August 07, 2022

VIDEO/TRANSCRIPT: Van Hollen Discusses Inflation Reduction Act, U.S.-Taiwan Relationship on NBC’s “Meet the Press”

Video Screenshot- MTP

Today, U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) joined NBC’s “Meet the Press with Chuck Todd” from the Capitol as the Senate considers the Inflation Reduction Act to discuss progress on the legislation as well as the U.S. relationship with China and Taiwan. A full transcript of the Senator’s exchange is available below and video of the interview is available here.

CHUCK TODD, HOST, NBC: Joining me now to dive into this a little bit is Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland. He’s on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Senator Van Hollen, welcome back to “Meet the Press.” I'll be honest – looks like you guys have had an all-nighter.

SENATOR CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D-MD.): Chuck, we’ve been here all night, and we’re still going on the Inflation Reduction Act. Republicans are offering amendment after amendment to try to sabotage the bill, but I'm confident we’ll get it over the finish line.

TODD: Well, let me ask you, let me ask you a couple questions about the bill. The biggest thing that happened was right before the bill went to a vote, and that was the Parliamentarian’s decision on the prescription drug benefit. Here’s the bottom line – the good news for Medicare patients is that this bill should lower prescription drug costs if you're on Medicare. But, now that there is a no longer a part of this bill that will effectively protect those not on Medicare, should folks who aren’t on Medicare expect to see the prescription drug companies decide, “well we can't make money over here so we are gonna raise prices over there?” It certainly seems like that’s more likely to happen than not. 

VAN HOLLEN: Well, Chuck, first of all as you said, the centerpiece of this bill was finally giving Medicare the power to negotiate drug prices, and that will reduce drug prices for seniors, in addition to the fact that we have a cap of $2,000 on out-of-pocket costs [for Medicare Part D]. Look, I wish we’d gotten this other provision in. If we had ten Republicans, we could get it done. We’re going to have to come back to that. And we will be watching the pharmaceutical industry like a hawk, and hopefully, if they made that kind of move, we would have enough votes to respond. But I just want to stress the fact that since I've been here in the Congress, and including my time in the House, we’ve been trying to get Medicare the power to negotiate drug prices. Looks like we are finally there.

TODD: But getting them there, it doesn’t impact… what can be done? Do you think you're going to have to pass a law to do this, or are you just hoping the pharmaceutical industry, out of the goodness of their heart, doesn't raise prices for the rest of us? 

VAN HOLLEN: Well, let me first say, we may have a vote later this morning on a [$35] monthly cap on insulin. And so, Republicans will have a chance to join us in that. According to the Parliamentarian, we’re going to need their votes to get that done, so that will be some test. But look, we’re going to keep at this. We want to make sure that we lower drug prices for every American, and it is an important start to get this in place for the Medicare program and tens of millions of seniors around the country, including a million in Maryland who get Medicare.

TODD: Look, I invited you on because I wanted to talk some of what happened in Taiwan and what’s happening right now to Taiwan. Let me just state this – Speaker Pelosi’s trip – again, the Chinese chose to be outraged. This is on them, not on her. But was her trip worth it, given all of the fallout?

VAN HOLLEN: I think it was, Chuck. Because we need to be very clear that China doesn't get to dictate which U.S. officials go to Taiwan and when they go to Taiwan. As you know, we send congressional delegations frequently. A former Speaker of the House has been to Taiwan in the past. And what President Xi decided to do was manufacture a crisis over Pelosi's visit. He’s got, as you know, this fall the Communist Party Congress is coming up. He is seeking an unprecedented third term as leader of China. And this is saber rattling and chest thumping by President Xi.

TODD: Look, it does look like that’s what it is, and so I understand in the moment we are trying to de-escalate. But what do you want to see the United States – what do you want to see the Biden Administration do in the next, say, three to six months to reassure that the Vietnams, the Japans, the Philippines who are nervous about what China is doing here, and they are nervous if we’re going to have Taiwan's back. Do we have to send a message again that we’re going to have their back? 

VAN HOLLEN: Well, I think we’ve been very clear, and the Biden Administration has been clear: we are adhering to U.S. policy. Which is that we recognize our One China policy, but we’ve also been firm and straight from the very start that we will oppose any effort to reunify Taiwan by force, by violence. And we’ve reassured our Japanese partners and others of that. In fact, Chuck, I think this Chinese action of putting missiles into Japan's Exclusive Economic Zone, is going to backfire. I think it's going to cause Japan to increase its defense spending and seek even closer military engagement and cooperation with the United States, which is already good. So, I think this is going to backfire on China. Yes, we have to de-escalate. We also have to be firm in making our policy clear.

TODD: Do you think it's inevitable that China is going to make a run at Taiwan in the next five years?  

VAN HOLLEN: I don't think it's inevitable. We need to help Taiwan make that as difficult as possible for China, and we’ve been doing that by supplying Taiwan with military assistance. We need to continue to do that to make Taiwan into the porcupine so that when, you know, China looks at Taiwan, it realizes that this is going to be a hell of a fight and not a winnable fight. And I do think when they look to what Putin tried to do in Ukraine, they will see how a determined people can thwart someone like a dictator like Putin who, of course, thought he was going to walk into Kyiv in a matter of weeks. And that was not – that was not possible. 

TODD: Look, for a long time, no U.S. official wanted to describe our relationship with China in strictly adversarial terms. But how do we not look at the cutting off of military ties, climate ties, immigration ties, all of these things, and not say we are in a cold war with China?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, I don't think we’re in a cold war with China yet – a lot of that depends on what China does next. And there’s no doubt that President Xi has escalated, you know, China's actions against Taiwan – even before the Pelosi visit – and has been more aggressive throughout the region. At the same time, we have been trying to cooperate with them on these other measures, as you say. I believe they’ll be back at the table on those measures. It is important that we have that military-to-military dialogue. But it is important that we also confront and check China where it's trying to export its model of authoritarianism around the world in Africa, the Middle East, and other places.

TODD: Senator Chris Van Hollen, it's been a long night. You were very flexible for us I know with the back-and-forth. You've got to get back to voting. I appreciate you spending a few minutes with us and our viewers here to get the latest on this. Thank you.

VAN HOLLEN: Thank you, good to be with you.