updated 9/30/2009 10:44:58 AM ET 2009-09-30T14:44:58

Guests: Tom Harkin, Jay Rockefeller, Byron Dorgan, Sen. Ben Cardin, Roy Sekoff, Todd Webster, Karen Hanretty, Jack Rice

ED SCHULTZ, HOST:  Good evening, Americans.  Welcome to THE ED SHOW.

Time out!  We just—we just—just hold on.  We‘ve got to call time out. 

We had a couple of tough votes today.  It‘s not over. 

Let‘s get back to the basics.  OK?  Back to square one.  I want every American to understand this. 

You see these guys right here?  These are the insurance companies who are ripping us off.  They‘re the targets. 

The top 10 health insurance companies in America have collectively posted 428 percent increase in profit during the past decade.  That‘s staggering.  That‘s why we need some government involvement.  They‘ve done it by raising your premiums 120 percent on American families, and just rigging the insurance pool by excluding people with pre-existing conditions. 

Hold it right there.  Just remember one thing about pre-existing conditions. 

OK, let‘s say everybody‘s going to get covered now, but you‘re going to have to have some legislation written in there that says, hey, wait a minute, somebody with cancer or somebody with a serious disease, well, we‘ll just charge them as an insurance company an extra 20 times the going rate and let‘s see how they handle that. 

We‘re getting into the detail now.  We‘ve got to watch out that we still don‘t screw Americans on this deal.  It‘s up to you and me to reel these folks in. 

This is why the government needs to be involved.  Let me give you an example.  Another one.

What do you say we don‘t have speed limits?  Let‘s just go 120 miles an hour, and what happens if one of your relatives gets killed by somebody going 100 miles an hour?  You‘re going to say, well, gosh, we‘ve got to have some government involvement on that. 

See, government plays a role.  And government is going to have play a role to reel in this number. 

Can we do this for another decade?  Is this what the Republicans want? 

Is this where we‘re going? 

Today in the Finance Committee, in the markup, five Democrats voted, I think, totally the wrong way when it came to reform.  They voted with the Republicans against the public option. 

You know the names: Senator Max Baucus; Senator Kent Conrad; Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas; Tom Carper of Delaware; and Bill Nelson, surprisingly enough of Florida, because he told me on this show that he wanted a public option.  And, of course, the amendment was brought up by Jay Rockefeller, who said, you know, we‘ve got to come out of the Senate Finance Committee and figure out what the heck is going on here. 

He wanted to deliver Medicare for all Americans.  Oh, that would be a homerun. 

Now, a public plan—that‘s right—that‘s not for profit, that will reel in these big numbers, that‘s the obstacle.  You see, the obstacle to a public plan are a handful of conservative Democratic senators like Harry Reid, Kent Conrad, Max Baucus, Ben Nelson, Blanche Lincoln.

What do they have in common?  They‘re all from small states.  They‘re all from, say, rural states. 

And folks, here‘s the gist of the whole thing.  Rural states get butchered by Medicare reimbursement rates.  They get way less than the larger, more populated states in urban areas. 

The Medicare formula is way out of date.  And on this issue, in fairness, the conservative Democrats are correct.  The system is wrong. 

Rural hospitals actually are not rewarded for doing a great job.  They aren‘t rewarded for efficiency. 

The amendment today by Senator Rockefeller was to expand the Medicare system to all Americans.  But conservative Democrats say rural hospitals, they would go broke if that‘s the way it was going to be. 

Here‘s Senator Conrad on that issue. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. KENT CONRAD (D), NORTH DAKOTA:  Every major hospital administrator in my state has told me if you tie public option to Medicare levels of reimbursement, which the Rockefeller amendment does for two years, every hospital in my state, every major hospital, goes broke.  Medicare levels of reimbursement in my state are below the cost of providing the care. 

Well, how do the hospitals get by today?  They‘re able to exist today because they have higher rates of reimbursement from private insurance, and even higher rates from private paid patients. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  All right.  Some inside baseball here. 

Senator Conrad and I have had some very good and constructive conversations about that sound bite right there over the last six weeks.  This is the key.  The conservative Democrats are afraid to say, hey, let‘s go with the Medicare plan and we‘ll just get more money to the hospitals.  Because if they do that, then they‘re going to have to raise taxes. 

Maybe in a way they don‘t want to raise taxes.  And then here comes 2010, the midterms, and, holy smokes, there go the Democratic seats.  That‘s what they‘re afraid of. 

And, of course, the major reason Conrad, Baucus and the rest of them are against the public option is because they fear the states would not be able to financially keep up with all of this or match the shortfall of the Medicare reimbursement dollars.  The rural senators are concerned a public option will bankrupt those hospitals. 

You heard that sound bite.  That‘s what this is all about. 

And I have to call them out on it.  They are guarding their own back yard. 

I understand that, but, you see, they don‘t want to go home to the 30-seconrd commercial.  You can just imagine this—Senator Conrad forced a local hospital to go bankrupt and shut down.  Is this the kind of leadership North Dakota needs in Washington? 

