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RUSH: A bonus on the program today. We welcome back the vice president of the United States, Mike Pence. I’m so flattered you can carve some time out for us today, Mr. Vice President. I know you’ve gotta be swamped.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: (chuckles)

RUSH: Welcome back to the program.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Rush Limbaugh, the honor is all mine. Thanks for having me back on.

RUSH: You bet. I guess the first place to start here — and there’s so many places. I could ask you about the meeting with Putin and so forth. But really, I think, in the forefront of people’s minds right now is health care and the status of the bill in the Senate. And, you know, the overriding question: “How in the world can it be this hard when it seemed easy when Obama was in the White House?” All of these repeal bills were voted on — with the knowledge that he would veto them, of course. But where does this stand now? Is this…? If this doesn’t get done, this has consequences I don’t even want to contemplate.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, look, it has to get done, Rush. Obamacare is putting a tremendous burden on working families, on small businesses, on the American economy. Every single promise that President Obama made to get Obamacare passed has been broken. You remember them. You’ve covered them better than anybody else. “If you like your insurance, you can keep it.” You know, that wasn’t true. You know, “If you like your doctor, you can keep ’em.” That wasn’t true. That if they adopted Obamacare, the cost of health insurance would go down. We’ve seen the cost of health insurance rise in every state across the country, in some cases 200% and more.

Families are hurting; Congress must act. The House of Representatives has done its job. And, in the coming days, the president and I are absolutely determined to roll our sleeves up and work with the men and women in the Republican majority in the Senate, and pass legislation that will repeal and replace Obamacare — and set our nation’s health care back on a pathway built on respect for the doctor-patient relationship, free-market values, and the belief that states are the laboratories of innovation and reform and allow our states to reform Medicaid in ways that will best meet the needs of our most vulnerable.

RUSH: So where are the obstacles? I know you don’t want to name names.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: (chuckles)

RUSH: It would be helpful if you did, but I know you won’t. But what are the obstacles? We’ve got 52 votes plus yours if necessary, if it comes down to that. But I hearken back: The way you just laid it out, what is so complicated? How could anybody disagree with what you just said?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I think it’s always in the details. And, look, you know, there’s that old saying, Rush, “You know, if you like sausage, you don’t go where they make it,” right? (chuckling) If you like lawmaking, don’t go where they make it in Washington, D.C. It’s tough. I mean, Obamacare is literally imploding before our eyes. I mean, you have large areas of the country where people are down to only one choice in insurance. In some cases, people have no choice in health insurance as a direct result of the collapsing failure of Obamacare. And so the challenges have to do with the complexity of this disastrous policy launch, and the best way for us to turn this national policy back in the direction of freedom. But it all begins with elements of this bill. Remember, while this legislation doesn’t do everything that we ultimately want to do… The president’s committed to ultimately allowing Americans to buy health insurance across state lines, the way they buy life insurance, the way they buy car insurance.

RUSH: Nobody’s talking about that. That’s a great point because nobody is talking about it.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Yeah.

RUSH: That’s so far down the road, it’s not even in the Cruz amendment.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Right. We have to do it, but the reality is the budget rules that we’re using to pass this bill with just 51 votes don’t allow us to make that kind of a substantive change in the law, but the president’s absolutely committed to it. But in this legislation, Rush, we accomplished enormous things. Remember seven years ago when you were covering day in and day out when Obamacare became law, to me the most onerous aspect of Obamacare — the most onerous to you and millions of your listeners — was the federal government for the first time ordered the American people to buy health insurance whether they want it or need it or not.

That’s not a policy built on the American principle of freedom, that a government mandates every American buy it, saying, “You have to buy health insurance or you have to pay a tax penalty to the government.” That goes away in the bill that’s before the United States Senate and the one that already passed the House. The mandate goes away. The tax increases go away. Medicaid goes back to the states for the purposes of reform. Health savings accounts are greatly expanded so that people can become consumers in their own health care choices.

But to your question: What’s standing in the way is just obviously every member of Congress has their own opinion, and this administration — as we did with the House of Representatives — is determined to work with each member to address their needs. But we are very close, Rush. If I had one message (chuckles) for your tens of millions of listeners around America, it is: “This is the moment; now is the time.”

