Return to Transcripts main page


Trump Ultimatum: Vote Today or Keep Obamacare; House Rules Committee Meeting Now on Health Care Bill. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired March 24, 2017 - 07:00   ET



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It sounds a lot like Obamacare to me.

[07:00:04] DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have a very good chance, but I think it's only politics.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The votes aren't there.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It's going to pass and that's it.

REP. DEVIN NUNES (R-CA), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: I had a duty and obligation to tell the president.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What he did badly damaged the credibility of the investigation.

NUNES: You've got to stick by the decisions that you make.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE RANKING MEMBER: The evidence certainly warrants us doing a thorough investigation.

SPICER: That report cannot yet prove that collusion took place.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's very disturbing.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: We need a select committee to clear this whole issue up.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY.

Up first, President Trump giving an ultimatum to Republican lawmakers, to vote today for the GOP's health care bill or to keep Obamacare. The high-stakes showdown will take place in the House chamber in just hours from now. Does the president have the votes? Well, CNN's latest count has 27 Republicans saying that they will vote no, four others leaning against it.

CUOMO: Remember, Republicans have been promising to repeal and replace Obamacare for seven years. That is a big stick in this process. And on top of it, you have the president's reputation for being a deal maker, which is now on the line on this day 64 of Trump's presidency.

We have it all covered. Let's begin with CNN's Jeff Zeleny, live at the White House. Imagine, Jeff, this was supposed to be the easier part, getting it through the House, because you've got nothing but upside-down frowns in the Senate.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: No doubt about it, and of course, it takes a passage in the House, the Senate, before the president can sign it, which they thought would happen yesterday, on the seventh anniversary of Obamacare. They were looking for a big symbolic victory, but now they will take any victory they can get.

And as you said, the president is demanding a vote, and he's likely to get one this afternoon, we're told, likely in the 3 p.m. range or so. But all this is very flexible, of course.

The budget director, Mick Mulvaney, just walked into the White House a few minutes ago, and he says if it doesn't pass today, we're going to move on. But we will see about that, of course.

They do not have the votes this morning, as you said. But again, all this is flexible, fungible. People at the White House were over on Capitol Hill last night working the phones, working face to face meetings here, trying to get some of these Republicans on board.

And the question that hangs over this comes from this senior administration official that we talked to overnight who said this. He said, "Which Republicans want to explain to their constituents why they voted to keep Obamacare?" And that is what the White House is counting on this morning is the pressure that has been underway for so long to repeal that? Will they stand against that? But outside groups are also, conservative groups are saying, "Look, don't vote for this bill." So those are the pressures here.

But the president talked to Speaker Ryan for 45 minutes into the evening last night, talking about the way forward on this. But I can tell you, the blame game already starting here. The president himself is leading the charge on that. He believes that some of his advisers have not been as strong on this. He is placing some blame, we're told, on Speaker Ryan.

But Alisyn, I can tell you the blame will also come to the president here. He knows full well his agenda, the rest of his agenda also at stake here. That's why he is still all in on this. We're likely to hear from him in the next couple hours. This morning here at the White House, they're still pushing for that afternoon vote around 3 p.m. perhaps, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Very high stakes on every end. Thank you for that, Jeff.

So President Trump and the GOP making that high-stakes gamble with their vow to their voters to replace Obamacare. The House vote was postponed yesterday, but it is set to move forward just hours from now.

CNN's Suzanne Malveaux is live on Capitol Hill with more. What's the feeling there, Suzanne?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A lot of anxiety, Alisyn, of course. It is high drama here on the Hill. The last 24 hours, we've seen secret negotiations as well as public shaming. And now the very latest, the finger pointing that Jeff had mentioned the vote was delayed, of course, when they didn't have the support yesterday. And now what we're seeing here, 216, a majority is needed to pass this through the House. Republicans cannot afford more than 21 defectors or "no's." In the latest CNN poll, a whip count now showing 31 Republicans either "no" or leaning "no."


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

MALVEAUX (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 family 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.

[07:05:07] 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's 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: Former House Speaker John Boehner predicted just last month that Republicans would never repeal Obamacare, rather fix or tinker with it, because they cannot agree on what would be in that bill. Several lawmakers I talked to say that Speaker Ryan is about to see whether or not that prophesy will come true. All eyes, of course, Chris, on the full House vote later today.

CUOMO: Thank you very much. Appreciate it.

The House Rules Committee is meeting right now on the health care bill. CNN's Sunlen Serfaty is live on Capitol Hill with more. What do we expect there?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is a rare very early morning meeting of the Rules Committee, which is important, because it indicates the wheels are starting to be set in motion to push towards a full House vote at some point later today. This is essentially the last legislative step that needs to happen before the bill is brought to the floor.

And so what this committee here will be doing is voting on all the last-minute changes. The results of the negotiations that leadership have to add to the bill. They'll be voting on that day.

But keep in mind: this committee is largely a de factor arm of the speaker's office, so they know what's going to happen here today. No surprises expected. Anticipated that the vote will go through. But certainly a last chance for Democrats to perhaps add a little political theater to this, air their grievances.

