updated 7/21/2009 10:08:48 AM ET 2009-07-21T14:08:48

Guests: Sen. Kent Conrad, Rep. Ron Kind, Bill Press, Jack Rice, Tim Griffin

ED SCHULTZ, MSNBC HOST:  I‘m Ed Schultz.  This is the Ed Show.

Good evening, Americans.  Live from 30 Rock in New York, it‘s the Ed Show on MSNBC. 

It‘s the issue of our time.  It‘s health care.  Yet, the Congress, the Congress is about to skip out of town for the month of August and take a vacation.

I‘m challenging the Congress to stay put, stay on the job, until we get the job done.  House Majority Whip James Clyburn will be joining me to talk about that and a number of other things tonight. 

President Obama has been in office for six months now.  We‘re hearing a lot of folks say, well, what kind of job is he doing?  Well, we‘ll get the report card out tonight. 

Let‘s see, we‘ve got the stimulus.  We got the budget.  We got a 59 percent approval rating for the president.  Everything is going good.  We‘ll get reaction from Katrina Vanden Heuvel of “The Nation” tonight. 

And I hope the blue dog Democrats heard that approval rating of 59 percent, because, you see, some of them are considering standing with Republicans on health care instead of standing with the president.  I‘m a little confused about that.  I‘m putting one of those moderate Democrats in the hot seat tonight in my “Playbook.”

Plus “Psycho Talk.”  We‘ve got a great upon panel coming up.  and I want you to get your cell phones out and get ready, because we‘re going to be asking you for your opinion on whether the Congress should be taking a vacation in the midst of all of this? 

But first, tonight‘s “Op Ed.”

You know, you go to the beach in August, it‘s absolutely fantastic. 

It‘s just great time of the year. 

But you know what?  This is no time to take time off. 

I want to speak directly to the president, Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer, Harry Reid.  They have the power.  I think that they should be telling the Congress that you‘re going to stay in session until we get this health care thing done.  It‘s what the people want.  It‘s what the people need. 

Now, let me just show you some numbers that I find rather interesting.  These are from a new Families USA report.  Here‘s what‘s going to happen during the three or four weeks that the Congress is going to be away allegedly holding town hall meetings and taking a breather. 

More than 143,000 people are going to lose their health care next month.  More than 53,000 will be forced to file bankruptcy because of medical bills.  And 1,265 people will die because of the lack of coverage. 

Now, you tell me, is this a good time to take a vacation?  I thought this is what it‘s all about, working hard. 

This is the worst economy since the Depression.  People are losing their jobs and their health care.  And the congress, I‘m getting tired of these comments, they‘re just gauging everything around their tight schedule because they‘ve got to skip town in August. 

I think the idea of a vacation for the Congress is a slap in the face to the American people.  A month off?  Nobody gets a month off in this economy. 

I think the Obama administration has to call on the Democratic leadership to declare everybody stays until we get health care reform, because that‘s what the American people want. 

Now, the Senate Finance Committee may roll out their bill sometime this week.  Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, one of my favorites, said this week—just kidding—“the president isn‘t helping us.”  Uh, Max, who are you helping? 

I want to remind you folks about the money that Max Baucus, the senator from Montana, the chairman of the Finance Committee, just where he‘s getting his funding.  It‘s from the big health care interests. 

Over the past six years, Baucus has taken $3.5 million from the health care industry.  Got it?  Well, let‘s break it down.  That‘s nearly a quarter of every campaign dollar Senator Baucus has taken since 2003 has come from the very people who are trying to stop this reform. 

Maybe that‘s why Baucus‘ committee just keeps pushing this ludicrous idea about taxing health care benefits.  That would stick it to the middle class. 

In my view, you know what that‘s like?  That‘s like $4 a gallon gas.  Do the math.  Do the math.  How did it feel when it was four bucks a gallon?  Well, if they start taxing your health care benefits, that‘s exactly what it‘s going to do.  It‘s going to hit the wallets of average American families. 

Now, the point of reform is to lower the costs and make health care affordable, not impossible for the middle class.  Joining me now is Congressman Jim Clyburn, he‘s the majority whip in the House. 

Congressman, I‘m on this one tonight.  If the president were to say “I think the Congress should stay in session until we get health care” and forget this recess or vacation, August, whatever you want to call it, would you go along with the president on that? 

REP. JIM CLYBURN, (D-SC) HOUSE MAJORITY WHIP:  Absolutely.  We‘ve already said that, Ed.  Nancy Pelosi has made it very clear that we will be here until we get this done. 

In fact, as you know, the Senate is already scheduled to be here a week later than the House in anticipation of the fact that we‘ll do something in the house first, send it over to them.  They‘ll have another week to work on it. 

But as you know, whatever we do, House and Senate, we still will have to come to conference together to try to work out the differences.  At that point, I‘m sure that the White House will get involved in this process as well. 

So that—and the president‘s made this clear—so that by the time that we get finished with this fiscal year, September 30th, we will have a bill in place. 

