Return to Transcripts main page

CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Part 3: 21:00-21:30, CNN-Tea Party Republican Debate

Aired September 12, 2011 - 21:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


FORMER GOV. MITT ROMNEY, (R-MA.), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, my own view is that, quite simply, that the Federal Reserve has a responsibility to preserve the value of our currency, to have a strong American currency, such that investors and people who are thinking about bringing enterprises to this country have confidence in the future of America and in our currency. People will not invest in this country and create jobs in this country for the American people if they don't have belief in our currency.

Of course we should see what the Fed is doing. There should be some oversight to make sure that it's -- it's acting properly.

But at the same time, we recognize that we need to have a Fed. Why -- why do I say that? Because if we don't have a Fed, who's going to run the currency? Congress? I'm not in favor of that. I'd rather have an agency that is being overseen rather than have the United States Congress try and manage our currency.

WOLF BLITZER, DEBATE MODERATOR AND CNN LEAD POLITICAL ANCHOR: All right. Let's take another question from the hall. Go ahead. And please identify yourself.

QUESTION: Hi. My name is Tyler Hensley (ph). I'm from Napa, California. My -- well, first of all, thank you guys for coming out tonight. My question is, out of every dollar that I earn, how much do you think that I deserve to keep?

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN, (R-MN.), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Oh, I love that question. I love that question.

(APPLAUSE)

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Governor Huntsman?

FORMER GOV. JON HUNTSMAN, (R-UT.), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I've come out with a tax program that basically simplifies, lowers, flattens the rate, why? Because I did it as governor in the state of Utah; I believe that that experience means something.

And I look at people who are earning, you in the workplace, trying to make ends meet. You ought to be given a competitive tax code. We need to clear out the cobwebs. We need to clear out the deductions, the loopholes, the corporate welfare, and all the subsidies. And for you, you know, we leave it at 8 percent, 14 percent, 24 percent. Those are the three rates that I think would work on the individual income side.

On the corporate side, I think we recognize the reality that a whole lot of companies can afford to have lobbyists and lawyers on Capitol Hill working their magic. Let's recognize the reality that they're all paying 35 percent. We need to lower that to 25 percent. So let's phase out the corporate subsidies and clean out the cobwebs and leave it more competitive for the 21st century.

I can tell you, by doing that with our tax code -- and I know, because we did it in a state that took us to the number-one job creator in this country -- it will leave you and your generation a whole lot better off.

But the thing that you all need to be worried about is the debt that is coming your way, because we have a cancer that is eating away at the core of this country called debt. And it's going to eat -- eat -- eat alive this country until your generation gets active in the 2012 election cycle and finds a leader who can address debt and growth.

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: Thank you, Governor.

Speaker Gingrich, some of the biggest companies in the United States, the oil companies, they got -- I guess some would call government handouts in the form of tax breaks, tax exemptions, loopholes. They're making billions and billions of dollars. Is that fair?

FORMER REP. NEWT GINGRICH, (R-GA.), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, I thought for a second, you were going to refer to General Electric, which has paid no taxes.

(APPLAUSE)

You know, I -- I was -- I was astonished the other night to have the president there in the joint session with the head of G.E. sitting up there and the president talking about taking care of loopholes. And I thought to myself, doesn't he realize that every green tax credit is a loophole...

(APPLAUSE)

... that everything he wants -- everything General Electric is doing is a loophole? Now, why did we get to breaks for ethanol, breaks for oil and gas, et cetera? We got to them because of this idea, which the young man just represented. If we make you -- if we make it possible for you to keep more of your own money, you will do more of it.

We have a simple choice. We can depend on Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Venezuela, or we can encourage development in the United States of manufacturing, as Rick said. We can encourage development of oil and gas. We can do it by saying we're going to let you keep more of your money if you create more of what we want. I'm for an energy- independent America, and that means I favor people who create energy.

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: But I just want to follow up, Mr. Speaker. If you eliminate some of those loopholes, those exemptions, whether for ExxonMobil or G.E. or some other companies, there are those who argue that is, in effect, a tax increase and it would violate a pledge that so many Republicans have made not to raise taxes.

GINGRICH: Yes, a lot of people argue that. They're -- they're technically right, which is why I'm -- look, I'm cheerfully opposed to raising taxes. This government -- we have a problem of overspending. We don't have a problem of undertaxing.

