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'The Ed Show' for Thursday, September 24, 2009

Read the transcript to the Thursday show

Guests: Chris Van Hollen, Sherrod Brown, Mark Potok, John Garamendi, Joe Madison, Ernest Istook, Paul Helmke, Sen. Chuck Schumer

ED SCHULTZ, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Good evening, Americans.  Welcome to THE ED SHOW live from the nation‘s capital tonight, Washington, D.C.

Quite the show last night: lots of clarification coming up, because I want the Republicans to be on notice.

We got an overwhelming amount of response, positive response from a piece of videotape that we played last night.  And I‘m calling out the Republicans again tonight.

Now, later this evening, in this show, Senator Chuck Schumer is going to be here to give us some news about the public option.  We‘ll get to that later on.  We have a lot of stories coming up.

But first, I want some clarification with the audience.  You know me.  You know I‘m passionate, you know I go after it.  And you know I believe that there has to be competition from the government.  I don‘t care what you call it, government-run program, government takeover, from the government.

For the private sector to bring rates down and to help out that lady that was in Richmond, Virginia, who was talked about in front of Mr. Cantor who is Republican leadership.

Now, do I think that all Republicans want to see people with cancer dead?  No, I don‘t.  But you know what I‘m talking about and you know what the point is here.

There are five bills in the Congress, zero Republicans, zero Republicans have signed on to the public option.  And they‘re making a big stink about the fact that oh, we‘ve got to take our time.  I‘m not the issue and I‘m not going to be the target.

Here‘s the bottom line—that lady doesn‘t have an answer coming from the Republicans.  She‘s got an answer coming from the Democrats.  She‘s got an answer coming from the Democrats in all five of the bills that are on the table.

Now, I want to play this piece of videotape again.  This is Eric Cantor at a town hall meeting, by the way, his only one this summer, down in Richmond, Virginia.  This was on Monday night.  Here‘s the exchange.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I have a very close relative, a woman in her early 40s who did have a wonderful, high-paying job, owns her own home and was a real contributing member of society.  She lost her job.

Just a couple of weeks ago, she found out that she has tumors in her belly and that she needs an operation or doctors told her that they are growing and that she needs to get this operation quickly.  She has no insurance.

REP. ERIC CANTOR, ® VIRGINIA:  I guess I would ask what the situation is in terms of income eligibility and the existing programs out there.  Because if we look at the uninsured right now, there is probably 23 percent, 24 percent of the uninsured that is already eligible for an existing government program beyond that.

I know that there are programs, there are charitable organizations, there are hospitals here who do provide charity care.


SCHULTZ:  Charity?  Charity?  Did you hear that, folks?

Now, Mr. Cantor, his office, when we played that last night and I ripped into him because the Republicans don‘t have an answer for that lady.  They don‘t have a plan for her either.  They, of course, called and said Ed is wrong and he‘s quoting the American Cancer Society, Mr. Cantor is and he‘s correct on this.

Wait a minute, time-out, time-out.  I‘m not the issue.

Mr. Cantor, I will give you one hour, a full hour of THE ED SHOW.  You pick the day, New York or Washington, let‘s get it on.  What do you have for that lady?  What do you have for that situation?  A percentage?  Is that what you‘ve got?  A percentage.  Some charity?  You have nothing for her, she is not covered.

But under the Democratic bills, she wouldn‘t have a problem.  She wouldn‘t have—the preexisting condition wouldn‘t count.  So my point in all of this for clarification; the Republicans are coming to the table, allowing people to die because they will not put forward with the Democrats a bipartisan proposal that would take care of that lady with cancer.  I believe—let‘s see in her 40s, needs an operation according to her doctors, her income level was good, lost her job, doesn‘t have insurance.

Gosh, things are pretty tough.  In fact, there are millions of Americans out there.  And she‘s supposed to just go to a charity or a hospital and say well, I‘m broke, can you help me out?

Republicans, you need to get in the real world.  You need to focus on your own plan that will help that lady out.  And saying that you‘re going to check her income level?

Mr. Cantor, I need you on this show and not with in other host.  You need to talk to me, I‘m the guy who‘s been going after the public option and I‘m calling you out.  And I think you‘re kind of a coward if you don‘t come face to face with me on this program.

I‘ll give you a full hour.  Explain to me what the Republicans are going to do for that lady with cancer, no job, no insurance.  You basically told her well, she‘s in a percentage zone where she might not get any help at all.  Is that who the Republicans are?  Yes.

Last night, you know exactly what I was talking about.  Do I believe that all Republicans want to see people die?  No, I don‘t.  But I want a plan from the Republicans.  I want them to come up and say if your life is that tough and you‘re destitute.  You‘ve lost your job, you‘ve got no insurance, we‘re going to do the moral thing, we‘re going to do the American thing and we‘re going to help you out.

