This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Bret Baier" from December 18, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SENATE MINORITY LEADER MITCH MCCONNELL, R-KY.: This massive piece of legis lation is set to restructure one-sixth of our economy is being written behind closed doors without input from anyone in an effort to jam it past not only the Senate but the American people before Christmas.
SENATE MAJORITY WHIP DICK DURBIN, D-ILL.: Here is the bottom line, t hough. We have to ask ourselves is America better if this bill passes or not? And I think the answer is overwhelmingly it is better.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRIAN WILSON, GUEST HOST: It is topic number one in Washington today, and it has been for weeks. Can the Democrats find 60 votes? Will Republicans, who are against healthcare reform, be able to stop it?
Let's bring in our panel, Steve Hayes, senior writer for The Weekly Standard; Kirsten Powers, columnist at The New York Post and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. Good to have you all here with us today.
Let me see if I can start with you, Charles. Where are we with this thing, because we still haven't seen the fine points of this piece of legislation?
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, that's what's so amazing about this. We just watched Senator Durbin lift up a very heavy package, which he said this bill — well, that's not this bill. We haven't seen it yet. It doesn't exist yet.
Reid has it in his office. He knows what's in it, or maybe he doesn't either. He has got, as you mentioned earlier in the show, until noon tomorrow, because it will start a clock which has got to end presumably before Christmas or the deadline is missed.
And the process is really insane. This is a reform of one-sixth of our economy. The one thing Democrats and Republicans agree on is that this is the most important, transformative piece of legislation that's going to pass for years, and they haven't seen it as of today, and it has to be all done and approved or disapproved by midweek.
The process here is as bad as the substance. And we have a snowstorm on the way which I think is providential.
It was Bismarck who said that God looks after children, drunkards, fools and the United States of America, so perhaps he has got a hand in this. But right now, I think the Democrats in principal can purchase the vote of each and every senator needed, but there may not be enough time. So it's a race against the clock.
WILSON: I want to mention that we will get details of this at noon tomorrow Eastern time, and Fox News will have live coverage of what is going on. I happen to know the host of that show, a pretty sharp old boy. He'll get you filled in on it.
Kirsten, your thoughts?
KIRSTEN POWERS, COLUMNIST, THE NEW YORK POST: I think the whole people haven't read the bill thing it is little bit of a canard and it's something people always bring up when they don't like a bill, because the fact of the matter is there are about 250 pieces of legislation the president signs every year. How many of those do you think senators and congressmen read cover to cover? It doesn't happen.
People know what the main issues are in this bill. People will know what's going to end up being in this bill. And I think that it's going to be something that is going to insure, hopefully, 30 million people. It's going be something that's going to do something to begin to bring down some costs, but not in a radical way.
And I think those are things that people will be looking. And it will deal with preexisting conditions. And that is the essence of the bill. And I think they are capable of voting on that.
WILSON: But do they have the 60 votes, Kirsten? What's your judgment about that?
POWERS: I mean, it is one person, really Senator Nelson. And I think they're working as hard as they can, and perhaps they can get Olympia Snowe, but she probably doesn't want to be number 60. I don't know that she wants to be the person that puts them over the top.
And so it's really — they say they are making progress with Senator Nelson, and we'll see.
WILSON: Your turn.
STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I will go out on a limb and say that Olympia Snowe will not with be them. She will not be the only Republican with them. I don't think there will be any Republicans with them.
I want to get back what Kirsten said about voting on something where you don't know all the details. It might make sense to vote on something where you don't know the details if you're about talking about naming a federal courthouse after somebody or something like that.
But if you're talking about remaking a sixth of the American economy, the main issues are all that we need to know. We need to know those details because they are going to determine who gets coverage and who doesn't, who pays for it and who doesn't, how we're taxed on it, when you can see a doctor, everything —
POWERS: How many of them read the Patriot Act? And it was what size?
HAYES: Look, I will agree with you that people should read the bill before they vote on it. But when you're talking about remaking the U.S. economy and taking a sixth of it, you need to have them vote on it.
And what's interesting to me is that you had seven Democratic senators write to Harry Reid a couple weeks ago and say we need this online for 72 hours. We need to have time to read it. We need the public to see what it is.
