Return to Transcripts main page


Trump Ultimatum: Vote Today or Keep Obamacare; House to Vote on GOP Health Care Bill Today. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired March 24, 2017 - 06:00   ET



DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Go with our plan. It's going to be terrific.

[05:58:43] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: President Trump laying down an ultimatum on health care.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: People are being threatened and being bribed to vote yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am still a "no." I'm desperately trying to get to "yes."

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This is the only train leaving the station.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Bill keeps getting worse and worse.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Tomorrow we're proceeding.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you have the votes? Do you have the votes?

REP. DEVIN NUNES (R-CA), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: It was a judgment call on my part.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: Congress must create an independent bipartisan commission to expose the Trump-Russia connection.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE RANKING MEMBER: We continue to get new information and get a complete picture.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You haven't seen any new evidence of collusion?

NUNES: Not that I'm aware of.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president feels very confident that he will be vindicated.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota. CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right. We want to welcome our viewers

in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Friday, March 24, 6 a.m. here in New York.

And up first, President Donald Trump issues an ultimatum to the House. Vote or keep the ACA. But there is growing concern that Trump does not think this Bill is a winner. The House is set to vote this afternoon. Was supposed to happen last night. It didn't.

Will they repeal and replace? The leaders are bracing for a showdown, because the word is they don't have the votes. Remember, the House was supposed to be the easier sell than the Senate.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Well, CNN's whip count at the moment has 31 Republicans voting "no" or at least leaning "no." With the president's deal-making reputation on the line, the political stakes are high on this.

Day 64 of the Trump presidency. We have it all covered for you. So let's begin with CNN's Jeff Zeleny. He is live at the White House. What's the latest, Jeff?


President Trump is demanding a vote, and he's going to get one likely later this afternoon, but as you've been saying, the outcome of this Bill is very much in question here. And this is unusual. Usually when votes are happening on the House chamber in particular, they know the votes are there. In this case, they don't.

But senior administration officials I've been talking to early this morning are confident, in some respect, that some of those House Republicans will come around. They are not yet sure exactly who that will be, but I can tell you that conversations went on into the late hours last night and will be happening early this morning. The president has been silent on this publicly. We'll see what he says this morning, but he did send out this message last night. Let's take a look at this.

He said this: "Disastrous Obamacare has led to higher costs and fewer options. It will only continue to get worse. We must repeal and replace."

I can tell you, this is going to take more than sending out a message on social media to bring some Republicans on board. That's why White House officials spent hours last night on Capitol Hill, meeting with Republicans, giving that ultimatum that now is the time to do this.

I can also tell you, the blame game is already starting here. We heard from several senior administration officials last night the president is unhappy with his own staff about this. He's unhappy with the speaker, Speaker Ryan and some other House Republican leaders here. He believes that they simply didn't work to get enough support for this.

But at the end of the day here, the blame for this, if it goes down, will rest with the president himself. He's the salesman on this. He owns this. But it is too early to say. I'm told by my reporting that it will go down here, Chris. I think that there are several hours to get this done here. Some believe it's more of a dictatorship. So I believe that it is still possible to get these votes today, Chris, but it is an open question at this early hour.

CUOMO: But remember, long before Trump entered the picture, Jeff, Republicans were campaigning on repeal and replace, hammering the line that you just put up in Trump's tweet: the ACA is the worst ever; it's in a death spiral. Now the challenge is a tougher one. It's easy to bash that plan, and you make...


ZELENY: ... decades.

CUOMO: You're right. Jeff Zeleny, thank you very much. Have a good weekend. You'll be working.

So the stakes for President Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress are very high, because they're now in control. This is their chance to make good on their promise. So with this vote that's going to take place in just hours, what will happen? If they don't have the votes, is there a move? CNN's Suzanne Malveaux, live on Capitol Hill, with more existential politics at play.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Existential and very real, too, Chris. As you know, it is high-stakes drama here on the Hill. The last 24 hours, what we saw was secret negotiations, public shaming and now this finger pointing that is occurring here. It was very clear that they did not have the count, that they were going to fail with this legislation yesterday, so it has, of course, been delayed. They need, Republicans, 216, the simple majority to get this passed on the House side. They can't afford more than 21 Republican "no's," and so far our latest CNN whip count is showing 31 leaning against or against this legislation.