The Republicans can‘t do it.  They won‘t do it because they‘re about the money.  It‘s all about the tax cuts.  It‘s all about the big insurance, the big pharma.  It‘s all about living for the lobbyists.  That‘s what they‘re doing.

And for clarification, those of you who watch THE ED SHOW and listen to THE ED SHOW radio show, you know exactly who I am and you know exactly where I‘m coming from on this issue.

And Mr. Cantor, let‘s go face-to-face; tell me what your plan is to take care of that lady.  In fact, you know what?  We could get that lady to come to our show and we could have a three-way conversation about what the Republican Party is willing to do for people in that situation.  Because right now, you have nothing.

And that‘s the frustration.  You want to know why you got 40 seats in the Senate?  Because you‘ve never had an answer for Americans like that.  You want to know why you‘re in the big minority in the House?  Is because you don‘t have an answer for Americans like that.

The beat goes on, the fight goes on.  It takes passion to get this done, progressives.  We cannot back down.  We need to call the Republicans out for who they are and what they are and what they do and do not stand for.

All right.  About the public option and of course we‘ve got some work to do on our side.  Rahm Emanuel did an interview, of course, with Charlie Rose and talked about the public option and didn‘t seem too optimistic.  Here it is.


RAHM EMANUEL, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF:  Health care will be passed before the members go home for Thanksgiving and be—it will not just on the same fence because the legislative process is a place where both bodies get to contribute.

CHARLIE ROSE, PBS ANCHOR:  And it will not have a public option feature?

EMANUEL:  I‘m not going to say to you here—that should be what conference has to negotiate, but I do think, you know...

ROSE:  Can it pass with a public option teacher?

EMANUEL:  I think the senate has been clear about what they‘re—with the prospects there.  That doesn‘t mean in the House if they‘re not going to come to the table and demand it.


SCHULTZ:  So my interpretation of that sound cut, my friends, is that Rahm Emanuel is not very confident about passing a public option in the senate.  Not real sure what‘s going to happen over in the House, but don‘t have the votes in the senate.

I don‘t know about you but I‘m tired of being told that we don‘t have the votes.  We had an election.  We‘ve got Barack Obama in there.

Well, bottom line is, the lobbyist in this 11th hour are winning this, is what they are.  And the Republicans yesterday and the Senate Finance Committee, heck, they wanted to buy more time.  They wanted to delay the vote.  Chuck Schumer will talk about that a little bit later on in this program.

You know who the hero is in all of this for health care reform?  The Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi; she has never wavered on the public option.  Here it is.


NANCY PELOSI, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE:  Well, at the end of the day, a public option is the strongest lever that we can use to get the best possible outcome for America‘s working families.


SCHULTZ:  The best possible outcome.

Now, just remember one more thing about the Republicans, if they‘re so wigged out about what I said.  I do believe that the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, Chuck Grassley, did say that we‘re going to pull the plug on grandma.

I do believe that some heavyweights in the Republican Party have been fear mongering talking about death panels.  So now we‘ve got a decision to make.  We have got to figure out how lefties, how we‘re going to get this done.

If we want a public option, what are we going to do?  Are we going to throw Barack Obama under the bus?  Are we going to make some demands?  Are we go back and threaten these blue dogs and tell them that you know, if you don‘t come clean on this, we‘re going to vote you out and we‘re going to start this thing all over again?

Are we going to cave in to big pharma, big insurance and have some watered down piece of garbage that‘s really not going to do anything?  And don‘t buy into this trigger, because what‘s the trigger?  Who‘s going to pull the trigger?  What mechanisms have to be in place before we get this trigger thing going?

I‘m a single payer guy.  All problems are solved if you go single payer, repeal the Bush tax cuts and go after the top two percent.  And oh, by the way, 94 percent of the American people who have Medicare, they love it; 94 percent.

You know what?  If I had hit 94 percent of my passes, John Madden and the Oakland Raiders, he would have never cut me.

Get your cell phones out folks.  I want to know what you think on this.  Will President Obama side with the Senate or the House on a health care bill?  Text A, for Senate and B, for House to 622639; we‘ll bring you the results later on in the show tonight.

All right, joining me now is Congressman Chris van Hollen of Maryland.  He‘s the Chairman of the DCCC.  All right now, we‘re taking—I guess we‘re taking temperatures right now, Chris.


SCHULTZ:  Where do we stand in the House right now?  What is the latest on a government-run option to give the private sector some competition?  Where do we stand at this hour?

VAN HOLLEN:  The House is very strong on this.  As the Speaker has said from day one, it‘s the best way to hold insurance companies accountable, to give people the choice they need.  It‘s an option.

The only people who should be afraid of a public option are those insurance companies that don‘t want to compete fairly, those insurance companies who have been running up huge profits, who have been increasing their premiums.

