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CBS's Smith: GOP On 'Fool's Errand' of 'Dismantling Health Care'

Filling in for Bob Schieffer on Sunday's Face the Nation, CBS's Harry Smith grilled Minnesota Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann on Republican efforts to repeal ObamaCare: "One of the things the Tea Party has talked about is dismantling health care. And we're wondering if, in the end of the day, that ends up being a fool's errand...it will face a certain veto. Is it worth the effort to try to do?"

Bachmann defended the move and pointed out popular support for repeal: "ObamaCare will bankrupt the country. And so you've seen that the more the people learn about ObamaCare the less they like it. It's very costly, it's unwieldy. So we will put forth a clean repeal bill of ObamaCare. And you'll continue to see us make that fight because that's what the American people want us to do."

Smith moderated a panel discussion that included Bachmann, Republican Congressman-elect Mike Kelly from Pennsylvania, New York Democratic Congressman Anthony Weiner, and Florida Democratic Congressman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Early on, he asked about voting to raise the debt ceiling in the new Congress. Weiner claimed that Republicans were "going to allow the full faith and credit of the American people go down the tubes." He added: "It's their ship to run now. That's their responsibility. This is - they're the - this is an adult game now and the risks are pretty high."

Smith picked up on Weiner's attack and demanded an answer from Kelly: "Mike Kelly, this is going to be one of the big votes and you risk having the government come to a standstill." Kelly shot back at Weiner: "Well, you know, speaking as an adult who's always paid his own way, I do understand what happens and raising the debt ceiling to me is absolutely irresponsible." Bachmann similarly voiced her opposition to raising the debt ceiling, causing Smith to fret: "So you're willing to risk seeing the government shut down?...it's worth the risk?"

Later in the discussion, Smith wondered about how to reduce the deficit, Schultz quickly laid blame solely on the GOP: "Let's remember, the deficit was exploded by Republicans....Two wars unpaid for. A prescription drug plan unpaid for. Tax cuts unpaid for. So the deficit that we found ourselves in was thanks to the Republicans." Smith made no effort to challenge her. Moments later, Bachmann pointed out all the massive Democratic spending: "Harry, since President Obama came into office, we've had over $3 trillion in deficit. We're looking at another $1 trillion in deficit." Smith was quick to jump to the Democrats' defense: "Hang on one second. Just the other part of that, there was an economic cataclysm and by the way, you all just decided to give everybody a tax cut for the next two years."

Here is a transcript of a portion of the January 2 discussion:

10:31AM ET

HARRY SMITH: Is the Republican Party in this new Congress, is it a house divided?

MICHELLE BACHMANN: No, I really don't think it is. I think we're very - I think we're fairly unified. But of course, you know, we won't all necessarily be agreeing on everything. But I think you see a fairly cohesive group that we have a singularity of purpose and that we want to be able to get the budget in order. I think that's really job number one because we want to see the economy shift so that we have a focus on private job creation.

SMITH: I want to go to Congressman Weiner. A couple of weeks ago we had a conversation, you told me that if the President extended a finger of bipartisanship that it would cost him a pound of flesh. How do you see this new Congress working with the President? And are Democrats all but irrelevant from now on?

ANTHONY WEINER: Well look, we'll see, I mean we've already seen on this show there's disagreement among Republicans about the tax cut bill. And I think that there are going to be disagreements to come. I mean many of them campaigned on the idea of privatizing Social Security. They campaigned on the idea of making Medicare a voucher program, so seniors don't have guaranteed health care. I want to see what it is they're in favor of. I mean, we've heard a lot about what they're against in this campaign. I don't know what they're in favor of.

You know, we Democrats are prepared to work with them where we can but we're going to challenge them and fight against them where we must. It is not a subject of compromise for many Democrats. Privatizing Social Security, we just don't believe that's a good idea. Eliminating Medicare as a guaranteed benefit for seniors we don't agree with. So those fights are going to happen. As far as the President's interaction, I think he's going to find out that bipartisanship has to be a means, it's not an end. And that if just having a bipartisan deal means a success, that's not right. It has to reflect the values of this country and the constituents that I represent.

SMITH: Mike Kelly, you're the new guy, you're going to take your oath on Wednesday. You've been around this town for a couple of weeks now. There was a piece in the Washington Post you said you're not impressed so far. What do you hope to accomplish when you take office for real on Wednesday?

