(Ed. note: After their lunch today with President Obama, the Senate Democratic Caucus spoke with reporters outside the White House. This is the transcript, via Congressional Quarterly.)
REID: This was a wonderful time we spent together. It gave us a time to reflect on how far we have come in a very short period of time. The mass of legislation that's now law in this country, we talked about that, the very first thing we did to the thing we're working on now, which is health care. There was absolute unity in the caucus. Different ideas were expressed, but every idea was that we understand that before year's end we're going to get comprehensive health care reform.
We have -- four of the five committees have completed their work. Everyone recognizes that we are going to do, if there's any way humanly possible, a bipartisan bill. We don't want to do a partisan bill, and we hope our Republican colleagues acknowledge that. We'll continue to work with them as long as we have to.
The American people want health care reform, and we're going to do health care reform. In spite of the loud, shrill voices trying to interrupt town hall meetings and just throw a monkey wrench into everything, we're going to continue to be positive and work hard.
There was a lot of experience in that room. And we had someone who was leading us that we all admire so very, very much. The president didn't get one standing ovation, but several of them.
He was -- really kind of reminded me of the days when I was an athlete and the coach was giving you a pep talk before the game. You came out of that pep talk that the coach gave you ready to take on the world. We're ready to take on the world.
DODD: Well, Leader, thank you. We thank the president. This was very gracious.
We were going to recommend we do this every Tuesday here at the White House, having lunch. But the president was enthusiastic about where we are and what we've accomplished.
And let me just echo the leader's words and the president's strong suggestion, obviously, and that is that we get this job done.
As the leader has pointed out, four of our five committees have acted. I have a lot of confidence in the person standing to my left immediately, Max Baucus, who's been through a Herculean effort here to reach a bipartisan agreement in the Finance Committee. I'm confident we can get that done.
With Max's leadership, leading the HELP Committee in Senator Kennedy's absence, we're ready and willing, of course, to sit down and meld our legislation, to begin the work with the House. The process is a dynamic one. It's open.
We're welcoming people who want to come to our table and share their ideas, whether they be Democrats, Republicans, nurses, doctors, the insurance industry, the pharmaceutical industry, others who have ideas they think can help improve and strengthen our efforts. We welcome that participation. But we're determined to get this job done. We're going to be gone for a month. In that month that we're gone, 500,000 people will lose their health care coverage in the United States, 14,000 people a day. We need to come back with a renewed sense of purpose that we're going to do everything possible to bring that sense of certainty and stability to the American public that they no longer have to worry at night as to whether or not they have the coverage or the opportunity for care if they get into trouble.
Many of you may know, I'm going to go through some surgery in a few days. I have a great health care plan. I've never worried about whether or not I had a health care plan or I could get good care when I needed it. My case shouldn't be any different than any other American's. When they get sick or need help, we ought to be able to get it in this country.
Just because I'm a member of Congress and have a good federal health care plan doesn't mean that others shouldn't have that sense of security and confidence, as well. And I'm confident that we Democrats and Republicans, if they'll join us, can get that job done.
BAUCUS: This was an enthusiastic, comforting, warm reaffirmation, reconfirmation that health care is so necessary for the American people, and we, working together, will accomplish it. We'll get it done this year.
We agreed that it should be bipartisan, because that's more sustainable, it's more enduring, it's the right thing to do. The American people want us to be working together.
Second, we agreed that we've got to get costs down, because costs are just too high. And about a third of our health care expenditures today are -- is waste. We've got to wring the waste out of the system so that American families don't have to spend as much, American businesses don't have to spend so much, and the budgets aren't -- aren't so high.
We also rededicated our commitment to reforming the health insurance industry. Why? Because so many companies, frankly, are taking advantage of way too many Americans with denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions, health status, and so forth.
Bottom line is, we're going to try to get a bipartisan bill. I think that's the right thing to do for the country. The president does, too. But beyond that, we're going to get health care reform passed this year, working together.
Senator Dodd and I have two separate bills, virtually -- about 80 percent of that is contained in both bills. There's about -- there's very little difference here. But we are going to get costs down. We're going to reform the health insurance industry. And we're going to get coverage for Americans.
And it was really a wonderful meeting, led by a terrific man, our president, Barack Obama. And one of the senators was saying to me, as we walked out, "You know, it's just so wonderful to hear him speak." You know, it's like a symphony. It's like just a great -- it's just -- he is so good. He just has it together. He's for all the right reasons. And it was, therefore, a great motivation by our leader to go out in this month of August, and we're going to get this done for the right reasons, because it's the right thing to do.
QUESTION: What makes you think you have the Democratic votes to do this on a partisan basis, especially in the House?
BAUCUS: Quick question. Sorry?
QUESTION: What makes you all think you could get it done on a partisan basis, particularly in...
BAUCUS: On a partisan -- on a partisan or bipartisan?
QUESTION: ... with Democratic votes?
BAUCUS: Well, we're -- the preference...
BAUCUS: The preference is do it together. The American people want us to work together. The American people do not like partisanship. But the American people also don't like groups of people trying to kill something that should be done, should get passed, health care reform. And we know that we have to reform the health care system, because the costs otherwise are eating us alive. We've got to reform the health insurance industry.
So we're going to get it done, but our hope is we'll get it done together first.
QUESTION: Are the American people for this specific plan or...
REID: If we were in Nevada and it was 115, we'd take a lot of questions, but it's not 115 here, high humidity, a couple of questions.
QUESTION: Was there any discussion of the climate change legislation, Senator?
REID: Yes, we discussed it. We sure did. Senator Bingaman, the chairman of the committee, talked about energy legislation. Yes, we -- we covered it. We spent a lot of time on a lot of different issues.
QUESTION: Are you going to be able to...
REID: Cash for Clunkers, we'll pass Cash for Clunkers.
QUESTION: When will you do that?
REID: Before we leave here.
QUESTION: Do you think you have the votes for it?
QUESTION: Did the president -- did the president ask to get more -- did anyone ask the president to weigh in with more details (OFF- MIKE)
REID: As Senator Baucus said, 80 percent of the two bills represented by these two chairmen are together, anyway. The president has been involved in this from the very beginning. Anyone that -- anyone that thinks President Obama and his people have not been involved in health care reform haven't followed what's going on.
There isn't a day goes by that I don't talk to several people in the White House about health care reform. And the same applies to the two chairmen.
BAUCUS: And the main -- and the main thing -- and the main thing -- the main thing here -- the main thing here is this is so right, it's so much the right thing to do, when we go out during the August recess and beyond and explain with such conviction why this is the right thing to do, the American people are going to start to realize that is the case.
Polls show that, when American people explain that much of health care reform is insurance market reform -- that is, putting the kibosh on insurance companies -- then it becomes quite popular. So our goal is to explain what we're doing, why we are doing this, getting costs down, reforming the insurance industry, and -- and -- making sure that people don't -- are able to keep their same doctor and keep their same plan and have the choice that they want to have. And when they understand that, then I think it's going to work out quite well.
REID: One last question.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) credits under the cap-and-trade bill?
REID: We're working on that now. I've heard from both the chairmen, Baucus and Boxer, and we're working that out, and I'll have to work that out, and I'll do that.