Return to Transcripts main page


Health Care Fight; Families Flee Mosul during Fighting; Trump Administration Vacancies; Pope Open To Married Priests; Aired 9:30- 10a

Aired March 10, 2017 - 09:30   ET


[09:30:00] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Being with us. Let's be clear, as it stands right now, if the vote were today, would you support this bill?

REP. JIM BRIDENSTINE (R), OKLAHOMA: I, in fact, would not. And I think there's a lot of concern from a lot of members, of course not just me, but there's also a number of senators as well. Some very serious challenges. Our goal is to make sure that we bring down premiums, bring down the cost of health care for all Americans, increase access, and in our estimation this bill will not accomplish that objective.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: When you talk about access, you've got, you know, S&P Global saying 10 million people could lose coverage. You've got Brookings saying as many as 15 million people could lose coverage, largely because of the Medicaid expansion ending.

But your speaker, House Speaker Paul Ryan, said, quote, "this is the closest thing we will ever get to replacing and repealing Obamacare." How do you respond to that?

BRIDENSTINE: Well, I don't think that's necessarily accurate. I know the Freedom Caucus met with the president just yesterday, our leaders did, Mark Meadows, Jim Jordan, they had a great conversation. They indicated that the president is open to changing the bill. He is not wedded to the bill in its current form and he wants to work with conservatives.

So I think all of this is very important. And, again, our objective is to increase access and bring down costs. And when you think about the Medicaid expansion, as you indicated, what we have to do is actually bring down costs so more people can get covered. The Medicaid expansion is actually going into the middle class and providing -


BRIDENSTINE: You know, able-bodied working people coverage that they don't need. Under the current plan also -

HARLOW: But it's - also, congressman, it's also providing a lot of very destitute people coverage.

BRIDENSTINE: Absolutely. And I will also tell you that under the current plan, as it stands, I will get a refundable tax credit, up to $3,000, for me to buy health insurance. And I don't think anybody supports me as a member of Congress getting a refundable tax credit. But that's the kind of thing that's available to all Americans on the individual market. But we don't have to solve this problem by creating even more entitlements, even more subsidies -


BRIDENSTINE: Even more cost to the taxpayer.

BERMAN: So let me -

BRIDENSTINE: All these - all these things drive up the cost to the person buying the insurance.

BERMAN: Let me get you nailed down - let's be clear that on two points, you just brought them up and I want to know if those changes will get you on board this bill. If the president - and there's some signs that he may be willing to give here - if the bill changes to sunset that Medicaid expansion earlier, would you vote for the bill? Is that enough?

BRIDENSTINE: Certainly that's a good starting point. I'm certainly not going to come on this show right now and tell you that that's going to - that that's going to make it happen. This is a good starting point to begin discussions.

BERMAN: What about tax credits? If there are those tax credits - if they remain in there, the tax credits you say to you that would give you $3,000, if any tax credits remain in, could you then not support it?

BRIDENSTINE: So - so here's the situation. One of the reasons that you see the cost growing so fast is because of all the subsidies available on the Obamacare exchanges. What we're doing is we're taking those subsidies on the Obamacare exchanges and we're replacing them with refundable tax credits for everybody who buys insurance on the individual market. Ultimately, that drives up the utilization, it drives up the costs and then nobody can buy insurance unless you ultimately get the subsidy. And there's a whole lot of people in this country that don't need the subsidy, and all that's going to do is drive up the cost.

HARLOW: Right.

BRIDENSTINE: And that's not good for the taxpayer. It's not good for access.

HARLOW: So that sounds like a no unless they do something about the tax credits. Correct me if I'm wrong. If I'm correct, let me ask you this question, where's the president on this one? Do you want to see the president out more making the hard sell on this? He is the art of the deal guy, but he hasn't been in front of cameras taking questions on this, he hasn't been out doing interviews, even with, you know, favorable outlets, trying to push this one and make the sale. Would you like to see a little bit more of the president?

