CBS Host Grills GOP Senator On ObamaCare Opposition; Softballs to Democrat

Maggie Rodriguez and Lamar Alexander, CBS On Monday’s CBS Early Show, co-host Maggie Rodriguez pressed Republican Senator Lamar Alexander on the GOP’s opposition to ObamaCare: “...there’s been a lot of criticism that Republicans have done nothing but oppose this bill, nothing to help pass it, just try to kill it....have you done more than say ‘no, no, no, no, no’?”

At the top of the show, Rodriguez described a weekend visit by President Obama to Capitol Hill: “A rare closed-door rally on Capitol Hill over the weekend as President Obama calls on Democrats to close ranks and pass health care reform.” Rodriguez later suggested that Republicans “were not invited to the meeting yesterday” based on their criticism of the legislation. Senator Alexander responded: “Well that’s really an amazing statement. I mean, the President was elected on the idea of open meetings.”

Rodriguez also spoke with Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill but tried not to be too tough as she asked the Senator about the Presidential visit: “There were four holdouts yesterday before your meeting with the President. Did he succeed in changing any minds?” McCaskill declared: “Well, I think we’re getting there. Failure’s not an option.”

Rodriguez went on to wonder about McCaskill's thoughts on pro-life amendments to the health care proposal: “Will you support a bill that does not include abortion funding?” That gave McCaskill the opportunity to claim: “What this amendment does is goes further. It actually says you can’t use private money in a private market for any kind of health services related to abortions. And, frankly, I think that goes too far.”

After dismissing Republicans as obstructionist in her exchange with Senator Alexander, Rodriguez decided to give Senator McCaskill the final word, asking: “Whether Republicans support it or not, which clearly they don’t and won’t in this current form, do you think this will happen and before the deadline of Christmas?” McCaskill followed Rodriguez’s lead: “I wish the Republicans would quit being the party of no and come together with us.”

In a news brief later in the show, co-host Russ Mitchell depicted the Republican opposition as an obstacle to reform: “Yesterday during an unusual Sunday session, Democratic senators got a pep talk from the President....But there are other road blocks.” After playing clips of Alexander and McCaskill, Mitchell declared: “As he left Sunday’s meeting with Democrats, the President said they are going to get it done.”

Here is a full transcript of the interview segment:
7:03AM

MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: Now let’s hear from both sides of this debate. Joining us this morning are Republican Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Democratic Senator-

LAMAR ALEXANDER: Good morning.

RODRIGUEZ: Good morning to you sir. Claire McCaskill of Missouri joins us, as well. Good morning, Senator McCaskill.

CLAIRE MCCASKILL: Good morning.

RODRIGUEZ: I’d like to begin with you. There were four holdouts yesterday before your meeting with the President. Did he succeed in changing any minds?

MCCASKILL: Well, I think we’re getting there. Failure’s not an option. The American people are tired of having to go in their pocket every year for higher and higher health costs. This is about saving money, this is about saving lives, and it’s about saving Medicare. So we’ve got to get this done and I’m optimistic it’s going to happen.

RODRIGUEZ: We know that at least Senator Nelson was not convinced, at least not where abortion funding is concerned, and he’s planning to go introduce a ban on that today. Will you support a bill that does not include abortion funding?

MCCASKILL: Well, let’s be clear. The bill as is it stands does continue the current law which says no federal money can be used to fund abortions. What this amendment does is goes further. It actually says you can’t use private money in a private market for any kind of health services related to abortions. And, frankly, I think that goes too far. So I think the majority of the Senate will oppose this amendment and leave the current law in place, no federal money for abortion services.

RODRIGUEZ: Senator Alexander, your response to that claim?

ALEXANDER: Well, my response to the whole interview is this. The biggest problem is that the Democrats are using Medicare as a piggy bank for – to pay for a big new government program, they’re using grandma’s Medicare to pay for insurance for someone else at a time when the Medicare trustees have said the program’s about to go broke. So instead of lowering premiums, as the Senator said, it allows premiums to increase, it raises taxes, it cuts Medicare, transferred big expenses to Missouri and Tennessee and other states, and it does nothing to reduce the cost of health care, which is what we need to do.

RODRIGUEZ: There have been – there’s been a lot of criticism that Republicans have done nothing but oppose this bill, nothing to help pass it, just try to kill it. What is your response to that? They say that’s why you were not invited to the meeting yesterday.

ALEXANDER: Well that’s really an amazing statement. I mean, the President was elected on the idea of open meetings. What Republicans have said from the beginning is if you’re waiting for us to wheel a wheelbarrow full of 2,000 page bills in, you’re not going to see it. But-

RODRIGUEZ: But have you done more than say ‘no, no, no, no, no’?

ALEXANDER: But we have done it every single day. We said we should set a goal reducing costs and we should go step by step toward that goal in ways that we can agree on in a bipartisan way. For example, small business health insurance plans, allowing people to buy insurance across state lines to create competition, allowing – reducing the amount of junk lawsuits against doctors, which is not even mentioned in the bill. I think the American people are scared to death of us trying to change the whole medical system all at once when, in fact, we could go step by step in the right direction, reduce cost, re-earn their trust.

RODRIGUEZ: Let me go back to Senator McCaskill. Whether Republicans support it or not, which clearly they don’t and won’t in this current form, do you think this will happen and before the deadline of Christmas?

MCCASKILL: First of all, the experts at Medicare say this bill as it stands today will lengthen the life of Medicare for at least five years. And all we’re cutting here are the level of profits of the insurance companies. Coincidentally, the Republican Party is continuing to do every amendment that will help the profits of those corporate insurance companies. That’s part of the problem here. We don’t have an open and competitive market for people who are trying to fight these insurance companies for their health care. So I think we – I think there is enough of us that know doing nothing is simply not an option. It’s one the American people can’t afford. I wish the Republicans would quit being the party of no and come together with us. There’s a lot in this bill that they wrote. They don’t acknowledge that now, but there’s a lot of Republican amendments that were put in this bill in committee. Let’s start working together. That’s what the American people want us to do.

RODRIGUEZ: Senator McCaskill, Senator Alexander, we have to leave it there. I’m sure the debate will continue. Thank you so much.

ALEXANDER: Thank you.

MCCASKILL: Thank you.

RODRIGUEZ: You’re welcome.
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC