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CBO Report Fuels Battle Over Health Care Bill; Iowa Congressman Doubles Down On Controversial Tweet; What Drives Steve Bannon. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired March 15, 2017 - 07:30   ET


[07:33:25] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: All right. More Republicans are backing away from the House health care bill after a bruising assessment by the Congressional Budget Office. GOP senators warning it will not pass without changes. Tensions boiling over when CNN asked one lawmaker where she stood -- watch this.


MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Can you support the House health care plan?

SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI (R), ALASKA: Could you give me a minute to get to my constituents, please?

RAJU: Yes or no, do you support the House health care bill?

MURKOWSKI: Would you please be respectful?

RAJU: I'm being very respectful.

MURKOWSKI: I've been sitting there for 10 -- for two hours. Come on.


CUOMO: Some respect? Manu Raju, CNN reporter, just asking whether or not she was going to vote for the bill.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN HOST: It's a hard -- it's a question that she clearly doesn't want to answer.

CUOMO: Yes, that's clear. Let's discuss with CNN senior political analyst and senior editor for "The Atlantic" Ron Brownstein. And, CNN political analyst and Washington bureau chief for "The Daily Beast" Jackie Kucinich. So, Ron, we have been discussing this for some time now --


CUOMO: -- about what Trumpcare would make better and what would make it worse and they find themselves in a demographic pinch. How so?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, look, this has been an issue we've talked about sinceJanuary, what I call the "Trumpcare Conundrum." The core Republican answer to reducing the cost of health insurance is to deregulate health insurance, is to reduce many of the mandates, roll back the requirements for mandatory minimum benefits, and limiting the disparity in age -- costs by age that were imposed by Obamacare.

[07:35:00] The problem with that is it does, in fact, lower initial premiums for many younger people. But as the CBO reported again, it substantially raises costs 20 to 25 percent and reduces access for older working-age Americans, people that are basically between 45 and 64. And the core problem they have is that is now the core of their coalition. A majority of Donald Trump's votes came from whites over 45. Sixty percent of the House Republicans represent districts that are older than the national average and those are the biggest losers under their approach. That has been the issue from the beginning and is the issue again today.

HARLOW: Not to mention older folks, Jackie, just vote more than younger people do. So, given that sort of political conundrum that that leaves Republicans in heading into the 2018 mid-terms, are we -- are we supposed to believe that, you know, the party -- that Republicans didn't look at this politically at all? I mean, what is the math? What is the equation that they're doing then if they know that this will hurt them politically with those older key voters?

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE DAILY BEAST: I think it's why this might not be able to get through the Senate and that's what you're hearing from, you know, senators on the Republican side kind of across the ideological spectrum. They're going to the White House and going to Paul Ryan and saying listen, we need more to help seniors, to help lower-income people who are going to be booted, essentially, off Medicaid because of this -- because of this -- the plan that they've put forward.

And what you're hearing is you're hearing from Paul Ryan and the president saying some of these things will be added later. Some of these things -- this is just to get this bill through the -- through reconciliation. Well, health care is more personal than that and the fact that this does lower the deficit, according to the CBO -- or it does save money, according to the CBO -- that doesn't matter if you can't get health care and you're sick.

CUOMO: Let me ask you something, Ron. Just on a very basic level who is this better for, Trumpcare? You know, so for all the people out there who are saying my premium is too high, my copays --


CUOMO: -- my deductibility. I have coverage but I can't get care. I'm on Medicaid -- my doctor won't take it. What does this make better?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, it -- what it does is -- first of all, the people that are complaining the most about that tend to be older working-age people. I mean, the core problem that Obamacare has had is that in many places is not enough young people have signed up - the risk pool.

HARLOW: Yes. BROWNSTEIN: It's called the risk pool -- has been disproportionately taken --

CUOMO: But you've got families, too, Ron.

BROWNSTEIN: -- for people with greater health -- what's that?

CUOMO: You're hearing from them, we're hearing from them. You're hearing from younger families --


CUOMO: -- who are saying it's just too expensive.

BROWNSTEIN: And right, because there aren't enough of them in the risk pool, right? So the overall cost is too expensive --

HARLOW: Right.

BROWNSTEIN: -- because the people who signed up tilted toward people with greater health needs. This threatens to push that further in that -- in that direction and the estimates have been consistent from CBO and others that if you are younger and healthier this will reduce your initial premiums --

HARLOW: Right.

