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Republicans Modify Health Care Bill in Search for Votes; Interview with Senator Chuck Grassley; Tom Brady Jersey's Recovered. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired March 21, 2017 - 06:30   ET


[06:30:05] SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This, Chris, after several amendments went through late last night to sweeten the pot for conservatives.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're going to negotiate and it's going to go to the Senate and back and forth. The end result is going to be wonderful and it's going to work great.

MALVEAUX (voice-over): President Trump ramping up pressure on House Republicans ahead of Thursday's vote on the American Health Care Act.

TRUMP: Thursday is our chance to end Obamacare and the Obamacare catastrophe.

MALVEAUX: The GOP revealing last-minute tweaks to the bill overnight, hoping to appease both conservative and moderate Republicans who are on the fence, to get the 216 votes needed for the bill to pass.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Every change we make conforms to the Senate rules we have to play by.

MALVEAUX: Now, the bill allows states the option of receiving federal Medicare funding as a block grant instead of a set amount per enrollee, something conservatives have been asking for. It also allows states to require able-bodied Medicaid recipients to work for their insurance, and aims to repeal Obamacare tax increases this year instead of 2018. The House also sets aside $75 billion in tax credits, to help seniors buy their own policies, after analysts predicted big cost increases for older Americans, under the initial bill. They are leaving the details to the Senate.

RYAN: All these changes that have been added, we're doing to make sure they're done in such a way they can't get filibustered and we feel really good where we are.

MALVEAUX: It's still unclear whether the revisions to the bill will sway enough Republicans to ensure it will pass on Thursday. During Monday's closed-door meeting, the White House is arguing to conservative lawmakers that the time for negotiation on the bill is over. (END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: One of those people who was in that closed-door meeting, Republican Senator Mike Lee, emerged, saying he was terribly frustrated. Clearly, there is more fight in them.

At the same time, the House Caucus Freedom, the conservative group, the chair of that organization still believes they have enough votes to block this legislation, even if its amended form, but the chairman also recognizing the politics of this, encouraging his colleagues to vote their constituency -- Alisyn.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Still very complicated, Suzanne. Thank you very much for all of that reporting.

So, there was this rare Twitter rant by a powerful Republican senator, Chuck Grassley, blasting FBI Director Comey for what he did not say at Monday's house hearing. Senator Grassley joins us next.


[06:36:37] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right, another very big deal going on in just a few hours. We're going to have the man who could be our next Supreme Court Justice, nominee Neil Gorsuch is going to be back in the Senate, on the hot seat, day two of his confirmation hearings.

Now, Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley chairs the Judiciary Committee. He joins us now. Senator Grassley, it's good to have you. You were two- timing yesterday. You were at the Gorsuch hearing but you were tweeting about what was going on with Comey and the hearing there with the House Intel Committee.

You seemed to have a bone to pick with the FBI Director. Tell us about it.

SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: Well I think it's a case of just being more transparent. I think that there's more could be told without violating national security or going into the details of an investigation. And there's so many accusations out there that the more that can be said the better and it will bring some confidence.

And so basically calling for more transparency and basically calling for particularly it seemed to me that we ought to be talking more about what's being done on the people who committed the crime of letting out to the public this national security information that was supposed to not be put out. Because that's a violation of law and we ought to have an equal time and an update on that.

CUOMO: Well, let's talk about the idea of leaking and why it isn't just a distraction, a tactic right now. Because I have to tell you there are plenty of leaks during the campaign, some of them suspected to come out of the FBI, some of them maybe could have only come out of some of the Intel agencies and maybe even the White House itself.

Didn't see this interest from you or the Republicans about leaks about the Clinton email investigation, about the Blumenthal emails. You know about speculation about indictments and things that turned out to be not true. Where was your interest in leaks then?

GRASSLEY: I think you got that mixed up because there was a time when in July we felt Comey was maybe being applauded. Or I mean that we didn't like what he did in July and then in October we did. So maybe that's just a characteristic of what you consider to be the most political value.