I mean, you can just hear the commercial right there.  Put it in any state, apply it to any conservative Democrat who‘s against the public option. 

The rural Democrats are holding health care reform hostage right now.  Why?  Because of the money.  Because they can‘t get the Medicare reimbursement money that they need to keep these hospitals solvent. 

Hey, man, money‘s easy to get.  We found it for Iraq. 

Here‘s the solution.  To get more money, fix the disparity gap between rural and urban repayment, and, folks, you‘ve got a public option.  Don‘t kill the public option and force all Americans to basically go into a broken for-profit insurance system.  We can pay for the fix. 

Now, you know, we‘ve squandered money away on wars, we‘ve squandered money away on tax cuts for the top two percent.  Why can‘t we do this? 

There is a role for government everywhere in America.  The free market

·         the free market in this case has absolutely failed us on health care. 

It‘s time for government—say that again—it‘s time for government to level the playing field. 

This is a defining moment for Democrats in America.  There‘s no doubt about it. 

The target.  The target.  This is the target, 428 percent profits. 

Is that what we want?  Is there any legislation on the table anywhere that would reel this in the next decade? 

The answer to that is no.  The answer to that is absolutely no. 

So, folks, we are at a defining moment in this health care debate.  No, the president doesn‘t have to come in and do this.  The president‘s done a lot of his work.  He can save his time here. 

What has to happen here is that the Democrats have to figure out a way to make rural hospitals solvent if that is the key to get the public option going, because you‘re not going to get anything with the Republicans.  You‘re not going to get anything with the Republicans at all.  OK? 

Let me show you what Robert Reich has to say about this.  “Although the president has sounded as if he would welcome the public option, political operatives in the White House have quietly reassured the industries that it won‘t be included in the final bill.”

Really?  It won‘t be included in the final bill? 

Well, let‘s ask our next senator here, Senator Tom Harkin, chairman of the Senate HELP Committee. 

Senator, good to have you with us tonight.  I appreciate your time. 

Tom, can you hear me? 

SEN. TOM HARKIN (D), CHAIRMAN, HELP COMMITTEE:  OK, Ed.  Now I got you, Ed.  Hey, good.

SCHULTZ:  OK.  Very good.  Good to have you with us.  I apologize for that quick snafu there. 

HARKIN:  That‘s all right.

SCHULTZ:  Now, Harry Reid, it was reported in “The New York Times” that Harry Reid isn‘t quite sure whether he‘s going to include the public option when he mixes the Senate Finance Committee bill and the Senate HELP Committee bill.  After these two votes today over in the Senate Finance Committee, where are we right now? 

HARKIN:  Well, as you know, Ed, three committees in the House, one committee in the Senate, the committee I chair, the HELP Committee, Senator Kennedy‘s old committee, we all passed the public option.  So, four out of five relevant committees have passed a public option.  Only one didn‘t, that being the Finance Committee. 

But I understand that Senator Baucus has to get a bill out, but the votes were very close.  In fact, on one option we only lost three Democrats. 

I believe that when we merge these two bills, we will have a public option in there that we will take to the floor of the Senate.  And we‘re going to pass it. 

SCHULTZ:  Well, OK.  So, despite what happened in the Senate Finance Committee today, you think you‘ve got the votes to get a public option coming out of the Senate?  Because I‘m not so worried about the House anymore.  And I think the American people—I mean, it‘s going to be reported, all the talking heads are going to say, hey, the public option is dead. 

I need to have some confidence with you tonight, Senator Harkin, that you think you can get these votes out of the Senate. 

HARKIN:  Well, here‘s one thing I will guarantee you, Ed.  I will tell you again as I have told you before, we will have a bill on the president‘s desk before Christmas, and it will have a public option. 

SCHULTZ:  Well, that‘s what the American people want to hear. 

HARKIN:  I know it.  And most of the doctors want it.  Seventy-three percent of the doctors polled want a public option, 60-some percent of the American people want a public option.  And the vast majority of Democrats, over 50 in the United States Senate, also want a public option.

SCHULTZ:  OK.  Now, are you going to have to go—you‘re not going to get 60 at this point, are you?

HARKIN:  Well, I wouldn‘t give up on that yet.  I still think that we can get 60 votes to bring the bill on the floor of the Senate.

And then we‘ll have amendments, and then we‘ll probably have to have a cloture on the bill to bring it to a close.  That will be the tough vote.  I still believe that we can get the 60 votes for that.

SCHULTZ:  OK.  What about...

HARKIN:  But if we don‘t—but Ed, if we don‘t, we‘re going to go to reconciliation.  As I said to you, and as I say to the American people, we will have this bill on the president‘s desk by Christmas, one way or the other.

SCHULTZ:  So, today was not a setback at all?  It was just another day at the office?

HARKIN:  I don‘t believe today was one setback at all.  Obviously, I supported either one of those.  I‘m not on the committee, but I see that the HELP Committee, the public option that we have in our committee, was not voted on today.  But it has been supported in the House, and as I said, I believe it has broad support in the Senate also.

