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Exclusive – Rick Santorum on Graham-Cassidy: ‘This Is the First Real Bullet for Obamacare’

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum told Breitbart News Daily host Raheem Kassam that the Graham-Cassidy Obamacare repeal bill can still pass through the Senate. Santorum contends that Graham-Cassidy will serve as the “first real bullet for Obamacare.”

Raheem Kassam first asked Santorum why conservatives should support the Graham-Cassidy bill over a clean repeal of Obamacare. Santorum says that a straight repeal cannot pass through the Senate. However, he contends that Graham-Cassidy will serve as the first step to repealing Obamacare.

The Tea Party Patriots and the Family Research Council have endorsed the Graham-Cassidy bill because they believe that it will serve as a crucial first step to wholly repealing Obamacare.

Santorum told Breitbart News Daily:

First off, they voted on straight-up repeal and they lost, so the question is: do you want to continue to try to get straight-up repeal passed, which failed in the United States Senate, or do you want to try something that will move us down the road in the right direction and dramatically improve the healthcare markets in the short term as well as, I believe, in the long-term.

If you do not like what’s done, then you take another bite at the apple. One of the things that’s a hallmark of how our country got to where we are on this political landscape is that Democrats were willing to take a piece at a time to slowly, slowly build the welfare state. The point is that, if you have a chance to repeal some of it, you take it, then you come back — like they did in the past to build it — and take another bite of the apple once you have proven what you are doing is successful.

This is a tremendous opportunity to cut taxes. We’re talking about a tax cut in the Graham-Cassidy bill that’s over $250 billion over ten years. We are talking about spending reductions in the order of about $400 billion. We are talking about abolishing Medicaid expansion, abolishing all the Obamacare marketplaces — everything that Obamacare set up from the standpoint of spending money is gone — and that money, what’s left, is sent back to the states.

Over time, the states are going to equalize, so a handful of states won’t control all the money, which is what happens in Obamacare now … This is an attempt to get power out of Washington, get it out to the states, get it closer to the people, and design 50 different programs. This will forever kill single-payer health care because, once states have the power to regulate and create markets and have resources to do so, they will never want to give that money back, and they will never want to give that power back.

Berniecare, which was introduced the same day as Graham-Cassidy, would create single-payer health care. If we don’t pass this, then I believe that any chance of reforming or replacing Obamacare is gone. I think this is really the best hope, and maybe the only hope, to get a coalition of Republicans in the United States Senate to get 50 votes to repeal this.

Santorum then explained that the Constitution does not specifically authorize the federal government to regulate health care at a federal level. Santorum contends that Graham-Cassidy returns the power for states to craft their own local health care systems that will work best for their citizens. Santorum said:

The same question was asked of me 20 years ago: what does the federal government have to do with taking care of the poor, or taking care of unwed mothers, or single mothers with children. The answer is there is no Constitutional basis that says that resides in the federal government. The problem is we had been doing it for, at the time, about 50 years. So you can say, well, we should try to continue, as the Republicans did for 50 years, to try to eliminate that program. And they failed for 50 years, and they would have failed for 50 more years. Or maybe the way to do this is to take the resources that the government is collecting to fund this program — which is what we do with Obamacare — try to reduce those resources, cap those resources over time, and get those resources back into the hands of the folks who constitutionally should be taking care of this problem.

In 1996, we put a block grant together, gave it to the states. They had an enormous amount of money, enormous amount of flexibility, and one Republican senator voted against it because it did not cut enough spending, didn’t cut enough taxes, and was stuck in that fairground. The money we block granted to states has not been increased in 21 years. Welfare rolls have dropped over time. Employment among that population served by those welfare dollars has disproportionately gone to work as opposed to 20 years ago. We’ve seen dramatic changes all implemented in states that have taken advantage of that — not every state has. I would say that the best way to solve a problem is not propose and try to get something that’s not possible, it’s to actually propose and get things that are possible and then build upon those.

We have a majority of Republican governors who have come forward and supported the bill. I can tell you, going back to the only other time we did this on any kind of scale was 21 years ago in 1996, and there were some governors at that point who didn’t want the responsibility of doing it. Frankly some governors did not do a good job, and some of them aren’t around anymore. They didn’t take on the responsibility that a governor has, which is to take the resources that they have and use them to most efficiently provived services to the people they represent.

