Interview with Senate Republican Whip Trent Lott of Mississippi

CNN’s Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Highlights on SCHIP Doubletalk:

“This is a perfect example of the type of partisan politics that goes on in Washington now all the time. It is not about trying to take care of the children. But it is about how can we get a political advantage.”
“(Republicans) are the ones that created and started this program in 1997. I voted for it.
“We are willing to expand the program to make sure we cover low-income poor children. What we don’t want this to become is slice by slice…the back door entry into government-run health care.”
“Here is a classic example of where no good deed in Washington goes unpunished. No matter what might be started with good intentions, Democrats will find a way to explode the cost, particularly if it means Uncle Sam will run the program.”

Transcript:

Blitzer: Senate Republicans have a tough choice to make later today. Support the President’s rejection to support a popular children’s health care program or risk being labeled anti-child by Democrats and maybe even by some Republicans. Joining us now the number two Republican in the U.S. Senate, the Minority Whip Trent Lott of Mississippi. Senator, thanks very much for coming in. The other day I interviewed the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, and (she) minced no words the legislation to expand this children’s health insurance program passed overwhelmingly. Listen to what she said about a promised Presidential veto.

Taped Interview with Speaker Pelosi: This President will be haunted by legislation to support America’s children for as long as he’s President.

Blitzer: You disagree with her much you support the President. There are a lot of Republicans who disagree with you.

Lott: Well, you know, this is a perfect example of the type of partisan politics that goes on in Washington now all the time. It is not about trying to take care of the children. But it is about how can we get a political advantage. Wolf, look…do you really believe Republicans don’t want to help poor low-income children? That’s just not believable. We are the ones that created and started this program in 1997. I voted for it. I was the Majority Leader when it was created. The problem has been that slowly but surely Democrats and, quite frankly, some governors around the country and others have been adding adults and moving the income level up higher and higher and higher to where now in some states, it is 350% of poverty, up to almost $80,000 where children are coming off of private insurance and going on to this CHIP program to help children.

Blitzer: But senator – it is not just partisan Democrats. You have Republicans like Chuck Grassley who is well versed in this issue and says the President is wrong and you are wrong. And there are a bunch of your colleagues in the Senate and a lot in the House who say that they are going to stand with the Democrats on this issue and they don’t want to go against expanding this popular program.

Lott: We are willing to expand the program to make sure we cover low-income poor children. What we don’t want this to become is slice by slice this is the back door entry into government-run health care. This is supposed to be for children. Do you understand that? Now it is also for adults. Yes. Some Republicans support it. And I have been disappointed with that. Their argument would be that they were trying to hold some restraint to make sure it stayed in the certain boundaries. But this is a massive increase. $35 Billion increase over –

Blitzer: Some people are suggesting there could be as many as 70, maybe even more. Senators who will disagree with you and that would be enough to override a Presidential veto in the Senate.

Lott: In this case, you know, what happens at one body may not matter because the House to their credit, thank goodness, will stand up and do the right thing for the children and for fiscal responsibility. They are going to sustain the president’s veto. And then hopefully we can sit down, rationally, and work out an agreement to preserve this program. It can be done. It shouldn’t be allowed to lapse. But there’s going to have to be some give and take, yes. It is going to have to be give on the republican side, on the president’s side, too. Here is a classic example of where no good deed in Washington goes unpunished. No matter what might be started with good intentions, democrats will find a way to explode the cost, particularly if it means Uncle Sam will run the program.

Senator Trent Lott Campaign Release
9/27/7