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McConnell: Mexico Not Paying for Wall; Trump Not Taking Questions While Meeting CEOs; Border Crossings Down 40 Percent; Battle Against ISIS Heats Up in Syria, Iraq; Speaker Ryan Remarks Amid Health Care Fight. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired March 9, 2017 - 11:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[11:30:00] JOSEPH BORELLI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think he was trying to be funny. He was chuckling. It was part of an overall conversation and his confidence in John Kelly, as far as the border wall. But, look, there was never a case where Mexico was going to sign a check. I'll say it again. This was never going to happen. So the reality has always been that it's going to have to come out of some negotiations as part of a broader negotiation with the trade deficit between Mexico. 160 countries have a border adjustment. If we put that on our border with Mexico, we would pay for it 10 times.

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Please.

Is this an -- OK -- actually Kirsten, please, stand by.

We'll take you to the White House. President Trump is speaking. Let's listen.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Good morning, everybody.

Good morning. We greatly appreciate you being here. We have some real experts with us. And we have some great bankers with us.

Today's discussion is crucial to my jobs agenda and to the American people. Community banks play a vital role in helping create jobs by providing approximately half of all loans to small businesses. And that's been dwindling because the community banks have been in big trouble. Nearly half of all private sector workers are employed by small businesses. We must ensure access to capital for small businesses to grow. Community banks, the backbone of small business in America, we are going to preserve our community banks.

You probably noticed I signed an executive order on regulation on February 3rd, I believe it was. That's a big executive order, a very powerful executive order. It's taking a lot of the regulation away. You'll be able to loan, you'll be able to safe, but you'll be able to provide the jobs we want and also create great businesses. So it's an honor to have you with us today.

Perhaps we could go around the room.

We'll start with Dorothy.

And say who you are and who you represent.

Go ahead, Dorothy.

DOROTHY SAVARESE (ph), CAPE CODE MUTUAL COMPANY: Thank you, Mr. President.

I'm Dorothy Savarese (ph) from Cape Cod Mutual Company on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

LESLIE ANDERSON, BANK OF BENNINGTON: I'm Leslie Anderson. I'm with the bank of Bennington, Bennington, Nebraska.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) -- Standard Bank, suburbs of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

TRUMP: Great.

REBECCA ROMERO (ph), SENTINEL BANK (ph): Rebecca Romero (ph) from Sentinel Bank in beautiful Taos, New Mexico.

TRUMP: Very good.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) -- Bank of St. Charles.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) -- Texas.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) -- from Seattle.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE)

TRUMP: Thank you.

KEN BURGESS, FIRST CAPITOL BANK OF TEXAS, MIDLAND: I'm Ken Burgess with First Capital Bank of Texas in Midland, Texas.

TRUMP: Thank you.

OK, thank you very much. Thank you.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: -- document dump from WikiLeaks?

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: That's called bars and tone. There you have President Trump not taking questions after sitting down and making introductions. He's meeting with CEOs from small and community banks. He's there with some of his economic advisors.

It sounded like he got a question about WikiLeaks and he answered it with a smile.

The panel is back with me.

Since he's not answering questions, let's go back to my questions.

Let's talk about the border. All right. Here's your pick. Talk about border wall, can they go back on their promise, is that OK, or does the Trump administration deserve some credit here? Border crossings down 40 percent since last month. That's a big deal.

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, OK. If you believe that it's a good thing that people, for example, refugees fleeing central America, very dangerous circumstances, no longer are coming to the United States as refugees, then I guess yes, it's a good thing. I don't think that's a good thing. I think that what that says is people no longer are seeing the United States as a refuge for them.

The other thing in talking to immigration experts, they're not sure exactly what the causation is here and they think part of the could be that the coyotes are charging more money to bring people here because it's going to be much more difficult to get in, so some people just don't have the money.

And then you add in these inhumane things like General Kelly talking about separating mothers from children. Does that work? Yes. Guess what, that does scare people. The question is, is that what we want our policy to be, to scare people who are trying to flee violence.

BOLDUAN: But illegal border crossings are down.

Matt Lewis, I assume you might have a different perspective.

[11:34:52] MATT LEWIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yeah, this is a good thing. This is not going and rounding up people and deporting them. This is not, you know, kicking grandmothers out of the country. This is Donald Trump, by the force of his rhetoric, having people -- this isn't even self-deportation. This is like self-non-illegal crossing. He is convincing people not to show up.

Look, I think there are probably a lot of reasons why immigration, the trends of immigration are down. But this, what is it, a 40 percent decrease in the month of February, it obviously is Donald Trump. And he doesn't have to do anything else, maybe. Maybe all he has to do is talk about this and people will stop coming.

