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Will Delaying Help or Hurt ObamaCare?
Aired November 14, 2013 - 18:28 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: Tonight on CROSSFIRE, the president delivers a stunning mea culpa at the White House.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That's on me. That's why I'm trying to fix it.
ANNOUNCER: Will he soothe the nerves of Democrats or win any Republican support?
SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: ObamaCare isn't working, and it's time to start over.
ANNOUNCER: On the left, Van Jones. On the right, Newt Gingrich. In the CROSSFIRE, Democratic Representative Raul Grijalva, who supports the Affordable Care Act, and Republican Representative Steve Scalise, who's against it. Will delaying part of ObamaCare help or hurt?
Tonight on CROSSFIRE.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAN JONES, CO-HOST: Welcome to CROSSFIRE. I'm Van Jones on the left.
NEWT GINGRICH, CO-HOST: I'm Newt Gingrich on the right. In the CROSSFIRE tonight, two members of Congress on opposite sides of the ObamaCare debate.
President Obama's news conference today was laughable. "Saturday Night Live" will not be able to do it justice. Behaving in a manner consistent with dictators, the president, in effect, said, "I understand insurance companies will have to break the law, but wink- wink, go ahead, stop cancelling people's policies for next year. You can trust me not to prosecute you."
We're living through the largest unraveling of a presidency in modern American history. So much of what he said today is so deeply disturbing, we're going to let you see it for yourself. Now watch this. At 52 years of age, the president finally is learning what almost every American adult already knows.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: What we're also discovering is that insurance is complicated to buy, and another mistake that we made, I think, was underestimating the difficulties of people purchasing insurance online and shopping for a lot of options with a lot of costs and a lot of different benefits and plans.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GINGRICH: Now, Van, let me just ask you for a second -- if a guy tells you he didn't realize it was complicated to buy insurance, do you really want him in charge of the entire insurance system for the country?
JONES: Well, look, I mean, I don't even know where to begin with that opening. I mean, first of all, dictator? You go to dictator. Last week it's he's not being presidential, he's not taking responsibility. When he takes responsibility, he's a dictator. That doesn't make any sense. And then the guy -- I mean, you guys were saying he's not doing enough press conferences; he's not being available. He comes out, you cherry pick a couple things. Listen, this is all I know. This guy, as far as you're concerned, may as well be Barack "Pinata" Obama. Whatever the guy does, you guys beat the crap out of him.
But I'm glad we have some Congress people here to help us get to the truth of the situation. In the CROSSFIRE tonight, we've got Democratic Representative Raul Grijalva and Republican Representative Steve Scalise.
Welcome back. I'm going to start with you. I know you support this awful Upon bill. We've got a lot of stuff to argue about. Before we get into that, the president didn't just say the thing that he's getting picked on for saying. He also said, "I feel deeply responsible." He said, "It's on me." He said, "I've got to work to win back credibility." He said, "I'm not a perfect president." He said, "I'm going to get it fixed."
This is the kind of leadership you've been wanting. You said you wanted him to be accountable, be responsible. Aren't you proud of the president today?
REP. STEVE SCALISE (R), LOUISIANA: Well, what I want the president to do is to admit that this law doesn't work and to actually work with Republicans. I mean, look, Van, if you want to get good policy, you've got to work with Republicans and Democrats to get something done. He didn't want to do that when he passed the law the first time. He shut Republicans out. The law is not working now. He's acknowledging it. He's just not admitting that it's unworkable. He can't wave a magic wand.
JONES: Congressman, the law is working right now. You've got -- you've got...
SCALISE: For who?
JONES: OK. How about this? For all the young people who are on their parents' plans, for the women who can't be discriminated against. You've got all the good stuff you guys rush past, and you go to the things that are not working. Are you against women benefitting from this law right now? You've got -- your party's got trouble with women. Are you against the women not being discriminated against right now?
SCALISE: I'm against all the women who are having their good health-care plans canceled today. I've gotten so many e-mails and calls from constituents in my district that have had plans canceled.