MALVEAUX: Do you have the votes? Do you have the votes?

(voice-over): After seven years of talking about it, Republicans are facing a major test today on whether they have the votes to dismantle Obamacare.

RYAN: We have been promising the American people that we will repeal and replace this broken law, because it's collapsing and it's failing families. We're proceeding.

MALVEAUX: Republicans remain deeply divided, duking it out into the night behind closed doors. A GOP source saying some 30 members spoke out in favor of the Bill, trying to unite the party and rally support before today's vote.

REP. JEFF FORTENBERRY (R), NEBRASKA: This was a very intense discussion, and it was principled. It was emotional. It was robust. MALVEAUX: Only one Republican in that meeting speaking out against the Bill, but many have previously indicated their "no" votes.

REP. CHARLIE DENT (R), PENNSYLVANIA: We have to get it right, not get it done fast. And I thought the Bill misses the mark.

REP. LEONARD LANCE (R), NEW JERSEY: I am a no vote, and I'm concerned that this legislation does not lower premiums.

MALVEAUX: Sources say the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, who has been staunchly against the Bill, despite receiving multiple concessions from the White House, is telling his members to vote their conscience.

MEADOWS: We're trying to get another 30 to 40 votes that are currently in the "no" category to "yes." Once we do that, I think we can move forward with passing it on the House floor.

MALVEAUX: Those concessions, announced earlier this week, mainly focused on repealing essential health benefits from Obamacare, a move they say will lower premiums. A week's worth of wrangling provided more bad news for the Bill. The Congressional Budget Office's most updated estimates of the GOP plan will cut deficit savings in half, to $150 billion over ten years, and result in 24 million more uninsured Americans in 2026.

That estimate does not include the most recent changes to the Bill. Changes that would give more power to states to determine what they consider to be essential benefits and provide $15 billion to states to use for mental health, substance abuse and infant and maternity care.


MALVEAUX: So the next step now is that the Bill goes to the House Rules Committee. It has the authority to consider legislation through Monday. So there a number of things that could happen, likely debate these amendments and then go to the full house today. They could also delay the process or they could let it go completely, if they believe that the Bill is doomed. My sources say they believe that it will go today to the full House -- Chris, Alisyn.

CUOMO: Thank you very much.

Let's discuss this big day with our panel. We've got Jason Johnson, politics editor at The Root, professor of politics and journalism at Morgan State University; Ron Brownstein, the professor, CNN senior political analyst and senior editor for "The Atlantic"; and A.B. Stoddard, associate editor and columnist for Real Clear Politics.

Professor Brownstein, you have an on-point article out today. One of the new articles within this Bill to sweeten the top is, "Hey, we're going to remove the mandate on insistence of coverage on certain things. It will lower your premiums." You peeled back that canard this morning. Why isn't it as good as it sounds? If I don't need it, I don't pay for it. YAY. RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: The problem is, if you eliminate the essential benefits, what you are essentially doing is saying that the only people who will buy some of these key areas of coverage, mental health coverage, substance abuse coverage, particularly maternity coverage. Are the people who are most likely to actually use it. And that undermines the principles of insurance and what that does -- what that did before the ACA and what all experts agree it would do after the ACA is it would make that kind of coverage either unaffordable or simply unavailable.

If the only people who are buying maternity coverage are those who are expecting to have children, insurers simply cannot create a risk pool for that kind of market. So, in the same way that one of the biggest arguments against the initial Bill was that it imposed an age tax, because it would significantly raise costs for older people with greater health needs while potentially lowering them for younger, healthy people, this revised version of the Bill, I think is going to be very vulnerable to the argument that it creates a mommy tax, because it does significantly raise the cost of insurance, if it is available at all for women in their child-bearing years. And you have to ask yourself can Susan Collins, can Lisa Murkowski, can Shelley Moore Capito vote for that Bill?

And as a result, when the president says he is done negotiating, that cannot be true. That cannot be true, because he is just beginning to negotiate with the Senate, even if it survives the House today.

CAMEROTA: Well, that's very interesting, Ron and Jason. There you go. It's been pretty fascinating to watch President Trump's deal- making playbook.


CAMEROTA: So you've seen charm. You've seen strong arm. And now you see the ultimatum where he says, "I'm done. I'm done." You have to be willing to, obviously, walk away from any deal if that's your leverage. And it sounds like that's what he's using now.

