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

Transcript: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Lamar Alexander

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...

(CROSSTALK)

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.

Left to their own devices they have done harm to the American people. They need to be regulated. And that is one of the biggest differences between the Democrats and the Republicans. Another one for example is -- an example of it is ending the denial of -- of coverage to those who have a preexisting condition. The Democrats have that in their bill. The Republicans do not.

VARGAS: But would you...

PELOSI: But that's a major insurance reform that has to take place.

VARGAS: But would we still be debating this if the president had put his plan out six months ago?

PELOSI: Well, I don't know what -- what the value of trying -- the president has tried since one year ago March 5th. We met in Washington D.C. in a bipartisan way with some of the outside stakeholders to talk about working together to have health care accessible for all Americans. I smile because I remember Senator Kennedy coming into the room and saying, "I'm signing up as a foot soldier in the fight for health care reform." And of course he was such a tremendous leader.

But that was a year ago. Since then we've had hundreds of hours of meetings, and hearings, and mark ups of bills -- well over a hundred Republican amendments are in this bill -- the -- the House and Senate bills. And what the president put forth – we'll see some of what was said yesterday. So those who were making constructive contributions can be accommodated.

Whether we get Republican votes or not -- the bill definitely has bipartisan provisions in it. But if they have a good idea that works for the American people, whether they're in the vote for the bill or not, we want it in the bill.

VARGAS: How long are willing to wait for those ideas?

PELOSI: Well we -- but that that happened yesterday. And so ...

VARGAS: I mean -- I made it clear -- the president -- The president made it clear that time is up.

PELOSI: Time is up. Yes. So we really have to go forth, because as I said there -- as we sit around this table, this big table in Blair House -- every night families sit around their kitchen table -- try to figure out their finances.

Their -- the security of their jobs, the cost of their children's education, how they're going to pay their medical bills. What is the status of their pensions? And they can't wait any longer. If, you know, if your family has a – a preexisting condition, or if you ever been denied coverage, or if you have a -- a rescission. If your insurance has been withdrawn just as you're about to need a procedure, you know it's long overdue.

And what's the point of talking about it any longer?

VARGAS: If -- but the point is when it does finally come to vote on it in the House, you're certain that you can muster the 217 votes that you need...

PELOSI: We...

VARGAS: ... even with the differences over abortion language? Things...

PELOSI: Yes.

VARGAS:... that there are members of the House who voted in favor of it before, who are now saying, "We can't vote for this bill, because of the Senate language on abortion?

PELOSI: Well let me say I have this in three -- just so you know how we sequence this. First we zero in on what the policy will be. And that is what we'll be doing -- following the president's summit yesterday.

Secondly, we'll see what the Senate can do. What is the substance? And what is the Senate prepared to do? And then we'll go to the third step as to what my -- my members will vote for. But we have a very diverse party. But we all agree that the present system is unsustainable. It's unsustainable.

It's unaffordable for families, for -- and individuals, for businesses -- large, small, and moderate sized businesses. It's unsustainable to our budget. We cannot afford the rising cost of -- of health care. As the president has said, "Health care reform is entitlement reform." And it's unsustainable for our economy. We want to be competitive. These health care costs are a competitiveness issue. They diminish the opportunities for our businesses domestically and internationally to compete without this anvil of health care costs around their necks.

VARGAS: You mentioned jobs. Members of the House have already weighed in on the Senate jobs bill saying it's too small and does too little. The Congressional Black Caucus said it shouldn't even be called a jobs bill. Should you agree to the smaller, incremental approach given that unemployment is the single biggest issue in this country right now?

PELOSI: Well, we wanted to move as quickly as possible on jobs. We passed our bill in December, as you probably know. What the Senate is taking is a segmented approach to it. And I think when everyone sees what the different pieces are, they will know that we're on the path --

VARGAS: But you've said that's OK. Is it OK to do it in that smaller, incremental way, and not the big, dramatic way that the House proposed?

PELOSI: Well, it would have been faster if they would just agree to our bill last year because people are hurting, they need jobs and we need to move quickly. This won't take a long time to do, but every piece of it will not have every provision in it that we want but it will all create jobs and help small businesses grow because that's where major job creation is. It addresses concerns that we have about our veterans coming home who have -- are facing unemployment. It is the biggest issue for our seniors. And believe it or not, jobs in the economy are the biggest issue for our seniors and their opportunities as well. So it is -- it's a four letter word that we use around here all the time, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs.

And by the way, the health care bill is a jobs bill. It will create four million new jobs, several hundred thousand immediately upon enactment. And it will also encourage an entrepreneurial spirit in our country where people can take risks and be entrepreneurial because they know they have health care.

VARGAS: The Ethics Committee on Charles Rangel said that he has violated the House gift rule.

PELOSI: Uh-huh.

VARGAS: How can he remain in such a powerful position as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee?

PELOSI: Well, I think --

VARGAS: Given the fact that there are further pending ethics investigations and this public admonishment has taken place.

PELOSI: Well, it is a public admonishment. It said he did not knowingly violate House rules. So that gives him some comfort. But the fact is that we have a --

VARGAS: He should have known though, don't you think?

PELOSI: Well, I don't know. You understand that the Ethics Committee is an independent, bipartisan committee in the House. They act independent of us. And that's exactly the way it should be. I, though, when I became speaker, instituted an outside ethics panel which makes recommendations in so that we have a double way to receive information, although the ethics committee can self initiate, as well as take recommendations from the outside panel. So we're going to look forward to seeing what else they have to say about what they have before him regarding Chairman Rangel.

VARGAS: If there are further admonishments, though, should he remain in this position?

PELOSI: Well, let's why don't we just give him a chance to hear what the independent, bipartisan -- they work very hard to reach their conclusions and we obviously there's more to come here.

VARGAS: And – but you don't -- you understand this is why so many Americans think Congress is corrupt. It just doesn't -- it doesn't look good. It doesn't pass the smell test.

PELOSI: No, it doesn't. No, it doesn't. I served for seven years on the Ethics Committee and the last thing I would have wanted would be for the Speaker of the House to interfere in a political way in what was going on there. That just should never happen. But the fact is, is that what Mr. Rangel has been admonished for is not good. It was a violation of the rules of the House. It was not a -- something that jeopardized our country in any way.

So it remains to be seen what the rest of the work of the committee is. And I hope it will be soon. But again, it's independent and they go with their own -- they go at their own pace.

VARGAS: Let's talk a bit about the coming elections in November. You had recently-- and the Tea Party movement, do you think it will be a force to be reckoned with? You had said last summer that it was a faux grassroots movement. You called it the Astroturf movement.

PELOSI: In some respects it is. Uh-huh.

VARGAS: Is the Tea Party movement a force?

PELOSI: No – No what I said at the time is, that they were -- the Republican Party directs a lot of what the Tea Party does, but not everybody in the Tea Party takes direction from the Republican Party. And so there was a lot of, shall we say, Astroturf, as opposed to grassroots.

