Senators Marco Rubio and Ron Johnson were my guests today. Here’s the audio and transcripts of those conversations:
HH: Joined now by Florida Senator Marco Rubio. Senator Rubio, welcome back, always a pleasure to speak with you.
MR: My pleasure. Thanks for having me back.
HH: Some of your Senate Democratic colleagues have figured out that Obamacare is a disaster, and they want to fix it with some patches. Should Senate Republicans help Senators Landrieu, Pryor and Hagan save their seats by signing onto a short-term fix?
MR: You know, I don’t think their solutions are even a short-term fix. You know, I think what’s becoming apparent every day increasingly, and tragically in the lives of many Americans, is the impact this is having on real people, and how this bill really can’t be saved. I mean, at the end of the day, the system was never going to work, and it’s certainly not going to work now. And our biggest regret at this point needs to be how disruptive this is to the American economy and to the aspirations of people that are just trying to get ahead.
HH: Senator Landrieu just said on CNN earlier this afternoon, “I have absolutely nothing to be defensive about.” Do you agree with that?
MR: Well, I don’t. I mean, I think anyone who voted for it and has supported it ever since has a lot to answer for. You know, it was always known from the beginning, the resistance to this was not a resistance to allowing more people to have health insurance. I think that’s the ideal. I think the problem is that their solution to all this, every problem from health insurance to the weather, is some massive federal government intervention into our economy. And that’s exactly what Obamacare is. It’s a massive intervention into something that represents about a sixth of our total economy, and impacts every single American. So you have millions and millions of people who had health insurance that they were happy with, and in an effort to help those who do not have health insurance, they’ve basically negatively impacted everyone.
HH: Now this is a tough, tough problem, because these same Democratic Senators who want to do a fix, they were part of the no negotiations extremism caucus just six weeks ago. Can Republicans sit back and say no negotiations? Or do they have to follow sort of Ron Johnson into the room and try and resurrect something here?
MR: Well, look, we get calls and emails every day from people that are being badly hurt by this. And if there’s something we can do to help them in the short term, we should explore that. But by no means should we be exploring ways to try to fix this law, because it’s not fixable. It’s basically like trying to run to the Titanic and trying to plug holes with Crazy Glue. I mean, you’re not going to be able to do it. This is just taking on way too much water. This program was never designed to work. From the very beginning, it was never going to work. And I’m starting to get the sense that perhaps all of this is now just a big excuse to come back and some point and say you see, this is why we need a single payer system, which some Democrats actually either secretly want, and some of them openly want.
HH: Now Bill Clinton even took a shot yesterday. I want to play for you, Senator Rubio, what the former President had to say yesterday, listening very closely to the way he’s using it to pivot towards 2016.
BC: Third problem is for young people, mostly, but not all young, who are in the individual market whose incomes are above 400% of the poverty level. They were the ones who heard the promise if you like what you got, you can keep it.
HH: Now Senator Rubio, young people, but not just young people, and he said they’re the ones who heard that promise. The promise, of course, is…
BO: Here’s a guarantee that I’ve made. If you have insurance that you like, then you will be able to keep that insurance.
HH: It wasn’t just young people, or almost only young people. Everybody heard that promise, didn’t they?
MR: Everyone did, because he said it to everyone, and he said it repeatedly. It was, you know, I think if he had said to people that under this law, if you have insurance that you’re happy with, you probably won’t get to keep it, because we’re going to make everyone get a certain kind of insurance, it never would have passed. It just would not have passed. Even Democrats would have peeled off. But either they chose to believe that, or they chose to look the other way. And now it’s the law, and it’s hurting people very badly. And as far as separating himself and creating space for Secretary Clinton on this issue, you know, I think it’s hard, we can’t forget that she was the original author of Hillarycare back in, I believe, 1993. And that would have been a disaster as well. So they’re equal believers in this notion that the government is the only solution to our problems, including our health insurance.
HH: I think former Secretary of State Clinton is Obamacare’s grandmother. I think that that’s how she ought to be known, and I don’t think she can, or do you seriously think she can expect not to be linked with this fiasco?
MR: No, of course not. I think clearly, she has a history of being in favor of the kind of big government intervention into health insurance, that it’s kind of the, I guess, the underpinning of this long-term desire that many on the left have had for universal payer, for one insurance for every American, Medicare for all type concept, which I think is, of course, would never work and is a disaster for the middle class and for the American dream.
HH: Now on Monday, you wrote in the Miami Herald this very good piece. I liked it over at Hughhewitt.com, that the navigators program is a recipe for fraud. Now James, what’s his last name, O’Keefe has put out a new video, one of his investigative videos, showing that navigators, the real navigators, are actually encouraging people to cheat, not declare their income. And you’re right. The fake navigators are going to be a problem out there. Has anyone responded to your concern that this is fraught with future illegality?
