South Carolina GOP CNN debate, Jan. 19, 2012. Transcript – Lynn Sweet
….”Number two,we have to go after a complete repeal. (Cheers, applause.) And that’s going to have to have to happen — that — that’s going to have to happen with — with a House and a Senate, hopefully that are Republican. If we don’t have a Republican majority, I think we’re going to be able to convince some Democrats that when the American people stand up loud and clear and say, we do not want “Obamacare,” we do not want the higher taxes, we do not want a $500 billion cut in Medicare to pay for “Obamacare,” I think you’re going to see the American people stand with our president and say, let’s get rid of “Obamacare.”
But we’ll replace it. And I’ve — and I’ve laid out what I’ll replace it with. First, it’s a bill that does care for people that have pre-existing conditions. If they’ve got a pre-existing condition and they’ve been previously insured, they won’t be denied insurance going forward.
Secondly, I’ll allow people to own their own insurance rather than just be able to get it from their employer. I want people to be able to take their insurance with them if they go from job to job. (Applause.) So — so we’ll make it work in the way that’s designed to have health care act like a market, a consumer market, as opposed to have it run like Amtrak and the Post Office. That’s what’s at risk — (applause) — at stake here.
Do we — we go back to this. Ours is the party of free enterprise, freedom, markets, consumer choice. Theirs is the party of government knowledge, government domination, where Barack Obama believes that he knows better for the American people what’s best for them. He’s wrong. We’re right. That’s why we’re going to win. (Applause.)
MR. KING: Mr. Speaker, you heard the skepticism. It’s a Southern Republican voter. But he’s skeptical, and he knows how Washington works.
MR. GINGRICH: Well, sure.
MR. KING: He’s watched Washington work. He’s asked: Can it be reversed in its entirety. You — you were the speaker of the House. You understand how this works. How? How can it be repealed in this current political environment?
MR. GINGRICH: Well, let me say, first of all, if you’ve watched Washington and you’re not skeptical, you haven’t learned anything. (Laughter, applause.) I mean, this — this system is a total mess right now.
Second, can you get it repealed in total? Sure. You have to elect a House, a Senate and a president committed to that. It has to be a major part of the fall campaign. And I think that, frankly, on our side with any of us, it’s going to be a major part of the fall campaign. The American people are frightened of bureaucratic centralized medicine, they deeply distrust Washington, and the pressure will be to repeal it.
And a lot of what Governor Romney has said I think is actually pretty good, sound stuff for part of the replacement. I would always repeal all of it, because I so deeply distrust the congressional staffs that I would not want them to be able to pick and choose which things they kept.
But let me make one observation. You raised a good example. Why is President Obama for young people being allowed to stay on their parents’ insurance until 26? Because he can’t get any jobs for them to go out and buy their own insurance. (Cheers, applause.)
I mean, I — I have an — I have an offer — I have an offer to the parents of America: Elect us, and your kids will be able to move out, because they’ll have work. (Cheers, applause.)
MR. KING: (Laughs.) Let’s — (inaudible) — Senator Santorum, you heard Governor Romney and you heard Speaker Gingrich. Do you trust them, if one of them is the Republican Party’s nominee, and potentially the next president of the United States, to repeal this law?
MR. SANTORUM: The biggest — the biggest thing we have to do is elect a president. I think Newt’s right. The problem is that two of the people up here would be very difficult to elect on, I think, the most important issue that this country is dealing with right now, which is the robbing of our freedom because of “Obamacare.”
Governor Romney tells a very nice story about what his plan is now. It wasn’t his plan when he was in a position to do a plan. When he was governor of Massachusetts, he put forth “Romneycare,” which was not a bottom-up, free-market system. It was a government-run health care system that was the basis of “Obamacare.” And it has been an abject failure, and he has stood by it.
He’s stood by the fact that it’s $8 billion more expensive — (applause) — than under the current law. He’s stood by the fact that Massachusetts has the highest health insurance premiums of any state in the country; it is 27 percent more expensive than the average state in the country. Doctors — if you’re in the Massachusetts health care system, over 50 percent of the doctors now are not seeing new patients — primary care doctors are not seeing new patients. Those who do get to see a patient are waiting 44 days, on average, for the care.
It is an abject disaster.
He’s standing by it, and he’s going to have to have to run against a president — he’s going to have to run against a president who’s going to say, well, look, look at what you did for Massachusetts, and you’re the one criticizing me for what I’ve done? I used your model for it.