(CROSSTALK)

ANGELA RYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: That assumes there's no danger, right, in rhetoric. I can't help but to think about, even though it's just about the border crossings piece, there have been things that have happened to people here. These folks, to Kirsten's point, they're trying to escape situations for many of them that are not safe. And they're saying, I would rather risk where I am than try to come there.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: He promised he was going to protect the border, and that is a national security concern. You heard that from his head of Department of Homeland Security and from many other folks, if you're going to come in, you should come in legally.

RYE: I understand that. I guess what I'm saying is, the numbers are down but at what cost? At some point, we have to value the conditions that human beings are experiencing, not even within our borders. You also have to question, you know, Mitch McConnell's point about the border wall. He brought up the border wall being ineffective at some points. They tried SBI-net before, the Secure Border Initiative, electric and physical fencing. It doesn't work. Why can't we just take a moment to figure out, let's figure out something that works and is humane.

BORELLI: The Democrats had an opportunity to fix border laws and they didn't. I don't know when it became not P.C. to say obey a law is a good thing and we want people obeying the law --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Democrats had the opportunity to fix health care.

BORELLI: Health care.

BOLDUAN: Now Republicans have the same chance. It's a tough thing. Why do I say that, guys, as I thank you very much? Because we're waiting for House Speaker Paul Ryan to speak.

House Speaker Paul Ryan has no doubt that the Republican health care plan will pass, whatever makes it to the floor. But members of his own party are saying, pause, start over, get it right, don't get it fast. In just minutes, we're waiting to hear from the speaker. It seems like they've brought in some audiovisual equipment for this one. We'll bring you those remarks live when they begin.

Also this. American flags flying on military vehicles in northern Syria. Breaking news in the battle against ISIS.

Thanks.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:41:47] BOLDUAN: New this morning, U.S. Marines are hitting the ground in Syria and cranking up the pressure on ISIS. A decisive battle could be imminent. We'll show you new video just in. You're seeing the American flag flying atop vehicles in northern Syria. U.S. officials tell CNN the Marines arrived there this week equipped with heavy artillery. Deployment setting the stage as local fighters backed by the U.S. prepare to move in and try and take back Raqqa, which ISIS had declared its capital.

CNN senior international correspondent, Ben Wedeman is joining me now live from Irbil, Iraq. And Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, is joining us with the latest.

Barbara, first to you.

What are you hearing about this movement?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Some of these pictures are confusing. Let's sort some of it out. Those green vehicles with the American flags on them, the vehicles moving around northern Iraq, those are U.S. Rangers, about 100, in northern Iraq on a very visible mission. You see the American flags, the cameras are there, they want to be seen, they are trying to prevent fighting from breaking out in this critical area called Manbij. There's a lot of different forces there. The Army rangers trying to keep it all calm.

Very different where the Marines are, in another location in northern Syria. They are there moving in with their artillery. They are there to provide covering fire, if you will, to locally U.S.-backed forces, moving on Raqqa, Arab-Kurdish forces in the region. That's a critical fight unfolding, because Raqqa, the self-declared capital of ISIS, the U.S. trying to use local forces, this artillery, ramping up the pressure on ISIS in Raqqa. By all accounts, some of that is working. U.S. officials say, and it can't be independently verified, but ISIS is beginning to leave the city to some extent. But they are leaving behind explosive, trenches, IEDs, very typical tactics, and civilian populations there could be facing considerable risk -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: So there is the view from in Syria right now.

In Iraq, Ben, the major battle obviously has been against ISIS to retake Mosul. That continues right now as well. Where do things stand from where you are?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Kate, at this point, Iraqi forces control three-quarters of the city of Mosul. As far as the western part, where the offensive in the west began on the 19th of February, they've basically succeeded at retaking half of the city. But really, the hardest part is yet to come. Some Iraqi forces, Special Forces and federal police, have entered the old city. That's where it's believed that ISIS forces are really dug in. But every step of the way, it is a grueling battle.

Now, the Iraqi government doesn't put out battlefield casualty figures. But what we've seen is that they are taking a lot of casualties. And, of course, caught in the middle are hundreds of thousands of civilians, and many of them have been injured and killed as a result of the fighting -- Kate?

[11:45:03]BOLDUAN: Ben Wedeman, thank you. Barbara Starr, thanks so much, Barbara. appreciate it.

Coming up for us any moment, House Speaker Paul Ryan will be speaking live on Capitol Hill as he faces big trouble with their health care plan, not from Democrats, but from his own party. We'll bring it live as soon as it begins.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BOLDUAN: We'll go to Capitol Hill. House Speaker Paul Ryan speaking to reporters. Let's listen in.

REP. PAUL RYAN, (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: First of all, I would like to walk you through exactly what the American Health Care Act is. I want to walk you through exactly what this health care law is and what we're replacing, and how important it is to repeal and replace Obamacare, not just because the law is collapsing but because the law is going to get even worse if we do nothing.