The public option will be a check on them.  It will give consumers another choice and obviously insurance companies, especially those in the parts of the country that have a monopoly, don‘t like that.

The Republicans, as you earlier indicated, have not put anything on the table.  That little exchange with Eric Cantor was very revealing because the Republicans said that they were going to put their own proposal on the table 100 days ago.

Here days and days have passed.  They‘ve got nothing to show for it because they‘re afraid that people will realize that the plan...


VAN HOLLEN:  ... they‘re putting forward won‘t do the job.

So they‘ve been spending a lot—as you know Ed in the last couple of days defending an insurance company that sent out a mailer using taxpayer dollars, because it‘s a taxpayer subsidies Medicare provider, essentially providing disinformation to seniors and trying to scare them.

The Republicans have spent all their time defending that insurance company.

SCHULTZ:  And it was Senator Kyl on the Senate Finance Committee who went so far to say it‘s ok if they‘re sending out false information, because that‘s freedom of speech.

Now, getting back to that exchange that Cantor had at that town hall meeting, I am correct when I say that they‘ve got nothing on the table for that cancer victim, right?

VAN HOLLEN:  They‘ve got zero, they‘ve got zero.


VAN HOLLEN:  And that and I‘m glad you exposed that.

SCHULTZ:  Ok, just so—all right here‘s Nancy Pelosi on the trigger. 

I want to play this sound bite and get you‘re reaction and here it is.


PELOSI:  The evidence seems to point at this caucus that I was asked to that a trigger is an excuse for not doing anything.  I believe that the bill is the trigger.  If anybody wants—I don‘t even want to talk about a trigger.  When we are ready, I‘ll tell you where we‘re going to be.


SCHULTZ:  I like that.  I like that response big-time.  Is the trigger just an excuse in your opinion, Congressman?

VAN HOLLEN:  Well, I think the Speaker said it well.  And the lady‘s story, the lady who had the exchange with Eric Cantor, that‘s the trigger.  The trigger is already out there every day in America.

People clearly need more choice and more competition.  We need to make sure that you‘re not excluded based on preexisting conditions.  That‘s why you need an affordable option.  And the public option is just part of a range of choices.

So I think the problems we have today have already triggered the need for a public option and that‘s why we‘re fighting very hard in the House.  And we‘re hoping that as more people understand that the trigger is a device to hold insurance companies accountable, they will side with the public option and recognize that we should not let the insurance industry have its way here.

SCHULTZ:  Great to have you with us Chris van Hollen.  And I appreciate your time tonight.

VAN HOLLEN:  Thank you.  Good to be with you

SCHULTZ:  I also want to put up, if I can, a full screen here of the Blue Dogs.  This is what Nancy Pelosi had to say about the Blue Dogs.  “Pelosi‘s critics, within her caucus, say she‘s left the so-called majority makers exposed.  They‘re seriously endangering their majority, said one Blue Dog, who requested anonymity.  With the increased margin and a Democratic President, there seems to be a different feeling.”

All right, let‘s go on over to the senate side.  We‘ve got Senator Sherrod Brown from Ohio who is with us, a member of the Senate Health Committee.  Senator, good to have you with us tonight.

SEN. SHERROD BROWN, (D) OHIO:  It‘s good to be back Ed.

SCHULTZ:  I know, you‘ve got (INAUDIBLE) going on and things are for going on.

All right, please address what kind of fight it‘s going to be between the Democrats when it comes to some of the cuts to Medicare and Medicaid that are being proposed in the Senate Finance Committee and those cuts do not exist in the Senate HELP Committee, take us down that road.

BROWN:  Well, first of all, I talk for a second about what Republicans say about these cuts.  And I went through the Medicare privatization issue in the early 2002 and 2003 with President Bush.  And I know what these guys do whenever they get a chance, they cut Medicare, they tried to privatize it then.  They overwhelmingly opposed it in 1965.  They‘ve never been friends of Medicare.  They are now taking the high road like we‘re making cuts.

We‘re not going to cut Medicare.  We are going to go after the

insurance industry that gets—thanks to President Bush in 2002 and 2003 -

that gets huge subsidies from taxpayers to pay, to do Medicare advantage. 

And those kinds of subsidies are overdone.  The insurance companies have played that game forever.  They try to scare seniors.


BROWN:  They‘re in a competition; either the Republicans or the insurance companies which ones are trying to scare seniors more.  But people aren‘t buying it; it‘s not going to work.

SCHULTZ:  Senator, what‘s your response to Rahm Emanuel in his interview with Charlie Rose about not having enough votes for the public option in the Senate?

BROWN:  We‘ll get enough votes.  We‘re—listen, three committees in the House have passed public option.  Strong bill, with strong public option, HELP committee in the Senate, Democrats unanimously supported it...

SCHULTZ:  So is he wrong?

