Good Morning America's Robin Roberts on Monday allowed the Kennedys to take a victory lap for the passage of health care. As the co-host interviewed Patrick Kennedy, an ABC graphic announced, "Rep. Kennedy on Dad's Final Wish: Father's Life Work Was Reform." Roberts teased the segment, "And we talk to the Congressman who sees this bill's passage as the completion of his late father's legacy."
The anchor repeatedly tossed softballs to the Rhode Island representative: "Did you feel your father's presence throughout this ordeal?" Earlier in the segment, she offered this hard-hitting query: "Congressman, an emotional 24 hours for so many people. I want to just get a gauge of your feelings here this morning."
In comparison, co-host George Stephanopoulos grilled Senator John McCain on the Republican response. He demanded, "I know that Republicans want to repeal the bill. But there are also some provisions that take effect this year that you said you're for...No cancellation of policies if you get ill. Will you move to repeal those provisions as well?"
Roberts only made one, relatively lame attempt at challenging Kennedy. She meekly wondered, "But you know there are a lot of people waking up this morning that don't like this bill. What do you say to them this morning?"
After the Congressman's voice started to crack as he extolled the virtues of Ted Kennedy, Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi, Roberts proceeded to comfort the Democratic politician: "Representative Kennedy, we hear the emotion in your voice and we see it in your face. Thank you so much."
A transcript of the March 22 segment, which aired at 7:07am EDT, follows:
ROBIN ROBERTS: And, we talk to the Congressman who sees this bill's passage as the completion of his late father's legacy.
ROBERTS: George, talking about the new legislation- also expands Medicare to families of four making up to about $29,000 a year. Joining us now from Washington is Representative Patrick Kennedy of Rhode Island who has a very emotional connection to the historic passage of health care legislation. Health care reform, the dream of his father, the late senator Edward Kennedy for more than 40 years. Congressman, an emotional 24 hours for so many people. I want to just get a gauge of your feelings here this morning.
ABC GRAPHIC: Rep. Kennedy on Dad's Final Wish: Father's Life Work Was Reform
KENNEDY: Well, thank you, Robin. For my father, it was always about expanding what this country meant to Americans. He was around for Medicare, for the Civil Rights Act of '64, voting Rights Act of '65. He worked for community health centers. SCHIP for kids. The Americans for Disability Act. He always believed that our country was about expanding opportunity for more and more Americans. And I believe this- as he said, this was the unfinished business of Americans. Because poor people have Medicaid. Wealthier people can get health insurance and seniors can get Medicare. It's the middle class, the people who struggle every day, but are too wealthy to fall into Medicaid, who can't be protected. This is a program for the middle class. Too often in America, they're the ones who are left out. And yet, not now, in this bill, they're protected because this is a consumer protection bill. People often say, well, now government's going to be making our decision in health care. Frankly, the last 16 years I've been in public life, people say HMOs, accountants are making my medical decisions. Right now, I think people will be more feeling confident [sic] of the fact that they have accountability in who's making their medical decisions. And it's going to be their doctors. It's going to be a review board. And finally, there's going to be protections against people being discriminated against because of preexisting condition. And chronic illness that might push people's health care insurance to the point where they become bankrupt. And bankruptcy is the leading cause of, as a result of medical expenditures, in this country, and that is going to end as a result of this bill.
ROBERTS: Congressman, many- they hear what you said this morning. And you know about the tone. You sounded the alarm months ago about the tone of the debate. There are people waking up this morning that are very pleased. But you know, there are a lot of people waking up this morning that don't like this bill. What do you say to them this morning?
KENNEDY: I would say, wait until you hear more about it. We've heard a lot of paid advertisement from the insurance industry, from the vested interests that don't want to see this change. All I would say to Americans is, you're already paying, whether you're paying through excessive premiums or not, people say, "Oh, we're going to end up paying more in taxes." They're paying double-digit inflation rates in their medical insurance. At least now, the government is going to be able to justify any increase in medical expenditures by holding insurance companies account only. One-third of the medical dollar goes to administration only. That means advertising. That means excessive salaries for CEOs. That's no longer going to be allowed. And I think the American people are going to be happy to know that when they spend their health care dollar, it's going to go to medical expenditures. Not advertising. Not CEO compensation.
ROBERTS: A final question about your father, the President talked about him a great deal even last week. And referred to a letter that your father had sent him that he has reread in recent months, as he said, as we get closer to the finish line. Did you feel your father's presence throughout this ordeal?
KENNEDY: Well, I am so honored that my father supported this President in the belief this President was going to make a commitment and stand by it. And this President stood by it. I salute President Obama. [Kennedy's voice starts to break up.] He has been the President and even more than my father could have ever imagined. And this Speaker that I've supported, Speaker Pelosi, worked hard. She's an unsung hero. Her ambition is for children in this country, all of whom are going to get covered under this bill. And it's- my hat is off to her. She's really provided moral and political leadership and worked, worked, worked. And I can't say enough about how proud I am to be part of a Congress with Nancy Pelosi as our Speaker.
ROBERTS: Representative Kennedy, we hear the emotion in your voice and we see it in your face. Thank you so much.