SCHULTZ:  So nobody‘s going home until we get health care reform?  Am I hearing that tonight? 

CLYBURN:  Well, I don‘t know.  That‘s up to the Speaker to make that decision. 

But you asked me, am I willing to say until it gets done.  My answer to that is yes, I am. 

SCHULTZ:  I‘m all about that. 

Today, President Obama responded to a comment from Senator Jim DeMint, who was talking about this could be President Obama‘s Waterloo.  I want to play that sound cut, here it is. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA:  Just the other day, one Republican senator said, and I‘m quoting him now, “If we‘re able to stop Obama on this, it will be his Waterloo.  It will break him.”

Think about that.  This isn‘t about me.  This isn‘t about politics.  This is about a health care system that is breaking America‘s families, breaking America‘s businesses, and breaking America‘s economy. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  Now, Congressman, if that‘s the attitude in Washington, why are the Democrats worried about a bipartisan agreement if this is the game plan to torpedo anything president Obama wants? 

CLYBURN:  Well, we aren‘t worried about bipartisan agreement.  We would like to get bipartisan agreement.  I think the American people always like to see the members of both parties working together. 

But we‘re not going to allow the Republican Party to keep us from doing this.  And that‘s why the health care was protected in our budget resolution, so that if we cannot get a bipartisanship on this, we can move ahead and do this with 50 percent plus one. 

Now, let me say this about what the president just said.  The president is absolutely right.  This is not about him.  It is not about me.  This is all about the American people. 

And I also want to say, this is not about the uninsured.  This is about the people who do have insurance, because the people who have insurance are, in fact, paying these big premiums, around $1,200 a family or more, to pay for the cost-shifting that takes place in this system in order to take care of those people without insurance. 

This is about getting rid of the high deductibles, these high co-payments, closing the doughnut holes, getting rid of preexisting conditions. 

I just read of a gentleman from South Carolina this money who just lost his job, his wife‘s now got cancer.  He now is making 30 percent less with no benefits.  He‘s lost his insurance because he lost his job. 

SCHULTZ:  Well, that‘s just—

CLYBURN:  That‘s what this is about. 

SCHULTZ:  You know what, Jim, that‘s exactly the story that we hear when we go on the road and do town hall meetings.  And the people are wondering, well, why in the world are they going to take a vacation in August if this is the kind of stuff that‘s happening out there with the American people? 

One other point I want to make, I want to know tonight, are you standing with Nancy Pelosi that we should, you know, ratchet up the taxes on the millionaires in this country and go get the money to pay for this from the top 2 percent? 

CLYBURN:  Well, you know, one of the big issues before the Congress today is whether or not we can achieve reform by savings in the system.  Now, we have—

SCHULTZ:  I know the reform, Congressman Clyburn.  I know about the reform, but I want to know about, are you standing with Nancy Pelosi to raise the taxes on the top 2 percent?  She says she wants to go after the millionaires. 

CLYBURN:  I think it‘s the top 1 percent, but I am standing with her -

$500,000 per individual, $1 million per family.  But that will be only if we need to do that. 

SCHULTZ:  Yes.

CLYBURN:  I would much rather us do it with the system that we currently have, because all of my hospital administrators are telling me that there is better than $1 trillion in the current system that can be reformed without additional revenue coming in at all.  And I would really do it that way. 

SCHULTZ:  Congressman, good to have you with us tonight, Congressman Clyburn.  I appreciate your time, and thank you.  You‘re a standup guy for saying you‘d work through August.  That‘s what the country needs right now. 

CLYBURN:  Absolutely.  Thank you so much. 

SCHULTZ:  You bet.  I want to know what you think, folks.  Get your cell phones out.  Should lawmakers leave town if they haven‘t passed a health care bill?  “A” for yes, “B” for no to 622639.  We‘ll bring you the results later on in the show.

Joining me now is Mike Allen.  He is the senior political correspondent for “Politico.”  Mike, are the Democrats going to be able to get through this without taxing millionaires to pay for this? 

MIKE ALLEN, “POLITICO”:  Well, yes, and they‘re going to tax a lot of other people too.  That‘s what‘s going to have to happen.  This is a bill that expands access, the cost cut savings are unclear, a lot of them are not proven and won‘t be counted.  So, in order to have this balance out, they‘re going to have to tax a lot of people. 

But that‘s why there‘s a very great resistance among conservative Democrats in the House.  These Democrats in these McCain districts—it‘s hard to believe there were in McCain districts, but there were some—and the Democrats in there don‘t want to take this tough vote if the Senate isn‘t going to follow through. 

They just took a very difficult vote on climate change, and now they‘re very squeamish about this. 

So I have a twist for you, Ed, it may be that the House, not only will they wait on their break to get this done.  They may wait until the Senate goes so they know that they‘re not out on the ledge all by themselves. 

SCHULTZ:  What would motivate a blue dog Democrat to turn on the American people, who have clearly stated through the last campaign that this is what they need?  Is it all about the money?  What are they afraid of? 

