Democratic Sen. Stabenow On Health Care
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
And now to another Michigan Democrat, this time on the Senate side: Senator Debbie Stabenow. Welcome to the program.
Senator DEBBIE STABENOW (Democrat, Michigan): It's good to be with you.
BLOCK: Do you think there's any chance or a way to address Congressman Stupak's concerns about abortion in the reconciliation project as you fix, so to speak, other aspects of the Senate bill so that it can get through the House?
Sen. STABENOW: Well, the small number of changes we're going to make in this process called reconciliation has to relate to dollars. It has - not policy, but it has to relate to spending and deficits and it's a very focused budget process. And it's my understanding that the language that they're interested in would not be possible under reconciliation in the Senate. And, frankly, I don't think the votes would be there for taking us beyond what has been established law of the Hyde Amendment: No public funding for abortion. This takes us into what happens when Americans, businesses, or families, individuals are receiving tax cuts. It's a very different - very, very different policy.
BLOCK: Senator, it's not just House Democrats that are raising concerns. As you know on the Senate side, Senator Kent Conrad of North Dakota has concerns about using the budget reconciliation process to pass the health care bill. He said he can't commit without seeing the language. Are you worried about losing more members on your side?
Sen. STABENOW: I think that we will have the support including, I'm hopeful, Senator Conrad who understands better than any of us, I think, what the reconciliation process is about - reconciling differences as it relates to budget items, spending items, deficit items. And that's exactly what we want to do. We've passed the bill in the Senate with a super majority, not just a simple majority required under the Democratic process, but a super majority.
And now, coming back and being able to use this very narrow process to fix a few things that I think are important to fix. We need to make the bill, I believe, still more affordable for middle-income families and we can do that through this reconciliation budget process. And so, I think in the end that we will have the support in the Senate to do that.
BLOCK: You have, of course, lost the super majority with the vote in Massachusetts on Senator Scott Brown now. You hear the language coming from Republicans about this, Senator Stabenow, that Democrats are trying to cram this bill down the throats of the American people if you do use the reconciliation process. They say it's a bill Americans don't want and that's a government takeover of health care. It sounds like pretty potent language, especially heading into midterm elections.
Sen. STABENOW: Well, there's no question. If you go back and take a look in 1964, '65 when Medicare was passed, very same language was used at that time. So, we understand that those who want the status quo, who want insurance companies to be able to continue to decide what basic health insurance is, when you're covered, how you're covered, whether you're dropped or not, when you can find insurance if you have a pre-existing condition, we understand that they are those fighting for the status quo to keep things the way they are, decision making in the hands of the for-profit insurance industry. That's not where we are. And I don't believe that's where the majority of American people are. I know that's not where they are.
They want to be able to count on their insurance, that they're getting what they're paying, they can't get dropped when they get sick, that they can find insurance. And they also want to know that there is some place to go if they lose their jobs, so they don't lose their insurance or if they're in a small business where most of the people are that don't have insurance, that there's a pool, a way for them to get the same kind of deal a big business gets. The same kind of deal a member of Congress gets. And that's what this bill is all about.
And I have to say, what motivates me every day and I know my Democratic colleagues is to remember that every day 14,000 people get up in the morning with insurance that go to bed at night without it and most of them because they lost their job. Five thousand people every day lose their home because of a medical bankruptcy. Most of them had insurance. So, in my mind this is about whether or not the minority is going to continue to try and block democracy. Democracy is about voting and it's about a majority vote. And it's time that we started exercising the Democratic process.
BLOCK: Senator Debbie Stabenow, Democrat of Michigan, thank you very much.
Sen. STABENOW: You're welcome.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.