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Clinton Lends a Hand to Obama's Health Care Law

Aired September 24, 2013 - 18:28   ET



ANNOUNCER: Tonight on CROSSFIRE, on the eve of a Senate showdown over Obama care, the president gets some high-profile help to make his case.



ANNOUNCER: On the left Van Jones.

On the right, Newt Gingrich.

And in the CROSSFIRE, independent Senator Bernie Sanders, who supports the president's health-care law, and Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who's against it. Will the Senate defund Obama care? Can it avoid a government shutdown? Tonight on CROSSFIRE.

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.

You know Obama care's in trouble when the president has to have both Bill and Hillary Clinton prop it up. It's another pathetic performance in New York City, never mind the United Nations. Obama care is going down. Call in the reserves.


B. CLINTON: I think it's important for you to tell the people why we're doing all this outreach.

OBAMA: When people look and see that they can get high-quality, affordable health care for less than their cell-phone bill, they're going to sign up.


GINGRICH: You know, Van, first of all, I don't know how big his cell- phone bill is, but that's a very -- that's a very strange analogy. But doesn't that strike you -- the president's had four years, personally, to sell this. The government's been trying to sell it for three years. The Democrats in Congress have been trying to sell it. Here we are a couple days before it's going into effect, and he has to run to New York to have the former president, the potential future president prop up the current president. It just struck me as strange.

JONES: Well, you know, I thought it was great. First of all, when you have a bill this awesome that's doing this much good stuff, telling these big insurance companies they can't be denying people and dumping people and duping people, sometimes you need some global icons to explain the greatness.

GINGRICH: How big is your cell-phone bill?

JONES: We can talk about that after the show. Look, not only do we have some global icons explaining, we've got some icons right here to help debate this whole thing.

In the CROSSFIRE tonight, independent Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. He supports Obama care. And Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who is so opposed to Obama care he said in an interview yesterday that the whole bill, quote, "sucks."


JONES: So -- that's a technical point. Welcome to you both.

Let me start with you, Senator Graham. You know, in your home state of South Carolina -- We're both southerners. We have the -- 430,000 people right now in South Carolina, don't have insurance. A week from today, they're going to be able to sign up and get insurance. Do you think they think this sucks?

GRAHAM: I think the people who had a full-time job who are now working 29 hours thinks it sucks. I think a lot of the employers out there who says -- who say, "I can't get there from here" really believes it's not good for their business. At the end of the day, people are voting with their feet.

JONES: Well, come on. I want to make this as human as possible. There's some mother in your state. Maybe she's got cancer, preexisting condition, been turned down for insurance. A week from today she can go onto a Web site,, and sign up, get on the road to having insurance. Can you tell her you think that that sucks? Do you think she thinks it sucks?

GRAHAM: I think that's a good -- I think there are several things in the bill I would adopt.

One, you can't be denied insurance because you've been sick before. Children can stay on their parents' plan. These things make sense.

The structure of the bill is so expensive to comply with that people in business, where that mother may be working, you know, in a -- the service industry, she could very well go from 40 to 29 hours, because her employer can't afford it. You don't have to pick and choose between her being a full-time employee and being protected for not being denied for pre-existing illnesses.

JONES: I want to talk to you about those numbers later, but I'll give Newt a shot.

GINGRICH: Let me understand this. This is a bill which has never once had a majority of Americans favor it. It's a bill which the Democrats lost Teddy Kennedy's seat in a special election over. It's a bill which cost the Senate -- the House Democrats 63 seats. And in the most recent polls, you had, by about 45 to 27, the American people say it's going to make their health worse, not better.

Isn't there a point here where the American people deserve some respect in slowing down the implication -- implementation of something?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: Well, I would look at it another way, Newt. The way I look at it is the Republicans have now tried 42 times to defund it without success. They went to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court ruled it constitutional. They ran a presidential election on this issue, and they lost.

But let me be very clear. I voted for Obama care. But to be very honest with you, I'm not going to argue with anybody who says that it is too complicated.

I am an advocate of a Medicare for all single payer program. I think Obama care is a good Republican Romney type program, which has worked in Massachusetts. It's a moderate program which address some needs.

But let me be clear. And I want to throw this out to you guys. As you know, the United States of America, our very great country, is the only nation in the entire industrialized world that does not guarantee health care to all people as a right.

Second of all, we end up spending almost twice as much per capita on health care as do the people of any other nation.

Thirdly, our health-care outcomes and our life expectancy falls behind many other countries who spend a lot less.

So my own view is that we should learn from the rest of the industrialized world, say that every man, woman and child is guaranteed health care, expand Medicare to all people. That's my view.