But, you know, we share some of the views of the Tea Partiers in terms of the role of special interest in Washington, D.C., as -- it just has to stop. And that's why I've fought the special interest, whether it's on energy, whether it's on health insurance, whether it's on pharmaceuticals and the rest.

VARGAS: So, common ground with many people in the Tea Party movement.

PELOSI: Well, no, there are some. There are some because they, again, some of it is orchestrated from the Republican headquarters. Some of it is hijacking the good intentions of lots of people who share some of our concerns that we have about the role of special interests and many Tea Partiers, not that I speak for them, share the view, whether it's -- and Democrats, Republicans and Independents share the view that the recent Supreme Court decision, which greatly empowers the special interests, is something that they oppose.

VARGAS: Finally, President Obama, when asked to rate his year in office, gave himself a B plus. How would you rate yourself in the past year?

PELOSI: Well, I have a -- I think I get an A for effort. And in the House of Representatives, my mark is the mark of our members. We have passed every piece of legislation that is part of the Obama agenda. Whether it's the creation of jobs, expanding access to health care, creating new green jobs for the future, regulatory reform, we have passed the full agenda.

VARGAS: Are you frustrated so many bills have not have been stalled in the Senate? Almost 300 bills passed by the House that are sitting languishing in the Senate?

PELOSI: And most of those bills have bipartisan support. Strong bipartisan support in the House that have gone over there. But that you know what that's about? That's about -- and it's very important for you to know, that's about the Republican delay tactics. By requiring 60 votes on some simple legislation that Harry Reid always gets -- has the votes for, but he doesn't have the time to go through the procedural day after day where you have to wait days for the time to go by in order to get the 60 votes. That's how it works in the Senate.

So it's about time. Everything's about time. The most finite commodity that we have. We used our time very well in the House to get an agenda passed in time for it to be considered by the Senate. The delaying tactics of the Republicans in the Senate…

VARGAS: Dare I ask you to grade the Senate?

PELOSI: Well, let's grade this all on a curve. What really matters is, what we do and how it relates to the lives of the American people back to that kitchen table where they have to think about how they make ends meet and how they make the future better for their children and provide for their own retirement. That's really where the grade goes. And the grade is given on election day. We -- we're fully prepared to face the American people with the integrity of what we have put forth, the commitment to jobs and health care and education and a world at peace and safe for our children and with the political armed power to go with it to win those elections.

VARGAS: Madam Speaker, thank you for joining us.

PELOSI: My pleasure.

END

VARGAS: And we are joined now by the Republican point man at the health care summit, Senator Lamar Alexander.

Senator, welcome to "This Week."

ALEXANDER: Thank you, Elizabeth.

VARGAS: You just said heard Speaker Pelosi and President Obama say time is up, we're not scrapping the plan, we're not starting from scratch, this is it. Are you going to -- are the Republicans going to offer some amendments (inaudible)

ALEXANDER: We -- we already have. I mean, we spent seven hours on Thursday, which I thought was a great opportunity for us to say why we thought the president's bill is not a good bill and what we think we ought to do, which is to establish a goal of reducing costs and go step by step toward that goal. And we offered a number of good ideas, some of which the president agreed with, and he'll put his bill aside and renounce jamming the bill through. We can go to work on this the way we normally do in the United States Senate, which is in a bipartisan way.

VARGAS: But he has said he's not going to scrap the bill, he's moving forward with or without you. So why not be part of the process? Why not take what you consider to be an imperfect bill and at least attach some proposals that you support?

ALEXANDER: Well, this is a...

(CROSSTALK)

ALEXANDER: This is a car that can't be recalled and fixed. There are too many things wrong with it. It cuts Medicare a half-trillion dollars. It raises taxes a half-trillion dollars. And in the Medicare cuts, the point that didn't get made very much on Thursday, it doesn't cut it to help Medicare. It cuts Medicare to spend on a new program at a time when Medicare is going broke in 2015.

It raises insurance premiums. The president and I had a little exchange on that. It shifts big costs to states, which are going to drive up college tuitions and state taxes. As a former governor, I've heard from Democratic and Republican governors on this. It dumps 15 million low-income Americans into a failed government program called Medicaid. Fifty percent of doctors won't even see patients in Medicaid.

So you can't fix that unless they take all those things out. And if they did, they wouldn't have a bill.

VARGAS: You had said in your opening remarks at the health care summit, you quoted Senator Byrd when you said -- you called on the president to renounce using reconciliation to push the bill through the Senate with a simple majority vote, saying, quote, "It would be an outrage to run the health care bill through the Senate like a freight train with this process."

Why -- why are you so opposed to this, given the fact that Republicans have used reconciliation more often than Democrats in the past?

ALEXANDER: Well, the outraged words were Senator Byrd's words, not mine.

VARGAS: True...

(CROSSTALK)

ALEXANDER: You're correct. The reconciliation procedure is a -- where you use legislative (ph) procedure is a (ph) -- where you use -- legislative procedure 19 times it's been used. It's for the purpose of taxing and spending and -- and reducing deficits.

But the difference here is that there's never been anything of this size and magnitude and complexity run through the Senate in this way. There are a lot of technical problems with it, which we could discuss. It would turn the Senate -- it would really be the end of the United States Senate as a protector of minority rights, as a place where you have to get consensus, instead of just a partisan majority, and it would be a political kamikaze mission for the Democratic Party if they jam this through after the American people have been saying, look, we're trying to tell you in every way we know how, in elections, in surveys, in town hall meetings, we don't want this bill.

VARGAS: Why political kamikaze, though? We know that Americans don't support health care in general, but when you start drilling down into the specifics, a lot of people do support some of those specifics.

ALEXANDER: Oh, they do support some of the specifics, but you put it all together, they don't like it. They don't want their Medicare cut. They don't want their taxes increased. They don't want their premiums increased. I mean, millions of American will have their premiums increased. The governors are up in arms about the new cost on states, so people have decided -- and -- and there's a sense that Washington is taking over too much.

So I was thinking this morning of President George W. Bush, when he tried so hard to have private accounts for Social Security. He thought he was right. He pushed, he pushed, and he pushed. If he'd stopped about halfway through and shifted, he could have probably gotten a bipartisan agreement on Social Security. I think President Obama could learn from that.

He has a lot of us who would like to help him write a health care bill, but not this one.

VARGAS: When you say political kamikaze, are you saying that if the Democrats push this through, they will lose all their seats in November? I mean, what are we talking about here?

ALEXANDER: Well, here's what I think. I mean, the people are saying, "We don't want it," and the Democrats are saying, "We don't care. We're going to pass it anyway." And so for the next three months, Washington will be consumed with the Democrats trying to jam this through in a very messy procedure an unpopular health care bill.

And then for the rest of the year, we're going to be involved in a campaign to repeal it. And every Democratic candidate in the country is going to be defined by this unpopular health care bill at a time when the real issues are jobs, terror and debt.

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 any more. 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 in 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...