ALLEN:  I wouldn‘t say quite—if you put it quite that way, I don‘t think that they would vote that way.  But there‘s a lot of worry among these conservative Democrats, these freshmen, sophomores, about the money, honey.  About this borrow and spend hit that they know is going to come in mid terms. 

Yes, it all started under Bush, Republicans.  We‘ll get the email.  But the president is the president now, and he has to deal with these big deficits, the big spending that‘s coming with these programs.  And that‘s the problem for them. 

SCHULTZ:  Mike, I don‘t get the love affair.  I don‘t get the love affair with the blue dogs with the Republicans.  All of a sudden they‘re all worried about the money.  They weren‘t worried about the Iraq money. 

ALLEN:  I think you make a great point, and you talk about the love affair.  Yes, I can tell you among leadership in the White House, there‘s some annoyance with them.  They should be on the team. 

You saw the president there.  When he said it‘s not about me, well, when they say it‘s not about them, it‘s about them.  And we saw there a president who is fighting.  This is not a president who likes to lose. 

And he‘s been much more direct, much more aggressive in taking on his critics in recent days. 

Today, he did a much more—we‘re going to see that in coming days, we‘re going to see him taking on critics by name.  He‘s not going to let this go unchallenged. 

They know that Republicans clobbered Democrats all summer long under President Clinton.  They are not going to let that happen to them.  Democrats at the House, Senate, White House, are fighting back. 

SCHULTZ:  All right, Mike Allen, “Politico,” thanks for joining us tonight here on “The Ed Show.”

ALLEN:  Have a great night, Ed. 

SCHULTZ:  In my “Op Ed,” I showed you just how much money Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus has taken from big health interests. 

Joining me now is Dave Levinthal, the communications director for the Center for Responsive Politics.  The center compiled those numbers. 

The American people are sitting there looking at this, Dave, saying, gosh, we‘re never going to get reform, because the guy who‘s supposed to be leading the charge in the finance committee has got the players in his back pocket.  I mean, the appearance here isn‘t good. 

DAVE LEVINTHAL, COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR RESPONSIVE

POLITICS:  It‘s indicative of what‘s going on in Washington right now.  If you look at the lobbying numbers over the past ten years, it‘s like an inverse of the stock market.  The numbers keep going up and up and up in terms of expenditures. 

SCHULTZ:  Is Baucus the number one taker in the Congress from health care industries? 

LEVINTHAL:  He‘s among the top.  And this is not campaign contributions only, but it‘s lobbying expenditures too.  So many people are lobbying like crazy to try to get health care reform pushed the way they want it to get pushed.  And he‘s a prime target given his leadership position. 

SCHULTZ:  OK, he picks up $3.4 million from 2003 to 2008.  That‘s $1,500 a day.  I‘m curious.  Why would the health care industry be going after a guy from Montana?  Probably because he‘s the chairman, right? 

LEVINTHAL:  He‘s a guy from Montana, but a guy from Montana with a heck of a lot of power and a lot of sway in this debate.  He‘s one of the key members of Congress here who‘s going to ultimately have some power one way or another to decide which way this debate ends up going. 

SCHULTZ:  Dave Levinthal, is this basically a microcosm of what happens in the Congress?  I mean, it‘s Baucus, but then it‘s all of them.  You know, the people that are trying to stop reform are in the pockets of all of these guys? 

LEVINTHAL:  Well, you can say that. 

I think one of the most interesting things is the sort of revolving door syndrome.  There‘s a number of former Baucus staffers and staffers from other senators who used to work for those members and now are lobbyists today, lobbying the very Congress they used to work for, and doing so on the issue of health care reform. 

There‘s about 350 of them that we reported and the “Washington Post” reported, and that‘s a significant number in this debate. 

SCHULTZ:  Dave, good to have you on tonight.  Thanks so much.  Those are the numbers, folks, and they do have influence. 

Coming up, President Obama‘s been on the job for six months now.  There are some poll numbers out there that have got some people shaking a little bit, maybe some red flags.  We‘ll do a scorecard.  Katrina Vanden Heuvel of “The Nation” will give us her take next on “The Ed Show.”  Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ:  Welcome back to “The Ed Show.”

Today marks six months since President Obama took office, and a new “Washington Post”/ABC News poll shows slipping a little bit in the debate over health care reform -- 49 percent of those polled approved of Obama‘s handling of health care.  That‘s below the 50 percent mark for the first time. 

Here‘s the problem.  Congress has dictated the health care debate.  The president still holds a strong approval rating of 59 percent.  He needs to use it, and he needs to get out there and get after it.  What we saw today—

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  We need to talk to doctors, nurses, physicians‘ assistants, and administrators at this extraordinary institution.  We spoke about some of the strains on our health care system and some of the strains our health care system places—

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  Joining me now is Katrina Vanden Heuvel, editor of “The Nation.”  Katrina, what do you make of the numbers? 

KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL, “THE NATION”:  I think those are—you know, listen, the honeymoon wasn‘t going to last forever, but those are still high numbers according to historical markers. 

I think what we‘re seeing is President Obama realizing he has to use his personal popularity to use that to translate into legislative success. 

The big signature success for President Obama in this first year will be real health care reform.  If he can achieve that, it will be a game-changer. 

SCHULTZ:  Don‘t the Republicans know that? 

HEUVEL:  That‘s why they‘re doing everything they can to obstruct. 

SCHULTZ:  They did nothing for eight years on health care.  Now, all of a sudden, they want to take their time and say, what‘s the rush? 

HEUVEL:  This is why I think you‘re right about—listen, millions of Americans are taking what we call stay-cations.  They don‘t have job security.  They don‘t have the money to take a real vacation. 

What we‘re looking at now in this country in terms of health care and joblessness is not simply a crisis, but a national emergency.  Legislators should stay and hammer it out. 

President Obama‘s presidency will be judged, Ed, I believe, by his success in reviving the real economy.  He may not have the leverage to do a second stimulus, but he could do a comprehensive jobs program moving forward, and the key, again, is health care reform, because that is inextricably linked to job security, the economic security of millions of Americans. 

SCHULTZ:  What do you make of these blue dog Democrats that seem to be causing trouble every single day?  Why would they side with the Republicans when they‘ve done nothing on health care for eight years? 

HEUVEL:  Because they‘re less concerned about the people‘s recovery, about achieving a country that has human health—has a healthy economy, healthy society, and more concerned about leaving that chamber in a coffin.  They want life security for themselves and they‘re going to trade that, instead of caring about the people‘s business. 

And people need to remind them, if they do go on recess, people should hound them.  Hound those blue dogs, dog the dogs and tell them why they‘re there. 

SCHULTZ:  Well, you know who takes the vacation now for three and four weeks in our economy?  Politicians who take money from lobbyists.  I mean, they can protect their backside. 

I think the Obama administration should call on the Democratic leadership and say, we‘re staying until we get this thing done. 

HEUVEL:  I agree. 

SCHULTZ:  It‘s a crisis situation right now. 

HEUVEL:  The other crisis, though, I have to say, on the six-month marker of President Obama‘s tenure, is this taxpayer-funded gift to Wall Street. 

This bank bailout, today there was a report, Ed, you probably saw it, the overseer of the TARP money, it‘s saying banks aren‘t lending.  They‘re using this money we gave them to buy other banks, to do mergers, to do gaming, and so their books look better. 

Too many people are out of their homes.  Keep people in their homes.  Fight these mortgage lobbyists, and find a way forward, because president Obama‘s stimulus may have been too small, but it is helping people keeping their jobs. 

And the Republicans, alarmist, demagoguist rhetoric is part of the reason Obama‘s taking a hit.  The media, not your show, but too much of the media is failing to educate Americans about why if business isn‘t spending, consumers aren‘t spending, government is the last resort.  Otherwise we‘re heading into a depression, not a deep recession. 

SCHULTZ:  We‘ve got to get cheap money, we‘ve got to get availability of money are.  That‘s what it‘s all about to get this economy going. 

Katrina, thank you for joining us tonight.

Putting it in perspective about where we are, this is six months.  OK, if it‘s a football game, we‘re halfway through the first quarter.  I mean, are we being a little impatient?  We‘ll talk about that with our panel a little bit later. 

Next up is “Psycho Talk” here on “The Ed Show.” 

Michael Steele, this guy just needs to quit talking, but we like when it he does.  Now he‘s suggesting President Obama is a mad scientist doing a health care experiment on the country?  It‘s coming up in “Psycho Talk” on “The Ed Show.”

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ:  Welcome back to “The Ed Show.”

It‘s time for “Psycho Talk,” and this guy just keeps landing in it.  The chairman of the Republican National Committee is back in the “Psycho Talk” zone tonight. 

Mr. Steele showed us today he is good, good at following the Republican talking points written by GOP strategist Alex Castellanos.  Now, Mr. Castellanos, he actually wrote a memo to the Republicans and told them that they could actually scare Americans by calling the president‘s health reform efforts an “experiment.” 

Steele gets an “A” for following the talking points and script closely. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL STEELE, CHAIRMAN, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE:  Obama is conducting an experiment, a dangerous experiment with our health care. 

Reckless experiment with our economy. 

An unnecessary experiment. 

Rushing this experiment. 

The Barack Obama experiment. 

Experiment, experiment, experiment, experiments, in that economic laboratory—experiments, experimentation. 

Multi-trillion dollar experiment. 

Experiment, experiment, experiment. 

So it‘s time to stop the experiment, experiment, experimentation, experiment. 

Risky experiment. 

WWW.BarackObamaexperiment.com

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  They even have a Web site? 

We did the math.  Steele actually said “experiment” or some variation of the word 32 times in that speech. 