And I think that it would be good for us to say, we're not going to raise any -- which is why I'm also in favor of keeping the current tax cut for people who are working on Social Security and Medicare. I think trying to raise the tax on working Americans in the middle of the Obama depression is a destructive policy. So I don't want to have any tax increase at any level for anyone. I want to shrink government to fit income, not raise income to try to catch up with government.

BLITZER: All right, let's go to Cincinnati.

(APPLAUSE)

We've got a question from Cincinnati. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Hello. My question is, would any of you be willing to support the fair tax?

BLITZER: Governor Romney? A fair tax basically is a national sales tax.

ROMNEY: Yeah. Yeah. The -- the idea of a national sales tax or a consumption tax has a lot to go for it. One, it would make us more competitive globally, as we send products around the world, because under the provisions of the World Trade Organization, you can reimburse that to an exporter. We can't reimburse our taxes right now. It also would level the playing field in the country, making sure everybody is paying some part of their fair share.

But the way the fair tax has been structured, it has a real problem and that is it lowers the burden on the very highest income folks and the very lowest and raises it on middle income people. And the people who have been hurt most by the Obama-economy are the middle class.

And so my plan is to take the middle class individuals and dramatically reduce their taxes by the following measure. And that is for middle income Americans, no tax on interest, dividends or capital gains. Let people save their money as the way they think is best for them, for their kids, for their future, for their retirement. We're taxing too much, we're spending too much and middle income Americans need a break and I'll give it to them.

BLITZER: All right. We have another question from Portsmouth, Virginia. Go ahead.

QUESTION: My name is Linda Gunn (ph). I'm from Portsmouth, Virginia. I'm part of the Virginia Taxpayers Alliance. My question has to do with executive orders, under what circumstances should a president sign an executive order? And how frequently should such an order be signed?

BLITZER: Congressman Paul.

REP. RON PAUL, (R-TX.), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The executive orders have been grossly abused by all administrations for a lot of years. If you can't -- some executive orders are legal. When the president executes proper function of the presidency like moving troops and other things, yes, it's done with an executive order. But the executive order should never be used to legislate. That is what is so bad.

So the executive order should be taken under control. And I have made a promise that as president I would never use the executive order to legislate.

BLITZER: Governor Perry, as you well know, you signed an executive order requiring little girls 11 and 12-year-old girls to get a vaccine to deal with a sexually transmitted disease that could lead to cervical cancer. Was that a mistake?

GOV. RICK PERRY, (R-TX.), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It was. And indeed, if I had it to do over again, I would have done it differently. I would have gone to the legislature, worked with them. But what was driving me was, obviously, making a difference about young people's lives.

Cervical cancer is a horrible way to die. And I happen to think that what we were trying to do was to clearly send a message that we're going to give moms and dads the opportunity to make that decision with parental opt-out.

Parental rights are very important in state of Texas. We do it on a long list of vaccines that are made, but on that particular issue, I will tell you that I made a mistake by not going to the legislature first.

Let me address Ron Paul just a minute by saying I will use an executive order to get rid of as much of Obamacare as I can on day one.

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: Congresswoman Bachmann, do you have anything to say about what Governor Perry just said. You're a mom.

BACHMANN: I'm a mom. And I'm a mom of three children. And to have innocent little 12-year-old girls be forced to have a government injection through an executive order is just flat out wrong. That should never be done. It's a violation of a liberty interest.

That's -- little girls who have a negative reaction to this potentially dangerous drug don't get a mulligan. They don't get a do- over. The parents don't get a do-over. That's why I fought so hard in Washington, D.C., against President Obama and Obamacare.

President Obama in a stunning, shocking level of power now just recently told all private insurance companies, you must offer the morning-after abortion pill, because I said so. And it must be free of charge. That same level coming through executive orders and through government dictates is wrong. And that's why again we have to have someone who is absolutely committed to the repeal of Obamacare and I am. I won't rest until it's appealed.

BLITZER: Let's let Governor Perry respond. Was what you signed into law, that vaccine for 11 and 12-year-old girls, was that,as some of your critics have suggested, a mandate?

