Dec. 20, 2009 — -- GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, HOST: Washington is digging out of its worst blizzard in years. The Senate is slogging through another weekend on health care. But for now, at least, the outcome is no longer in doubt. Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska announced he would support the bill yesterday, the key vote will come early tomorrow morning, setting up a final vote by Christmas, and a tough conference with the House early next year. A lot to analyze this morning, and we'll begin with one of the president's closest advisers, David Axelrod.
Welcome back to THIS WEEK.
DAVID AXELROD, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE ADVISER: Thanks, George. Happy to have Chicago weather.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You sure do have it this weekend. Thanks for coming in through the snow.
Republicans are already calling this a Pyrrhic victory. And they have a united front against it right now. Here was John McCain yesterday.
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SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: ... reform in American history has been a bipartisan effort. Never in my experience has one party attempted to increase the government's influence in one-sixth of the American economy over the nearly unanimous opposition of the other party.
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STEPHANOPOULOS: And, David, the public seems to have questions as well. We did a poll this week, ABC News/Washington Post poll, that showed that 53 percent of the public think their own health care will cost more if this passes, 55 percent think the health care system overall will cost more, and only 37 percent think their own quality of care will be better.
In the face of this kind of skepticism, is it wise to ram through legislation like this, such a huge piece of legislation on a party-line vote?
AXELROD: Well, I would say a few things, George. First of all, you say this is what people think, I think when people see what actually happens after these reforms are passed, those concerns are going to be allayed, and they're going to realize that if they have insurance, they're more secure in their relationship with their insurance company, their costs are going to go down.
If they don't have insurance, they can get it at a price they can afford. It's going to reduce our deficit. It's going to extend the life of Medicare. Medicare recipients are going to get a better deal on prescription drugs and better care. So the reality I think will trump polls numbers in the dead of winter as this debate is going on.
In terms of ramming it through, we've been talking about this, we've been debating it and considering it for eight months. The Republican Party has spent a month engaged in parliamentary maneuvers and dilatory tactics to try and prevent and vote.
Understand, the big question here isn't whether or not we're going to get a vote, whether this will pass or not, the big question is whether the Republican Party will allow a vote. A majority of senators support this reform, and the Republican Party wants to prevent it from coming up for a vote. I think the American people are entitled to a vote.
If you are a person with pre-existing conditions, if you're a small business person who can't afford health care, if you are a person who became seriously ill and was thrown off your insurance -- their insurance because of that, if you're going bankrupt because of out-of-pocket expenses, you need the United States Senate to act.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But most of the changes, even if the bill passes won't be instituted until after the next presidential election, so you're asking people to take an awful lot on faith.