After reading his prepared remarks to the national press club, the RNC chair took some questions without his script.  Steele was not as sure about his views on health care when he didn‘t have the script around him.  At one point the moderator asked did Republicans support an individual requirement to get coverage.  That question stumped him. 

STEELE:  Does—an individual requirement, what do you mean by an individual requirement?  Do we support requiring individuals to get health coverage?

Again, that is one of those areas where there—there is different opinions by some in the—in the House and the Senate on this. 

And look, I don‘t do policy.  I‘m not—I‘m not a legislator.  My point in coming here today was to begin to set a tone. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  “A tone.  I don‘t do policy.”  There is the guy who is the head of the Republican Party who can‘t answer a question about health care.  They don‘t have any answers. 

Republicans aren‘t interested in fixing the broken health care system.  As Steele says, in this quote, he‘s there to set the tone.  That tone is a tone of no and blocking any efforts to do something for the American people. 

“The Barack Obama experiment” is desperate fear-mongering “Psycho Talk.”

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ:  Welcome back to THE ED SHOW.  President Obama is kicking it into high gear for health care reform.  In his Youtube address this weekend, the president urged lawmakers to get moving on a bill, one that includes a public option. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  I don‘t believe that government can or should run health care.  But I also don‘t think insurance companies should have free rein to do as they please.  That‘s why any plan I sign must include an insurance exchange, a one-stop shopping marketplace where you can compare the benefits, costs and track records of a variety of plans, including a public option to increase competition and keep insurance companies honest. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  Are they listening on Capitol Hill?  Joining me now is Senator Kent Conrad, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, and a member of the Senate Finance Committee.  And I understand just got out of a meeting with the key players of those two committees.  Senator, can you give us an update?  First of all, good to see you, good to have you with us tonight. 

What happened today?  Give us an update.  Any movement today with those two committees? 

SEN. KENT CONRAD (D), BUDGET COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN:  Yes, it‘s been a very constructive day, not just today.  But people were working all through the weekend.  And real progress has been made. 

We just finished about a two hour long meeting.  In that meeting, we got about a dozen items left under discussion.  And we went through about a third of those.  So we‘ve got eight or nine more items to go over tomorrow.  But very good progress being made. 

SCHULTZ:  OK.  Senator, the CBO report that came out last week—and you got testimony from Mr. Elmendorf.  Was that not a incomplete report because it did not take into account new revenue streams coming into government if we were to raise taxes on the top two percent? 

CONRAD:  Actually, it does take into account on the House proposal the total proposal that was then in train in the various committees.  So it does take into account the revenue as well as the expenditure.  And as you know, they concluded that it would not bend the cost curve over time.  They also concluded it wasn‘t paid for over the ten-year period. 

But, you know, those are all things that can be rectified.  And it‘s better to know them now and get them fixed than to have a surprise later. 

SCHULTZ:  So, the Congressional Budget Office figured in, if we repeal the Bush tax cuts and tax the top two percent in this country, move the rate back, that we still wouldn‘t be able to pay for the plan that they‘re talking about on the Hill? 

CONRAD:  Well, they took the revenue plan that is in the House bill.  And, yes, they concluded that—on two factors fell short.  Number one, wasn‘t paid for over the ten years.  Number two, would not bend the cost curve in the right way beyond the ten-year period. 

So, again, those are works in progress.  They‘re not finished legislation.  So there‘s lots of time in order to fix them and get them right. 

SCHULTZ:  But the fact is that the Senate Health Committee, what they came out with was much lower than the House.  And if we did repeal the Bush tax cuts, which I know you never supported way back when—you never supported those—the Senate Health Committee does have a workable plan. 

CONRAD:  Yes, they do.  In fairness to the Health Committee, the Health Committee does not have jurisdiction over revenue.  So the Health Committee, that‘s the Senate Health Committee—you know, you can‘t make a fair judgment on their plan.  On the cost side, they‘re clearly within the range of what is doable and could be paid for over the ten years. 

SCHULTZ:  Senator, why are conservative Democrats so reluctant to help the president get what he wants and what the majority of Americans want?  What‘s the hold-up?

CONRAD:  You know, the hold-up is getting it right.  Ed, this is the most complicated legislative endeavor I‘ve ever been part of in 23 years, because it affects every single American and it affects one-sixth of our economy.  One in every six dollars in our economy is going through health care. 

So I really think this is a matter of trying to get it right.  It‘s an extraordinary—extraordinarily complex.  But real progress is being made.  I think everybody should take heart from the fact we‘re very close now to a plan, at least in the Finance Committee, that would be paid for and hopefully would bend the cost curve in the right direction. 

SCHULTZ:  Would you support repealing the Bush tax cuts? 

CONRAD:  Well, I think I wouldn‘t on those that are for the middle class. 

SCHULTZ:  Well, no.  I‘m talking about the top two percent.  I‘m talking about the millionaires, you know, the top two percent that cost this country 750 billion dollars. 

