'This Week' Transcript: WH Sr Adviser Valerie Jarrett
Transcript: "This Week" with White House Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett along with a powerhouse Roundtable: George Will, Donna Brazile, Peggy Noonan and Paul Krugman.
March 28, 2010 --
TAPPER: Good morning and welcome to "This Week."
A health care victory for the president.
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PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Health insurance reform becomes law in the United States of America.
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TAPPER: While Republicans vow to overturn it in Congress or the courts.
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(UNKNOWN): President Obama signed away another share of Americans' freedom.
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TAPPER: The president says, bring it on.
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OBAMA: My attitude is, go for it.
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SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-ARIZ.: Right, Mr. President. We're going to go for it, and we're going to repeal this bill.
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TAPPER: Is this the final nail in the coffin for bipartisan cooperation in Washington? And what's next on the president's agenda? Questions for our exclusive headliner, the president's senior adviser, Valerie Jarrett. Then, states sue to block health care reform. Two key governors on opposite sides of the fight, Mississippi Republican Haley Barbour and Pennsylvania Democrat Ed Rendell, a "This Week" debate.
Plus, a standoff with Israel and (inaudible).
That and all the week's politics on our roundtable, with George Will, Democratic strategist Donna Brazile, Peggy Noonan of the Wall Street Journal and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman.
And as always, the Sunday Funnies.
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DAVID LETTERMAN, TALK SHOW HOST: Congress passed the health care reform bill. Well, that was easy.
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TAPPER: Good morning, everyone. Thank you so much for joining us. We are joined now by senior adviser to the president, Valerie Jarrett. Valerie, welcome to This Week.
JARRETT: Thank you, Jake. Good morning.
TAPPER: Good morning. I want to get to the president's big accomplishment in a second, but first, front-page headlines right now about Iran. What can you tell us about the reports that Iran is suspected of preparing to build two nuclear sites, defiantly against international law, and what is the Obama administration prepared to do about it?
JARRETT: Well, what I can tell you is what the president has said consistently, which is that we're going to continue to put pressure on Iran. The fact that the president and Russia are about to sign the START Treaty is a good sign that we're making cooperation and good progress with countries such as Russia. We're going to have a coalition that will really put pressure on Iran and try to stop them from doing what they're trying to do.
TAPPER: You're talking about we're going to have a coalition that will do that. The President Obama set a deadline for President Ahmadinejad of Iran of the end of 2009. We're now about a quarter of the way through 2010, still no major international cooperation putting pressure on Iran. You know a little bit about Iranian culture. Don't you think that this in some ways conveys weakness or the inability to rally international support?
JARRETT: Quite the contrary. In fact, over the last year, what we've seen, when the president came into office, there was a unified Iran. Now we're seeing a lot of divisions within the country, and we're seeing steady progress in terms of a world coalition that will put that pressure on Iran. So no, I think that we have a strong force in the making, and Iran will back down.
TAPPER: When are we going to see sanctions in the United Nations?
JARRETT: Well, we'll see. As I said, we have a START Treaty that's good progress. We have a number of countries, 44 countries coming to the United States at the request of the president to focus on nuclear proliferation, and as we begin to forge those relationships and they strengthen, that will enable us to put the pressure we believe is necessary on Iran.
TAPPER: OK. Turning to the president's big achievement of the last week, health care reform. Let me show you some numbers from today's Washington Post. Indicates that 50 percent of the American people oppose this new law; 46 percent support it. Those can't be numbers that you're happy about for the president's major domestic legislation.
JARRETT: Well, look, the fact of the matter is, this has been a long and challenging process. There has been a lot of negative rhetoric that we've heard around the country. But what we are sure of is that this is as the American people begin to understand what's in this package, when they begin to see the benefits, when small businesses are able to take tax deductions and hire new employees as opposed to having to struggle to make ends meet; as mothers who have children with preexisting conditions are now going to be covered and not be discriminated against by their insurance companies; as we begin to put in more practices so that the premium costs don't escalate and the out-of-pocket costs come down; not to mention the enormous way that we're going to bring down the national deficit as the result of health care reform, we are confident that the American people will support this. It's good for them. As you go around and you start talking about the individual components of this bill, we're seeing overwhelming support.
