August 2, 2009

So where do Conserva-Dems retreat when they want to get their Republican "centrist" talking points out there on health care reform? Why Sean Hannity's show of course.

HANNITY: Senator, always good to have you. Thank you for being back with us. Appreciate it.

BAYH: Good to be back with you, Sean.

HANNITY: All right. Let's start a little bit with the House version and the House turmoil that's been unfolding all week here. First, we hear that there's a deal with the Blue Dogs, the more conservative Democrats. They you've got the liberal congressmen rebelling, and you've got turmoil here and you've got a president that really wanted to push this through in two weeks and hadn't read the bill.

As you stand back, what is one to make of this process?

BAYH: Well, to the average American, Washington probably looks a little chaotic, Sean. But the important thing here is that we take our time and get it right. This affects every American. And particularly those 65 percent who currently have insurance. We need to make sure that we try and keep their costs under control going forward.

That's what's bothering most people. And put into place some reforms that make sure they won't lose their insurance. If they lose their job or they've got a health care condition of some kind. So that's number one. Number two, get the deficit down. This has got to be a part of long-term fiscal responsibility. Not making it go up.

And third, we shouldn't hurt the economy in the short run and this has got to be part of a long-term strategy to make America more competitive. So, you know, all these shenanigans and going on, it's regrettably part of the process but matters, Sean, is we have to keep our eye on the ball and at the end of all this deliver a product that's good for America.

HANNITY: All right. I understand that. But a lot of Americans and polls bear this out, they're very, very skeptical of what is being talked about in Washington. Or, look, they're looking at Social Security's bankrupt. Medicare is bankrupt. Now we're going to take over nearly 20 percent of the American economy.

And the American people are saying, why should we trust people in D.C. at all? And the CBO then scores it and their numbers are extremely high. We've already accumulated enough debt and deficits.

Are you -- are you trying to get that message to members of your party that they need to go back to more fiscal responsibility?

BAYH: Well, Sean, I definitely am. As you will recall, I was the only member of my party to vote against the omnibus spending bill. And if we had not passed that, we would have saved more than $200 billion over the course of the next 10 years.

And I was one of only two or three to vote against the budget because of my concerns that the -- you know, the rate of spending was three or four times the rate of inflation. So, you know, as a former governor who balanced budgets and left my state with the largest budget surplus in our state's history, I care deeply about fiscal responsibility.

And for this health care reform process to be successful, Sean, it's got to do two things. First, speak to that 65 percent who currently have insurance. Say to them what's in it for you, particularly keeping their costs under control, and secondly, the country is in the process of going bankrupt, exploding health care costs are a part of that, how are we going to get that under control in this process.

HANNITY: All right.

BAYH: If we don't do those two things, this won't be successful.

HANNITY: But do you really think America is going bankrupt?

BAYH: Well, if you look at the size of the deficit this year, it's almost 50 percent of everything we're spending. Now this year is a little bit unusual because of some of the things that had to be done to rescue the -- you know, financial system and that sort of thing.

But even after this year, Sean, the rate of the increase in the debt is much faster than the growth of our economy. That means that we're going to be paying interest on interest and over the next 10 years it will get away from us. So we're going to have to make some hard decisions here to get spending under control, and get this deficit down.

So going bankrupt, maybe that's, you know, being a little forceful. But we are on an unsustainable course. Let's put it that way.

HANNITY: All right. That's a word I use often, Senator. That America is on an unsustainable course. We cannot financially -- this is not possible and we're really robbing from future generations.

Have you expressed this specifically to the president? Have you had discussions with him about how we need to get our budget in balance considering he's accumulated this debt and these deficits?

BAYH: Yes, I had an opportunity to meet with him a couple of weeks ago on this subject. And I indicated to him exactly what I've told your viewers here tonight. That for me, I want t o know what this is going to do to help resolve our fiscal imbalances. Get this deficit down and keep us on a -- put us back on a sustainable path.

HANNITY: And what does he say?

BAYH: He agreed with that, Sean.

HANNITY: Well, he.

BAYH: Well, he agreed with that.

HANNITY: And he quadrupled the deficit in a year.

BAYH: Well, to be fair to the president, there were some extraordinary circumstances. And he inherited a bad economy and a couple of wars and some other things. But the point I want to make is he was well aware that we have some tough decisions to make. He was alarmed at the first CBO analysis of the health care proposal in the House said that it increased the deficit rather than reduced it.

He knows we can't go down that path. And so I think going forward, you will see him speaking directly to those Americans who currently have insurance, and trying to put this in the context, Sean, of getting our deficit under control. Because if we don't get health care costs under control it will be virtually impossible to get the deficit down.

And I agree with you. This is on an unsustainable path. The last thing I said to him was, Mr. President, I've become a little cynical about spending in Washington. And he kind of laughed about that because he felt with good reason. And I said I'm afraid that it will take a reaction of the bond market, the private market rebelling to impose some discipline on members of Congress.

And he agreed with me that we should not wait until that day. We needed to act before those kind of damaging consequences to the economy.

HANNITY: Do you think the Democratic Party has moved too far to the left?

BAYH: Well, I find myself having a more moderate to conservative fiscal and economic outlook, and a little more forceful outlook on national security than some members of my party. But look, you know, both extremes. Whether it's on the far left or the far right, tend to not really speak to the American people and come up with practical solutions.

And my guess is what the vast majority of your viewers want, whether they're Democrats or Republicans, or regardless of ideology, they want what works. What will matter in their daily lives. And enough of this politics and enough of this ideology.

Can you help us out?

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