BROWNSTEIN: -- in many cases. But for older people with greater health needs this would substantially increase your premiums. And for both groups it is likely that even if the premiums are lower, the out- of-pocket expenses will be higher. In essence, what this is -- what we're talking about is kind of rolling back the degree to which the insurance is comprehensive and that does allow you to bring down premiums on some younger, healthier people. But, you know, the core debate so far has been the -- has been from the right, saying this doesn't go far enough, fast enough in uprooting Obamacare.

CBO coming in and saying it's 24 million fewer people with coverage and you're back to the pre-Obamacare levels of uninsurance. That has got to give a lot of pause to people on the other side of the Republican Party in the more moderate and centrist wings.

HARLOW: So, Jackie, the question of which plan is better could really only be answered by how rich or poor you are, how old or young you are. Part of the big --

CUOMO: And how healthy you are.

HARLOW: -- and how -- exactly. And part of the big sell here in phase two and three that we haven't seen yet is that look, you'll be able to buy across state lines and that's going to make things a lot better. I don't get -- and a lot of economists -- and I don't think you get, either, how that makes anything better because there's no penalty now for young folks to buy it so, arguably, fewer will buy insurance. And by the way, if they cross state lines from a state where there's more regulation into a state where there's less regulation to buy these cheaper plans --

BROWNSTEIN: That's right.

HARLOW: -- how does that actually help the system? How does it actually bring the premiums down? It would be the insurance companies getting less money.

CUOMO: Yes, Jackie.

HARLOW: Yes, Yes.

KUCINICH: Am I missing something here? You can't just make these promises to people and expect them to just say OK and take your word for it, and that's the problem here. And this is why it's so perplexing that this wasn't a plan that they could put out right now. They've had seven years to do this, to explain to people, to prime people for these changes. And instead, they're putting together sort of an-- it's sort of an ad hoc process, right? And so, you can't just say we'll do this down the line because they don't even know what we're talking about, even with all these promises, if that can pass.

So, you know, worst case scenario for people who don't like Trumpcare is this bill that no one likes goes through and then what -- they're stuck.


[07:40:00] HARLOW: We've got to wrap it up.

BROWNSTEIN: OK, real quick. I say interstate sell accelerates exactly what you're saying.


BROWNSTEIN: The redistribution from younger --

HARLOW: Of course.

BROWNSTEIN: -- to older, without question.

HARLOW: I want to buy car insurance from the cheapest place I can buy car insurance. That's how it works. Guys, thank you very much. We appreciate it.

A programming note for all of you. You're going to want to watch CNN tonight, 9:00 p.m. Eastern. Join Wolf Blitzer and Dana Bash for a town hall with HHS Secretary Tom Price. He will be asked these tough questions. What will he say? Again, 9:00 p.m. Eastern, only right here on CNN.

CUOMO: So, in our political dialogue we start hearing a lot more about this term "nationalism." What does it mean in the current manifestation in our politics? Is it on the rise? You have politicians in Eastern European and now Central European countries certainly fanning the flames of nationalism, but does it mean the same thing here that it means there? Is this man, Mr. Wilders, who is trying to become the prime minister of Netherlands -- is he a look at our future, next.


HARLOW: Iowa Congressman Steve King not backing down from his provocative nationalist tweet this week saying, "We can't restore our civilization with somebody else's babies." Here's how he explained that to Chris, right here on NEW DAY.


REP. STEVE KING (R), IOWA: And that's that push to bring in much illegal immigration into America, living in enclaves, refusing to assimilate into the American culture and civilization. Some embrace it, yes, but many are two and three generations living in enclaves that are pushing back now in resistance against the assimilation. It's far worse in Europe than it is today here in the United States. But Iwant us to be looking at that, promoting the birthright in America, restoring the rule of law, putting an end to illegal immigration, and recognizing that we need to be a country that's pulled together on similar values. That makes us stronger.


[07:45:10] HARLOW: Joining us now to discuss that and more, Dr. Qanta Ahmed, author of "In the Land of Invisible Women." So nice to have you here.


HARLOW: So, Steve King doubling down on this tweet saying we can't restore our civilization with somebody else's baby. I mean, this is America. This is the melting pot. And yes, he represents a majority white district in Iowa, 89 percent white. But statements like that are fringe statements, they're not representative of most of the people he represents, not even close. I wonder your take on what he said and, also, is this sort of representative of a mainstreaming of white nationalism, which is what some called those comments?