MR: No. In fact, that within minutes of introducing a bill to address this issue, the Democratic National Committee was attacking it, saying you know, all sorts of ridiculous things, comparing it to background checks for guns, et cetera. Look, here’s the problem. You’re going to have illegitimate people that aren’t even navigators at all pretending to be and getting people’s personal information. But you’re also going to have unscrupulous people who will be allowed to go in and work as navigators out there signing people up as well. And you’re going to encounter some of those problems that you’ve just highlighted.
HH: Last time you were on, last month, you stunned me when you told me, I just learned it from you, that the Spanish website wasn’t up, yet. Your Miami Herald column confirms it’s still not up. Among Spanish-speaking Americans, isn’t this an insult? Are they outraged that they’re not even in line, yet, for the disaster?
MR: You know, it’s interesting, I don’t know the answer to the people that are outraged. Some polling shows that in the Hispanic community, there’s more support for this than there is among the general population. I think a lot of that just has to do with some of the promises that were made in terms of what this was and what this was going to be. I think that number will decline rapidly here over the next few weeks if it hasn’t already, because of the dysfunction. I think there are Americans of Hispanic descent that have health insurance they’re happy with. They’re going to lose it. I know in my home state of Florida, there are Americans of Hispanic descent that are on Medicare Advantage who are going to begin to see their benefits under that program begin to be reduced. So I think this law is going to become universally unpopular, because it’s now transitioning from simply a concept, a law that passed three, four years ago to a reality that’s now impacting real people in real ways.
HH: Now only 80,000 people signed up with the state exchanged. I mean, that’s just a Browns game attendance. 26,794 signed up for the Healthcare.gov, and that’s a good-sized crowd at a Cavs game. These are absurd numbers, Senator Rubio. Do they show any sign, do you have any confidence that this will accelerate to anything like the level they need to make the death spiral, the adverse selection death spiral not what actually happens?
MR: Well, I don’t. I believe they won’t, people will not sign up for this for reasons that we’ve been outlining for months. But it’s worse than that. It’s not just the people signing up. Among the people signing up, the pool of people signing up are just not the right mix for insurers. As a result, you’re going to see skyrocketing premiums, which is going to make even some of those folks decide not to stay on, and others not to sign up at all. I mean, the sticker shock is going to be real. Even with these subsidies they keep promising people, the costs for many people is going to be prohibitive. And one of the reasons why is because you’re forcing people to buy a package of insurance that the government has decided is good for them. They’ve completely taken away the power of individuals to have the flexibility to buy not just coverage that’s affordable, but the kind of coverage that they want, that features the things they need, and doesn’t force them to pay for parts of insurance that they do not need.
HH: Avik Roy said on this program yesterday the average cost is going to be 40% higher for the average American. That’s across all states, all age groups. Is that roughly what you’re hearing in Florida?
MR: It is, and I’ve heard estimates that are a bit higher as well.
MR: And look, I think that what you’re going to see now is that this law was promised to people as something that’s going to make insurance available for everyone. The problem is that while there will be a handful of people that will be able to get insurance, and perhaps feel like they’re better off, the vast majority of Americans will not be, and that includes Americans, over 70%, who currently receive health insurance benefits through their employer. They’re going to find that either is no longer offered, or that the premiums under the plans they once had are significantly higher. And I think that’s going to lead to an all-out political rebellion in this country where people are really going to say you know, enough is enough, we want this thing repealed. The day of, at the end of the government shutdown, I predicted this. I went on television that night, and I said this law can’t stand, because people, when they find out what it is doing to them, they will demand that it be repealed. I still believe that very strongly. I think we’re months away from beginning, just a few months away from really beginning to see this hit critical mass as more and more people are impacted by it.
HH: Now I saw you over at the Supreme Court last week for the Town of Greece argument. And of course, religious freedom is going to be back up before the Supreme Court very, very soon in the HHS regs. How important is the issue of individual religious liberty going to be over the next three years?
MR: I think it’ll be very important. It’s always been important. It’s a core Constitutional principle, one of the things that sets this country apart from many other countries in the world. And that case that you were talking about was about legislative prayer, people arguing that even that before a meeting is convened, legislatures like town councils can’t have a moment of prayer. And again, you never know with the Supreme Court, but I’m fairly confident that the ruling there is going to be positive in favor of that fundamental religious right to pray before a political body assembles.
HH: Last question, I know you’re a hard-core Dolphins fan. How tough is this for you?
MR: It’s very tough. It’s the most difficult time in the franchise’s history, probably, at this stage. And I think it’s probably going to get worse before it gets better. But you know, luckily, they play every year, so…
HH: Okay, so you can give up a season.