And again, I want to commend Senator Rockefeller.  He has been the lead on this, and he has pushed this.  And I‘ve got to tell you, with his leadership, with what we have on the HELP Committee, I believe, in the final analysis, we will have a public option, and a good one, too.

SCHULTZ:  All right.

What about the Medicare reimbursement rates?  Is this going to be addressed, rural versus urban?  There‘s such a disparity there.

What about that, Senator?

HARKIN:  Yes, that‘s going to be addressed, Ed.  We haven‘t gotten there yet, but we will have amendments on the Senate floor and we‘ll have a work in conference when we go to conference.

As you know, they‘re out of whack.  Rural areas of America are getting penalized even though they have good medicine, they have high quality of care, but they get the lowest reimbursements.  That has got to be taken care of, and it will be. 

SCHULTZ:  OK.  Senator Harkin, great to have you with us tonight. 

Thanks so much. 

HARKIN:  Thank you, Ed.

SCHULTZ:  Senator Tom Harkin, who‘s the chairman of the Senate HELP Committee. 

All right.  Get your cell phones out.  I want to know what you think. 

Our text survey tonight is: If Democrats can‘t pass a public option, will it be their Waterloo?  Text “A” for yes and “B” for no to 622639.  And we‘ll get you the results later on in the show. 

Now, I don‘t want to let the Republicans off the hook today.  Senator Chuck Schumer called out Chuck Grassley for his anti-government rhetoric. 

Here it is. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY ®, IOWA:  If you support longer waits, crowded emergency rooms, lower quality of care—in other words, the rationing or the denial of care or the delay of care that you get in single-payer systems, do you want that for America? 

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK:  I‘d just like to know what you think of Medicare, a government-run program that‘s far more government run than what Senator Rockefeller has proposed.  Do you think Medicare is a good program?  Because most of the amendments on the other side have been aimed at preserving Medicare, a government-run program. 

GRASSLEY:  I think that Medicare is part of the social fabric of America after 40 years, just like Social Security is.

SCHUMER:  All the horrors of a government-run plan that you elicited in Rockefeller‘s amendment, you‘re supportive of Medicare.  I just don‘t understand the difference.  Medicare is government-run, and most people like it very much.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  Well, just another day at the office with the Senate Finance Committee. 

Joining me now is Senator Jay Rockefeller, chairman of the Senate Finance Subcommittee on Health Care. 

Senator, great to have you with us tonight. 

SEN. JAY ROCKEFELLER (D), WEST VIRGINIA:  Thanks, Ed. 

SCHULTZ:  How disappointed are you that more Democrats didn‘t come on board in this committee?  And how much of a setback is it, in your opinion? 

ROCKEFELLER:  It isn‘t.  In fact, you know, obviously I would have liked to won my public option amendment which was a very strict one.  But I got eight votes for it.  That‘s more than I expected.  And then Chuck Schumer put up his, which was a variation of it and pretty close to it, and you got 10 votes.  So, we‘re moving in the right direction. 

And So I—then we went outside and had a big press conference, all 10 of us, and, you know, said we‘re—you know, the public option is marching forward.  And it‘s the right thing to do, Ed.  It‘s the right thing to do.  You‘ve said it 1,000 times and so have I.  My people of West Virginia need it. 

SCHULTZ:  There‘s no question about that.  All Americans need this.  There‘s got to be something that is going to level the playing field, and this is the only way to do it. 

Now, Senator Conrad gave, I thought, the most telling sound bite.  And we just played it a moment ago, that one of the reasons why he can‘t go along with this public option is because of the Medicare reimbursement rates.  And he‘s claiming that the hospitals in his state would go broke. 

Is there any way to fix that that, in your opinion, in the quick end of things to turn this whole thing around? 

ROCKEFELLER:  Yes.  The answer is yes. 

First of all, it‘s only for two years under my bill.  It doesn‘t exist at all under Chuck Schumer‘s bill.  That probably helped Chuck Schumer get a couple extra votes.  People said that was very important to them. 

You know, I don‘t have any problem with my position and I don‘t have any problem with their position.  But look, my objection is we‘re spending $483 billion, which is more than half of the total cost of the health care bill, to subsidize insurance companies, private insurance companies, to do what they‘ve been doing all these years, which is taking us all out for lunch then having us for lunch.  And I really mean that. 

I mean, we don‘t have the time to go into it, but believe me, it‘s true.  And the fact that we‘re going that amazes me, because we‘re putting profits before people. 

SCHULTZ:  Now, does this set the table for a possible trigger option?  That if certain market conditions were met, is that where we‘re going to go?  Because, you know, Senator Reid, the Senate majority leader, told “The New York Times”—you know, he‘s saying he‘s not sure if he‘s going to put this in when you merge these two bills together. 

What are your thoughts on that? 

ROCKEFELLER:  Well, you know, he‘s had different positions on that, as a lot of people have had.  I personally don‘t trust a trigger, simply because when you say you‘re going to trigger something, it‘s usually a way of getting something you want in the short term, and then—or, you know, or in the long term.  But in my case it would be the short term.  And then losing it. 