AHMED: It's very difficult for me to know what he intended in his words but I think the theme he's getting at is a desire of our society to be integrated and whole. And in Europe, where I originated from, as well as here, we see fragmentation of society into identity politics which can threatened identity. When I moved to the United States 24 years ago I didn't come here to be a Muslim-American. I came here to become part of America and, one day, American. America has such an incredible, magical identity which subsumes, not dominates. It really embraces us in a way that's unique. It's very different than Europe.

HARLOW: But is that what you read from his comment?

AHMED: I'm not sure what his comment said and I just can't explain what he intended. I think that would be unfair to me and it would not be accurate of him. There is certainly fear underneath these sentiments. He was retweeting Geert Wilders. But I do recognize --


AHMED: -- to be flushed (ph) out to Muslims and to separatists, and very extreme in his position. I don't know if he was echoing that.

HARLOW: And we'll see what Dutch voters decide about Geert Wilders today.

AHMED: Dutch voters are going to give him a majority seat, that's for sure.

HARLOW: The question is -- and he likely can't get a coalition behind him to rule. But, you're right, this is someone who, you know, running for prime minister has very anti-Islamic views. He's someone who has said ban people from Muslim countries, ban Muslims, ban --

AHMED: Not only that --

HARLOW: -- the Quran.

AHMED: Right, ban the Quran.

HARLOW: He's also someone who has said, you know, radical Muslims should be imprisoned even if they have not committed a crime, just for preventative reasons. When you look at the election today -- the Dutch election today -- when you look at the outcome in the election in France where Marine Le Pen, the far-right candidate, is also doing quite well, is this a tipping point in Europe?

AHMED: I think we are at an inflection point and my article published in "The Spectator" in the coming days is going to discuss this. But this is Europe's reaction. Where Muslims have been part of a society for 50 to 60 years, at least, to ghettoization and failure of integration, those are failures of European immigration --

HARLOW: Right.

AHMED: -- policies, but this is a reaction to that.

HARLOW: So I say the big difference, right, between Europe and America is you have much more integration of these populations within American cities.

AHMED: For several reasons. There are fewer of us but, also, there is an incredibly powerful current of American ideals, some of which Rep. King was referring to which are inclusive and not exclusionary. In America, you can become a citizen not only of document but in spirit. In Europe, too much of the citizenship is only in document.

HARLOW: So what is that page that America can take from what we're seeing now play out in these European elections?

AHMED: I think the United States, number one, we should feel very secure in our overarching culture. We are a nation built by immigrants that embraces immigrants. But immigrants come here not really with the intention of being in their enclaves. We want to be part of the American society and that should be encouraged and continued.

HARLOW: Dr. Qanta Ahmed, nice to have you here. Thank you very much.

AHMED: Thank you, Poppy.

HARLOW: Chris --

CUOMO: Great conversation, this continuing dialogue. Who are we, what are we about in country? Questions remain unanswered for some.

You've heard his name a lot, all right, but how much do Americans really know about President Trump's chief strategist, Steve Bannon? The reporter who just scored an interview with Bannon gets a really good look, next.


[07:53:15] CUOMO: White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon has been called everything from controversial to the defacto president. Bannon remains largely a mystery. He doesn't like doing a lot of media. He's big with the media is the enemy rift that they love so well.

HARLOW: The opposition party.

CUOMO: That's right. So, Michael Bender, White House reporter for "The Wall Street Journal," just interviewed Bannon and he joins us now. Big scoop -- a man who deserves understanding, seeing how he has so much influence on our democracy right now. So, at the core of this interview you talk about what Bannon defines as economic nationalism and it being borne from his father's own financial struggles coming out of the 2008 recession-depression, depending on how you want to look at it. What did you make of that?

MICHAEL C. BENDER, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL": So, thanks for having me on. I think that Steve Bannon has thought a lot about these issues over the years. He's a -- he's a voracious reader. He grew up talking about politics at the table, you know, and his interest in this sort of latest political revolution -- Tea Party uprising -- is rooted in a lot of ways in his Richmond, blue collar upbringing.

His dad worked at AT&T for 50 years with a high school education. His grandfather worked at the same company for 48 years. And then -- and put a lot of his savings -- put a lot of his work into buying company stock. That stock was -- lost a lot of value in the collapse in 2008. And, for Bannon, who had been thinking about these things for a long time, it sort of symbolized -- crystallized the viewpoint here that the institutions that his father put his faith in, you know --


BENDER: -- not just Wall Street but also Washington, D.C. -- Congress to prevent something like this -- had failed him.

