Sen. Gregg: 'They Know They Can't Pay for This Bill'

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," March 23, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Republican Senator Judd Gregg is leading the Republicans as they try to beat down the reconciliation bill. So what is the Republican plan? We went to Capitol Hill, and Senator Gregg went "On the Record."


VAN SUSTEREN: Senator, nice to see you, sir.

SEN. JUDD GREGG, R - N.H.: Greta, thank you for having me on. I appreciate it.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, before we get to sort of the meat of what's going on here on the Hill, tell me, you are the manager of the reconciliation bill. How did you get that job? And what's that mean?

GREGG: Well, it's the Republican manager. Basically, I'm the senior Republican on the Budget Committee, and reconciliation is a budget vehicle. Therefore, I'm responsible for sort of being the gatekeeper on the floor. I try to pick what amendments we'll go to first. I make the points of order, or I ask somebody to make the points of order for me. And I help with the speaking order so that we -- there are a lot -- there's obviously a lot of interest here from all the Republican senators, and we want to make sure everybody has a chance to make their points and offer the amendments they want to offer, and I'm sort of the orchestrator of that.

VAN SUSTEREN: Today I heard the president speak when he signed the bill and you -- and when you hear the president speak and the Democrats, you think, Hallelujah, this is the best thing ever happened. And then I hear from Republicans and I practically want to slit my throat thinking Medicare is going under and I'm so cooked. What's going on with Medicare?

GREGG: Well, Medicare is used to finance this bill. Essentially, what...


GREGG: Well, they make -- when this bill is fully phased in, there'll be a trillion dollars of reductions in Medicare expenditures over the first 10 years, the full phase-in.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, stop. So that means that people who would ordinarily get that trillion from Medicare services are not getting it?

GREGG: It means that providers and people -- and Medicare -- and seniors who are using Medicare Advantage as their insurance vehicle will see dramatic reductions in their payments, or in the case of insurance, will not be probably able to buy Medicare Advantage insurance. And that will save approximately a trillion dollars over the first 10 years.

That money is not being used to make Medicare more solvent, which is what it should be used for. That money is being taken and used to create these new programs that the president and his folks wanted, which is to actually fund people who don't have insurance today who aren't on Medicare, who aren't senior citizens and never paid into Medicare.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, so two things. One is the fact that you introduced an amendment on this today, to oppose the use of that. The other thing is the president says people who are getting Medicare won't have their benefits cut.

GREGG: Well, he's wrong. He's just plain wrong.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is he mistaken or is he slick? I mean, because this is a big deal, whether you're either going to get them or not get them.

GREGG: Well, I think most Americans understand that if you reduce a program by a trillion dollars, somebody's going to be impacted. You know, if you say to the doctors who are delivering Medicare services, the hospitals delivering Medicare services, especially rural hospitals, We're going to reduce your payment by approximately half a trillion dollars, well, there's obviously going to be an impact on delivery of service. And then if you say to seniors who buy Medicare Advantage insurance that's no longer going to be available, that's obviously going to impact services. So he's simply wrong on that score. Medicare recipients will be affected.

VAN SUSTEREN: How do we decide who to believe? Because that is so dramatically different. The Democrats and Republicans are so divided on this issue and Medicare so profoundly important. I mean, direct us to how we find out. I mean...

GREGG: Well, you can go...

VAN SUSTEREN: Give me a hint.

GREGG: You can go to CBO. I don't have the language right in front of me, but CBO -- to paraphrase CBO, what they said was that the reductions in Medicare in the big bill, which the president signed today, and in the reconciliation bill, will lead not to more solvency in Medicare but will be spent on new programs that have nothing to do with Medicare. They were very forthright about this. And they are the independent score keeper.

And so as a very practical matter, what you're going to do here is you're going to take a huge amount of money out of Medicare, use it to fund these new entitlement programs that the president wanted, and then Medicare, which is already headed towards insolvency, is going to have used up what I call the seed corn or the low-hanging fruit that might have been able to be used to make Medicare more solvent. That will have all been used up. So you're doubling down on the problem.

You know Medicare is going lead into -- is going insolvent. You know Medicare's going bankrupt in about -- probably about 10 years. And yet rather than resolving that problem or trying to help to resolve that problem by making these difficult reductions in Medicare and using the money to make Medicare more solvent, you're taking that money and you're spending it over here on new entitlements! And you know historically that when the government starts an entitlement, it never fully funds those entitlements.

VAN SUSTEREN: What do the Democratic senators say to you on the floor when you talk to them about this?

GREGG: Well, they -- they -- they want this bill, you know? They know they can't pay for this bill any other way than to take the money out of Medicare, and so they're willing to make this choice. They're willing to use Medicare funds to pay for this bill.

VAN SUSTEREN: How about a senator like Senator Bill Nelson of Florida, who has a huge population or constituency of citizens on Medicare? What does he say about it?

GREGG: Well, I don't know. You'd probably have to ask senators like Senator Nelson in Florida as to how they handling this. Hopefully, they'll vote for my amendment. My amendment says this: You cannot start a new program unless you can prove that the money to start that new program didn't come from Medicare.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is it going to pass?

GREGG: Probably not, but it should because it's the only way to protect Medicare in this effort.

VAN SUSTEREN: Senator, thank you, sir.

GREGG: Thank you, Greta.


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