Transcript: Govs. John Kasich and John Hickenlooper on "Face the Nation," August 6, 2017

Governors on health care

Congress has left town without passing a health care bill -- and with a long to-do list ahead.

On Sunday, Governors John Kasich, R-Ohio, and John Hickenlooper, D-Colorado, joined "Face the Nation" to discuss the health care debate and what they're doing to try to fix the health care problem.  

What follows is a transcript of the conversation, which aired August 6, 2017, on "Face the Nation."


JOHN DICKERSON: Now that Congress and the president are taking some time off, we thought we'd take the opportunity to get outside of Washington and see what some governors are doing to find solutions to the many challenges facing the country. Joining us now are Colorado Democrat John Hickenlooper and Ohio Republican John Kasich.

Congressman, excuse me. Governor Hickenlooper, I want to start with you. You- The two of you have joined together in an effort to try to fix the health care problem that in Washington so far Congress has not been able to fix. There are a lot of plans out there for fixing health care. So is this the problem of people not finding the right plans? Or is this a political problem?

JOHN HICKENLOOPER: I think it's more a political problem. You know, and a key here of what Governor Kasich and I have been talking about is let's get a bipartisan group of people together, and include some governors, who are the guys who have to-the people who have to implement these plans, and look at how do we stabilize private markets, how do we, you know, deal with these high-cost pools, and what's the best way. Do we look at what Maine's been doing or what Alaska's been doing? But there are some basic remedial steps that can improve our health care system without having to throw everything out the window.

JOHN DICKERSON: Governor Kasich, one of the ways usually that you build a bipartisan agreement is one side gives up a little and the other side gives up a little.

JOHN KASICH: Right. 

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Govs. John Hickenlooper and John Kasich on "Face the Nation," August 6, 2017. CBS News

JOHN DICKERSON: We've seen in Washington both sides say they don't want to give up much of anything. Give me your sense of what Republicans should back down on and what Democrats should back down on just as a preliminary good faith effort to show that people are on the health care question committed to maybe working together.

JOHN KASICH: Well, John, look, before we get to specifics, I love working with John Hickenlooper. He's terrific. This -  I've had a history of this. I worked with Ron Dellums on- on the B-2 bomber, reforming that. I was able to work with Tim Penny, my great friend from Minnesota, to lead the fight to get us to a balanced budget.

And what John Hickenlooper and I are doing at the present is he's going to have his staff and my staff. And we've had preliminary conversations because John and I are becoming friends. And they're going to sit down and they're going to look at the differences. And one of the problems is that there are some in the Democratic Party that think the whole system needs to be changed at once.

And there are some in the Republican Party that say, "Look. Let's let the market work to drive down health care costs." But we're going to have to make a commitment, a serious, significant commitment to those people who are left behind. So I think Democrats are going to have to get to the point where they say, "Let's let the market work, give people more choice, bring down the cost of health insurance."

And Republicans are going to have to admit that there's going to be a group of people out there who are going to need help. That - These are some philosophical differences between the parties. But if you have a good spirit and you understand that the system is beginning to melt down on the exchange side, jeopardizing health care for many, many Americans, I'm- I'm hopeful we can get there.

Now, John and I are going to start with our staffs before we build it out. And they may have to have a couple meetings in Chicago. John and I may have to get together. Maybe we can get there. Maybe we can't. But we're friends. And as a result of that, I'm optimistic that we will get somewhere on this whole thing.

JOHN DICKERSON: Well you're - Governor Hickenlooper, let me pick on that with you. Now, Governor Kasich says you're friends. In Washington there - they may not have the same kind of friend relationship. So it comes down to policy. And one thing that Democrats have protected is this idea of the individual mandate.

In other words, people have to buy insurance even if they're healthy because it spreads out the risk. And that in theory the Democrats believe will keep prices down. That's something Democrats say has got to be in there. Republicans in Washington say it's got to come out. If people aren't already chums, how do you fix that problem?