And now we're going to short circuit that process. Where are those seven Democratic senators making the same demands about this new this bill that we haven't seen?
POWERS: And they should put it online, and people should be able to see it. I'm just saying that this is something that Democrats bring up when they don't like a bill and they say people haven't read it and Republicans bring it up when they don't like a bill. I think we all know nobody is going to read the bill from cover to cover.
WILSON: Kirsten, in most cases the staff at least gets to read it?
POWERS: Of course the staff reads it. And there are experts on the Hill who know what is in the bill and advise their members.
KRAUTHAMMER: The problem isn't the length. That's not what is holding people back. You have had long bills before.
It's the fact that it doesn't exist even as we speak tonight. It's being sprung on them at the last minute. And abortion is not a trivial issue in the minds of a lot of Americans, and that is unsettled. We don't have a clue what the bill tomorrow at noon is going to say on that.
POWERS: They'll know when they vote.
KRAUTHAMMER: And we had a story last night about a transcription error in the drafting of a bill which ended up meaning on Amtrak if you're caught with a gun, you have to be put in a box for the rest of the trip. The gun presumably is left on the train.
You don't want mistakes like this. You don't want not just trivial errors, but there are going to be huge elements that will have ripple effects on the American economy and American medicine which are unpredictable, and no one knows about it with three days to go.
WILSON: Can Reid get the 60 votes?
KRAUTHAMMER: I think if he had time, he would. I think he still can, but the clock is ticking, and it is now a little chancier than it was say a day or two ago.
WILSON: And the other question I want to ask you is do Republicans have the ability to slow this thing up so there is no vote by Christmas?
KRAUTHAMMER: They are going to have the bill read. It will take at least ten hours. And perhaps they will ask for reputations of sections of it.
WILSON: Very quickly, let me call up a poll we have done about. Actually this is a Rasmussen poll about which is better, proposed legislation, or nothing at all? The numbers are quite revealing here. According to this poll, 57 percent of those poll said no healthcare was better, and 34 percent said proposed legislation was better. Steve.
HAYES: I think the Republicans clearly want to win on the issue, they want to win this on the merits and stop this reform from taking place.
But if it doesn't, that's a good example of why they're going to be very happy to campaign on this going into the 2010 elections and say we're going to do everything we can to roll back the pieces of this that we can.
WILSON: All right, that's a great discussion. We have the lightning round coming up in a moment.
Before we go, let me mention that Chris Wallace, you might want to join him for "Fox News Sunday" this weekend. His exclusive guest will be Arizona Republican Senator John McCain, one of the leaders of the opposition to the Democratic healthcare bill. Of course check our local listings for times in your area for "Fox News Sunday."
The Friday Lightning Round is next, with your choice online topic of the week. Back in a moment.
WILSON: This week on the FoxNews.com special report page, viewers voted on what topic with should discuss first during the ever popular Friday lightning round. You can find the poll on our Web site. As of 4 p.m. Eastern this afternoon, a plurality of 25 percent wanted the first topic to be Steve Hayes' wildcard.
So Steve, The Weekly Standard is reporting that the number of detainees who are released from Guantanamo and return to jihadist activities is climbing. The Obama administration is refusing to release the documents showing this.
This is your wildcard pick. What is going on, here?
HAYES: This is a really important story and I think we will spend more time on it in the coming weeks.
What The Weekly Standard has learned that there is a new report from the Defense Intelligence Agency that shows that recidivism among Gitmo detainees that have been released — that is Gitmo detainees who have returned to the fight — is on the rise.
We had one source describe it to us as a spike, and another source tell us it was a significant rise among these jihadists who have gone back to fight after having been released from Gitmo. If that's the case, we need to have a bigger discussion about it, and the Obama administration is not releasing this report.
WILSON: Let's talk about Copenhagen. Charles, does the agreement that has been announced this evening mean anything?
KRAUTHAMMER: Absolutely nothing. It's one of the great failures of our time, and I applaud it, because I think it's the best possible outcome, to achieve nothing out of this, which was essentially an attempt for the third world countries to grab the wealth of the west.
And we had a partial agreement there, but it is really written on water. The agreement isn't even signed and doesn't have anything hard in it, and the one thing in it that might have been effective, having a conclusion of it in Mexico next year of having the real treaty, is dropped, and they are now speaking about a review they are in 2016.