(CROSSTALK)

VARGAS: But very, very quickly, when somebody like a Senator Scott Brown, for example, breaks ranks with Republicans and votes against a filibuster to get the jobs bill to the floor of the Senate, he gets on his Facebook page, you know, all sorts of angry postings, calling him a double-crosser, a sellout, a Judas. What does that say about the political environment right now?

ALEXANDER: It says we live in a very volatile (ph) political environment, and Scott Brown and I and others simply have to do what we think is right. And if we do, which is to get results in a bipartisan way, we'll probably be re-elected or at least we'll have done a good job.

VARGAS: Senator Lamar Alexander, thank you so much for joining us here this morning on "This Week."

ALEXANDER: Thank you.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) VARGAS: Good morning, and welcome to "This Week."

The health care summit. Did it make any difference?

OBAMA: I hope that this isn't political theater.

VARGAS: The parties came together...

CANTOR: We just can't afford this.

VARGAS: ... but they couldn't bridge the gap. So what's nextfor health care reform? Questions for our headliners.

PELOSI: This will take courage to do, but we will get it done.

VARGAS: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and...

ALEXANDER: Mr. President, renounce this idea of jamming throughyour version of the bill.

VARGAS: ... a leading Republican on health care, Senator LamarAlexander.

Plus, a powerful Democratic chairman is found to have brokenethics rules.

RANGEL: I have to now deal with my lawyer.

VARGAS: A big-state governor bows out under fire.

PATERSON: I have never abused my office.

VARGAS: That and the rest of the week's politics on ourroundtable with George Will, Cokie Roberts, Sam Donaldson, and PaulKrugman.

And, as always, the Sunday funnies.

JIMMY KIMMEL, TALK SHOW HOST: Even our weather is beatingCanada. We're out-snowing them, too.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: From the heart of the nation's capital, "This Week"with "20/20" anchor Elizabeth Vargas, live from the Newseum onPennsylvania Avenue.

VARGAS: Good morning, everyone. With so many issues facingCongress, from health care reform to unemployment, and new questionsabout how Congress does business, I sat down with the speaker of theHouse, Nancy Pelosi.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VARGAS: Madam Speaker, welcome back again to "This Week." Let'stalk health care. PELOSI: Good to be here.

VARGAS: The president said after the summit, we cannot haveanother year of debate on this issue. We need decisions now. Yousaid on Friday, "We are determined to pass health care." Do you havethe 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 theInternet on Sunday. We're examining that very carefully to make sureit has all the affordability we need for the middle class, all theaccountability for the insurance industry, and the accessibility thatwe need to have.

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

VARGAS: So what are the fixes the Senate needs to make in youropinion? Through reconciliation presumably before the House can voteon it...

(CROSSTALK)

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

Secondly, we want to close the donut hole for seniors. This isreally an important mistake that was made when the Republicans passedthe prescription drug bill. And we want the seniors to have thecomfort of knowing that in this bill the donut hole will be patched.And it's a technical -- a slang term for something that means theseniors pay more...

VARGAS: But if you get that, will you...

PELOSI: The seniors pay more, and we have more (ph). We want toeliminate the Nebraska fix and have equity for all of the states. Andthat, in terms of some of the investments, there are more, but thoseare the three -- three of the main ones.

But one of the biggest differences is the -- how the bill wouldbe paid for. We -- we cut waste, fraud, and abuse, over half atrillion 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 Ithink the president's proposal addresses that concern.

So now we will -- it's a question of when you go down tolegislative language, you -- you need the clarity, and that's when youfind out what everything means.

VARGAS: But you know that the polls show that the Americanpeople are deeply divided on health care. Many of them are opposed toit. Even though they are supporting certain -- specific pieces of it.

(CROSSTALK)

VARGAS: What do you say to your members, when it does come tothe House to vote on this, who are in real fear of losing their seatsin 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 forall Americans. They know that this will take courage. It tookcourage to pass Social Security. It took courage to pass Medicare.And many of the same forces that were at work decades ago are at workagain against this bill.

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

VARGAS: Do you wish, though, that the president had posted hisbill before this week, that six months ago it might have been morehelpful for you, that maybe six months ago you knew that the publicoption was something he was going to drop before you fought so hardfor it?

PELOSI: Well, we -- we still fight for the -- what the publicoption will do. Whether it's in the bill or not, its purpose must berecognized and that is to keep the insurance companies honest, to keepthem accountable, and to increase competition. And I think in thesummit on Thursday it became very clear that what the president wasproposing was regulation of the insurance companies.

Left to their own devices, they have done harm to the Americanpeople. They need to be regulated. And that is one of the biggestdifferences between the Democrats and the Republicans.

Another one, for example, is -- an example of it is ending thedenial of -- of coverage to those who have a pre-existing condition.The Democrats have that in their bill; the Republicans do not.

VARGAS: But would you...

PELOSI: But that's a major insurance reform that has to takeplace.

VARGAS: But would we still be debating this if the president hadput his plan out six months ago?

PELOSI: Well, I don't know what -- what the value of trying --the president has tried since one year ago, March 5th. We met inWashington D.C. in a bipartisan way with some of the outsidestakeholders to talk about working together to have health careaccessible for all Americans. I smile because I remember SenatorKennedy coming into the room and saying, "I'm signing up as a footsoldier in the fight for health care reform." And, of course, he wassuch a tremendous leader.

But that was a year ago. Since then, we've had hundreds of hoursof meetings, and hearings, and markups of bills -- well over a hundredRepublican amendments are in this bill -- the -- the House and Senatebills, and what the president put forth. We'll see some of what wassaid yesterday. So those who were making constructive contributionscan be accommodated.

Whether we get Republican votes or not, the bill definitely hasbipartisan provisions in it. But if they have a good idea that worksfor the American people, whether they're going to vote for the bill ornot, we want it in the bill.

VARGAS: How long are willing to wait for those ideas?

PELOSI: Well, we -- but that that happened yesterday. And so...

VARGAS: I mean...

(CROSSTALK)

VARGAS: ... the president seemed to made it clear that time'sup.

PELOSI: Time's up, yes. So we really have to go forth, becauseas I said there, was we sit around this table, this big table in BlairHouse -- every night families sit around their kitchen table, try tofigure out their finances, their -- the security of their jobs, thecost of their children's education, how they're going to pay theirmedical bills, what is the status of their pensions?

And they can't wait any longer. If -- you know, if your familyhas a pre-existing condition or if you are denied coverage or if youhave a -- a rescission, if your insurance has been withdrawn just asyou're about to need a procedure, you know that it's long overdue.And what's the point of talking about it any longer?

VARGAS: But the point is, when it does finally come to vote onit in the House, you're certain that you can muster the 217 votes thatyou need, even with the differences over abortion language, things --that there are members of the House who voted in favor of it before,who are now saying, "We can't vote for this bill, because of theSenate language on abortion"?

PELOSI: Well, let me say I have this in three -- just so youknow, how we sequence this. First, we zero in on what the policy willbe, and that is what we'll be doing following the president's summityesterday.

