about it.


VAN SUSTEREN: But anyway, before we get to that...

GRAHAM: And we can do better, and I think we will.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Let me ask a couple of quick questions, all right -- why -- Senator Reid said that you're going to burn the midnight oil, obviously recognizing that the country is in an economic panic.

GRAHAM: Right.

VAN SUSTEREN: You're still working. You're here. You're still, you know, fighting for the bill. What happens...

GRAHAM: Why did we stop?

VAN SUSTEREN: Yes, why did you stop? He said all night long. I mean...

GRAHAM: Right.

VAN SUSTEREN: ... When I was in high school, an all-nighter really meant an all-nighter.

GRAHAM: I think what happened is that our Democratic friends understand that the public is very upset with the substance of the bill. And every day, the polling drops in terms of public support. The reason we're stopping tonight is because this bill has become a stinker, and Harry Reid understands he doesn't have 60 votes.

Watch Greta's interview with Sen. Graham

I hope we can benefit from this timeout. I hope we will get in a room in the next few days and try to lower the cost of the bill, focus the money on jobs and incorporate the McCain amendment that says when the economy gets back on its feet, you have two quarters of positive GDP growth, any money not spent will not be spent. There are no breaks in this bill.

This bill has more money spent in the fourth year than it does the first year. This is not about stimulating the economy, this is about the appropriators' wish list. And the reason we stopped is because the public is beginning to understand how bad the process and the bill is, and Democrats have got a stinker on their hands.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, you call it a stinker. You said the process stinks. My guess, with all due respect to everybody, I'd be surprised if people are voting on this and arguing about it have even read it. It is, like -- it is so massive.

GRAHAM: Well, it is. The...

VAN SUSTEREN: This is so incredible that -- you know, I -- I mean, you've got people, I assume, senators debating it and talking about it, but how can you possibly know what's in this massive...

GRAHAM: We started the bill Monday. And here we are Thursday. This is not the way you spend a trillion dollars. The process in the House, not one Republican was allowed to have meaningful input. Eleven Democrats have voted against the bill because it's so massive and unfocused.

The reason that I am upset and we stopped is that they're trying to jam through the Congress a bill that will have long-lasting consequences that will not stimulate the economy but grow the government, and America doesn't want that. They want us to be smart and work together, and this is not smart and we're not together.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Americans -- and I understand some words better than others, that -- is this a joke? This -- I mean, not in a humorous sense, but this bill -- is this -- is this, like -- I mean, this is so ridiculous, it's a joke?

GRAHAM: Yes, I think the process -- can you imagine trying to do -- can you imagine a group of people taking a trillion dollars from the next generation of Americans, borrowing money from children and grandchildren, and doing it in a week? If it looks like we're making it up, we are. There are 16 senators off in a corner trying to save $100 billion. God bless them, but that's not the way you get bipartisanship. Ronald Reagan and Tip O'Neill set down and found a way to go forward with Social Security.

I like President Obama. He's been AWOL.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, you grilled him today, calling him AWOL.

GRAHAM: Well, let me...

VAN SUSTEREN: I mean -- I mean, like, you...

GRAHAM: ... Tell you, he is AWOL.


GRAHAM: Well, let me...

VAN SUSTEREN: What does that mean?

GRAHAM: That means that...

VAN SUSTEREN: I mean, I know what it means technically, but...

GRAHAM: Well, basically, what's happened here, he's writing op-ed pieces trying to scare people to vote for this bill. He's had lunch with us, he's had cocktails with us, he's talked to us on the phone, but he's never done the hard work of getting Republicans and Democrats in a room and telling the left, This is not going to be a free-spending bill. You're not going to be able to spend a trillion dollars that doesn't create jobs. And he needs to tell Republicans, You need to do more than just cut taxes.

The president has not led. He has tried to campaign. The campaign is over. We've got to govern. Roll up your sleeves. There are at least 15 Republicans who want to do more than cut taxes, understand we need to stimulate the economy, but nobody is going to agree to this process. This is not the way to govern this nation and obligate future generations to trillions of dollars of spending.

