Sunday, December 20, 2009

Transcript: Meet The Press (12-20-09): David Axelrod

David Axelrod appeared on Meet the Press (12-20-09). Complete Transcript. Excerpt below:

You appear to have this compromise now in the Senate, 60 votes now that Ben Nelson is on board. Is this mission accomplished, or does this represent a selling-out of key principles that the president fought for initially on health care?

AXELROD: Oh, no, I think this -- this adheres to the key principles that the president set. It’s going to bring more security to people who -- who have insurance today, in relation to their insurance companies; it will reduce their costs over time as well.

It’s going to help people who don’t have insurance, including small businesses who can’t afford it or people who don’t get it through their employer, get it at a cost they can afford. It’s going to extend the life of Medicare and give seniors some -- some more support in terms of prescription drugs and better care.

And in the long run, it’s going to reduce our deficits, the CBO said yesterday, by $132 billion in the first 10 years, over a trillion in the second, and -- and stop the inexorable rise of health care costs that threatens to crush our budget...


AXELROD: ... family budgets, business budgets.

GREGORY: Well, we’ll -- I want to break some of these down. But do you describe it as mission accomplished?

AXELROD: No. I -- I think it is a -- it’s a landmark step, it’s a, it’s a great step. I agree with much of what Paul Krugman wrote in The New York Times last Friday, he’s been a strong advocate for health care reform, and he said this is a great foundation for the future. It is light years ahead of where we were.

Look, David, if you’re a person with a pre-existing condition today, you’re excluded from getting insurance by most insurance companies. I went through that with -- my child has a chronic illness, could not get her on insurance. A huge -- this was when I was a young reporter and couldn’t afford the out-of-pocket expenses. Millions of people are going through this in this country, and there are myriad other examples of -- of people who will benefit from these changes.

GREGORY: Let me back up, talk about just some procedure. Is this a done deal? Will this pass the Congress?

AXELROD: I think it will pass the Congress. I mean, obviously, it is a big step along the way. We’ve got additional steps to take. The House has a bill, the Senate has a bill, they’ll have...

GREGORY: And there are some key differences, including the House has a public option to create more competition, the Senate bill does not.

AXELROD: No. But the Senate, the Senate bill has some very tough restrictions in terms of how insurance companies can spend the money that they collect from premiums, it has a great accountability for insurance companies, it creates competition between private insurers and gives people options and choice, and that’s what we were after.

GREGORY: But how hard will it be to reconcile the two?

AXELROD: Well, I think we’re going to get it done. I think people understand that this is a historic crossroads, David. Seven presidents have tried to pass comprehensive health insurance reform, seven presidents have failed. We’ve been talking about it for 100 years. We’re on the doorstep of getting it done, and it’ll be a great victory for the American people.

GREGORY: Some people have raised the question about whether the Senate rules ought to be changed. In order to avoid a filibuster you needed the 60 votes, and you were able to get there with Senator Nelson. But a lot of people, including Planned Parenthood, condemning the abortion agreement where it would place greater restrictions on getting abortions in the states in these exchanges that had to be struck to get Senator Nelson on board. He also got extra money for Medicaid.

Do you think it ought to be changed in the Senate so it doesn’t rely, all of this health care reform, on one senator?

AXELROD: Let me say first on the, on the issue of abortion, there have been concerns expressed both from the pro-choice groups and some anti-choice groups, pro-life groups on this.

But the fact is it really doesn’t change the status quo, and that’s what we were after. The president said this should not be the vehicle through which the abortion debate and changes in the abortion law should come. In terms of the Senate, look, I’m not -- these are time-honored rules. I’m not going to -- I mean, obviously it makes it more difficult; they were structured that way.

What we should be able to do, though, is move forward in -- in good faith, and what we’ve seen is the rules being used time and time and time again to delay votes, to try and scuttle the legislation by -- through parliamentary maneuvers, because there’s a majority of senators who support health insurance reform. We ought to have an up or down vote, and that’s what all of this has been about.
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