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Ryan/McConnell Press Conference; Cost for Border Wall; Trump's Tweeting; Trump's Unconventional Presidency; Republicans and White House on Same Page. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired January 26, 2017 - 09:30   ET


[09:30:00] REP. PAUL RYAN (R-W9), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: So yes, we are on the same page.

QUESTION: (inaudible) every time (inaudible)? How surprised are you every time there's a new tweet from the president?

RYAN: This is going to be an unconventional presidency. I think you know this by now, Casey (ph).

And I think we're going to see unconventional activities like tweets and things like that, and I think that's just something that we're all going to have to get used to.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: Yeah, let me just add. For myself, I don't tend to be kind of reacting to daily comments. What the speaker has done, which I entirely concur with and the administration is on board with, is to lay out a game plan through the August recess of what we want to try and accomplish. And for myself, I intend to stick to the plan and make as much progress as we can.

QUESTION: (inaudible) as you know, the president has demanded that Mexico pay for the wall. The Mexican president said that they will not pay for the wall. And Donald Trump just said that the Mexican president should cancel the upcoming meeting if Mexico does not agree to pay for the wall.

Do you think the president should tone it down to salvage this relationship with Mexico?

MCCONNELL: Yeah, I don't have any advice to give to the president about that issue. We are moving ahead, as the speaker pointed out to our group yesterday, with what...

RYAN: A border supplemental....

MCCONNELL: ... yes, of roughly...

RYAN: ... 12 to 15.

MCCONNELL: Yes, $12 billion to $15 billion. So we intend to address the wall issue ourselves and the -- the president can deal with his relations with other countries on that issue and other issues.

QUESTION: Are you concerned about the relationship with Mexico?

RYAN: I think we'll be fine.

Drucker (ph)? QUESTION: (inaudible) on your agenda, how do you guys (inaudible)? I know you're moving forward with your agenda, but how can you feel confident that you're going to get (inaudible) the president's opinion appears to change from day to day? How is that impacting your ability (inaudible)?

RYAN: I actually would not describe it that way. I don't share that opinion that he changes his opinion on day to day. You'll see different emphasis, but with respect to the core agenda that we have laid out for our members that we are planning and coordinating in the House and the Senate, we have done this in conjunction with the administration.

We ran on these issues all of 2016. So there's nothing -- no surprise here. And the president agrees with this agenda and we've laid out not just the issues that we are going to be focusing on, but the timeline. So that is consistent and that has not changed.

QUESTION: (inaudible) follow up (inaudible) the president has said publicly he doesn't like it, then he (inaudible) I like it. So, has he told you specifically (inaudible)?

RYAN: We're in a good -- we are in a very good place on tax reform. It can get complicated when you get into the details of tax reform, but once we go through how tax reform works and what it's going to take to get the kind of competitive tax system -- the kind of competitive tax rates, I think most people agree that this is the right approach.

QUESTION: (inaudible) Senator McConnell (inaudible)?

RYAN: We're going to work the legislative process through.

Sherman (ph)?

QUESTION: Do you (inaudible) offset the cost of this wall?


QUESTION: President Trump has signaled that he wants to look at, maybe modify the ban on torture. Is this a debate that your members want to have? And what's your take on the issue?

MCCONNELL: Well, I think the director of the CIA has made it clear he's going to follow the law. And I believe virtually all of my members are comfortable the state of the law on that issue now.


RYAN: And torture's illegal. And torture's not legal so -- and we agree with it not being legal.

QUESTION: (inaudible) Mr. Speaker (inaudible)

RYAN: The lady in the glasses behind you. Sorry.

QUESTION: (inaudible)

RYAN: A little louder please.

QUESTION: (inaudible) just how important is making a deal with Britain? And just how difficult will it be with talk of (inaudible) fundamentally goes against British policy?

RYAN: Well, the last part of your question is not even a document from the Trump administration. That's not policy from the Trump administration, so push that aside.