And I don't know whether you ought to take into consideration what goes on in a campaign that seems to have equal amount of criticism from both the Republican and Democrat side and equate that with what we're doing now. Because right now it's settled to a more limited issue and we ought to be talking about those two issues.

What was the influence of Russia in the campaign and secondly what are you going to do about the people that are leaking and the crime that it is?

CUOMO: Right, but I'm saying there was leaking going on about Clinton and there wasn't a call out to find what the leaks were and to silence them. We now know from the FBI Director that back when he was talking about the Clinton investigation in Congress, and we know the effect that had on the campaign, he could have also said, hey you know what, we're also investigating Trump for any connections to Russian interference in the election. Who knows what impact that would have had on the campaign?


CUOMO: So it just seems to be a little bit selective outrage.

GRASSLEY: Well, it could be selective outrage but don't forget the last item you're talking about there as it involves Trump, that came out as a result of FISA court order that came out in October, real late in the campaign.

[06:40:12] And so, I don't know whether you can equate that with what went on the previous eight months of last year.

CUOMO: Hmm. Also let me ask you on the wiretapping you know what came out or what didn't come out yesterday. Do you believe that the president should say, I was wrong about accusing President Obama of wiretapping me, calling him bad and sick? Do you think he should apologize? Or not apologize, let's not get too far, do you think he should own it was a mistake?

GRASSLEY: Your question is based upon what I heard yesterday. That's where you started your question. I can't answer your question because I didn't have one eye on the television set all day yesterday in regard to the Comey investigation. So I can't go into anything about that that you're asking me about.

CUOMO: But you know that there's absolutely no proof of the president's allegation right?

GRASSLEY: And I know that there's no proof yet that the administration was talking to the Russians as well.

CUOMO: But what does one have to do with the other? One was made by the president. And I'm asking you whether or not he should own the falsity of that accusation.

GRASSLEY: Yeah. And you're putting them together and I'm saying you're wrong for putting them together.

CUOMO: I'm not putting together. You're putting them together Senator. I'm saying--


CUOMO: -- he made the allegation about wiretapping, should he say I shouldn't have said that?

GRASSLEY: Yeah, yeah. Well, let me sum this up for you. I thought you wanted to talk about the Gorsuch nominee and I'm here to talk about that. I'm not prepared to talk about what you want to talk about because that isn't what you told me you wanted to talk about.

CUOMO: Then let's talk about Gorsuch. Obviously, all these issues matter but you're right. You're chairing that committee. How do you think the first day went? What are you concerned about today?

GRASSLEY: Well, I'm only concerned about people staying within their 30 minutes so we get our 10 hours of questioning done today.


GRASSLEY: Each member gets 30 minutes. And I'm the referee to make sure that it gets done and then tomorrow people will have another full day with him with 20 minutes each. And I hope we get every issue covered. And I hope that he shows that he's going to be a judge and not a legislator.

He made it very clear yesterday that he's got a very independent mind. That the role of a judge is to look at the law, look at the facts of the case and be dispassionately, your own personal view is out. Leave the legislative writing to the legislature branch. And let the judges be a referee over whether or not the Constitution is being followed.

CUOMO: What do you think will come up today? What's your suspicion?

GRASSLEY: My suspicion is that there will be a lot of issues raised by the Democrats that somehow this judge is a big friend of big business and all that sort of stuff. And if you go through the 154 decisions he wrote and another 65 that he was a co-author of, I think you're going to find out that he is sometimes for business and sometimes for the little guy and it's pretty equal.

And he approaches it from being an independent person looking at the law, looking at the facts of the cases and he calls the shots the way he sees them. And in the final analysis is very much an independent arbiter and he does it, it's unpredictable where he goes, only he goes where the facts and the law take him. CUOMO: Hmm. All right, Senator, appreciate your time here this morning. And you know I'm asking you about news of the day because all of these different stories matter.


CUOMO: You were tweeting about them yesterday during your own hearing, so that's why we're asking.

