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Lawmakers React to Obamacare Repeal Bill; New Travel Ban; Trump Emphasizes U.S. Commitment to Japan & S. Korea. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired March 7, 2017 - 05:00   ET


DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: It is finally here. The Republican plan to replace Obamacare is public. It is online. You can read it. But can Republicans overcome party division and find support they need to get this bill passed.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: That's Obamacare. This is the president's new travel ban. That's rolling out. Substantial changes from the first one. How does it affect national security and will this hold up in court?

A lot going on today. Good morning and welcome to EARLY START.

[05:00:01] I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: And I'm Dave Briggs.

They called it Obamacare. This one, they are calling on Twitter #Trumpcare. The technical name is American Healthcare Act. But it will be Trumpcare, whether he likes it or not.

After years of fervent promises to repeal and replace, the Republicans trying to dismantle Obamacare finally at the starting gate, but just the starting gate. Republican leaders still face a tough job rallying support on their side.

The headline of the plan, it eliminates the individual mandate, also the employer mandate. It replaces the one with a new set of incentives, including the replacement of Obamacare subsidies with refundable tax credits to encourage people to buy insurance on the open market. It also would eliminate the Medicaid expansion and states would receive a set amount of money from the federal government every year.

ROMANS: Although the bill might be branded as repeal, it keeps several popular items of Obamacare. Children can remain on their parents' plan until age 26. It allows people with pre-existing conditions to continue their coverage. These were two cornerstones of Obamacare.


ROMANS: But one change already getting pushed back -- insurers would be allowed to hike premiums for people who let their coverage lapse for any reason. So, the mandate is gone but there are --

BRIGGS: Up to 30 percent. You have to have something to replace the mandate.

ROMANS: Absolutely. President Trump signaling support for the effort with this tweet. "House just introduced the bill to repeal and replace Obamacare. Time to end this nightmare."

BRIGGS: Interesting that came from the POTUS account, nothing from his personal Twitter account which we're seeing so much of. Today marks the important step toward restoring health care and affordability back to the American people. President Trump looks forward to working with both chambers of Congress to repeal and replace Obamacare.

The president and Republican leaders have got their work cut out for them with factions in both chambers already expressing some reservations.

ROMANS: All right. Republicans start their public sales pitch for the repeal bill this morning with an 11:00 a.m. news conference by the chairmen of the committees that drafted the measure. Speaker Paul Ryan out front defending the plan, saying it will drive down costs and give Americans access to affordable health insurance.

Key Republicans are holding out, including the former chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, Jim Jordan, he's there, who cited the taxes the bill keeps in place through a year-long transition period.

This is what Jordan told CNN, quote, "I don't see significant changes. It is significantly the same thing to me. So, it sort of doesn't change my position. We put on President Obama's desk to get rid of the taxes and we put a bill and a Republican Congress is going to put a Republican president's desk a bill that keeps taxes in place?"

BRIGGS: A fair amount of Republican senators also concerned.

But on the Democratic side, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi who helped pass Obamacare eight years ago also slamming this bill. She says, in part, "Republicans will force tens of millions of families to pay more for worse coverage. Republicans have decided that affordable health care should be the privilege of the wealthy. Not the right of every family in America."

ROMANS: So, in any other day, President Trump signing the new revised travel ban would have been our top story. Today, it's not. But it is still incredibly important this morning. Opponents are vowing another long legal battle against this ban.

There are key changes this time. Among them, the version drops Iraq. So, now the ban now blocks from six countries, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. Blocks them from obtaining visas for at least 90 days and suspends admissions of refugees into the U.S. for 120 days.

Also, travelers can be granted waivers to come to the United States. But that decision made on a case by case basis. The new version also removes language prioritizing religious minorities and exempts citizens of the six banned countries who are green cardholders or have valid visas.

BRIGGS: Also, in an effort to avoid the chaos of the first rollout, the revised ban will be phased in, March 16th. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly says other countries are also being looked at for extreme vetting.


JOHN KELLY, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: I don't believe the list will be expanded, but there are countries out there that we will ask like Iraq has done by the involvement of their prime minister to cooperate with us better, to get us the information we need. There's probably 13 or 14 other countries. Not all of the Muslim countries, not all of them in the Middle East.