TAPPER: Let me show you some other numbers, because in recent days, some companies have announced they're going to have to take significant write-downs because of the new health care law, specifically the change in what companies can deduct because of the Medicare prescription drug benefit. AT&T says they're going to have to take down a write-down of $1 billion. Deere & Company, $150 million. Caterpillar, $100 million. 3M, up to $90 million. AK Steel, $31 million. Are you concerned at all about the impact this could have on job creation?
JARRETT: No, and let me tell you why. And I'm glad that you brought it up. First of all, what they're going to have to write off is nothing compared to the enormous financial benefits to those very same companies by health insurance reform that will bring down their costs substantially.
The Congressional Budget Office says so, as well as independent consultants that have been hired by the same companies that you just mentioned.
But let's talk about what that is, exactly. Companies are allowed to deduct the amount that they spend on prescription drugs. So if you spend $100, the company does, they're allowed to deduct it. In 2003, Congress passed a law that said we're going to provide a subsidy to those very same companies 28 cents on the dollar for every dollar that they spend, but we still allow them to deduct the entire dollar. And so what we're saying now is that you're not going to be able to both take the 28 cent subsidy from the federal government and deduct the entire amount. And so, I think it's fair. And I think if you look at the other ways that they're helping business, there's going to be a $5 billion pool for reinsurance. We're taking a number of measures that will dramatically reduce the cost of business. So on balance, business will come out way ahead, and that was one of the president's objectives.
And the final point on this is we had many conversations with the Business Roundtable, a group that represents the 200 largest companies in the country. They said, look, would you mind if you -- could you push it back another year so that the effective date is in 2013, not '12? And we did that. But keep in mind, where I come from, a billion dollars is still a lot of money, but the fact of the matter is, AT&T is -- that's the amount that is calculated that they would pay beginning in 2013 over a three-year period.
TAPPER: OK, this is a very large and bold and wide-reaching piece of legislation. And obviously, CBO, the Congressional Budget Office and others, can predict what's going to happen, but we don't really know what's going to happen. Is the president willing to go back and fine-tune or change parts of the legislation if there are side effects, if there are things that don't work out the way we want them to work out?
JARRETT: Well, look, let's try what we've put in place. As a past practice, the Congressional Budget Office tends to be very conservative, and usually the cost savings are even greater. But as with any big piece of legislation, down the line, if we want to make refinements and be flexible, of course.
JARRETT: But I think a lot of hard work has gone into this plan. It's been an arduous process. The president has listened to all voices. We have made numerous improvements to the plan as a result of that process. Now let's let it work. TAPPER: In the wake of the health care reform legislation, there have been threats of violence and some acts of violence against members of Congress. And in this fund-raising solicitation I want to ask you about -- this is from the president's political arm, Organizing for America -- used to be Obama for America -- Mitch Stewart, the director, writes in this fund-raising solicitation, "A conservative blogger posted the home address of Congressman Tom Perriello, urging Tea Partiers to drop by. Other members have had death threats. Democratic offices have been vandalized. Please chip in $5 or more to defend health reform and those in Congress who fought to make it possible."
Obviously, those threats and the acts of violence should be condemned, they are not appropriate. But is it appropriate for Democrats to try to raise money off of those threats?
JARRETT: Look, let's go back to the threats for a second. I think that what's great about our country is that we're able to have an open and free debate about issues and ideas, and once a decision is made, we always come together and move forward. And what the president is interested in doing is moving forward.
This is a major accomplishment.
TAPPER: Right, but what about trying to raise money off of the threats? Is that appropriate?
JARRETT: You know, I can't comment on what the political arms are doing. What I can tell you is where the president is and what the president is interested in doing is moving forward with our next challenge. Health care was a huge accomplishment, but we still have many challenges ahead of us. We signed a jobs bill last week. That's really important, to provide tax credits to small business. We now have the president will be signing as a result of the reconciliation bill for health care and education, providing help for kids to go to college. We want to increase the number of children who are able to graduate from college, and funds for teacher training and for community colleges and enabling our kids to get scholarships. There are so many important things, not to mention regulatory reform. So I think the president's view is, let's be positive, let's move forward, and let's improve our country.