Look at "Forbes" magazine; just came out with a report today that for every one person who's gotten a policy under the president's health care law, 50 people lost the plans they liked. Is that a good deal? Do you think 50 people losing their plans is good for one?
JONES: The president -- and the president came -- and the president came out to try to fix that. I know you're going to work with him to help him fix it.
GINGRICH: Let me ask you about this, Congressman Grijalva. The president today -- and this is just a practical matter. The president today said that implementation of his new proposal would rely on the insurance commissioners of the states working with the insurance companies.
Literally by the time he finished talking, within less than two hours, the Washington state insurance commissioner, who is a Democrat, came out and said flatly, "This will not work. We will not implement it."
The national association, a bipartisan -- these are not the insurance companies that Democrats like to attack. These are the insurance commissioners. On a bipartisan basis, they said, "It is unclear how, as a practical matter, the changes proposed today by the president can be put into effect. In many states, cancellation notices have already gone out to policyholder, and rates and plans have already been approved for 2014. Changing the rules through administrative action at this late date creates uncertainly and may not address the underlying issues."
Aren't you concerned, not on ideology and all that stuff, but just as a practical matter that the very people the president is calling on to do this, within hours have already come out and said, "This will not work, and we can't do it"?
REP. RAUL GRIJALVA (D), ARIZONA: Yes, the concern -- and thank you. The concern is for the private insurances. Private insurances have resisted the Affordable Care Act from the get-go, and there is a risk involved in the president's proposal. I think the president's proposal is -- is an effort to try to continue to move this Affordable Care Act along and to allow people to have options.
But if you're asking me what the risk is, the sole reliance on the private insurance companies to -- that have canceled people at this point, to allow them to go back on, to allow them then to look at options, and to -- and to keep that moratorium for a year is a risk. And I agree with you. I don't know if it's so much the commissioners involved in that decision making as it's going to be that carrier and that private insurance company.
JONES: But aren't you glad that the president did step forward with some constructive solutions?
GRIJALVA: Absolutely. You know, the hit on the president has been that he's sitting back and watching this whole thing unravel. What the president did today I think took a lot of guts.
JONES: I think so. And...
GRIJALVA: You owe up to something, and you propose a fix.
JONES: And speaking of fixes, I mean, the president has put forward a fix that will let people who are getting these cancellation notices have a better chance.
You're supporting -- aren't you a co-sponsor of this terrible Upton proposal that supposedly is going to keep people on their plans? But if you look at it, explain how you could support this. You look at this proposal that you're a co-sponsor of. It doesn't require these insurance companies to keep them on the plan. It lets insurance companies forever keep dumping people, denying people, duping people. Doesn't fix any of the problems. How do you support a terrible law like this and then say Obama is wrong for trying to do something good?
SCALISE: Well, first, Van, it doesn't do the things you describe. I'm a co-sponsor because what it does is it gives a little bit of power back to people. And it says if you like the plan you have, you can keep it. And it's not just you. If somebody else has the same ability to go and get that plan.
One thing you're failing to mention, and Newt talked about the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. They went further to say that this move by the president today would actually increase costs even more. And it's not just the cancellations. Millions of people are losing their good plans, and that's part of the president's broken promise. Another broken promise by the president was that his law would lower costs. We're seeing people now have higher costs, dramatically higher costs.
JONES: And some higher and some lower. But your plan allows -- it does not require these insurance companies to keep those -- keep those plans. It allows it. But what it really does is it's a back door. It opens the back door up in our system for these awful plans that dump people, deny people. Does it allow or does it require?
SCALISE: First of all, it's not a mandate, because the mandates have raised the costs. In fact, the mandates are what led to millions of people losing their plan. This came out in our hearing with Secretary Sebelius a week and a half ago. This is one of the things that people are just fed up with Washington about. Is the president's health-care law says, even if you have a plan you like, we don't think it's good enough for you. Some unelected Washington bureaucrat can say, "I think you have a lousy plan," even though you like it. So the real promise should have been if Barack Obama likes the plan you can actually keep it.