PERRY: No, sir it wasn't. It was very clear. It had an opt- out. And at the end of the day, this was about trying to stop a cancer and giving the parental option to opt out of that. And at the end of the day, you may criticize me about the way that I went about it, but at the end of the day, I am always going to err on the side of life. And that's what this was really all about for me.

BLITZER: Senator Santorum -- go ahead.

BACHMANN: Can I add to that, Wolf? Can I add to that?

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Hold on a second. First Congresswoman Bachmann, then Senator Santorum.

BACHMANN: I just wanted to add that we cannot forget that in the midst of this executive order there is a big drug company that made millions of dollars because of this mandate. We can't deny that...

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: What are you suggesting?

BACHMANN: What I'm saying is that it's wrong for a drug company, because the governor's former chief of staff was the chief lobbyist for this drug company. The drug company gave thousands of dollars in political donations to the governor, and this is just flat-out wrong. The question is, is it about life, or was it about millions of dollars and potentially billions for a drug company?

BLITZER: All right. I'll let Senator Santorum hold off for a second.

You've got to response to that.

PERRY: Yes, sir. The company was Merck, and it was a $5,000 contribution that I had received from them. I raise about $30 million. And if you're saying that I can be bought for $5,000, I'm offended.

(APPLAUSE)

BACHMANN: Well, I'm offended for all the little girls and the parents that didn't have a choice. That's what I'm offended for.

(APPLAUSE)

FORMER SEN. RICK SANTORUM, (R-PA.), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think we need to hear what Governor Perry's saying. He's saying that his policy was right. He believes that what he did was right. He thinks he went about it the wrong way.

I believe your policy is wrong. Why -- ladies and gentlemen, why do we inoculate people with vaccines in public schools? Because we're afraid of those diseases being communicable between people at school. And therefore, to protect the rest of the people at school, we have vaccinations to protect those children.

Unless Texas has a very progressive way of communicating diseases in their school by way of their curriculum, then there is no government purpose served for having little girls inoculated at the force and compulsion of the government. This is big government run amok. It is bad policy, and it should not have been done.

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: I'm going to move on, Governor Perry, unless you want to say anything else.

PERRY: Look, I think we made decisions in Texas. We put a $3 billion effort in to find the cure for cancer. There are a lot of different cancers out there. Texas, I think, day in and day out, is a place that protects life.

I passed parental notification piece of legislation. I've been the most pro-life governor in the state of Texas. And what we were all about was trying to save young people's lives in Texas.

SANTORUM: Then give the parents the opt-in, as opposed to -- teach them, let them opt in, but do not force them to have this inoculation.

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: All right. Let's take a question from the audience.

Give us your name please.

QUESTION: I'm Caroline Taylor (ph). I'm from Orange Park, Florida, with the Peoples Tea Party.

My question is, health insurance is expensive because health care is expensive. What is your plan to reduce the cost of health care so that our insurance premiums and other related costs can also be reduced? BLITZER: All right.

Mr. Cain?

HERMAN CAIN, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: First, repeal Obamacare in its entirety.

(APPLAUSE)

SANTORUM: Amen.

CAIN: Secondly, pass market-driven, patient-centered reforms such as, under the current code, deductibility of health insurance premiums regardless of who pays for it. But as you know, I want to throw that out and put in my 999 plan. Secondly, the other thing that we can do in order to help bring down the costs is pass loser pay laws. Doctors will tell you that one of their biggest expenses is medical liability insurance because of frivolous lawsuits.

Secondly, restructure Medicare, another big cost that's passed on to us as consumers related to all the bureaucracy associated with that.

Another market-driven idea, allow association health plans. When I ran the National Restaurant Association, which today has 14 million employees, we wanted to design a system for health insurance that was going to be customized for our industry. We could not do that. We need to be allowed to do that, and so should other organizations and other associations.

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: Thank you, Mr. Cain.

Governor Romney, a lot of the Tea Party supporters here and around the country have a real serious problem with the health care mandate that you got through in Massachusetts. Is there anything you want to say to them to revise or amend? Do you stand by what you did?

ROMNEY: Absolutely. And let me come back and just mention something that -- Herman Cain is right, and let's get back to getting the cost of health care down. I happen to think that's an enormous issue.

