ROBERTS: One of the things that the -- the Congress has failed to do until now is convince people who have insurance, which is most of us, that this bill will work for them, and that's why this argument is important.
But the -- the one thing that has been added on, apparently, since we haven't actually seen the bill in the last week, is the decision to have the federal government regulate rates, and that could be extremely popular with people...
DONALDSON: ... old guys, they say to us, "We're going to cut your Medicare." They're not going to cut Medicare benefits, not touch them. What they want to cut in the bill, as I understand it, is Medicare Advantage, which was put in with a government subsidy of 15 cents for every dollar, take the 15 cents away. The private insurers now can compete on their own and use that money elsewhere, and you could argue where it should be used, but it's not correct that they're trying to cut Medicare.
VARGAS: I do want to get to one other issue related to this health care bill, which is the language on abortion, because it almost died in the House, the health care bill, because of abortion. There was the Stupak amendment, which attached highly restrictive language to when abortions could be covered, and there -- Bart Stupak says this is unacceptable, this current bill, as Obama has proposed it, and he says 20 other members of the House will have problems with it, too.
Will abortion kill this thing in the end?
WILL: Well, Alan Frumin's 15 minutes of fame have arrived. He is the hitherto obscure, but soon to be quite famous parliamentarian of the Senate, and it will be his job to rule on what can and cannot be passed under reconciliation. That is, is it a budgetary-related thing? You can argue about a great many things in the health care bill. Can you say that's budget-related? No one thinks you can change the abortion language under reconciliation.
KRUGMAN: Let me just point out...
VARGAS: And, Cokie...
KRUGMAN: ... that in 2001, the Senate parliamentarian was in doubts about the -- some of the things Republicans were doing through reconciliation, and they dealt with that by firing him and replacing him.
VARGAS: And, Cokie, can Speaker Pelosi, given this issue, if they can't get through on reconciliation some sort of changing of the abortion language...
VARGAS: ... can she find the votes?
ROBERTS: It's going to be very, very tough. That's what I said at the beginning. I mean, this -- this bill is not at the moment passable by Democratic votes.
DONALDSON: She'll get the votes.
ROBERTS: I think in the end she will, too.
DONALDSON: In the end, the Democrats understand the old phrase, "We hang together or we hang separately."
ROBERTS: At the moment...
VARGAS: Well, and they're on record already taking an unpopular vote.
ROBERTS: ... the calculation...
VARGAS: It's going to kill them in November.
ROBERTS: The calculation that they've made all along -- and I personally think it's a correct calculation -- is that it's worse to do nothing than to do something and that, in the long run, people will like this bill.
WILL: Can I say something that Paul and I might actually agree on?