'This Week' Transcript: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN)

VARGAS: You also said in your remarks at the summit that Republicans have come to the conclusion that Congress, quote, "doesn't do comprehensive well," that our country is too big and too complicated for Washington. But Congress has passed many historic and sweeping and comprehensive bills in the past -- Medicare, the civil rights bill, the Americans With Disabilities Act. Are you saying that this Congress is uniquely incapable of doing something sweeping and massive and dramatic?

ALEXANDER: Well, the answer's yes, in that sense.

VARGAS: That's not good. ALEXANDER: But no -- but let me go back. You mentioned the civil rights bill. I was a very young aide here when President Johnson, who had more Democratic votes in Congress than President Obama had, had the civil rights bill written in Everett Dirksen's office. He was the Republican leader.

He did that not just to pass it. He did it to make sure that, when it was passed, it would be accepted by the people and there wouldn't be a campaign, as there will be in health care, to repeal it from the day it's passed.

Today I've watched the comprehensive immigration bill, I've watched the comprehensive economy-wide cap-and-trade, I've watched the comprehensive health care bill. They fall of their own weight because we're biting off more than we can chew in a country this big and complex and complicated.

I think we do better as a country when we go step by step toward a goal, and the goal in this case should be reducing health care costs.

VARGAS: So the country has changed or Congress has changed?

ALEXANDER: Well, I think the size of the effort (ph) has changed. I mean, a 2,700-page bill is going to be unpopular because you're hiding something in it. It's full of surprises. It's -- it's -- policy skeptics believe in the law of unintended consequences. And when you write a bill in the middle of the night in a partisan way and, you know, pass it on Christmas Eve and it's that long, it'll have surprises like the Cornhusker kickback, which was probably the death blow to the health care bill.

VARGAS: Your colleague, Senator Evan Bayh, recently announced his resignation, basically throwing his hands up in disgust, saying Congress is broken, and I want to be -- I don't want to be part of it anymore. He cited you as one of the few Republican senators that he felt that he could find common ground with, work with, agree with. How are we going to fix Congress and empower Congress to be able to pass the sweeping kinds of changes that we need in this country when people like Evan Bayh just take their -- go home, in essence, give up and go home?

ALEXANDER: Well, you know, former governors -- and I'm one -- always have a hard time with the Senate. You know, we're -- we're used -- governors are used to saying, "Let's go this way," and a legislator is a reactor to things. So that's part of the problem.

The second is, a lot more is going on than one would think. I mean, Senator Carper, a Democrat, and I introduced a clean air bill with 11 Democrats and Republicans. We hope we can pass it this year. Senator Webb, a Democrat, and I worked on -- have introduced a nuclear power bill. Senator Graham, Kerry, and Lieberman are working on a climate change bill.

So if you take specific steps toward goals, we're more likely to succeed. And my observation is that in a country our complex -- we can't do these big comprehensive--

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