Quote of the day

Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., explains why his side won their confrontation with President Obama

Published February 1, 2010 10:30PM (EST)

One of the House's top Republicans, Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., is also one of those House Republicans who got shellacked during their encounter with President Obama on Friday. But he's keeping a positive attitude about the whole thing.

Pence appeared on "Fox and Friends" Monday morning, and worked to spin the event, which was generally regarded as a big win for Obama, and a tough loss for the GOP. From the interview:

[I]t really does kind of tickle me, you know, that one soundbite and the president went back to that again and, you know, you can't -- it can't be all or nothing. But look, I mean, for the last year, this administration and Democrats in Congress have -- have not only been unilaterally and universally rejecting all Republican proposals, but they've been going out and telling the American people that Republicans have no ideas, that we've been offering no alternatives.

And I really think the real accomplishment of Friday was what the American people saw on live television was the president making his case for his big government liberal solutions. But what may be many Americans saw for the first time was House Republicans in a serious and frank discussion, articulating the fact that we have put forward solutions and positive alternatives on all of these agenda items. We handed the president a booklet. People can go to GOP.gov and look over it.

And the president himself acknowledged over and over again that we had been offering legislation. And I think just the fact that we're now, the president himself has put to the lie this business of the "party of no" idea was real progress.

That's an interesting way to think of it. Because here's how Obama dealt with that booklet he was handed:

It's not enough if you say, for example, that we've offered a health care plan and I look up -- this is just under the section that you've just provided me, or the book that you just provided me -- summary of GOP health care reform bill: The GOP plan will lower health care premiums for American families and small businesses, addressing America's number-one priority for health reform. I mean, that's an idea that we all embrace. But specifically it's got to work. I mean, there's got to be a mechanism in these plans that I can go to an independent health care expert and say, is this something that will actually work, or is it boilerplate?

If I'm told, for example, that the solution to dealing with health care costs is tort reform, something that I've said I am willing to work with you on, but the CBO or other experts say to me, at best, this could reduce health care costs relative to where they're growing by a couple of percentage points, or save $5 billion a year, that's what we can score it at, and it will not bend the cost curve long term or reduce premiums significantly -- then you can't make the claim that that's the only thing that we have to do. If we're going to do multi-state insurance so that people can go across state lines, I've got to be able to go to an independent health care expert, Republican or Democrat, who can tell me that this won't result in cherry-picking of the healthiest going to some and the least healthy being worse off.

So I am absolutely committed to working with you on these issues, but it can't just be political assertions that aren't substantiated when it comes to the actual details of policy. Because otherwise, we're going to be selling the American people a bill of goods. I mean, the easiest thing for me to do on the health care debate would have been to tell people that what you're going to get is guaranteed health insurance, lower your costs, all the insurance reforms; we're going to lower the costs of Medicare and Medicaid and it won't cost anybody anything. That's great politics, it's just not true.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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