MIKE KELLY: I think really when you talk about are you impressed or are you not impressed? I don't think for an average guy, a common guy, who comes from a private sector, running something $14 trillion in the red is not impressive. If you run $14 trillion in the black, then I'm impressed. What I'm looking for - and bipartisan - and I agree with Anthony when he talks about it - sure, it is good to be bipartisan, but on good legislation, not on things just to say we did something in a bipartisan manner, just to show that we can agree, is not good, unless it was on something that was good for the whole country. So I'm looking to really go to work and work very hard. I've worked hard all my life and I've done it with my own money. I've had my own skin in the game. So I'm kind of interested to seeing when you get in a situation where really it's not your money. You can spend anything you want, just throw the charge card out, in fact, keep raising the debt ceiling as much as you want because you don't have to worry about paying it back. It's hard for me to sit and think that that's alright to do to the American people.

SMITH: We'll ask about the debt ceiling in just a couple of seconds.

KELLY: Sure.

SMITH: Because that is going to be a huge and important vote. But I want to talk to Debbie Wasserman Schultz about this whole idea of bipartisanship. Is this going to be a situation where Congress gets together and does the people's good? Or is this a recipe for gridlock?

DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well that remains to be seen. I mean, what Democrats will do now that we're in the minority in the House but remain in the majority in the Senate and hold the White House, is measure everything that the Republicans propose by whether it creates jobs, turns the economy around, and cuts the deficit. And what is going - what remains to be seen is whether members like Mike Kelly are going to be able to turn their essentially campaign rhetoric into some kind of reality, because with all due respect to his response, there isn't any there, there. I mean, we haven't heard any concrete proposals. Anthony's absolutely right, we've only heard attacks on what they don't like. We've got to make sure that we continue the progress and the prosperity we've been moving forward towards. I mean, the S&P finished the year up 86%. The Dow up 16%. We've increased manufacturing exponentially. I mean, we're beginning to, you know, aggressively turn that economy around. Let's hope they don't squander that.

SMITH: So here's a question for everybody. The government is funded basically until about March or so. There will be a vote eventually on raising the debt ceiling. Will you vote to raise the debt ceiling?

SHULTZ: Well, I'm going to wait and see where - the direction that the Republicans want to take our policy.

SMITH: Congressman Weiner?

WEINER: I voted against this tax cut bill because I thought it blew a hole in the budget. And I think the Republicans have come in saying that they're going to not raise the debt ceiling and they're going to allow the full faith and credit of the American people go down the tubes. It's their ship to run now. That's their responsibility. This is - they're the - this is an adult game now and the risks are pretty high.

SMITH: Alright, let me go to Mike Kelly. Mike Kelly, this is going to be one of the big votes and you risk having the government come to a standstill.

KELLY: Well, you know, speaking as an adult who's always paid his own way, I do understand what happens and raising the debt ceiling to me is absolutely irresponsible. We've been spending money for so long that we don't have. And we keep saying, 'Well, it's okay, we'll just raise taxes, we'll find it somewhere. Tax revenue comes from people who are working, people who are profitable. It does not come from raising tax rates.

SMITH: Michelle Bachmann?

BACHMANN: At this point I am not in favor of raising the debt ceiling. As a matter of fact, I have a petition that I'm urging people to sign at MichellePAC.com, to urge their member of Congress not to raise the debt ceiling because the Congress has had a big party the last two years. They couldn't spend enough money. And now they're standing back folding their arms saying, 'oh,' taunting us to figure out, 'How are you going to go ahead and solve this big spending crisis?'

SMITH: So you're willing to risk seeing the government shut down?

BACHMANN: Well, it was fun when they had the credit card and they were spending money.

SMITH: So you're willing - it's worth the risk?

BACHMANN: It's not good for anyone to shut the government down. It's not good for anyone. That's why I think it's important for the Democrats, who are so willing to spend money, to now be a part of trying to figure out how we can be responsible.

[LAUGHTER]

SMITH: Hang on.

WEINER: So you want to be in charge until you're actually in charge. Now you're not so eager for the responsibility.

SMITH: Go ahead.

SCHULTZ: One of the first things-

BACHMANN: We weren't for spending.

SCHULTZ: Excuse me - one of the first things that we're going to do is vote to pass the Republican proposed rules package. And in talking about the debt ceiling, their proposed rules, and Mike you talked about in your campaign the importance of one vote. I want to see whether you're going to vote for that rules package that gives Paul Ryan the authority to set the budget limits himself. Taking away your vote that you talked about that was so precious. And taking the right of all of us in the House of Representatives, having one member set the budget ceiling for the entire country is absolutely irresponsible and undemocratic.

SMITH: Go ahead.

KELLY: You know, this is what America loves. This is what America loves. Both sides pointing the finger at the other saying, 'No it's your fault, no it's your fault. I got to tell you something-

SCHULTZ: It's not about fault. What are you going to do?