GRASSLEY: No, you're wrong. I was tweeting about them on Sunday, not on Monday.

CUOMO: I take your point. Senator, thank you very much. We always talk about what matters here. Good luck today. Let's see how it turns out.

GRASSLEY: Thank you.

CUOMO: Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: Chris, our long national nightmare is over. Tom Brady's missing Super Bowl jersey has been found, thank goodness. Where was it? That's next in the "Bleacher Report".


[06:48:09] CAMEROTA: Well, spring is here, supposedly, but another cold snap is on the way.

CNN meteorologist Chad Myers, it's true, has your forecast.

What are you seeing, Chad?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I am seeing some severe weather on this summer day, almost springtime day, because we've just changed seasons altogether.

This weather is brought to you by Purina, your pet, our passion.

Here's how we get to severe weather today. Just like Illinois and Indiana, Illinois had tennis ball-sized hail yesterday, by morning, by 11:00, we start to see the storms build up over Missouri. Then over Tennessee, and by later on this afternoon, we could see big size hail over parts of Nashville, maybe Chattanooga, and even into Charlotte, North Carolina, 200 million people today, way above normal, even in Atlanta, 81 degrees.

And for you in New York City, you're going to walk outside and say, hey, what happened to winter? It is warm and it is going to be nice today, a high of 57.

Enjoy, guys.

CAMEROTA: We will. We will enjoy it today. Thank you, Chad.

CUOMO: What she said. Mystery solved! Not one, but two of Tom Brady's Super Bowl jerseys headed back to New England after being found in Mexico by the FBI.

Coy Wire has more in the "Bleacher Report".

It is so funny, but it's true.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: It is funny and it's true. And it's a big deal.

One jersey, the NFL confirmed, first of all, that this year's jersey went missing from his locker in Houston had been one he wore in Super Bowl 49 two years ago found in the possession of a credentialed of the international media.

The NFL says that this video right here was instrumental in the investigation. NFL network identifying Mauricio Ortega as the suspect. The former executive with the Mexican newspaper "La Prensa" who happened to resign for personal reasons just two days after the FBI and Mexico's federal police conducted a raid of his home.

Houston authorities say an informant led them to the jerseys and they are expected to file charges against Ortega.

[06:50:01] Interesting note, the NFL will return to Mexico City for a game this season. The Oakland Raiders hosting the New England Patriots.

Kevin Durant still out with injury. His warriors visiting his former team in Oklahoma City and the OKC crowd trolled their former sweetheart hard. A cupcake on crutches, wearing Durant's jersey number.

Oh, it was on. Second quarter, Steph Curry and Semaj Christon get into a scuffle. Russell Westbrook in there, and Draymond Green is too. Four technical fouls assessed.

But the game would go on and Steph Curry said, well, watch this. I'll put the icing on that cupcake. A buzzer beating, three pointer ending the half, money. Then he runs straight to the locker room, I'm done here. Warriors would crush OKC, 111-95.

Good stuff, guys. That's your brief update on the top of sports.

Back to you, Ms. Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Fascinating!

CUOMO: You said Coy stole the jersey.

CAMEROTA: Yes, Coy, you've been exonerated, obviously, with the jersey.

CUOMO: I knew it wasn't you, Coy, too small.

CAMEROTA: Or we would have to pixilate his face, even as we toss to Coy Wire.

CUOMO: And give his name.

CAMEROTA: And give his name.

OK. Meanwhile, House Republican leaders making last-minute changes to the health care bill to win over any holdouts. What changes did they make? One of the architects of Obamacare tells us what he sees, next.



[06:55:00] TRUMP: Thursday is our chance to end Obamacare and the Obamacare catastrophe and begin delivering the reforms our people deserve.


CAMEROTA: OK, that was President Trump, touting the GOP health care bill at a campaign rally in Louisville.

This morning, he takes his message directly to Capitol Hill. The president is hoping a series of amendments to the House bill that was released last night will lock in some skeptical lawmakers.

