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Emanuel: Cost, Competition Central to Health Reform

In an interview, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel discusses the Senate Finance Committee's passage of a health reform bill, the future for the public option and more.

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    Now joining us is Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff.

    Rahm Emanuel, good to have you with us.

    RAHM EMANUEL, White House chief of staff: Thank you, Judy. How are you.


    So, how big a deal was today?


    Well, it's a significant milestone.

    This is the first time, you know, all five committees in the House and the Senate have passed a bill. They're now going to go to the floor in the coming weeks. So, in that sense, it's a milestone. It also is a milestone in the sense that it achieves some of the objectives the president set out for health care, a way to control health care costs, to offer more choice to people and competition in the system. So, in that sense, it's also a milestone.

    But we are closer than ever in the history of this effort to getting health care reform to give people who have health care a sense of knowing that it will always be there and people who don't, health care at an affordable price.

    If you go back in history, five presidents over 60 years have tried to do this. Never in that process have we been this close, where you're about now, within the coming weeks, Judy, the House and the United States Senate will be debating health care on the floor of the two chambers, where people actually believe the momentum is for getting something done.

    As both Senator Baucus and Senator Snowe said, when history calls, that's a time for action, because the status quo, as is, is unacceptable to both taxpayers, businesses, and families.


    What about Senator Snowe's vote? What was — what was the president's reaction?


    Well, he was very pleased by — well, first of all, he was pleased by all the members. He's called them all today on the Finance Committee, in the sense of those Democrats who voted yes, as well as Olympia Snowe, to thank them for their hard work, and urged them on to keeping that momentum, that energy to going forward and working immediately in merging the two bills out of the Senate, so that it will be ready to go to the floor.


    She said that — that, yes, she has voted for it today, but she said she still has concerns. And, principally, she mentioned affordability. How important is it to keep her in the tent?


    Well, it's — I mean, it's very — I mean, first of all, it's — everybody I think who voted for it had they by themselves would have had a different bill.

    But the question — I think every senator knew, not only that the status quo was not — that the status quo was unacceptable, B, that what you have to do is not make the perfect the enemy of the good. And, C, to the core of your question, she is going to be an important player not just on the committee, but going forward, as are other people when you have to round up 60 votes.

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