BRIGGS: Donald Trump signed executive order away from the view of reporters after more than three weeks of repeated delays. The first version was blocked by federal courts.

ROMANS: Hey, joining us now with the latest on the travel ban, CNN justice reporter Laura Jarrett She's live for us this morning in Washington.

Good morning, Laura. What are you hearing about possible legal challenges to this new executive order?

LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, yesterday, Christine, immigration advocates seemed to say, yes, this new travel ban may remedy some of the issues in terms of process from the old one, right? So, for instance, people have more notice that it is happening this time around certainly.

[05:05:00] But they say it still suffers from some of the same legal flaws because it discriminates against those six Muslim majority countries.

Now, obviously, the government has a very different position. And administration officials stressed on a call that yesterday that the executive order was not in any way a Muslim ban -- Christine.

BRIGGS: Laura, the administration failed when it faced the first set of legal challenges. Can these new challenges be fought back or they once again exposed?

JARRETT: Well, what they have done by narrowing the executive order this time around is made it a lot more difficult to figure out just who can sue. They carved out green cardholders, visa holders, dual citizens. And so, the government says for those lawsuits, those are essentially moot. And we're going to find out very soon if they are right about that. ROMANS: This confirmation hearing for the associate attorney general

nominee, Rachel Brand, if confirmed, she would oversee the civil division at the Justice Department. You're going to be at that hearing, Laura. How is the travel ban expected to play into those proceedings?

JARRETT: Well, that's right. So, as the chief administrator, or I should say the associate attorney general, she will oversee the Justice Department lawyers that handle the travel ban lawsuits. So, you can expect a fair amount of questioning from senators about her independence from President Trump on this issue.

But you may also hear senators dig on this new information we heard for the first time yesterday from the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, that over 300 terrorism cases currently being investigated by the FBI were committed by people who came here as refugees -- Christine, Dave.

ROMANS: All right, Laura. Thanks.

BRIGGS: Laura Jarrett, another busy day for her.

ROMANS: I know.

BRIGGS: Best of luck to you.

ROMANS: Busy day on the Hill, busy 47 days on the Hill, busy 147 days. It's been a busy couple of years.

BRIGGS: Yes, they indeed have.

So, between the travel ban and the Obamacare replacement and these wiretap allegations, a very full plate for the White House. How do all these changes impact you and your family? We will break it down, next.


[05:11:07] BRIGGS: An Obamacare repeal bill and a revised version of the travel ban all on the same day. Let's call it an embarrassment of riches for our political discussion this morning.

Joining us today, political analyst Ellis Henican. He writes "The Trump's America" column with us. Good morning.

ROMANS: Good morning, Ellis.

BRIGGS: We are feeling loaded. So, stop talking. Let's get into this.

In "The Wall Street Journal", these two authors of the bill really, Kevin Brady and Greg Walden write about this new plan that is online. You can read it.

Here is really at the heart of it. |Medicaid's flaws were worsened by Obamacare's expansion of the program. To unwind responsibly, our legislation would freeze new enrollment in Obamacare's Medicaid expansion while grandfathering in existing enrollees."

It goes on and you can read that on your screen. But at the heart is transferring from the federal government to the states. Will that leave far fewer people insured?

ELLIS HENICAN, POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. Anytime you put a firm ceiling like that and you put it in the hands of the states, yes. In the end, they're going to be fewer people insured. And don't forget, 11 million of them got that coverage from expanded Medicare. It's one of the big successes of Obamacare.

ROMANS: There's a vote I think scheduled for Wednesday, right? So, what's the fight going to look like, you think?

HENICAN: Well, you know, you have replace part and you've got the repeal part, right? The repeal is a whole lot easy that replace, because there are so many divisions even inside the GOP, right, the Freedom Caucus, harder core conservatives are worried about how much it will cost and impact. The moderates don't want a lot of people to be tossed off their insurance.

Of course, the Dems are going to oppose the whole thing. So, good luck navigating through some of that.

BRIGGS: Well, there are two factions of this agreement. There are some that don't like the refundable tax credits, the Rand Paul camp. And there are at least four senators who are concerned about the Medicaid expansion that we talk about and that will be difficult. They will get through the house it appears.