GINGRICH: So let me ask you this, because you're in Vermont. You're right on the edge of Canada.


GINGRICH: Canada is obviously a model. Two pieces of data. One, the Canadian system is going up at about 8 percent a year in cost right now.

And two, 43,000 Canadians last year came to the United States for various things they couldn't get in Canada. Now my question tor you would be if we went to national health care, where would the Americans go who needed to get things they couldn't? The Canadians right now can come here, because this is still a relatively open system.

SANDERS: Let me respond in this way. I was the first -- actually, when you were speaker, I was in the House. You know what I did? I took Vermonters over the Canadian border. Do you know why? Because women who were dealing with breast cancer were paying 10 times more for breast-cancer drugs in the United States than they were in Canada.

Second of all, some of those trips from Canada to the United States are paid for by their government.

Third point that I would make is that certainly the Canadian system is not perfect. There is no health-care system in the world that's perfect. But they have had, as you well know, a very conservative prime minister in Canada -- right? -- for many, many years. Now if you had a conservative prime minister who thought their system was so terrible, I would imagine he would have repealed it years ago. But he understands it would be political suicide, because the Canadian health-care system is popular in Canada.

GINGRICH: But what they are doing is starting to allow private clinics. There are now 600 private clinics in Quebec. And the system in that sense is beginning to devolve back to much of what we have, which is a two-tiered system.

SANDERS: I would not say this system is anywhere close to where -- you know, they will deal with their problems as they see fit. They do have their problems, but I will tell you that the Canadian health-care system is a lot more popular in Canada than our non-system is in the United States.

JONES: Well, let's -- let's talk about our system here. You cherry- picked some things that you liked about the bill, and I -- and I like those things, as well.

But one of the things I think a lot of people are concerned about. You talk about these jobs numbers, and people doing all this sort of fear mongering, saying that the job numbers are bad. When you look at the actual numbers, job growth is continuing. Ninety-one percent of all the jobs that are being created are full-time jobs. I don't understand.

Now, if you're concerned about jobs in your own state, the Hospital Association got together, and they said in a report that, if you fully implemented Obama care in your home state, you'd get 44,000 jobs. Why don't you want those 44,000 jobs? You're a champion for jobs. You fought for 2,000 jobs from Boeing. Why are you flushing 44,000 jobs down the toilet in South Carolina?

GRAHAM: Never thought I'd live to hear myself say this: Listen to the unions.

All I can tell you is that this thing is stinking up the place in terms of what people thought they were getting. At the end of the day, Medicare and Medicaid, by 2042, these two government programs that we're talking about, are going to take more money to run than we collect in taxes today.

JONES: Are you -- are you saying that the system we have right now -- right now...

GRAHAM: No, I'm not.

JONES: Right now we have big private insurance...

GRAHAM: I'm going to challenge Bernie to see if we can agree on something.


GRAHAM: If you make over $250,000 a year in retirement, and you're on Medicare, you get $108 a month subsidy from the federal government. I'm willing to tell people that make $250,000 a year you shouldn't get a penny from the federal government.

SANDERS: Well, I'm willing to look at that. But the issue is...

GRAHAM: It's called means testing.

SANDERS: Yes. But the issue to me is, once you start coming up with a number, Lindsey, and you may start at 250. Some of your colleagues will bring it down to 100 the next year. The next year it's 50 and then it's welfare. So I worry about that.

I am more in favor of a universal system which says if you are very, very wealthy, guess what? Well, you're going to be paying more in taxes, and you will be part of a universal health-care system.

GRAHAM: You know what I like about Bernie is Bernie a man of his convictions. When you look at the world, most people are coming our way. We're not going their -- most people with socialized medicine are trying to find ways to lessen the cost, because it's taken their whole economy down. Competition is a good thing.

SANDERS: Well, let me just -- let me just respond.

JONES: That's why...

SANDERS: Let me just respond to Lindsey, because that's not quite accurate. Lindsey, we have found...

GRAHAM: Competition is a bad thing?

SANDERS: ... approximately -- Somebody correct me if I'm wrong here, but I think about 17 percent of our GDP on health care. We have countries, in Scandinavia, in Denmark where everybody has health care, they're spending 8, 9 percent of their GDP. So we're not -- you know, but they are spending significantly less per capita and a smaller percentage of their GDP than we are.

GINGRICH: But let me ask you this question.

GRAHAM: And they have two tanks and one airplane.

GINGRICH: But let me -- let me ask this question about this. In the two largest provinces in Canada, Quebec and Ontario, they now spend 50 percent of their government funding on health care. So half of it on health care.