TAPPER: We only have time for one last question. I want to talk about the tensions with Israel that have emerged in the last few weeks. President Clinton perhaps came closer than any other president when it came to bridging the divide between the Israelis and the Palestinians, and he said this about negotiating peace between Israel and the Palestinians. He said, "The first time I met Prime Minister Rabin after I was elected president, I told him that if Israel would take risks for peace, America would do everything in its power to minimize those risks. Well, Israel has and we have done our part. We have built a bond of trust with Israel and its people that has given it the confidence necessary to make peace." Does that bond of trust exist between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu?
JARRETT: Absolutely. Absolutely. The United States is a strong and ardent ally of Israel. The fact of the matter is that friends can disagree, and I think what's important is that world leaders are able to sit down with one another, have frank conversations and move forward. I don't think there is any doubt in the mind of Bebe Netanyahu about the president's commitment to Israel and its safety, and how important it is for the United States and for the region.
TAPPER: All right, Valerie Jarrett, senior adviser to President Obama, thanks so much for joining us.
TAPPER: And while health care reform is written and signed here in Washington, D.C., it will become reality out in the states. And we're joined now, from the states, from Jackson, Mississippi, by Governor Haley Barbour and Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell joins us from Baltimore.
Gentlemen, welcome to "This Week."
BARBOUR: Thank you, Jake.
RENDELL: Nice to be here, Jake.
TAPPER: Just by way of clarification, Governor Barbour supports suing the Obama administration and the Congress for the new health care reform law. He believes that it is unconstitutional, the provision that
requires everyone to get health insurance.
His state attorney general is a Democrat, and it's unclear whether or not he's going to go forward.
Governor Rendell, a Democrat from Pennsylvania, is in the opposite position. He opposes a suit and his Republican attorney general in that
state is going forward with a lawsuit.
Governor Barbour, I'd like to start with you. As you know, a lot of
legal experts think that this lawsuit is folly. We asked the former solicitor general for President Ronald Reagan, Charles Fried, what he thought about this lawsuit, and here's what he had to say.
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CHARLES FRIED, FMR. U.S. SOLICITOR GENERAL: Anybody who proposes something like this is either ignorant -- I mean, deeply ignorant -- or just grandstanding in a preposterous way.
It is simply a political ploy and a pathetic one at that.
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TAPPER: Now, Governor Barbour, I think that's stronger than even Governor Rendell would say.
TAPPER: What is your response to the former solicitor general for Ronald Reagan?
BARBOUR: The solicitor general that needs to quit sugar-coating it.
No, the fact of the matter is this is an issue that is under our Constitution, where the powers of the federal government are limited; does the federal government have the power and authority to require, force every citizen to buy a product, in this case health insurance?
And in this case, it's not only you must buy a product called health
insurance; you must buy a product that has been approved by the United States government, and the price of that product will be fixed by the United States.
I do not believe the United States government has a right, it has the authority or power to force us to purchase health insurance any more
than, in the name of homeland security, they can force every American to
have to buy a gun.
TAPPER: Governor Rendell, your response?
RENDELL: Well, the solicitor general is absolutely right. This is a frivolous lawsuit. It's a waste of taxpayers' dollars at a time when all the states are fighting to preserve those dollars.
Look, the commerce clause says you can not only regulate interstate activity; you can regulate intrastate activity when it's part of a broad
scheme and it's necessary to do so.
Look, the only way health insurance companies -- and, by the way, this is not a government takeover. We left the private health insurance
The only way they can afford to give coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, people who get sick or college kids up to 26 who are staying with their parents -- the only way they can afford to do
that is if everyone goes into the insurance pool. It's easily within the power of the federal government. These lawsuits are frivolous.
TAPPER: So, Governor Rendell, I want to ask you a question. One side effect of expanding insurance coverage to so many millions of Americans at once is that the system is unprepared for it; there simply aren't the doctors; there simply isn't the infrastructure.
And in fact, after Massachusetts passed its health care bill, new patients now have to wait 44 days to see a primary care physicians, and only 44 percent of internists are accepting new patients.
How are you going to sell that to Pennsylvanians?
RENDELL: Well, first of all, there's a phase-in. The mandate doesn't occur right away, as you know, Jake, so there's a phase-in, and there's time to build up, number one.
Number two, an important part of this bill is increasing payments under Medicaid to primary care physicians. We're going to create more primary care physicians. And in this bill, were' also empowering nurses. A certified nurse practitioner can do a lot of things that a primary care physician can do.