Triggers don‘t work.  We tried that on Medicare prescription drug Part D.  We were promised a trigger so we wouldn‘t have a doughnut hole.  And, of course, nobody ever pulled the trigger.  So, I don‘t trust triggers. 

SCHULTZ:  So, your message tonight is the American people is, another day at the office, it‘s not a setback.  The public option is still going where it‘s got to go, in your opinion? 

ROCKEFELLER:  Absolutely.  And I like days at the office.  And this, I thought, was a particularly good one. 

I feel very good about it.  You know, to get 10 votes on something which we debated for five hours which is the longest exposition about it in history—and a lot of people were watching and a lot of people learned about it.  I expect we‘ll be getting a lot of phone calls.  And, you know, That‘s what I want.  I need that. 

SCHULTZ:  Senator Rockefeller, great to have you with us tonight.  I appreciate your time. 

ROCKEFELLER:  Thanks, Ed. 

SCHULTZ:  You bet. 

Coming up, Senator Byron Dorgan has a plan to bust up a bad deal that Max Baucus struck with big pharma, along with the White House.  He‘ll join me on the front lines in just a moment. 

Plus, President Obama is putting his game face on and leading the charge for a Chicago Olympics.  The first lady says he‘s taking no prisoners. 

We‘ll break down the odds at the bottom of the hour. 

And Dick Morris just hitched a ride on Lindsey Graham‘s Armageddon bandwagon. 

I‘ll show you all that coming up in “Psycho Talk.”  

Stay with us.  You‘re watching THE ED SHOW on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ:  Welcome back to THE ED SHOW.

Here‘s some bipartisanship on health care for you.  A new bill by Senators Byron Dorgan, John McCain, and Olympia Snowe would let you and me, Americans, once again buy FDA-approved prescription drugs on the cheap from those guys up north—Canada. 

Now, this is huge, folks.  The bill really sticks it to big pharma.  It‘s a win for consumers and the federal government.  The Congressional Budget Office estimates that this bill would save the American people roughly $60 billion over the next decade. 

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has promised a vote this year, and the debate could start pretty soon. 

Joining me now is Senator Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, who is leading the charge on this. 

Good to have you with us. 

SEN. BYRON DORGAN (D), NORTH DAKOTA:  Thanks, Ed.  It‘s good to be with you. 

SCHULTZ:  Where‘s the deal here for the American consumer?  What would your amendment change that would affect my wallet, your wallet, everybody else‘s wallet when it comes to prescription drugs? 

DORGAN:  Well, listen, the American people are charged the highest prices in the world for brand name drugs.  Our legislation, which is broadly bipartisan, 30 cosponsors in the Senate, would give the American people the freedom to purchase those identical drugs, FDA approved, sold in several other countries where the chain of custody is safe just as ours is. 

And let me just show you if I might—here‘s two bottles that contain Lipitor.  It‘s the largest selling cholesterol-lowering drug. 

The only difference—this, by the way, is made in Ireland, put in the same bottle, sent all around the world.  This goes to Canada and it costs $1.57 per pill.  This bottle goes to the United States and it‘s $4.78 per pill—per tablet. 

So, we get to pay triple.  That makes no sense to me.  Give the American people the freedom to get the same FDA-approved drug wherever they can get it for a fraction of the price. 

SCHULTZ:  So, we would have to go to Canada to get this, or how would this work? 

DORGAN:  No.  We would certify mail order so that you could—just as consumers do now.  In fact, our bill, by the way, would substantially provide a much greater and safer regimen for counterfeit drugs. 

We would actually create on all of these drugs batch lots, pedigrees, and so on, so you could trace it back.  Our drug supply would be safer this way, but it gives the American people the ability to shop for that FDA-approved drug elsewhere.  And when we do that, it will force the pharmaceutical industry to reprice their drugs in this country and give the American consumer a fair deal. 

SCHULTZ:  OK.  So, this is just good old American gouging that‘s taking place on the consumer.  And that‘s why we see all these ads on TV.  Is that where it‘s all going? 

DORGAN:  Well, sure.  I mean, they get you on television. 

Early in the morning, you‘re brushing your teeth, you‘ve got the television on.  They say, you know what?  We want you to go to your doctor today and ask your doctor whether the purple pill is right for you.  You know, all this advertising. 

By the way, they spend more on marketing and advertising than they do on research.  So, maybe they could cut some of that back.  And all I‘m asking for is fair pricing of prescription drugs for the American people.  We shouldn‘t pay the highest prices in the world. 

SCHULTZ:  It makes sense to me. 

Senator Dorgan, great to have you with us tonight. 

DORGAN:  Thanks, Ed.  Good to be with you. 

SCHULTZ:  Now, that is commonsense amendment legislation coming up. 

All right.  Also coming up, delusional Dick Morris has kicked up a dandy of a doomsday scenario.  He‘s warning us that the whole country is about to go up in smoke. 

I‘ll play his psycho babble next up in “Psycho Talk” on THE ED SHOW.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ:  Oh, welcome back to THE ED SHOW.  Time for “Psycho Talk.”  

We haven‘t had him in the zone.  Well, I‘ll be doggoned.  It‘s Dick Morris. 