HENICAN: Seems to be.

BRIGGS: Can they this existing bill through the Senate?

HENICAN: Well, not yet. I mean, they're going to have to find some kind of way to reach out to Democrats and as you mentioned, even maybe moderate Republicans. Listen, this plan -- the president promised we would love this thing, right? This is going to be so great. It's better, cheaper, it's going to cover everybody.

I've got to tell you, we haven't covered every word of it yet. We are just learning and reading like the folks are.

BRIGGS: The mandate is gone. People like that.


BRIGGS: The individual and employer mandate is gone.

HENICAN: But hold on a second.

ROMANS: Isn't the mandate, you have to pay more for -- I mean, you're going to get your premiums.

BRIGGS: So, your premiums can get jacked 30 percent if you let insurance lapse. HENICAN: That's right.

BRIGGS: Is this another mandate? Is this another masked mandate?

HENICAN: It is. And, you know, the word mandate sounds awful. But, you know, that is what got a lot of those younger healthier people into the program who helped pay for us slightly older folks.

ROMANS: I mean, look, there's a mandate to have car insurance if you drive a car around you. You don't hear Republicans screaming about how we should be forced to buy car insurance. I mean, that is sort of one of the original arguments about why we should have health care in this country that is mandated.

HENICAN: Yes. Listen, in the end, insurance scheme is a complex thing and it requires healthy people, younger people, or older people to work. I've got to tell you, I think we may be peeling them off one at a time.

ROMANS: I think -- health care is complicated. It's very complicated. That is why we have been fighting about it for 35 years. It will be fascinating to see.

HENICAN: We're not done yet.

ROMANS: No, no, no, I think -- look, this is an historic moment. This is the president can take a victory lap. You finally have the bill. It is not under lock and key, but it's out there in the open, right? Now where it goes from here is critical.

HENICAN: Start today, 11:00, Republican House members try to explain.

BRIGGS: These two House members.

ROMANS: Another day glued to CNN.

HENICAN: Stick to it.

ROMANS: Let me ask you about this Exxon, the president tweeted yesterday about ExxonMobil. This big, huge --

BRIGG: Not about health care, though, interestingly enough.

HENICAN: It wasn't the ban.

ROMANS: He was talking about ExxonMobil. He's taking credit for 45,000 new jobs and $25 billion investment in the Gulf of Mexico. You can see all these tweets.

"President Trump congratulates ExxonMobil the job creating investment program."

[05:15:01] And the press release actually includes language that is directly from the ExxonMobil press release, 45,000 construction and manufacturing jobs in the U.S. Gulf region. "Buy American and hire American at the principles at the core of my agenda which is jobs, jobs, jobs."

By the way, the American steel of keystone, there's a waiver on that because it's already under construction, so they don't have to use --

BRIGGS: They don't have to.

ROMANS: They don't have.

"Thank you, ExxonMobil, for your $20 billion investment." He tweeted out this video taking credit for his policies spurring this investment. Traditional business Republicans must be going crazy.

HENICAN: You know, for years, we have been hearing government should not pick winners and losers. Helping one company succeed at the detriment of another. Would it be rude for me, Christine, to remind folks where the secretary of state came from before he became the secretary of state?

ROMANS: ExxonMobil.

HENICAN: You think that's a coincidence?

ROMANS: It's so interesting to me.

BRIGGS: It's uncomfortable territory for fiscal conservatives.

ROMANS: But he's promising jobs, right? So, he is promising, he has promised jobs and this is another way he can say, look, I'm delivering for you right now on jobs.

BRIGGS: But isn't this where he ought to focus, stay on jobs?

HENICAN: Right. I think you are right about that. That's the message that resonate more broadly than some of the other stuff. Of course, we do need jobs. We need good jobs, decently paying jobs.

But it is hard to come up with a system to come up company by company and dissolve these in a batch of a few thousand of a time. I don't know. It seems like we need some kind of broader concept here.

BRIGGS: Conservatives like to create conditions for the industries that create jobs.

HENICAN: That sounds good.

ROMANS: Well, everybody wants lower tax rate. That's what the conditions are telling us in the stock market. But investor wealth sometimes does not equal job creation.