MR: That’s about as good as I can say right now.
HH: Okay, Senator Marco Rubio from Florida, as a Browns fan, my heart doesn’t go out to you, because you beat us in the opener. Nevertheless, there’s always next year. We know how to say that in Cleveland. Be well, thanks for joining us.
End of interview.
HH: I open the program with United States Senator Ron Johnson from the great state of Wisconsin, who probably has some answers for us. I want to begin light, though, Senator. Have you given up on the Packers? You have to quarterback, you have no future. You should become a Browns fan.
RJ: Well, no, I haven’t given up on the Packers, because there’s still a pretty good running game, and our defense is coming back, so who know? We’ll see.
HH: All right. Now let’s go to this Obamacare meltdown. The big question is whether or not Republicans should help the Democrats try and fix this. And there is quite a debate, as you’re aware of. What’s your position? You’ve got a bill in the Senate. Eliana Johnson, my friend, wrote about this at National Review yesterday. What’s the status of the bill? And how does it mesh with what Senator Landrieu is trying to do?
RJ: Well, they’re two totally different bills. What my bill, and it’s called If You Like Your Health Plan, You Can Keep It Act. And by the way, I’m making no promises there. Part of the problem with Obamacare is it’s already been, the implementation has progressed to such a level that the people who have gotten cancellation notices now, the people that are being dropped out of high risk pools that no longer exist, there’s not much we can do. But there is something we can do for millions of Americans on group plans that will be coming due next September and October. So it’s not a matter of trying to help Democrats. It’s a matter of trying to help millions of Americans who could be in the same situation in another ten, eleven, twelve months. So from my standpoint, I think that’s our responsibility. But I think Republicans should only agree to those types of measures that would actually fundamentally transform, like President Obama wanted to do to America, fundamentally transform whatever’s left of this Obamacare. What we’re trying to do is preserve as much of freedom and choice in our health care system, which is rapidly being eroded through the implementation of Obamacare.
HH: Now your colleague, Senator Landrieu, was on with Wolf Blitzer a half hour ago. Here is what she said, cut number 20.
ML: They know that I’m going to fight hard for them. This has been something that I’ve been working on for years, given them better health insurance, providing opportunities for jobs and for education. They know that I am willing to fix this bill. I’ve always said that. So I have absolutely nothing to be defensive about, a lot to be proud to fight for them, for the things that they want.
HH: So Senator Johnson, I have absolutely nothing to be defensive about. Do you agree with that?
RJ: Well, I believe we have video of her making that exact same promise that if you like your health care plan, you can keep it. And so no, I think she has an awful lot to account for. I think every Democrat Senator and House member that voted for the bill, and certainly that mimicked those broken, those false promises, that charade, that fraud that was perpetrated on the American people, I think they have an awful lot to account for. And the problem with Senator Landrieu’s bill is it’s only supposedly targeted on those individuals losing the individual coverage. And like I say, Hugh, I don’t know how we can really preserve those people. It’s so late in the game. Those policies are cancelled. High risk pools are gone. One of the things she tries, she attempts to do is to force insurance companies to offer those plans, but you know, there are 50 states that regulate those insurance companies. Those policies are approved by states. The rates are approved by state regulatory agencies. So I don’t know what she thinks she’s going to be able to accomplish with that other than maybe kind of a cover vote for herself and some other Democrats, which I don’t believe the Republicans should allow them to do that.
HH: Well, what I’m curious about, and this goes to Chairman Upton as well when he comes back, he’s a frequent guest on the program, is why wouldn’t we just sit back to see what they come up with, amend it, offer changes, maybe to postpone everything until 2017? And I agree with you. There are some of these people who are just screwed. There’s no way to help them. Obamacare has screwed them completely. But why not, if they want a little bit of cover, why not make them postpone the whole damn thing until 2017?
RJ: Well, that may be an option. And again, and by the way, Hugh, it’s a default position. We’re going to have to wait, certainly in the Senate, to see what the Democrats are going to be doing. I certainly wanted to get something basically on the table there that actually would do something good, and by the way, would fundamentally transform Obamacare, because what I did in my bill is I actually have a real grandfathering clause so that if you actually did like your health care plan, you could keep it without changing it, without having to add those mandated pieces of coverages, which actually keeps the cost of health care down. So if they would pass my bill, I think it actually would do some good. I think the chance of them passing my bill is, like, slim to none, or even bringing it up. So what we’re going to have to do is see what they are proposing. They are in full-fledged panic. And they should be, because millions of Americans are losing their coverage, cancer victims losing access to their doctors, to treatments that have kept them alive. Democrats have an awful lot to account for, so I think we will sit back and see what they’re proposing.