He‘s predicting the end of America.  And he says it‘s coming within a year. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DICK MORRIS, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR:  Obama would lose the Congress in ‘10.  The problem is we may not have a country by then because he may use that majority to jam through health care reform whether we like it or not. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  Such a positive guy there, huh?  That‘s what toe sucking will do to you. 

Now, we may not have a country in 2010?  Somehow quality health care is going to destroy America.  It sounds to me like Dick Morris has been having some “Psycho Talk” lunches with, say, like, Senator Lindsey Graham and “The Beckster” across the street. 

Remember Senator Lindsey Graham said earlier this week that we‘re heading down the road to Armageddon.  And last week, “The Beckster” warned us that we might not even survive Barack Obama.

Now, if we don‘t pass health care reform, health care costs would continue to skyrocket.  They would eat up more of the federal budget than you‘ve ever seen before, not to mention the household budgets of working Americans.  All the while, money-grubbing insurance companies would keep getting richer now that they can destroy our country. 

But Dick Morris saying health care reform will take down our country, that lands him in “Psycho Talk.”  

And we have a “Psycho Talk” footnote tonight.  I‘ve just got to let you know that you can buy your very own “Psycho Talk” calendar.  It‘s hot off the presses.  Technically, they‘re calling it the Great American Conservative Women calendar.  The Claire Booth Loose Policy Institute is selling this for 25 bucks.  Get this, they‘re actually giving it away to students.  And it features, let‘s see, Bay Buchanan, Ann Coulter, Michele Bachmann, Carrie Prejean, as Miss October.  And my favorite is Congresswoman Michele Bachmann.  She is Miss November.  And Phyllis Schlafly?  Phyllis Schlafly? 

I hope that‘s going to be a short month. 

Coming up, we have got on THE ED SHOW—caribou Barbie‘s going rogue again.  And Liz Cheney, she needs to crawl back into daddy‘s bunker.  I‘ll tell you about that and the latest antics in the playbook coming up. 

Plus, the Senate Finance Committee proved today that it can‘t pass a public option.  Senator Tom Harkin just told me that it‘s still alive in the chamber.  I‘ll ask Senator Ben Cardin for his take on all of this in just a moment.  Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MAX BAUCUS (D), FINANCE CMTE CHAIRMAN:  My job is to put together a bill that will become law.  In the Senate, that means my job is to put together a bill that gets 60 votes. 

Now, I can count.  No one has been able to show me how we can count up to 60 votes with a public option in the bill.  Thus, I‘ve restrained to vote against the amendment. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  I don‘t know.  I‘m lost somewhere, folks.  I thought his job was to represent the people of Montana.  And they all want a public option out there.  The public option had a couple setbacks in the Senate Finance Committee today.  Might have been a leadership thing or something.  I don‘t know. 

But the vote was 15 to eight against a robust public option, offered by Senator Jay Rockefeller, who you heard from earlier in this program.  Now, a more conservative public option was offered by Chuck Schumer from New York.  That also got a setback today.  Failed, if you want to call it that. 

But liberal Democrats say that‘s not the end.  They believe that if they can take a public option to the floor, they can get 60 votes.  Here is Senator Chuck Schumer today. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK:  Senator Baucus said that he was

worried he couldn‘t get 60 votes, and we understand that.  His job is to

pass a bill.  I think we‘re going to be able to show them that we can.  I

have talked to most of my conservative—more moderate colleagues, I‘d say

·         off the committee, and they‘re open to public option.  No question about it. 

I am optimistic.  I‘m very optimistic we‘ll get a bill.  And I‘m optimistic as well that we‘ll have a public option in it. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  Joining me now is Senator Ben Cardin, Democrat from

Maryland, on the Senate Finance Committee.  Lot of optimism after two not

very good votes today, senator.  Are you as optimistic as Rockefeller and -

·         Rockefeller and Harkin and also Schumer?  Where do you stand? 

SEN. BEN CARDIN (D), MARYLAND:  Ed, I hate to correct you, but I‘m not on the Senate Finance Committee.  But I do take great interest in what‘s happening on the Senate Finance Committee.  I think Senator Schumer said something that is pretty clear.  This bill is going to go to the Senate floor.  And I am optimistic, at the end of the day, we‘re going to pass a strong bill that‘s going to bring down cost, and provide an affordable option to every American. 

SCHULTZ:  OK.  So is this a setback, in your opinion?  You‘ve got Senator Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader, has told the “New York Times” he‘s not really sure if he‘s going to put a public option in there when you combine and merge the two bills.  That‘s a signal to the American people this might not happen. 

CARDIN:  I‘m optimistic because we‘ve already had four committees report.  Now we have the fifth one about ready to report.  We‘re about ready to have this bill on the floor of the United States Senate.  I think that‘s exciting.  I think we‘re on the verge of passing health care reform that will revolutionize the way Americans are going to be able to keep health care costs down and get an affordable insurance product, taking on the insurance industry to bring down costs. 

I think this is a very important moment.  And I, quite frankly, think that we‘re making some progress.  Obviously, I was disappointed that the public option was not included in the Senate Finance Committee bill.  There are many more opportunities for that.