BRIGGS: Get some coffee, come back at 5:30.

HENICAN: I'm glad you pointed this.

ROMANS: All right. Let's dig deeper on changes to Medicaid under the health care bill. The plan covers 70 million people in Medicaid. It was expanded under Obamacare. In fact, 16 states led by Republicans chose to expand Medicaid under Obamacare.

They have been pressuring GOP leaders not to repeal the extended federal funding outright. The new proposal rolls back the expansion gradually, remaining untouched until 2019. The following year, the Republican plan eliminates enhance federal match for Medicaid expansion. States get a fixed amount per enrollee under the new plan, putting states, rather than the federal government, on the hook for most of the costs.

But since states don't have the money to make up the difference, they would likely reduce eligibility. They would have to curtail benefits or cut provider payments or some combination of that to make the math work. All this could hurt poor adults but low income children, women, senior citizens and the disabled. There's more excellent analysis on CNN this morning about what the effect could be of this plane if it were enacted like this.

BRIGGS: It will be an interesting sell for the senators and certainly Republican governor as we begin to hear from them throughout the day.

ROMANS: And they're going to try to sell the affordability thing. You know, what they say, you know, people on Obamacare, they're seeing their premiums rise, they're seeing their health care costs rising.

BRIGGS: Sure. And insurance companies are fleeing Obamacare. So, we shall see. We would like to hear from insurance companies later on today. Let us know @earlystart on Twitter how you feel about all this.

Tensions very much rising after North Korean's latest missile launch. What the U.S. and allies are doing to address the threat. Live from Seoul next.


[05:22:42] BRIGGS: Dialogue about North Korea now under way at the highest levels following that country's latest round of missile launches. President Trump speaking with the Japanese prime minister and the acting president of South Korea. All this as a special U.S. defense system is being deployed to South Korea.

That's where we find CNN's Alexandra Field live from Seoul this morning.

Good morning to you.

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Dave. Good morning.

We are learning now from North Korean state news that Kim Jong-un personally supervised the launch of those four missiles, three of which landed about 200 miles off the coast of Japan. We are learning that that launch involved a North Korean military unit tasked with trying to strike U.S. bases in Japan. This missile launch comes at the same time that the U.S. and South Korea are conducting joint military exercises. Those exercises believed to have provoked the launch of these missiles. Kim Jong-un called an end to the exercises which he perceives as a

threat, a possible sign of preparation of invasion, as he would say. Officials in Japan, the U.S., South Korea and even China have all condemned the missile launches.

This happened also at the same time that we are seeing the first pieces of the missile defense system designed by the U.S. arriving in South Korea. It is a controversial defense system. It is meant to intercept the possibility of North Korean nuclear threats. China has registered its objections to THAAD. It has called for an end to the installation of that system. But U.S. and South Korean officials are now noting these launches and saying that this installation will go forward and officials are saying that this deployment needs to happen as soon as possible. It could happen as early as July.

But those first pieces are arriving. Certainly, that will draw more ire from North Korea. At the same time, North Korean diplomatic relations also reaching a new low with another country, Malaysia. North Korean state news announcing that all Malaysian citizens inside North Korea will not be allowed out of the country. At the same time, Malaysia saying that North Koreans in Malaysia will not be allowed out of the country.

This spat is after the death of Kim Jong-nam, that is, of course, the half brother of North Korea's dictator Kim Jong-un. Malaysian police say they believe that three North Koreans who they want to speak to in connection to Kim Jong-nam's death are hiding inside the embassy.

[05:25:02] North Korea now is using the Malaysians from their country as leverage to try to ensure the security of their citizens in Malaysia. Malaysia saying they're doing the same thing as far as their citizens in North Korea are concerned.

So, a lot of countries now condemning the actions of North Korea this morning, Dave.

BRIGGS: Some tense times there.

Alexandra Field live for us in Seoul -- we appreciate it.

ROMANS: All right. Back home, remember the fight over Obamacare and managing to push that through?


ROMANS: Oh, yes, yes. That was the big fight. Now, Republicans have their turn. They need to muster their votes to repeal Obamacare. Can they do it with their replacement? How does it affect you?