CONRAD:  Yes, I would not—I don‘t think that‘s the right way to pay for health care.  I think the right way to pay for health care is out of the health care side of the ledger.  You know, we‘ve got 2.4 trillion dollars of income tax subsidy to health care over the next ten years.  That‘s the first place I‘d look for health care. 

With respect to the tax cuts for those who are the most favored among us, I think those are going to have to be addressed to deal with the larger deficit issues that still confront the country. 

SCHULTZ:  Finally, senator, you summed it up tonight on this program, saying it‘s the biggest legislative effort you‘ve seen in your almost 30 years in the Congress.  Would you be willing to stay through August and not go on vacation if the president were to say, we‘ve got to stay here until we get this thing done?  What about that? 

CONRAD:  I‘ve already said publicly and privately, count me in.  We want to reduce the August break or cancel it entirely, it‘s fine with me.  The most important thing is that we get this right. 

SCHULTZ:  And I know you‘re working on it, senator.  Good to have you with us tonight.  Thanks so much.  Senator ken Conrad. 

For more, let‘s bring in our panel tonight.  Nationally syndicated radio talk show host Bill Press is with us.  Also Jack Rice, former CIA officer.  And also Tim Griffin, Republican strategist. 

Tim, I want to start with you tonight.  What‘s wrong with repealing the Bush tax cuts if it doesn‘t affect 98 percent of the American people?  Let‘s have at it and pay for this thing. 

TIM GRIFFIN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  Well, that‘s the last thing you want to do in the middle of a recession.  I mean, the government in this particular instance, in this administration—the government is taking center stage.  But we forget that most of the jobs created historically in the last 20 years in this country have been because of small businesses.  And these tax cuts that you‘re talking about, the Bush tax cuts, they impact not only individuals, but they impact small businesses. 

When you‘re talking about the higher income bracket, you‘re talking about a lot of small businesses that have the income pass through their LLC, their small business. 

SCHULTZ:  Well, I understand protecting small business.  But I don‘t see the millionaires taking their tax breaks and creating any jobs as of late.  Bill Press, when is the Obama administration, Bill, going to come out and realize they‘re not sacred cows, they‘re not sacred territory, we‘ve got to go after those folks? 

BILL PRESS, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  You‘re absolutely right.  I think President Obama—they say for the next couple of weeks he‘s going to really start taking charge.  It‘s about time.  I think he‘s given Congress too much running room, and he‘s spent too much time trying to find common ground with Republicans. 

I think he‘s got to take charge, lay down the guideposts and say, we‘re going to get this done, and we‘re going to stay there without any vacation until they do get it done.  And yes, the top one percent of Americans who have been living high on the hog for the last eight years are going to be asked to pay more, and they should. 

SCHULTZ:  Jack Rice, how do you see this situation? 

JACK RICE, FMR. CIA OFFICER:  Let‘s face it, the Democrats need to grow a pair.  They need to find a spine.  Come on.  They won the White House.  They won the House.  They won the Senate.  They have a super majority.  Why is it they‘re playing around with the Republicans? 

Just like Jim Demint made it very clear, this has nothing to do with the American people.  This has nothing to do with what it is, not just what we want, but what it is that we need.  This is about trying to take this president down.  He needs to stand and up say, OK, to hell with you; we‘ve had enough.  Now we‘ll simply take control and do what must be done.  That‘s all. 

SCHULTZ:  Tim Griffin, what are we supposed to make of Senator Jim Demint of South Carolina when he says we wants this to be Obama‘s Waterloo?  Where‘s all this bipartisanship, all this love that‘s supposed to be around there? 

GRIFFIN:  Look, I think the bottom line is there‘s a lot of reasons to stop this legislation.  And you can—he may not be the most articulate in how he expressed it, but the bottom line is there are a lot of people who want this stopped, including Democrats. 

You mentioned the Blue Dogs earlier.  Well, the Blue Dogs in places like south Arkansas where I grew up—you‘ve got Mike Ross down there—those people don‘t want this reform package to pass. 

SCHULTZ:  They don‘t want health care? 

GRIFFIN:  They want health care reform, but they don‘t want this one. 

PRESS:  Whoa, whoa, whoa.  Wait a minute.  Mike Ross also said today, if the Republicans think they can count on the Blue Dogs to stop Obama or to go against Obama, that they‘re kidding themselves.  The problem is all the Republicans want to do—you just said it—is stop.  They put no alternative plan on the table.  They want to delay, delay, delay, and then kill it, just like they tried to do the stimulus package. 

We‘re wasting time talking to Republicans. 

GRIFFIN:  If I was advising Mike Ross I would say, you shouldn‘t have said that, because let me tell you, you need to be listening to your people in the Fourth District. 

SCHULTZ:  All right, gentlemen.  It‘s all about listening to the voters.  We‘ll come back with the panel.  Stay with us.  We got a lot more coming up.

