HH: Joined now by United States Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona. He is the number two in the United States Senate for the Republicans. He is their whip. Senator Kyl, always a pleasure to have you, sir.
JK: Thank you, Hugh, always great to be with you and your listeners.
HH: Will you be at Blair House on Thursday?
JK: I will.
HH: And what do you expect to come out of this, what I guess is being called a summit.
HH: And why is that?
JK: Because the event is being set up, I think, by the Democrats to try to show up Republicans, to try to convince the American people that we have no ideas, that they’re reaching out to us, trying to work in a bipartisan way to get something done, but that we just won’t go along with them. And they’ve already decided they’re going to try to ram their bill through, this latest bill, through the nuclear option, the so-called nuclear option. The technical phrase is reconciliation. You’ve heard it. And so you know, really, what’s the point? If they’ve already decided to try to ram their bill through, why are we talking about some kind of bipartisan compromise? They know our ideas. They’ve heard them for a year. They rejected them repeatedly during the process when they defeated our amendments in both committee and on the floor of the Senate, so…and on the floor of the House. So that’s why I say I don’t expect anything to come out of it.
HH: Now Senator Reid said today, “They should stop crying about reconciliation. It’s done almost every Congress, and they’re the ones that used it more than anyone else.” A response, Senator Kyl?
JK: Reconciliation is a perfectly legitimate legislative process to deal with budgetary matters. It is a, it is the one exception to the general rules of the Senate that was created about thirty or forty years ago, and Robert Byrd was one of the people that helped to create it, to deal with budget matters where you didn’t want a filibuster to prevent the balancing of the budget, in effect. I mean, there’s one thing you have to do. You have to be able to either increase your revenues or reduce your spending in order to balance the budget, theoretically. So they made that one exception to the policy of the Senate, which otherwise would have required sixty votes to do the big things. Now that process is available for those kinds of monetary-related subjects. And it has been used many times. That’s true. The Bush tax cuts were done as, through reconciliation, for example. Now there have been a couple of other examples where they ventured outside of pure monetary issues. They shouldn’t have. I wasn’t there. I don’t know why or how they did it. But in any event, it is not available for large, substantive, comprehensive kinds of legislation like this health care bill. It doesn’t work, it’s not suitable, and it certainly isn’t appropriate.
HH: Now are you able to offer amendments to anything proposed for reconciliation? Are there ways to delay a reconciliation bill?
JK: Yes, you can offer amendments, but they can prevent debate on the amendments, so that, I mean, there’s only twenty hours of debate allowed, which tells you right off the bat that you’re not really thoroughly debating a subject. And ordinarily what happens is that whatever amendments, you file them, and then after the debate time has expired, you begin voting on the amendments. And you simply vote on them, seriatim. You could vote all night and all day on a list of 200 amendments, but there’s no debate on the amendments. So what kind of process is that?
HH: It’s not an effective delaying technique. If they want to jam it through, if they get fifty votes, they can do it regardless of what’s happened, Senator Kyl?
JK: They could theoretically get it through the Senate. Where I don’t think they can get it passed is in the House. That bill only passed by five votes in the House. And three of those people, in other words, switching, three votes switches it back to not having enough votes to pass it. And three votes are gone already by death, resignation and change of vote. So there are 38 House members that voted for it that are in districts that are going to punish them if they vote for it again. And there’s a lot of attention paid to those members. If you want to know who they are, I can get the list to you. And all eyes ought to be on those members of Congress who after having voted for it almost a year ago, surely have heard the word of their constituents not to vote for it again. Everything has changed since they voted for it the first time, and they shouldn’t vote for it the second time. That’s why I don’t think Nancy Pelosi will have the votes to do it in the House, even though it could theoretically pass the Senate.
HH: What is the thinking of Senator Reid here, because it’s going to endanger every Democrat who votes for it as well? It’s so wildly unpopular in the country. What is, why are they doing this, Senator Kyl?
JK: It’s a kind of desperation. I think that ideologically, the President is so committed to this, and he has urged them to do whatever they have to do to do it, and the left of both the House and Senate, frankly, control the leaders in both the House and the Senate, so that they have an obligation to jump off the cliff if that’s what the left says they should do. And for those more moderate members who are saying wait a minute, what about us, we’re going to get defeated in our next election, I see them essentially saying well, that’s tough. You’re on your own.