SCHULTZ:  OK.  Are you on board with reconciliation?  Would you think that is the right and only way to go, if you can‘t get to 60 votes?  Would you go along with that? 

CARDIN:  Clearly, I hope we can get to 60 votes.  I know Leader Reid is working for the 60 votes.  It gives us an easier way to get a workable bill through the United States Senate and to the president.  We need to reserve all options in order to get the job done. 

SCHULTZ:  I‘m going to ask you the same question I asked the others tonight.  Senator, what about Medicare reimbursement rates?  How is this going to be addressed?  When is it going to be addressed?  To level that playing field is going to be a big part of all of this.  What do you think? 

CARDIN:  Well, look, this bill will protect Medicare.  I want to make it clear to our seniors.  We‘re going to provide stronger benefits and a brighter future, to make sure that we can maintain a strong Medicare program in the future. 

Now, part of that is to make sure that those who get payments under Medicare are fairly reimbursed, that they‘re not overpaid, as in some cases private insurance is today, under Medicare advantage.  We want to make sure that the payments are fair. 

SCHULTZ:  Senator, good to have you with us tonight.  I appreciate your time.  Ben Cardin from Maryland on THE ED SHOW.

Let me bring in Roy Sekoff, founding editor of “Huffington Post.” 

I‘ve never seen so much confidence from so many senators after a set back.  But they‘re saying we‘re still on target.  Harry Reid is starting to make me nervous.  What do you think?

ROY SEKOFF, “HUFFINGTON POST”:  Ed, the happy pill.  I came in here feeling a little down.  Now, after watching all these interviews, I‘m thinking, man, what a great day. 

But let‘s be honest, this was not a good day for proponents of the public option.  There is a silver lining, though.  There‘s actually three silver linings.  One is that we are making progress.  Bill Nelson voted for a public option, a watered down public option, but he voted for it.  So did Tom Carper.  That would not have happened three weeks ago. 

The other good thing is Max Baucus is finally on the record.  He was squirming.  He was squiggling.  We couldn‘t figure out.  Now we know where he stands. 

SCHULTZ:  He‘s against it.

SEKOFF:  You know where he stands?  He stands with the Republicans. 

He stands with the insurance companies. 

SCHULTZ:  Let me tell you who he stands with.  He stands with those folks who are yanking 425 percent profit increase over the last decade. 

The question is, what‘s going to happen to the next decade?  There really is—that I can see, from what I‘ve read, there‘s nothing on the table that is going to reel in the gouging. 

SEKOFF:  We saw the—the movement we saw with Nelson and Carper, I think because of the pressure of constituents.  I think that‘s going to happen with Baucus and Olympia Snowe, right, the last great hope of bipartisanship.  She voted no, too.  Right?

I think the pressure is going to come on them.  We‘ve already started.  The emails are coming into my inbox, fund raising, to put pressure on those two people. 

The third one, Ed, the polls.  The polls have turned back around.  The American public is back where they were before the summer.  Before the psycho talk, you know, before the town hall, the American people are saying we want reform.  I think the Senate is hearing that.  And I think that‘s going to make a difference. 

SCHULTZ:  So where‘s the president play?  What‘s his play right now?  What does he do?  Sit become and just watch this unfold?  Or does he weigh in on it again? 

SEKOFF:  I hope he steps up again.  I hope he steps up again and is as strong as he was during the campaign, when there was no question he was for a very strong public option. 

SCHULTZ:  Let me tell you what a big point here is, in my opinion.  You can do this, you know, preexisting condition all you want.  Roy, you‘re the agent.  I‘m going to go to you.  Hey, I got cancer.  I have a preexisting condition.  What‘s my rate going to be? 

SEKOFF:  That‘s right. 

SCHULTZ:  That‘s the question.  OK, so I can buy from you, but what‘s the rate going to be?  This is where the government has got to come in and level the playing field, and be fair to the American people.  If you‘re going to subsidize people as far as buying the premium, does that involve the people who have got the preexisting conditions? 

SEKOFF:  See, if I‘m the agent, Ed, I‘m willing to take the people with the preexisting conditions, because the mandate‘s coming that‘s going to make all the healthy people join.  And that‘s going to be a party for me as an agent.  I‘m going to say, bring me the healthy, young people. 

SCHULTZ:  Roy, it‘s going to be like dollars falling from the sky. 

SEKOFF:  That‘s why they‘re fine with that. 

SCHULTZ:  How do you stop that?  Public option, guarantee competition for the private sector? 

SEKOFF:  Has to be a strong one, though, that has the prices geared to Medicare.  Not where it can be matched where the insurance companies are.  That‘s where I‘m afraid it‘s heading. 

SCHULTZ:  Roy Sekoff, great to have you with us. 

SEKOFF:  Always good, Ed.

SCHULTZ:  Always lively.

Coming up tomorrow on THE ED SHOW, a guy who really knows his stuff when it comes to health care reform in this country is filmmaker Michael Moore.  He‘s going to be joining me, will weigh in on that debate, and we‘ll talk about it—with also his new documentary, “Capitalism: A Love Story.”

