Why the Health Care Bill Will Pass in the Senate

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," November 17, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Senate Majority Leader Reid is anxiously awaiting the CBO estimate on his Senate health care bill as to how much it costs. But you shouldn't be waiting because even though you paid for the CBO estimate of the cost, you will be the last to see it.

We spoke to Senator Judd Gregg about what's going on with the health care bill.


VAN SUSTEREN: Senator, nice to see you.

SEN. JUDD GREGG, R - N.H.: Oh, thank you, Greta. Thanks for seeing me.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right...

GREGG: Thank you for having me on.

VAN SUSTEREN: You're welcome. Senator, since the last we spoke, have you thought about whether or not you thought that a health reform -- health care reform bill is going to get passed by the end of the year?

GREGG: By the end of the year? I don't think they can do it by the end of the year. But you know, they've got supermajorities here in the Senate and the House, so then logically, you have to presume that they're going to be able to pass something. And the president's invested his whole, basically, domestic political agenda on this issue, so you have to presume they'll be able to pass something, and I'm afraid it's going to be a very large bill. It's going to spend a lot of money we don't have, drive up our debt and make it very difficult for people to keep the insurance they have today.

VAN SUSTEREN: OK, "something." How does the -- how does Senator Reid pass that something? I mean, what are sort of the procedural hurdles that your party faces in trying to stop that and hurdles that he faces in trying to get it passed? And where do they put in public option, if they want it?

GREGG: Well, he has to take a bill across the floor of the Senate, unless he uses something called "reconciliation," which I don't think he'll use.

VAN SUSTEREN: That's the nuclear option, what...


GREGG: It would be -- it would create a bill that would look like Swiss cheese when it was finished because so many procedural attacks would be viable against it. So he has to take a bill across the floor, which means he has to have 60 votes to pass the bill. And there are all sorts of amendments which would be subject to 60 votes points of order. So he has to keep the bill on the floor fairly benign. But once he gets it across the floor and sends it to conference, then...

VAN SUSTEREN: Which means where they meet with the House.

GREGG: Where they meet with the House. Then they can load it up with, basically, whatever they want. And you'll see it move very hard to the left. It'll follow the Pelosi model very strong. I would suspect public plan, which leads to single-payer system. Very expansive, very expensive, a lot of activity in it that empowers the trial lawyers, for example, as the House bill did.

And then it comes back from the conference. And unlike when it first comes across the floor, when it comes back from the conference, it only requires one -- there's only one 60-vote point of order, and final passage is a 51-vote event (ph).

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, how do you know that it won't get hit -- it could hit a 60-vote hurdle at that point?

GREGG: Well, I would hope that it would. If it ever got to -- I hope it doesn't get to conference, but if it gets to conference and comes back from conference, I would hope that it would be stopped at that 60-vote point of order. But as a very practical matter, at that point, you got a huge amount invested by the president and by leaders of the Congress on the Democratic side of the aisle. So there's a -- there's a real risk if they were to lose that vote for them.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, here's...

GREGG: It'd be a benefit for the country.

VAN SUSTEREN: Here's the thing that I don't get. Senator Reid is working on this bill. The Congressional Budget Office either has a number on his bill or they're about to deliver it to him at some point. We don't -- we don't get to see that.


VAN SUSTEREN: When -- I mean, when -- why don't we get to see that if -- we pay for the CBO, we pay for the work, and we have -- we're supposed to have transparency. Can't we see this number now?

GREGG: Well, that's a super question! Why are they hiding this bill? I mean, why are they writing it behind closed doors, four or five people writing it? I mean, this is the most important piece of legislation I'm ever going to see in my career in the Congress. It affects 20 percent of our economy, everybody's life. And yet we're not going to be age to see this bill until it is put out on a desk with probably 72 hours of notice. And then it goes to a vote as to whether or not we should take it up.

VAN SUSTEREN: But the CBO says they, quote, "honor confidentiality, if asked." I mean, I don't understand why anyone would want to ask that because we really do want to know these numbers so that we can make reasoned judgment as citizens, as taxpayers. And I assume as a member of the U.S. Senate, you'd like to see it sooner, rather than after the fact.

GREGG: Well, I think the American people have a right to know what's going to happen to them, and they're not going to know.

VAN SUSTEREN: But how about now, before it even gets any further? As long as you guys have the numbers, or the Democratic senators have the numbers, how about showing them now so (INAUDIBLE)

GREGG: Well, they have a bill now somewhere. I mean, there is a bill somewhere that's being scored by CBO that you haven't seen, that I haven't seen, that almost every member of the Senate hasn't seen and that no members of the press have seen.

VAN SUSTEREN: Are there any sort of side bills, like payments to doctors or anybody else, that are sort of being carved out of this so that they can meet the threshold of $900 billion? Can there be side bills sometimes?

GREGG: Well, let's use the House bill as an example here. That was alleged to be a trillion-dollar bill. It wasn't a trillion-dollar bill because what they did was they took out the doctor payments and didn't pay for those. That's $300 billion right there.

VAN SUSTEREN: So that wasn't considered in the bill cost.

GREGG: And they put the income from that bill, the new taxes and the cuts to Medicare -- they started those on day one, but they didn't start the expenditures in that bill until the fourth year. So they matched six years of expenditures against ten years of income. So that's how they got to a trillion-dollar cost.

VAN SUSTEREN: So we're being slicked on the numbers.

GREGG: Oh, yes. It is a three -- the House bill is, if it's fully implemented, a $3 trillion growth in the size of federal spending.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, you may not be the right guy to ask on this, but how do you get away with playing those numbers games on us?

GREGG: Well, you know, obviously, they haven't with you. I mean, Greta, you're on top of it. I mean, you ask the right question. Where is -- where is the money -- where are the shells that we're looking -- we should be looking under? And one is the doctors' fix. The other is the first 10-year number is a fallacious number.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, I guess (INAUDIBLE) people. I think they just want to know what's the real number and not what's the number that everyone's sort of hiding and playing with. I think, you know...

GREGG: The real number in the House bill is not a trillion dollars. It spends $3 trillion. The real number in the House bill isn't that it cuts Medicare by $500 billion, it cuts Medicare by a trillion dollars in the second 10-year tranche. And it raises taxes by well over a trillion dollars.

VAN SUSTEREN: Senator, thank you. Of course, we will be watching this as the bill travels Capitol Hill. Thank you, sir.

GREGG: Thank you, Greta.


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