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CBS Touts Baucus Health Care Bill 'Pays For Itself,' 'Saves Billions'

Following the talking points of the Democratic Party, at the top of Thursday's CBS Early Show, co-host Maggie Rodriguez declared a win for health care legislation being pushed by Montana Senator Max Baucus: "President Obama's health care plan gets a green light from the Congressional Budget Office, as a key bill not only pays for itself, but actually saves billions."

Rodriguez later introduced a report on the CBO estimates by declaring: "This morning Democratic leaders are cheering a report that shows that the Senate Finance Committee's health care bill actually saves money." Correspondent Nancy Cordes followed: "The new bill would actually reduce the federal deficit by $81 billion according to the new estimates. The price tag, $829 billion over ten years, would be fully paid for, and then some, by an excise tax on top dollar insurance plans, by fees on drug makers and medical device manufacturers, and more."

During the segment, an on-screen headline read: "One Step Closer? New Health Care Estimate Raises White House Hopes." In her report, Cordes cited Jonathan Cohn, the senior editor of the liberal magazine, The New Republic, who praised the bill: "You're average family will have security they don't have, they won't - they'll know they won't lose their insurance if they lose their job. If they need financial assistance paying for their health care, that will be available to them."

Cordes did eventually make brief mention of continued criticism of the legislation: "But so far, the new numbers have done little to sway Republican opponents." A clip was played of Iowa Senator Charles Grassley: "If you take the years 2013 through 2023, you'll find that it's a very, very expensive bill."

Rodriguez did challenge the estimates as she asked Cordes: "Nancy, how does the price tag make sense? How are we going to spend $829 billion on this and still save $81 billion from the deficit?" Cordes admitted: "It's a little bit mind boggling, isn't it?" But quickly explained away any skepticism: "It's because all the ways that the Democrats have come up with to pay for this bill actually end up being larger than the cost of the bill itself. All those fees, all the taxes on Cadillac plans. And those cuts to Medicare, which Democrats say are cuts in waste and Republicans say are cuts in services."

Following Cordes's report, Rodriguez spoke with Virginia Republican Congressman Eric Cantor and began by emphasizing the need for Americans to make sacrifices: "Do you think that these things - these tax increases, these fees, these cuts to Medicare up front are a reasonable price to pay for health care reform? I mean, won't we have to give up something to make this happen?" Cantor replied: "The way that they are expanding coverage is by taxing employers, is by taxing those of us who have insurance, and, frankly, to the tune of $500 billion. And they're adding on top of that $400 billion worth of cuts to Medicare, which is - that will mean seniors will have less opportunity, less benefit, less ability to choose the kind of health care that they want."

Rodriguez did follow up with a question about a potential political cost for Democrats: "Do you think that it would behoove Democrats, as Karl Rove suggested in his op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal today, to give up this fight for health care reform because it's facing growing opposition or face the same fate that they faced in '94 when they lost control of Congress?" To that Cantor explained: "You know, in the House, as you know, the bill that will make its way to the floor will most likely have what Speaker Pelosi continues to insist is a public option. You know, that has been resoundingly rejected by the American people."

Here is a full transcript of the segment:
7:00AM TEASE:

MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: President Obama's health care plan gets a green light from the Congressional Budget Office, as a key bill not only pays for itself, but actually saves billions.

MAX BAUCUS: This is game changing.

RODRIGUEZ: But Republicans say you're not getting the full picture. We'll hear from a GOP lawmaker.

7:02AM SEGMENT:

MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: But first this morning, we want to get to the latest in the battle over health care reform. It is our top story. This morning Democratic leaders are cheering a report that shows that the Senate Finance Committee's health care bill actually saves money. CBS News congressional correspondent Nancy Cordes is on Capitol Hill with the details. Good morning, Nancy.

NANCY CORDES: Good morning, Maggie. Cheering, and to be honest, a little surprised this morning because those new numbers back from the Congressional Budget Office show that this bill would ensure 30 million Americans who aren't insured now and actually save the government money in the process. The new bill would actually reduce the federal deficit by $81 billion according to the new estimates. The price tag, $829 billion over ten years would be fully paid for and then some by an excise tax on top dollar insurance plans, by fees on drug makers and medical device manufacturers, and more. That brings the tab in well below the President's $900 billion cutoff.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: One Step Closer? New Health Care Estimate Raises White House Hopes]

MAX BAUCUS: The numbers that we received from CBO, frankly, are either - exceed my expectations and so we're very pleased and plan to - plan to move ahead.