Secondly, we'll see what the Senate can do. What is thesubstance? What is the Senate prepared to do? And then we'll go tothe third step as to what my -- my members will vote for.

But we have a very diverse party, but we all agree that thepresent system is unsustainable. It's unsustainable. It'sunaffordable for families, for -- and individuals, for businesses,large-, small-, and moderate-sized businesses. It's unsustainable toour budget. We cannot afford the rising cost of -- of health care.

As the president has said, "Health care reform is entitlementreform." And it's unsustainable for our -- our economy. We want tobe competitive. These health care costs are a competitiveness issue.They diminish the opportunities for our businesses domestically andinternationally to compete without this anvil of health care costsaround their necks.

VARGAS: You mentioned jobs. Members of the House have alreadyweighed in on the Senate jobs bill saying it's too small and does toolittle. The Congressional Black Caucus said it shouldn't even becalled a jobs bill. Should you agree to the smaller, incrementalapproach, given that unemployment is the single biggest issue in thiscountry right now? PELOSI: Well, we wanted to move as quickly as possible on jobs.We passed our bill in December, as you probably know. What the Senateis taking is a segmented approach to it, and I think when everyonesees what the different pieces are, they will know that we're on thepath...

VARGAS: But you've said that's OK. Is it OK to do it in thatsmaller, incremental way, and not the big, dramatic way that the Houseproposed?

PELOSI: Well, it would have been faster if they would just agreeto our bill last year because people are hurting, they need jobs andwe need to move quicker.

This won't take a long time to do, but every piece of it will nothave every provision in it that we want but it will all create jobsand help small businesses grow, because that's where major jobcreation is. It addresses concerns that we have about our veteranscoming home who have -- are facing unemployment.

It is the biggest issue for our seniors. And believe it or not,jobs and the economy are the biggest issue for our seniors and theiropportunities, as well. So it is -- it's a four-letter word that weuse around here all the time, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs.

And by the way, the health care bill is a jobs bill. It willcreate four million new jobs, several hundred thousand immediatelyupon enactment. And it will also encourage an entrepreneurial spiritin our country where people can take risks and be entrepreneurialbecause they know they have health care.

VARGAS: The Ethics Committee on Charles Rangel said that he hasviolated the House gift rule. How can he remain in such a powerfulposition as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee...

PELOSI: Well, I think...

VARGAS: ... given the fact that there are further pending ethicsinvestigations and this public admonishment has taken place?

PELOSI: Well, it is a public admonishment. It said he did notknowingly violate House rules, so that gives him some comfort. Butthe fact is that we have a...

VARGAS: He should have known, though, don't you think?

PELOSI: Well, I don't know. You understand that the EthicsCommittee is an independent, bipartisan committee in the House. Theyact independent of us, and that's exactly the way it should be.

I, though, when I became speaker, instituted an outside ethicspanel which makes recommendations in so that we have a double way toreceive information, although the Ethics Committee can self-initiate,as well as take recommendations from the outside panel. So we lookforward to seeing what else they have to say about what they havebefore him regarding Chairman Rangel. VARGAS: If there are further admonishments, though, should heremain in this position?

PELOSI: Well, why don't we just give him a chance to hear whatthe independent, bipartisan -- they work very hard to reach theirconclusions, and, obviously, there's more to come here.

VARGAS: But you don't -- you understand this is why so manyAmericans think Congress is corrupt. It just doesn't -- it doesn'tlook good. It doesn't pass the smell test.

PELOSI: No, it doesn't. No, it doesn't. And I served for sevenyears on the Ethics Committee. The last thing I would have wantedwould be for the speaker of the House to interfere in a political wayin what was going on there. That just should never happen.

But the fact is, is that what Mr. Rangel has been admonished foris not good. It was a violation of the rules of the House. It wasnot something that jeopardized our country in any way.

So it remains to be seen what the rest of the work of thecommittee is, and I hope it will be soon. But, again, it'sindependent, and they go with their own -- they go at their own pace.

VARGAS: Let's talk a bit about the coming elections in November.You had recently -- and the Tea Party movement. Do you think it willbe a force to be reckoned with? You had said last summer that it wasa faux grassroots movement; you called it the Astroturf movement.

PELOSI: In some respects.

VARGAS: Is the Tea Party movement a force?

PELOSI: No -- no, what I said at the time is, that they were --the Republican Party directs a lot of what the Tea Party does, but noteverybody in the Tea Party takes direction from the Republican Party.And so there was a lot of, shall we say, Astroturf, as opposed tograssroots.

But, you know, we share some of the views of the Tea Partiers interms of the role of special interest in Washington, D.C., as -- itjust has to stop. And that's why I've fought the special interest,whether it's on energy, whether it's on health insurance, whether it'son pharmaceuticals and the rest.

VARGAS: So common ground with many people in the Tea Partymovement?

(CROSSTALK)

PELOSI: There are some because, they -- again, some of it isorchestrated from the Republican headquarters. Some of it ishijacking the good intentions of lots of people who share some of ourconcerns that we have about -- about the role of special interests.

And many Tea Partiers, not that I speak for them, share the view,whether it's -- and Democrats, Republicans and independents share theview that the recent Supreme Court decision, which greatly empowersthe special interests, is something that they oppose.

VARGAS: Finally, President Obama, when asked to rate his year inoffice, gave himself a B-plus. How would you rate yourself in thepast year?

PELOSI: Well, I have a -- I think I get an A for effort. And inthe House of Representatives, my mark is the mark of our members. Wehave passed every piece of legislation that is part of the Obamaagenda, whether it's the creation of jobs, expanding access to healthcare, creating new green jobs for the future, regulatory reform. Wehave passed the full agenda.

VARGAS: Are you frustrated so many bills have not -- have beenstalled in the Senate, almost 300 bills passed by the House that aresitting languishing in the Senate?

PELOSI: And most of those bills have bipartisan support, strongbipartisan support in the House that have gone over there. But that-- you know what that's about? That's about -- and it's veryimportant for you to know -- that's about the Republican delaytactics.

By requiring 60 votes on some simple legislation that Harry Reidalways gets -- has the votes for, but he doesn't have the time to gothrough the procedural day after day where you have to wait days forthe time to go by in order to get the 60 votes. That's how it worksin the Senate.

So it's about time. Everything's about time, the most finitecommodity that we have. We used our time very well in the House toget an agenda passed in time for it to be considered by the Senate,the delaying tactics of the Republicans in the Senate.

VARGAS: Dare I ask you to grade the Senate?

PELOSI: Well, let's grade this all on a curve. What reallymatters is what we do and how it relates to the lives of the Americanpeople back to that kitchen table where they have to think about howthey make ends meet and how they make the future better for theirchildren and provide for their own retirement. That's really wherethe grade goes.

And the grade is given on Election Day. We're fully prepared toface the American people with the integrity of what we have put forth,the commitment to jobs and health care and education, and a world atpeace and safe for our children, and with the political armed power togo with it to win those elections.