For more on this health care debate and today‘s votes, let‘s go to our panel tonight.  Democratic strategist Todd Webster, Republican strategist Karen Hanretty. 

Todd, I‘ll start with you, did they go behind closed doors and say, let‘s put a happy face on this, come out and be real positive?  Give me some strategy here, buddy.  What‘s happening? 

TODD WEBSTER, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  Look, I think this was the Senate Finance Committee.  Let‘s not forget where we were.  They got ten Democrats to support it.  They got an overwhelming majority of Democrats to support it.  So it is a stronger case than we thought. 

Let‘s not forget that then this bill needs to be reconciled with what the Health Committee did in July, which was including a strong public option.  And that bill, hopefully Senator Reid and Durbin and Murray and the other Democratic leaders are working on now, the final bill that will get to the Senate floor. 

I think that this bill in the Finance Committee, what they did with the strong Democratic majority actually exceeded expectations, in many respects. 

SCHULTZ:  Karen, was this a victory for conservatives today?  What do you think? 

KAREN HANRETTY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  I let out a little woo-hoo today, Ed.  Listen, I think you all are taking happy pills imported from Canada.  You guys lost two big votes today.  You lost two big votes.

Let‘s talk about Harry Reid.  Where is Harry Reid in this?  This your great quarterback, you know, who‘s going to pass that long pass and get a public option across the finish line.  This is a man who, you know, Charlie Cook, the great Charlie Cook, who is a nonpartisan political analyst, and a very good track record of predicting races, has Harry Reid‘s election in 2010 in the tossup category.  This is a man who is not safe in his seat. 

If the voters of Nevada were in favor of this public option, he would be out there at that press conference. 

SCHULTZ:  Well, it‘s Medicare reimbursement rates for the rural senators.  Todd, I have to agree with Karen here.  I‘m not sure Harry Reid is being strong enough on all of this.  To let on to the “New York Times,” I‘m really not sure whether I‘m going to put a public option in there or not, when the majority of Americans say they want it, what kind of strategy and play is that?  Why would he plant the seed of doubt in all of the people that have wanted the reform? 

WEBSTER:  To keep the insurance company lobbyists from beating down their doors.  At the end of the day, let‘s be clear about this, we are closer—the Democrats are closer, because it is Democrats who are having to push this thing along, even though we‘ve include the more than 160 Republican amendments in these various health care bills.  Republicans are voting against this thing wholesale.  And they have made the political calculation that they are going to be opposed to any kind of health care reform. 

At the end of the day, we are closer than we‘ve been in a generation to passing real health care reform, to expand health care coverage to 95 percent of Americans, to provide subsidies for low-income Americans, to reduce the deficits, and to outlaw some of the worst insurance company discriminatory practices. 

So let‘s not lose the forest for the trees here.  The big picture is we are very, very close to passing historic health care legislation that would make LBJ proud. 

SCHULTZ:  Karen, do these votes today just embolden conservatives?  Is there a little mojo on your side right now? 

HANRETTY:  Listen, this whole summer emboldened Republicans.  Are you kidding?

SCHULTZ:  The summer‘s over.  September, you lost. 

HANRETTY:  No, we have not lost anything.  In fact, the numbers are pretty static right now.  You know, that generic ballot number gets better and better for Republicans all the time.  You ask people, are you more inclined to vote for a Democrat or a Republican in the next election?  Nine months ago, when Obama took office, it was double digit advantage to Democrats.  Now, nine months into his presidency, it‘s a three-point disadvantage for Republicans.  We‘re getting a lot of headway. 

WEBSTER:  For all the crazy making in the month of August, and all the lunatics that were out there, the public still wants -- 65 percent want the public option. 

HANRETTY:  That‘s why they‘re not voting for you.  You think they‘re lunatics. 

SCHULTZ:  Good to have you with us tonight.

WEBSTER:  You can have them.

SCHULTZ:  Coming up, President Obama sure is taking the bull by the horns when it comes to the next Olympics.  He‘s going over to Copenhagen to personally plead the case for Chicago in 2016.  Some say it‘s a potentially embarrassing move.  I say it‘s the proper thing to do.  He‘s going representing his hometown and an economic development package which would be great for America.  That‘s coming up on THE ED SHOW in my playbook next.  Stay with us. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ:  In my playbook tonight, President Obama is stepping up for the home team.  That‘s right.  He‘s going to step to the plate and try to bring the 2016 Olympic games back home to Chicago.  He‘ll go to Copenhagen later this week, and try to sway votes before the International Olympic Committees pick the host city Friday. 

It‘s a politically risky move that will at least—you know, I‘ve heard a lot of that.  It‘s politically risky.  How?  How?  Do you know how many jobs this would bring to Chicago?  Do you know how much economic development it would mean to everybody around the region?  In fact, this would be the most positive—the most positive economic development thing this country‘s had in a long time. 

According to the Republicans, hell, we‘re never going to get out of this recession.  So by 2016, maybe we could get something good cooking.  There is no room for criticism here.  This is what the president of the United States is supposed to do. 