So the phase-in was very important here. There are some thing that happen right away, some benefits. No kids can get denied for pre-existing conditions as of September.
I don't know if you read about the little kid outside of Dallas who was born with a defect and the insurance company denied coverage because
he had a pre-existing condition. That stuff is over.
Kids who are 26 years of age or younger living at home, like a lot of our kids are who can't get jobs -- they're going to get coverage.
High-risk pools -- I've got 140,000 Pennsylvanians who can't get coverage now because they're seriously ill. They'll go into immediate high-risk pools.
So there's a phase-in for some things, but the things that are really important in insurance reform happen very quickly.
TAPPER: Governor Barbour, I don't want to pick on Mississippi, but I should point out that studies indicate Mississippi is last in the nation when it comes to health care, when it comes to access, quality, costs and outcomes.
Your state ranks worst in the country for obesity, hypertension, diabetes, adult physical inactivity, low weight birth babies. It has one of the highest rates of infant mortality.
You've been governor for six years. I'm wondering, what's your response to critics who say that this is probably -- this lawsuit is probably not the best use of your time when it comes to health care for your citizens?
BARBOUR: Well, the fact, my state has about the same percentage of people who are covered by health insurance as the nation as a whole, so the issues that you talked about are not the result of lack of health insurance. In fact, Ed mentioned some very important good things. That
is, allowing children to stay on their parents' insurance until they are
26. BlueCross/BlueShield, which writes most of the health insurance in my state, already does that. They are now -- two years ago, they were not going to disqualify people from buying the health insurance because of preexisting illnesses. They already do that. We already have a high-cost or high-risk insurance pool in our state. So the problem here
is some people think nothing matters unless the federal government requires it by law.
Now, a lot of states, like my state, have made real progress here. Our friends at Utah in two years have more than 40,000 people on the health insurance exchange. The president wants us and demands in this policy -- in this law, that we all have health insurance exchanges. We were in the process of putting one together in Mississippi, except now we won't be able to do it like Utah. We're going to have to do it more like Massachusetts, because the federal government says you not only have to have one, you've got to do it the federal government's way. We don't believe that's right for every state.
TAPPER: Governor Rendell, you saw the numbers that I cited to Valerie Jarrett, 50 percent of the American people oppose this bill; 46 percent support it, in today's Washington Post. The latest Franklin and
Marshall poll from your state says that Pennsylvanians view President Obama, more of them, unfavorably than favorably for the first time. No offense, you're not doing much better. Democrats in the Keystone State have a tough road ahead of them. Doesn't this bill hurt their chances in November?
RENDELL: No, I think as the months roll by, it will actually help our chances. As more and more people get to understand what's in this bill, people are going to like it. As someone who's got a 25-year-old daughter at home who can't get health coverage understands that they can
right now, they're going to like the bill. When someone has a child who
gets ill in September and all of a sudden the insurance company can't deny them coverage, they're going to like the bill. Small businesses, businesses under 25 employees, they can file for tax credits that will help them substantially now. They're going to like the bill. So as all
of these benefits roll out, Jake, it's going to change public perception
of the bill and of the president himself.
And look, no one is kidding themselves. It's a tough year for incumbents, whether it's the president of the United States, it's the governor, it's mayors. It's a tough year for incumbents. When the economy is bad, it's always the case. But this bill is going to be like
Social Security and Medicare, that were demonized, demonized when they were passed, but later went on to be a godsend to American seniors. And
I think that you will find that that's what this will happen as we roll out.
And I think losses in November are going to be a lot less than most
of the prognosticators are foretelling.
TAPPER: Governor Barbour, there was some good news for Democrats in
the Washington Post poll that I wanted to ask you about. And it does suggest that maybe the party, according to some critics, miscalculated, both in terms of policy, by walking away -- there aren't as many Republican ideas in the bill -- and politics. Just listen to these numbers. In February, on the generic ballot, Republicans led Democrats 48 percent to 45 percent, but now, after the bill has passed, the Democrat leads 48 percent to 44 percent. Doesn't that suggest that maybe your party miscalculated, both in terms of the fact that the law is now the law of the land and probably -- let's not kid ourselves -- it
will be for a long, long time -- and in terms of the politics, in terms of the fact that this is not hurting Democrats as much as you thought it
BARBOUR: Well, in fact, I think Ed's got it just backwards. You mentioned to Valerie Jarrett, we've now learned that big corporations are going to have to take $14 billion worth of write-offs, according to the Towers Watson (ph) estimate, $14 billion worth of write-offs that nobody knew about, and that's how many jobs are those $14 billion of losses on corporate balance sheets, how many jobs are they going to cost? We're going to learn a lot more about this deal. We're learning already where they said that small businesses that didn't cover their employees would have to pay $750 per employee. Now it turns out when you read the bill, if you have the average employee in Mississippi who makes $32,000 a year, if the cost of health insurance is more than $3,000 for that employee, the small business will have to pay $3,000, not $750, four times as much.
