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Obamacare: Worth Fighting For or Against?

Aired September 25, 2013 - 18:30   ET



ANNOUNCER: Tonight on CROSSFIRE, did talking all night help the Republicans?

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: I do so like green eggs and ham.

ANNOUNCER: Will the new price tags for Obamacare help the president?

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They can get high- quality, affordable health care for less than their cell-phone bill.

ANNOUNCER: On the left, Stephanie Cutter. On the right, S.E. Cupp. And in the CROSSFIRE, Democratic Senator Robert Casey, who supports the health-care law, and Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss, who wants it repealed.

Obamacare: Worth fighting for or fighting against? Tonight on CROSSFIRE.

STEPHANIE CUTTER, CO-HOST: Welcome to CROSSFIRE. I'm Stephanie Cutter on the left.

S.E. CUPP, CO-HOST: I'm S.E. Cupp on the right.

Needless to say, it's been an entertaining 24 hours here in Washington.


CRUZ: I will credit my father. He invented -- this wasn't for the restaurant, but he did it anyway. He invented green eggs and ham. Not No. 1. Just as a consumer, I'm a big fan of eating White Castle burgers.

I want to take the opportunity to read two bedtime stories to my girls. I do so like green eggs and ham.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you tell me, Senator Cruz, where do Chinese gooseberries come from?

CRUZ: Chinese gooseberries actually come from New Zealand.

SEN. PAT ROBERTS (R), KANSAS: How are you doing?

CRUZ: I thank the senator from Kansas, and I will tell you, I am doing fabulous. As Benjamin Franklin wryly noted, indeed we must all hang together, otherwise we shall most assuredly hang separately.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: I will confess that I hope we can avoid the hanging part of the -- of the situation that you've outlined.

CRUZ: I don't want to miss the opportunity within the limited time to do something that is imperative that I do. Which is to thank the men and women who have endured this -- this Bataan death march.


CUPP: Well, look, say what you want about the wisdom of the strategy and the artfulness of the execution. Someone had to do this. Someone had to stand up and support the millions of Americans who want Obamacare opposed. He was elected to do exactly that.

And the fact that three years after this is already the law of the land, you still have President Obama and President Clinton and Hillary Clinton trying to sell this law, I think is proof that we need more discussion on it.

CUTTER: Well, I think I want to focus on the Bataan death march piece of his remarks, not the gooseberries or the "Green Eggs and Ham" but the Bataan --

CUPP: Or White Castle hamburgers?

CUTTER: Or White Castel hamburgers. And we didn't even get to "Star Wars." But what exactly was the purpose of that? Because remember, the goal here was to block a bill that he's actually for that would shut down the government unless the president agreed to defund Obamacare.

So No. 1 he was for the bill he was trying to filibuster. No. 2, he was trying to shut down the federal government over the funding of Obamacare. How is that a good strategy for the Republican Party? We've -- that's already been proven wrong when Republicans shut down the government more than a decade ago. So I think that he aptly summed it up when he called it the Bataan death march.

CUPP: We will see.

CUTTER: In the CROSSFIRE tonight, two of Ted Cruz's own colleagues: Democrat Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, who supports the health-care law; and Republican Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, who wants to repeal it.

Senator Chambliss, the first question goes to you.


CUTTER: So Senator Cruz has been taking quite a lot of people from his own party and your Republican caucus in the Senate. Senator McCain said this has been debated. The American people have spoken in the last election, in 2012 and when they reelected President Obama.

Senator McConnell, your Republican leader, said, "Our strategies have to be based in the real world, in reality, not based on what Ted Cruz just did."

You've also been a critic of what Senator Cruz did last night. Is this good for the Republican Party? Where is the strategy?

CHAMBLISS: Well, look, you know, Bob and I are privileged to serve in a very unusual institution. You've been there with us.


CHAMBLISS: You know how it works. And the thing about the United States Senate is that every member of the Senate has the opportunity to express themselves when they feel passionately about some idea.

Ted Cruz feels really passionate about repealing Obamacare. I disagree maybe with the method, but look, he is a member of the Senate just like each of us are. And he has the right to take the floor as he did last night and to express himself, and deliver a message, Stephanie, to the American people that he thinks is very important, and frankly I think is very important.

That is, we're fixing to get hit with the biggest entitlement program the American taxpayers have ever seen, 2.6 trillion over the next ten years, and we don't have a way to pay for it. We're broke now. We're going to be fighting over the debt ceiling in two weeks.