BRIDENSTINE: Certainly I think the president is doing the right thing by keeping an open door. The president is doing the absolute right thing here. He wants to hear from all players and he is not wedded to the current position. And he has made that clear. He wants to come to an agreement where we can all get on board. And I will tell you, my friends in the Freedom Caucus and others in the House of Representatives all want that to happen, and the president is doing the right thing.

I would also tell you there are ads that are being run in some of our districts all across the country basically making it a - a false option, that you're either for Obamacare or you're for the current plan. And that is not an accurate description of the situation. I will also tell you that the president of the United States is not behind that tactic. The president wants to hear from conservatives. He wants to come to the right agreement that increases access and lowers premiums for all Americans.

HARLOW: We do know, though, that the president did say in that Oval Office meeting with some conservatives that are on your same page on this one, look, if this one doesn't get through, my plan, let Obamacare fail, blame the Democrats. We'll see where you get. We know you guys are working around the clock.

Congressman Jim Bridenstine of Oklahoma, thank you.

BRIDENSTINE: Well, he's right, Obamacare is failing and we have to fix this. It's not going to be good for America if we just let it collapse. So we're all working towards the same end.

[09:35:07] HARLOW: Congressman, thank you. Have a good weekend.

BERMAN: All right, you're looking at the stock numbers right now. Market opened five minutes ago, up 60 points. This is the first market reaction we've seen to the new jobs report. It just came out this morning from the Labor Department. The economy added about 235,000 new jobs in February. That's a good number. You know, it's a good number.

HARLOW: It's a big number. Yes.

BERMAN: Big, you know, increases in manufacturing and construction as well. The market up slightly at the open.

HARLOW: The market likes these numbers and the banks are going to like it because it probably means an interest rate hike next week, that they're going to make some more money.

BERMAN: Right, which - but in theory the market might not like that, though, next week.

HARLOW: Right. Right.

BERMAN: Although they may have priced it in.

HARLOW: Keep an eye on those banking stocks today.


HARLOW: Coming up, video you will not want to miss. The battle for western Mosul like you have never seen this before.

We're going to bring you exclusive footage of families escaping the fighting as bombs and bullets rain down. That's next.


[09:40:27] HARLOW: All right, a dramatic new look right now inside of Mosul as the battle intensifies for this one-time ISIS stronghold. Car bombs exploding, fire fights taking place as families in the middle of the crossfire are forced to leave. More than 70,000 people have been forced to leave Mosul.

BERMAN: Yes, CNN obtained a new video shot by a freelance cameraman where you can see the overwhelming violence people face. CNN's Ben Wedeman reports.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Gunfire roaring nearby. Mosul residents flee their neighborhood of Tehran (ph).

Then, an ISIS suicide car bomb explodes nearby. Pieces of metal and concrete raining down. The blast sets an Iraqi federal police Humvee on fire, killing several policemen, wounding others.

This footage provided to CNN by freelance cameraman Ricardo Villanova (ph), is a raw glimpse of the intensity of the battle for western Mosul.

Iraqi officials aren't putting out casualty figures, but it's clear government forces are paying a high price.

ISIS fighters continue to put up stiff resistance. Car bombs their weapon of choice. They've used dozen to attack Iraqi forces since the push in west Mosul began two and a half weeks ago. More than 70,000 civilians have fled the western part of the city. Others, like this old woman and her granddaughter, had no choice but to stick it out. Hundreds of thousands remain inside, hanging white flags on their doors in the hopes they'll be spared.

Fighting in western Mosul appears far heavier than in the east, where it took Iraqi forces three months to gain control. The phrase "war is hell" here becomes reality.

Ben Wedeman, CNN, Irbil, northern Iraq.


HARLOW: Unbelievable video. You see those little kids running with their backpacks.

BERMAN: And, look, the situation there could get worse before it gets better.