And then — (cheers, applause) — then we have Speaker Gingrich, who has been for an individual mandate, not back in the time that just was — Heritage was floating around in the ’90s, but as late as — comments (since/in ?) 2008, just a few years ago, he stood up and said that we should have an individual mandate or post a $150,000 bond. How many $150,000 bondholders do we have here who can post a bond for their health insurance?
These are two folks who don’t present the clear contrast that I do, who was the author of health savings accounts, which is the primary basis of every single — (cheers, applause) — conservative reform of health care. I was the author of it back in 1991 and ’92, 20 years ago. I’ve been fighting for health reform, private-sector, bottom-up, the way America works best, for 20 years, while these two guys were playing footsies with the left. (Cheers, applause.)
MR. KING: I want to bring Congressman Paul — I’ll bring him into the discussion in just a moment, but Senator Santorum directly challenged the governor and then the speaker. Governor, you first.
MR. ROMNEY: Well, so much of what the senator said was wrong. Let me mention a few of the things.
First of all, the system in my state is not a government-run system. Ninety-eight — 92 percent of the people had their own insurance before the system was put in place, and nothing changed for them. They still had the same private insurance. And the 8 percent of the uninsured, they bought private insurance, not government insurance. And the people in the state still favor the plan three to one.
And it certainly doesn’t work perfectly. Massachusetts, by the way, had the highest insurance costs before the plan was put in place and after, but fortunately, the rate of growth has slowed down a little less than the overall nation. And one of the things I was proud of is that individuals who wanted to buy their own insurance saw their rates –when they were not part of a big group — saw their rates drop by some 40 percent with our plan.
Is it perfect? Absolutely not. But I do believe that having been there, having been on the front lines, showing that I have compassion for people that don’t have insurance but that the Obama plan is a 2,700-page, massive tax increase, Medicare-cutting monster, I know how to cut it. I’ll eliminate it. I will repeal is and I’ll return the — I’ll return the power to the states, where the power for caring for the uninsured ought to reside constitutionally. Thank you.
MR. SANTORUM: Yeah, I’d like —
MR. KING: Senator Santorum, he says your facts are wrong.
MR. SANTORUM: Well, they’re simply not wrong. The fact is that, yes, you’re right, Governor Romney, 92 percent of people did have health insurance in Massachusetts, but that wasn’t private-sector health insurance. A lot of those people were, as you know, on Medicare and Medicaid, so they’re already on government insurance, and you just expanded it, in fact. Over half the people who came on the rolls since you put “Romneycare” into effect are fully subsidized by the state of Massachusetts, and a lot of those are on the Medicaid program. So the idea that you have created this marketplace and — and — with this government-run health care system where you have very prescriptive programs about reimbursement rates, you have a very prescriptive program just like what President Obama is trying to put in place here, you’re arguing for a plan — you’re defending a plan that is top-down. It is not a free-market health care system. It is not bottom-up. It is prescriptive in government. It was the basis for “Obamacare.” And we do not draw a distinction that it’s going to be effective for us just because it was the state level, not the federal level. (Applause.)
MR. ROMNEY: (Chuckles.)
MR. KING: If you want, Governor, quickly.
MR. ROMNEY: Sure, absolutely.
First of all, as you probably know, Medicaid is not a state program. All right?
MR. SANTORUM: Of course it is. It’s a state and federal program.
MR. ROMNEY: Medicaid is as demanded by the federal government, and it is — it’s — it is a mandate —
MR. SANTORUM: (Off mic.)
MR. ROMNEY: — it’s a mandate by the federal government and it’s shared 50/50 state and federal. The people of Massachusetts who are on Medicaid, I would like to end that program at the federal level, take the Medicaid dollars and return them to the states, and allow states — states to craft their own plans.
That would make the plan we had in Massachusetts a heck of a lot better. My view is, get the federal government out of Medicaid, get it out of health care, return it to the states. And if you want to go be governor of Massachusetts, fine. But I want to be president, and let states take responsibility for their own plan. (Cheers, applause.)
MR. KING: Mr. Speaker, it may seem like a while ago, Mr. Speaker, but Senator Santorum made the point, in his view, you don’t have credibility on this.
MR. GINGRICH: No, what he — what he said, which I found mildly amazing, was that he thought I would have a hard time debating Barack Obama over health care. Now, in fact, I — as Republican whip, I led the charge against “Hillarycare” in the House. As speaker of the House, I helped preside over the conference which wrote into law his idea on health savings accounts. So I was delighted to help him get it to be law. (Applause.) And — and the fact is, I helped found the Center for Health Transformation. I wrote a book called “Saving lives and Saving Money” in 2002. You can go to healthtransformation.net, and you will see hundreds of ideas — none of which resemble Barack Obama’s programs.