Personally, I‘m tired of the conservative Democrats dragging their feet on reform.  I want a yes or a no.  You‘re either with us or you‘re not.  You‘re with the president on a public option or you‘re not.  I‘m putting a moderate Democratic Congressman in the hot seat when we come back here on my playbook on THE ED SHOW.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ:  In my playbook tonight, Democrats in Congress, they‘re not really playing like a team right now.  In fact, I think the Blue Dogs are kind of playing the role of the spoiler.  They‘re dragging their feet on health care reform.  They‘re standing in the way of what the president wants.  They‘re saying, we got to get going on our August recess. 

What for?  That‘s not what the American people want.  I held a town hall meeting in Madison, Wisconsin last night.  I can tell you I saw firsthand the American people want action.  The people in the heartland, they want everybody covered. 

This thing about pre-existing condition, that‘s got to go.  Public option, they want it.  They also want the Congress to come back in the next session and work on cost containment.  But getting everybody covered has got to be the first step. 

Joining me now is Wisconsin Congressman Ron Kind.  He‘s a member of the House Ways and Means Committee.  Ron, good to have you with us tonight.  You‘re on the phone because I know you‘ve got some votes.  If you‘re hearing in your district in Wisconsin what I heard in Madison last night, my friend, I think you‘ve got to get on board with the public option if you‘re not there yet. 

REP. RON KIND (D), WISCONSIN:  Ed, first of all, I was glad to see my home state of Wisconsin survived your visit over the weekend.  You were well received and we appreciate your visit. 

Ed, you know, this is this generation‘s moon shot, health care reform, because the current system is unsustainable.  We‘ve got rising costs and the number of uninsured growing each and every day in this country. 

SCHULTZ:  But Congressman, what I heard last night is that people don‘t care about the money.  They care about the coverage.  And we‘ll find a way to pay for it.  It seems that the conservative Democrats are saying, all of a sudden this is just too much money.  Where was that resistance when we were voting for the war in Iraq and the Bush tax cuts that cost us 750 billion dollars, and the war which is going to be maybe two trillion when it‘s all done with? 

Here we are balking at 900 billion dollars.  How does that add up for you? 

KIND:  Ed, I also recall five years ago, when the Republicans jammed through that prescription drug bill at 3:00 a.m. 800 billion dollars.  Not a nickel of it was paid for.  All of it was deficit financing. 

But reforming health care is important.  And doing it the right way is important.  For too long we‘ve had a reimbursement system that has flowed to the volume of care given as opposed to the value of care.  That‘s why studies show that close to one-third of all the dollars spent in health care in this country goes to care and treatment that does not improve the patient. 

That‘s what we‘re trying to reform so we can cover all Americans.  And it will be sustainable for future generations.  But without that delivery system reform, rewarding value over volume, it‘s going to get very expensive very fast. 

SCHULTZ:  Are you with the president on a public option, Congressman? 

KIND:  I am, as long as it competes on a level playing field.  A public option should be a choice that people are free to make, along with other health care plans. 

SCHULTZ:  Well, that would be the plan that you‘ve got in the Congress.  That seems to work pretty good. 

KIND:  It does.  But, again, the public option should be based in reimbursement on the quality of care that‘s given, as opposed to the quantity of care.  And that‘s been one of our biggest problems in providing coverage for all Americans.  Costs are sky-rocketing.  We‘re not getting a good bang for the buck. 

SCHULTZ:  So are you with the president?  I mean, can you make a statement that I‘m with the president?  What he wants, I‘m going to do what I‘m going to do whatever I can as a representative from Wisconsin to deliver? 

KIND:  The president‘s been the biggest champion in reforming this delivery system so it does reward the quality of health care, as opposed to just the volume of health care given.  He‘s been up there speaking endlessly about this.  That‘s the goal that we do share with the president. 

SCHULTZ:  And are you willing to give up your vacation recess in August to make sure we get this thing done? 

KIND:  I‘m willing to do whatever it takes to move health care reform along. 

SCHULTZ:  OK. 

SCHULTZ:  Because 47 million uninsured is unacceptable.  Rising costs unacceptable.  And the fastest-growing area of federal spending, health care, is something that we cannot afford to delay any longer. 

SCHULTZ:  Congressman, good to have you with us tonight.  We have had three elected officials tell us tonight here on THE ED SHOW that they‘re willing to stay for August.  So I guess we better call the White House and ask President Obama if he‘s willing to call over to Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer and say, what do you say we stick around until we get this thing done, because I think that‘s what the American people want?

One last page in my playbook tonight.  A big Ed get well soon card going out to an ED SHOW regular, Senator Barbara Mikulski of Maryland.  She broke her ankle.  She‘s having surgery.  She e-mailed us to let us know she‘s getting great care, the kind of care she wants for her constituents. 

“While I‘m following the doctor‘s orders, I can‘t wait until I‘m back on my feet, continuing my work for quality, affordable health care for every American.” 

I can tell you, she is a fighter.  Senator Mikulski, always fired up and a great guest on this program.  All the best to you, get well soon. 

Stay with us.  We are coming up here on THE ED SHOW, a look at President Obama‘s greatest hits from the first six months on the job. 