HARLOW: Absolutely. Coming up next, to Washington, where help is wanted. It has been more than a month since the president took his job, but many key administration positions remain unfilled. We're talking about nearly 2,000 posts still open. Why? That's next.


[09:47:44] BERMAN: All right, this morning, help wanted. The Trump administration is hiring, or it should be.

HARLOW: It should indeed, because this administration needs to fill nearly 2,000 appointed positions, including some pretty big ones that experts say are critical to keeping the cogs of government moving smoothly. Right now this administration does not have a number two at the State Department, the Defense Department or Treasury, at least not yet. The president says it is the Democrats' fault.

Joining us now, Craig Fuller. He was chief of staff to Vice President George H.W. Bush. He also served as the co-chair of President Bush's transition team.

You know how this stuff works incredibly well. You actually headed up the office of cabinet affairs trying to liaise between the White House and all these posts. So why does it matter for Americans if there's no number two at State, DOD, or Treasury?

CRAIG FULLER, FORMER CO-CHAIR, PRESIDENT BUSH TRANSITION TEAM: Well, Poppy, these are very important positions. You cannot run a government from the White House. You have to rely on the 200 or 300 top appointees that you put in office and then those below them who are their lieutenants are absolutely essential to directing the career civil servants who fill out the government. So I think they got behind in the transition, and for some reason they're lagging behind still further now that they've taken office.

BERMAN: Yes, I mean, these people are - they're the ones who do stuff. I mean they're the work horses, not the show horses. Not that I'm criticizing -

HARLOW: Unlike -- unlike Berman over here.

BERMAN: Not like me where I'm the show horse and you're the work horse here. No, I'm not criticizing the secretaries. But when you're talking about the deputy secretaries -


BERMAN: The number twos and threes, these are people who get things done. You know, the White House, Craig, is trying to say, oh, it's the Democrats holding things up. But in some cases they don't have nominees to hold up.

FULLER: Yes, I don't - I don't think that charge really sticks. I'll give you a specific point. If the president actually is able to sign health care legislation, that's legislation. It's the regulations that the Department of Health and Human Services and the Center for Medicare and Medicaid services, they're the ones that have to craft those regulations. They have to issue the guidance. They make hundreds and hundreds of decisions using scores of political appointees. Those people need to be in place if a law like this one, as complicated as health care is, is ever going to implemented.

HARLOW: Yes. So let's talk about an example. For example, when you talk about the State Department, Rex Tillerson's number two, the guy he wanted, Elliott Abrams, this is a guy who was critical of the president during the campaign, wrote some critical things, and so the president - you know, the reporting is, personally nixed that pick. This as the White House says, look, we're being collaborative, it's the Democrats' fault. How much blame do you put on the White House here with an example like that for number two at State that Tillerson wanted?

[09:50:18] FULLER: Well, I do believe that the president's staff in the White House have a responsibility to provide very strong candidates to these cabinet officers for these key positions. It is the president's choice, after all.

However, the point is, they have to provide the key appointees. So if they don't like one that's been selected, all right, I get that, but that doesn't mean leave the job empty. And as you well know, a secretary of state is traveling around the world constantly. He or she needs a very strong deputy, as well as other people in that department, to keep the place running, to keep him informed as he's traveling around the world.

BERMAN: And the effect is, it puts more responsibility, but also just more work in the White House itself for the appointed positions that they already do have. These people need to do too much in some cases.

Look, Craig, one of the things that's being -

FULLER: John -

BERMAN: Go ahead.

FULLER: No, I was going to say, John, that's a very good point. And I would say that one of the mistakes that many White Houses make in the early months is they are - they come into office, they believe they're all-powerful, they believe the world focuses around that 18-acre complex we call the White House and the West Wing of the White House, but they cannot run a trillion dollar enterprise called the United States government out of the White House. They have to rely on the cabinet departments, the agency heads, and those 2,000 people that you talked about when we started.