And I agree with almost everything you said, Herman, but the reason health care is so expensive, I think you hit the nail on head. You said it's not just because of insurance, it's because of the cost of providing care. And one reason for that is the person who receives care in America generally doesn't care how much it costs, because once they've paid their deductible, it's free. And the provider, the more they do, the more they get paid.

We have something that's not working like a market. It's working like a government utility. And so what we have to do is make sure that individuals have a concern and care about how much something costs. And for that to happen, health savings accounts. Give people a stake in what the cost of insurance is going to be, what the cost of it is going to be. Co-insurance, where people pay a share of the bill, that makes a difference.

And with regards to Massachusetts care, I'm not running for governor. I'm running for president. And if I'm president, on day one I'll direct the secretary of Health and Human Services to grant a waiver from Obamacare to all 50 states.

It's a problem that's bad law, it's not constitutional. I'll get rid of it.

(APPLAUSE) BLITZER: All right.

Governor Perry, you're a firm believer in states' rights. Can a state like Massachusetts go ahead and pass health care reform, including mandates? Is that a good idea, if Massachusetts wants to do it?

PERRY: Well, that's what Governor Romney wanted to do, so that's fine. But the fact of the matter is, that was the plan that President Obama has said himself was the model for Obamacare. And I think any of us who know that that piece of legislation will draw a line between the doctor/patient relationship, that will cost untold billions of dollars, is not right for this country. And frankly, I don't think it was right for Massachusetts when you look at what it's costing the people of Massachusetts today. But at the end of the day, that was their call.

So, from a just purely states get to decide what they want to do, I agree with that. And in the state of Texas, we don't think that's the way we want to go.

BLITZER: All right.

BACHMANN: Wolf, can I --

BLITZER: I'm going to let you respond, but I want Governor Romney to respond first.

ROMNEY: First, I'd be careful about trusting what President Obama says as to what the source was of his plan, number one. But number two, if you think what we did in Massachusetts and what President Obama did are the same, boy, take a closer look, because, number one, he raised taxes $500 billion, and helped slow down the U.S. economy by doing it. We didn't raise taxes.

He cut Medicare by $500 billion. This is a Democrat president. The liberal, so to speak, cut Medicare. Not Republicans, the Democrat.

We dealt with the people in our state that were uninsured, some nine percent. His bill deals with 100 percent of the people.

He puts in place a panel that ultimately is going to tell people what kind of care they're going to have. We didn't do anything like that.

What the president did was simply wrong. It is the wrong course for America. It is not what we did in Massachusetts.

The people of Massachusetts favored our plan by three to one. And states can make their own choices. I'm happy to stand up for what he did. But I'll tell you one thing, what he did is wrong for America, and I'll stop it.

BLITZER: Thank you, Governor. Before I get to Michele Bachmann, I want to just -- you're a physician, Ron Paul, so you're a doctor. You know something about this subject. Let me ask you this hypothetical question.

A healthy 30-year-old young man has a good job, makes a good living, but decides, you know what? I'm not going to spend $200 or $300 a month for health insurance because I'm healthy, I don't need it. But something terrible happens, all of a sudden he needs it.

Who's going to pay if he goes into a coma, for example? Who pays for that?

PAUL: Well, in a society that you accept welfarism and socialism, he expects the government to take care of him.

BLITZER: Well, what do you want?

PAUL: But what he should do is whatever he wants to do, and assume responsibility for himself. My advice to him would have a major medical policy, but not be forced --

BLITZER: But he doesn't have that. He doesn't have it, and he needs intensive care for six months. Who pays?

PAUL: That's what freedom is all about, taking your own risks. This whole idea that you have to prepare and take care of everybody --

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: But Congressman, are you saying that society should just let him die?

PAUL: No. I practiced medicine before we had Medicaid, in the early 1960s, when I got out of medical school. I practiced at Santa Rosa Hospital in San Antonio, and the churches took care of them. We never turned anybody away from the hospitals.

(APPLAUSE)

PAUL: And we've given up on this whole concept that we might take care of ourselves and assume responsibility for ourselves. Our neighbors, our friends, our churches would do it. This whole idea, that's the reason the cost is so high.

The cost is so high because they dump it on the government, it becomes a bureaucracy. It becomes special interests. It kowtows to the insurance companies and the drug companies, and then on top of that, you have the inflation. The inflation devalues the dollar, we have lack of competition.

