Transcript: Sen. John Barrasso on "Face the Nation," December 16, 2018

Barrasso hopeful Trump would sign bill to avoid shutdown

The following is a transcript of the interview with Republican Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming that aired Sunday, Dec. 16, 2018, on "Face the Nation."


MARGARET BRENNAN: And that is Wyoming Republican Senator John Barrasso, who's also a doctor, we should note. He was a key negotiator in the efforts to come up with a Republican measure that would replace Obamacare. I do want to get to that, but picking up on where Stephen just left off, he says shut down may still happen if necessary to get this money for the border wall. It's 5 billion.

SENATOR JOHN BARRASSO: I think that--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Are Americans going to see a shutdown over Christmas?

SEN. BARRASSO: I would certainly hope not. I'm working to the fact of keeping the government open. I think that's what the American people expect of the people that they elect, keep the government open. And if there's any sort of a shutdown it would certainly only be a partial shutdown. Remember, Margaret, we, through the appropriations process, already have approved 75 percent of the funding for the government for the next year. But I still think it's better to not have any sort of even a partial shutdown whether it's over Christmas or anytime. I don't think people benefit by that.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You're in Republican leadership. Senator John Cornyn, your colleague, said there's no plan right now from the White House. Did you hear a plan here today, do you know what the White House is asking you to do?

SEN. BARRASSO: Well I know we're trying in the House and the Senate to come up with a proposal to get passed in both of those bodies before Friday the 21st and then send that to the White House which I hope the president would choose to sign.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And so that could be anything from a short term continuing resolution that takes us right up to the beginning of a- of the Democratic majority in January? Or, I- I mean, what wiggle room is there here?

SEN. BARRASSO: There- there are a number of different options. That's one, another is a longer term. I would like to get actually all the appropriations bills passed. I think we do much better governing for our country if we do the whole thing through the appropriations process. We were able to do 75 percent of the funding. We still have a ways to go but border security is critical to this country. It- it is part, to me, of national security along with our economic security, our energy security. Border security is key to us as a nation.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And I think many would agree with you, I guess it's the getting to that point that's the problem. Senator Schumer says no way, no how, no wall. Period.

SEN. BARRASSO: Well, there are a lot of things you need to do with border security. One is a physical barrier but also the technology, the manpower, the enforcement, all of those things, and our current laws are in some ways an incentive for people to come to this country illegally and they go through great risk and possibly great harm.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So that could be a- another compromise like Senator Susan Collins was out there talking about a two and a half billion dollar compromise, rather than the 5 billion that the president is asking for.

SEN. BARRASSO: Well, get- there are people working on this to get to a conclusion so the government will remain open which is what I believe the American people would prefer.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to switch to health care. This ruling on Friday, it seemed the timing caught some people by surprise, but the decision was that Obamacare according to this federal judge in Texas was deemed unconstitutional. What do you make of that?

SEN. BARRASSO: Well the- the one part of the health care law that we took out with the tax law was the individual mandate that people had to pay a fine. The Democrats didn't even offer an amendment to- to leave it in the bill because they know that, of the people that were paying this fine, millions have paid the fine. Most of them earned less than fifty thousand a year. So it was very punishing, money they could have used to see a doctor for their child or their family--

MARGARET BRENNAN: And you're making that point because--

SEN. BARRASSO: So--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --the removal of that provision is what opened the court to be able to make this decision.

SEN. BARRASSO: That said if the mandate goes away then other things go away. You know as a doctor people say to me what does this mean to me. And for right now, very little if you're a Doctor, if you're getting treatment if you have a preexisting condition if you signed up for Obamacare on this recent sign up period it doesn't change a thing.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But it could if the Supreme Court upholds this ruling.

SEN. BARRASSO: which would be a conte-- we have a different make up of the Supreme Court. It may be several years till it gets there. But as a doctor, I will tell you, I focus on people with preexisting conditions I've always been focused as I was working on health care legislation to make sure people could get the care they need from a doctor that they choose at lower costs. And we didn't get that in Wyoming. We had- after Obamacare was passed many people lost their insurance, premiums doubled. So that wasn't- that doesn't give people affordable insurance that's appropriate for them and their families

MARGARET BRENNAN: The coverage of pre-existing conditions was protected under the Affordable Care Act, so if this ruling is upheld that goes away. Are you as- as a Republican leader looking to craft an entirely new law from whole cloth or are you looking at amending the Affordable Care Act?

SEN. BARRASSO: I think government never does big things really well. I'm for more of a step-by-step and I want to start with the first step of people with preexisting conditions. My wife Bobbi is a breast cancer survivor. She's been through three operations, chemotherapy twice and I will tell you as a husband, as well as a doctor, I am committed to helping people with preexisting conditions. We can do that- they're a number of ways to do it. One is what Maine has done in terms of their high risk people helping with them with additional subsidies. But at the same time, then it allows insurance to be much cheaper, more affordable for other people. So I want to do- our-our children's health insurance plan that works across the country. It works so well because states have a bigger say in that. When I was in our state Senate in Wyoming, we knew that what we wanted to do in Wyoming may not fit what people would want in New York state. But if you give states that flexibility and freedom to do what works best with the money, I think it works much better for families and for patients.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Republicans weren't able to repeal and replace with Republican majorities in both chambers. You're going to have to work with Democrats to get any kind of new legislation through. What are you actually- when- when does this begin? What are you actually proposing here?

SEN. BARRASSO: And I want to work with additional Democrats, but what we're seeing right now from the Democrats side- and you see whether it was Bernie Sanders or so many of the Democrat candidates for president in 2020, they're talking about a different step away from Obamacare as well. They agree that Obamacare hasn't worked and they're talking about a program of a complete government takeover of healthcare, with increased taxes and fewer choices and longer lines. And that to me doesn't help people in the- in the long run. I talked to people yesterday- I was in Wyoming at a wreath ceremony, at our- at our cemetery- talked to somebody on Medicare. They said, "We don't want Medicare for all, we paid into Medicare our whole life." This isn't the time to put more people onto that program. We want to make sure that that is saved and strengthened and- and- and held for people that are already on the program and have paid in over their lifetime.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Senator, thank you for being here. You certainly have your work cut out for you.

SEN. BARRASSO: Thanks for having me.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And we will be tracking that.