JOHNSON: I think that's what he's using, but he's also got his golden parachute, which let's make sure Breitbart and everybody else is attacking Ryan, in case this doesn't work.

But Alisyn and Chris, the most basic thing is this. Any person that's ever sold anything, whether it's Girl Scout cookies or legislation, knows this. You can't let them go home. Right? He couldn't let members of Congress go home this weekend and have a vote on Monday. They were going to go home to their constituents. They were going to hear that this was bad news. So this isn't much desperation on the part of the White House as it is a negotiating tactic.

CUOMO: A.B., what are you hearing? Because look, the big aspect is timing, right? They want it done now. People are telling them to wait. They said no. What are you hearing about what they hear about the ability to force it through and if not, what happens?

A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATED EDITOR AND COLUMNIST, REAL CLEAR POLITICS: Well, I never underestimate the ability for something to happen at the last minute. There's a lot of behind-the-scenes cajoling, even without earmarks, even without the ability to give a sweetener to a member for their district. A new, you know, bridge or tunnel or something. There is always a means to apply political pressure. And particularly -- this is just Trump's big legislative push, and they need to unite as a party. So there could be enough votes, and you know, they could squeak by by one. I never ever discount that.

That said, timing is really key, and Jason's right. I mean, next -- in the next 10 days or so, they're going home for the Easter recess. They really have a do or die calendar here, deadline here, because that could just really end. Opposition will harden. Those town halls will intimidate the members, really, on both sides.

[06:10:14] I mean, it's going to be very, very controversial, even for conservative Republicans coming to members' districts, saying you promised you'd repeal this, let alone, you know, the independents and Democrats who are upset about it. So it's really going to be -- it's a do or die weekend, I think. It's going to be hard to push it into next week. They want it to clear the House floor and the Senate by April 7th. Now we can, you know, see that that's impossible, but I would imagine that if it slips past, you know, the first couple of days of April, it's probably dead.

CAMEROTA: Go ahead, Ron.

BROWNSTEIN: The history -- you know, to A.B.'s point, the history is that, particularly in the Newt Gingrich era and the Tom DeLay era, Republicans in the House found a way to get their bills through what seemed to be impossible odds. The Medicare bill under George W. Bush, where they kept the vote open for so many extra hours.

But there is one thing -- there is a difference here, which is that they know before they cast this vote that the bill as written is not going to pass the Senate. And so it kind of looks, in some ways, more like the BTU, the energy tax that Bill Clinton in 1993 or the cap and trade, carbon, you know, admission bill in 2009, under President Obama where they asked the House to vote for and take a very difficult vote for a bill that they knew was not going to become law in the fashion that they pass it.

So if you asked yourself, if you are a member in a swing district or even in an ideological position, why do you want to go out on a limb for a bill that has a -- a bill that has a 16 percent approval rating today for a president with an approval rating under 40 if you know that what you vote for is going to be attacked at home and not become law? That is asking a lot.


JOHNSON: And it's even more risk. You have to look at the context. Out of 435 members of Congress, only 192 of these members were there in 2010. They don't even know how dangerous they could be, but they've seen that people were there before, lost in the next race, had trouble, had people run against them. We don't have a lot of institutional experience right now. So these guys, they're looking at the numbers. They're looking at their constituents. They're looking at the fact that it's not going to pass, and they're hearing the Koch brothers and the Heritage Foundation say, "We will primary someone against you if you vote for this." This is a really risky bill for the president.

CUOMO: Remember, though, what they do know coming in is that saying that something sucks is easy, right? Any jackass can kick down a barn. It takes a good man or woman to build one. I did not make that up. That's why it sounds so good.

So if this is the hard part, is it better than Obamacare? Do you keep the people covered? Is it really cheaper? And is it cheaper for the people who don't have the money? You know, that's easy to say, tough to do and we're seeing that play out in real time, and the polls are reflecting it. You've got 56 percent of voters in the new Quinnipiac poll. Among -- disapprove. So 56 overall disapprove.

But in party, the GOP, you only have 41 percent. You've got a huge block of undecided. And you have, on top of that, Professor Brownstein, the new CBO score, same as the old CBO score.

BROWNSTEIN: That's right.

CUOMO: They put a little bit of money back in, but they're still pulling a lot of money out of the plan. So the savings have gone down a little bit, but for all the spin and all the access versus coverage and coverage versus care spin, millions are not going to have health care that have it now; and that's a big pill to swallow.

