Roundtable on Health Care and the August Recess

Roundtable on Health Care and the August Recess

By Special Report With Bret Baier - July 30, 2009


HARRY REID, (D-NV) SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: I think that you folks have created the deadlines. We haven't. I'm still cautiously optimistic that we will get something out of Finance Committee before this work period ends. But that is a deadline you created. We haven't created it.

BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: This window between now and the August recess, I think, is going to be the make or break period. I really want to get it done by the August recess.

JOE BIDEN, U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: We must and will enact reform by the end of August, and we can't wait.

REID: My desire is to get it done this work period. And I'm going to continue pushing to see everything to do everything I can to get it done this work period.


BRET BAIER, "SPECIAL REPORT" HOST: OK. So did the media create the deadline?

Let's look at some polls about health care for the administration. First of all, the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, what do you think of the president's health care plan? Right now 42 percent say it's a bad idea compared to 26 percent back in April saying it was a bad idea.

Then you take a look at the president's handling of health care reform. Right now, approval is at 41 percent, disapprove, 46 percent. And you compare that to Bill Clinton back in July of 1994 when he was dealing with health care and the numbers looking about the same.

And then the CBS/New York Times poll, impact of current health care bill on American's personal cost, increase, 59 percent, decrease, 15 percent.

Let's bring in our panel, Bill Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard, Mort Kondracke, Executive Editor of "Roll Call," and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer - Bill, thoughts?

BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": Yes, that NBC/Wall Street Journal poll you showed there - in April, three months ago, good idea, 33 percent, bad idea, 26 percent. There has been three months idea. Good idea gained three points, bad idea has gained 16. Now it is 36/42.

In other words, one in five Americans have made up their minds in the last few months and listened to the debate. Obama started out ahead. He had a bit of a margin. 19 percent of Americans have made up their minds in the last few months, 16 percent to 3 percent against the health care plan.

This health care plan is getting killed because there is an actual debate going on about it, and four out of five Americans who were undecided before, who said they didn't know enough or they weren't sure, have been listening to the debate and have turned against it.

BAIER: Mort?

MORT KONDRACKE, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, "ROLL CALL": Look, practically everybody agrees that the system has to be reformed. We have too many people uninsured. The costs are exploding. Our employers can't compete in international competition, et cetera. Even the Republicans are in favor of some kind of reform.

And if George Bush had only pushed health care reform when he had a Republican Congress we might not be having this horrible fight right now.

The problem is that the Democrats, especially, you know, both Obama and the liberals who run the committees in Congress, all except the Senate Finance Committee, want this government-heavy program that is going to cost a lot of money. People are scared to death of what they are hearing.

And now they have decided to conduct a jihad against the insurance companies, as though everything is their fault.

BAIER: In fact, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi today said "The insurance companies had been immoral all along. They are the villains in this." She went a long way in talking to reporters today.

KONDRACKE: The health insurance industry beat Hillary-care back in the 1990's. It has completely changed its position on this thing. It is now in favor of insurance reform. It will not ban preexisting conditions anymore. It will not - people would be covered if they lose their jobs, et cetera.

The insurance industry has completely turned around on this, and gets no credit from the Democrats.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Interesting to hear from Mort that the person who is responsible is, of course, George Bush, because not only hurricanes, floods, and rising oceans, but only if he had done this we wouldn't be in this stew.

The reason we are in this stew is because the dogs won't eat the dog food. You can sell it and have a pretty can, as people learn about it - that the reason is, it's not because of tactics, it is not because Obama stayed out of it or he is overexposed or underexposed. It's not because of personalities, it's not because Teddy Kennedy isn't there on Tom Daschle.

It is because of the numbers and the facts. And when the CBO, the non-partisan budget office came in with the real numbers, the plan died.

Now, it will come back, I think, in a very minor, watered-down fashion at the end of the year. But the overhaul of this economy of 1/6 of this economy that Obama has promised will not hold up. It's because at the beginning he said what he's going to do is expand coverage and reduce costs.

A nine-year-old could tell you that can't be done, and the CBO has shown why it can't be done.

BAIER: One of the big battles is whether a public option, a federal- run public option will be on the table come the fall when these bills discussed.

The president and the administration have gone out of their way saying, listen, it is not government's takeover of health care. It's not a single-payer system like Canada. It's just not. Take a listen to this.


OBAMA: First of all, nobody is talking about some government takeover of health care. I'm tired of hearing that.


REP. BARNEY FRANK, (D) MASSACHUSETTS: I'm all for it. I'm big sponsor. I'm a cosponsor to single-payer for a long time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't you think we should scratch everything and start new with single-payer?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why shouldn't we start with single-payer new?

FRANK: Because we don't have the votes for it. I wish we did. I think if we get a good public option, it could lead to single payer, and that is the best way to reach single payer.

I think the best way we're going to get single payer, the only way, is to have a public option and demonstrate its strength and its power.


BAIER: Just to be clear, single payer is the Canadian style where the government runs everything. That is Representative Barney Frank talking about that.

In a moment where he was talking to a single-payer group, Mort, on the left, but it kind of lifted the curtain a bit.

KONDRACKE: Well, there's no question of what a single payer that - sorry, a public plan that pays Medicare rates, which will undercut private insurance, and will gradually lead to the end of private insurance, and you will be left with only a Medicare for everybody, which is crazy. Medicare is going broke. The government system is going broke.

Private insurance does things like institute health I.T., does disease management. Medicare has failed every time it has tried to do any of that.

KRAUTHAMMER: The reason people are soured on all of this is because of the disingenuousness. We hear the president say that the public option is not a government takeover, and all it's about is keeping the insurance companies honest. Those are his words.

Then we hear an important Democrat in the House say that the public option is the way to get single payer, meaning a government system, as in Canada. That's the only way to do it.

And of course, everybody who listens to this understands that if you have a public option with endless subsidies out of the federal treasury, it will defeat and destroy all the private insurance, and we're going to end up like a British or Canadian system.

BAIER: Bill, last word.

KRISTOL: I was over at Rayburn where the energy and commerce committee is meeting. Chairman Waxman is desperately -

BAIER: Right this hour.

KRISTOL: At this hour. It's quite a scene. All these little huddles, the blue dogs huddling. Five of the seven blue dogs, I'm told, are no longer with Waxman. He has not been able to assure them to produce no draft of Part A of the bill which is the contentious part that will satisfy the blue dogs.

Two of them, Zach Space from Ohio and Gordon from Tennessee are hanging in there with Waxman for now. Public option is one of the key issues.

For me the question is do the blue dogs just cave on this and do they turn out to be French poodles, or do the blue dogs stick to their guns and say we're not going to get something ram-roaded through this committee before recess?

KRAUTHAMMER: They won't eat the dogfood.


A President Who Is Hearing Things
Richard Benedetto · November 12, 2014
Obama Is No Clinton
Larry Elder · November 13, 2014
Bret Stephens' Call for Robust U.S. Foreign Policy
Peter Berkowitz · November 16, 2014
Red Tide Rising
Charles Kesler · November 9, 2014

Special Report With Bret Baier

Author Archive

Follow Real Clear Politics

Latest On Twitter