Panel on the New Health Care Law

Panel on the New Health Care Law

By Special Report With Bret Baier - March 23, 2010


PRESIDENT 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.


SEN. JOHN CORNYN, R-TEXAS: The voters, the people always get the final say-so. And I think this is very important to remember as the president intends to take a victory lap on this bill. He is going to take a victory lap on a bill that the American people don't want because they know we can't afford it, because it'll raise their premiums, cut Medicare, and raise taxes on the middle class.


BRET BAIER, "SPECIAL REPORT" HOST: Well, the health care bill that passed the Senate on Christmas Eve is now the law of the land. The Democrats very happy about that in the East Room as the president signed that bill into law.

Before speaking and before actually signing the bill, Vice President Biden did the introduction and had a little introduction of his own to President Obama.



VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: This is a big f***ing deal.


BAIER: It was a big deal.

Let's bring in our panel, Steve Hayes, senior writer for The Weekly Standard, A.B. Stoddard, associate editor of The Hill, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer.

I will just toss it to you, Steve. What do you think?


STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: What can you say after that? In a Washington, D.C. environment I think that needs a little levity for those of us that don't like what happened. I think it's a nice moment.

What's most interesting about the way that Washington has responded is in a way this whole process typifies Washington, what happened typifies Washington. The reconciliation that's going on in the Senate right now is typical of sort of Washington and Washington arrogance.

But the thing that I found most striking today was the abrupt reversal of conventional wisdom, because conventional wisdom all along as Democrats were getting pummeled about this in poll after poll showed that the American people don't like this, didn't want it, was that they were in trouble in November.

And now as this passes there is one Gallup poll today that suggests some people like it. And conventional wisdom has done a 180 and now the Republicans are in trouble, and are they going to pay for the fact that they were unified against health care?

It is the most amazing example of Washington as a fickle town where people actually can't think for themselves but follow polls wherever they go.


A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, THE HILL: Well, I'm going to join in. I mean, I think that there are fresh polls since reform passed, showing the majority still oppose it, showing the majority still believes the Democrats passed it for political reasons and not because they thought it was the right thing to do.

But there are majorities who believe that President Obama now has a big accomplishment under his belt. So go figure.

I think that as the Democrats bask in the glow of their relief, mostly, and a little bit of triumph, we don't know whether or not they can muster the momentum to dig themselves out of a political hole, whether or not this will become a new season in America as President Obama said today, or whether or not it's just going to be the stimulus package and six percent of the country will like it in a few months. We don't know the answer to that question.

But I do think since Sunday night, I think that Republicans have made a mistake in concentrating so hard on this question of whether or not - they are fighting amongst themselves whether they are going to repeal and replace or just repeal. It's ridiculous.

What they need to do is focus on the provisions of this bill, this law that our bad 16,000 IRS agents, whatever they want to focus on, the fact that Medicare savings won't go to solvency. You could pick a lot of things and you could talk it up.

But to try to talk in the moment when Democrats are focusing on these very appealing consumer protections that are going to roll in right away, and try to talk about repeal is a mistake.

BAIER: One thing we know, Charles, is perhaps Vice President Biden will be more aware of open microphones here on out.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: And I think he is the man who, perhaps without intending, has given historical context to this presidency. After all, Obama sees himself as a successor to FDR and Truman, so now we have the historical procession, the New Deal, the Square Deal, and the "big deal."


BAIER: With an explicative in between.

KRAUTHAMMER: It would make a great t-shirt or bumper sticker.

BAIER: They're already out there.

KRAUTHAMMER: You can't make stuff up in this country.

Look, I think you guys are right. It's very interesting how you get a pivot in what people are saying today about who is going to win or who is going to lose.

I don't think it's the result of a single Gallup poll. I think it is that this town loves a winner. And today the president is a winner, and so all of a sudden he is hero, and all of a sudden he is a man of immense accomplishment, and all of a sudden the popular reaction to this will change in November.

I think the Republicans were wrong to overemphasize in all of the closing arguments in Congress on the weekend about how unpopular it was. You ought to oppose it on principle on detail, about how it will affect our economy, et cetera.

It is unpopular, but I think Obama was right when he spoke to his caucus and said, look, if the bill dies, it will always be considered a bad bill. If it lives, then we will have it actually happening. It will unfold and people will make a judgment as its provisions are enacted.

I think on balance it's a negative if you are a Democrat, but it's not as negative as Republicans have pretended, and they will discover that.

BAIER: Well, the Senate now is trying to fix this bill in the reconciliation process. And here are a few amendments Republicans have offered in this process as we go through the week. One of them is the no expanding Medicare without Medicare savings, essentially no double-counting Medicare savings. This is what we've talked about, about the $500 billion not being used twice.

No erectile dysfunction drugs to sex offenders. Bureaucrat cap-and-trade - this is a amendment that would ensure no provisions in the health care bill increase the size of government bureaucracies in Washington, and repeal new powers given to the secretary of HHS - 1700 in the new law now give new authorities to write regulations and issue definitions for the secretary of HHS.

This is going to be a long process, Steve, over the week. And we could have what's called vote-o-rama on all these amendments on Friday. What about this effort?

HAYES: It's an interesting effort, obviously, and some of those are serious and some are not. But what Republicans are trying to do is get Democrats to vote in favor of something so that the bill changes. And then it gets kicked back to the House.

Obviously, you know, it's going to be embarrassing for Democrats who have to vote to give erectile dysfunction drugs to sex offenders. It's a terrible thing to have to vote for. I don't expect that that one that's likely to come up in campaign commercials.

But a more serious amendment is one that John McCain offered shortly before we came on here which wants - which seeks to take out all of the sweetheart deals that were in the final Senate bill.

BAIER: Because now they are law.

HAYES: They are law.

BAIER: This is, as of today, all those deals are the law of the land.

HAYES: Exactly right. And John McCain, who has a history of fighting against pork and things like that, received a phone call from Mitch McConnell saying I think you should be the one to offer this amendment.

So McCain went out and gave a speech and detailed all of these sweetheart deals once again that are familiar to our viewers. He is asking Democrats to vote against the sweetheart deals so people like a Blanche Lincoln or others who are in political jeopardy potentially in the fall are going to have to be voting in favor of sweetheart deals, something that their opponents can use against them.

BAIER: A.B., quickly, where do we go in this process? Does it actually happen? Is it actually fixed? And does the Senate get the 51 votes without sending it back to the House?

STODDARD: It really depends what these amendments end up being. It's going to be very tough. They have more than 51 Democrats to play with so that they can let some people off on some of these votes. They don't want to change the bill. The House has said they can take the bill back just with minor changes, but anything major it would be really a huge problem.

I think that the most major challenge fell last night for Republicans, and that was on a Social Security provision. From now on I think it's sort of a good side show. It might go back to the House on something small, but I don't think that they imagined that it will be Swiss cheese.


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