If you’re one of those Americans who wants to see Obamacare repealed and replaced, we literally are days or maybe just weeks away from being able to accomplish that historic objective. But it’s gonna take every American within the sound of my voice who wants to see us start over on health care reform built on freedom and federalism and state-based reform to let their voice be heard. Let their elected officials know where they stand. And the president and I and our whole team are gonna continue to work with the Senate, and I think we’re gonna get it done.

RUSH: Let me get specific with you about something.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Yeah.

RUSH: I spoke to Ted Cruz last week about his amendment, interviewing him for the next issue of my newsletter, and there are three mandates that are in Obamacare, and most people are only aware of two, when you use the “mandate” term. There’s the personal mandate which you just talked about —

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Right.

RUSH: — which defiles the Constitution, then there’s the employer mandate. And in the current Senate bill, those go, those are both gone, which is great.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Right.

RUSH: But then the third mandate is the Title I session of the bill which —

THE VICE PRESIDENT: The regulation.

RUSH: Right. The Obama essential health benefits.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Mmm-hmm.

RUSH: Now, am I correct in saying those were added by Obama’s secretary of Health and Human Services? Is that why those specific mandates are in this bill?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, they were added as a part of Obamacare. Before, all of health insurance was regulated at the state level.

RUSH: Okay, so they are part of the legislation?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Yeah, they’re absolutely part of Obamacare from the very beginning.

RUSH: What Senator Cruz told me was that there’s no stomach to get rid of those on the Republican side, or not enough.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, you know, the president made a couple of commitments on the campaign trail, and we worked to keep those when the bill passed the House, which is your kids can stay on your family health insurance plan ’til they’re 26. And we obviously went to great pains to make sure that Americans with preexisting conditions could not be denied coverage. Those regulations and those protections are all intact in the House and in the Senate bill. But to your point: There’s a broad range of other regulations that the House allowed to be waived; that frankly Senator Cruz has developed some very creative proposals.

Including freedom policies, which would say to a state, “Look, if you offer an insurance plan that meets what remains of the federal regulations, then you can also offer — to Americans — to be able to buy a health insurance product that doesn’t meet those same criteria.” You know, Rush, that’s what freedom looks like, isn’t it? I mean, come on! (chuckles) We’re talking about people being able to go to a marketplace and to say, “Look, if I want all the benefits that are listed here, some of which are certified by the state or even the federal government, I’ll pay for that. If I don’t want all of those benefits, I ought to be able to buy that as well.” That’s ultimately a free market principle —

RUSH: Precisely.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: — where President Trump is driving health care reform, but it all begins with repealing and replacing Obamacare.

RUSH: Well, the reason why all this is crucial is because, as many people will acknowledge — some won’t — Obamacare was designed to implode, in part, so as to further the public’s acclimation for single payer. “If Obamacare, which was sold as the greatest panacea ever — if not even that can work,” the thinking goes, “I guess the government has to take over.” If Obamacare stays intact, that’s where we’re headed. We’re headed to single payer. We’re headed to everybody on Medicare — and, I mean, that’s… There’s no coming back from that. You would never unravel that if that happened.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Right.

RUSH: That’s disastrous.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, Rush, you know, I make a point — back when I was in Congress and as a governor and now as vice president — I never speculate on people’s motives. But you remember what…? You remember what a member of Congress said back in the day when he was asked, “Why aren’t you supporting single payer?” By a few… You remember that famous quote? It was caught on YouTube back in the day. Former Congressman Barney Frank was walking into an event. They said, “How come you’re not supporting single payer?” He said, “Obamacare is the quickest way to get to single payer.”

RUSH: Right. Obama said the same thing to the SEIU people back in 2007. We’ve got the tape. We played it for people. That’s exactly what the objective was.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I mean, you know, I’d leave it to you; you didn’t miss that back when it happened, and you’re not forgetting it today. And people ought to be reminded that, as you have Bernie Sanders out in Kentucky, where I’m headed to Kentucky in a couple days myself. He was out there championing single payer this week. So the heartbreaking story of the 11-month-old Charlie Gard in England is a story of single payer. I know you’ve covered that on this program. That’s back in court today, and, frankly, we breathe a prayer and the hope that the single-payer system in England will see its way clear to allow the family — the mother and the father to be able to choose —

RUSH: Stop and think of that. Yeah.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: — the greatest extent of lifesaving treatment that’s available to their child instead of having to be submitted to a government program that says, “No, we’re going to remove life support from your precious 11 month old child because the government has decided that the prospects of their life are such that they no longer warrant an investment in health services.”