We have a very, very special and unique relationship with Great Britain. We value this relationship. I think the fact that the prime minister is coming to meet with us today is testament to the fact that this is a very important relationship that we value.

And we believe going forward, we can do more things like trade and the rest to help increase our bonds and our ties and to help each -- each of our two nations.

QUESTION: Speaker Ryan has laid out a very aggressive agenda for the next 200 days, and we know that the Senate is not always on the same time table, not able to...



QUESTION: ... move so quickly. Could you address the agenda as laid out? And what might -- whether the Senate can move at that speed?

MCCONNELL: Yeah, the two biggest issues we're moving forward with in the first half of the year obviously are repeal and replacing Obamacare and tax reform.

[09:35:01] Both of those we anticipate having little or no Democratic cooperation, so we're working with the House to make sure these measures are reconcilable and the speaker understands the challenges of getting things through the Senate. That's been true for 240 years. But we're aware of those challenges and we think we can move forward.

MCCONNELL: In addition, obviously, we have all this other responsibility the House doesn't have -- 1,200 presidential appointments that are subject to Senate confirmation. So we're big in the personnel business, on top of the other challenges of moving forward.

But that's why you can anticipate two reconciliation measures in the first six months.

RYAN: Let me just -- let me just jump on that.

We are in complete concert with one another. And we in the House respect the fact that they have a different rule system and it takes more time -- oh, and that they have additional responsibilities than we have in the House, as the majority leader just said, approving not just Cabinet secretaries. They're going to have judges coming through. They're going to have lower-level appointments, with 1,200 I think altogether.

So our agenda is designed to incorporate that as well. And that is something we've walked our members through so that they can appreciate the differences between the House and Senate and the responsibilities.

Even with all of that, we have a very good agenda and timetable in store.


QUESTION: (inaudible) you talk a lot about the plan and the agenda, but we've seen now that it's a 100-day to 200-day agenda. Can you give us one specific deadline that you think that the Congress would be able to reach on any of these issues (inaudible)? And also, can you just tell us if the $12 billion to $15 billion cost of the wall, I think you just said, is that going to be offset? And when might (inaudible) that supplemental?

RYAN: So, we don't want to set arbitrary deadlines on things. We want to get things right. We want to get them done the right way. We want to move quickly, but we want to get things right.

There are statutory deadlines that we clearly will have to deal with. April 28th is a pretty important statutory deadline, September 30th is an important statutory deadline. Those are the things that clearly are going to help guide us. The reason we've moved our agenda from a 100- day agenda to a 200- day agenda is to appreciate the last question, which is the Senate has to do more things. We're anticipating a Supreme Court justice. They have to process that. They've got all the Cabinet. That is why we've moved our agenda basically to filling most of the calendar for 2017, which is a very bold and aggressive agenda, because we feel we have an obligation to make good on the commitments we made in this campaign.

We are trying to fix people's problems in this country. Health care is collapsing. We've got to fix it. The economy is nowhere near its potential. That's why regulatory reform and tax reform are important for faster economic growth, a healthy economy, more jobs, higher wages.

These are the things people elected us to do. Now we want to follow up on those. And that's why it's going to take more than simply 100 days.

QUESTION: (inaudible) the wall (inaudible).

RYAN: The cost of the wall, we anticipate a supplemental coming from the administration. First of all, we have to get the OMB director in place. And then we will anticipate a supplemental, like any administration when they come in to give us -- give a supplemental to Congress, and then we'll process that supplemental before the end of the current fiscal year expires. QUESTION: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate you bringing up that statutory deadline for the appropriation measures. Obviously, if you're doing health care reform, tax reform, you've got a lot on your plate. Last year, without all that stuff, you guys did not get the 12 appropriations bills passed through the House. The Senate didn't get (inaudible) either, and that was a big goal.

Will you have time to do the appropriations process in regular order? And what about the debt ceiling deadline as well? How do you (inaudible) to handle that?

MCCONNELL: Well, on the appropriations process, obviously Senate Democrats last year with President Obama in the White House believed it was to their advantage to not have an appropriations process. As you recall, they prevented us from going to the defense appropriations bill on multiple times, multiple occasions.

I'm hopeful that with a different president in the White House, they won't conclude that it's to their advantage to prevent some semblance of a normal appropriations process.

We do have a very heavy non-appropriations agenda, as the speaker has laid out. But we hope we can have some semblance of a regular order even with all this and get at least some appropriations bills through the Senate so that we'll have something closer to a regular order appropriations process.

Most members don't like being completely irrelevant. And when you hand the administration -- it was particularly absurd, of course, to hand the previous administration a blank check. We're not going to want to hand this one a blank check either. And so there will be a lot of interest in trying to achieve that. You're right. It will be challenging.

RYAN: We've budgeted a lot of time for appropriations.


RYAN: That's up to the Treasury. So we will -- we will, in consultation with the treasury secretary, find out when they anticipate the penetration of the debt ceiling. And that's something we're going to deal with in conjunction with the White House at that time.

RYAN: Shane (ph)?


[09:40:02] RYAN: We don't do people shouting out, OK?

Shane (ph)?

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. (inaudible) differences between the (inaudible) of this president compared to (inaudible) of President Obama? (inaudible) both of you have made a big point about the power of Congress and wanting to legislate (inaudible) executive orders (inaudible) a perception among Republicans that just because he has an R next to his name, that these (inaudible) are better (inaudible) executive action (inaudible).

RYAN: It's quite the opposite, Chad.

President Obama used his pen and phone and executive orders to exceed his power, in our perspective. Everything that President Obama did by executive order, this new president can undo. We would like to see these things undone and we'd like to see power restored to the people and the states, not the federal government.

And that is what this new president is doing. He's restoring the proper balance. And in our opinion he is undoing a lot of damage that was done by the last president, who exceeded his power.

QUESTION: (inaudible) border wall. I understand that you can very well go back to the Secure Fence Act. You guys (inaudible) a lot of issues (inaudible), whether it had to do with environmental law suits, private property owners who had issues with the border wall going through their property.

How are you guys -- are going to be dealing with those same issues that you dealt with back then this time around?

RYAN: I think if you take a look at the history of this -- of the Secure Fence Act, the last administration frustrated the deployment of the fence. This administration is doing the opposite. They're -- they're facilitating the deployment of the fence. We agree with this.

We voted for this in 2006, along with plenty of people like our friend Chuck Schumer, the minority leader of the Senate, voted for the Secure Fence Act. Now, we're going to actually deploy this fence and we will anticipate a supplemental coming from the administration very shortly on how to finish construction and the funding the fence.

And then, if there are any other barriers in the way, we will deal with those barriers. But a lot of those barriers we think can be done by executive order through the administration, just like the last administration frustrated the deployment of the fence or the wall.

QUESTION: Two-part question.

One, will you offset the cost of wall, and if so, how?

And number two, are you saying that by August recess you will both have a tax reform bill enacted into law and Obamacare replacement enacted?

RYAN: So, as far as the offset, we're gonna wait and see from the administration what their supplemental looks like. I'm not going to get ahead of a policy and a bill that has not been written yet, But the point is we are going to finance the Secure Fence Act, which is the construction of the physical barrier on the border.

We have ambitious goals and ambitious timelines. Our goal is to get these laws done in 2017. We aspire to get most of these big things done by the August recess because that's when Congress does most of its legislating. But -- but by and large, our goal is by the end of 2017, we have made good on so many of the promises that we made to the people and the policies that we ran on -- again, the reason we're doing this is because there are people hurting in this country. The reason we're doing this is because America is not anywhere near its potential.

We want a faster economic growth, a healthier economy, more wages, and we want American businesses to be able to compete. We are losing businesses left and right. They're moving overseas, they're being bought by foreign companies, they're inverting and becoming foreign companies. We have to fix this so that we keep American businesses in America.

And we also believe comprehensive fundamental tax reform can put American businesses in a better position to keep businesses here and make things in America and export them around the world. That creates a lot of good jobs.

Health care, you all know the law is collapsing. Double-digit premium increases; deductibles are so high, they're three times the rate or the size of those in the large group market.

This law is collapsing. Five states, five states, only have one health care insurance company, one health care plan. One out of three counties in America have -- only have one health care plan. That is not a choice, that is a monopoly.

So we believe, on behalf of the American people who are struggling under this law that is collapsing, we have to act. (CROSSTALK)

MCCONNELL: Let me just add on that. Let me just add onto Obamacare...

RYAN: No yelling. No yelling.

MCCONNELL: Remember -- remember Bill Clinton said last year, it's the craziest thing you've ever seen. Eight out of 10 Americans want it either repealed entirely or dramatically changed. If Hillary Clinton were president and Chuck Schumer were the majority leader, we'd be revisiting Obamacare. The status quo is clearly unacceptable.

Obviously, if Hillary Clinton was president and Chuck Schumer were majority leader, we'd be moving toward a single-payer system. That's not our vision of how this ought to be handled.

But the status quo is completely unsustainable.

QUESTION: Can both of you speak specifically overall about your agenda?

[09:45:05] Can you say that the Republican Party, in the majority now, will not take actions that add to the deficit, at the end of the year, we're not gonna have higher deficits from actions that you're taking, whether it be on the taxes, whether it be on Obamacare, whether it be on the infrastructure package? Because, you know, whenever anybody comes in and they have all the power, suddenly it's easier to borrow and there's a lot of pressures to, sort of, pass out goodies.

Can you, sort of, make that commitment now, that at the end of the year, you won't have passed, you know, more deficit spending, more...


RYAN: You know us well; you've been covering budgets for a long time. We are fiscal conservatives. What that means is we believe government should not live beyond its means. We believe that hardworking taxpayers in this country deserve a break in this country. And that means Washington takes less money from them and we also spend less, here. That means we have to get our fiscal House in order to prevent a debt crisis in the future.

There are two things that we can do this year that we think will move us in -- in a great direction on fiscal policy, get health care fixed. The driving force of our coming debt crisis are out of control health care programs that are collapsing.

If we can help fix health care, bring more choice and more competition, so we have better quality and lower cost and lower prices, that would dramatically help improve our budget situation.

And then, if we can get people back to work. If we can get people who are in welfare, who aren't on work -- back into the workforce, it's better for them. We need them in the economy, we need these people working for the sake of -- of them and our communities.

And that means, we have more people working, more people paying taxes, faster economic growth and more revenues. Those two things right there are some of the best things we could do to improve our fiscal situation, to wall off or prevent an oncoming debt crisis that we know is coming.

We are fiscal conservatives. If we're going to be spending on things like say, infrastructure, we're going to find the fiscal space to pay for that in our spring budget. And so those are the things we're planning on doing.

These are the ideas and the principles we ran on and that is why we've laid out for our members a very bold and aggressive agenda to make good on these things because at the end of the day, if we get these things done, we really believe that we're going to get this country back on the right track and turn things around for the people who sent us here to work for them.

(UNKNOWN): Thanks, everybody. We gotta go.

RYAN: Thanks.

[09:47:24] CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: All right, so that was Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan answering questions from reporters. And you heard -- you heard them talk about funding that wall. They're going to expect Donald Trump to give them a budget for the wall that could cost between $12 and $15 billion. And they also said they are fiscal conservatives, so they're going to watch the deficit and the nation's debt and they're going to be very careful with that. How do you marry the two? It might be challenging, right?

Joining me now to talk about that and more, CNN chief business correspondent Christine Romans, and I want to bring back editor in chief for "The Hill," Bob Cusack, and national political correspondent for "The Washington Post," Karen Tumlty. Also with me, CNN White House reporter Sara Murray.

Sara, I want to start with you, because I found the beginning of that little press conference interesting when the two were talking about Donald Trump's tweets and they were sort of lighthearted about it and said this was an unconventional president, we're all going to have to get used to it and then they laughed about it.

SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: That's right. I think it's been an adjustment period for members of the American public, but obviously also for members on The Hill.

I think the other thing that was interesting, when you -- was when you saw Senator Mitch McConnell responding to questions -- Manu's question about Donald Trump's tone and the relationship with Mexico, and Donald Trump's approach to building a wall. They essentially said, look, we're going to take these budget moves to try to help Donald Trump fund this wall. But, you know, we're not going to weigh in on his tone and the president can handle his relationships however he would like. I think they're trying to walk a fine line between trying to support the president's agenda and the Republican agenda and trying not to get caught in a Twitter war with him.

COSTELLO: Exactly.

Manu Raju also joins us.

And you were the one asking that question. You know -- you know especially about the cost for the wall and Mexico's president, because they wanted no part of your question. They didn't answer your question when it came to whether Mexico's president should cancel this meeting next week with Donald Trump. Why do you suppose that was?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: They're -- they don't want to pick a fight with him, as Sara was just saying, that is clear. They want to be on the same page. This conference this week is all about unity. And this is an issue that doesn't -- on immigration in particular is not one that necessarily unites the Republican Party. People have a lot of different views about how to deal with people who are here illegally. And the wall is something that not every single Republican has embraced.

Now, it was very significant in that line of questioning when I asked them about Donald Trump's tone and to whether he should tone it down. The fact that Senator McConnell did say that it would cost $12 billion to $15 billion to fund the wall. This is the first time we've heard a specific price tag coming from the congressional leadership about how much this would cost. And it's higher than some estimates, which were believed it would be about $10 billion. And this money that the speaker later said would come from the administration, it would be actually offered as a separate funding package from the administration in the coming weeks.

[09:50:20] And also Ryan not saying specifically, Carol, whether or not this would be offset by spending cuts. And that is significant because Republicans have -- have been legislated on the principle of insuring that the deficit doesn't increase and any new spending needs to be cut, offset by spending cuts in other areas. They would not say that explicitly. So, you know, this is an issue that really is a work in progress. It's something that they're trying to work through. But as Donald Trump continues to elevate it, the Republican leaders need to figure out a way to respond to it. So very -- an interesting moment here in the press conference by revealing the price tag of the wall, something that will be a big fight on The Hill once they start moving it through the process, $12 to $15 billion, and not cheap at all. It's something that the president needs to figure out a way to get Mexico to pay for it to live up to that campaign promise, Carol.

COSTELLO: So, Bob, can lawmakers have their cake and eat it too? Because you heard them -- you heard Paul Ryan said, we're on the same page as the White House. He campaigned on this wall. We went along with it. We're going to do it. But can you have your cake and eat it too and say you're a fiscal conservative?

BOB CUSACK, EDITOR IN CHIEF, "THE HILL": I think it's going to be very difficult. And along with what Manu was saying, is that Newt Gingrich compared Trump to the bear in the movie "The Revenant." Republican leaders don't want to fight with the bear that's now in the White House. And I think that the problem is, is that they kind of push back in -- on some areas, on torture, saying that's settled law,, but they want to -- they want to fix other laws like Obamacare and tax reform. So that's very interesting. But these price tags, whether it's transportation or the wall, it's going to be very, very difficult. And conservative members in the House I don't think are going to go with the promise of saying, OK, yes, eventually Mexico will pay for it. It's going to be tough to get votes, Carol.

COSTELLO: Well, and let's just focus on Obamacare for just a bit, and I'm going to pose this question to you, Christine, because will eliminating Obamacare or just replacing it with something else, will that add to the deficit? Will it take away?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN MONEY CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Carol, I don't know, because I don't know what will happen when you -- if you just repeal Obamacare, there are so many moving parts there. And it's been so many years now entrenched in the American economy as they've made this transition. For example, some of it is paid for by very wealthy people paying more in their Social Security taxes, right? So very wealthy people right away could see a tax cut, essentially. They would pay less. And that's not an optic that this White House wants. That's not an optic that the president's money team wants. They don't want it to look like they're giving rich people any kind of benefit here. So the honest answer is, I just don't know, and I don't think they know either, Carol. COSTELLO: So, Karen, when Donald Trump sits down with these lawmakers,

what do you suppose the conversation will be like?