BROWNSTEIN: And not only that, not only will millions not have health care that people have will be hollowed out compared to what they have. There's no question I talked to a wide variety of experts who explain that, if you don't require these essential benefits, it makes it hard for any insurer to offer comprehensive coverage, because basically, the risk is that only the people who need the comprehensive coverage will buy it. And again, that violates the principle of insurance that you have to blend. You have to pool the risk between people that are highly likely and less likely to need the service. So it may be that it may be unavailable at any cost for people who have -- older people with bigger use (ph).

And that is fundamentally off brand for Donald Trump. I mean, one of the core things is he was going to protect older working Americans. He wants to do that in his budget with Medicare. But this health care bill hammers them, so that may explain some of his reluctance to fully embrace it.

CUOMO: Quick grab (Ph). A.B. Stoddard, what's the percent chance that it passes today?

STODDARD: Oh, you put me on the spot.

CUOMO: You're the smartest one on the panel. What have you got?

STODDARD: Oh, no, no. I'm going to go with 50-50, because I can really see why it's doomed, and I can see why they have to pull it out. I mean, what Trump doesn't understand, Chris, but what the members on the Republican side do is that, if you don't get a heavy lift out in the first couple of months, you're not going to have it. Those same members told me in '09, "Every week, we can push Obama's health care past August." So critical. And they did that. They pushed it until 2010 and it became a political catastrophe for Democrats. And so they've got to do it now.

CAMEROTA: Panel, stick around. We have many more questions for you.

[06:15:00] CUOMO: So coming up on the show, we've got the man in the middle, Health and Human Services Secretary Sr. Tom Price, architect of how to repeal and replace. What does he think happens today? What is his big sell on this bill?

CAMEROTA: Up next, who wins and who loses if it passes or fails? Our panel breaks down that, next.



RYAN: We have been promising the American people that we will repeal and replace this broken law, because it's collapsing and it's failing families. And tomorrow, we're proceeding.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Do you have the votes? Do you have the votes? Do you have the volts?


CUOMO: Dana Bash is...

CAMEROTA: I recognized that!

CUOMO: That was Bash hectoring.

CAMEROTA: That was House Speaker Paul Ryan, silent on answering that question. Of course, he's trying to win over more skeptical Republicans to support the GOP bill.

So wins -- winners, losers, who are they, based upon what happens today?

CUOMO: I pointed out you says "losers."

CAMEROTA: Winners, losers, let's bring back our panel, Jason Johnson, Ron Brownstein and A.B. Stoddard.

[06:20:05] A.B., I want to start with you because, you know, obviously, the conventional wisdom is that President Trump would be the loser. But I don't quite understand that. The Republicans have been trying to figure this out for eight years. He's been in office for two months. How is this on his head?

STODDARD: Right. And you see that he's, you know, already blamed the congressional Republicans and particularly Speaker Paul Ryan for putting together a bill that couldn't pass and putting it first in the sequencing of their legislative agenda. But the truth is everyone really loses.

I mean, the Republicans had seven years, as you said. They promised and promised. I do think if the bill goes down, it's sort of a win for the Freedom Caucus. They'll be very emboldened. You know, the Koch brothers promising tons of money to anyone who voted against it and those forces will obviously be strengthened; and the speaker will be weakened.

But for Trump, even though he tried to keep it at a distance, he told everyone that the earth would open up and swallow us whole if Obamacare continues as the law of the land. And so he owns that rhetoric, which he used as recently as yesterday. In the tweet that Jeff Zeleny read, it's a terrible disaster; it's the end of the world. It's melting down.

And so I think ultimately what he also is not seeing in terms of this sort of short-sighted ultimatum is that success breeds success. Capitol Hill moves slowly. Big bills are hard. That's why Republicans said it was a mistake for Obama and the Democrats do them, and they swore they never would. And now they're going to do them. And so if you look at a failure on health care, how do they get through the debt ceiling debate? How do they get through tax reform? They -- tax reform is going to be a room full of sacred cows, and there's going to be no bill. I can tell you that sounds cynical, but just wait until they get to tax reform.

And so, it really imperils Trump's agenda, no matter how much he tries to dump it on the Republicans.

