'This Week' Full Transcript: Dec. 13, 2009

STEPHANOPOULOS: So John Podesta, can the Democratic moderates especially in the Senate, the Mary Landrieus, Blanche Lincolns, Ben Nelsons of the world, hang together in the face of that kind of opposition in the public?

PODESTA: I think so. Because I think we're at an historic moment where we're going to expand coverage, bring down costs, end insurance abuses. And I think there's beginning to form a consensus. We're kind of on the five-yard line, I guess. We're probably not on the one-yard line. But we'll see what happens with the CBO score.

I think the other thing that happened this week was that the freshmen senators, many of whom are moderates themselves, have put together a package to further restrain costs, produce more delivery reform. That amendment was endorsed by the Business Roundtable and the National Association of Manufacturers, people who have to pay the cost of health insurance on the employer side.

So I think that, you know, this is a process of moving the bill forward. I think Reid will be able to get to 60. I'm still hopeful that Olympia Snowe will vote for the bill, but you know...

STEPHANOPOULOS: She was pretty tough on the Medicare buy-in.

PODESTA: She was.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But Arianna, I want to ask you in particular. A lot of progressives all year long have been fighting for this public option. I have to say, I confess I haven't understood how it became the holy grail, especially since by the time it got through the process, it was a relatively weak option that wouldn't serve that many Americans.

For progressives, is the combination of being able to buy into a federal plan and a Medicare buy-in, as George Will said, the public option on steroids?

HUFFINGTON: Well, of course. You know, the name is not what matters. What matters is having real competition for the health care insurance industry. That's what's been missing. Without that competition, which the public option or Medicare on steroids can provide, there's really no cost containment, and none of the things that we're hoping this health care bill will achieve will actually be achieved.

The main thing, really, out of this whole process has been to demonstrate how broken our system is. I mean, it's really stunning. Tom Friedman said it best when he said we have these big problems and we cannot any longer produce optimal solutions for these big problems, only suboptimal solutions. So you kind of go through all these amendments, and it's just a series of suboptimal solutions. And the process of it has dragged on, has dramatically reduced the president's poll numbers...

STEPHANOPOULOS: Yet, April, an article of faith inside the White House is that passing health care will solve all political problems. They really believe that will have Americans look at the president in an entirely new way.

RYAN: It goes back to what you said about being the holy grail. This was something that was debated during the campaign. This was something that he got the American public to believe in, and ultimately got into the White House for it. But what happens is it has been the pinnacle, if this president can get this through Congress, he ultimately can help shape 2010.

And -- but the issue is...


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