BROWN:  Yes, he‘s wrong—he‘s wrong because of this.  Not every Democrat right now would prefer the public option in the senate.  I understand the 60-vote thing.  But Democrats, no Democrat in the end—

Democrats in the end is going to vote against—is going to vote on a procedural question to kill the health care bill.

50 or at least 50 of the 60 Democrats support the public option...


BROWN:  ... at least 50.  So it‘s going to be our choice more than the six or seven that are negative.

SCHULTZ:  To go reconciliation.

BROWN:  Well, now no, not I‘m saying—I‘m saying that the 60 Democrats will stay together on procedural questions...


BROWN:  And then on final passage, some may vote against it, because it‘s got a public option but I don‘t see that.  And the overwhelming majority of Democrats and the country...


BROWN:  ... and doctors support the public option.

SCHULTZ:  Senator Sherrod Brown, good to have you with us tonight. 

Thanks so much.

BROWN:  It‘s good to be with you Ed, thanks.

SCHULTZ:  Coming up, a gun dealer called it the Obama effect.  America is armed and stores are running out of ammunition.  Nine billion rounds sold this year.  Paul (INAUDIBLE) of the Brady campaign to prevent gun violence is going to be joining me later on this subject.

But first, a part-time census worker is found dead in a Kentucky forest.  The word “Fed” F-E-D, scrawled across his chest.  The FBI wants to know why.  That‘s next on THE ED SHOW right here on MSNBC.

Stay with us.


SCHULTZ:  Welcome back to THE ED SHOW.

The FBI is now investigating the death of a Census worker.  51-year-old Bill Sparkman was found dead tied to a tree in the Daniel Boone National Forest in Kentucky.  The word “FED” F-E-D was scrawled across his chest.

Investigators told us late this afternoon, his body did have contact with the ground.  Sparkman an Eagle Scout, he moved to the area to be a director for the Boy Scouts.  He was a substitute teacher and he worked part time for the Census to earn extra money.

The official cause of death is listed as asphyxiation.  It‘s not known yet if it was a homicide or a suicide.  That is still under investigation.  We do know it is a federal crime to attack a federal worker.

Joining us now is Mark Potok, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center‘s Intelligence Project.  Mr. Potok, good to have you with us tonight.

It‘s horrific is what it is.  There‘s no doubt that some people may be jumping to conclusions early.  What is your opinion on what we know right now?  What could this be?

MARK POTOK, DIRECTOR, SOUTHERN POVERTY LAW CENTER:  Well, it‘s very hard to say.  I think it‘s entirely possible that something happened that we don‘t know about that wasn‘t what it appears to be.  In other words, apparently there are methamphetamine labs in the area.  It is possible that he ran up on something like that.

But it is also I think equally possible that, in fact, he was killed by someone who saw him as an agent of the sort of nefarious federal government.  This idea of government workers being the enemy goes all the way back to the militia movement of the ‘90s when forestry workers, Bureau of Land Management workers were seen really as enemies by people in the so-called patriot organizations.  We‘ve seen a resurgence in this movement over the last year or so, and it does seem possible this is an outcome of that. 

SCHULTZ:  A retired state trooper who worked at the school with Mr.  Sparkman said that he warned Sparkman about going door to door in that area.  What does that sound like to you?

POTOK:  I would not say that this part of Kentucky is any more sort of hot bed of anti-government sentiment than other rural areas of the country.  However, that part of the country does have something of a tradition of suspicion of outsiders, going way back.  Having to do with labor struggles in the area, having to do with people coming in and making documentaries that locals had felt portrayed them badly and so on.

I think the bottom line is it‘s a very rural area, and these are the kinds of areas where sometimes, you know, real white hot anti-government sentiment thrives.  I think it‘s probably worth saying that I know that back in ‘95, immediately after the Oklahoma City bombing, I remember “USA Today” did a poll and found that 39 percent of Americans at that time felt that the federal government was an imminent threat to their liberties as Americans.  Quite incredible.

I think that we are at a similar point in history right now, you know, where we‘ve seen this anti-government sentiment very much whipped up by militia certainly but also the whole scene that we‘ve seen develop around town halls and so forth. 

SCHULTZ:  All right.

Mr. Potok, I appreciate your time tonight in THE ED SHOW.  Thanks so much.

We want to point out that the Census Bureau is suspending all door-to-door work in that area until further notice.  The investigation continues on.  It has not been ruled a homicide.  They don‘t know if it was a homicide or a suicide, and that is, as I said, under investigation.

Coming up, Iowa Congressman Steve King is back, scaring the world about socialism.  He‘s making the connection to same-sex marriage.  You know where that stretch lands him?  You got it:, “Psycho Talk” coming up next on THE ED SHOW.


SCHULTZ:  Oh, welcome back to THE ED SHOW.