CUOMO: At least with tax stuff you have givebacks that you can from people. You can cut individual deals. This is different. So Ron Brownstein, let's do a little bit of a different spin on it. Let's assume it does pass in the House. OK? It's just too much pressure. The Freedom Caucus, sure, they stood up against Boehner, but this isn't just Ryan.

This is the president of the United States. You know, this is this big promise hanging over their head to do something. How are they justifying not doing anything? But even if they went in the short- term, what's the chance that it becomes a Pyrrhic victory, that when they get into the Senate they have even bigger problems, and they don't care about Trump?

BROWNSTEIN: This is the classic legislative Vietnam where you're fighting to prove your credibility rather than having a clear idea of what the ultimate goal is, because the price of getting this bill out of the House if they do survive by a vote or two has been to revise it in a way that makes it extremely unlikely, virtually impossible, for it to pass the Senate in anything like it's current form, which means they're, in effect, kicking the can down the road. If there is any way to get this out of the Senate, it is going to look very different. And in a few weeks, you're going to be back where we are today, which is will the House accept -- will the house conservatives in particular accept something that is, you know, much more expansive than they prefer.

It is worth noting, Chris, 20 years ago with the president, when Bill Clinton was president, the Republicans twice block granted Medicaid -- voted to block grant Medicaid without really much of a fuss. And the fact that they are having so much debate over that aspect of this now is a reflection of how much the party has changed and how many lower, middle-income, older white voters are part of that Republican coalition, and taking away the benefit. The biggest problem they have in the Senate are the states that expanded Medicaid. Republican governors like in Arkansas, Ohio and Nevada. They're opposed to this change, and thus, their senators might be opposed to the change and that is something that could look different and much more objectionable to House conservatives, even if they could keep a ball moving today.

CAMEROTA: Jason, despite all the hand writing, you think he will pass it?

JOHNSON: I think it's going to pass and we're going to ping-pong back and forth. They're going to strip it. They're going to send it back to the House and the House is going to send it back to them.

We saw this happen in 2010 with the original health care bill. You had a group, -- I call it the Stupak group. It was Congressman Stupak, Northern Michigan, he had a bunch of pro-life Democrats who are like, "I can't vote for this. I can't have Catholic hospitals in my district paying for abortion." So the president said all right, "I'll let you guys vote for a bill." Of course, it got stripped out in the Senate and handed it back, he cut a deal. He got them on board. I think that's what President Trump is going to have to do with the House Freedom Caucus, but again, I don't see this passing the Senate. And if it ends up back in the House, I don't know that they have the political capital to get a full bill through this year.

CUOMO: So fine point on it, A.B. Stoddard, if it passes, is it necessarily a win for Trump, or do they get it through despite him?

STODDARD: I think that Trump will take the win, Chris.

CUOMO: He'll definitely take the win. He has a unique ability to spin a win out of things that most would see as a neutral to a negative.

STODDARD: If they pass it, Trump wins. If they lose it, you know, if there's a defeat it's Ryan's loss, right? He's to blame. That's pretty much the way the White House is going to spin it. And they've actually telegraphed that, but I mean, I do think that they are desperate. As Ron said, it's no longer about what's in the bill. It's not about health care. It's literally about a "W" on the board.

[06:25:13] If they get this through tonight, they will be so relieved they don't care that it's dead on arrival in the Senate. They've just punted for another day. And they really will be incredibly relieved, because they just don't want defeat.

CUOMO: Jason, the tweet you pointed out from Weaver, McCain's guy and Kasich's guy. He said, "Do you really want to follow a guy who's at 37 percent popularity with the FBI on his tail?"

CAMEROTA: Right. I mean, he was talking about whether or not, you know, President Trump has the leverage.

BROWNSTEIN: It's just worth noting, if you actually pass this and had to implement it, and 24 million people lost insurance, and premiums rose 25 percent for people aged 50 to 64, and it became impossible to buy maternity coverage at any price or mental health and drug abuse coverage at any price , would you want to run under that set of facts in 2018 in pretty much any district that is competitive?

CAMEROTA: Panel, thank you very much. We'll see what happens in a few hours.

CUOMO: Up next another big headline that we're following. New arrests in connection with a London terror attack. We have a live report, breaking details. The story has changed a bit. Next.


CUOMO: Breaking news: police making two significant arrests in connection with the deadly terror attack outside the House of Parliament in London.