So I’d be quite happy to have a three-hour Lincoln-Douglas-style debate with Barack Obama. I’d let him use a teleprompter. I’ll just rely on knowledge. We’ll do fine. (Cheers, applause.)
MR. KING: Senator, you’re — I want to bring Congressman Paul in. You’re shaking your head. Quickly.
MR. SANTORUM: The core of “Obamacare” is an individual mandate. It is what is being litigated in the Supreme Court right now. It is government top-down telling every business and every American what kind of health care that you will have. That is the problem with “Obamacare” at the core of it. And the speaker supported it repeatedly for a 10-year period. So when he goes and says, I can, you know, run rings around President Obama in a Lincoln-Douglas debate, you can’t run rings around the fact, Newt, that you supported the primary core basis of what President Obama’s put in place.
MR. GINGRICH: Look, just one — one brief comment. One —
MR. KING: All right, quickly, Mr. Speaker. The Congressman is getting lonely down here. Let’s go.
MR. GINGRICH: Well, one — just one brief comment. Of course you can. I can say, you know, I was wrong, and I figured it out; you were wrong, and you didn’t. (Cheers, applause.)
MR. SANTORUM: You held that — Newt — Newt, you held that position for over 10 years. And, you know, it’s not going to be the most attractive thing to go out there and say, you know, it took me 10 or 12 years to figure out I was wrong, when guys like Rick Santorum knew it was wrong from the beginning. (Cheers, applause.)
MR. KING: Congressman Paul, you have the floor. Do you trust these men to repeal “Obamacare”?
REP. PAUL: Thank you! (Laughter, applause.) I thought you were — I thought maybe you were prejudiced against doctors and a doctor that practiced medicine in the military or something. (Cheers, applause.)
No, I want to address the question. The gentleman asked whether he thinks we can repeal “Obamacare.” Theoretically, we can. The likelihood isn’t all that good. We can diminish some of the effect. But I’m more concerned about a bigger picture of what’s happening, and that is government involvement in medicine.
I — I had the privilege of practicing medicine in the early ’60s, before we had any government. It worked rather well, and there was nobody on the street suffering with no medical care. But Medicare and Medicaid came in and –and — and it just expanded. But even when we had the chance to cut back on it, when we had a Republican Congress and a Republican president, we — we gave them prescription drug programs. Senator Santorum supported it. (Laughs.) You know, that’s expanding the government! (Cheers, applause.) So — so it’s endless.
And the — and most of them are bankrupt. Prescription drugs, they — they’re not going to be financed; Medicare is not financeable; Medicaid’s in trouble. But nobody talks about where the money’s going to come from.
Now, even in my budget proposal — which is very, very tough, because I’m going to cut a trillion dollars the first year — but I try to really — (cheers, applause) — even though these programs should have never started that a lot of people are dependent on, I want to try to protect the people who are dependent on — on medical care.
Now, where does the money come? My suggestion is, look at some of the overseas spending that we don’t need to be doing. (Cheers, applause.) We have — we have troops in Korea since — since the Korean War, in Japan since World War II, in Germany since World War — those are subsidies to these countries. And we keep fighting these wars that don’t need to be fought, they’re undeclared, they never end. Newt pointed out, you know, World War II was won in less than four years; Afghanistan, we’re there for 10 years. Nobody says, where does the money come?We could work our way out of here and take care of these people on — with these medical needs, but we can’t do it with the current philosophy of the government taking care of everybody forever on medical care, cradle to grave, and being the policeman of the world.
We will get rid of all this government program, unfortunately because we’re going bankrupt and you’re going to have runaway inflation and our checks are going to bounce. And that’s going to be a lot worse problem than we’re facing tonight. (Cheers, applause.)
MR. KING: All right. I’m going to ask all of our candidates to stand by, our audience as well. We have a couple breaks tonight. We’re going to take one of them now.
One candidate on this stage suggested this week that two candidates should get out of the race. One of them listened. We’ll get the reaction from the other coming up.
And also coming up, this is just in: While we’ve been on the air having this debate, Speaker Gingrich has released his tax returns. He’s put them online. We’ll ask him what’s in them when we come back. (Cheers, applause.)….