VARGAS: Madam Speaker, thank you for joining us.

PELOSI: My pleasure.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VARGAS: And we are joined now by the Republican point man at thehealth care summit, Senator Lamar Alexander.

Senator, welcome to "This Week."

ALEXANDER: Thank you, Elizabeth.

VARGAS: You just said heard Speaker Pelosi and President Obamasay time is up, we're not scrapping the plan, we're not starting fromscratch, this is it. Are you going to -- are the Republicans going tooffer some amendments and play ball?

ALEXANDER: We -- we already have. I mean, we spent seven hourson Thursday, which I thought was a great opportunity for us to say whywe thought the president's bill is not a good bill and what we thinkwe ought to do, which is to establish a goal of reducing costs and gostep by step toward that goal. And we offered a number of good ideas,some of which the president agreed with, and if he'll put his billaside and renounce jamming the bill through, we can go to work on thisthe way we normally do in the United States Senate, which is in abipartisan way.

VARGAS: But he has said he's not going to scrap the bill, he'smoving forward with or without you. So why not be part of theprocess? Why not take what you consider to be an imperfect bill andat least attach some proposals that you support?

ALEXANDER: Well, this is a--

(CROSSTALK)

ALEXANDER: This is a car that can't be recalled and fixed.There are too many things wrong with it. It cuts Medicare a half-trillion dollars. It raises taxes a half-trillion dollars. And inthe Medicare cuts, the point that didn't get made very much onThursday, it doesn't cut it to help Medicare. It cuts Medicare tospend on a new program at a time when Medicare is going broke in 2015.

It raises insurance premiums. The president and I had a littleexchange on that. It shifts big costs to states, which are going todrive up college tuitions and state taxes. As a former governor, I'veheard from Democratic and Republican governors on this. It dumps 15million low-income Americans into a failed government program calledMedicaid. Fifty percent of doctors won't even see patients inMedicaid.

So you can't fix that unless they take all those things out. Andif they did, they wouldn't have a bill.

VARGAS: You had said in your opening remarks at the health caresummit, you quoted Senator Byrd when you said -- you called on thepresident to renounce using reconciliation to push the bill throughthe Senate with a simple majority vote, saying, quote, "It would be anoutrage to run the health care bill through the Senate like a freighttrain with this process."

Why -- why are you so opposed to this, given the fact thatRepublicans have used reconciliation more often than Democrats in thepast?

ALEXANDER: Well, the outraged words were Senator Byrd's words,not mine.

VARGAS: True, I said you were quoting Senator Byrd. ALEXANDER: You're correct. The reconciliation procedure is alittle used legislative procedure. Nineteen times it's been used.It's for the purpose of taxing and spending and -- and reducingdeficits.

But the difference here is that there's never been anything ofthis size and magnitude and complexity run through the Senate in thisway. There are a lot of technical problems with it, which we coulddiscuss. It would turn the Senate -- it would really be the end ofthe United States Senate as a protector of minority rights, as a placewhere you have to get consensus, instead of just a partisan majority,and it would be a political kamikaze mission for the Democratic Partyif they jam this through after the American people have been saying,look, we're trying to tell you in every way we know how, in elections,in surveys, in town hall meetings, we don't want this bill.

VARGAS: Why political kamikaze, though? We know that Americansdon't support health care in general, but when you start drilling downinto the specifics, a lot of people do support some of thosespecifics.

ALEXANDER: Oh, they do support some of the specifics, but youput it all together, they don't like it. They don't want theirMedicare cut. They don't want their taxes increased. They don't wanttheir premiums increased. I mean, millions of Americans will havetheir premiums increased. The governors are up in arms about the newcost on states, so people have decided -- and -- and there's a sensethat Washington is taking over too much.

So I was thinking this morning of President George W. Bush, whenhe tried so hard to have private accounts for Social Security. Hethought he was right. He pushed, he pushed, and he pushed. If he'dstopped about halfway through and shifted, he could have probablygotten a bipartisan agreement on Social Security. I think PresidentObama could learn from that.

He has a lot of us who would like to help him write a health carebill, but not this one.

VARGAS: When you say political kamikaze, are you saying that ifthe Democrats push this through, they will lose all their seats inNovember? I mean, what are we talking about here?

ALEXANDER: Well, here's what I think. I mean, the people aresaying, "We don't want it," and the Democrats are saying, "We don'tcare. We're going to pass it anyway." And so for the next threemonths, Washington will be consumed with the Democrats trying to jamthis through in a very messy procedure an unpopular health care bill.

And then for the rest of the year, we're going to be involved ina campaign to repeal it. And every Democratic candidate in thecountry is going to be defined by this unpopular health care bill at atime when the real issues are jobs, terror and debt.

VARGAS: You also said in your remarks at the summit thatRepublicans have come to the conclusion that Congress, quote, "doesn'tdo comprehensive well," that our country is too big and toocomplicated for Washington. But Congress has passed many historic andsweeping and comprehensive bills in the past -- Medicare, the civilrights bill, the Americans With Disabilities Act. Are you saying thatthis Congress is uniquely incapable of doing something sweeping andmassive 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 thecivil rights bill. I was a very young aide here when PresidentJohnson, who had more Democratic votes in Congress than PresidentObama had, had the civil rights bill written in Everett Dirksen'soffice. 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 therewouldn't be a campaign, as there will be in health care, to repeal itfrom the day it's passed.

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

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

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

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

VARGAS: Your colleague, Senator Evan Bayh, recently announcedhis resignation, basically throwing his hands up in disgust, sayingCongress is broken, and I want to be -- I don't want to be part of itanymore. He cited you as one of the few Republican senators that hefelt that he could find common ground with, work with, agree with.How are we going to fix Congress and empower Congress to be able topass the sweeping kinds of changes that we need in this country whenpeople like Evan Bayh just take their -- go home, in essence, give upand 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'reused -- governors are used to saying, "Let's go this way," and alegislator 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. Imean, Senator Carper, a Democrat, and I introduced a clean air billwith 11 Democrats and Republicans. We hope we can pass it this year.Senator Webb, a Democrat, and I worked on -- have introduced a nuclearpower bill. Senator Graham, Kerry, and Lieberman are working on aclimate change bill.

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

VARGAS: But very, very quickly, when somebody like a SenatorScott Brown, for example, breaks ranks with Republicans and votesagainst a filibuster to get the jobs bill to the floor of the Senate,he gets on his Facebook page, you know, all sorts of angry postings,calling him a double-crosser, a sellout, a Judas. What does that sayabout the political environment right now?

ALEXANDER: It says we live in a very volatile (ph) politicalenvironment, and Scott Brown and I and others simply have to do whatwe think is right. And if we do, which is to get results in abipartisan way, we'll probably be re-elected, or at least we'll havedone a good job.

VARGAS: Senator Lamar Alexander, thank you so much for joiningus here this morning on "This Week."

