November 16, 2009

Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday asks Sen. Mitch McConnell if the Republicans can prevent the health care bill from coming to the Senate floor. McConnell could not say whether they had the votes to block it from going to the floor for debate, but vowed to stall the bill with "a lot of amendments over a lot of weeks".

Oh boy. I wonder if we'll get to see any Republican Senators using babies as props or similar nonsense as they drag this thing out?

WALLACE: Let's turn to health care reform. Senate Democrats are expected to bring a bill to the floor this week. Do you have the 41 votes in the Senate to prevent them from even bringing it to the floor?

MCCONNELL: Well, what we do know for sure, Chris, is this is a bill that cuts Medicare, raises taxes and raises insurance premiums.

We know it's been in Harry Reid's office for six weeks and the other 99 senators have not seen it. I think we ought to at least have as much time for the other 99 senators and all of the American people to take a look at this bill as Majority Leader Reid has had.

The only way to guarantee that for sure would be to delay the process to allow everyone to fully understand what's in the bill.

And then if there are 60 senators who want to go to this bill, even though the administration's own actuary, somebody who works in the administration, the Department of Health and Human Services, has said that it will drive the cost of health care up and that it will hurt seniors -- if they still want to go to it, then we'll have the debate.

And when we get on the -- on the bill, if we do, there will be a lot of amendments over a lot of weeks. I mean, the Senate is not the House. You saw in the House three votes and it was over in one day.

Look, we spent four weeks on a farm bill in the last Congress, eight weeks on an energy bill earlier this decade. This will be on the floor for quite a long time. I think it ought to be on the floor at least as long as it's been in Harry Reid's office.

WALLACE: So what are you talking about, because that has been an issue? Do you think that health care reform, even if they have the votes, can and will get through the Senate before the end of this year?

MCCONNELL: The American people are overwhelmingly telling us, "Don't pass it." It will be up to whether the Democratic majority wants to listen to the American people or whether they want to pass this anyway just to basically ignore the opinion of the American population and go ahead with this bill.

I think it is yet to be determined, you know, whether there are 60 senators who are going to ignore public opinion and pass a bill that cuts Medicare, raises taxes and raises insurance premiums.

WALLACE: Let's talk about some of the key issues that are going to come up. And one of them is the Stupak amendment which was passed by the House, which basically will bar the use of federal funds in any way to provide health insurance that would cover abortions.

Do you believe that you will have 41 votes to block that in the Senate?

MCCONNELL: Well, what we do know is that the American people, regardless of how they feel about the abortion issue, don't think that taxpayer money ought to be used to pay for abortions. And so I think that issue will be hashed out on the Senate floor.

I think it would be very difficult to pass a bill that, in effect, either directly or indirectly provided tax money to pay for abortions.

WALLACE: So let me rephrase, because I kind of messed it up. Are you saying that you believe you have the votes to get the Stupak amendment added, which would further restrict the use of federal funds?

MCCONNELL: Well, we don't know what will be in the bill that Senator Reid produces. And I'm not going to predict the outcome of this.

What I am going to say once again is that we know where the American public is. They're overwhelmingly opposed to using tax funds, either directly or indirectly, to pay for abortions. Whether the Senate will reflect American public opinion on that or not, we'll have to see.

WALLACE: Just as a final wrap-up question on this, you obviously are constantly counting votes. As you look at the various key issues out there, whether it's tightening abortion restrictions, or fighting the public option, or increasing limits on illegal immigrants being able to have any access to the system, or the funding for it, where do you think is the Republicans' best chance of derailing, or at least changing, the health care reform bill the Democrats are going to put up?

MCCONNELL: Well, all of those are hot-button issues -- abortion, immigration, whether or not the government's going to get in the insurance business. All of those are very contentious issues.

But of course, the core of the bill is very contentious as well -- massive cuts in Medicare, huge tax increases on individuals and on businesses, and raising insurance premiums for 85 percent of the Americans who already have health insurance. All of these are at their core very controversial.

Let me tell you what we ought to do, Chris. We ought not to pass a 2,000-page bill. We ought to go step by step, regain the confidence of the American public, deal with the cost issue, and target the problems in our health care system, not scrap it, not have the government take over one- sixth of our economy.

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