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Interview with Senator John Kerry

Interview with Senator John Kerry

By John King, USA - March 28, 2012

KING: As the nine Supreme Court justices prepare to decide the fate of President Barack Obama's overhaul, one of the most influential supporters of the law and of the president tells me he will defend the individual mandate any time anywhere to anyone.

That he is Massachusetts Senator John Kerry. We spoke a bit earlier.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KING: Senator, you were part of writing this bill in the first place. You understand the politics of the moment in this election year on Capitol Hill. If the court strikes down all or part of this law, is there any prayer the Congress would do anything before the November election, or will we have to wait until after?

KERRY: Well, if they did, which I don't believe there is a justification to do, but if they did, I think Congress should move immediately, obviously.

Needless to say, it depends on exactly what might be affected. But, if its breadth is in its entirety, it is going to be very hard to do before the election. But if there is some smaller component, I believe Congress would have an obligation.

KING: You gave an interview with "The Boston Herald" yesterday. You know the history of 2010. The health care issue did not play well for the Democrats in the 2010 elections, especially in those won by Tea Party members.

You told this to "The Boston Herald." "I want this debate about health care in this election, because I think when Americans learn the difference between the benefit of having coverage and how it lowers costs, it is like insuring your house."

Are you sure about that, that you want to fight this out in 2012?

KERRY: I feel very confident about it because I think the evidence -- in Massachusetts, for instance, individual premiums have gone down 50 percent because more people are sharing the risk.

It is fundamental notion of insurance. But in addition to that, there are a host of good things are already beginning to happen as a result of this bill. For instance, hospitals are now paying differently. Patients are being discharged and managed differently between primary care physicians all the way through the system.

All of these things, electronic records, other things are going to reduce the cost of health care. If you got rid of this law, day one, immediately, you add $2 trillion back to the deficit and you wind up with a whole bunch of Americans who are going to be told, sorry, you don't have insurance anymore, even though you have terminal cancer. Sorry, you are not covered even though it is a pregnancy, but that's a preexisting condition.

Kids, who are currently covered until the age of 26, will no longer be covered. Seniors, tens of thousands of seniors will suddenly find they are no longer getting prescription drugs that they get today. There would be a whole upheaval that I think people are only just now beginning to focus on.

KING: As you know, many members of your own party ran from that debate in 2010. Are you confident this time they understand -- to they believe that was a mistake and they should embrace the mandate, they should embrace the federal role, they should embrace a national solution?

KERRY: I think that in 2010, there were a lot of currents at play that are not at play this year. We have seen the extremism of the Tea Party in the House of Representatives that keeps taking our nation to the brink fiscally in its refusal to act normally. You saw the failure of the super committee because people take a pledge to a lobbyist not to raise any revenue even from the wealthiest people in the country.

What the president understood is you cannot reduce the deficit ultimately and deal with America's competitive and fiscal challenge unless you begin to get control of health care costs. This is the beginning of doing that. And I'm prepared to go out and take that argument to anybody in the country any time.

KING: You know the president of the United States was caught in an embarrassing open microphone moment during his nuclear summit in agency the other day telling the Russian president, essentially, back off. If I can win the election, I will have more flexibility on missile defense.

There have been many Republicans stepping forward to criticize the president on that, including your former governor and the likely Republican nominee. Let's listen to Mitt Romney.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Russia is not a friendly character for the world stage. And for this president to be looking for greater flexibility, where he doesn't have to answer to the American people, in his relations with Russia is very, very troubling, very alarming.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Very troubling, very alarming?

KERRY: Everybody knows missile defense has been a serious problem in the relationship.

And if there are ways to accomplish our goals, as well as to meet the needs of other nations, that's exactly what diplomacy and what international relations are about. The president never said and never will give up on his commitment to missile defense. He has been robustly committed to that.

He is the president, who, after all, got it out there. He is the one deploying it now. We are all committed to that deployment. And I don't think his comment represents anything more than the normal banter between people in private discussions which every president, Republican and Democrat alike, has had historically.

KING: You know Governor Romney better than most Democrats in this country and you know the presidential process better or at least as equal to perhaps only a handful of people still alive in this country.

Senator, rate Governor Romney as a candidate so far. KERRY: Well, I'm not -- John, there will be plenty of time to do that as we go down the road. I'm not going to. There is plenty of time to be talking about the politics.

I think the American people are kind of tired. Let's let their nominating process play out. And let's stay focused on the big issues that matter to the country, like jobs, health care, Iran, and our relationships in the world. Those are the things people are focused on.

KING: I will try that one another day.

Mr. Chairman, thanks for your time.

KERRY: You will get it another day.

(LAUGHTER)

KING: Thanks for that, sir. 

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