GRIJALVA: You know, the -- the point my colleague is making is muddled. Muddled because we've got through 43-plus efforts at the House level to defund. Forty-three separate votes to defund ObamaCare. Seventeen days of a shutdown to defund and get rid of ObamaCare. And looking at default right in the eye, as a consequence of, again, getting rid of the Affordable Care Act.
You know, I understand all we want to help. The Upton bill does nothing but perpetuate a system that the Affordable Care Act is trying to take care of. Treating women with equity. No pre -- you can't be denied for preexisting conditions. You can't put a cap on how much you can take care of people.
I think those are all fine, necessary steps to get health care, and the 33 million uninsured that suddenly have an opportunity in this country to get health care.
GINGRICH: Well, let me ask you this. I think -- look, the slogans, the values are fabulous. As a practical thing, you have a president who has so mismanaged the Internet access to this thing. You know, they had -- from the time they signed the bill through this month, they've had more time to get a Web site fixed than the entire Second World War with the United States, and they couldn't get it to work.
Apparently, the I.T. people came to the president and said, "This" -- or the president's staff and said, "This isn't going to work, period."
Now, the question I'd ask you is -- today you have the insurance commissioners who are bipartisan and the insurance companies saying this new thing isn't going to work. It's a practical thing here. Great values, great ideas, terrific promises. This isn't -- people who are in charge making it work are saying it isn't going to work. Doesn't it worry you that, on top of the I.T. disaster, you could be about to have an Obama insurance disaster in January of comparable scale?
GRIJALVA: No. I think the I.T. disaster -- let's use your word, Newt -- is fixable. The effort to get that done is ongoing. We have 900,000 people that have registered on and are waiting to see what options they're going to have. That should have been expedited. It was unfortunate.
I -- you know, I'm not defending the program, and I'm not defending the computer. What I'm defending is the substance of this legislation that was passed.
JONES: I'm with you defending that, and I'm also with you in defending the president. Look, I watched the same news conference as you guys did. And you guys must be in the Twilight Zone. Here on planet Earth, I'm going to tell you why people who saw that press conference should be very proud of our president today.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) JONES: Welcome back. In the CROSSFIRE tonight we've got representatives Raul Grijalva and Steve -- I'm sorry, Steve Scalise.
I thought President Obama was great today. He basically said, "Look, I screwed up, and I'm trying to fix it." Now listen, the president has taken full responsibility, personal responsibility. He's given a mea culpa. That's all you can ask for in this situation. I think both parties should applaud him and try to work with him. Often, you've got politicians. They get in trouble. They stay in this defensive crouch when something goes wrong that does not solve anything. This president stood up today. I was proud of him when he said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Am I going to have to do some work to rebuild confidence around some of our initiatives? Yes, but part of this job is the things that go right, you guys aren't going to write about. The things that go wrong get prominent attention. That's how it's always been. That's not unique to me as president, and I'm up to the challenge.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GINGRICH: I just have to ask one thing.
GINGRICH: When you have a national Web site go down...
GINGRICH: ... for 45 days, you don't have to write about it. I mean, the president's characterization misunderstands the scale of this disaster.
JONES: Well, first of all, and I think this is very important to point out. A lot of his supporters say they just beat up on Obama because he's Obama. He was speaking to his base. He said, "Listen, every president gets a tough time when they make a mistake." And he was standing up, and he was taking responsibility.
I think there may be -- and I go back to you. I think there may just be a philosophical difference here. Do you think that consumer protection is a value, that the government can have a policy of consumer protection?
You guys keep talking about government takeover and government mandate, and socialism, and all sort of stuff. From our point of view, this is basic consumer protection. Do you think that the government's wrong when it says you've got to have seat belts and insurance for your car? That's consumer protection. Are you against that philosophically?
SCALISE: I'm all for consumer protection.
JONES: Tell me how it's different.
SCALISE: But I'm also for empowering consumers. And the problem with the president's health-care law is it takes control away from the patients and the doctors, and it moves it over to the government.