It was a wonderfully successful failure.
POWERS: I think that's how you can describe almost every one of these meetings, whatever the topic is. It tends to be incremental developments that are always passed off as major agreements, or we have made major success. It just tends to be over time you have to go to these meetings and try to move the ball down the court.
And that's what Obama did. And I think he moved it down the court in the right direction.
HAYES: What struck me today was the president said the science requires aggressive action, as if there is consensus on the science. If we have seen anything over the past several weeks, it's that there is not consensus on the science, even from the scientists who are supposedly driving that science.
WILSON: Did anybody find irony in the fact that the leader of the free world had to leave the global warming summit early because of a snowstorm in the nation's capital?
KRAUTHAMMER: There were a lot of ironies, and some of them really embarrassing. Our president had to break into a meeting of China, Brazil, and India. He wasn't invited, but he went in it nonetheless and said I don't want you guys to be engaged in negotiations in secret, and they accepted him.
But that's not exactly how you do high-level diplomacy.
WILSON: Topic number two, Ben Bernanke, is he the man of the year?
KRAUTHAMMER: The man of the hour and the year and the decade. He has gotten a lot of criticism, a lot of Republicans voted against him, which is I think sort of a cheap populism.
He is the guy who when there was no radar, no roadmap, no way ever to tested, he took a risk in '08 and '09 and essentially he decided we had to take the private debt that was destroying our economy and to nationalize it, which is highly risky. He did it. He was right. He stumbled around but in the end he got it right.
The job now is to unwind all the debt that he took on, and that's going to be an incredible challenge over the next few years. But he's an American hero at least as of now.
POWERS: I'm going to say something I've never said — I completely agree with Charles.
I think that he, you know, he is sort of — I mean, the cheap populism is the perfect way to put it. He is the whipping boy de jure who want to blame somebody for things being not exactly the way they want them to be in the economy when in fact I think he was the kind of person you want in that position — the right disposition, the right experience, in fact, exactly the right experience at this time.
HAYES: Without endorsing that viewpoint, I think the question is, as Charles pointed out at the end of his remarks, what will Ben Bernanke do now? And will he be next year's man of the year? How will he unwind this or how is he going to tighten the money supply again in a way that doesn't risk sending us back to where we were in the first place, which was trouble?
WILSON: Surprisingly we have time for bring your own topic. We're going to get there today. Steve, what's your bring your own topic?
HAYES: Mine is a gripe. There is a huge snowstorm coming to Washington. They're predicting 18-24 inches. And you would have thought that the world was going to end. There are rumors of fist fights in grocery stores, people stocking up. The city is shutting down. It is as if nobody has ever experienced a snowstorm.
If you have ever driven in D.C. during the snow, you know that actually might be the case. People drive like they have never been in a snowstorm.
Those of us from Wisconsin, from the Midwest, or from Alaska, or from Canada, we know how to deal with these things. I wish the people complaining would just pipe down.
WILSON: I'm telling you, one inch of snow and this town is an absolute disaster. They are saying between 10 and 15 inches, and in the middle of this healthcare stuff in the building behind us.
KRAUTHAMMER: In my day we would walk to school in the snow without shoes.
WILSON: Uphill both ways.
Kirsten, any thoughts.
POWERS: I would like to endorse that as well. I used to never miss school, ever, not one time, even when it was 50 below in Alaska. So I'd say Washington, D.C., suck it up and get to work.
WILSON: What is your "bring you own topic"?
POWERS: I wanted to just talk about Gitmo thing, I guess, because I just thought it was interesting, and to point out that if there is this recidivism rate, it is a very important issue and I wouldn't dismiss it, but that we also need to remember that most of the people were actually released by George Bush and there's not enough focus on that from conservatives, including somebody who went back to head up Al Qaeda in Yemen.
HAYES: We focused on that in the editorial.
KRAUTHAMMER: Small point, but today in Denmark, the president spoke of the town he was in as Copenhagen. Come on, now. Is he going to stop in Paris on the way home with a pit stop in Berlin with he meets with the chancellor of Deutschland? I know he is a citizen of the world, but he can speak English abroad as well.
WILSON: We're going to leave it right there. Thank you, panel. Good discussion.
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