ALEXANDER: Thank you.

VARGAS: Coming up next, the roundtable with George Will, CokieRoberts, Sam Donaldson, and Paul Krugman. And of course, later, theSunday funnies.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MEYERS: The U.S. State Department this week unveiled plans forthe new U.S. embassy in London, which will be made of glass andinclude many advanced security measures, I guess to compensate for thefact that it's made of glass.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I'm going to start off by saying, "Here are some thingswe agree on."

(UNKNOWN): I think we can all agree on that.

OBAMA: We agree more than we disagree.

(UNKNOWN): I think we all agree on that.

OBAMA: All parties in both chambers should be able to agree.

(UNKNOWN): I agree with that.

OBAMA: We agree that there have to be some. We agree...

(UNKNOWN): We all agree.

OBAMA: We basically agree.

(UNKNOWN): We certainly agree with the premise you stated.

OBAMA: We agree philosophically.

(UNKNOWN): You're right. We agree with that.

OBAMA: You agree that we should have some insurance regulation.

(UNKNOWN): The main point is, we basically agree.

KIMMEL: And I'm happy to announce that no agreement was reached.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VARGAS: But we are agreeing to go to our roundtable now, withGeorge Will, Sam Donaldson, Paul Krugman, and Cokie Roberts. Good tohave all of you here this morning. And let's...

ROBERTS: And we're all going to agree.

VARGAS: And we're all going to agree, exactly. DONALDSON: Not a chance.

VARGAS: Exactly. Thanks to you, Sam.

George, what did you think of the summit? Did it mean anything?

WILL: Well, let's put it in context. The country having said wewant to concentrate on the economy and jobs, not health care, thepresident doubles down on health care. And days after he unveils acommission that will propose remedies for our Ponzi entitlementstructure, he pushes ahead with a trillion-dollar new entitlement.

The country having said it's too expensive, he melds the Houseand Senate bills and comes up with a bill that's $70 billion moreexpensive than the original Senate bill.

The country having said let's do it piecemeal, he says -- and hemay have a point here -- he says, look, this is such a complex systemthat you can't do piecemeal. It's a Calder mobile. If you touchsomething here, something jiggles way over here.

So, at the end of the day, it turns out we have two parties for areason, and they have differing views about, A, the purposes and, B,the competence of government. And so we slog ahead.

DONALDSON: Well, he comes up with a bill that the CongressionalBudget Office says over 20 years will save billions of dollars. Youcan argue it if you want, but that's what they say.

The thing that the summit demonstrated -- if there was any doubtin anyone's mind -- is the Republicans are not going to play onanything. It's not a question of, "Let's meet in the middle," oreven, "You're the majority party, so you're going to get most of it,but give us something." They're not going to play.

So what the Democrats have to do now is pass the bill, put backthe public option, since it's their bill, and pass it. And PresidentObama...

ROBERTS: But you can't pass it with the public option.

DONALDSON: Well, oh, wait a moment. If 51 votes in the Senate,they can.

ROBERTS: They can't get it.

(CROSSTALK)

KRUGMAN: Unclear even then. But...

(CROSSTALK)

DONALDSON: Let me just finish here, because I want to say thefinal thing. The president has to drop his George B. McClellan maskand become Ulysses Grant. Be ruthless. That's what a FranklinRoosevelt would have done. That's what Harry Truman would have done. VARGAS: And, Sam, that's a good point, because, Paul, you'vebeen arguing that the president should be more ruthless, that heshould be...

KRUGMAN: Well, yes, I mean, I think the summit actually servedits purpose, from his point of view, which was to demonstrate that theRepublicans are not going to give on anything, that they're not goingto -- you know, they're going to make every possible claim, they'regoing to say things that aren't true, like premiums are going to go upunder this bill, which isn't -- isn't going to happen.

And, yes, I mean, I prefer -- I mean, and George and I actuallyhave the same view, but I think the better metaphor is it's a three-legged stool. You have to have guaranteed issue. You can get -- youknow, pre-existing conditions are covered. To make that work, youhave to have universality. You have to have a mandate.

And to have that work, you have to have large subsidies. So thebill has to be more or less what it is. It has to be a comprehensivereform. And the Democrats, you know, from their own point of view,they actually have to do this. They have to -- they can't go intoNovember elections...

VARGAS: And that's the big question, Cokie.

ROBERTS: That's the big question. That is the big question.There's no certainty at this point that there are 217 votes in theHouse and 51 in the Senate, no matter what procedure they use. Sothat is still where they are hung up, which is where they've been hungup all along.

Now, the White House did a couple of smart things in terms ofwhat people were upset about. You heard Senator Alexander talk about,in the dead of night, 2,700 pages, Christmas Eve. Those are thetalking points. And -- and so the White House puts it up on the Web,has a, you know, seven-hour meeting, and takes out the specialprovisions, particularly for Nebraska.

And so that -- they're trying to fix the things that they see are-- that the public has had problems with. And it is true that you can-- you can sing it round or flat, George, about whether the public'sfor this bill or not.

In a recent poll that we came out with, 58 percent -- a Kaiserpoll -- 58 percent said they would be angry or disappointed if a billdidn't pass. So I think that that is what the Democrats are goingwith.

VARGAS: They want something. They're just...

ROBERTS: They want something, and the Democrats just have to,you know, say their prayers, and vote for a bill, and hope it worksfor them.

DONALDSON: But, Cokie, it's true. I think in the short runthey're going to lose seats, because they dropped the ball... (CROSSTALK)

ROBERTS: They're going to lose seats anyway.

DONALDSON: They dropped the ball last summer. The Republicansbrilliantly picked it up. It probably won't be reversed by November.But this is the only chance in how many years to do this?

ROBERTS: Right.

DONALDSON: And I think history will show that they were right ifthey get it done.

VARGAS: George?

WILL: Two things. First of all, Sam, you want the president tobe Ulysses Grant, who won the war by his wonderful indifference to hisown casualties, and I think some members in the Senate and in theHouse would not approve of that.

DONALDSON: Did I not just say that they may lose some seats?Were you listening?

WILL: By the millions. Now -- second, now, Paul says that, infact, the Republicans have no ideas. They do, cross-selling acrossstate lines, tort reforms, all those. Just a second, Paul.

Then you say they're telling whoppers. That was your view aboutLamar Alexander when he said, for millions of Americans, premiums willgo up. You said in the next sentence in your column, I guess youcould say he wasn't technically lying, because the CongressionalBudget Office says that's true.

KRUGMAN: No, it's not what it says.

(CROSSTALK)

KRUGMAN: Can I explain? This is...

(CROSSTALK)

WILL: Wait. Let me -- let me set the predicate here, becauseyou then go on and say the Senate does say the average premiums wouldgo up, but people would be getting better premiums.

KRUGMAN: Look, let me explain what happens, because you actuallyhave to read the CBO report. And what the CBO report tells you -- infairly elliptical language -- is that what it will do, what the billwill do is bring a lot of people who are uninsured, who are currentlyyoung and therefore relatively low cost, into the risk pool, whichwill actually bring premiums down a little bit.

