Yesterday, we spoke with House Minority Whip Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.,) about the Republican plan for health care reform. Today we talk with House Majority Whip Rep.Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), who has just one more day to line up votes for the House Democrats' health care reform plan. Ahead of Saturday's expected vote, he joins us for a look at what's in and what's out in the Democrats' bill.
JOHN HOCKENBERRY: Good morning, Congressman Clyburn.
Rep. JAMES CLYBURN: Good morning. How are you?
JOHN HOCKENBERRY: And let’s react first to the events at Fort Hood, Texas. How many military bases are in your district who must be worried and reacting and thinking about what the families are going through down in central Texas this morning?
Rep. JAMES CLYBURN: Yes, I really am. Fort Jackson, as you know, is in Columbia, (South Carolina) my home town. The base proper is not drawn into my district but all of the area surrounding the base is. I was born in Sumter where the Air Force base is. And the Third Army is being relocated there. In the future, we’re going to be having both Army and Air Force on the same property. And we will have that in my birthplace of Sumter going forward. And so, I’m very much used to growing up with the military, having suffered through the ups and downs of families who make tremendous sacrifices on behalf of the country. This is just absolutely one of the most incredible events and it’s just so unexpected, and to have it happen on home turf and from within the ranks.
JOHN HOCKENBERRY: We should remind people: 13 dead, at least 30 wounded; shooting rampage yesterday at Fort Hood, central Texas. We’re waiting for a news conference which is scheduled for within the hour. And we’re talking with House [Majority] Whip Jim Clyburn, who like many on Capital Hill are reacting to the events. Quickly, before we shift to health care – General Cone, on base, described Fort Hood as “our home,” referring to the men and woman in uniform, the tens of thousands who are there, who ship out to Iraq and Afghanistan and who come back through the Fort Hood gates there. It’s not feeling like home or a very safe place this morning. Is there anything Congress can do to assure men in the military that these facilities are safe?
Rep. JAMES CLYBURN: Well, you do everything you can to make facilities safe but there is absolutely nothing a human being can do to prevent this kind of an occurrence. There’s obviously mental health problems here. Or, there very well could be some sort of terrorism act here. Either way, this is the act of a deranged person and there’s not much you can do to prevent that.
JOHN HOCKENBERRY: And indeed, we don’t know much about the suspect who is in the hospital and is also in custody. So we might know more once there is the news conference at Fort Hood. Let’s shift to health care. We asked Eric Cantor yesterday, your colleague on the other side of the aisle, about what’s in the minority bill which has no chance of passage, but will be considered at some point over the next several days. But we asked our listeners to come up with things they wanted to see in the health care bill. And so I want to put some of those listener suggestions directly to you as you convey to us what is in this bill that is expected to be voted on on Saturday. First of all, here’s what one of our listeners had to say:
Listener 1: I want to see a health care bill come out that does not mandate health insurance. Just lower health care costs.
JOHN HOCKENBERRY: Jim Clyburn, will there be a mandate in the bill that goes to the floor?
Rep. JAMES CLYBURN: We will have an individual mandate. I don’t see how you can possibly do an effective health care bill without having these individual mandates. Always, people want things to happen and yet, their proposals seem to run contrary to the result they want to see or achieve.
JOHN HOCKENBERRY: Well, Congressman, this next listener who called 877-8-MY TAKE just might be one of your constituents. Listen.
Listener 2: My name is Chuck from South Carolina. We should have a very strong public option. I think there should be absolutely no wiggle room for insurance companies to refuse people for pre-existing conditions. And I think we should get 100% of all Americans covered.
JOHN HOCKENBERRY: Jim Clyburn, is Chuck going to get his wish?
Rep. JAMES CLYBURN: Well, that’s what we are trying to do. Those two callers tell you a little bit about the social divides that exist on this particular issue in the country. They are asking for exact opposite things but both of them think that they are exactly right. So that is what we are faced with here – trying to pass a piece of legislation that will be effective on behalf of the vast majority of the American people. But you must always remember, anytime you are trying to do something like this - when we tried to pass Social Security it was looked upon as some socialist idea that should never be. But most people think this is a very successful program. President Johnson went through the same thing with Medicare and Medicaid. And everybody said that was a big government takeover. Now every place I go, people say, "Medicare works, leave my Medicare alone."
JOHN HOCKENBERRY: Well, except your colleagues on the other side of the aisle will say, "Alright, fine, those programs are working but we’ve reached a stage now where we can’t afford additional penetration into the market of the federal government into health care."
Rep. JAMES CLYBURN: I think we’ve reached the place where we can’t afford not to. People who have seen their premiums double over the last ten years; it’s projected to double again over the next ten years; small businesses closing down because they can't afford health care; individuals - 47 million people without health care; and those of us who do have insurance, we ought to have a look at our bills when we try and go out and use this insurance. We are paying (for), in this cost shifting in the system, all those people who are not getting care.
JOHN HOCKENBERRY: Right. We’re talking with House Majority Whip, Jim Clyburn, Democrat from South Carolina. Just to clarify about what the listener asked, there will be a public option in this bill, right?
Rep. JAMES CLYBURN: Absolutely.
JOHN HOCKENBERRY: But you will not be covering 100% of Americans in this bill, right?
Rep. JAMES CLYBURN: We will cover about 96% of Americans in this bill. And you’ve always got to look at the shifting, the changing of jobs, and moving around of people in the system. So, I think we will be almost impossible unless you have some kind of single-payer system which most people say they don’t want to see. You’re not going to get 100% coverage but we’re going to get close to it.
JOHN HOCKENBERRY: OK, well, here is one more listener before we go.
Listener 3: There is no sense in talking about saving costs until we can clean up all the horrendous fraud in this country. Fraudulent companies, fraudulent providers. Clean up the fraud.
JOHN HOCKENBERRY: Jim Clyburn, are you going to clean up the fraud in this bill?
Rep. JAMES CLYBURN: Absolutely. I am 100% with that lady. She is absolutely correct. That’s way you see this tremendous cut in Medicare on the provider side in this bill. It’s kind of interesting. We’re trying to squeeze the fraud out of the system. Republicans are sort of criticizing us for these cuts. But we’re trying to do exactly what that lady said.
JOHN HOCKENBERRY: Alright. And there will be a vote tomorrow. Do you expect any Republican votes?
Rep. JAMES CLYBURN: No, I don’t.
JOHN HOCKENBERRY: Alright, House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn will be there counting the votes. Democrat from South Carolina and the Majority Whip, on health care reform which comes up for a vote in the House on Saturday. Thank you, Congressman.
Rep. JAMES CLYBURN: Thank you so much for having me.