CORDES: According to the Congressional Budget Office, the plan would boost the ranks of insured Americans from 83% now to 94% in ten years. How? By mandating that everyone get insurance and providing subsidies to help lower income Americans afford it. The bill would create nonprofit insurance cooperatives to compete with private insurance in a bid to bring prices down.

JONATHAN COHN [SENIOR EDITOR, THE NEW REPUBLIC]: You're average family will have security they don't have, they won't - they'll know they won't lose their insurance if they lose their job. If they need financial assistance paying for their health care, that will be available to them.

CORDES: But so far, the new numbers have done little to sway Republican opponents.

CHARLES GRASSLEY: If you take the years 2013 through 2023, you'll find that it's a very, very expensive bill.

CORDES: Still, this lower price tag does make it easier to get this bill through committee and then the real work begins. They have to meld it with another Senate bill that is more liberal, it contains a public option. So, Maggie, all these numbers are likely to change yet again.

RODRIGUEZ: And a big question, Nancy, how does the price tag make sense? How are we going to spend $829 billion on this and still save $81 billion from the deficit?

CORDES: It's a little bit mind boggling, isn't it? It's because all the ways that the Democrats have come up with to pay for this bill actually end up being larger than the cost of the bill itself. All those fees, all the taxes on Cadillac plans. And those cuts to Medicare, which Democrats say are cuts in waste and Republicans say are cuts in services.

RODRIGUEZ: CBS's Nancy Cordes on Capitol Hill. Thank you, Nancy. Let's ask a Republican. Joining us right now, one of the key players in the health care debate, Virginia Congressman Eric Cantor, the House Republican Whip. Good morning, Congressman Cantor.

ERIC CANTOR: Good morning, Maggie.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: One Step Closer? But Can New Health Care Numbers Convince GOP?]

RODRIGUEZ: Do you think that these things - these tax increases, these fees, these cuts to Medicare up front are a reasonable price to pay for health care reform? I mean, won't we have to give up something to make this happen?

CANTOR: Well Maggie, let's look at it. The claims that we're saving $81 billion by spending $829 billion, you know, you can say that if you want to go ahead and really rob Peter to pay Paul. And that's exactly what's going on here. The way that they are expanding coverage is by taxing employers, is by taxing those of us who have insurance, and, frankly, to the tune of $500 billion. And they're adding on top of that $400 billion worth of cuts to Medicare, which is - that will mean seniors will have less opportunity, less benefit, less ability to choose the kind of health care that they want. And, you know, this is not the kind of health care reform that's going to actually bring down costs that will provide coverage to all Americans. Right away this Congressional Budget Office says that we'll still have 7% or 8% of Americans who are uninsured over a ten year period. Again, this bill is going to cost on average $30,000 for each individual to be insured at a significant cost in terms of levying new taxes on those people who are insured and on employers.

RODRIGUEZ: Do you think that it would behoove Democrats, as Karl Rove suggested in his op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal today, to give up this fight for health care reform because it's facing growing opposition or face the same fate that they faced in '94 when they lost control of Congress?

CANTOR: Well, Maggie, what I think would behoove us all in this country is to see if we in Congress can try to work together for a change. You know, in the House, as you know, the bill that will make its way to the floor will most likely have what Speaker Pelosi continues to insist is a public option. You know, that has been resoundingly rejected by the American people. And so today I'm going to sit down with Majority Leader Hoyer and try look at the things that we can agree upon. Because we as Republicans in the House want to reject the notion of a government takeover. We want to stop the government from getting in between patients and their doctors and try and focus on the kinds of things that - that can help people have better access at a lower cost.

RODRIGUEZ: Congressman Eric Cantor, everyone hopes that you can find middle ground here. Thank you very much.

CANTOR: Thank you, Maggie.

-Kyle Drennen is a news analyst at the Media Research Center.