Gosh, you know, people around the world kind of like the guy.  Why wouldn‘t we want to play that card?  And, of course, the unions have supported this president from way back when, when he was, you know, working the streets as a community organizer.  He‘s doing what any hometown guy would do.  He‘s sticking up for his town in his backyard. 

I think it is absolutely the right thing to do.  And I hope they get it.  In fact, I think Chicago is going to get it. 

Couple more pages in my playbook tonight.  There‘s a couple of gals that are riding the wave of this crazy that‘s—there‘s a couple gals riding the wave of crazy that‘s been sweeping the nation‘s right wingers.  Shooter‘s little girl, Liz Cheney, has been hitting the lecture circuit, parroting daddy‘s fear-mongering rhetoric.  And the righty‘s lover, the organizer—bringing back her mavericky style, she‘s calling her memoir “Going Rogue.”

Caribou Barbie‘s quitting ways haven‘t hurt her a bit as a candidate. 

We‘ll just have to see how that all turns out. 

One more note tonight in the playbook, the Dallas Cowboys finally got their first win in their brand new stadium, the billion dollar stadium.  They came out with a rough start last night, but they did take down the California Panthers by a score of 21 to seven, in front of a crowd of more than 90,000. 

You know what?  They‘re not going to beat the Minnesota Vikings, because we have the best running back and Brett Favre. 

Next up, the main event.  Turns out that Gitmo is—you know, are we going to shut this thing or not?  We‘ll talk about that with our panel and we might connect with Jack Rice, who is down at Gitmo.  Stay with us.  You‘re watching THE ED SHOW on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ:  Welcome back to THE ED SHOW.  It doesn‘t look like President Obama will be able to meet his January deadline for shutting down Guantanamo Bay Detention Center.  The big problem is what to do with the prisoners.  So far, members of the Congress have strongly opposed sending them to any U.S. prisons.  Out of about 240 detainees, around 90 have been approved for transfer to other countries.  Forty more have been referred for prosecution. 

So that still leaves more than 100 detainees with nowhere to go. 

Joining me now live from Guantanamo Bay, former CIA officer Jack Rice.  Jack, what can you tell us about, update of the numbers, and what the plan is right there, right now, with those still at Guantanamo Bay? 

JACK RICE, FMR. CIA OFFICER:  Ed, I just talked to the deputy commander about that earlier today.  This is what we‘re waiting for.  We‘re trying to figure out what the numbers are.  The estimate is there are approximately 223 detainees right here on the—in these detention camps.  The estimate is about 75 will be released or at least they are set up to be released to various countries around the world. 

The real question is what you do with the rest of them.  The president said three days after the inauguration that this base, these detention camps, would be closed within one year. 

Frankly, this is important.  This should happen.  I‘ve talked to previous presidents.  I‘ve talked to Republicans.  I‘ve talked to Democrats about this.  This is a smart idea to close these, because this has become the symbol of torture.  I‘m not talking about what happens now.  It‘s the symbol, the perception of what it is and what has happened in places like Abu Ghraib. 

If we can close these detention centers, move these people either overseas or into the U.S. to try them, it‘s the smartest way to go.  It should happen.  This president should push it. 

SCHULTZ:  Jack, give us an idea of what the day-to-day operations are like.  Be our eyes and ears.  What‘s it like at Guantanamo Bay? 

RICE:  It‘s a very strange thing, Ed, when I walk inside of these camps.  I walked into Camp Four today.  I walked into Camp Six today.  They are two totally different types of camps.  I recall, I was—in 2006, I was on Guantanamo Bay when Khalid Sheikh Mohammed arrived.  He is still here. 

But if we think about what Camp Four is right now; Camp Four is the lowest level security camp.  It has a soccer field in the center.  It‘s surrounded by razor wire.  That‘s true.  There are still guards in towers.  That‘s true, too.  But, again, they‘re not in isolation.  They are essentially in areas where they sleep next to one another.  They have access to TVs, access to newspapers.  They can do a lot more. 

But the purpose is to try to motivate them to be compliant.  That‘s the term that the U.S. government likes to use.  But this is essentially—at least my perception is this is the final step before they may be released.  On the other hand, you go to Camp Six and elsewhere, while  there are various pods—it looks like a federal maximum security prison.  There are pods where they still can be together if they so choose, but they can keep them in isolation. 

I haven‘t been able to get to some of these in the past, but there are still those out there, like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.  He‘s not rolling around in the general populous.  Let‘s face it.

SCHULTZ:  Jack Rice, reporting for us tonight from Guantanamo Bay. 

Thanks so much, Jack.

Earlier in the show, I asked you if Democrats don‘t pass the public option if it‘s going to be their Waterloo; 84 percent said yes; 16 percent of you said no. 

That‘s THE ED SHOW.  I‘m Ed Schultz.  For more information on THE ED SHOW ,go to Ed.MSNBC.com or check out our radio website at WeGotEd.com. 

“HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews starts right now, right here on the place for politics, MSNBC.  We‘ll see you tomorrow night.

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