It will also have, however, let -- lead a lot of people to getbetter insurance. It will lead a lot of people who are currentlyunderinsured, who have insurance policies that are paper thin anddon't actually protect you in a crisis, will actually get those peopleup to having full coverage. That makes the average payments go up,but it does not mean that people who currently have good coverageunder their policies will pay more for their -- for their insurance.In fact, they'll end up paying a little bit less.

WILL: One question. If the government came to you and said,"Professor Krugman, you have a car. We're going to compel you to buya more expensive car," but it's not really more expensive, becauseit's a better car, wouldn't you tell them to get off your land?

KRUGMAN: It's not -- Catherine Rampell did a very good piece inthe Times blogs recently which said that the main obstacle to thepeople who are uninsured is not that they are choosing not to beinsured. It is income.

It is, in fact, young people who are not buying insurance becausethey're not being able to afford it, will be brought in through thesubsidies. And that will end up being better even for the people whoare currently insured.

ROBERTS: One of the things that the -- the Congress has failedto do until now is convince people who have insurance, which is mostof us, that this bill will work for them, and that's why this argumentis 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 thedecision to have the federal government regulate rates, and that couldbe extremely popular with people...

(CROSSTALK)

DONALDSON: ... old guys, they say to us, "We're going to cutyour Medicare." They're not going to cut Medicare benefits, not touchthem. What they want to cut in the bill, as I understand it, isMedicare Advantage, which was put in with a government subsidy of 15cents for every dollar, take the 15 cents away. The private insurersnow can compete on their own and use that money elsewhere, and youcould argue where it should be used, but it's not correct that they'retrying to cut Medicare.

VARGAS: I do want to get to one other issue related to thishealth care bill, which is the language on abortion, because it almostdied in the House, the health care bill, because of abortion. Therewas the Stupak amendment, which attached highly restrictive languageto when abortions could be covered, and there -- Bart Stupak says thisis unacceptable, this current bill, as Obama has proposed it, and hesays 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. Heis the hitherto obscure, but soon to be quite famous parliamentarianof the Senate, and it will be his job to rule on what can and cannotbe passed under reconciliation. That is, is it a budgetary-relatedthing? 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 theabortion language under reconciliation.

KRUGMAN: Let me just point out...

VARGAS: And, Cokie...

KRUGMAN: ... that in 2001, the Senate parliamentarian was indoubts about the -- some of the things Republicans were doing throughreconciliation, and they dealt with that by firing him and replacinghim.

VARGAS: And, Cokie, can Speaker Pelosi, given this issue, ifthey can't get through on reconciliation some sort of changing of theabortion language...

(CROSSTALK)

VARGAS: ... can she find the votes?

ROBERTS: It's going to be very, very tough. That's what I saidat the beginning. I mean, this -- this bill is not at the momentpassable 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 unpopularvote.

ROBERTS: ... the calculation...

VARGAS: It's going to kill them in November.

ROBERTS: The calculation that they've made all along -- and Ipersonally think it's a correct calculation -- is that it's worse todo nothing than to do something and that, in the long run, people willlike this bill.

WILL: Can I say something that Paul and I might actually agreeon?

VARGAS: Sure.

WILL: Twenty years from now, the country is going to be spendinga larger portion of its GDP on health care than it is now for threereasons. We're getting older, and as we age, we get more chronicdiseases that interact with one another. Second, we're gettingricher; we can afford to buy more medicine. And, third, medicine isbecoming more competent. Therefore, we're going to spend more onhealth care.

KRUGMAN: But there's a...

ROBERTS: The other thing is, you know, the health care industryis the biggest employer in most of our cities now. So when -- whenthe speaker talks about a job creation bill...

VARGAS: A jobs bill, exactly.

ROBERTS: ... it's true.

VARGAS: Let's shift a little bit to Charlie Rangel, because weheard Speaker Pelosi talk about the fact that what he did didn'tendanger national security, but it doesn't look good. We've got ahandful of Democrats who have now started to join Republicans andcalling for him to step down as chairman of the House Ways and MeansCommittee, a powerful post in the House of Representatives. Can hehold this post, Cokie?

ROBERTS: Yes, he can hold it, as long as people -- you know, hiscolleagues say he can hold it. But whether it becomes too hot for himto hold is something that, you know, sort of evolves. And you seewhat happens in the papers in New York and all of that and whether hecan withstand it.

But, you know, in terms of that Ethics Committee report, therewere two sets of issues they were dealing with. One was this trip tothe Caribbean that was apparently paid for by corporations. The otherwas donations to members of Congress who then provided things inlegislation for the people who gave those donations. I think that's afar, far more serious offense...

VARGAS: Very serious.

ROBERTS: ... and -- and the Ethics Committee basically said, "Noproblem." That's the kind of thing that really makes people veryuncomfortable about the Congress and feel like the Congress is all onthe take.

DONALDSON: Now, let's talk about -- talk about the man for amoment. Years ago, he wrote his autobiography, titled, "I Haven't Hada Bad Day Since," referring to the day in Korea when Sergeant Rangel,pressed by the enemy, led his men over a steep, frigid mountain passto safety and got the bronze star for it. I didn't know him then.

But when he came to Congress, having unseated Adam Clayton Powellin Harlem, he came as a reformer. He was on the Impeachment Committeeand the Judiciary Committee for Richard Nixon, the real impeachmentprocess. And through the years, we've watched him.

Now, if these charges before the Ethics Committee -- and I agreewith you, they're much more serious than the one for which he's beenadmonished...

VARGAS: And there are further ones...

(CROSSTALK)

DONALDSON: If, in fact...

VARGAS: ... apartments in Harlem and...

DONALDSON: ... that's -- it's all true, he has to give it up.He has to have it be taken away from him. And I think his being inthe House has been good for his constituents and good for the country.

VARGAS: George?

WILL: To know Charlie Rangel is to like him.

ROBERTS: Exactly.

WILL: He's a wonderful spirit and all that. Still, one has towonder. Suppose a Republican has revised his disclosure form andsuddenly his net worth doubled and he came upon not one, but twochecking accounts with $500,000 in them...

DONALDSON: They're serious.

WILL: I mean, this is -- there comes a point at which the taxwriting committee should be headed by someone without these...

(CROSSTALK)

VARGAS: Well, and Speaker Pelosi and Steny Hoyer were allcalling for Tom DeLay to relinquish his post when he was alsoadmonished by the Ethics Committee.

KRUGMAN: Yes, this is -- you know, it's -- it is worth pointingout that none of these things actually seem to affect national policy.You know, when Billy Tauzin...

(CROSSTALK)

KRUGMAN: When Bill Tauzin basically wrote the drug -- theMedicare drug bill then left Congress to become head of thepharmaceutical lobby, that was much more serious, but it didn'tactually violate House ethics rules.

