RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.
LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:
And I'm Linda Wertheimer sitting in for Steve Inskeep. This morning, President Obama signs the health care bill into law, but parts of that health care overhaul, the Reconciliation Bill it's called, must still be approved by the Senate. That bill includes certain revisions to health care legislation and will be the subject, no doubt, of much debate.
We're joined now by Senator Judd Gregg from New Hampshire. He's the ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee.
Good morning, Senator.
Senator JUDD GREGG (Republican, New Hampshire): Morning, Linda. How are you?
WERTHEIMER: Just fine, thank you.
Sen. GREGG: Great.
WERTHEIMER: What are Senate Republicans going to do to try to contest this bill?
Sen. GREGG: Well, as you know, the big bill has passed. The government's going to grow by $2.5 trillion and health care's going to be delivered with the government looking right over your shoulder for the future. But that being done, there's still this trailer bill, which has, in our opinion, some very significant policy issues in it and should be adjusted. So we're going to offer some constructive amendments.
For example, I'm sure we'll offer amendments to take out some of these special deals, like the Louisiana Purchase. And there are about five or six of those that are very visible. We'll offer amendments to try to improve on things like eliminating the individual mandate or addressing the issue of tax policy or getting proposals which cause us to look at delivery of quality and value, rather than quantity and repetition.
WERTHEIMER: What do you think is your best shot?
Sen. GREGG: Oh, who knows. I mean, this is a very interesting piece of legislation, because it comes to the Senate under special rules. Traditionally the Senate - when a bill comes to the floor it's open to debate and it can take a while and you can amend it any way you want.
Under this bill, there are only 20 hours of debate. And when you start amending it at the end of the 20 hours - you can get a few amendments in maybe during the 20 hours if Senator Reid lets us - the amendments that are brought up are not subject to debate. So you might have 20, 30, 40 amendments at the end here - we've had as many 54 at one time on a budget bill - and this is a type of budget bill.
WERTHEIMER: And you just race through voting on each one.
Sen. GREGG: Yeah. You just - you vote. Sometimes there's a gentleman's agreement or a member's agreement that you'll get a minute of debate on both sides before the vote. And I hope we'll be able to do that. But that's not under the rules. You don't have that right.
WERTHEIMER: Senator Gregg, the Republican Party made the decision to unite and oppose the health care bill, just completely try to vote for it to fail. In doing that, do you think that the Republican Party gave up the possibility of influencing the policy? Is it going to be a good strategy long term?
Sen. GREGG: Well, I have to say, Linda, I think that's a big of revisionist history to take that characterization of what happened, because if you'll recall, what happened actually was we were negotiating.
I had a proposal. Senator Coburn had a proposal. Senator Burr had a proposal. It was a bipartisan proposal with Senator Wyden and Senator Bennet, which I was a cosponsor of. We actually marked up bills and negotiated those bills.
And then, at the 12th hour or the 24th hour, the Democratic Party, under the leadership of Senator Reid, went into a back room; no Republicans were allowed in the room, nobody even knew where the room was. It was behind a hidden door somewhere.
And they produced deus ex machina, this new bill, which they dropped on our desk on a Saturday afternoon and told us we had to vote on it by Christmas Eve, three days - four days later, and without allowing any amendments.
WERTHEIMER: So do you think...
Sen. GREGG: (Unintelligible) say that we were not part of the process and it was our fault. We weren't allowed to be part of the process.
WERTHEIMER: Do you think that you can resist what is in the health care bill now? What if Americans decide that they like parts of this?
Sen. GREGG: Well, there are some parts that they should like, which would've been in a bipartisan bill. But what they're not going to like, I don't think, is this massive expansion of the size of government, which takes the government from about 20 percent of GDP up to 25, 26 percent of GDP and this huge pressure that the government is going to bring on small employers, especially, to basically give up their plans and force people onto these exchanges. And the cost of this program for individuals and the Medicare cuts, which represent about $1 trillion when it's fully phased in.
WERTHEIMER: Senator Judd Gregg, Republican of New Hampshire, he is the ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee.
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