And if you look, the president talked a lot about responsibility. What he didn't talk about is accountability. Not one person's lost their job for over $500 million blown on this thing.
It's not just the Web site, though, Van. This is the broken promises all the way down the line. President Obama has a crisis of credibility because so many things. People are losing their plans. People that are seeing much higher costs for health care. All the things he promised that sounded great. Great platitudes. They're literally taking dreams away from people who had good plans that are losing them who had good jobs. People are losing their jobs because of this law.
GINGRICH: Let me ask you, Raul. I want to stipulate my good friend here is very idealistic. I think what you said earlier were great ideals. But at a practical, making -- because the president has got a practical job. Things are supposed to work.
Wouldn't it have made sense for him to have brought the insurance commissioners in, not the companies but the insurance commissioners in, had a meeting and said, "Will this plan work?" I mean, it almost strikes me that his speechwriters and his political guys got together and said, "We've got to do something before the vote in Upton or we're going to lose 100 Democrats. So let's do something." They came up with this thing. They apparently did not check with any insurance commissioners, and now they're being repudiated by the people who have to implement it. I mean, isn't there a practical part of this?
GRIJALVA: There's a practical part to it, but I think that the president's initiative is response that we -- I am accountable, and I need to fix that. And I -- you know, honestly, it's not idealism. You know, you expect leadership from a leader. And so this initiative, whether -- whether a meeting occurred or didn't occur with the commissioners, in my point of view, is that he needed to show leadership, that I understand that this is a problem in effectuating and implementing the whole plan. This is my initiative. This is how I want to deal with it. And I thought it was necessary and appropriate, and it was a good thing.
GINGRICH: But let me follow up for a second. What struck me today was this amassing contrast in what the president said. We have two quotes from the president. One is from a month ago just before the Web site went up. And the other was today. And I think if you listen to these, it raises a very troubling question about the White House. Not about the president, but about the White House.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Just visit Healthcare.gov. And there you can compare insurance plans side by side, the same way you'd shop for a plane ticket on Kayak or a TV on Amazon. I don't think I'm stupid enough to go around saying, "This is going to be like shopping on Amazon or Travelocity" a week before the Web site opens if I thought that it wasn't going to work.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GINGRICH: Now, here's my very practical question again. The president of the United States has the biggest single thing in his domestic policy facing him, and apparently, nobody on his senior staff told him what we now know from congressional testimony, the information technology people were saying, which is this is a really high-risk thing.
When you look at Iran, when you look at Syria, when you look at other problems, doesn't it worry you that the president seems to be surrounded by people who cannot brief him, not inform him, and nothing -- nobody is fired, nothing changes. So the same people who didn't inform him in October are still sitting there. Doesn't that worry you?
GRIJALVA: No, it doesn't worry me, and I'll tell you why. Because I think that in other situations, and other presidents -- and I include Clinton and Bush -- they had -- they had an advantage. And the advantage was that there was a cooperative atmosphere with the United States Congress, and particularly the House of Representatives.
SCALISE: We've differed on so many principles.
GRIJALVA: My experience...
SCALISE: The president refuses to work with us.
GRIJALVA: My experience is that, whether it is health care or any other initiative, the effort is to undercut and sabotage. It is not to try to find some middle ground. That is historic, even from the beginning of this whole discussion on health care.
And so for me, the White House being the principal adviser for him I think is necessary. The counter balance is not there. The house won't sit with this president and try to work out a middle ground.
JONES: You sit here pretending like you just want to be Obama's best friend. You're trying on fix ObamaCare. You love it so much. You hate ObamaCare. You're trying to repeal it. Isn't that right?
SCALISE: The things I don't like about it are what American families are seeing it do to their health care. This law wasn't working from the beginning.
Back in 2010 there was a federal report came out that Barack Obama saw that said over 60 percent of people would lose their health- care plans. And yet he still went around the country saying if you like what your have, you can keep it. That's the crisis of credibility. We've offered time and time again to work with the president on real solutions. Look, going back to when the law was passed, they deliberately shut out Republicans from the process; didn't take one amendment. We had good ideas. They didn't want any of them. And this is what you end up getting.