As people find out these sorts of things, this bill is going to become even more unpopular. And candidly, I am surprised that the numbers in the Washington Post poll weren't better. I mean, since this thing passed last weekend, we have seen the longest wet kiss in political history given to the Obama administration by the liberal media
elite, and every day that goes by, it gets sloppier.
TAPPER: Governor Rendell, we only have--
RENDELL: I don't know what Haley watches -- I don't know what channels Haley watches, but that's a lousy wet kiss--
RENDELL: -- because it's getting pounded in the media. A lot of the media is pounding the bill.
TAPPER: We only have a couple of minutes, Governor Rendell--
TAPPER: Go ahead.
RENDELL: The bottom line is, Haley only talks about the things that
turn out to be surprising on the negative side. There are a lot of terrific things on the positive side, as Valerie Jarrett so aptly put it, and we're finding out in states, there are a lot of good things in the states here, things that help us financially as well as the things that cause us extra burdens.
So look, there is a lot to learn about this bill, but on balance, the CBO -- which the Republicans depend on -- say it's good for the country, it's going to cut the federal deficit, it's going to bend back the health care cost curve. And just think of all of the Mississippians
and Pennsylvanians who are going to get coverage that didn't have it, who aren't going to get denied because they have a previous condition, who can't get dropped. These are great things. It's a step forward for
America like none we've seen in the last decade.
TAPPER: OK, we only have a couple of minutes left. And I would sued for journalistic malpractice if I didn't ask you two political animals a couple of political questions that don't necessarily have to do with health care reform.
Governor Rendell, I'll start with you. Your colleague, David Paterson, from New York, it's hard to look at his gubernatorial ship right now and think it's anything but a disaster and hurting Democrats in New York and perhaps even nationwide. Should he resign?
RENDELL: No, first of all, Andrew Cuomo is going to get elected governor of New York here, regardless of anything that's going on, because he's a great public servant. But Dave Paterson's got, like Haley, like I do, about eight or nine months left, and I think there would be more havoc if he stepped down. The lieutenant governor right now wasn't elected. David Paterson and the people around him I think are OK to finish the term.
TAPPER: Governor Paterson wasn't elected either, but moving on to Governor Barbour, I'll ask you a question.
RENDELL: He was elected lieutenant governor. He was elected lieutenant governor.
TAPPER: OK, fair enough. Governor Barbour, very, very quickly. Does the presence, the continued presence in the Senate of David Vitter,
your colleague from -- your former colleague from Louisiana, and John Ensign, does that hurt your party's ability to claim the mantle of family values, and does it hurt your ability to tar the Democrats as being part of a culture of scandal?
BARBOUR: Well, I'll just say, I think David Vitter will be reelected this year by the people of Louisiana because he's a good, solid conservative who votes the positions that the people of Louisiana want. I'm not as close to Nevada, but Senator Ensign is not up this year anyway.
I can't help, though, but not go back to something that Governor Rendell said. Ed and I are good friends, seriously, but the idea that the CBO has scored this bill to say that it's going to reduce the deficit is one of those things that the news media has helped the administration cover up. In the next few weeks, we're going to pass -- the Congress is going to pass a law that increases by about $220, $230 billion what we pay physicians under Medicare.
TAPPER: Governor, I'm sorry--
BARBOUR: Everybody knows it's going to happen, and it's just -- but
with it, this is not a deficit-reducing health care bill, and people ought to tell the facts about it.
TAPPER: Governor Barbour, Governor Rendell, that's all the time we have. We're over time in fact. Thank you so much for joining us. Enjoy your Sunday. The roundtable is next with George Will, Donna Brazile, Peggy Noonan and Paul Krugman, and later the Sunday Funnies.
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