JOHN HICKENLOOPER: Well, regardless of whether they're friends-- and I do appreciate Governor Kasich and all the work he's done. He has a level- he knows the federal budget better than probably any governor in America and really does understand some of the finances of this. There's always a way to find a different approach.

So in terms of a mandate, the key here is to recognize that when you let healthy people not be part of the pool, you're, you're- you're going to concentrate people with serious health issues, so much more expensive insurance risks, into the market. And that's of course going to raise the cost for everyone.

So however we deal with that, whether it's a mandate or a reinsurance type pool, that's where we can sit down. And as Governor Kasich said, it's really -  I mean, there are different- different philosophical approaches. But there's no reason why we can't bring them together and find compromises.

JOHN KASICH: And, John, here is the thing you have to remember. It's not just friends. But when people understand one another, when they respect one another, as John just said, there is a way to define these things in a way that doesn't mean you have a winner or a loser. And I'm reminded of that sign that Ronald Reagan had on his desk, which the Congress ought to think about.

He said, "If you don't worry about who gets the credit, it's amazing how much can be accomplished." And I think that's what's missing in Washington right now. You know, John and I are not hung about who wins, who loses, who gets credit, who doesn't because as a governor you can't spend a lot of time doing that.

Although we have governors that get very partisan as well. But at the end, the American people want things to function. And they can function. If you don't worry about which party gets the credit or which politician gets the credit, it can work. Now, I can't guarantee you that Hickenlooper and I are going to agree on this, but I'm hopeful.

And we're going to do our very best to come up with something, then spread it out wider. Here is a final thing. If you want to solve problems, whether it's immigration or whether it's the issue of health care, you've got to grow your majority from the- from the middle out. You've got to exclude those who are on the edges because they're disruptors and not in a positive way in many cases. You've got to grow it this way. And that's how you get things done.

JOHN DICKERSON: All right. We're going to take a little bit of a short break here. We'll be back in one minutewith more of our conversation with Governors Kasich and Hickenlooper. Stay with us.

JOHN DICKERSON: And we're back with our governors. Governor Hickenlooper, let me start with you picking up on what Governor Kasich was saying. Let's talk about how the politics of this gambit you're involved in here will work. So your staffs are going to get together. But then walk me through how the politics of this are going to work that it's going to change the situation in Washington where, again, everybody doesn't- everybody doesn't start from the base of friendship that the two of you have built.

JOHN HICKENLOOPER: Well, I think the plan is that we begin to look at how do we get to that- those solutions, and really stabilize the private markets, and figure out how- how are we going to get to these reinsurance or high cost pools. And as we do that, we'll try to include more governors, Republicans and Democrats to make sure we're kind of balanced.

And at some point obviously we need to work with the senators. So people like Lamar Alexander, who's already talking about, you know, looking at a bipartisan solution. I think we'll be surprised at the number of senators that are willing to kind of step back and say, "All right. Let's roll up our sleeves, and work on a bipartisan basis, and see how far we can go."

JOHN DICKERSON: Governor Kasich, you were a member of Congress. When you were in Congress and a governor came in with a bunch of great ideas, would you have listened? Are they likely to take what you're saying and think--

JOHN KASICH:

Well, we did.

JOHN DICKERSON: "Oh yeah. Sure. This is a good idea"?

JOHN KASICH: We did listen to them. I mean, when we were balancing the federal budget in '97 we had a lot of advice from Tommy Thompson, the great governor of Wisconsin, John Engler, the great governor from the state of Michigan. Oh yeah. We did listen to them. And it was important.

And my sense on this is, you know, John just mentioned Lamar Alexander and what he wants to do. I guess Patty Murray's going to help on that. The Democrat senator. But Tom Carper from Delaware has been unbelievable in terms of his looking at trying to solve this problem.

Dick Durbin and I, the Democrat leader, and I have talked. He said, "Look, there's a lot of politics, but I'm worried about people." I think there is a hunger in the Congress at least in the Senate to try- to try to do what they went to do, which is to solve problems. And you can't solve immense, difficult problems without both sides.

