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Kaine: Putting health care ideas on the table is fine. Jamming them through Congress is not

Sen. John McCain’s announcement on Friday that he will not support the Graham-Cassidy bill has put the fate of the GOP’s efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare into doubt. Judy Woodruff talks to Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., about his impressions of Graham-Cassidy and a Democratic effort led by Sen. Bernie Sanders to expand Medicaid to everyone, plus his reaction to President Trump on North Korea.

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    As we reported earlier, Senator John McCain's announcement that he will not vote for the Graham-Cassidy Republican health care bill tosses the fate of current Obamacare repeal efforts into serious doubt.

    We look at what all this could mean, and at a couple other issues, with Senator Tim Kaine, Democrat from Virginia, who was his party's vice presidential nominee last year.

    Senator Tim Kaine, thank you for talking with us.

    Let's talk health care first. Senator John McCain's announcement today that he will not vote for the latest Republican effort to overhaul Obamacare, the Graham-Cassidy bill, is this the death knell for that proposal?

  • SEN. TIM KAINE, D-Va.:

    Judy, I wouldn't call it that.

    Until we get to the end of next week, we have to be very diligent and defeat efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act and, instead, force it back in to the bipartisan discussion that my committee, the Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee, under the leadership of Senators Alexander and Senators Murray, were having.

    We owe it to the American public to improve health insurance and health care, but we have got to do it, I think, in a bipartisan way. We were doing it. We were very, very close to a bipartisan deal to stabilize the individual insurance market going forward. But the president and the speaker and Leader McConnell kind of blew that effort up, at least temporarily, this week.

    So we have to defeat Graham-Cassidy, and my hope is, as Senator McCain indicated today, then we will get back to doing it the way we should, which is, in an albeit Republican Senate, but have full discussions in committee with amendments and full debate on the floor.

    We shouldn't jam something through on health care at the 11th hour that affects the most important expenditure of anybody's life and one-sixth of the American economy.


    Well, two other questions on that, because one of the arguments Republicans were making to advocate for this proposal was that states need more flexibility in how they spend their health care dollars.

    And, in fact, there's a Kaiser Foundation study out saying Virginia, your state, would have received something like $4 billion more under this proposal.

    Isn't that — you're a former governor. Why doesn't that make sense?


    Well, because it's — the reasoning is true. States need more flexibility. But the Graham-Cassidy bill is being sold as states need more flexibility, but, Judy, every one of the 50 state Medicaid directors said this would be a horrible idea.

    They said you can't do something like this with no CBO score and people not knowing the consequences, and you shouldn't be cutting this much out of Medicaid.

    And then, second, as for, did Virginia benefit, we didn't benefit, if you look at the entire 141 pages of Graham-Cassidy. There is, in the early years, a slight uptick. If you block grant the Affordable Care Act money to Virginia, there is a slight uptick in that. But then the moneys go away completely.

    So we get a little bit of an uptick in the short-term.




    Then all the money goes away.

    But the real sucker punch for Virginia is this. Separately from repealing the Affordable Care Act, Graham-Cassidy act goes into the base Medicaid program, didn't have anything to do with Obamacare, was there before Obamacare, and they cap it and they take $120 billion out of it over the next 10 years.

    In Virginia Medicaid recipients, nearly 60 percent of them are children. And they would have been badly hurt by this piece of Medicaid. So, if you look at the whole bill, Virginia gets hurt. And that's why our governor and our Medicaid director are against it.


    Senator, several other things I want to ask you about. So, I'm going to move through this quickly, but still on health care.

    You say what's needed is a bipartisan approach. But Senator Bernie Sanders, a number of your Democratic colleagues this past week, came out in favor of a Medicaid — Medicare expansion bill that really didn't have the earmarks of bipartisanship.

    Isn't the Sanders proposal that many of your Democratic colleagues signed on to — that is not a bipartisan approach. So how does that move you in the direction of something that's going to win approval?


    Well, let me tell you, Judy, about Bernie Sanders' proposal. He put an idea out on the table, yes, with Democratic co-sponsors.

    He didn't say vote on it immediately. He didn't say, I want a vote before the CBO scores it. Bernie's a member of the Health Committee with me. He's putting an idea on the table.

    Graham-Cassidy's an idea. Fine. It's on the table. Bernie's got one. It's on the table. I would like there to be a publicly offered insurance policy that any individual could buy, if they chose, more choices, rather than less. That's on the table.

    But the way to legislate is to first stabilize the market. And we can do that in a bipartisan way. And then, once we have stabilized it, we can, with care and deliberation that is warranted, given the seriousness of health and health care to regular people, we can consider the ideas and possibly find concepts from a number of proposal that we can put together to help Americans.

    So, putting ideas on the table is fine, but don't try to jam them through and hurt people with no score, no debate, no amendment, no meaningful opportunity for the public to participate.


    Senator, just quickly now, wearing your hat as a member of both the Foreign Affairs Committee and the Armed Services Committees in the Senate, what is your assessment of the heightened tensions between the United States and North Korea this week, with President Trump calling Kim Jong-un, leader of North Korea, a madman, President Kim, the leader, Kim, in turn calling President Trump deranged?

    What is the state of these relations? How worried should Americans be?


    Well, it's very troubling.

    I will say, I am a fairly frequent critic of President Trump, but I do think the national security team that he has, after a lot of bad people were chased out, is actually now a very solid team. There's no good military option here, but we have got a good military team that is looking at what we need to do to keep the country safe.

    However, even the secretary of defense, Secretary Mattis, says over and over again that, we're diplomacy first, we're never out of diplomatic options.

    And what the president shouldn't do is poison the diplomatic well. Big rhetoric, calling names, that starts to poison the well. And the president is even contemplating backing the United States out of a nuclear deal with Iran.

    If he does that, when the IAEA and other nations say that Iran is complying with the deal, there is no chance North Korea would do a diplomatic deal with the United States if they felt certain that the U.S. would back out of the deal and not follow it.


    Senator Tim Kaine, we thank you very much.



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