Reps. Blackburn & Wasserman Schultz on "John King, USA"

Reps. Blackburn & Wasserman Schultz on "John King, USA"

By John King, USA - January 4, 2011

KING: Maybe you think what happens in Washington or who controls Washington doesn't matter, but this big shift in the balance of power is a big deal, setting the stage for major debates about health care, spending and the role in the reach of the federal government not to mention a host of Republican investigations of the Democratic administration. So let's begin with two members of the House who have a big say in what comes next.

Republican Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee is a leading conservative voice and a leading advocate of repealing that new health care law, Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida is a member of the Democratic leadership team and calls the repeal effort both wrong and a waste of time. Congresswoman Blackburn, I want to go to you first because you've just come out of an important meeting with your Republican colleagues preparing for this transfer of power here in Washington.

I want to get to some of the details in a moment but I want you to assess for yourself and for the American people the significance, what do you think it means when John Boehner and the Republicans take that gavel from Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats.

REP. MARSHA BLACKBURN (R), TENNESSEE: What it means for the American people is that we're going to take action on what they told us they want us to take action on -- the economy, jobs, repealing this health care bill, getting the American people back to work and creating the environment where jobs growth can take place. And it will be a focus. You're going to see us united on that. We are hard at work on making good on fulfilling what the American people want to see done. They have spoken loudly and we are ready to go to work.

KING: Let me ask you this question before I bring in your Democratic colleague, you know you remember two years ago, most Republicans, and even many Democrats who supported the health care overhaul, said my god, Mr. President, what are you doing? The American people care most about jobs and jobs and jobs and jobs, and I've talked privately to some of your Republican colleagues who cringe a bit saying yes, we promised to repeal health care but why don't we wait a week or three and do some growth initiatives first.

BLACKBURN: Because small business in this country and for that -- the matter of fact, large and small employers are telling us, this legislation, Obama care, is driving up the cost of insurance. It is something that is going to restrict access. It was poorly written and the implementation on this is going to be very difficult. And you know, in addition to this, John, I have talked to so many of our state legislators, individuals from around the country, and they're going, do you all have any idea how expensive this is going to be to the states? Indeed, from my state, our Democrat governor, who is outgoing, wrote a book called "Fresh Medicine" that outlines a myriad of reasons of why you don't want to do this, why it is not health reform, and why it is important that we approach addressing health care delivery in a different way.

KING: You're shaking your head as the congresswoman speaks. Why does it matter to you as a Democrat, knowing, I understand, they made a campaign promise, we could have a debate about the timing, but the Republicans made a campaign promise to do it (INAUDIBLE) full understanding of why they would do it, but you know they can't succeed. That they can't get it through the Senate and even if they could the president has a veto pencil, why do you even care?

REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D), FLORIDA: Well, because what we've been working on is trying to make sure we can continue this economic recovery and what the Republicans are going to do, by trying to repeal fruitlessly health care reform beginning tomorrow, is potentially short circuit that recovery. And what they're doing is they spent a lot of time during the campaign talking about job creation being a priority, turning the economy around being a priority, and yet tomorrow they'll take the first hypocritical step at going in the opposite direction, exploding the deficit which -- because health care reform cuts the deficit in the first ten years by $143 billion, a trillion in the second 10 years.

What they're going to try to do is deny people coverage who have preexisting conditions, prohibit people who are young adults from staying on their parents' insurance, increasing senior's prescription drug costs. That's what they're going to spend countless hours of staff member and leadership time on instead of focusing on creating jobs and turning the economy around. The opposite of what they said they would do.

KING: Congresswoman --


KING: You're shaking your head -- you're shaking your head, Congresswoman Blackburn, because you believe the health care bill increases costs. And I understand and I respect your position --


KING: However, however -- hold on one second -- hold on one second. I understand and respect your position, however the official referee here, a lot of people sometimes disagree with referees, whether it's sports or Congress, but the official referee, the Congressional Budget Office, does say the health care law would have a positive impact on the deficit.

I know you disagree. But can you change the referees in the middle of the game, if the Republicans are going to repeal this, should they put forward saying we don't think we need this, but here are the tradeoffs. Here are the cost savings as we do this?

BLACKBURN: Well, for the record, CBO, 10 years of revenues for six years of expenses. That's how they get to that number. And that is not apples to apples. It is apples and oranges, so little bit of budget trickery there. But here is what the American people want to see. They want to make certain that individuals have access to affordable health care. They want to make certain that we respect that doctor/patient relationship.

They want to make certain that they are in charge of their health care decisions. They don't like a bureaucratic mish-mash of all of these new agencies and rules and laws. That is not what they wanted. And whether it is a state legislator, whether it is our individual constituents, whether it is our employers in our districts, they are telling us that it was poorly written. It is going to be a nightmare.