“Psycho Talk” tonight: a dandy by the king of the whopper, Iowa Congressman Steve King.

Mr. King has decided same-sex marriage is all part of the socialist agenda to undermine the foundations of individual rights and liberties. 


REP. STEVE KING ®, IOWA:  This is one of the goals they have to go to is same-sex marriage because it has to plow through marriage in order to get to their goal.  They want public affirmation.  They want access to public funds and resources.  Eventually all those resources will be pooled because that‘s the direction we‘re going.

Not only is it a radical social idea, it is a purely socialist concept in the final analysis.


SCHULTZ:  Wow.  Ok, letting everyone have the same freedom undermines everybody‘s freedom, did I get that?

You want some analysis, Congressman King?  A recent poll in your own state show that 92 percent of people in Iowa think that allowing same-sex marriages had absolutely no effect on their lives whatsoever.  We know you and you buddy up north, Michele Bachmann, think we‘re all on the road to socialism.  But using anti-gay rhetoric to feed the paranoia is irresponsible, idiotic Psycho Talk.

Coming up, a gun dealer calls it the Obama effect.  There is a shortage of ammunition in this country.  People are stockpiling.  You have to hear the numbers on this story, folks.  They‘re staggering. 

But first, insurance companies will get 30 million more customers if there‘s a mandate to buy health insurance.  But there is no guarantee that they won‘t be gouging you.  California Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi, who used to be the state‘s insurance commissioner, will join me coming up next.  You‘re watching THE ED SHOW on MSNBC. 


SCHULTZ:  Welcome back to THE ED SHOW and the health care debate.  There are all these terms being thrown around like mandate.  What‘s that mean?  Here‘s what a mandate means to you.  The sharks are in the water, and we‘re going to be thrown in there and forced to swim with them.  How do you feel about that?

Lawmakers want to force people to buy insurance.  That means everybody has to buy a policy.  But they don‘t have the backbone to put rate caps on how much insurance companies can charge.  This is a sticking point.  So now the taxpayers are going to do what?  Possibly get gouged again even further? 

For more, let me bring in an expert on this, a friend of mine, Lieutenant Governor of California, John Garamendi.  He used to be the state insurance commissioner in California.  John, good to see you again.  Good to have you with us. 

JOHN GARAMENDI, LT. GOV. OF CALIFORNIA:  Always good to be with you, Ed. 

SCHULTZ:  Tell us, competition is the key thing.  Is it not?  I look at a number of states, and you‘ve got Alabama, North Dakota, of course in your state of California, it just seems like there‘s one provider getting the massive amounts of business.  Is this a problem in your opinion?  Is the gouging going on because of this? 

GARAMENDI:  Well, in part it certainly is.  Also, there‘s literally no control on the cost of health care.  The premiums can be whatever the insurance companies want to charge you.  This is where the mandate comes in and really concerns me.  Because as I said, you‘re tossing 30 million people to the sharks.  The sharks being the insurance companies out there, that are literally able to charge whatever they want to charge now, and in particularly the Senate legislation will be able to continue to charge, because there is no market. 

That‘s what the public option is all about.  It gives market discipline.  It‘s a public option.  It will be a price that hopefully we can afford.  And it‘s one that the insurance companies will be forced to match.  If that public option isn‘t there, man, we‘re in deep trouble. 

SCHULTZ:  What about the state of California?  The seventh largest economy on the face of the Earth.  Is it absolutely imperative that you get some competition to these big insurance providers? 

GARAMENDI:  Absolutely.  Let me give you an example.  In the first six months of this year, the major health insurance companies in California denied benefits, denied claims and turned people away.  Pacific Care, 40 percent of the claims that came to them and the request for certain benefits were denied.  Blue Cross, 27 percent.  Cigna, 32 percent.  We‘re talking about who is slamming the door on patient care.  It‘s the insurance companies, for heaven‘s sakes.  We know that from out personal experience.  It‘s not the government. 

SCHULTZ:  John, the Senate Finance Committee seems to be bent on a co-op or an exchange.  But that too would have oversight or should we say the rules would be made by the insurance industry.  Or am I wrong on that? 

GARAMENDI:  Right now, one of the versions of the Senate bill that may still be there would be—would give to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners the power to write the rules. 

I‘ll tell you, that‘s a bunch of toothless wonders.  I worked with them.  They never put for the a strong consumer protection regulation.  If they‘re left to write it, that organization is dominated by the insurance companies.  The great enemy here is the insurance companies.

Ed, earlier on in this show, you gave the solution.  If we simply did what 43 years ago we did for every senior, and that is to provide them with a government option called Medicare, we could solve this problem.  And there‘s enough savings in the administration to provide care for everybody. 

SCHULTZ:  And finally, Mr. Garamendi, what about rate caps?  Would a co-op or would an exchange work if there was some regulation put on the insurance industry, and if there was some kind of a rate cap that had to do with someone‘s income?  Would you go along or would you think that would be a workable solution? 