I don‘t understand all this back and forth about how he‘s just not doing such a fantastic job.  Give me a break.  We‘re only seven minutes into the first quarter if you look at the totality of the presidency.  Our panel coming up on that next,  Stay with us. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ:  Welcome back to THE ED SHOW.  Six months into the job and President Obama has passed 12 bills since taken office.  A few highlights: the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which he signed into law just nine days after he took office; reauthorizing the S-CHIP bill, Children‘s Health Insurance Act; the stimulus package was passed; the Small Business Act was passed; also the Helping Families Save Their Homes Act; and, of course, the credit card bill. 

Let‘s bring back our panel tonight and see how they score the president‘s first six months.  Bill Press, Jack Rice, Tim Griffin. 

Jack, what do you think?  How has the president done in his first six months? 

RICE:  Actually, I‘m very pleased.  I think he‘s done a lot in the six months.  The real problem that we have is you compare the challenges that he faces versus where he is right now.  It took President Bush eight years to just about destroy the country.  For him to actually dig out of that hole is a very, very difficult thing to do. 

One thing that you didn‘t even mention, which I think is huge, was the speech that he gave in Cairo.  This is on an international basis.  This is a guy who finally came out into the world and said, guess what, we actually don‘t hate you; we actually really are interested in having a relationship and having an understanding where we can benefit one another. 

And that was fundamental to what we‘re doing on an international basis and something that President Bush really, really did so incredibly poorly.  And the fact that this president understands that really pleases me. 

SCHULTZ:  You know, Bill Press, all of the things that have passed have been good and what the Democrats wanted.  If the president doesn‘t get it done on health care, it seems like nothing else matters at this point.

PRESS:  No, I think you‘re right, Ed.  I got to say and agree with Jack.  I don‘t think any president in our lifetime has done so much, so fast, so well, as Barack Obama has.  He has already changed the direction of this—of the image of this country around the world for the better.  And he‘s changed the direction of this country at home for the better. 

But you know, you‘re right, it all comes down to I think he‘ll be judged by—for this first year, maybe for eight years, how well he does on health care.  That‘s why he‘s got to do it right now, full-time, and take charge. 

SCHULTZ:  Tim, why do I think you‘re going to have a different answer on that one? 

GRIFFIN:  I‘m actually going to agree with all of you on one thing, and that is, he promised—

SCHULTZ:  Oh, no. 

GRIFFIN:  He promised change and we got change.  I don‘t think there‘s any doubt about the change.  But one of the things that‘s instructive for me is you talk about the great challenge that he inherited.  We have a huge challenge with the economy, with people losing their jobs and businesses closing.  If you go back and look at 1981, when Reagan became president, he was facing a similar problem.  He had a completely different approach.  That approach was to cut taxes and downsize government to stimulate the economy. 

So, you know, in terms of getting stuff passed, absolutely, President Obama has done it.  Do I agree with the substance?  Absolutely not. 

SCHULTZ:  Jack, what does the president have to do to get this health care will through quickly?  If you had to pick one thing that President Obama has got to do, what would it be? 

RICE:  He needs to pull the Democrats together.  He needs to stop trying to reach across the aisle to the Republicans who clearly simply want to see him fail.  What he needs to do is he needs to marshal the American people, who will then drive the Democrats to do what is necessary. 

We have seen what‘s been going on with Demint.  We‘ve seen what‘s been going on with Steele.  Heck, we could look at Russ in some apparent drug-induced haze down in Florida.  What we need is Baucus and everybody else on the left pushing hard to get this done. 

SCHULTZ:  What about it, Bill? 

PRESS:  Forget the Republicans.  Get the Democrats in line.  Tell them you‘re not going home until you get it done, period. 

SCHULTZ:  I hear you.  Gentlemen, great to have you with us tonight.  Thanks so much.  Bill Press, Tim Griffin, Jack Rice with us here on THE ED SHOW. 

Earlier in the show I asked for your opinion.  Should lawmakers leave town if they haven‘t passed a health care bill?  Forty five hundred of you have responded.  That‘s our most ever to any question we‘ve put out.  Twenty one percent of you said yes; 79 percent said you agree with me, that they should stay in town until they get health care done. 

It‘s not an election year.  They don‘t have to go home and raise money.  We just came out of the most publicized election in the history of the country.  Nothing‘s really changed much when it comes to health care.  In fact, it‘s gotten worse. 

It would seem to me that the president could take the real leadership role by calling up the Democratic leadership and saying, you know what?  I think we‘re going to miss that fishing trip in August and we‘re all going to stick around and get health care done for the American people. 

I‘ll be blogging about it tonight on my website at WeGotEd.com.  That‘s THE ED SHOW.  I‘m Ed Schultz.  For more information on THE ED SHOW, go to Ed.MSNBC.com or check out that website on the radio side, WeGotEd.com. 

Chris Matthews, “HARDBALL,” the man who knows what‘s happening in politics, coming up next, right here on MSNBC. 

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

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