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Interview with Senator Judd Gregg

Interview with Senator Judd Gregg

By Campbell Brown - March 23, 2010

BROWN: Republicans are looking for any and all ways to block the overhaul, including possibly trying to repeal it. And a big part of that new fight started today in the Senate.

And one of the Republicans leading the charge is New Hampshire Senator Judd Gregg, and he is joining me right now.

Senator, clearly, this is a huge moment for the president. How do you think this will go down in history?

SEN. JUDD GREGG (R), NEW HAMPSHIRE: Well, unfortunately, I think it's going to go down in history as the largest expansion in our government in our history, growing our government by $2.6 trillion, at a time when we can't afford the government we have.

So, inevitably, it's going to pass on to our kids a massive amount of expenditures and government and debt that will reduce their quality of life. I mean, basically, you're taking the size of the government from 20 percent of GDP, which has been its historic size since World War II, up to 25, 26 percent of GDP. And, really, the only way to pay for that type of expansion is either through inflation, which is obviously the cruelest tax of all, or through massive tax increases, which inevitably reduce productivity and opportunity and jobs, or, in this case, by cutting Medicare and taking the money and using it to fund these brand-new entitlement programs which have nothing to do with senior citizens.

BROWN: But, to your point, you saw the Congressional Budget Office numbers that everybody was waiting on before this vote took place that do show deficit reduction over time. Do you not believe in those numbers?

GREGG: Of course not. If you believe those numbers, I will sell you a bridge in Brooklyn and probably two in Oakland.

BROWN: But don't Republicans use the CBO numbers when it is to their benefit? It seems very hypocritical to be criticizing the credibility of the CBO now, when it doesn't work.

(CROSSTALK)

GREGG: I'm not criticizing the CBO, Campbell. I'm criticizing the fact patterns on which they were asked to make their decisions.

They were asked basically to score a bill that had 10 years of taxes, 10 years of spending cuts, mostly in the Medicare area, against six years of actual expenditure and programs. So, when you match 10 years of spending and 10 years of taxes against six years of expenditure, you end up with a positive figure.

If you use a fully -- a fully phased-in program here, where you have everything functioning, this is a $2.6 trillion bill, with a trillion dollars of health care -- of reductions in Medicare spending, all of which, all those Medicare reductions are taken, and instead of being used to make Medicare stronger and more solvent, which is something we absolutely need to do, they're taken to use to expand these new entitlement programs and create these new entitlement programs for uninsured individuals.

BROWN: But let's talk what happens now, because the law is a done deal. The Senate, though, still does have to pass some fixes. And you and your fellow Republicans are doing everything in your power to prevent that from happening, offering amendments, digging for sort of obscure parliamentary procedures.

And, I guess, isn't this more of the process and procedure that your party was bashing Democrats for just last week?

GREGG: Campbell, I find it very humorous that you would say offering amendments is unusual.

Considering the context of the way this bill was passed, I can see why you would say that. Remember, this bill arrived in the Senate on a Saturday afternoon. We were given three days to look at it. No amendments were allowed by the majority party, and then we were forced to vote for it on Christmas Eve. And then it went to the House floor. No amendments were allowed. This is going to be the first vehicle where we can actually raise amendments as Republicans to try to improve this bill. That's what we're going to try to do.

Our view is, you repeal and replace this bill. You replace it with better law and better approaches towards health care. We have them. I have a proposal. A number of other members have proposals. Some of them are even bipartisan.

So, we think we can improve this bill. We're going to try to do it through the amendment process. Is there going to be any support for our amendments? No. It's pretty clear that they have sort of locked arms here on the other side of the aisle and they're not going to allow any amendments, even the amendment which Senator McCain on the floor is offering tonight, which is essentially an amendment to knock out all the sweetheart deals, like the Louisiana purchase and the $100 million hospital deal for one state, and the other deals for the other states.

He has seven specific deals that were put in this deal that have nothing to do with reform. They dealt just with giving members of Congress, especially the Senate, special deals. He is proposing to knock those out. I can't imagine why people would vote against that, other than the fact that they're just insistent that they're going to do it their way or no other way.

BROWN: But why -- and I mean this sincerely. If none of this is going to change the law, then why bother? Why not move on to other things where you do know that you can effect change? Why just let the debate drag on?

GREGG: Well, I guess, Campbell, if we accepted that process, Republicans shouldn't even show up in Washington.

I mean, this is the biggest piece of legislation I am ever going to see in my career. It's probably the biggest piece of social engineering. It's certainly the largest expansion of government in the last 50 years. You think we should walk away and not offer amendments which we think would improve it and make it a better bill?

I mean, our job, our responsibility, our responsibility to our constituents is to try to make this a better bill. And that's what we're going try do. Now, the fact that the other side of the aisle has refused to let us in the room when they negotiated this -- remember, this was -- this bill was built in a hidden room behind a hidden room behind a hidden door.

No Republicans were allowed to participate. There was no C-SPAN there, as the president said there would be. There was no committee markup of the bill that actually went to the floor of the Senate. Then it went to the House, where the deals were cut in the speaker's office.

BROWN: So, let me ask you, then, how do you plan to run against this in November? I mean, there are concrete things you may disagree with, but concrete things in this bill that Democrats are going to be talking about, seniors getting prescription drug rebates, young adults being covered under their parents' insurance, kids with preexisting conditions finally having coverage.

(CROSSTALK)

GREGG: Yes. All of that would have been covered. In fact, if they had taken my proposals, all of that would have been covered, but it would have been affordable.

What we're going to point out is that -- is the fundamental weakness of this bill, which is basically three areas. Number one, it explodes the size of the government, at a time when we can't even afford the government we have.

Number two, it uses Medicare as the piggy bank to fund these new entitlements, when Medicare savings should be used to make Medicare more solvent. And, number three, it's going to basically put the government very much in the business of managing everybody's health care in this country in a way that is very intrusive.

And those are not good things. All -- we could have accomplished significant health care reform. All these issues of insurance reform, everybody was in agreement on those. You didn't need this massive bill to accomplish those issues. So, we're going to point out the failures of the bill.

And I think the American people have shown that they understand it. The opposition to this bill is pretty strong out there, and I think it's because people understand that this is something our kids can't afford. It's just too darn big.

BROWN: Opposition may be strong, but it is the minority, which is why the president was able to pull this off.

Senator, I do appreciate your time. Thank you for joining us.

GREGG: Thank you, Campbell. OK.

 

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