August 20, 2009

Paul Begala on AC360 makes the case for why it's time for Democrats to stop negotiating with Republicans on health care reform, and puts out the number on just how much Democrats have given to Republicans in order to appease them for a bill they are never going to get a single vote on. David Gergen is dead wrong here. If there is decent legislation passed with some meaningful reform, the public is not going to care who voted for it.

If it's a bad bill and nothing but a giveaway to the insurance industries, then they're not going to be happy in the end no matter what the roll call is when this is said and done. And Amy Holmes is full of it. Republicans are not going to support even the watered down co-op plan. They're already calling it all the same names they would be single payer if it was on the table, and the public option. Republicans do not want any reform of the insurance industry, or anything to be done which cuts into their profits.

COOPER: Paul, we got a text 360 question based on the -- I guess, the Barney Frank thing.

Patty says, "Do you think the Obama administration is considering moving ahead because of negative Republican reaction at town hall meetings?"

I mean, do you think this -- this idea of -- of going it alone is in response to what they have suddenly seen at all these town hall meetings?

BEGALA: I think, frankly, less the town hall meetings. That hasn't moved a lot of Democrats. I have talked to a whole lot of them. They don't seem terribly rattled by that. But I think what they're seeing is...

COOPER: What about independents?

BEGALA: Well, I mean, Democratic members of Congress.


COOPER: Among independents, it's -- Republic opposition has hardened. And that's fine. They're the opposition party.

But to try to pass something in a bipartisan fashion is just going to be very difficult, and almost impossible. Look at this. There's four committees that have already passed out versions of health care, three in the House, one in the Senate.

If you add all those committees together, they accepted, the Democrats who run the committees, 183 Republican amendments in those four committees, 183. Despite taking all those 183 amendments, you know how many Republican votes they got? Zero, zilch, as we say in the Catholic Church, bubkes, nada.

Now, at what point do you start to get the idea that the Republicans are just not going to play along? More recently, you know, we have the Senate Finance Committee as the last hope of bipartisanship. Senator Max Baucus, the chairman, is trying to negotiate with Charles Grassley, the leading Republican on the committee.

And he's been reached out to, Grassley has, and the president has praised him in the past. And, so, what does he do? He goes home. And, you know, grandpa Twitter gets on his BlackBerry and says, the president wants to pull the plug on grandma, and then he calls the president of the United States intellectually dishonest.

That's who Obama is trying to deal with. So, there's no hope of bipartisanship.

HOLMES: Well, Grassley has said -- Grassley has said that he does -- Grassley said that he does want to sit at the table and try to work this out.

But, you know, I talked to Blue Dog Democrat Jim Cooper of Tennessee, and he said he, as a Democrat, does not think Democrats have the vote, in the Senate in particular, those 60 votes, in order to move forward on this legislation.

And he said that this government plan option, this -- that's just not going to make it for a lot of those moderate Democrats. So, when the presidents says that he can move ahead without Republicans, perhaps he can, but he might not be able to move ahead without Democrats.

COOPER: David, are you surprised at how the White House has -- has, I mean, I guess, fumbled this whole rollout over the last week or so?

GERGEN: I have been very surprised by their failures on -- on -- on persuading people. Their messages are obviously not getting through.

But I think they also have substantive problems with this package, just as Paul and I discovered with the Clinton package. There are a lot of Americans who do not want the kind of things Democrats are putting forward.

But my friend Paul, I think, will understand that I -- I disagree with him on the question of what's in the national interests and what's in the president's interest. And that is, I think it's in the president's interest to push forward as far as he possibly can to see if he can find a way to bipartisanship.

There was a Quinnipiac poll just two weeks ago that found that 59 percent of Americans would oppose a health care plan that was passed only by Democrats, as opposed to only 36 percent of Americans who would support such a plan.

And it does seem to me, given this big a bill, 16 percent of the economy, if you can find a way to bipartisanship -- and it may not be possible. These town halls, I think...


COOPER: But, David, what about the argument that a year -- that they push it through, and, a year from now, no one's going to remember, you know, who was for it and who was against it; they're just going to see whatever results...


GERGEN: I -- I...

COOPER: You don't buy it?

GERGEN: I don't think that's true. I don't buy that.

You know, we saw, with catastrophic passed in the last year of President Reagan's administration, a year later, the protests were so big, they were chasing Danny Rostenkowski down the street, elderly people with umbrellas. And they had to -- and the plan got canceled.

These things can continue to roil the American political populace for some time to come. I just think, if they reach the end of the day, and it's apparent to the public that the Republicans don't to want play ball, that they -- they embrace the Paul Begala argument, that makes it much easier for Democrats then to go forward on their own...


COOPER: Paul, you say, we're already there.

BEGALA: Well, I think we're going to be there.

David is right. And I have written about this. I praise Senator Max Baucus, who a lot of my friends on the left are criticizing. And I -- what I would -- what I would counsel my Democratic friends is, the end of the day that David cites is September 15.

That's the day Senator Baucus has said, by then, I will either have a bipartisan bill, or Baucus himself has suggested he will go it alone with Democrats. I think that's giving Republicans -- you know, nine months and 183 amendments, probably a lot more by the time you count up those that Senator Baucus accepts in the Finance Committee.

I would like nothing better than to see this as bipartisan. So would President Obama. I mean, look, Barack Obama ran for president believing in the myth of the reasonable, rational Republican. It's a lovely myth. And it's like, you know, the unicorn or -- or the Tooth Fairy, or a humble pundit.


BEGALA: You know, it's this thing you will never find. You will look all your life. And there aren't any left in Washington.

HOLMES: Paul, speak for yourself on the humble pundit side.

But, you know, I also talked with my former boss Senator Fritz, and he said that he could support a co-op plan if it was at the state level, if it was at the local level.

COOPER: Anyone -- anybody know what a co-op plan actually means? I mean...


HOLMES: It is complicated. It's folks getting involved in covering one another.

COOPER: Yes. It's a theory, though. I mean...


HOLMES: It's a theory.

But -- but, getting back to Paul's point, yes, Republicans can support a co-op plan. He said that if, in the Senate, they could...

COOPER: We got to go.

Can you help us out?

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