Rep. Rangel and Senator Hatch Discuss Health Care

Rep. Rangel and Senator Hatch Discuss Health Care

By Face the Nation - July 19, 2009

SMITH: Welcome again to the broadcast. Bob Schieffer is off, but he'll be joining us again in just a few minutes.

Joining us now from New York, Congressman Charles Rangel, and here in our studio, Senator Orrin Hatch. Good morning, gentlemen.

HATCH: Good morning.

RANGEL: Good morning, Harry.

SMITH: Congressman, let me start with you. The head of the Congressional Budget Office came out this week; he said the plans he's looked at so far don't do the job, nor do -- and, in fact, the cost of health care might go up.

Have you guys botched this job so far?

RANGEL: No. I'm surprised that the Congressional Budget Office had these views and didn't share them with the Ways and Means Committee before we concluded our work. But it's clear that they're working with different assumptions than the White House and the Congress is.

But we've got to fix this terrible problem that we have in our country. And we will do it.

SMITH: Can it be done without significantly raising taxes?

RANGEL: Well, no. It's the question of how much savings that we do have. And we were able to raise $500 billion by savings in the Medicaid and Medicare system. And we raised $500 billion in taxes. And we had to do this in order to reach the course of the bill.

But how much money you have to raise depends on how much savings you had. And so there are certain things that the Congressional Budget Office didn't score, savings that we have, with people not getting sick, preventive care, people not having to be readmitted to the hospital, and a variety of things that is just a question of which assumptions are you using.

But at the end of the day, we will be getting together and we will have national health insurance. We have to have it for our country.

SMITH: Senator, let me ask you this. A couple of the ideas -- taxing the rich; the other one is especially putting a very tough tax on small-business owners. Are either of those going to fly with Republicans?

HATCH: Well, we're talking about more government, more taxes, more spending, you know, tax the rich. Well, if you tax the rich, that means that you're going to push small business into a 45.7 percent top tax rate, which is like -- like 10 percent more than corporations pay. And it's going to kill a lot of jobs, a lot of opportunities.

I don't follow why we've got to spend another $1.5 trillion to $2 trillion, most people estimate, on top of the $2.5 trillion we're already spending in this country and yet still have, under one estimate, at least 33 million people without health insurance.

I mean, these are things that are real serious problems. I think, if Charlie and I could sit down together, we'd get it done.


He's -- I have a lot of confidence in -- in his ability. And we're good friends. But it's become so political. The House bill's a total partisan bill. The health committee in the Senate, the Senate bill, is a total partisan bill. And our only hope, maybe, is to have Senator Baucus be able to put something together on the Finance Committee in the Senate.

SMITH: The president really wants these bills before the recess so they can be dealt with after the recess. Is this -- is this all going too fast?

HATCH: Well, I think so. I mean, you're talking about one-sixth of the American economy. You're talking about myriad problems here. You're talking about people who are all over the map, as far as what they really want to do.

And I think there's a really good reason why the president wants to do it. He knows he can't sell if it lasts -- if the debate lasts very long because it is so expensive and costly.

SMITH: All right.

Congressman, let me ask you this, because there is overwhelming support across the country for some kind of health care reform. The same question I asked the senator: Is this going too fast?

And are the ideas that are being put out there -- are they realistic?

RANGEL: We've been dealing with this bill for -- for over six months. And we've had hours of hearings. And the fact that it's not bipartisan is not because we Democrats don't want to have a bipartisan bill. We don't have any Republican answers.

It's easy to say what you don't like about this bill. But it would be far more constructive if we had something to work on.

So I'm depending on my friend Orrin Hatch to...


... at least in the Senate, to try to see, is there a Republican bill in the Senate? There certainly isn't in the House.

And it's just wrong to say that this is a tax on small businesses. We exempt small business from a lot of the penalties. We give tax credits so that they're able to hire and get people health care in small businesses. This is a tax on less than 1 percent of the wealthiest people in the United States of America.

And so to say that this is a penalty on small business just isn't so.

Sure, we wish we had more time.

RANGEL: But the president has given us a deadline. We're working under it. Our committee has reported out a bill. We're waiting for the Senate to do what? Do anything.

SMITH: Senator, let me ask you this. This notion of trying to take Medicare spending away from Congress, give it to a separate sort of independent agency as one means of trying to cut some costs, any chance of that that is going to happen?

HATCH: Well, they're doing that in England right now. And you can't get health care when you need it. And when you do get it, it's generally too late in some areas.

Look, we have a great health care system in this country, the best in the world. Republicans have at least four bills that would do better than this. I'm going to file a bill in the near future that basically would be modeled after the CHIP bill, the child health insurance bill that was a Hatch-Kennedy bill.

And that bill would emphasize and allows the states with all of their different demographics -- each state is different, Utah is not Massachusetts, Massachusetts is not Utah. We would give them the money but let them design their own plan, and do it under certain very good economic circumstances.

SMITH: Well, the number of people enrolled in that has actually been going up.

HATCH: Well, that's right. And, frankly -- well, let's be honest about it. One of the big problems is, is that we really haven't been invited very strongly into either bill in the House or the Senate. And there hasn't been a real interchange with Republicans on this issue. We have a lot of ideas I think would help.

I don't blame Charlie for that. I blame the leadership. And I blame the president for pushing something so hard so that they're definitely afraid that over the August recess that if they don't get this passed, it's...

SMITH: Folks are going to go home and get an earful.

HATCH: Well, that's right. And they are going to get an earful, because you're talking about mandates on small businesses, businesses with 20 to 249 employees that really are going to kill small business and kill jobs. SMITH: Congressman, let me ask you about the idea of taxing health care benefits as a means of trying to draw down some of these costs. Is that off the table?

RANGEL: Well, I can't say for the Senate. I have no idea what they're doing over there. Clearly it's off the table -- well, everything is on the table. My committee did not put it in our bill. Any recommendations that has been made by CBO has been made after we reported our bill.

They believe that it's cost-saving for the administration to be able to set the reimbursement costs of Medicare while everything is on the table. I don't see the executive branch being able to set the course if they can't raise the taxes.

And so everything is on the table. And to say that Republicans in the Senate are not involved, my friend Chuck Grassley, the senator on the Finance Committee, he spends more time in the White House than I do.

So the opportunity is there for anyone to jump in. And I welcome anything that Republicans want to do to improve this bill.

SMITH: All right. Senator, what were you going to say, real quick?

HATCH: Well, let's be honest about it. The real problem here is, is that you've got Senator Baucus, who is trying to put together a bill that would use the exclusion, in other words, would tax health care above a certain level.

They're talking about $25,000 plans now and taxing above that. I'm shocked that there are $25,000 plans. They tell me there are in New York some of them, even for teachers.

Well, the problem with that is, is that if you don't do that, then there's a gradual push-up all the time in cost so that you have Cadillac plans over regular plans that really would work.

SMITH: All right. Very quickly, Congressman, has the president done enough to shepherd this through?

RANGEL: The president is working around the clock to do something. And I don't want to be negative about the other party, but, quite frankly, they haven't presented anything to the Senate, to the House, or to the country.

So the president is doing his part. We, in Ways and Means, are doing our part. We have a deadline. We will meet it. The question is, what do we expect the other House to do? God only has the answer to that. And my friend Orrin Hatch.


SMITH: Senator Orrin Hatch, Congressman Rangel, thank you both for your time this morning. HATCH: Thank you.


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