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Senate Republican Whip Jon Kyl on Iran and health care bill prospects

Tuesday, June 23, 2009
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HH: There is so much news, so much going on, time to check in with our favorite Republican Senator, Jon Kyl of the great state of Arizona. Senator Kyl, always a pleasure, good June 22nd to you.

JK: Well, it’s always a pleasure to be with you and your listeners, Hugh. Thank you.

HH: Now Senator, not a lot of people have a clue as to what’s going on in Iran because the mullahs have clamped down so much on information flow.

JK: Yeah.

HH: What are you learning in the Senate that our listeners might not know?

JK: Well, I suspect through your reporting and what they can see on television, they know as much about it as I do. We just returned from the weekend here to Washington, and nobody here seems to know much more than what’s been reported. And I haven’t gotten intelligence briefings. Obviously, there’s interest…the commentary about what these bits of information mean are very interesting. And there’s been a lot of speculation about that.

HH: Are you satisfied that the administration is doing enough to stand behind the demonstrators, Senator Kyl?

JK: No, although I confess I don’t know everything that they’re doing. For example, I would hope that they are in communication with people in Iran, or with people here in the United States who have good communication with Iranians, to ask them what they think would be most beneficial from the President and from the United States. I’ve had the feeling that they would welcome a stronger reaction by the President, for example, that he’s heretofore moved himself to make. But I don’t know that that’s what the bulk of them believe. It’s also hard because we don’t have very good intelligence about what’s going on in Iran, and I’m sure there’s an awful lot of behind the scenes back and forth that we’re simply not aware of.

HH: Your colleague, John McCain, used, both Friday and over the weekend, to demand that the United States stand very, very vocally behind the protestors. And the contrary argument was mounted that that could encourage the mullahs to make us the issue. How do you respond to that contrary argument?

JK: I agree with my colleague, John McCain. They’re blaming us, and we haven’t done anything. So they’re going to call us the Great Satan and blame us no matter what we do. All we have to be careful of is that we don’t give them any reason to think that we’re actually in there providing arms or in some other way backing the demonstrators who have been quite capable of getting out on the street and making their feelings known. There’s nothing wrong with the United States saying to the Iranian government they should be allowed to protest an election which appears to have been fraudulent, and you all ought to conduct the election in some kind of a way that has transparency and the people have confidence in, and not restrict their right to free speech, and certainly not engage in the kind of violence that you have against the people. When President Reagan, even though we were having direct negotiations with the Soviet Union during the Cold War, time and time again spoke out against human rights abuses, and for the right of the people of the Soviet Union, the rights of the people of the Soviet Union, he gave them some degree of confidence that the free world had not forgotten them, and would be on their side if they ever had an opportunity to try to overthrow their rulers. And eventually, they did. And I’ll never forget what Natan Sharansky wrote about in his book. He said the morning that he was in the gulag, and was able to read in Pravda the headline, “Reagan Calls Soviet Union Evil Empire,” he knew that they had won. Well, here he is in the gulag.

HH: Right.

JK: But he knew they had won, because he knew that America cared enough to speak the truth about his captors, the people who had him imprisoned, and that that would be the beginning of the end. And indeed, it was. And we owe that same thing, I think, to the Iranians.

HH: Senator Kyl, let’s switch to the domestic side. It seems as though the Obama-Pelosi-Reid plan of a government plan, or a government option, or a public plan on the health care side, is dying a very public death. Can we begin to celebrate yet?

JK: These guys don’t quit. No, not until you’ve driven the dagger through the heart and it’s been declared dead. Their latest iteration of this government-run plan is something that was born innocently enough through a Senator from North Dakota, who said well, why don’t we then have a co-op, because of course in the Midwest, you have grain co-ops. And actually, there are co-ops in the state of Arizona, and I think in every other state where people in the community get together in order to pool their resources and benefit from that activity. But that’s not what the Democrats have in mind here. Chuck Schumer was very blatant about it. He said this has got to be big enough, it’s got to be nationwide, it’s got to be financed by the federal government, we have to appoint the board of directors, we have to back it up. In other words, the way that it could pass a Democrat Congress would only be a government-run plan by another name. It would never be the sort of innocent thing that Kent Conrad, the Democrat from North Dakota, originally had in mind.

HH: Now Senator Kyl, we’ve got a petition linked over at Hughhewitt.com. There, people can sign up to say enough of the government takeover of health care. Is the public perception getting through that they do not want this massive, and I guess from basing on the Congressional Budget Office last week, fantastically expensive proposal to pass?

JK: I think it is beginning to get through, and it’s critical, because unless the leftists understand what Americans want here in health reform, they’re going to keep pushing their European style, social Democrat style, government-run health care. I don’t think that’s what the American people want. And once they heard about the huge cost of this, $1 trillion dollars for just one piece of it, and they began reacting. Then our colleagues in both the House and Senate kind of took a step back and said well, maybe we’ll take another look at this. I guarantee you, however, instead of trying to find ways to reduce the costs of it, they’re trying to find ways to mask the costs of it. And it will be enormously expensive. But more important than that, it will restrict our freedom by eventually having the government be so powerful that it’ll get between you and your physician in terms of the health care he thinks you need.

HH: And so where are we? As we look ahead to July, will this bill make it to committee mark-up in the course of June and July?

JL: We have one more week. The bill, the House bill, which is the most radical of all, has just come out. And so they’ll start hearings in the House. They won’t mark up the bill. In the HELP Committee, that’s Heath, Education, Labor and Pensions, chaired by Ted Kennedy in the Senate, they will probably continue on with their mark-up, but they won’t finish it this week before the 4th of July week-long recess. The Finance Committee has just called a time-out because of the sticker shock of the Congressional Budget Office cost estimates of that bill. And we’ll have a meeting or two this week, but we’re not going to mark up the bills. So the action will be in July. And because the President has said that if we don’t do this quickly, it won’t get done at all, and he’s right, because when the American people figure out what it’s all about, they’re going to stop it, I think the Democrats will try to move on all fronts as quickly as they can after the 4th of July to try to get the bill marked up in committee, to the Senate floor, to the House floor, and to get all action on it completed before the August recess. Our objective is to slow this down enough that our constituents will actually get to hear about it, think about it, debate it, discuss it, and tell us what they think about it before we have to act on it. And hopefully, we’ll have the August recess to do that.

HH: Senator Jon Kyl, good luck in that. We’ll continue to push people to get in touch with their Senators, both Democrat and Republican, and to oppose this gigantinormous, there’s not really a word that can explain how massive this bill is, the hole in the deficit it would blow, and the fact that it would destroy private insurance in America. You can to go Hughhewitt.com and click on the petition, it says stop this. It’s at the very top of the Hughhewitt.com website. It’s also embedded in a couple of my posts.

End of interview.

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