And finally, there's a provision in this bill that if you lose your job, you get COBRA health care, a federal government program for people who've lost their jobs to purchase health care. Under the bill, 65 percent of that premium will be paid for by the American taxpayer, no matter how much money you have. So you can be a CEO who was fired at a bank with a $20 million bail-out package, and under this bill, we will buy your health care. That's ridiculous.

VAN SUSTEREN: Did you hear today -- I don't know if you did -- and we're sort of chasing down the facts of this and we're going to learn more tomorrow -- that in the first round of the TARP payments, that there was a $78 bill overpayment by the government?

GRAHAM: Yes. I've heard that people were overpaid, that banks were...

VAN SUSTEREN: Seventy-eight billion?

GRAHAM: Yes. I've heard that banks were given money that didn't need it and didn't want it. The people are bail-out weary. The TARP bill did not go as planned. And I'm telling the president and our Democratic colleagues, if you push through the Congress a massive spending bill that will not stimulate the economy -- only 17 percent gets spent in the first year -- you're going to lose the ability to go back to the public and spend money on housing.

VAN SUSTEREN: You know...

GRAHAM: And the root cause of this problem economically, Greta, is housing. There's really nothing in this bill to fix the banking problem or the housing problem. It's just a massive spending bill without focus.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, here's -- I mean, when I look at this, it seems so unwieldy to me and it looks like, you know, how can you possibly -- I mean...

GRAHAM: Looks like we made it up?

VAN SUSTEREN: It looks like you made it up. But I'm thinking...

GRAHAM: We are.

VAN SUSTEREN: You know, I look at the list of Democratic senators, some who I've known for years, and I think, you know, they're not insane.

GRAHAM: They're not.

VAN SUSTEREN: I mean -- I mean, what's their thinking on this?

GRAHAM: Well, what happened...

VAN SUSTEREN: You're a good lawyer. Tell me...


GRAHAM: Well, here's what happened. It started in the House. The House produced a product that was -- Nancy Pelosi said, We won, we write the bill. They created a monstrosity of a bill. They couldn't get one Republican, lost 11 Democrats. Now the left is behind this bill, the hard left, so it comes to the Senate, and any Democrat that wants to be reasonable, like support the McCain amendment, is getting killed. has a phone tree, an e-mail tree, so they're trying to protect this bill from reason. And what I'm trying to ask of my Democratic colleagues is, Let's slow down, get in a room like Ronald Reagan and Tip O'Neill did, and spend a few days seeing if we can spend less and do more. The goal is to create jobs, not grow the government in the fourth and fifth year of spending. The goal is not to reward ACORN. The goal is to jump-start the economy.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. We only have about 45 seconds left. Is this going to pass? I mean, the president has -- there are a lot of Democrats in the Senate and the House.

GRAHAM: I think...

VAN SUSTEREN: They own the two houses.

GRAHAM: If we can make sure that Republicans will insist on a better process, where Republicans ideas are heard, there are enough Republicans that will meet Democrats in a responsible way to get a spending bill that cuts -- a bill that cuts taxes and spends on infrastructure and help people who out of a job. If this bill passes, I think the Obama administration has governed completely different than the way they campaigned, and the Democratic Congress will be reinforcing the public's view of them in a very bad way. We can do better. I want a bipartisan bill, not this bill.

VAN SUSTEREN: And so if this passes, you're going to get a bumper sticker that says, "Don't blame me."

GRAHAM: If this passes, I'm going to apologize to the American people for having a Congress that's so irresponsible and it will be very sad for me that if we can't do better than this as a nation. We're hurting. We need to be smart. We need to work together. We're not smart. We're not working together. I'll be very sad for the nation if this passes with the way we're doing business up here. This is not the way to spend a trillion dollars.

VAN SUSTEREN: Senator Graham, thank you very much.

GRAHAM: Thank you.

VAN SUSTEREN: I hope you get some sleep. Everybody -- it sounds like your colleagues went home for the night, so you might as well, too, and get some rest. You got...

GRAHAM: Thanks for having me.

VAN SUSTEREN: ... Big couple days -- thank you, Senator.

GRAHAM: Thank you.

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