This is not what we want. Get it off the books, let's start over, and do things right. And you know, I think it is really a wonderful expression from the American people that they are saying, we know that you all, Congress, that you can do better than this.


KING: But it's a political statement, is it not? You know the president has a veto pen.


KING: You know they can't get it through the Senate.

SCHULTZ: That is all it is. That is all it is.

BLACKBURN: And -- and we've got the votes to repeal this in the House. I think that when all is said and done, as Chairman Upton from Energy and Commerce said on Sunday, I think we're getting very close to the votes to override a veto. I think that we're going to be able to get this off the books. I fully believe that.

KING: Let me -- come in on this. I want to get to a few other points before we lose our time, but go ahead.

SCHULTZ: Well I agree with Marsha on the first few things she said, which is that we need to make sure that people have the opportunity to get the health care coverage that they need. We need to make sure that patients and doctors are in the driver's seat. Repealing health care reform puts insurance companies back in the driver's seat, yanks health care decisions away from doctors and patients and puts insurance company bureaucrats back in the driver's seat. That's the direction the Republicans want to take.


BLACKBURN: Insurance companies are in the driver's seat now --


KING: All right, we'll continue the health care debate I believe for a at least a few weeks if not a few months --


KING: -- or longer. But Congresswoman Blackburn, I want to come back to you. As a prominent member of the Republican Party, you know the responsibility of your party is about to assume here and in any new relationship what you do right out of the box sets a tone. People will watch Speaker Boehner take that gavel tomorrow. They will listen to him when he makes his remarks and they will watch what the new majority does in the early days in office.

In that regard I want to ask you if this troubles you at all. Darrell Issa from California is the chairman of the Government Oversight Committee and he has sent a letter to 150 trade groups, business groups, corporate groups around town, asking them for ideas. Here's a quote in his letter.

"As a trade organization comprised of members that must comply with the regulatory state, I ask for your assistance in identifying existing proposed regulations that have negatively impacted job growth in your members' industry."

Now on the one hand I understand if you want to talk about regulations and you want to reduce regulations you would ask the people who are being regulated. But in the world of politics that you and I live in and Congressman Wasserman Schultz lives in that's pretty easy to say look at this, they haven't even taken power yet and the Republicans are asking corporate America tell us what to do to make your life easier.

BLACKBURN: We have spent the entire past year holding listening sessions across our districts. We have --

KING: If you've listened why do you need to send a letter to trade groups though saying tell me what to do?

BLACKBURN: Because we are continuing to seek input from people saying, tell us what it is that is affecting you most. What we hear, what we hear regularly is regulation is a stranglehold. Well let's pinpoint some of those regulations. Health care, what you're doing with Obama care makes it unaffordable. What they want to see is taxation reduced. They want to see some certainty.

I can't tell you the number of town halls and roundtables that I did with employers, large and small, in my district throughout the mid south who would say time and again, you have got to do something about the uncertainty that is there. The regulators, the agencies, the way whether it's the EPA or the FCC, the way they are taking authority, that they really have not been given. This is something that is creating regulation that makes it very difficult for us.

What I think you're going to see, whether it is the Government Oversight Committee or whether it is oversight and investigations from Energy and Commerce, where I'm a member, we are going to be very diligent in working at looking at the impact that legislation and regulation has. Indeed in our pledge, we have said if any regulation or law has more than a $100 million impact on the American economy, it has to come back in for review. That's what the American people want to see.

KING: I want to give you the last word here and respond to that. But as I do so, I don't just want to ask tough questions of the Republicans. What about the Democrats? For two years you said the Republicans are just being the party of no, just being the party of no. We would not break that. You're in the minority now. When the Republicans have ideas you don't like will you just say no or will you say here's our plan?

SCHULTZ: Here's our test of whether we're going to be able to work with the Republicans or not and it's all up to them. We're going to measure everything they do by whether it creates jobs, whether their proposals reduce the deficit and whether they help the middle class. So far the yard stick that we're using to measure them by on those three things they are failing miserably. But tomorrow seems to be the first day that we're giving the keys to the candy store back to big business, back to corporations, actually asking corporations how we can loosen their regulations. That's how we --

KING: Democrats ask labor unions how to do --

SCHULTZ: Well that's how we sent the economy over the cliff in the last couple of years.


SCHULTZ: Excuse me, Marsha --


SCHULTZ: Marsha, I let you finish --

BLACKBURN: Job creators.

SCHULTZ: We sent -- not allowing there to be appropriate balance of regulation is how we almost sent the economy over a cliff and we had to rescue it and turn the economy around. If we're going to go back to that place then we are going to have real problems for consumers and real problems for this economy.

KING: All right, Congressman Wasserman Schultz, Congresswoman Blackburn, this is the beginning of a new day in Washington, is the beginning of some of them are familiar, but new wrinkles to these debates. We'll have you both back throughout the days and weeks ahead. We appreciate your time tonight on the eve of this historic change in Washington.


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