HH: Now this takes a little bit of nerves of steel, and the GOP’s never been known for that. But it’s hard to watch Americans suffer. But if we want to avoid the ship going down, don’t we just have to wait and watch it crash and burn completely until they cry uncle, and say we will postpone everything until 2017, because they’ll, unfortunately, we’ve got a caucus, and they just love to negotiate deals and gangs of eight and six and twelve, and then the House likes to negotiate deals. And what really, as Charles Krauthammer says, this is the collapse of liberalism in front of us, isn’t it, Senator Johnson?
RJ: Well, again, that’s what’s going to happen, and I do think we do need to sit back, and our responsibility needs to be if there’s something we can do to protect millions of Americans while at the same time utterly transforming this monstrosity that’s called Obamacare, in other words, preserve what freedom, what choice there is in our current health care system. Hugh, I am highly concerned about this thing staying implemented, not being dramatically changed, transformed. You know, we may not be able to get our health care system back. We may not be able to get those freedoms back. So I think we have to watch very carefully, and I think we need to be ready for respond and help Americans, but again, only if that is an utter and total transformation of what this health care law really is.
HH: You know, I’ve got a good friend, Denny Weinberg, who is one of the founders of WellPoint Health Benefits program, and he said there are like twenty things the state insurance commissioners could do to fix this if they got authority to get in a room, but that federal legislators are simply not equipped, that the skill set, as you know from a successful businessman, the skill set is just not there for it to try round two of overhaul by the people who screwed up the car in the first place. And so I’m so skeptical of giving them…
RJ: No, but Hugh, that’s exactly what I’m talking about, is you would basically turn the freedom back over to the states, back to the individuals. You’d give people, states, businesses, individuals the right to choose a health care plan. You wouldn’t mandate coverages. You would fundamentally, it would be, because Obama won’t agree to repeal, you basically do the next best thing by so dramatically transforming it, basically responding to the pressure the Democrats are feeling from most constituents losing their health care. There may be an opportunity here, but again, I’m not looking for, I’m not going to be suckered into a process. But I think we, it is our responsibility to do everything we can to preserve those freedoms for Americans.
HH: All right, now this is what Bill Clinton had to say yesterday. I’m sure you’ve heard it, but let me play it for the audience.
RJ: Third problem is for young people, mostly, but not all young, who are in the individual market whose incomes are above 400% of the poverty level. They were the ones who heard the promise if you like what you got, you can keep it.
HH: Now Senator Johnson, Bill Clinton there is saying young people, but not all young, but young people primarily are the ones who heard this particular promise.
BO: Here’s a guarantee that I’ve made. If you have insurance that you like, then you will be able to keep that insurance.
HH: Now is Bill Clinton attempting to change the rules of this, because that wasn’t who the promise was made to, and that’s not who heard the promise. Everybody heard that promise.
RJ: Yeah, I’m not quite sure what the former president is doing there. I certainly appreciate the fact that he understands that a promise should be honored, and calling out President Obama for totally breaking that promise. And yet what’s, you know, that guarantee, that false claim, that deception, that fraud was, that’s what it was, I mean, either President Obama was totally dishonest, or he was so disengaged, so uninformed, clueless about what his health care plan was, what its consequences would be, no matter which one of those alternatives you choose, it’s pretty unflattering for the president of the United States.
HH: But now, do you think Bill Clinton’s attempting to distance his wife and future presidential candidate from this fiasco? And is that possible?
RJ: Well, I think that’s what’s going to be happening with every Democrat other than President Obama.
HH: But specifically Hillary, do you think…
RJ: Again, I’d imagine that’s what he’s going.
HH: Is that possible?
RJ: I was surprised that he came out and said that. It certainly helps our cause from the standpoint of highlighting why we have to fundamentally transform Obamacare.
HH: But is that possible? She’s Obamacare’s grandmother, isn’t she?
RJ: You could say that. That was her big project back there in the early 90s. You’re exactly right.
HH: So how in the world does he expect or she expect to not be tagged with the Obamacare fiasco when she runs? And she is going to run, isn’t she?
RJ: I would say maybe a fawning mainstream media?
RJ: That’s worked out pretty well for them in the past, right? That’s a pretty good strategy. It’s worked for President Obama until the reality has slapped America in the face so hard that even the mainstream press is kind of having to turn on them, ask them some tough questions.
HH: Is that fawning mainstream, do you see that? Do you see the fawning mainstream media changing?
RJ: No, other than when the reality is so stark that they are absolutely forced to admit, and they simply can’t cover for their favorite politicians.
HH: Ron Johnson, well said, Senator, well said. Come back early and often.
End of interview.