And Ted's point has been, look, this thing is going to decrease the quality of health care. People are not going to get what they think they're going to get. Plus we don't have the money to pay for this.

So I respect his right to do that --

CUTTER: Well, the health-care law, with all due respect, is fully paid for, and we can talk about the specifics of that. But you mentioned that Ted Cruz feels passionately about the health-care law and defunding the health-care law, but where was the passion in the Republican Party last night? I mean, he had a handful of people with him, but it was just a handful.

CUPP: It was more than a handful. It was Rand Paul, Mike Lee, Jeff Sessions, Mike Enzi (ph), Jim Inhofe, Marco Rubio. A lot of people came to the floor.

CUTTER: That's about it.

CUPP: He was not a man on an island alone.

CUTTER: He was isolated and people were pretty critical of hem. Not just Democrats -- I just don't see where the passion was with Republicans behind this tactic.

CHAMBLISS: Rest assured, you know, as McCain said this morning, we were there Christmas Eve 2009. We fought and fought and fought as hard as we could fight for weeks and months to not see this bill come to law. It passed with 51 votes. That's not a huge majority.

CUPP: You've been passionate for three years. CUTTER: But Senator McCain also said --

CHAMBLISS: Real passionate.

CUTTER: -- the Supreme Court --

CUPP: Let me get Senator Casey in here.

CHAMBLISS: We voted against -- voted to repeal it time and time again.

CUPP: Senator Casey, let me -- let me ask you. Obviously, no one is going to argue Ted Cruz did not accomplish the mission. His own stated mission of defunding Obamacare, but most Americans aren't happy entirely with this piece of legislation. Should we ignore all of them and end debate, just because Obama says so?

SEN. ROBERT CASEY (D), PENNSYLVANIA: No, what we should do, S.E., is do what we've been doing since the bill was passed: debate the merits of it, work on changes to it.

But we should also remember that parts of this level that have been implemented are working. Seventeen million kids with preexisting conditions had no coverage before this law passed. Millions of seniors getting help with the coverage gap, the so-called doughnut hole -- which is a nice way of saying you've got a big hole in your budget to pay for prescription drugs -- millions of them being helped. So a lot of families being helped. A lot of small businesses are being helped. So we've got to deal with the issue.

But if we're just going to play games here and have -- have an ideological high-wire act about any issue, instead of debating the issues, making changes. I've supported changes in the bill. I've supported changes that would include repealing the medical device fee.

CUPP: Yes, but Senator, entire --

CASEY: So ways to do that -- there are time -- the right time to do that is in the normal course of business. Not --

CUPP: Still, after we passed it, and then we realize -- and then realize how terrible it is.

CASEY: Not threatening to shut -- not threatening to shut down the government.

CUPP: And spend a whole lot of money on it.

CASEY: Because you have an ideological point of view.

CUPP: No, but Senator, tell me -- tell me honestly, and please tell your colleague, are Americans going to benefit long into the future, because of Obamacare, when premiums, as we're seeing, are actually going to go up for entire classes of people who will not be able to afford this? CHAMBLISS: I know what it's doing, for example, to my staff. I see these young folks, who are not making a lot of money, and I see what's fixing to happen to their premiums. Some of them are going from $200 a month to as much as $800 a month.

CUPP: Right.

CHAMBLISS: And we're really not even sure of what those final numbers are going to be, but that's the estimate that they've been given.

CUPP: No, you're right. In fact, "Forbes" today said the data released has been highly selective. We don't know fully.


CUTTER: You know where you can find the data? That's the data. People -- Americans need to go to that Web site.

CHAMBLISS: Whoa, whoa. Stephanie, there's a problem with that.

CUTTER: They can put in their numbers and find out what they're eligible for.

CHAMBLISS: It's dot gov. That means it's coming out of the White House. If we trust those figures, you want to negotiate with the Russians. So --


CASEY: It's Health and Human Services. Today they had a report that said premiums will be 16 percent lower nationwide than -- than was anticipated. So --

CUPP: By whom?

CUTTER: That's before subsidies.

CUPP: Anticipated by whom?

CUTTER: Before subsidies.

CASEY: Before any tax cuts or subsidies.

CUTTER: OK. I want to point out --

CUPP: You brought up something. Who pays for subsidies?

CUTTER: I want to bring up something that --

CUPP: Taxpayers. This isn't Monopoly money. You tout subsidies like this is a fix.

CUTTER: In "The Houston Chronicle".