KELLY: When we talk about having adult conversations, and we really have to start acting like adults. We've got a huge problem sitting in front of us right now and it's very amusing to walk through this. I've got to tell you for being on the outside all my life, I don't know how in the world you folks go home and look these people in the eye and say we've done a great job. We've done a great job, your country's $14 trillion in the red and we're going to keep steaming ahead.

SCHULTZ: Well, you've got the opportunity now.

WEINER: Well, hold on, first let me say something to Congressman Kelly here. First of all, the 'you folks' stuff, now you are one of those folks.

[SMITH LAUGHS]

WEINER: And it is your job in the majority party to govern. And the first thing that the Republicans did when they took back the House the last time is they drove the government to a shutdown. And I guess from what I've heard Michelle say and you say that's what's going to happen again.

SCHULTZ: That's where we're headed.

WEINER: But all the 'you' stuff, that has to end today.

BACHMANN: That's not at all, Anthony, you've got it exactly wrong.

SMITH: Hey, Michelle.

BACHMANN: You've got it exactly wrong. That is not what we're looking to do and you're stating it falsely. We are not looking to shut the government down. No one benefits.

SCHULTZ: Well, that's the direction that we're heading.

BACHMANN: But at the same time, we're not looking at wanting to continually raise the debt ceiling. That's something that the Democrats want to do.

SMITH: Well, that's something - at that point it becomes one or the other. Michelle-

WEINER: I don't know what you call it, Michelle. But that's called shutting down the government.

SMITH: Michelle, let me ask you this, because one of the things the Tea Party has talked about is dismantling health care. And we're wondering if, in the end of the day, that ends up being a fool's errand because no matter how many votes you amass in the House and even if you could get the votes in the Senate, it will face a certain veto. Is it worth the effort to try to do?

BACHMANN: Oh, of course it is. Because ObamaCare will bankrupt the country. And so you've seen that the more the people learn about ObamaCare the less they like it. It's very costly, it's unwieldy. So we will put forth a clean repeal bill of ObamaCare. And you'll continue to see us make that fight because that's what the American people want us to do. They want - the real problem in health care is the cost drivers. ObamaCare is actually raising the cost drivers. We want to adopt a free market approach to health care. And you'll see us put those free market solutions forward.

SMITH: Even Democrats realize that the deficit is almost - it's out of control, it's beyond reach, it's this weight that is hanging-

WEINER: What you mean even Democrats?

SCHULTZ: The deficit - let's remember, the deficit was exploded by Republicans. President Bush inherited a record surplus and turned it into a record deficit. Two wars unpaid for. A prescription drug plan unpaid for. Tax cuts unpaid for. So the deficit that we found ourselves in was thanks to the Republicans.

SMITH: Is it addressable?

WEINER: Well, look-

BACHMANN: Harry, if I could just add there is no equivalency-

SMITH: Hang on one second. Go ahead.

WEINER: I think that it has to be. And I think that there is a lot of room for bipartisan work. I mean, Time magazine, without much sweat, came up with $100 billion of corporate welfare that they identified. I think we can find cuts. I've been working with Jason Chaffetz of Utah, we've found some cuts. But there's no doubt about it though. Some of the big things are philosophical questions. The Republicans have philosophically said they don't believe in the guaranteed Social Security benefit. They don't believe in a guaranteed Medicare benefit. We know that because they-

BACHMANN: You know Harry, Anthony continues to make these statements.

WEINER: Michelle, you voted that for the Republican alternative last year. I'm sorry.

BACHMANN: It's very important to remember-

WEINER: Have you met the 'Young Guns,' Michelle?

SMITH: Hang on one second.

SCHULTZ: That's Paul Ryan's proposal.

SMITH: Hang on one second, finish you're thought, Michelle.

BACHMANN: Harry, since President Obama came into office, we've had over $3 trillion in deficit. We're looking at another $1 trillion in deficit. Let's try to just get our arms around that reality. It's massive.

SCHULTZ: If we can go back to health care reform.

SMITH: Alright. Hang on one second. Just the other part of that, there was an economic cataclysm and by the way, you all just decided to give everybody a tax cut for the next two years.

BACHMANN: We're now up to $14 trillion. We can't continue to go down that road.

SCHULTZ: Harry, can we go back to health care reform for one second? Because that's the first - one of the first things that we're going to do this week.

SMITH: How is this going to get paid for by the way?

WEINER: Which?

SMITH: If this deficit continues, can the government - are the Democrats-

WEINER: Well, apparently my Republican friends believe that tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires somehow the bill fairy pays for that.


- Kyle Drennen is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here.