This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," March 22, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
Posted on March 23, 2010
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: There's breaking news tonight. One Republican plan to kill the reconciliation bill has failed. The Senate parliamentarian says the Cadillac tax in the reconciliation bill does not violate a rule that would have brought down the entire reconciliation bill.
Now, before this news broke, we went to Capitol Hill and Republican senator Lamar Alexander went "On the Record" about the Senate GOP plan and the GOP's hope that they would prevail on this very important point.
VAN SUSTEREN: Senator, nice to see you, sir.
SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER, R - TENN.: Good to see you, Greta.
VAN SUSTEREN: Well, with what happened last night in the House of Representatives, I guess now it's, Tag, you're it, the Senate. What are you going to do about that reconciliation bill?
ALEXANDER: Well, we're going to enforce the rules.
VAN SUSTEREN: Which means?
ALEXANDER: Which means that if the bill, for example, has any impact on Social Security, Senator Gregg will make a point of order and we'll try to sustain it. And if we do, the whole bill fails.
VAN SUSTEREN: The entire bill fails.
ALEXANDER: The entire reconciliation bill fails. Now, the bill the House passed last night, the one with the taxes, the higher premiums, transfers of costs to states, that runs up the deficit -- that goes to the president. He's going to sign it. That's going to be law.
VAN SUSTEREN: What is the motivation for the majority here in the United States Senate to even hear the reconciliation? You could really -- they could sandbag the House of Representatives, if they want, and just say, Well, done. We like our bill, and the president can sign it.
ALEXANDER: Yes. I've been saying all week that -- you know, the president's asked the House Democrats just to hold hands, jump off a cliff and hope Harry Reid catches them. He doesn't have to catch them. It's going to be law. So we'll see what they do.
VAN SUSTEREN: Do you have any doubt, though, that all the Democrats in the United States Senate are willing to consider the reconciliation, or do you think that they're telling Senator Reid, Let's just go with what we have?
ALEXANDER: I imagine what they're going to do is pick off some Democratic senators in some difficult races and let them vote no.
VAN SUSTEREN: Let me go back to the Social Security issue. Explain the issue to me and why, if the parliamentarian strikes it down as not subject to reconciliation, the entire bill -- reconciliation bill fails.
ALEXANDER: Well, this whole reconciliation procedure is not supposed to be used for anything like the writing (ph) one sixth of the American economy. So it says specifically in the law if the reconciliation bill impacts Social Security, for good or for bad, that it can't be done, and that's a defect that would cause the whole reconciliation bill to fail, if the parliamentarian agrees that it does.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right, well, now, it's no surprise that that was in the reconciliation before it was voted on. Was that -- why wasn't that determination made prior to the House even putting that in the reconciliation bill, voting it and sending it over here?
ALEXANDER: Well, good question. Senator Gregg actually tried to get an opinion, so I've understood, and it may be because that they didn't want the answer because if the House members knew that the reconciliation bill was flawed and would fail for that reason, they might not have been able to pass the big health care bill they passed last night.
VAN SUSTEREN: How interested are your constituents in health care? Just -- not on which side are they (INAUDIBLE), but I mean, a lot of bills get passed in this Congress that people don't know much about. But this one?
ALEXANDER: Greta, I've been in and out of politics for a long time. I've never seen anything like this. This weekend, I was home in Tennessee. So I get up this morning, go over to the University of Tennessee. The students are asking me, Is this true, they're going to be overcharging me on student loans to pay for the health care bill? I say, Yes, that's true.
I go to the airport. Almost every person has something to say to me about the health care bill. And I've got a note in my pocket from a man on the plane who passed me a note. And not a one of them are for it. And many of them don't like the Medicare part. All of them are worried about the debt. Some of them don't even tell me what their specific concern is. But I've never seen such intensity on any issue in the last 40 years.
VAN SUSTEREN: Well, we had interesting protests here this weekend in Washington, on both sides of the issue up and down the -- Capitol Hill.
ALEXANDER: Most of the people who talk to me are not protesters. I mean, this is the clerk behind the news counter at the Knoxville airport. This is the TSA security person who -- you know, who's a government official, so they whisper to me or say something quietly. These are not Wall Street financiers. These are ordinary folks not making much money, who are worried about their country.
VAN SUSTEREN: Who's the big winner here, President Obama or Speaker Pelosi -- Speaker of the House Pelosi?
ALEXANDER: Well, it depends on what the contest is. If you...
VAN SUSTEREN: Well, who gets credit for -- if you like this bill and you're glad it passed, who should get credit?
ALEXANDER: Well, if you want to go into the Guinness world record for having had a big role in passing the worst big bill in American history, then they both are winners.
VAN SUSTEREN: OK, Senator, this bill looks like it's coming over and the president's going to sign it. What do you like most about it and what do you hate most about it, one of each?
ALEXANDER: Well, the insurance reforms. There are provisions in the bill that Republicans, almost all of us, support -- letting your kids stay on your policy until you are 26, the insurance company can't deny you insurance because of a preexisting condition. That's been in almost all the Republican bills.
What I dislike are the taxes, the premium increases and the cuts. But what I most dislike is Washington sending these big costs to states. I mean, I'm a university president from one time. I was a governor one time. I hated it when Washington politicians would pass a big law and send me the bill.
They're going to permanently damage American public higher education with this bill because they're sending costs that states can't afford. And the reason you saw those kids in California protesting the 34 percent tuition increase -- that's going to happen all over America as governors cut aid to higher education because of these new costs that are coming to states.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right, I got to ask you one last question since you mentioned university president. Who's going to win the basketball tournament?
ALEXANDER: They got a bad seed and they've been playing great, and they've got a chance to go all the way.