KAREN TUMULTY, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, I think that we -- what we heard from Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan is a reassertion that, yes, we are -- we'll be your partners in this, but we are a separate branch of government, and that you are going to have to come to us and ask permission for some of these things. I think what they are looking at, that President Trump is not, is that they -- you know, the entire House and a third of the Senate are going to be on the ballot two years from now, not four years from now, and they are politically working on a totally different clock.

COSTELLO: OK. So something else that may come up when Donald Trump speaks, Sara, and I'll pose this to you, is this voter fraud investigation. Do you think that lawmakers will say to Mr. Trump, you know what, we have all of these big wonderful things we want to get accomplished, please stop talking about that.

MURRAY: I think there might be a gentler version of that privately. I think what you saw in that press conference, none of these lawmakers want to come out publicly, necessarily who are in Donald Trump's own party and be calling him on these issues because they do want to move forward with this agenda. To the extent that they do say something, I think it would be sort of more of a pull aside and say, hey, let's focus on tax reform, hey, let's focus on health care. But, look, we could see some executive move by Donald Trump today to kick off this voter fraud investigation. And that means that members of Congress are still going to be asked about it, whether they agree with the president that there was widespread voter fraud despite having no evidence to support that.

COSTELLO: And, Manu, you know, Adam Kinzinger, the Republican congressman from Illinois, came out and said, you know, as long as Donald Trump keeps talking about these distractions, unity will be hard to find among Republican lawmakers and the president of the United States.

RAJU: Yes, and that's exactly the message that a number of Republicans have made since. In the last couple of days I had a chance -- I've talked to a number of Republicans who said that. But, look, we -- there are things that unite the Republican Party, repealing and replacing Obamacare, tax reform, killing regulations, things that will take most of this congressional session to deal with. But having an investigation into voter fraud where a lot of Republicans don't necessarily agree that that's the right approach is something that will not unit the Republican Party.

One interesting point on that, the oversight chairman, Jason Chaffetz, I had a chance to talk to him last night. He's someone who's launched a number of investigations into the Obama administration. I asked him, will you investigate voter fraud? He said that is something that they don't want to even touch. He said that's something the Justice Department should look at. So clearly Republicans don't want to deal with an issue that Donald Trump says is very significant and wants to launch a major investigation over. But it also shows the challenges of uniting when Trump pushes on some of these things, Carol.

COSTELLO: But, Bob, couldn't Mr. Trump strong arm members of Congress, like Jason Chaffetz, to investigate voter fraud? After all, they're investigating, what, the Russian hacking, right, the Senate is at least. So why wouldn't they also investigate voter fraud?

CUSACK: I just think, Carol, that Republicans on Capitol Hill, they don't want to be talking about voter fraud. They want to be, as Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell were saying, they want to be changing the policies of the last eight years. And that is their focus. And they think that voter fraud and crowd sizes and talking about torture, that's really a distraction from health care and tax reform. And they want to focus on policy. But as Paul Ryan said, this is going to be an unconventional president. They don't know what the next thing that Donald Trump is going to tweet. And they're going to have to deal with it.

COSTELLO: All right, I have to leave it there. Christine Romans, Manu Raju, Bob Cusack, Karen Tumulty, Sara Murray, thanks to all of you.

The next hour of CNN NEWSROOM after a break.


COSTELLO: And good morning. I'm Carol Costello. Thanks so much for joining me.

[09:59:54] President Donald Trump escalating tensions with Mexico and threatening to cancel his highly anticipating meeting with his Mexican counterpart. It is the latest ball he shot across the border in the ongoing fight over building a wall and who exactly is going to pay for that wall. Just minutes ago, we heard Republican leaders at a congressional retreat in Philadelphia.