So, let's discuss with MIT economics professor Jonathan Gruber, one of the architects of Obamacare.

Good morning, professor.


CAMEROTA: Let's pull up for everyone these changes made last night by Republicans to try to make it more palatable to some holdouts on the Republican side. I'll go through them and you can tell me what you see.

It's going to -- those block grants for Medicaid, now optional by states. Imposing Medicaid work requirement, now optional, by state. Preventing the Medicaid expansion.

Here's an interesting one, reserving $75 billion worth of tax credit funds for older Americans, because as you'll recall, they were seen as being hit hard by the first version of this bill. Repealing Obamacare taxes this year. And then adding this New York Medicaid provision.

Professor, what do you see here?

GRUBER: Well, there's a lot of stuff here. Why don't we start with the money for the elderly. So, one of the striking points in the CBO report was that the cost for older Americans who are low-income would go up almost tenfold under the Republican alternative. They're going to throw a small amount of money at this.

Remember, $75 billion is over ten years, OK? This does very little to address that problem. It doesn't solve the problem. Moreover, the CBO report said, for example, 40-year-olds costs would double. There's nothing in there for them. They're just trying to put their finger in the dike as various leaks are being sprung.

But the bottom line is, this doesn't do anything for the fundamental flaw that the tax credits they proposed make insurance unaffordable for low-income Americans.

CAMEROTA: So, to be clear, one of the big sticking points for older Americans, as you were saying, their premiums would shoot up. That $75 billion, you don't think solves that problem?

GRUBER: Their premiums would shoot up, but let's remember, also, Alisyn, their out-of-pocket costs would go up. That's the other thing we've got to focus on in that CBO report. They would go in addition to premiums, they would pay three times as much out of pocket, higher deductibles, higher co-payments, et cetera.

You add all of that up, their health care costs are going up almost tenfold. $75 billion over a decade does not solve that problem. It's just a token gesture to try to solve the most glaring number in the CBO report.

CAMEROTA: Well, you know, just to stick on this one more point, that's not going to win over those Republicans who are on the fence, because as we know, many of their constituents are that age. So, that's not going to -- I mean, you're saying it should have gone farther if they wanted to get this passed?

GRUBER: Well, what I'm saying is, their fundamental structure doesn't work. Under Obamacare, we have an income-based system, which insurers that low-income Americans are protected and don't have to pay more than a certain percentage of their income. The flat age--based tax credit is always going to leave some low-income groups paying a lot more.

CAMEROTA: I want to ask you about the last provision that we read there. Add New York Medicaid provision. This is an interesting one, because as we know from some of the haggling, this is to win over senator -- Congressman Chris Collins says if this is to win over some of the New York delegation that felt that they basically wanted some special treatment, and as we recall, from the passing of Obamacare, there was hew and cry over the cornhusker kickback or anything that was seen as a special carrot to some states.

GRUBER: You know, I'm a bit mix on this one, Alisyn, because on the one hand, this always happens when you pass a law. There's always side deals and special ways to make it work to get votes.

On the other hand, you're absolutely right. This was an enormous hew and cry. Indeed, the special election of Scott brown and the Senate here in Massachusetts, the Cornhusker kickback was listed as one of the number one issues for electing a Republican senator.

So, it's really, incredibly ironic after they did that with Obamacare, they'll come back and do the same thing to get their bill passed.

CAMEROTA: What do they do for coverage? This is the big conversation. The CBO says millions of people will lose coverage under this GOP plan. Do you see anything this these amendments that helps fix that?

GRUBER: No, actually, it goes the other way. Let's look at one of the most pernicious parts of these new amendments, the work requirement for Medicaid. If you look at Medicaid, remember, 85 percent of people on this program are elderly, disabled, or children.

There's only 15 percent that are working age adults who are capable of working, and most of them already work. So, requirement does almost nothing, except cause confusion, which is going to cost some people who can't work to actually drop off the program, because they don't understand it, and they're afraid of what could happen. So, if anything, I think these amendments lower the coverage impact of the law.