RUSH: Right.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: That’s what single payer looks like. We hope and pray that little Charlie Gard gets every chance. But the American people ought to reflect on the fact (chuckles) that for all the talk on the left about single payer, that’s where it takes us. And what President Trump believes in — what you’ve advocated now for years — is, “Let’s have a health care system that’s built on individual choice and free markets and state-based innovation reform.” But none of that happens unless we stop and turn around and head health care back in the direction of freedom.

RUSH: Right.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: That begins with the day that the United States Senate passes the bill before it today to repeal and replace Obamacare.

RUSH: Let me ask you a tactical question.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Yeah.

RUSH: Would you favor…? If this seemed to be the only way to get where you just said we want to go, would you support a clean repeal with nothing to replace it, and then use the recess to start from scratch on replacing it? Would you support that?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, let me say, the president’s made it very clear. While some in the Senate majority have said that if they can’t pass the current bill, that they’ll have to reach out to the Democrats. You’ve got some Republicans — I saw ’em on television yesterday — saying, “We ought to reach out; do a bipartisan bill.” The president’s made it very clear. You know, we believe if they can’t pass this carefully crafted repeal and replace bill — do those two things simultaneously — we ought to just repeal only. And then have enough time built into that legislation to craft replacement legislation in a way that’s orderly and allows states to adjust to different changes in Medicaid over maybe a three or four-year window that allows the insurance markets to evolve.

But, Rush, we can’t… We simply cannot allow the disaster of Obamacare to continue. It is hurting families. I speak to everyday Americans all across this country every week, and I hear people talk about it. I had a woman come to an event that we were at in Wisconsin and say that she had to make a decision to drop off of her health insurance. It had become so expensive that she dropped off for the preemptive three-month period of time, so she could afford to buy Christmas presents for her children and her grandchildren.

RUSH: Quite a few people are saying that they can’t afford to use the coverage they have.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: They can’t afford the coverage, they can’t afford… Your point is extremely important. They not only can’t afford the coverage since it’s become much more expensive since Obamacare, but they can’t afford to use it if they even are able to pay for it because the deductibles are so high.

RUSH: Exactly right.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: You’ve got people in Washington, D.C., that are standing around, hands on their hips, feeling good about the number of Americans who now are covered with health insurance. I don’t hear that from so many people who are so-called covered because they have health insurance they essentially can’t use. President Trump knows, there’s nothing more powerful than the free market. The free market and health insurance can work to lower the cost of health insurance, make services more available, create the kind of innovation that will give people incentives to make better health care choices; give states more freedom and flexibility.

But it all starts with the Senate finding a way forward (chuckles), and we’re determined to help ’em find it. Find a way forward to get to 51 votes so we can pass this legislation. Just get us to 50; I can be the tiebreaker. It’d be the greatest honor of my life, Rush, if I had the privilege to be able to be the tie-breaking vote to repeal and replace Obamacare. We’re gonna work for every single vote in the United States Senate. The time has come to repeal and replace Obamacare, and with the support of the American people — and with great strong vices like yours across the country — I believe we’re going to do it.

RUSH: Well, I appreciate your call and your time here. Mr. Vice President, this is the exact situation — and I’m not trying to stir anything up here. This is the exact kind of situation that Trump voters expected him to excel at. This is the talent that he was going to bring from outside the Beltway to inside to get people to — do the right thing.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: That’s right.

RUSH: Not insult anybody. But just, “Hey, this is how we’re gonna do it. We’re gonna get it done. Get it done the right way.” People have high hopes for President Trump in this.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, just know this, Rush. The next time you turn on the cable TV, and the next time you hear somebody pronouncing (chuckles) the Senate repeal and replace bill dead on arrival, remember that’s exactly what the national media said about the House bill. And that’s because they didn’t understand the kind of dealmaker that President Donald Trump is. He’s working the phones, he’s leaning into the effort, and I believe that — with the strong support of the American people — with this president in the Oval Office we’re gonna get it done. We’re gonna repeal and replace Obamacare. But the time is now.

RUSH: Thank you very much for your time, Mr. Vice President — and all the best to your family as well.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Rush. Great to be with you.

RUSH: You bet. Vice President Mike Pence. Folks, it’s time to start sending faxes and emails and making phone calls. Is that what you got? Well, some people wonder if that still works anymore. Some people don’t think it does. It depends on the circumstances, but I believe it does work.

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