CUPP: Who pays for it? Me. You. CUTTER: I want to bring up something that's slightly ironic. In "The Houston Chronicle" today -- Senator Chambliss, I want you to look at this. Today in the "Houston Chronicle," right next to a big headline about Ted Cruz wasting everybody's time trying to shut down the government, there was an article about the -- in "The Houston Chronicle" about the new options available to the people in Texas and how prices were coming down.

And according to "The Houston Chronicle," in a family of four making $50,000, which means they will be eligible for tax credits, will pay about $57 for their health care every month. Right now..

CUPPER: After subsidies.

CUTTER: After subsidies. Right now they pay upwards of $1,800 to $2,000. So how is that not a better system than we currently have?

CHAMBLISS: Let's go back to S.E.'s point: Who's going to pay those subsidies, and where is that money going to come from? It's coming -- going to come out.

CUTTER: Are you against giving people tax credits?

CHAMBLISS: It's going to come out of the pockets of those same people you just said are paying $57 a month.

CUPP: That's right.

We'll pay for it later.

CHAMBLISS: And what kind of health-care policy is a family of four going to get for $57 a month?

CUTTER: A pretty good one, compared to what they're getting now? They're getting --

CHAMBLISS: If it is, then our system's really screwed up.

CUTTER: -- a health-care policy that can't deny them health care because they have a preexisting condition.

CHAMBLISS: And that's great. I support that.

CUTTER: All preventative care is covered for. Pregnancy for women is covered for. A number of different benefits. They can't put an annual cap on you.

Right now the health care system, regardless of what you're paying, you have no idea if that insurance policy is going to be there when you need it. Now, because of the new law that's going into effect, it's guaranteed to be there. And you know exactly what you're getting.

CHAMBLISS: So let's -- let's take that example, though. You're talking about less than $700 a year for that family of four. Anybody in America knows that when you go in to see a doc and you have one test done, you've already exceeded that $700. So who's going to pay that? Who's going to pay over and above that?

CUPP: Well, let me ask -- let me ask Senator Casey about another point (ph). Because I think that young people are being unfairly burdened here. Let me ask you about Philadelphia in your home state.

According to the latest numbers, premiums are not going down. A single 27-year-old on the Bronze Plan, who wasn't likely willing to pay $73 before Obamacare, will not be mandated to pay $195. Why are young people being unfairly targeted to pay for older folks?

CASEY: Here's what's going to happen with the young people. If they sign up in big numbers, which is one of the efforts undertaken by the administration, this is going to work. The math on this will work --

CUPP: Yes.

CASEY: -- because we need to have young people --

CUPP: It's a big "if."

CASEY: Young people -- I think they will sign up. Because they need health care, and I think they also care about --

CUPP: But they're going to pay more than they were paying before.

CASEY: Look, we can go through --

CUTTER: Those numbers are before subsidies.

CUPP: You're right, but the subsidy's not going to close the gap.

CASEY: Here's the problem, S.E. I hear the message about repeal, repeal, repeal, repeal. That's all there is, right? One consequence --

CHAMBLISS: Repeal and replace.

CASEY: The problem, Saxby, you might want to replace it, but the Republican Party in Congress, maybe not Saxby, but I have not heard -- I'm waiting -- I'm waiting for --

CUPP: Do you know John McCain? He came up with a health-care plan.

CASEY: I agree with what Newt Gingrich said in August. He said the Republicans don't have a plan.

And if you repeal it, one thing we know about repeal, if you repeal it, CPO says you've got a hole of $109 billion. OK? So there's already a big hole.

But I'd like to hear, and I would give back some time here, but I'd like to hear the Republican plan to make sure that small businesses have some help with their health care, to make sure that families can afford health care, to make sure that every child with a preexisting condition will never, ever be threatened by no coverage or treatment. That can't be guaranteed under the -- under the old status quo. We can go back to those years, where insurance companies are in total charge? Of not just your -- your premium or your care, but in some cases, your life.

CHAMBLISS: During the debate on Obamacare, Bob, there were a number of Republican plans that were put out there. The one that I am a co- sponsor of and supported the most was one that Tom Coburn and Richard Burt (ph) put out there. That was a very good plan, and it cost nowhere near the money that Obamacare is going to cost, and also didn't have all these hidden taxes in it. I say hidden. Some of them are pretty overt. But there's also a lot of hidden taxes in there that you and I know about and that we agree ought to be repealed.

You mentioned the medical device tax. A lot of people don't understand that, on home sales, there's going to ultimately be a tax on there to pay for Obamacare. Part of the student loan money was to pay for part of health care, so there's just an awful lot of hidden taxes out there that people are all of a sudden going to realize they're going to have to pay to fund this monster bill.