GARAMENDI:  We still need the public option.  Bottom line, you got to have the public option. 

Rate regulation is tough.  It is very, very difficult to do.  I‘ve done it for eight years in my life.  I had to fight the insurance industry all the way to the Supreme Court to put rate regulation in the property casualty business here in California, homeowners and autos. 

It has worked, but it is a tough situation.  Here you‘re talking about 360 million people, not just the 34 or 35 million people in California.  I really prefer to see that public option in place so that the market itself, regulated by a public company that‘s out there, providing a package of benefits that the insurance companies have to compete with—I think that‘s the best way to go. 

Without it, you absolutely have to have a rate regulation system or otherwise we are swimming with the sharks. 

SCHULTZ:  California Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi with us here on THE ED SHOW tonight.  John, good to see you.  Thanks so much.  We‘ll call on you again as this debate and conversation continues in this country. 

GARAMENDI:  Thank you. 

SCHULTZ:  Joe Madison, XM radio talk show host with us tonight.  Also, former Congressman Ernest Istook, now a distinguished fellow at the Heritage Foundation.  Gentlemen, good to have you with us.  Ernie, we‘ll start with you tonight.  Very damaging piece of town hall videotape for Mr.  Cantor.  A scenario presented to him by a constituent, a woman doesn‘t have any coverage.  The Republicans don‘t have a plan for that. 

I want you to respond to that.  What do the Republicans have for someone, that lady who has cancer, lost her job, everything is gone?  He told her to go to a charity. 

ERNEST ISTOOK, FORMER CONGRESSMAN:  Right now she had an immediate problem.  She wasn‘t trying to wait for what Congress may do that might not have impact for a number of years.  Having town hall meetings lots of times, people come with individual problems.  And you try to treat them as an individual.  You don‘t say your answer is such and such legislation.  You go to groups that are doing things right now. 

And I saw your response there.  Republicans don‘t want people to die, Ed.  They want people to be taken care of.

SCHULTZ:  If they don‘t—and I‘m not saying broad based all Republicans want to see people die.  What I‘m saying is that‘s her option, to financial ruin or death.  And the Republicans, there‘s five bills on the table in the Congress.  You know this.  All of them have a public option that would address her situation, preexisting condition, and give her care right now.  She doesn‘t have that.  And the Republicans aren‘t on board with that.

ISTOOK:  There are dozens of bills in the Congress that are pending right now.  The five that you talk about, none of them would do anything for her immediate circumstance.  She needs to deal with organizations that exist right now. 

SCHULTZ:  No, she could get insurance.  She would not be denied—

ISTOOK:  -- someone else describing it, not her describing her own.

SCHULTZ:  Ernest, come on.  Joe, you got to get in on this. 

JOE MADISON, XM RADIO HOST:  I‘m sitting here, realizing what the whole purpose of that exchange was about.  She‘s not by herself.  The point is that she‘s representative of literally probably tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of people who are in the same position.  This is what I think the Democrats are going to have to do.  And that is to use these human stories. 

It wasn‘t just the case that she needed help right now.  What she was saying, I have this situation.  I‘m not by myself.  What do we do, those of us who have that situation? 

And let‘s go back.  This whole thing of public options, I think Bobby Scott was in this town hall meeting.  And I talked with Bobby Scott this week.  And he said that—just what you had said, that time after time in that discussion, they kept throwing suggestions, throwing suggestions, and Cantor didn‘t have a single suggestion.  He didn‘t have a single option.

ISTOOK:  You can do some things to address people that are the hard core uninsured. 

SCHULTZ:  Such as? 

ISTOOK:  Which is a much smaller number. 

SCHULTZ:  He asked her what her income level was. 

ISTOOK:  Right now, we have 135,000 pages of government regulations on insurance coverage.  You think that doesn‘t drive the cost up?  You don‘t have the ability for carriers to compete across state lines. 

SCHULTZ:  Ernest, it‘s not about cost.  It‘s about what‘s on the table for that lady in Virginia who has got cancer, who lost her job.  There‘s no help for her at all.  And the Republicans won‘t sign on to that. 

ISTOOK:  I don‘t see the connect between an individual situation, who lost—

MADISON:  That‘s the point. 

ISTOOK:  You‘re trying to say that she is why you have to remake one sixth of the American economy. 

SCHULTZ:  She‘s not alone. 

ISTOOK:  I know she‘s not alone.

SCHULTZ:  I don‘t care if it‘s half the American economy, we have got to stop that in this country. 

ISTOOK:  But don‘t destroy the health coverage that over 250 million Americans have. 

SCHULTZ:  Why not redo the whole thing?  Ninety four percent of the American people want to go with Medicare.

ISTOOK:  Do no harm. 