HH: Have any of the interest groups turned around? Has AARP given up because of the formation of things like AMAC? Has the PhRMA companies come around and said oh gosh, we made a huge mistake, and now we’re on the side of insanity?
JK: They’re seeing it differently. The insurance companies, of course, the administration made a deal with the insurance companies, and then turned around and absolutely, what’s the word I can use on radio?
HH: Flayed them.
HH: All right.
JK: (laughing) Double-crossed the insurance companies, as a result of which they began to do advertising against the bill. The pharmaceutical companies should have done the same thing, because they have been taken to the cleaners two or three times. I mean, basically, they bought the same pony three times now, and they are much cooler about the bill, but they haven’t said no to it. The AMA runs hot and cold, but doesn’t represent all that many doctors anyway. So the people that they struck deals with are not helping them all that much. And meanwhile, the rank and file in America have figured out what’s in the bill, they don’t like it, they sent the message. And these House members who might consider voting for it better figure out what they’re going to be doing in the afterlife of politics if they do.
HH: Senator Kyl, I want to play you Valerie Jarrett, the President’s right arm, at the Kennedy School of Government on Friday talking about the Tea Party movements, and their contempt for them, really, is pretty unvarnished and pretty out in the open here. Cut number 3.
VJ: Even if they are in favor of, let’s say, a different form of health care insurance reform, fine. But what’s happening is it’s an anti-government…I mean, that’s the Tea Party. They really are trying to rebel against government at all, and I think that that’s, again, it’s an extreme.
HH: Trying to rebel…
VJ: And it’s always a lot easier, again, to scare people and to get them angry when they’re already scared, and they’re already uncertain. And I think that’s what the Tea Party has tried to capture.
HH: Do you agree with that assessment, Jon Kyl?
JK: Well, I agree with half of it. The Tea Party is not trying to scare anybody. The Tea Party movement is composed of people who are scared. They are afraid for the future of our country.
JK: And they are skeptical of government. It isn’t that they’re anti-government, they just believe that the administration is trying to get the government involved in too many things in their life. And they don’t like that. And I don’t blame them. I’ve had several town hall meetings now with Tea Party groups, and I have found them all to be courteous, intelligent, to ask good questions, some really tough questions, and you’re right. They are worried, they are upset, some of them are angry. But why shouldn’t they be when you see the kind of generational theft that’s being committed in this country in terms of the debt that’s being created, that our children and grandchildren are going to have to pay? You see the amount of freedom that’s being taken away from us, and let me back that up. This health care bill would take more of your freedom than any other piece of legislation that I think has come up during my almost 24 years in Congress. And I’m willing to back that statement up.
HH: Do they have the 50 votes necessary for a reconciliation vote, Senator Kyl?
JK: I would guess that in the U.S. Senate, they could pass a reconciliation bill “fixing” the Senate bill. But I do not think that they can pass it in the House of Representatives.
HH: And can they pass a reconciliation before the House acts? I mean, is that even Constitutional?
JK: No, well, this has never been done before where you basically amend a bill before it’s a law. In other words, what could happen is I think the chief advisor to Speaker Pelosi said look, it’s a trick, but we think we can do it. And here’s what he said they would try to do. First of all, they would pass a fix up bill, a reconciliation bill to the Senate bill. They would fix the things that are wrong, in their view, with the Senate bill. Then, they would pass the Senate bill. Then, they would send over to the Senate the fix up bill, the reconciliation bill, and the Senate would pass that. Both bill would then be sent to the President, the President would sign the Senate bill first, then the reconciliation bill, which amends the Senate bill. Now that’s all an obviously, never contemplated…when Robert Byrd said a year ago that the reconciliation process was inappropriate for this purpose, it doesn’t even begin to describe this convoluted process by which they would pass the reconciliation bill, and I’m sure he objects to that. So it’s wrong, it’s not suited for it, it’s not appropriate for it. But that’s the way that they would hope to do it. I think where they’re going to fall apart is, the House of Representatives is not going to vote for either the Senate bill or this “reconciliation bill” that ostensibly fixes the Senate bill, because everything has changed since they voted on it a few months ago.
HH: I appreciate the detail, Jon Kyl of Arizona. Good luck on Thursday coming out of the box canyon that is Blair House. I’m sure you guys are prepped and ready, look forward to covering it very closely. Thank you, Senator Kyl.
End of interview.