WASHINGTON--Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) faced off against Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) Wednesday morning on NBC's "Today Show" over the health bill, as the Senate today takes up a slew of GOP amendments to the new health care bill signed into law Tuesday by President Obama.
The bill passed the House on Sunday with only Democratic votes. Only Democrats in the Senate are expected to support the bill in upcoming votes.
Said Durbin, asked about bipartisanship, said "For some on the other side of the aisle, I'm afraid bipartisanship hasn't started with this president. As Senator DeMint said himself, the object behind the health-care debate was to break the presidency. America doesn't want a broken presidency. They want a president who's going to work with both parties."
Transcript courtesy of Federal News Service....
MS. VIEIRA: Dick Durbin of Illinois is the Senate majority whip, and Republican Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina introduced legislation Tuesday to fully repeal the health-care law.
Good morning to both of you.
SEN. DURBIN: Good morning.
SEN. DEMINT: Good morning.
MS. VIEIRA: Senator DeMint, if I could start with you, back in July you said, "If we're able to stop Obama on this," meaning this health-care-reform bill, "it will be his Waterloo. It will break him." Well, the bill is now law. And a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush has said Republicans messed up big by adopting a "Hell, no" approach to this bill. So do you still feel it is the president's Waterloo, or is it now your party's Waterloo?
SEN. DEMINT: Well, I think we're going to find out in November. Americans are very angry, because this comes on the heels of the government taking over General Motors and Chrysler and our largest insurance company, our largest mortgage company. There is a lot of anger out there. And I think this November election is going to be, do we really want the government running all areas of our lives?
MS. VIEIRA: Well, let me -- can I stop you right there, Senator? Because you talk about the anger, but according to the latest USA Today/Gallup poll, by a margin of 9 percent, Americans say it was a good thing that Congress passed this bill. Half describe their reaction as enthusiastic or pleased. Forty-eight percent called the bill a good first step. So who is out of touch with the public, the Democrats or the Republicans?
SEN. DEMINT: Well, we would expect hype -- with all the hype and propaganda, that we would get a bump. But I think as people understand, just as we're seeing this week, there's not money in this bill to pay doctors to see our senior citizens in Medicare. They're trying to pass a separate bill this week just to make those payments for one more month.
So the real fix of health care has not happened with this bill, and that'll begin to come out over the next year as we go into this election. So I don't think the anger's going to go away. I think you're going to see it continue to build. And I believe I owe it to my constituents and Americans everywhere to commit to try to repeal this thing over the next year or two.
MS. VIEIRA: Senator Durbin, when the House sent the reconciliation bill over to the Senate, it was with the understanding that it would be passed as is. As majority whip, can you tell us this morning, do you have the votes right now to do that?
SEN. DURBIN: We have the votes to pass reconciliation, but the Republicans are going to offer many amendments. We saw some of them last night. Now, this is a bill about budget deficit reduction and health-care reform, and one of the Republican amendments wants a public referendum in the District of Columbia on gay marriage. Another Republican amendment wants us to go after the organization ACORN, which just announced its bankruptcy. Another amendment says no prescription Viagra for rapists.
I mean, when you go through this long list, you say common sense tells you this is a political exercise for too many on the other side of the aisle.
MS. VIEIRA: But how do Democrats vote against those amendments without enraging their constituents back home, who will be voting in November?
SEN. DURBIN: We're going to tell our people back home that it's time to govern. It's time to lead. It's time to address important issues. The underlying bill, for example, makes sure that health insurance is going to be more affordable for people who are working. It also provides for closing the donut hole, which means for seniors on Medicare, there'll be help in paying for prescription drugs. Let's get down to the real issues in this bill and help families and businesses and people across America with health-care issues.
MS. VIEIRA: Senator DeMint, by throwing out all these amendments, don't the Republicans run the risk of being seen as obstructionists or sore losers here?
SEN. DEMINT: Well, Senator Durbin and the Democrats are trying to distract from other issues here. I mean, this is another takeover bill. They're taking over the whole student-loan program and asking our students, through higher interest rates, to help fund this health- care bill. And it also takes more from Social Security. So they're taking about a few amendments and hoping that Americans don't notice that this is another power grab. It's another tax increase. It's another attack on the entitlements that we owe our seniors from Social Security and Medicare.
So we're going to bring these issues up today and tomorrow, as long as we can keep this debate going, so Americans can see what's being done here. That's one of the real frustrations that Americans have is that so much of this has been done behind closed doors. People don't know what's in the bill. We're going to do everything we can to make sure people know what they're getting into and they know that we're committed to repeal it.
MS. VIEIRA: Yesterday Senator McCain said -- or on Monday, I'm sorry -- he said that he would not cooperate with the administration for the rest of the year because of what happened with health-care reform. Do you agree with that sentiment? And, in fact, do most Republicans agree with that?
SEN. DEMINT: I think so. This breaks, I think, a lot of protocols in the Senate. I mean, we look like we're fighting a lot of times, but there's a lot that's done in a bipartisan way. I think using all these procedures and kickbacks and everything have broken that. And I'm glad to hear Senator Graham and others saying that they're not going to work with the president on his big agenda to continue to take over areas of our economy and our culture.
MS. VIEIRA: So Senator Durbin, does this mean that this is the end of bipartisanship? And are the Democrats willing to go it alone from this point on?
SEN. DURBIN: For some on the other side of the aisle, I'm afraid bipartisanship hasn't started with this president. As Senator DeMint said himself, the object behind the health-care debate was to break the presidency. America doesn't want a broken presidency. They want a president who's going to work with both parties.
President Obama has reached out to the Republican side of the aisle as well as Democrats. And look at the bill that Senator DeMint just spoke about. He's talking about our attempts to end an $8 billion subsidy to banks on the backs of students across America. We want to eliminate this government subsidy to banks because it adds to the cost of student loans. From Senator DeMint's point of view, that's a government takeover. I say it's just the opposite.
MS. VIEIRA: We're going to have to leave it at that, Senator Durbin. Thank you so much, Majority Whip Durbin. And Senator Jim DeMint, thank you for your time this morning.
SEN. DEMINT: Thank you.
SEN. DURBIN: Thank you.