So, yes, I'm unable with this. I wish Rangel would go away. Butit's -- you know, it really has no national significance.

VARGAS: And now let's go to the New York governor, because thestate of New York has quite a brouhaha playing out this weekend, theend of last weekend, this weekend. Governor David Paterson steppingdown amid allegations that he and his state police contingentimproperly tried to influence a woman involved in a domestic violencedispute with one of his closest aides.

ROBERTS: And to keep her from testifying against a man who hadabused her. It's really...

VARGAS: And domestic violence was his signature issue cominginto office.

ROBERTS: It's just unbelievable. The idea that he would use thestate police and himself -- he called her himself to basically say --or is alleged to have -- to say, "Don't show up in court to testifyagainst my friend, who beat you up." You know, that is -- that is theworst kind of harassment of women who are already very reluctant to gothe court on domestic violence issues.

VARGAS: He has said he will not run for election in November...

ROBERTS: Yes, because he couldn't win.

VARGAS: But this weekend, Democrats in New York are meetingbecause they're not sure he can govern for 10 more months.

DONALDSON: Well, that's a real question. You know, BasilPaterson, one of the great power brokers in New York...

ROBERTS: His father.

DONALDSON: ... Democratic politics, his father, is a man ofgreat substance. His son has proved not to be. And I think one ofthe lessons here is, when you run -- because they run as a team in NewYork, governor and lieutenant governor -- you ought -- just like apresident and vice president -- you don't put someone on the ticketbecause there's a political advantage who is not capable of steppingin, as he has proved not to be capable. And I think it's a realquestion whether he should serve out the rest of his term.

VARGAS: And, George, what a bumpy term for him. He's gotterrible approval ratings, a huge budget problem, and he managed toinfuriate the Kennedys by his mishandling of Caroline Kennedy's -- youknow, when she -- when she tried to take over for Hillary Clinton'sSenate seat.

WILL: You mentioned the budget problem. I mean, New York statespending has increased almost 70 percent in a decade. It is dead heatwith California as to see which is the worst governed state right now.So a lot of New York's problems predate and will follow Mr. Paterson.Whether or not he should resign because he can't govern, who cangovern that state? The state legislature governs that state badly.

ROBERTS: And locks people out and does all kinds of...

(CROSSTALK)

KRUGMAN: From my -- from my home state of New Jersey, I thinkwe're in the running there.

WILL: You are.

ROBERTS: Exactly.

DONALDSON: We're going to see whether Andrew Cuomo can govern.He's going to be the Democratic nominee. VARGAS: Well, he's -- he's the attorney general, who iscurrently investigating Governor Paterson, and has expressedinterest...

(CROSSTALK)

ROBERTS: Currently investigating the governor...

(CROSSTALK)

VARGAS: ... the White House had tried privately to encourageGovernor Paterson to step...

(CROSSTALK)

ROBERTS: Privately? It wasn't so private.

VARGAS: ... wasn't so private, to step aside, so I guess they'reprobably looking at this as a positive development, that he's notrunning for election.

ROBERTS: Oh, sure.

DONALDSON: Oh, yes.

(CROSSTALK)

ROBERTS: Oh, sure. Yes, but, you know, this business of usingthe state troopers, which, of course, Eliot Spitzer was also -- Imean, it was all of these -- all these echoes of, you know, the wifestanding by as the governor admits to, you know, some perfidy.

And the state troopers, really, if I were the state troopers, Iwould find a way to just not do what the governor says, because itjust gets them in trouble over and over again...

VARGAS: Yes, exactly.

ROBERTS: ... and then there was Arkansas.

VARGAS: And then, of course, this weekend, we have a brand-newWhite House social secretary appointed to replace Desiree Rogers, aclose friend of the Obamas who is exiting after a bumpy tenure, Iwould say. Cokie, you spoke with her. She -- she was highlycriticized after the Obamas' first state dinner in which she arrived,looking absolutely gorgeous, but in what some people later said wasfar too fancy a dress, but most importantly, that was the state dinnerthat was crashed by the Salahis, who walked in without an invitationwhen the social secretary's office didn't have people manning thesecurity sites.

ROBERTS: Well, I talked to -- I did talk to her, Desiree,yesterday at length. She is from my home city of New Orleans andfellow Sacred Heart girl.

DONALDSON: What's the name of the city? ROBERTS: New Orleans.

DONALDSON: I love to hear her say it.

(CROSSTALK)

ROBERTS: But -- and she has lots of good explanations about thatdinner. And basically, the bottom line is, it's the Secret Service.But she -- but her -- her major point is -- and I -- and I completelytake this -- is that she -- she put on 330 events at the White Houselast year and did open the building to all kinds of people who had notbeen there before. And they had wonderful music days of all kinds ofmusic, where you had during the day, the musicians would work withkids in Washington and teach them things before coming on at night.

DONALDSON: Cokie, that's irrelevant.

ROBERTS: Well, I don't think it's irrelevant.

DONALDSON: I mean, it's irrelevant. People who work for thepresident understand or should understand their place, which is to bespear-carriers. There are two stars in anyone's White House, thepresident and the president's spouse. After that, this passion foranonymity that once was a hallmark of people who worked for apresident, has been lost. She wanted to be a star herself...

ROBERTS: And it's been lost. Look at all the people who workfor presidents and then go out and write books about them.

DONALDSON: I think you're right.

VARGAS: Do you think she was -- did she quit, or was she askedto leave?

DONALDSON: She was asked to.

ROBERTS: She says she quit.

DONALDSON: Oh, well...

(CROSSTALK)

ROBERTS: And she certainly has lots...

DONALDSON: And to spend more time with your family.

ROBERTS: No, no, to go into the corporate sector and make somemoney, where she'll make a lot of -- she'll do fine.

DONALDSON: Good luck to her. I don't wish her ill.

(CROSSTALK)

DONALDSON: It's just that she didn't understand...

ROBERTS: She'll do very well. DONALDSON: ... she was not a star in the sense that she shouldmake herself prominent.

VARGAS: George?

WILL: It is axiomatic that when there's no penalty for failure,failure proliferates. She failed conspicuously in her one greatchallenge, which was the first state dinner, and she's gone. If she'sgone because she failed, that's a healthy sign.

VARGAS: The big question, of course, because she was one of thatclose contingent of Chicago friends is whether or not she's just thefirst to leave or if we'll see other...

ROBERTS: But you'll see people leave.

(CROSSTALK)

ROBERTS: I mean, that's what happens. It's a perfectly normalthing that happens in administration, is that people come, and theycome in at the beginning, and then it's time to -- to go back to life.

KRUGMAN: Can I say that 20 million Americans unemployed, thefact that we're worrying about the status of the White House socialsecretary...

VARGAS: It's our light way to end, Paul.

DONALDSON: Paul, welcome to Washington.

VARGAS: Thank you.

DONALDSON: Nice to see you.

VARGAS: All right. You can get the political updates all weeklong by signing up for our newsletter on abcnews.com. Thank you,everybody.

END

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