September 10, 2009

September 09, 2009 CNN

L. KING: Joining us now on Capitol Hill from the Russell Rotunda, our friend, Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona. He was the standard-bearer of his party last year and a member of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

First, your overall impression.

How was the speech?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Well, I thought the president is eloquent. I thought he had a lot of passion. I think it was more partisan than -- than I had expected, but -- and -- and there's a lot of questions that remain unanswered, I think. But he did give some more specific aspects of his -- of his overall proposal.

But a small example is that he says if you like your health insurance policy, you'll be able to keep it. The Congressional Budget Office says that if your employer goes to the health option and the employer -- the health policy that the government is providing and then you're going to lose the policy that you have with your employer. That's 10 million Americans, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Certainly, there are questions about how you're going to pay for this, as well, that will be explored in days to come.

L. KING: The president cited one of your proposals, Senator, tonight, as he made up -- as he made his case.


OBAMA: For those Americans who can't get insurance today because they have pre-existing medical conditions, we will immediately offer low cost coverage that will protect you against financial ruin if you become seriously ill. This was a good idea when Senator John McCain proposed it in the campaign, it's a good idea now and we should all embrace it.


L. KING: That had to move you, did it not?

MCCAIN: Yes. And I do believe that it's an important aspect, obviously. We've got to provide healthy -- available and affordable health care to all Americans. And one of the biggest problems is those that have the "pre-existing conditions." And this is, I think, obviously, a viable way to address that issue. I'm glad the president mentioned it.

And there are a lot of things we can agree on, Larry. There's many things that we can agree on and work together. Republicans want reform. We know that the system is broken, particularly Medicare. But we are very concerned about the cost. We're very concerned about this "public option." Frankly, some tests on medical malpractice reform doesn't get it. Hundreds of billions of dollars have been wasted in defensive medicine and medical malpractice reform, the requirement for it.

L. KING: What -- what is wrong -- Senator, what is wrong with, we have the Postal Service and FedEx.

What's wrong with a public option on health?

What's wrong with giving the Americans -- OK, if you can't afford this, we'll give you that?

MCCAIN: Well, the -- the Postal Service is -- is going broke. It has about a $7 billion deficit no matter what FedEx does.

Another point here is, is will the government option have an unfair advantage?

If it doesn't, then it's just one of 1,500 or more health insurance policies available -- health insurance plans available to Americans. If it has an unfair advantage, then, obviously, Americans are going to gravitate in that direction and private health insurance will be more expensive. So there -- there has to be some advantage here for people to leave their health insurance policy and that would be a government health option, in my view. And people would gravitate out of it -- out of public...

L. KING: Is there any...

MCCAIN: ...out of the private health insurance.

L. KING: Is there any is there any good reason, Senator, in a government and in a nation this rich, why anyone -- anyone should go without health needs?

MCCAIN: There is no reason why there should not be affordable and available health insurance and health care for all Americans.

The question is, are you going to have the, "public mandate?"

Are you going to have costs which escalate to over $1 trillion and no way to pay for it?

Despite what the president said tonight, there's still no -- in the estimate of the Congressional Budget Office, a way to pay for this $1 trillion added burden onto the already $9 trillion in deficits we're going to have over the next 10 years anyway. It's -- we cannot sustain this kind of deficit. It has to be paid for. The president pledged to. So far, his numbers don't add up.

L. KING: All right. Now play politics with me.

Is he going to get a bill?

MCCAIN: I hope he gets a bill. I hope we can sit down together and do the things that all of us agree on. And there are a number of things that are -- that we can agree on. And I think the American people, obviously, want that.

I don't know what the administration and the Democrats will insist on. Facts are stubborn things. The bills so far have had no bipartisanship associated with it. They were drawn up by Democrats and Republican amendments were rejected. So there's going to have to be an entire change of atmosphere here in order for us to get something done in a bipartisan basis.

L. KING: Concerning all the complaints on the right -- the president pointed out some tonight. In fact, Sarah Palin, your -- your vice presidential candidate, raised the death panel issue today in an article in "The Wall Street Journal." And the president dealt a little with that, seeming to take a dig at her.



OBAMA: Some of people's concerns have grown out of bogus claims, spread by those whose only agenda is to kill reform at any cost. The best example is the claim, made not just by radio and cable talk show hosts, but by prominent politicians, that we plan to set up panels of bureaucrats with the power to kill off senior citizens. Now, such a charge would be laughable if it weren't so cynical and irresponsible. It is a lie, plain and simple.


L. KING: What did you make of that, Senator? Did you agree with Sarah's -- the former governor's article today?

MCCAIN: Oh, I think that the president made an unnecessary comment there. It was partisan in nature. Look, the president keeps saying that if you like your health care policy, you can keep it no matter what. The Congressional Budget Office says you can't because if the government -- if your employer...

L. KING: I know, but did you...

MCCAIN: ...goes to another -- so, look, I'm not challenging the president -- I think it was an unnecessary comment and did nothing to contribute to bipartisan dialogue.

L. KING: But you don't believe there will be a death panel, though, do you?

MCCAIN: No. I do know that portions of the House bill were removed -- or one of the bills that's winding around here, which may have intimated such a thing. But -- and we know there's some questions about some of the manuals in the Veterans Administration.

But, look, instead of doing that, can't we sit down together and work together?

That might be a thought.

L. KING: One -- one other thing. Congressman Joe Wilson, Republican of South Carolina, we have found out, was the gentleman, if it can call that, who yelled out, "You lie!" when the president made a referral to non-citizens getting coverage of health insurance -- illegal aliens.

What did you make of -- of that Congressman doing that and your thoughts on that subject?

MCCAIN: Totally disrespectful, no place for it in that setting or any other and he should apologize immediately.

L. KING: Senator, thank you so much, as always, for joining us. Every time we call on you, you're right there.

We appreciate it.

MCCAIN: Thank you for having me on, Larry.

L. KING: Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona.

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