CASEY: Why should we have an exercise where people are ready -- literally ready to shut the government down or default on our full faith and credit of the United States to re-litigate an issue that we should be debating outside of the -- outside of the crisis?

CUTTER: And we're going to talk about that more.

So Ted Cruz just wasted the last day, which means Republicans are getting closer to a huge problem. Senator Chambliss, I want to know what you're going to do about it. So that's next.


CUTTER: Welcome back.

Senator Ted Cruz just held the Senate hostage for 21 straight hours. He was trying to kill Obamacare, of course, but he also was trying to persuade his fellow Republicans to do things his way. Listen to what he said last Sunday on FOX News.


CRUZ: Any vote for cloture, any vote for allow Harry Reid to add funding for Obamacare with just a 51-vote threshold, a vote for cloture is a vote for Obamacare.


CUTTER: But after talking all night, he didn't follow his own advice. He joined the other 99 senators in voting yes for cloture, including our two guests, Democratic Senator Bob Casey and Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss, so Senator Chambliss, did Senator Cruz vote for Obamacare, according to the -- his own test that he set up? CHAMBLISS: You're going to have to ask him about that. I think my test would be a little different.

Look, this -- Bob and I know how we've been operating in the Senate. We've had difficulty from time to time getting cloture votes on moving to bills, much less closing off debate.

But today this is too important a time in our -- the fiscal situation of our country. We need to get on this bill. And I would simply like to think that Ted understands that, and that that's -- that's why he agreed that we need to go to the bill. And now we get into the real debate on it, so next --

CUTTER: Do you think that Senator Cruz, though, with all of the theatrics that we went through over the past several days and the attention that he's gotten, is he the future of your party?

CHAMBLISS: Well, you know, everybody that comes to the Senate comes with the idea of running for president.

CUTTER: That's true.

CHAMBLISS: Haven't you always heard that? Bob and I are the two exceptions.

CUTTER: Except you two. Or maybe there's an announcement you want to make.

CHAMBLISS: Let's don't kid ourselves. I mean, there are aspirations out there on the part of a number of members of the United States Senate on both sides of the aisle. And after all, this current president's term is up in 2016, so it's no secret about what's going on.

CUPP: Well, Senator Casey, let me -- let me ask you about President Obama, who agrees that this law needs some tweaking. He's delayed parts of it. He's exempt entire classes of people from the full brunt of its weight for now.

What's one thing that you as a Democrat would offer to Republicans to try to make this law more workable, more attractive, more sellable?

CASEY: Well, I think first of all we should do it outside of the context of shutting the government down or defaulting on our --

CUPP: OK. Fair.

CASEY: So in a real debate --


CASEY: -- on policy. But look, we mentioned the medical device fee. That -- that position that I took to support repeal, it came about because I had businesses in Pennsylvania we spent a lot of time with, learning about the impact of that, and we decided to change our position. I think that that's going to happen numerous times, just like it's happened to every piece of major --

CUPP: I don't think -- No offense, I don't think that's going to satisfy a lot of Republicans. Is there something more? What about the individual mandate?

CASEY: I'm trying to --

CUPP: Would you be open to that?

CASEY: I work on behalf of the people of Pennsylvania.

CUPP: Yes.

CASEY: They're Democrats, Republicans, Independents. But I think most of them understand that something as big and as consequential and as important to the economy as health care, no bill's going to be perfect. You've got to make changes to it. But we should do it in the normal course of how some of us arrived at the conclusion. We should change parts of it already.

But the idea that we're going to inject this and re-litigate this every time you have a fiscal or budgetary deadline, I think creates the kind of -- I hear a lot of people talk about uncertainty. This is uncertainty on steroids. To have another big fight about health care when you should be paying for the operations of government and making sure we don't have any --

CUPP: But it's uncertainty that President Obama has himself kind of inflicted by delaying parts of this, by pushing things off, because it was politically expedient for him to get reelected first before a lot of this went into action. Hasn't he played a role in a failure of leadership? A, to sell this to the people. Because clearly three years later he's still talking about it. And to get people to understand it.


CUTTER: -- being implemented.

CASEY: This is difficult. Ask some of the people in the Republican Party how difficult the first couple years were of Medicaid part D.

CUPP: Sure.

CASEY: Which is now very popular, by the way. Not necessarily creating an analogy here, but there was -- there was a period of time where there was confusion about it, and maybe people don't understand it. And I think we're going through that period.

