September 20, 2017

Van Hollen on MSNBC: Graham-Cassidy Does Not Pass the ‘Jimmy Kimmel Test’

Last night, U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen joined MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell to discuss the Graham-Cassidy attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act and the devastating impacts it would have on the American healthcare system. The full text of the interview is available below, and video of the interview is available here.

LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNBC: We're joined now by Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, he's a member of the Senate Budget Committee. Senator Van Hollen, the picture that Jimmy Kimmel was showing was a picture of Senator Bill Cassidy, who actually appeared on his program. And in another part of what Jimmy Kimmel says tonight, he said that Senator Cassidy, "lied to his face." He said, "he lied to my face" about Cassidy only supporting a bill that passes the Jimmy Kimmel test. This bill clearly, as Jimmy Kimmel himself has just told us, does not pass the Jimmy Kimmel test.

U.S. SENATOR VAN HOLLEN (D-MD): Well, Lawrence, it was really important that Jimmy Kimmel made this statement today, because it exposes the farce of those who claim that this latest version of Trumpcare, put forward by Bill Cassidy and Lindsey Graham, somehow met the Jimmy Kimmel test. They were sort of parading this bill around as something that was good and that Jimmy Kimmel could embrace and endorse. So this was a very important and powerful statement he's making. He read off a litany of groups that are not Republican groups, they're not Democratic groups - the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association - all these groups, all they care about is protecting patients. And you would hope that Republican and Democratic Senators would care about those same patients. After all, they're our constituents.

O'DONNELL: And the Republicans got a letter today from Republican Governors and Democratic Governors saying they are absolutely opposed to this bill, including the Governor of Ohio, Governor of Alaska, Governors of Nevada, Vermont. Senator, the Governors who Lindsey Graham is saying, oh, we're going to give it all to the Governors, they're going to love getting this - the Governors are saying no, we don't want this.

VAN HOLLEN: Well, that's right, because they know at the end of the day, all of their states are going to get totally shafted by this bill. Because as time goes on, they cut off the Medicaid funding more and more... Jimmy Kimmel mentioned his child. There was a very powerful statement from the Children's Hospital Association that pointed out that this latest version of Trumpcare would hurt coverage for over 30 million American children. On top of that, you've got the AARP talking about the damage it will do to seniors. It does grave damage to our entire health care system, which is why all of those groups that were strongly opposed before are coming out even more strongly now. But it is a race against time, because Republicans are trying to jam this through in the next 11 days. And you raised the issue of bipartisanship - Senator McCain gave that very powerful speech back in early August about bipartisanship. Today, the Trump Administration and Paul Ryan, the House Speaker, and Mitch McConnell, pulled the plug on that bipartisan effort.

O'DONNELL: Lindsey Graham says that Paul Ryan says that he will pass this bill in the House if it passes the Senate. And let's listen to what Lindsey Graham said about working with you - about working with Democrats:

U.S. SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): The Democratic Party is never going to give us anything that fundamentally changes Obamacare. We've had weeks of talking, and the only time they've gotten serious is when they're afraid that my bill may pass. And now they're coming to me, what about this and what about that. Here is what the Speaker of the House told me, "I will not bring up a bill for a vote in the House that props up Obamacare, because that is not why I came here and that is not what our majority wants to do." And the President of the United States is committed to repealing and replacing this bill, not propping it up.

O'DONNELL: Senator, Lindsey Graham seems outraged that the Democrats are never going to vote for what he calls anything that fundamentally changes Obamacare.

VAN HOLLEN: Well, it's obviously no surprise to Lindsey Graham that we're not going to blow up and destroy the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare. After all, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has pointed out that if you do that, 32 million Americans would lose access to affordable coverage. And millions more will lose the patient protections that Jimmy Kimmel has been talking about. So we're not going to blow it up.

But we did answer Senator McCain's call to work in a bipartisan manner to try to improve and strengthen the Affordable Care Act exchanges, because they're not perfect. They need work. And Senator Lamar Alexander and Senator Patty Murray had been in very good faith discussions and negotiations to do just that. And as they got closer, what happened is Republicans got nervous that they were actually going to do something to improve the Affordable Care Act, and they went into a full alert and decided to pull the plug on it. That's when Paul Ryan said, no, House Republicans will never pass that compromise. The reality is that while Senator Lamar Alexander had good intentions and Senator McCain had good intentions, it seems like Mitch McConnell and the others were always conspiring against that bipartisan effort and always pushing to blow up the Affordable Care Act completely.

O'DONNELL: Senator, I think we both know that there is no member of the Senate whose microphone reaches as many people as Jimmy Kimmel's does. What do you make of his entry into this last-minute debate in the Senate tonight?

VAN HOLLEN: I think it's a very important moment. And it's an important moment because people like Senator Cassidy and others had been selling their bill as a bill that met this Jimmy Kimmel test. And now Jimmy Kimmel goes on the air and tells millions of Americans, in a nonpartisan way, it just isn't the case, stop using my name to peddle something that's going to hurt tens of millions of Americans.

O'DONNELL: Senator Chris Van Hollen, thanks very much for joining us on this breaking news story. We really appreciate it.

VAN HOLLEN: Thank you.