MADISON:  That‘s a slogan that‘s getting a little worn out for me.  I know it‘s lasted for thousands of years.  We‘re not talking about do no harm.  The reality is if for some reason I‘m unemployed right now—let me give you an example.  I‘ve got a three-year-old grandson sitting at home right now watching TV.  His mother happens to be unemployed, no fault of her own. 

If something happens and that child is seriously injured while she is away trying to find a job, what option does she have? 


ISTOOK:  You‘re saying you have to throw everything out—

SCHULTZ:  No, I‘m saying expand Medicare, and she‘s going to be just fine, and take away the preexisting condition.  I was the moderator today of a big discussion of the Congressional Black Caucus annual convention today here in Washington, D.C., which was hosted by Congressman John Conyers, who obviously is pushing hard for single payer.  He says that the Democrats have already capitulated. 

But to your point, Joe, what they believe needs to be done is that the stories, the human interest stories like that lady in Virginia who needs surgery right now, and has no options, and no help whatsoever—I don‘t know why the Republicans won‘t do something. 

MADISON:  Ed, I have on my Blackberry right now a lady who called my show who was—had an advanced degree, lost her job, working for General Motors, I believe, or Alison Company, in Indiana.  She is now on her last pay check.  She now has no insurance.  She does not know what she‘s going to do. 

SCHULTZ:  Welcome to America. 

ISTOOK:  Why isn‘t she working with Medicaid then?  We have public programs for this already. 

SCHULTZ:  But not for everybody.  That‘s the point.  We‘re a better country than that.  We can do this for everybody. 

ISTOOK:  We already have programs for that.

MADISON:  But then you have Republicans who want to cut Medicaid. 

SCHULTZ:  Coming up, there‘s a shortage of ammunition in this country.  Bullet makers can‘t make ammo fast enough for Americans, and they are stockpiling weapons.  Paul Helmke of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence joins me next to tell what‘s going on.  Stay with us.


SCHULTZ:  In my playbook tonight, the play is dangerous.  Bullet makers working around the clock, and they can‘t keep up with the nation‘s demand for ammunition.  Shooting ranges, gun dealers and manufacturers say they‘ve never seen shortages like this before.  Jason Gregory, who manages Gretna Gun Works, just outside New Orleans, Louisiana, says it‘s because of the president.  “I call it the Obama effect,” he says.  “It always happens when the Democrats get into office.  It happened with Clinton and Obama is even stronger for gun control.  Ammo will be the first step, so I‘m stocking up while I can.” 

Joining me now is Paul Helmke.  He‘s the president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.  Mr. Helmke, what do you make of this?  Is it Barack Obama, a Democratic president, or is it all the rhetoric that has been thrown around at some of these tea parties around this country and the fear mongering taking place?  What do you think? 

PAUL HELMKE, BRADY CAMPAIGN:  I think you hit the hammer on the head with that last part of the statement.  This is craziness.  Sadly, no one is talking about doing anything about ammunition, which is really what kills people.  Not just the guns, it‘s the ammunition that comes out of them. 

I think the fellow you just quoted, I think he was quoted in AP this morning saying that he wanted to make sure he had 1,000 rounds for every one of the 25 guns that he‘s got stockpiled.  That‘s crazy.  First of all, nobody is trying to do any restrictions. 

Secondly, I‘m not sure why he thinks he needs 25,000 rounds of ammunition.  I‘m not sure who he‘s planning on fighting, unless it‘s our military, our police forces.  If anything, this whole debate shows we ought to be doing more to keep dangerous people away from these weapons and the ammunition.  Right now, it‘s illegal for them to buy, but we don‘t require background checks.  You can order ammunition over the Internet.  The rest of us suffer the consequences of that.

SCHULTZ:  I guess you could say that Barack Obama is good for the economy, if that‘s the way it is.  Background checks are up 25 percent the first six months of this year.  What about the Iraq-Afghanistan situation?  Do you think that is fueling the shortage in any way? 

HELMKE:  Quite clearly.  We‘re fighting two wars, so they need guns and ammunition for that.  Our police departments continue to need guns and ammunition.  I was the mayor in Ft. Wayne, Indiana for 12 years, ran a police department.  Everyone, particularly in an economic downturn, wants to make sure that their police departments are strong and dealing with crime. 

But a lot of this is just, you know—last year the NRA spent the entire year trying to scare people into Barack Obama is going to take your guns away.  And it didn‘t help change the election for the NRA, but it really did help sell the guns and the ammunition that their members make money on.  It‘s a great money making tool.  I‘m happy to see that for money making.  But it‘s bad for the rest of the country. 

We ought be doing—one of the reasons I‘m in LA today is to try to get people to talk—contact Governor Schwarzenegger to sign a bill that was passed by the California legislature that would require people selling ammunition to actually check the identification of the people they‘re selling to, get a thumb print, hopefully do a background check, keep it away from—or you can just pick pocket it easily, shop life it easily.  That‘s something that would make it harder for dangerous people. 

