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

Transcript: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Lamar Alexander

ByABC News
January 22, 2010, 2:35 PM

Feb. 28, 2010 — -- ABC News/THIS WEEKElizabeth Vargas Interview with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi

VARGAS: Madam Speaker, welcome back again to "This Week." Let's talk health care.

PELOSI: Good to be here.

VARGAS: The president said after the summit we cannot have another year of debate on this issue. We need decisions now. You said on Friday, "We are determined to pass health care." Do you have the 217 votes necessary to pass it in the House?

PELOSI: Well right now we're working on the -- on the policy. The -- the president put a -- a -- I think a good proposal on the Internet on Sunday. We're examining that very carefully to make sure it has all the affordability we need for the middle class. All the accountability for the insurance industry. And the accessibility that we need to have.

I -- from the meeting on Thursday -- the summit meeting, I -- I believe that we're ready for the next step, which is to write legislative language, and then go from there.

VARGAS: So what are the fixes the Senate needs to make in your opinion? Through reconciliation presumably before the House can vote on it...

PELOSI: Well whatever...


PELOSI: Well I -- I believe listening to the president yesterday -- he's still hopeful that there's a way to have a bipartisan bill. But whatever route the Senate takes, we would like to see again more affordability for the middle class. This is very, very important. This is a bill about the middle class -- their access to health care, and the affordability that makes that access possible.

Secondly we want to close the donut hole for seniors. This is really an important mistake that was made when the republicans passed the prescription drug bill. And we want the seniors to have the comfort of knowing that in this bill the donut hole will be patched. And it's a technical -- a slang term for something that means the seniors pay more...

VARGAS: But if you get that...Will you--

PELOSI: The seniors pay more. And we have more. We want to eliminate the Nebraska fix that -- have equity for all of the states. And that in terms of some of the investments. There are more. But those are the three -- three of the main ones.

But one of the biggest differences is the -- how the bill would be paid for. We -- will we cut waste, fraud, and abuse. Over half a trillion dollars in the bill. But we still needed more of a pay for. The Senate bill had a tax that we did not like in the House. And I think the president's proposal addresses that concern.

So now we will -- it's a question of when you go down to legislative language, you -- you need the clarity. And that's when you find out what everything means.

VARGAS: But you know that the polls show that the American people are deeply divided on health care. Many of them are opposed to it. Even though they are supporting certain...

PELOSI: Pieces of it.

VARGAS: Specific pieces of it. What do you say to your members, when it does come to the House to vote on this, who are in real fear of losing their seats in November if they support you now?

PELOSI: Well first of all our members -- every one of them -- wants health care. I think everybody wants affordable health care for all Americans. They know that this will take courage. It took courage to pass Social Security. It took courage to pass Medicare. And many of the same forces that were at work decades ago are at work again against this bill.

But the American people need it, why are we here? We're not here just to self perpetuate our service in Congress. We're here to do the job for the American people. To get them results that gives them not only health security, but economic security, because the health issue is an economic issue for -- for America's families.

VARGAS: Do you wish though that the president had posted his bill before this week? That six months ago it might have been more helpful for you. That maybe six months ago you knew that the public option was something he was going to drop before you fought so hard for it?

PELOSI: Well we -- we still fight for the -- what the public option will do. Whether it's in the bill or not, its purpose must be recognized. And that is to keep the insurance companies honest. To keep them accountable, and to increase competition. And I think in the summit on Thursday it became very clear that what the president was proposing was regulation of the insurance companies.