It may take a while. And this is difficult to get right. But the idea that you can just walk away from this problem and just say that our fiscal condition is going to be fine. Our economy is going to grow without tackling this health-care problem, I think is really missing the point. CHAMBLISS: One thing that I've heard some of my Democratic colleagues compare this to also is the Medicare. And I heard one of my colleagues jump up today and give a quote from Ronald Reagan of 30 years ago about Medicare and talking about how it was such a terrible thing.

Well, the fact is, if what happens with Obamacare is the same thing that happened with Medicare, can you imagine what our children and grandchildren are going to be faced with 30 years from now? From the standpoint of ballooning costs. I mean, Medicare is so totally out of control. And yes, there are lots of things in Obamacare that Republicans do support. That's why I say repeal and replace is what we need to do. Our health-care system is in a mess. It needs to be fixed.

Every doc will tell you that. Every hospital will tell you that. And they give you good ideas about how you can fix it. What's in Obamacare, though, is not the ideas that came from the medical community or health care.

CUTTER: With -- again, with all due respect, Senator, that's actually not true. And much of Obamacare is really based on Republican plans, including a plan in Massachusetts that was put in place by a Republican governor. It's based on competition. It's based on the private sector competing against itself for the first time ever.

But let me go to one other thing. I'm going to --


CUTTER: Absolutely. Significant competition for the first time ever. And transparency. And it as a result of that transparency, rates have gone down. You know, for more than two decades, health-care spending has been on a high end trajectory. For the first time ever, it's on its way down. But --

CUPP: We'll see how long that lasts.

CUTTER: I want to show you one more headline. I'm sorry. I keep showing you headlines. This is from the "Courier-Journal" in Kentucky. And it's about your leader, Mitch McConnell. And the big headline is "Shutdown is Looming." So it is tagging Mitch McConnell with shutting down the government.

Do you think that he is sending Ted Cruz a thank-you note this morning for that? He's being primaried on the right by the Tea Party. He's got a tough race on the left. And now he's tagged with probably one of the most unpopular things across this country: shutting down the government.

CHAMBLISS: Well, I think Mitch did a very good job of showing good leadership in the last several days when he came out and said, in the press, very directly, that "I do not support a shutdown. I'm going on vote for cloture on the motion to proceed. I'm going to vote for cloture on the limiting debate." He didn't have to do that. If he was totally worried about a primary race, he might have gone a different direction. But it's leadership. That's what this is all about. And I think that's what he showed there. And I think that's what you're going to see during the next 72 to a week from -- 72 hours to an hour to the next week. Who knows how long?

CUPP: Let me forecast even further ahead to the next debate on the debt ceiling. Do you think it was a smart strategy, Senator Casey, for Obama -- President Obama to come out early and say he's not going on negotiate on this. And before anyone can walk in the room he's essentially closed the door.

CASEY: Look, the problem here with playing games, with defaulting, is -- I think are pretty obvious. You can't talk to any economist, anyone who knows anything about either the markets or the economy who thinks that defaulting on our obligations for the first time in American history is a good idea. So we should take that off the table. That doesn't mean that you don't have a debate about health care. What we should be talking about is what happened to the middle class the last generation. They've been hammered.

CUPP: So you support the strategy to not negotiate on the debt ceiling with Republicans?

CASEY: I don't think we should do anything that imperils the ability of the United States government to pay its debts. It is -- I don't even want to contemplate what happened to the economy if we took that kind of a hit.

CUPP: OK, well thank you --

CHAMBLISS: We always negotiate on debt ceilings.

CUPP: Oh, I know.

CHAMBLISS: We always do.

CUPP: It would not be the first time.

CHAMBLISS: He would negotiate with Putin but he wouldn't negotiate with Boehner.

CUPP: Thank you to senators Casey and Chambliss.

Next we "Ceasefire." When it comes to Senator Ted Cruz, we agree on something.

CUTTER: Yes, we do.


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

CUTTER: Look, I think his heart was in the right place. I'm proud of him for trying. But ultimately, I think we'd agree, Ted Cruz did not accomplish the mission.

CUPP: I'm not exactly sure what the mission was, but yes, I agree with you. He didn't accomplish it.

CUTTER: OK. Go to Facebook or Twitter to weigh in on our "Fireback" question: "Do you think Senator Ted Cruz's big speech was worthwhile?" Right now, 29 percent of you say yes; 71 percent say no.

The debate continues online at, as well as Facebook and Twitter.

From the left, I'm Stephanie Cutter.

CUPP: From the right, I'm S.E. Cupp.

Join us tomorrow for another edition of CROSSFIRE.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.