BERMAN: Quickly, Obamacare, you watched the president sort of navigate and negotiate the last four days on this. How do you think he's doing so far?

FULLER: Well, this is very dicey. This - what the president says has to be carefully orchestrated with the speaker. "Carefully orchestrated," not two words normally associated with this White House so far. The speaker has got to get his legislation out of the House. Then it's the Senate's turn. It won't be the same bill. It will go to a conference committee. And so whatever the president does now, if he tips the balance in a way that doesn't help the speaker, there's - it's going to set this effort back. So it has - it's a very, very close contest. But the speaker seems to believe he can get it out of the House, and that's step number one.

BERMAN: All right, Craig Fuller, always great to see you. Have a great weekend.

FULLER: You too. Thanks.

BERMAN: All right, we've been talking about jobs here and open jobs. Well, it would be a major development from the Vatican when it comes to filling jobs - namely jobs for priests. The pope makes it clear, he may be open to married men becoming priests.

HARLOW: Also, staying on this health care fight. Conservatives have real beef with this health care bill, some of them do, so how do Republicans like Joe Wilson get them on his side?: We will speak with the congressman straight ahead.


[09:56:55] HARLOW: This morning at the Vatican, the pope is signaling there could be a major change for the catholic church coming. Why? Because there's such a shortage of priests. The pope saying he is now open to accepting married men becoming priests.

BERMAN: Married men becoming priests. That's quite a headline right there. Still under consideration. But as you can imagine, you know, sending shockwaves throughout religious communities. CNN's Vatican correspondent Delia Gallagher following these new developments for us.

Delia, what are you learning?

DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN VATICAN CORRESPONDENT: John, it's an important comment from Pope Francis signaling an openness to the possibility of allowing catholic married men to become priests. As you mentioned, he said it in remarks to a German newspapers in which he was talking about the general shortage of priests. And he said it might be one of the options.

The important thing about it, John, is that it's not the same thing as saying, I'm going to allow priests to marry. The distinction that the pope is making is saying, married men, men who are already married, might be able to be ordained priests, but priests are not going to be able to get married. And that is usually what we mean when we talk about married priests, that is people who are priests now being allowed to get married. And the pope has ruled that out, at least for the moment. But he did say in the face of these shortages, this might be one of the options.

The other important thing, of course, is these were comments that he made in an interview, so there's no action that's been taken on this yet. He would have to probably go to his bishops, discuss it with them, write a document and so forth. So we'll have to watch how it develops.

John, Poppy.

HARLOW: But, again, what's interesting, Delia, I mean this is just yet another move and comment, if moves follow, from this priest sort of moving the catholic church more and more into the social norms of the modern era, if you will. I just wonder, are there already married men that are allowed to serve within the catholic church?

GALLAGHER: Yes, absolutely. A lot of people don't even realize that, Poppy, that there are already married priests in the catholic church. They are priests, for example, who were protestant, married priests, that become catholic and they're allowed to continue both as married men and as priests. There are also eastern right catholic priests who are married. So there is a tradition of married priesthood among the Christian religions. But the Catholic Church has always maintained the idea of the celibate priesthood as something which imitates Jesus, for example, and something which allows the priest to dedicate himself fully to his people. So the pope wants to maintain that tradition, but also in the face of these practical realities, introduce the possibility of allowing some catholic married men to become priests.

BERMAN: Would they - married and celibate, though? Has there been clarity on that?

GALLAGHER: No, John, they wouldn't have to be married and celibate. They would be able to have relations with their wives. That would be part of the catholic understanding of marriage. So that would definitely still be a possibility. They would be fully married, as it were, and fully a priest, if that should come to pass. We'll have to wait and see.

[10:00:05] HARLOW: Delia Gallagher for us live in Rome. Delia, thank you so much for that.

A lot ahead. Let's get started.

Good morning, everyone. I'm