SCHULTZ:  Mr. Helmke, does your organization advocate taxing ammunition? 

HELMKE:  Right now there is a tax on ammunition.  I don‘t believe it‘s been raised since the early 1950s.  And I think it‘s appropriate when we look at our tax code to look at whether that needs to go up.  That‘s one of the fear tactics that the NRA talked about last year.  Sadly, the Obama administration is not talking about it.  And in Congress, the only thing they talk about with guns is weakening the restrictions.  We need some common sense law.


SCHULTZ:  So fear—your analysis would be all this fear mongering is causing this, and it‘s an over-reaction.  That‘s basically where you‘re at? 

HELMKE:  Clearly, it‘s an over-reaction.  But it does show how weak our laws are.  If anything, we ought to be talking about ways to keep dangerous people from getting this ammunition.

SCHULTZ:  Mr. Helmke, appreciate your time tonight.  We should point out nine billion rounds, nine billion rounds of ammunition were purchased last year.  That‘s gone up another two billion this year.  I appreciate your time tonight.  Thanks so much. 

Coming up, Senator Chuck Schumer joins me live from Capitol Hill with news about the Senate and the public option.  You‘re watching THE ED SHOW on MSNBC.  Stay with us.  You won‘t want to miss this interview.


SCHULTZ:  Welcome back to THE ED SHOW.  It‘s been a very intense several days for the Senate Finance Committee.  There may be a vote coming up as early as tomorrow.  For more on that, let‘s go to New York Senator Chuck Schumer, who is on the line with us, and just got out of a meeting.  Senator, good to have you with us tonight. 

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK:  Ed, it‘s good to be with you.

SCHULTZ:  You bet, sir.  What can you tell us about the status of how this is moving?  Will there be a vote coming up very soon? 

SCHUMER:  Yes, there will be a vote on public option.  There will be a vote on many other provisions.  We had quite a fight today about how much to give—how much to go after Pharma.  And I think it‘s just beginning. 

And I think the more the public focuses, the better the progressive forces will do.  The more they learn what a public option is, that it is an option, a choice that will create real competition and bring their costs down, the more they like it.  The more they understand how we want to help affordability and make insurance more affordable to them, the more they‘re going to like it. 

A lot of this debate—in August, it was all the lies and it‘s been sort of muddled.  I think there‘s a lot of focus now on the committee, and it‘s both not only a voting process, but an educational process. 

One final thought, Ed.  For progressives, it gets better and better.  In other words, the Finance Committee is our toughest field of battle, because it‘s the most conservative.  The Senate floor is better than the Finance Committee.  And the House and the Conference Committee will be better even than the Senate. 

So I am optimistic and I believe the bill the president signs will have a good, strong public option. 

SCHULTZ:  Now, in the Senate Finance Committee, is there a chance of the public option passing, because there has been so much pressure and so much competition, so much talk about competition in the private sector to bring these rates down?  Is there a chance that the Senate Finance Committee, in your opinion, could shift gears on this? 

SCHUMER:  It‘s an uphill fight, but I‘m busy lobbying my members, as recently as a few minutes ago.  And I think there‘s a chance.  The difficulty, of course, is that the Republicans are adamantly against it.  So it‘s uphill, but there‘s a chance.  And there‘s a much better chance on the Senate floor, and a much better chance in conference. 

SCHULTZ:  OK, now the version of a public option, would you accept what is coming out of the Senate Health Committee?  Or would you want something stronger? 

SCHUMER:  Well, I would prefer something stronger, but I think the version out of the Senate Health Committee is a darn good one, and would be supportive of that if that was the one that gets the 60 votes, if a stronger one couldn‘t. 

SCHULTZ:  And when is this vote going to take place?  Will it be tomorrow?

SCHUMER:  It‘s probably going to be tomorrow, that‘s right. 

SCHULTZ:  OK.  Senator Schumer, I appreciate your time. 

SCHUMER:  Thanks, Ed.  Sorry to be at the tail end here.  Just a busy day. 

SCHULTZ:  No it is.  It was tough to get you to a camera, because you just got out of a meeting.  He‘s fighting away for it.  Thank you, Senator Schumer from New York, from the Senate Finance Committee.  They‘ve been going at it all day long on a bunch of amendments.

So what does this mean?  This means, progressives, if you want a public option to come out of the Senate Finance Committee, you know how to e-mail.  You know how to call.  This would be your night to do that. 

Earlier, I asked you what you thought about this, will President Obama side with the Senate or a House bill on health care?  Thirty percent of you said Senate; 70 percent of you said House.  “HARDBALL” is next.  This is THE ED SHOW.  We‘re back tomorrow night at 6:00.



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