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Interview with Senator Jon Kyl

By The NewsHour, The NewsHour - March 23, 2010

JIM LEHRER: This was a day of triumph for the president and his party, as the sweeping health reform bill was signed into law.

Ray Suarez begins our coverage.

RAY SUAREZ: Democrats descended on the White House this morning to watch history made.

RAY SUAREZ: Jubilant cheers greeted President Obama and Vice President Biden as they entered the East Room. The cheering continued after nearly every sentence the president spoke.

He said the bill signing marked a new season for America.

U.S. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Today, after almost a century of trying, today, after over a year of debate, today, after all the votes have been tallied, health insurance reform becomes law in the United States of America.

BARACK OBAMA: Today.

RAY SUAREZ: The president also acknowledged the labors of decades, and especially this past year, to arrive at this day.

BARACK OBAMA: It's easy to succumb to the sense of cynicism about what's possible in this country.

But, today, we are affirming that essential truth, a truth every generation is called to rediscover for itself: that we are not a nation that scales back its aspirations. We are not a nation that falls prey to doubt or mistrust.

RAY SUAREZ: With that, Mr. Obama signed the most extensive change in domestic policy since the 1960s. It's designed to extend medical coverage to more than 32 million uninsured Americans.

But, almost immediately, the attorney general of Florida and more than a dozen others filed lawsuits, charging, the new law is unconstitutional.

BILL MCCOLLUM, Florida attorney general: The freedoms of Americans, and particularly in my state of Florida, were impaired by this bill. And it forces people to do something in the sense of buying a health care policy, or pay a penalty, a tax or a fine, that, simply, the Constitution does not allow Congress to do.

RAY SUAREZ: And, on CBS, the Republican national chairman, Michael Steele, called for ousting Democrats from power, including the speaker of the House.

MICHAEL STEELE, chairman, Republican National Committee: As Nancy Pelosi is the architect of the demise, in my view, of one-sixth of our economy, she should be fired for her failure to -- to serve the interests of the American people.

RAY SUAREZ: The president took on the critics in his second event of the day, a speech to health care reform advocates.

BARACK OBAMA: I heard one of the Republican leaders say this was going to be Armageddon. Well, you know, two months from now, six months from now, you can check it out. We will look around.

BARACK OBAMA: And we will see.

BARACK OBAMA: You don't have to take my word for it.

RAY SUAREZ: Back at the Capitol, the Senate began debating a House bill containing fixes to the new health reform law.

SEN. HARRY REID, D-Nev., majority leader: We're going to move forward and make a good law we just passed, signed by the president today, even better.

RAY SUAREZ: It was unclear how long that will take. Republicans warned, they're not giving up the fight.

SEN. JUDD GREGG, R-N.H.: What we intend to do is to offer a series of substantive amendments, the purpose of which is to try to correct some of the fundamental flaws. I know we can't fix it, really, because it's such a terrible bill.

RAY SUAREZ: In the meantime, the president travels to Iowa City, Iowa, on Thursday to begin selling the benefits of the new law.

JIM LEHRER: Now a further Republican leadership perspective on what has happened.

Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona is the minority whip of the Senate. And he joins us now from the Capitol.

Senator, welcome.

SEN. JON KYL, R-Ariz., minority whip: Thank you. Good evening.

JIM LEHRER: One of the things that Senator -- that President Obama said today was that the rhetoric of health care reform has now been replaced by the reality of reform. Do you see it that way?

SEN. JON KYL: I think that both will continue, when the reality of the cost of this legislation sinks in, the fact that insurance premiums aren't going down, they're going to go up, that tax increases of a massive amount will be needed to pay for it, that student loans are now being taken over by the federal government as a way to help pay for health care reform, the cuts in Medicaid -- Medicare, rather.

Those kinds of realities, I think, will sink in over time. And I think you will hear a lot more rhetoric, especially as the election approaches, talking about what I think is a very serious matter. I know the president was laughing, and there was a lot of cheering. There weren't any Republican legislators in that ceremony today, because this was done on a purely partisan basis, with the slimmest of margins.

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