The cool thing about this particular program is this allows for a lot of private sector innovation. Welfare is a poverty program that deals with transitioning people from welfare to work. That’s not really a market-based type of idea. But with health care, these dollars are given to states, and states can use all of this money to create an entire healthcare market in the private sector by creating high-risk pools or small business tax credits and create a stable thriving private market in health care instead of what we have now, which is most of the people that are covered under Obamacare are covered under Medicaid, which is a government-run health care program. We’re getting rid of Medicaid expansion. We give states the opportunity to do something in the private sector as opposed to more state programs.

Santorum then argued Graham-Cassidy creates a system where states can compete for the best health care system for their citizens compared to the top-down approach that encompasses Obamacare. Santorum told Breitbart News Daily:

Federalism means states can try different things and fail and succeed. California has a lot of environmental laws that are driving people out of their state … I do not think that anyone is looking for a bailout, what they’re going to be looking for is for the political dynamics in California to change. So maybe a Republican would come in and transform that healthcare system.

I think the interesting debate here is do we take the healthcare debate out of Washington where it does not belong and put it back in the state capitols where it does belong. To your point, what’s the federal government doing in the healthcare business, and answer is they shouldn’t be when it comes to the private markets. This is the individual market we’re talking about here; there is Medicaid, which is for the very poor, which we put a cap on overtime and finally on a budget. Secondly, there’s Medicare which we don’t deal with, which is for the elderly, there’s private insurance through businesses, and then there’s the individual market. This bill and Obamacare just deal with the individual market which is six to ten percent of the country. If Califonia does a single-payer system, I do not know how you try a single-payer system for six percent of your population. There isn’t the wherewithal to develop that kind of conprehensive system for six percent of your population. I think the chances of that happening are small and that states are learning from each other what works best and how to drive efficiency effectiveness and quality.

Santorum then concluded, saying that Graham-Cassidy can still pass through Congress given the tight deadline of September 30 to pass an Obamacare repeal bill with a simple majority in the Senate. Sens. John McCain (R-AZ), Susan Collins (R-ME), Rand Paul (R-KY), and Ted Cruz (R-TX) oppose the Obamacare repeal bill in its current form.

Santorum suggested that the bill can pass through Congress and that his Republican coalition continues to work to get the bill to pass through the Senate. Santorum charged:

Let me just put it this way: we will not know until we take a vote. We will sit down with the people who have expressed concerns. We did that over the weekend. There’s always an opportunity to look at tweaks and amendments to satisfy their concerns. I feel very comfortable where we sit right now we can get 49 votes for the proposal, and I think that several have expressed concerns, like Ted Cruz who came out today and said he’s not supporting the bill. He asked for certain things, we put some things in there, others not. We will see what we can do to ameliorate his concerns. Ted Cruz fundamentally doesn’t have a problem with this bill from what I understand. He wants to make sure that the private markets can work efficiently. We have limitations on what can be done in a bill like this because it is a quote “reconciliation bill.” We will work through those issues this week, but I am fairly confident that we can pull through 49 votes for this bill with a few tweaks. It really comes down to Rand Paul, Susan Collins, and John McCain.

Everybody who will say that they voted to repeal Obamacare in 2011, ‘12, ‘13, ‘15, or whenever, those are all phony votes. They knew absolutely 100 percent that the bill they voted on had a zero percent chance of becoming law. All of those votes for this year was the same thing: they all had zero chance of ever becoming law. The bill that the Senate will vote on this week has a 100 percent chance of becoming law if it passes because that bill will pass the House and it will be signed by the president. This is the first real bullet for Obamacare. Everyone can say that I am for Obamacare repeal, but this repeals $400 billion in Obamacare spending; this repeals over a quarter of a trillion dollars in Obamacare taxes, and more importantly, it kills every single Obamacare spending program. It won’t be spent by the federal government; it will be spent by local and the state level. If that is not repeal, I do not know what it is because it is fundamental departure from what President Obama designed, which was a federal regulated and run system, a Medicaid expansion, a government program expanded through government fiat.

Santorum declared, “If anybody says to you, who votes against this bill, ‘oh yeah, I’m for Obamacare repeal,’ you can just tell them, ‘you are a liar.’ Because there was a chance to repeal Obamacare, and you did not take advantage of it.”

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