August 27, 2009

Greta Van Susteren asks Michael Steele the question that should be asked of Republicans every time they claim they really care about "reforming" health care/insurance. Why didn't your reform it when you had control of the House, the Senate and the White House? Of course she forgets that we did get the Republicans idea of health care reform when they were in charge, with the giveaway to the big pharma in the form of Medicare Part D.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, what is this "bill of rights" that you've unleashed? And -- well, let me just start there. What is this "bill of rights"?

STEELE: Well, the "bill of rights" is really kind of a placeholder as we begin the fall discussion on health care. We watched at the beginning of the spring and summer the administration say we were going to have a health care bill by July 31 with no real input or discussion by the American people, let alone the Republican members of Congress. They were going to try to get it done by then. We raised some concerns and we talked a little bit more about it and laid out clearly what we thought we should be doing.

Town halls began to take place as citizens began to get ahold of it. And in the process of this discussion, the one thing that struck me that was being left behind was our seniors. When the administration's kind of slipped out there the idea of cutting $500 billion from the Medicare program with no indication of whether that's going to be cutting waste or if that's going to be cutting the substance of programs or what that was, I thought it would be appropriate to put a placemaker out here to very clearly delineate what we should be doing and how we should be doing it on behalf of the seniors as we begin this debate in the fall.

So I wanted to lay out about six principles that kind of talked about the -- you know, the doctor-patient relationship, the role of government, the decision-making process involving seniors or their caregivers, and I wanted to be as fairly clear as I could about it.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, but this -- so this is not an exact answer to the 1,500-page bill that the Democrats have put forward. This is sort of just your principles of how you and the Republican Party would like to see things proceed, so just broad-based principles, right?

STEELE: It's broad-based principles and -- and the Republican leadership in the House and the Senate will come back with the legislative, you know, bills and amendments to the HR 3200 or whichever bill the House and Senate are going to be working on, to put into law those guidelines or those protections, if you will, for our seniors.

VAN SUSTEREN: Are the Republicans sort of sitting back, waiting to see what the Democratic bill is so they can then punch some holes in it or rewrite it, or are they -- or are they writing their own, saying, Look, scrap the Democrats. This is the bill we should have.

STEELE: Well, I think -- well, this is -- that's a very good question, Greta, and I'll tell you why, because between the House and the Senate, there have been over 800 pieces of legislation and amendments to various bills introduced by Democrats in the House and the Senate that have been rejected outright. So they've tried that, writing the bill, if you will, or putting their input into the documents that have been produced, and it has all been rejected.

So I think in this instance, what I thought was, Let's put a placemarker in place, then let's just follow back up. And now that the rhetoric has heated up from the American people, maybe the House leadership will pay attention to what Republicans want to put on the table because, quite frankly, I'm sick and tired of all this conversation about all bipartisanship and bipartisanship that, when, in fact, the House and Senate leadership are not doing anything to bring Republicans to the table in any meaningful way, and the president is giving lip service to this idea, when he's not encouraging, and in fact, demanding that we work together in bipartisan fashion on this problem.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Now, I understand that a lot of Republicans want reform. In fact, most have said some reform is needed. I understand that they don't like the public option, or the government option. I understand that they say there's no bipartisanship. But can you sort of, you know -- you know, bring me in on the secret why the Republicans didn't do health care reform when they owned the House, the Senate and the White House? Do you have any idea?

STEELE: No, I don't have an idea, and I think, you know, again, it's one of those -- those flaws of the past that, you know, we tripped ourselves up on. We had a perfect opportunity even when we didn't have control of the House and Senate during the early days of the Bush -- of Bush first term to at least put in place some of the -- some of the efforts to put, you know, our imprimatur, if you will, on the health care debate.

But that's the past. And I understand that. I'm now the new chairman of the party. We've got, you know, leadership in the House and the Senate that we're working with. We've got governors around the country who deal with this health care issue every single day, from Mississippi to Indiana to Louisiana. They're fighting to try to balance those budgets with the cost of health care escalating. And so now is an opportunity for us to engage in a genuine way.

I will applaud the administration for putting this on the table. What I do not applaud is the way they want to go about reforming our health care system when, in fact, the parts that they want to reform and don't need it, and the parts like Medicare that do need to be addressed, they're kind of slipping off to the side because everyone knows there's no money here, Greta, in about six or seven years. And so with all this spending now, where will the money come from to deal for our seniors in about six years when there is no money for Medicare?

Can you help us out?

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