[07:55:00] HARLOW: And, you know, Michael, Steve Bannon described his father to you as "the backbone of this country." The every man who plays by the rules and essentially gets, you know, screwed over. Then his father told you the government created this crisis, the elites got bailed out. Interestingly, then his son now, you know, Steve Bannon, would go on to work at Goldman Sachs but still hold these views. It's an interesting confluence.

BENDER: Yes, that's a good point and one I talked with Steve quite a bit about, right? I mean, Steve believes in what Trump is doing a great deal, that this sort of make America great idea of bringing the country back to some, you know, previous time in a -- from the 1950s or 1960s. You know, Steve is looking for sort of an era of -- idealizes an era of corporate responsibility, of corporate stability that he himself never wanted.

He came out of college, he went to the Navy. He was at Goldman, he was at Harvard Business School, he dabbled in penny stocks, had his own investment boutique. You know, produced Hollywood movies, ran "Breitbart." You know, this is someone who never quite fit in any of the institutions he touched and never, you know -- and sort of craved the chaos and drama that his father didn't.

CUOMO: Well, you have two levels of incompleteness that wind up being interesting throughout the article. One is the philosophy doesn't hold. Trump likes to say the same thing. These big institutions, they got away with it, but he borrows their money from anyone that he can in a lot of different ways, depending on his need.

You see Bannon going to Goldman Sachs and playing a lot of the same venture capital types of games. You look at who they put in their cabinet, you know. If you wanted to reject those kinds of institutions and the people who are in their elite, they've populated this government with more of them than we've ever had before. How does he explain that inconsistency?

BENDER: Well, it's a very good point, it's a very fair point. I guess we'll have to see how this plays out once we get to, you know, the actual legislating of Trump's agenda. What they say right now is that, you know -- particularly on the point of the cabinet, are that these are outsiders, right? You know, the Wilbur Ross's of the world and Rex Tillersons aren't, you know -- these guys have had plenty of success in their lives and a lot of it dependent on Washington, but have not been part of the system and are bringing new ideas and a new philosophy to the federal government.

But that's a fair point. I mean, we're -- even when it comes to Wall Street, you know, they're interested in loosening the Dodd-Frank regulations, not tightening them, you know.


BENDER: That may help, you know -- may have helped prosecute some of the guys that Marty Bannon is so upset didn't get -- didn't get held responsible.

HARLOW: Right. You wonder what his father would think of, say, bringing a Gary Cohen, the former president of Goldman Sachs in, or a Steve Mnuchin at Treasury. Let me get this. This is a guy, Steve Bannon, who calls all of the media essentially -- most of the media --


HARLOW: -- the opposition party. It was hard to get an interview with him. You got one. What surprised you the most?

BENDER: What surprised me the most? You know, it's -- just sort of the multi-dimensional aspect of Steve, right? I mean, I joked on Twitter when the story came out that what the story basically did was confirm that Steve Bannon was born of human parents, right? I mean, this is a guy who's been -- who's been depicted as the Grim Reaper on "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE." There's a "New Yorker" cartoon in which he was on the shoulder -- on Trump's shoulder, sort of shooing off the devil, saying hey, I got -- I got it from here.

You know, it's a little bit more nuance than that. I mean, there -- agree with his policies or not. You don't have to agree with his policies, you know. His viewpoint here does come from someplace, you know -- he is loved by his family. They were -- once we got to the point of, you know, where they were willing to sit down and talk it was clear how much -- how proud they are of him. His dad keeps a little -- a little table in the living room where he keeps all the clips. So it was a fun story to write. HARLOW: Yes. He's a fascinating and complex individual with a lot of power right now in the White House. An important report for sure. Congrats to you. Thanks for coming on.

BENDER: Thank you.

HARLOW: All right, we're following a lot of news this morning including a live interview with Sen. Lindsey Graham on a big day for him and the country today. Let's get right to it.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN HOST: Leaked documents reveal President Trump's tax returns.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This really is just the tip of the iceberg.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This report could be a mistake for Democrats to get distracted by.

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, JOURNALIST WHO RECEIVED TRUMP TAX RETURNS: Donald has a long history of leaking information about himself. Donald may well have been the source.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Americans need to know if, indeed, the former President of the United States wiretapped the Trump Tower.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He feels very confident this will vindicate him.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN HOST: James Comey expected to confirm if the FBI is investigating Trump's ties to Russia.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fourteen million people will lose their insurance. That's not what President Trump promised.

SPICER: This is the American Health Care Act. The president's proud of it.