Sen. Gregg on 'Deem and Pass' Strategy in Health Care: 'Incomprehensible'

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," March 17, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Senator, nice to see you again.

SEN. JUDD GREGG, R - N.H.: Great to see you, Greta, thanks for having me on.

VAN SUSTEREN: Senator, the vote in the House looks like it is going to happen soon.

GREGG: Is there going to be a vote in the House? I thought they were going to deem this.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, whatever is going to happen, something is going to happen in the House, and it is going to come back to be an issue in the United States Senate. What's the GOP plan?

GREGG: First, I think you're sent here to vote, to do your job. The American people expect you to be here representing them. And you get so wrapped up in Washington that you have this Washington arrogance that says we don't have to vote on the most important piece of legislation that I've ever seen.

VAN SUSTEREN: You're talking the House?

GREGG: I'm talking about the House. I find this incomprehensible. Members of Congress won't vote on the most significant piece of legislation they will ever have to vote on, on domestic policy. That's their job. Show a little courage, I would say.

But you asked the question what is going to happen here in the Senate? Part of this getting votes in the House to get the votes necessary to deem they won't vote requires them to go around to different constituencies in the House and change the Senate bill, but they can't change the Senate bill because they don't want to have to vote on the Senate bill.

So they got this trailer bill called reconciliation bill, and they are going to put in things used to buy votes in the House. It will be a more expensive bill.

Then they have to bring that back here, the reconciliation bill, to be passed by the Senate. Depending on how it's structured, it can pass in the Senate with 51 votes, 20 hours of debate, virtually no amendments during the 20 hours probably.

And at the end of the 20 hours we will have what is known as vote-o- rama where members will be able to offer amendments for a very long time on the bill and make their points. There will be no debate on those amendments.

VAN SUSTEREN: What does "very long time" mean?

GREGG: Good question. Arguably you could go on forever. There's no limit procedurally to the number of amendments could you offer.

However, that's not going to be our approach I think as Republicans. We are going to offer amendments which we think are substantive, that will show how we think this should have been done and done right.

It will reduce the cost, reduce the size of government, reduce interference of people's health care by the government and put us in a better position in the nation knowing we are not going to debate those amendments. We never did under the original bill, they will just be offered and voted on.

VAN SUSTEREN: As a practical matter, the amendments that the GOP intends to offer when it gets to that process, do you have any sense of optimism that any amendment you are going to offer is going to be voted yes?

GREGG: I would doubt it.

VAN SUSTEREN: It is a lesson, a shot across the bow to Democrats at that point?

GREGG: These will basically how it could have been done right.

VAN SUSTEREN: To shame them?

GREGG: It is more pointing out to the American people we didn't have to do this to ourselves. We could have listened to them, the American people, and actually produced a much better bill.

It will probably get a few votes from their side, because they've got this ability to let eight to nine of their members go because of the fact they only need 51 on some of these votes, not the full 59 members. And they will have the president -- the vice president I presume in the chair.

So they may let some of their members go for political reasons because votes are right votes, maybe, and the will let a few of their members go.

But if they were to lose one of these votes that changes the bill, the bill would have to go back to the House, be voted again, and it is obvious they don't want to go through that because they don't want to vote for it the first time. As we know, they are going to deem it.

VAN SUSTEREN: If the bill proceeds as you just laid out and passes -- does this affect the president in any way? He does win and gets his health care, but does it say anything long term, legacy-wise?

GREGG: I think it affects our constitutional form of government, to be very honest with you. My view is that this is doing fundamental harm to the Founding Fathers' thought process, which is they did not want a system like the British parliamentary system where the party in power has total control of the legislative brand and executive branch and they can rush through anything they want to put through.

What they wanted were checks and balances. That's what we learned in school, right? Checks and balances. And the biggest check in the legislative process is the Senate. George Washington described it as the saucer into which the hot coffee is poured from the tea cup so it cools, so people can look and think and the legislation so it can be amended and improved. They are taking the saucer and throwing it out of the window.

It will in the end in my opinion set a precedent which will do significant harm to the concept of checks and balances and the purpose of the Senate. It is turning the Senate into the House of Representatives.

VAN SUSTEREN: Senator, thank you, sir.

GREGG: Thank you, Greta.


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