We couldn't have balanced the budget in '97 had not the Clinton administration and the Republicans agreed to make some compromises. We never would have reformed the military like we did with Goldwater-Nichols, a Republican, a Democrat, to give power to commanders in the field.

These are- these things, these are major deals, John. Now, since Republicans are in the majority, they get to call the tune. But as I've said before, when you call the tune the Democrats have to be included in the choir for a meaningful role. So, look, they know it's failing. They know this is not working down there.

And if we can overcome some of the partisanship. And Lamar Alexander I am told actually left the leadership because in leadership you got to be really partisan. He left the leadership because he wanted to reach across the aisle and get more things done. And we- Godspeed to him.

JOHN DICKERSON: So, Governor Hickenlooper, is what you and Governor Kasich are trying to do is essentially model behavior here for what bipartisanship looks like for the Senate and the Congress in Washington?

JOHN HICKENLOOPER: Well, that's part of it certainly. And other people, have reached out. You know, Josh Gottheimer, a representative who is one of the chairs of the Problem Solvers group in Congress, he reached out to me last week. And, you know, they're working on a lot of these same proposals, same ideas.

I think the idea is that if we can get some governors of both parties to kind of work together and maybe we are modeling some behavior, but it's already starting in Congress. Senator Carper came up. When we had the National Governors Association summer meeting in Rhode Island, he came up and spent a morning discussing the ins and outs, the details of health care changes.

And, again, we all agree. Democrats agree that- there are improvements that need to be made to the Affordable Care Act. We've got to control costs. But we don't want to, you know, roll back coverage for lots of people. And we don't want to- we realize the imperative to really stabilize these private markets.

JOHN DICKERSON: Governor--

JOHN KASICH: Hey John?

JOHN DICKERSON: Go ahead. Yes, governor.

JOHN KASICH: Let me tell you another name. Another name that needs to be mentioned is Charlie Dent over in the House. He's doing- He's doing a terrific job bringing people together. Look. This is just insurance. At some point we've got to deal with the underlying problem that is caused by rising health care.

And that's going to require dramatic, dramatic bipartisanship, including looking at a way to preserve the development of pharmaceuticals but yet to be able to stem their costs. At the same time, John and I have talked about the issue of entitlements. Look. We are going to drown our children and grandchildren in debt which is going to kill our economy if we don't begin to deal with Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid, all the entitlements, and start to get this problem of rising debt under control.

So this could be a good start. And John and I aren't looking for credit. We don't have any magic stuff here. But if we can contribute, and people can see what we're doing, and we can interface, maybe we can get something done to stabilize these markets, which would be good for millions of Americans.

JOHN DICKERSON: Governor Hickenlooper, are there other issues on which governors can work together like this, what you're trying to do on health care?

JOHN HICKENLOOPER: Sure. Almost anything. I mean, look at all the major challenges. Look at the need to reinvent the way we do workforce training. We have- you know, two thirds of our kids are never going to get a four-year college degree. And we really haven't been able to prepare them to involve them in the economy where, you know, the new generation of jobs require some technical capability.

We need to look at apprenticeships. We need to look at, you know, all kinds of internships. That's the kind of thing that Republicans and Democrats could work on together. Go down the list. All the economic development work, it's not a Republican or a Democratic issue to say, "We want better jobs for our kids," or, "We want to make sure that they're trained for the new generation of jobs that are coming- beginning to appear." Those are issues where we should be able to roll up our sleeves and say, "All right. We may disagree about this. We may disagree about that." But we all agree that we want to, you know, make--

JOHN DICKERSON: All right.

JOHN HICKENLOOPER: --Sure that everybody has--

JOHN DICKERSON: Governor.

JOHN HICKENLOOPER: --a chance to, you know, earn their own future.

JOHN DICKERSON: All right, governors, I'm going to have to leave it there. Thanks to both of you for being with us. And we'll be back in a moment with some thoughts about how Congress--

JOHN KASICH: Thank you.

JOHN DICKERSON: --might get more accomplished if they stayed home.