Let me show you what our problem is and what we're trying to do. We are going to repeal and replace Obamacare and we're going to do it with a three-pronged approach. Number one is what we're talking about right now. This is what the Ways and Means Committee marked up this morning and what the Commerce Committee is in the middle of now. That's called reconciliation. That is the American Health Care Act. There are only so many things you can do in that bill because of a Senate floor rules reconciliation. You can't put everything you want in the legislation because, if you did, it would be filibustered and you couldn't even bring it up for a vote in the Senate.

Number two, administration action. This law, Obamacare, has 1442 sections or instances that gives the secretary of HHS enormous amounts of discretion to administer health care, meaning I don't think Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, when they crammed this bill through, ever thought Donald Trump would be president and Tom Price would be the secretary of HHS. So number two in our three-pronged approach, administrative action where the Health and Human Services secretary deregulates the marketplace and allows more choice and more competition to come into the marketplace.

Number three -- and this is where I think there is a lot of confusion all over the map -- additional legislation that we feel is important and necessary to give us a truly competitive health care marketplace. So think of things like interstate shopping. That's a reform that we've long believed in, that we think is important to get regulatory competition to give people even more choices. Association health plans. Let a farmer buy her insurance through their national farm bureau plan or a restaurateur buy his and his employees' insurance on restaurant association plan on a nationwide basis. Let small businesses buy their insurance through the NFIV (ph) plan nationwide.

We would love for that to be in this reconciliation bill. But the rules in the Senate don't allow that to happen. So we're going to move those bills independently. We're going to move those bills at the same time through our process and bring those to the vote. Unfortunately, they'll have to hit what we call the 60-vote threshold. So we have a three-pronged approach, a three-pronged approach to repealing and replacing Obamacare. L

Let's get into why this needs to happen and why it needs to happen now. Options are disappearing fast. This law is in the middle of a collapse. And people are quickly losing their choices. In 2016, the amount of counties in America that had three or more insurers, three or more carriers to choose from, was about 2,000. In 2017, that number has plummeted. Insurers are leaving the marketplace. Choice and competition is going away and people are having less choices.

[11:49:53] How many counties in America that have just one insurer? A little over 200 just last year. So in America, about 200 counties had only one plan to choose from. One insurer. This year in 2017, that number has skyrocketed to over 1,000 counties. Over one in three counties in America, you have got one plan to choose from. These insurers probably never intended on being monopolist, but they are in these counties. One plan to choose from. It's a 454 percent increase in American counties of people who are stuck with one option. Now that Humana has said they'll pull out of the market place next year, there will be counties with zero options.

Here is what is happening under a law that is collapsing. Premiums are going up, and going up at a very, very fast clip. Options and choices are going down. So what we're seeing in America is people who have to go buy their own health insurance are getting far, far fewer choices, down to the point they have one in one out of three counties in America and the price they pay for that coverage is going up and up and up.

Take a look at what's going on around the country. This just shows you a map of the premium increases just this year alone. Minnesota, 59 percent increase in their health insurance premiums. Pennsylvania, 53 percent increase in their health insurance premiums. Tennessee, 63 percent increase in their health insurance premiums this year alone. Over one year. Alabama, 58 percent. Oklahoma, 69 percent increase in their health insurance premiums. Nebraska, 51 percent increase in their health insurance premiums. Arizona, clocked in at a 116 percent increase in their health insurance premiums with Obamacare.

Here's what's happening. Quote, "Obamacare is in a death spiral. It is not get anything better. It's getting worse." That's the CEO of one of America's leading health insurance companies, Aetna. Said this just a couple weeks ago.

What is a death spiral? It's a weird term. Kind of gruesome. A death spiral is a system where in an insurance pool, only sicker people who absolutely have to have the insurance buy it. And healthier people who want the insurance won't pay those really high prices because it's too expensive, and they don't absolutely have to have it because they're healthy. In any kind of a pool, typically, you have a healthy person paying premiums to subsidize that sick person. The way they set up Obamacare, it's not working that way. Only the people who must have health insurance, it's cranking up the cost of the insurance so fast that the premiums are spiraling out of control and insurers are losing so much money that they're pulling out of the marketplace. It's a mathematical collapse of the insurance markets. That's what America is facing today. If we simply did nothing, just

washed our hands of it, if we in the majority party said the Democrats gave us Obamacare, let them live with it, the collateral damage in this country would be awful. More and more people would see even higher premium increases in 2018. More and more people would see zero choices. We can't do that.

The goal of health care reform has always been one we all share. The goal of health care reform is people get access to affordable coverage. Our goal is use choice in competition, not government coercion and mandates.

So here's what we propose. Here's the American Health Care Act. The bill that's moving through the committee process through regular order today. The bill that's going to take three weeks just to move through the House because we are following regular order. Lower costs. More choices, not less. Patients in control. Universal access to care. These are the four driving principles that we are focused on. Lowering the costs, giving people more choices, having patients in control and universal access to care.