JONES: I'll tell you.
SCALISE: It's bad policy.
JONES: First of all, one good Republican idea was Romney care, which ObamaCare is. And so part of the thing is that -- and you were there. I was there. We were all there. There was a serious attempt to engage, and in fact, it took longer to get ObamaCare passed than it should have, because we were waiting, trying to figure out who's going to dance with us on the Republican side. You guys had a meeting before -- when Obama got inaugurated, saying you were going to oppose him on everything. And I just it's very hypocritical for you guys to come out here and pretend you're....
SCALISE: And I'll give you -- I'll give you a specific example. During the time...
JONES: Give it to me. And I want you would tell the truth.
SCALISE: During the time that the president's health-care plan was moving through Congress, Nancy Pelosi was speaker. The president said on the campaign trail multiple times, "If any Republican has an idea that they want put to on the table, I'll meet with any of them."
Myself and six other members of Congress, including medical doctors in Congress, the next day said, "We want to come meet with you." Not one time did we get an appointment with the president. Not one time. And I tried multiple times. We called the White House and said, "We've got a lot of good ideas that will actually help solve problems and lower health-care costs." Not one time would the president meet with us. But he kept saying it on the campaign trail.
GRIJALVA: The funny thing about history is that it doesn't necessarily repeat itself. It's there and it's fact. As we were going through the whole process of that vote for health care, it was the fact that -- that it -- accommodations were made to the private insurance companies. It's reflected in the legislation as it sits. And we gave up a public option. We gave up lowering Medicare age groups, because we wanted to make it work. Those were concessions.
GINGRICH: This is going to be a great win to have you guys back and continue this. But for right now, stay here. Next we "Ceasefire." Is there anything our two guests can agree on?
We also want you at home to weigh in on today's "Fireback" question. Do you think the president's fix for ObamaCare will work? Tweet "yes" or "no" using #Crossfire. We'll have the results after the break.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) GINGRICH: We're back with congressmen Raul Grijalva and Steve Scalise.
Now, let's call a "Ceasefire." We've been chatting during the break, as always. One of the more interesting things we should tape sometime. But let me turn, first of all, to you. Is there something you think you and Steve could find a common ground on?
GRIJALVA: I think -- I think we can. You know, the Affordable Care Act was passed, validated by the Supreme Court. And there are premises. And I think what the president did today was to deal with a fix and, in a very strong way, of an issue that's come up with the health-care act which politically is creating a lot of backlash. And I think that's important. I think he's right.
But there are premises to that. Benefits entitled to people now that weren't there before. Preexisting conditions. Young people, women, equity. Those things. They are core principles. I think there's a lot of other middle ground.
SCALISE: You know, one thing: I think the president would be able to rebuild some of his trust if he acknowledged, No. 1, he realizes the law is not workable right now. You know, maybe long term he and I would disagree on what we think happens years from now.
But at the minimum, shouldn't we be able to at least agree that, while this law is not working, we should suspend -- suspend the penalties that American families would be hit with, because right now, they can't go to the Web site and buy a product that the law says they have to buy. Otherwise they'll be penalized. Suspend that penalty because you can't even go and abide by the law.
GINGRICH: Would you agree with that? If, by January 1, they haven't gotten it all fixed, that we should find some way to not penalize people?
GRIJALVA: Not necessarily, because I think that one of the efforts, and I'm not implying anything here, but one of the efforts is to undermine the mandate. And you undermine a mandate, we're in trouble.
GINGRICH: OK. Let me say thank you to Representative Raul Grijalva and Steve Scalise.
JONES: And you can go to Facebook or Twitter to weigh in on our "Fireback" question: "Do you think the president's fix for ObamaCare will work?" Right now, 30 percent say yes, but 70 percent say no. So the debate's going to continue online at CNN.com/crossfire as well as on Facebook and Twitter.
From the left, I'm Van Jones.
GINGRICH: From the right, I'm Newt Gingrich.
Join us tomorrow for another edition of CROSSFIRE.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.