There's no competition in medicine. Everybody is protected by licensing. And we should actually legalize alternative health care, allow people to practice what they want.

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: Congresswoman Bachmann, go ahead and weigh in on this hypothetical 30-year-old who needs six months of intensive care, has no insurance.

BACHMANN: Well, first of all, what I want to say, with all due respect to the governors, I've read this health care bill, I've been fighting this fight the last couple of years.

BLITZER: Which health care bill?

BACHMANN: President Obama's Obamacare bill. And waivers and executive orders won't cut it. If you could solve Obamacare with an executive order, any president could do it and any president could undo it. That's not -- not how it can be done.

Plus, no state has the constitutional right to force a person as a condition of citizenship to buy a product or service against their will. It's unconstitutional...

(APPLAUSE)

... whether it's the state government or whether it's the federal government. The only way to eradicate Obamacare is to pull it out by the root and branch to fully repeal it. It's the only way we're going to get rid of it.

And this is why I'm running for the presidency of the United States, because 2012 is it. This is the election that's going to decide if we have socialized medicine in this country or not. This is it.

Why? I just have to say this. It's because President Obama embedded $105,464,000,000 in Obamacare in post-dated checks to implement this bill. We are never going to get rid of it unless we have a president committed to getting rid of it. And if you believe that states can have it and that it's constitutional, you're not committed. If you've implemented this in your state, you're not committed. I'm committed to repealing Obamacare.

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: Thank you.

There is much, much more in this Republican presidential debate, the CNN Tea Party debate. Stand by. We're taking another quick break. When we come back, national security, immigration, and a lot more. We'll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: I'm Wolf Blitzer in Tampa at the CNN Tea Party Republican presidential debate. Thousands of you are watching and commenting online on Twitter, Facebook, and cnn.com. We've seen the candidates strongly disagree on several issues already. When we come back, three especially bitter divides: the staggering cost of the war in Afghanistan; how to stop Iran from building a nuclear weapon; and illegal immigration. We'll be right back.

(APPLAUSE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to the CNN Tea Party Republican presidential debate. We're here in Tampa. But we're taking questions from across the country.

Let's go to Cincinnati. Please identify yourself and ask the question.

QUESTION: Yes, what -- what would you do -- what would you do to remove the illegal immigrants from our country?

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: Senator Santorum, maybe 11 million, 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States. What would you do?

SANTORUM: I've said this from the very beginning. What -- I'm the son of an Italian immigrant. I believe in immigration. I believe that immigration is an important part of the lifeblood of this country.

But what we have is a problem of an unsecure border. Unlike Governor Perry, I believe we need to build more fence. I need -- I believe that we need to secure the border using technology and more personnel. And until we build that border, we should neither have storm troopers come in and throw people out of the country nor should we provide amnesty.

What we should do is enforce the laws in this country with respect to employers, and we should secure the border. And then after the border is secured, then we can deal with the problem that are in this country.

But I -- I think it's very important that we understand and we explain to folks that immigration is an important lifeblood of this country, something that I strongly support and something that we have to do legally if we're going to have -- have respect for the law.

BLITZER: Governor Perry, he mentioned you, so go ahead.

PERRY: Yes, sir. There's not anybody on this stage that's had to deal with the issue of border security more than I have, with 1,200 miles of -- of Texas and Mexico. And our federal government has been an abject failure at securing our border.

(APPLAUSE)

We've had to spend some $400 million of Texas taxpayer dollars to send Texas Ranger recon teams down there. Strategic fencing in the metropolitan areas absolutely has a role to play.

But the idea that you're going to build a wall from Brownsville to El Paso and go left for another 800 miles to Tijuana is just not reality. What you have to have is boots on the ground. You've got to have 450 Border Patrol agents trained up, 1,500 National Guard troops. You've got to have the aviation assets in the air putting real-time information down to the law enforcement.

We understand and know how to secure that border, but we can't do it alone. And the federal government has to step up and do what their constitutional duty is, and that is to secure the border with Mexico.

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: Let me just take this quick question from Twitter, and then I want to stay on this subject. What are the candidates doing to attract the Latino voters? Go ahead, Senator Santorum.