Let me walk you through how exactly we propose to do this. These are longstanding conservative principles that those of White House have been working in health care for about been fighting for, dreaming about. Now we have the opportunity to do that. You have to repeal this law. You have to repeal the taxes in Obamacare. It's a trillion dollars in taxes on Obamacare that make it harder to make Medical devices, that make it harder to lower cost in health insurance, that drive up the cost of health care. The spending. The spending in Obamacare is getting out of control. It's a debt explosion. It's driving up the costs. And the mandates. The mandates are arrogant and paternalistic. It's the government at the federal level telling people, this is what you have to buy, it's going to be really expensive, you must do it, if you don't like it, tough. That's what the government is saying to Americans today. So we get rid of the taxes, we get rid of the spending and we get rid of the mandates.

[11:55:10]The key thing that a lot of people want to know, when I do my listening sessions, when I talk to people with various disease, advocacy groups, is they just want to know that when we pass this, the next day they'll not lose their health insurance. That's not going to happen. We pass this law, and the day after, Americans who have insurance aren't going to lose it the day after. We need to have a stable transition to conservative health care reform, and that's what we're doing so that we do not pull the rug out from anybody who is enjoying some kind of coverage they have today. So we want to have a stable transition.

And a few of the points that are really important, to just bring peace of mind in Americans who are concerned about all that's going on here, as we want to protect people with pre-existing conditions. We think that's very important. That has actually been a cornerstone of Republican health care proposals all along. In 2009, I along with Congressman Devin Nunes, Senator Tom Coburn and Richard Burr, offered the Patients Choice Act. It was one of our alternatives to Obamacare. Like many other Republican alternatives, we had an answer for people with pre-existing conditions and we have one here. All of our Republican health care alternatives have always agreed with the idea of letting young people stay on their parents' plans until they are 26. We can retain that. What our goal is to do is to provide universal access to quality, affordable health care.

Here's another issue with Obamacare. Obamacare is not just the individual market that you think of the Obamacare subsidies. It was also a taking over of the Medicaid program. Here's the problem with Medicaid. Medicaid is a program that is Washington controlled and it is done in such a way that it stops innovation and experimentation at the state level. It makes it harder for states to customize the Medicaid population and the Medicaid program to work for their particular states. As a result, more and more doctors don't take Medicaid. What good is your coverage if you can't get a doctor? And that's a huge growing problem with Medicaid. Medicaid is also growing at an unsustainable rate. So its ballooning costs are threatening the very viability of the program and our fiscal future.

So what we propose is to modernize the Medicaid program. Modernize the Medicaid program along the lines that we, as Republicans, have been talking about for years. I think it was Ronald Reagan, like, in the '70s, when he was governor, said the states should take over control of Medicaid. Every budget we've had as Republicans -- when I was budget chair running my road map towards the path of prosperity, every one of our conservative budgets said let's give Medicaid control back to the states. And in honor of the principle of federalism, give the states and the governors the freedom and flexibility to customize the care of their low-income populations how they think needs to occur. Our problems in Wisconsin are a whole lot different than the problems in New York or in Nevada or in Utah or California. So we propose more efficient spending. Bring the spending on Medicaid to something that's sustainable so it doesn't go bankrupt. And have a safety net for the most vulnerable. Give local control to our states and governors so that they can craft and customize Medicaid to work for their populations.

How do you protect people with pre-existing conditions? I think this is probably one of the most important issues of them all. Here is basically what happens today. Under the current system, we have costs driving up. In the current system, options are going away. As I just described, choices are fleeting, prices are going up. And under the current system, the fatal conceit of Obamacare is that we're just going to make everybody buy our health insurance at the federal government level. Young and healthy people are going to go into the market and pay for the older, sicker people. The young healthy person is going to be made to pay for health care and pay for the person who gets breast cancer in her 40s or heart disease in their 50s.

Take a look at this chart. The red slice here are what I would call people with pre-existing conditions. People who have real health care problems. The blue is the rest of the people in the individual market. That's the market where people don't get health insurance at their jobs or buy it themselves. The whole idea of Obamacare is the people in the blue side pay for the people on the red side. The people who are healthy pay for the people who are sick. It's not working, and that's why it's in a death spiral. Here's how we propose to tackle this problem. We want to have a

system where we encourage states, with federal funding, to set up risk pools and reinsurance mechanisms. For example, in Wisconsin, we had a great risk pool that actually worked so that people with real high health care costs and diseases and pre-existing conditions could still get affordable health care. Obamacare repealed that. They had a great risk pool reinsurance system in Utah. A good one in Washington state. All those are gone under Obamacare.

Here's how they work and here's how our system would work. We would directly support the people with pre-existing conditions --