I mean, the problem is -- and I think this is a universal problem across the planet -- nobody has figured out a model which drives down cost. And the result is, if you assume everybody gets everything they want, you end up in a system which ultimately is going to bankrupt the country.

SANDERS: Well, I don't think that's a fair statement, Newt. I think there are many countries around the world that are providing health care that is cost-effective.

But you're right in raising this question. Philosophically, say, in countries like Denmark and Sweden, people have decided they think it is in their best interests to have, quote unquote, free college education, free health care, free child care, excellent education systems. Do they pay more in taxes? The answer is they do.

In this country we don't do that. so it costs $50,000 for your kids to go to college. Your taxes may be low. Those countries have added it all up together, and they think they get a better deal in terms of universal health care without out-of-pocket expenses.

GRAHAM: The European model is not going to go well here when it comes to tax structure, education, health care. We're not Europe. And the more you try to make us like Europe the more rebellion you're going to get.

We're not a perfect party, but one thing I think Republicans deserve is a vote. I don't like the idea of defunding the government, because we can't get a -- defund Obama care. I think, if the government shuts down next Monday, it will blow back on us. And that's not a smart tactic.

But why can't we have a vote on suspending the one-year -- the individual mandate for a year? We haven't had any, really, opportunity to vote on repealing the medical device tax.

JONES: Well, what I would say...

GRAHAM: Let us vote.

JONES: Well, I have no problem with that. We can talk about Quebec. You have -- in this country you've got ten Republican governors that are actually opposite of you, in your own party...

GRAHAM: Medicaid expansion.

JONES: ... who are actually involved in expanding Medicaid.

We've got a lot more to talk about when we get back. But let me, before we...

GRAHAM: But none of us are going to run in Quebec (ph).

JONES: I'm not talking about Quebec (ph). I'm talking about Michigan. I'm talking about Ohio where Republican governors are actually doing right by their citizens and getting more people in the citizens. You're trying to keep them out.

GRAHAM: I'm talking about America, where this bill is stinking up the place.

JONES: Well, thinking -- thinking about somebody who's stinking up the place, I want to show you a picture I'm happy to show. You may or may not like this guy. But right now you've got Senator Ted Cruz, who's about to start the fifth hour of his talk-a-thon against Obama care. I don't agree with his position, but I think he's tapping into something really important, and that's next.


JONES: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

We are one day closer to the Senate rejecting this crazy House bill that would defund Obama care, and I'm glad about that. But using these crazy Senate rule to do this.

Now check this out: Here is Senator Ted Cruz. He's on the Senate floor right now. He's been there the past four hours, talking and talking. It's not going to make any difference at all.

Now Newt, you were the speaker of the House. For ordinary people watching what's going on in this town, it seems like a zoo, a total circus. And we thought it was going to go from the House, where it's nutty, to the Senate, where it's going to be better, and it's even worse. Can you give us some insight into what's going on? It looks like total crazy town in Washington, D.C.

GINGRICH: You know, it's very interesting to me, and again, I have to confess that I served in the House with both these guys, and they went on to the Senate. So I have some of the House bias in what I'm about to say to you.

But I think it's actually a disservice to the country what's happened over the last 25 or so years. For a very long time, if you were elected senator, you had enormous power. And your ability to object to things, your ability to move things, your ability -- people like Jesse Helms, Bob Bird were geniuses at figuring out legislative maneuvers that nobody else could figure out. Forcing votes that made everybody else mad.

And what's happened, I think, in both parties over time, is they've gradually coerced it down so that, in effect, this is now virtually a dictatorial system. And this is not about Harry Reid.

The Senate Majority Leader in either party today has an ability to stop anything from coming up.

And by the way, I think in the case of people like Ted Cruz, they end up giving speeches like this and making noise in the media, in part because they can't get a vote. I think what Lindsey said was right.

If Ted Cruz had come in yesterday and gotten his vote, he'd probably have gotten 12 to 20 to 25 votes.

JONES: Right. And then we wouldn't have to see him all day?

GINGRICH: People would have said OK. But they can't even get a vote on something where they haven't -- they probably have a majority of the Senate to repeal the tax on medical technology, and they can't get a majority to be allowed to vote.

JONES: Is that your explanation, Bernie Sanders of this nonsense?

SANDERS: Way wrong.

JONES: Thank you.

GINGRICH: Way wrong?

SANDERS: Not even close. Let me give you the other side. Lindsey will remember this, because we just did this...

GRAHAM: I'm sure this is going to be right.

