EXCLUSIVE: Vice President Biden Says President Obama’s Rescheduled Trip Not a Bad Sign for Health Care Bill’s Prospects

By Lindsey Ellerson

Mar 18, 2010 5:57pm

Vice President Biden said today that that the fact that President Obama cancelled his trip to Indonesia and Australia next week is not an ominous sign for the prospects of the health care reform bill on Capitol Hill.

Biden addressed a range of topics on the issue of health care, including the criticisms that nervous lawmakers are directing at the White House over its handling of the bill; the debate in the Catholic Church over the health care bill, and what he is telling Members of Congress as they get closer to a vote.

From our interview:

TAPPER:  This is another pushed, missed deadline possibly.  Certainly not a good sign for health care reform, but what does it symbolize to you?

BIDEN:  Oh, I don't think it has.  Look, what it symbolizes is the president of the United States thinks this is an incredibly important initiative and he should be in the country, in the States, when in fact the Congress votes on it.  And I think the fact that the House deadline slipped a day, I don't think it means anything.

TAPPER:  Do you think the fact that it's been so tough to do this, there were deadlines in August and then December and then March 18th and then Saturday and then Sunday, do you think the fact that this has been so tough, does it give you any moment of pause that maybe the American people fundamentally don't want this bill –

BIDEN:  No, no, no.

TAPPER:  — they're not confident in this bill.

BIDEN:  Look, here's the deal.  This has been tough from day one.  It's been tough for 40 years, all right?  We are so close to doing what no one else has ever come close to doing, that it doesn't surprise me at all.  For example, when I spoke to the cabinet members — I call cabinet meetings occasionally on the Recovery Act — and I said, guys, what made you think any of this would be easy.  People have been trying to do this since the turn of the century, the 20th century.  So no I don't take — I really don't think it says that at all.

It says the Republicans have been very skillful in using legitimately every tactic in the book — legitimate tactic — every procedural way to slow down the process to prevent an up-and-down vote.  And we're getting close, they're running out of runway.

TAPPER:  You are down here talking about the stimulus bill and you're down here talking about the Middle Class Task Force – 

BIDEN:  Yes.

TAPPER:  — but you're working the phones.

BIDEN:  That's true.

TAPPER:  You're talking to members of Congress.  What are you telling them and what are you hearing back from them?

BIDEN:  Well, I'm telling them two things.  One is that, look, this is going to be something when the American people realize — once it's passed — that, A, it does take care of preexisting conditions; B, you're insurance rates aren't going to skyrocket; C, the insurance companies aren't going to be running the show like they were before; D, you're going to be in a position where you can keep your insurance that you have.  That once the American public realizes that, you're going to get a reward for this.  They're going to be rewarded.  But right now, though, all of the effort that's been placed near the side, the tens of millions of dollars spent by the insurance industry to misrepresent what this bill, if it doesn't pass, then it's like, well, Gus, guess what, we've saved you from death panels.  Guess what we — so the benefit for the American people is also a political benefit.  They're going to see what we've been saying is true.

TAPPER:  Do you think that they'll see that by November, cause — ?

BIDEN:  Yeah.

TAPPER:  Are you worried at all?  Because some of the parts of the bill that you guys are in favor of –

BIDEN:  Right, right.

TAPPER:  — don't take effect for several years.

BIDEN:  Well, that's true, but very important parts take effect right away.  For example, can no longer be denied insurance for preexisting conditions.  You're not going to be in a position where you paid into a health insurance plan your whole life and all of a sudden it's, whoop, you hit your cap, we're not going to cover you anymore.  There's going — they're going to see there are no death panels that kick in.

There's a lot of good stuff that's going to happen right away.  They're going to see that if you like the insurance you have, then keep the insurance you have.  There's no — they're going to see that if you want to join with a whole lot of other people to help drive down your insurance costs like big companies are able to do, you're going to be able to do that.

So, but there's things that not everything is going to kick in.  This takes some time to kick in, but they're going to see right off the bat the horrible aren't real and there's some very good things that become apparent immediately.

TAPPER:  You're a observant Catholic.

BIDEN:  Sure.

TAPPER:  And there's a big debate right now within the Catholic Church about this bill, and a lot of these last few members that you're trying to get are Catholic democrats who oppose abortion.  And I'm wondering, first of all, how you can side with nuns over bishops?

BIDEN:  That's easy.  I love the nuns.

TAPPER: And, second of all, what you're telling   I assume that some of the people you're calling are these Catholic Democrats because you.

BIDEN: Sure.

TAPPER: Because you have the same faith.

BIDEN: Yes.  I mean, they happen to be similar (ph).  I'm not calling them because of that.  I'm calling a lot of people who have other concerns about the bill.

TAPPER: Right.  But they are among those who you're calling?

BIDEN: Right.  Yes.  They are among them.  Look, when you've got guys like Bob Casey, coming up with a proposal, along with Ben Nelson of Nebraska, that keeps the principles of the Hyde Amendment, which says no federal dollars can be spent in order to pay for abortion, that principle is imbedded in the bill that's about to be passed, God willing.  That is, the bill, God willing, will pass.

And so   but there's a whole lot of disagreement on exactly whether they'll do the exact same thing the Hyde Amendment does.  I've supported the Hyde Amendment for 36 years of the United States Senate.  Well, it wasn't around 36 years.  For the entirety of the time it's been around.  And so I assured them, and this will not allow you to take any subsidized government money you get and say, with that money I'm going to go   now I can go purchase an insurance plan that provides for abortions.  The principle is intact.  And so I   I'm confident even the bishops, once this bill is passed and see how it operates, are not going to have the concern any longer.

TAPPER: When you talked to these members of Congress, you told me what you tell them.  What do you hear back from them?  Do you hear back from venerable members who are worried this bill will cost them their jobs?

BIDEN: Well, I   yes.  Some of them I say   they say, well, Joe, look, man, I mean, you know, you guys haven't massaged this very well.  And, you know, this thing has gone on so long, I don't know.  And my response is, hey, man, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. I'm telling you, you know, pre-existing, they're going to be covered.  You know we're going to control the insurance companies.  You know people aren't going to lose their health care with their employer like is being advertised.  So you've got to   if you really want to make sure that you get the benefit of what you've already done, vote for the bill.
And I look, Jake, I really, truly believe that the worst place to be, as a legislator, is being in the position where your side is being pummeled for an idea and there's misrepresentations about all the bad
things the idea is going to generate.  And then the idea fails and then they go, see, I told you Jake was for it.  And had I not stopped, Jake, there would have been death panels.

For a full read out of our conversation click HERE.

-jpt

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