August 19, 2009 News Corp
VAN SUSTEREN: Voters want answers on health care. What they don't want is for the Democrats to go it alone. Now, according to one poll, 59 percent of people say Congress should not approve a health care plan if it's not bipartisan. But will the Democrats go it alone anyway, shut Republicans out of the health care debate? The New York Times reports that Democrats do not think the GOP is going to cooperate on health care reform. The Times quotes White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel as saying, "The Republican leadership has made a strategic decision that defeating President Obama's health care proposal is more important for their political goals than solving the health insurance problems that Americans face every day."
In a press briefing today, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs pulled back from the report.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We are focused on a process that continues in the Senate with both parties. The president again met with Senator Baucus on Friday in Montana, and they discussed the progress that was being made among Democrats and Republicans on the Finance Committee. That's our focus.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAN SUSTEREN: Senator Chuck Grassley is ranking Republican member of the "Gang of six," a bipartisan group of senators working for a deal in the Senate on the health care bill. and according to The New York Times, the White House sees criticism by Senator Grassley as a sign there is little hope of reaching a bipartisan deal. Is that true?
Senator Grassley joins us live. Good evening, Senator. And is there little hope of a bipartisan deal, sir?
SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: I haven't given up yet, and I haven't said anything new since we adjourned for the summer break that I've been saying for the last three months. So for the White House to draw any conclusions other than what I've told the president right to his face -- and I've said a couple things that are very important, and I've said them before. I've told him for several weeks that, number one, it would really help get bipartisanship if he would make a statement that he would sign a bill that didn't have a public option, or what some of us call a government-run health plan, in it.
And the second one was, in response to a question he asked me about would I be (ph) three or four Republicans going along with the Democrats to make a bipartisan issue, and on that issue, I answered him the same way I've been telling a lot of people for three or four months, that I would not go along because that's not bipartisan.
What you have to have when you're rejiggering one sixth of our U.S. economy, and when you're dealing with health care because that's life-and- death issue for every American, affecting every American citizen, it's got to be done with lots of Democrats and a lot of Republicans, and that's bipartisanship. And it's my responsibility to do something that would get broad support among Republicans, and it's Senator Baucus's Republican to get something that would get broad support among Democrats.
VAN SUSTEREN: Senator, when you put the question right to the president, straight up to the president, Would you sign a statement, no public option, what did he say?
GRASSLEY: Well, I bet you know what he said. He didn't answer me. But then you've got this weekend. You have the secretary of HHS saying -- Ms. Sebelius, saying that maybe it -- a public option's not so important. And then the next day, the left hits the White House with regret about that and they back off of it. So they run a trial balloon up, you get hopes up that maybe they want to compromise, and then you find out it's a little bit like when we brought up the issue of capping (ph) the exclusion. It looked like the White House might go for it, then they got some heat and they backed down. So you don't really know where the president's standing, and that's part of our problem.
VAN SUSTEREN: Did the president -- when you said to the president, essentially -- I don't mean to paraphrase you, but that three or four Republicans joining the Democrats is not bipartisan, when you put that to him, what did he say?
GRASSLEY: He expressed appreciation about how you work and working together and how, you know, it's politically sensitive, but there wasn't anything really definitive in his statement to me.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right, now, at 9:00 PM tomorrow night, you as part of the Finance Committee have a -- have a teleconference, is that right, with the other members of the so-called "Gang of six"?
GRASSLEY: That's right. That's one of two meetings that we want to have during this interim so we don't waste the whole month of August in our talking together to try to reach an agreement.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right. What do you think is the most important issue? Tomorrow night at 9:00 PM, what do you expect to put on the table?
GRASSLEY: Well, it's not quite that easy, Greta. I think we're going to have a general discussion among the six of us, what are we learning or - - from our town meetings because there is strong feeling at the grass roots that you've seen expressed on the town meetings, and there's going to be some analysis of that, whether that affects the situation. And then I would expect a little bit of negotiation and talking on some minor issues.
But I don't think you can do much over the telephone of reaching conclusions that's going to say, We've moved a long ways tonight. That's not going to be possible tomorrow night. But we're going to continue talking, as we have, and -- and I think that what comes out of it is that you're -- you're -- you're still going to have a commitment to continue to talk. But he knows? August could make a big difference.
Now, when I say that, a lot of your people in journalism like you have read things into it that I haven't meant, so I hesitate to talk about it. But if democracy means anything, and you have town meetings, you know, you've got to take that into consideration. You got to listen to your constituents or else you don't have democracy.
VAN SUSTEREN: Senator, thank you, sir. And enjoy your recess at home, sir.
GRASSLEY: Thank you.