SANDERS: We had a modest stance on energy efficiency. Everybody in America understands we waste energy. Everybody thinks we have to be more efficient.

Jeanne Shaheen with New Hampshire worked with Bob Pluckman (ph), Republican-Democrat working together. Chamber of Commerce supported this bill. You know what? Republicans decided not only was David Vitter doing his thing, but there were 50 other amendments coming in, preventing a vote.

Since Obama has been president -- I'm not saying that in the past -- I'm an independent -- Democrats, of course, obstructed. No question about it. But also what you'll have to admit, since Obama has been president, the number of filibuster efforts where they're calling for clotures have been unprecedented.

So Newt, I think they got it backwards.

JONES: Reid -- it's the dictatorship of the minority. Is that what you're saying?

SANDERS: I'm saying that any one person can go up and say, "I want 60 votes. We don't have 60 votes, end of moving that bill."

GINGRICH: Then why is it impossible to get -- Lindsey pointed out just before the break, they can't, places that I think it would pass, places where they have popular support. Individuals ought to have the same break the president's giving his cronies in the terms of waivers. Clearly, there's a majority, a very big majority for repealing the tax. What's your version of what's happening?

GRAHAM: Well, if you're still awake, I may put you to sleep explaining the Senate rules. You know, there's a thing called filling up the tree. We're going to take the House bill, which you think is crazy, which I think is actually a very good idea. That's why I don't want to filibuster. I can't imagine filibustering the bill I'm actually for.

But under the procedure, there will not be any amendments allowed to the House bill. We can't bring up David Vitter's amendment saying we should get no better deal than the American people's member of Congress.

JONES: OK. You're confusing -- you're confusing me. Let me ask you...



JONES: Let me just ask you this. Now you're -- here's what I...

GRAHAM: That's not fair.

JONES: You're calling senator Reid a dictator. I call...

GINGRICH: He's a majority leader.

JONES: You call him dictator. I say he's a leader, showing leadership. I also would say, as much as I don't like what Ted Cruz is doing, he's showing some leadership himself.

Let me ask you. Where -- you're supposed to be our great statesman from the Republican Party. Where's your leadership? I don't understand. If you hate Obama care this much, why don't you go and support Ted Cruz? Do you -- this is an honest question. My -- I tried to figure out, since you hate Obama care so much, what's your plan to stop it? Your plan to stop it apparently is to let it pass. That confuses people even more than what he's doing.

GRAHAM: Here's what I'm trying to do. I am trying to get votes on a bill that I think can be dramatically changed if people on the Republican and Democratic side had an opportunity to -- to actually talk about it and vote on parts that we don't like.

What Ted is doing is saying, you know, "I don't like Obama care." Well, I don't like it either. But I'm not willing to shut the government down next Monday.

Plus, I don't think the president at the end of the day is going to give up on his signature issue. Do you?

JONES: I don't. But don't you think that Ted Cruz is showing -- isn't he now the leader in the Senate?

GRAHAM: He's showing passion. But what I'm trying to do is build a party that has a bright future if we want one.

JONES: And you're doing that by letting Obama care pass?

GRAHAM: And -- no, I can tell you this. That the best thing the Republican Party can do is have a debate on Obama care throughout 2014. It is now Hillary care. I don't know why the Clintons have adopted this. I almost started calling it Hillary care.

JONES: I bet she'll like it, because it's a great bill.

GRAHAM: You know, if you gave me a vote, Van, if you gave me a vote on the Senate floor about repealing the medical device tax that's hurting business, it would pass. If you gave me a vote to delay the individual mandate for a year like we did the employer mandate, it would pass.

SANDERS: Let me just jump in and say I happen to think -- and by the way, Newt, when you were speaker, you ran a pretty tough ship there, as well, I recall.

But I happen to think that the rules in the Senate are pretty crazy. You or I could go down there and basically stop the entire United States government. One person could do that. Is that what democracy is about? I don't really think so.

But here's the point. Lindsey correctly says there are some bills that he thinks are not getting to the floor that might pass. Fair enough. But let me tell you something else. I happen to believe that the reason that Congress is now held in such contempt is the American people are hurting very badly. Middle class, in my view, is collapsing. Poverty numbers are at an all-time high, and the gap between the very, very rich and everybody else is growing wider.

JONES: And they blame Obama for that. Do you blame Obama for that?

SANDERS: No. I mean, it's a -- you know, it's a long-term trend.

JONES: Just checking. Just checking.

SANDERS: The bottom line is, what do the American people want, Lindsey? They want us to create jobs.


SANDERS: They want us to rebuild a crumbling infrastructure and create millions of jobs. They want us, in my view -- Newt, you quoted polls -- to raise the minimum wage substantially above where it is now. They want us to end these absurd loopholes that billionaires and corporations enjoy.

One out of four corporations doesn't pay a nickel in taxes. And Republicans are saying, "Oh, we have to cut 4 million people from Food Stamps."

GRAHAM: Bernie, if I -- if I was willing to flatten the tax code and take deductions away from the wealthy to pay down debt, would you reform entitlements by extending the age, based on the fact we're all living like Strom Thurmond?

SANDERS: Absolutely not. Not at a time where we have so much...

GRAHAM: That was a moment of bipartisanship that quickly passed.

SANDERS: Now let me ask you. Let me ask you.


SANDERS: At a time when the top 1 percent own 38 percent of the wealth in America and the bottom 60 percent own all of 2.3 percent, will you work with me to ask the wealthy to start paying their fair share of taxes so we can deal with...?

GRAHAM: Here's what I will do. I will create a tax code that creates jobs for more Americans, because that's a good thing. But I would tell the wealthy people of this country, when it comes to Medicare, you're not going to get any more subsidies. When it comes to Social Security, you're going to have to take less, because we can't afford to give everybody what we promised.

If you will help me reform the tax code, I -- help me reform entitlements, I'll help you reform the tax code, because we're becoming Greece if we don't do this.

SANDERS: All right. But when you talk about reform entitlements, I understand.


SANDERS: Correct me if I'm wrong. You want to raise the entitlement age to Social Security?

GRAHAM: Over 30 years.

SANDERS: Over 30 years to 70 years.

GRAHAM: No. What I want to do is harmonize Medicare with Social Security: go from 65 to 67 over the next 30 years. And I want means testing for people in my income level, Newt's income level, Van's income level. Have to pay the actual costs.

SANDERS: But you also support the chain CPI.

GRAHAM: Yes, I do.

SANDERS: Which cut benefits -- let me talk. Which would cut $650 from Social Security benefits between the ages of 65 and 70. And make massive cuts for disabled vets.

GRAHAM: Well, no. What I'm trying to do is save the country from bankruptcy. And when the president of the United States, who I usually don't agree with, put CPI on the table, I thought it was a very courageous thing to do. And I am willing to flatten that tax code. I can go to the rich people in America and all the corporations, say, "We're going to take deductions off the table you now enjoy. Take that money back for the many, not just the few."

But if you don't help me reform the entitlements, there's no way to get there by taxing people.

SANDERS: I want everybody to understand, when Lindsey talks about reforming entitlements, what he means is cutting Social Security and cutting Medicare. I think that's a bad idea.

GINGRICH: OK. And I would say -- and we're about to run out of time. But I would say what you're talking about is going bankrupt, and that's a debate we want to invite you to come back.

GRAHAM: ... program. I've actually spent...

GINGRICH: We'll have you back on access for health care, which will be a great topic, the two of you. And we ought to come back and talk a little bit more about how do we solve this?

GRAHAM: Eighty million Baby Boomers are going to retire in the next 40 years. How do we replace them? We need rational immigration.

JONES: The first thing, maybe stop giving those subsidies...

GRAHAM: How do you save Medicare and Social Security with 80 million people coming into the system?

JONES: What about first of all, you supported $4 billion subsidies to oil company that don't need them. We've got -- we have a lot of conversations we need to have -- I'm going to give it back to you, Newt, to take us out of here.

GINGRICH: Kind of -- You almost agreed with him for a second. I was sitting back.

JONES: I changed my mind.

GINGRICH: Let me -- I want to thank Senator Sanders and Senator Graham.

Next, we "Ceasefire." Is there anything out of all this that the two of us can agree on?


GINGRICH: Tonight on CROSSFIRE, we've been debating Obama care. Now let's call a "Ceasefire." Is there anything we can agree on?

I think clearly, Obama care after four years of effort, has not been very well explained, and most Americans, whether you like it or dislike it, don't fully understand.

JONES: Well, I agree that there's so much good stuff in there. I wish more people knew about it. I sure wish Bill Clinton had come in earlier.

GINGRICH: We may see him soon in a long infomercial. JONES: Well, listen, if you want to keep this conversation going, you can do that. Go to Facebook or Twitter to weigh in on our "Fireback" question: "Should Obama care implementation be delayed to make changes on the law?" Right now, 39 percent of you say yes; 61 percent say no. That is the right answer, by the way. The debate continues online,, 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 from another edition of CROSSFIRE.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.