But the most important thing that's going to happen from this committee later is they're going to set the time frame for all this, when potentially the bill will be brought to the full floor. How long that debate is going to last, Chris.

CUOMO: Sunlen, appreciate it.

Joining us now, Republican Congressman Chris Collins of New York. He's voting "yes" on the GOP health care bill.

Congressman, good to have you, as always.

REP. CHRIS COLLINS (R), NEW YORK: It's good to be with you.

CUOMO: Do you think you get it through the House today? And if so, why?

COLLINS: Well, I am counting on my team members, the other members of the Republican conference, to do the right thing, because it is a binary choice right now. Obamacare will stay in place and, as the president said, we're not bringing this back up. We're going to move forward on other parts of his agenda.

And I'd like to, you know, point out again, there's an economic piece of this. There's $800 billion of taxes, fees and penalties that go away, retroactive back to January 1 of '17, if this is repealed. And there's a big economic driver for our economy and jobs. Somehow, you know, that's been lost in the conversation that's part of this.

The other piece is, you know, we now have counties -- next year, 2018, that don't have any insurance coverage for the exchanges. A third of the counties don't have any competition; they're down to one. So if we don't get it passed and we move on and Obamacare stays as is, now then there's a lot of pain for America across this country, especially for those on the exchanges that have no competition. We need to be weighing that when we cast our votes sometime at 2 or 3 this afternoon.

CUOMO: The criticism is whether or not you make it better or worse. You have consecutive CBO scores that make it very clear that the lower you go on the economic ladder, the more this bill could potentially hurt you. How are you selling that to people in your district -- western New York, Buffalo, like on your tie this morning -- who say, "I need the Medicaid. You're cutting it. You're going to hurt me in the interests of cutting taxes and returning money to rich people"?

COLLINS: Well, in fact, we're not cutting Medicaid. I think they're speaking about the expansion and the fact that we are reducing the federal share from 90 percent down to whatever the normal share is, in the case of New York.

CUOMO: How is that not cutting, though, Chris?

[07:10:00] COLLINS: Well, because I firmly believe the state is going to keep the expansion, and if they do, then there is no cuts. I would agree if states roll back the expansion.

But New York had this anyway. It was called Family Health Plus. It existed. It was an expansion. It was a Medicaid waiver. I can't imagine that our legislators in Albany, having Family Health Plus seven, eight years ago, moving those people into the expansion are then going to just shrug their shoulders and move on.

There's plenty of...

CUOMO: They're saying they don't have enough money. That you're cutting them on the money, and you can't get more with less. That's what they're saying. It's a pretty simple argument.

COLLINS: Well, no, no. New York, $63 billion, 44 percent more than the average $10,500 per Medicare recipient. There's plenty of waste and bloat in the New York program, for sure. I mean, I can fix that this afternoon, you know, in an hour and a half.

CUOMO: Well, good. I'll tell you the guy to call.

But the point remains the same. If you're -- you're giving them less money over time for Medicaid...

COLLINS: Correct.

CUOMO: ... and that's why the CBO is saying you're going to have more people uninsured than today. That's just the fact, according to the actuarials.

COLLINS: Chris, these same actuarials are saying next year, in 2018 -- and by the way, there's no change, no change on the exchanges, no change in Medicaid expansion, no change whatsoever -- they're saying we're going to lose 14 million people next year. Now how do you get your arms around something that says we're losing 14 million people when there isn't even a single change?

So I guess under Obamacare, then, they're somehow saying we're going to lose 14 million people next year. The CBO, they're pretty good on numbers. On something like this, I can't wrap my heads [SIC] around how they think we're losing 14 million people in a year when there's no change.

CUOMO: Now, this is the existential battle here. Let's say you do get it through the House. And, you know, I think for all the hype, you probably have a better than 50-50 chance of getting it through the House. There's a lot of pressure on you guys who campaigned on repeal and replace. Whether or not that was the right thing to campaign on is no longer the question of the day.


CUOMO: So if that is the motivation, you get through. But then in the Senate, you're going to meet a different reality. And would you agree with these statements that "The number of uninsured has gone up; it's now well over 40 million people? Working out the details, that will take time. But we must have universal health care. With that many people living day to day in fear that an illness or injury could wipe out their savings or drag them into bankruptcy, how can we truly engage in the pursuit of happiness as our founders intended?"

Do you agree with all of that? Universal health care for those reasons?

COLLINS: Well, we have decided, certainly, as a nation we're not going to stand behind a European- or Canadian-style what we would call a single-payer system. That has been debated.

CUOMO: Right.

COLLINS: It's been rejected. And I don't think that's coming back up. I do know in Buffalo, New York...

CUOMO: But do you know who said those words. COLLINS: ... the number of Canadians pouring over the border every day for medical treatment in the United States.

CUOMO: Specialized care, especially. Because the wait times...

COLLINS: Well, the MRI. Somebody needs an MRI, they can't wait that long.

CUOMO: Right, because of the wait times. Even that falls into specialized care right now, because it's so hard to get approval for an MRI in some places.

But let me ask you this, do you know who said what I just read to you?

COLLINS: No, I don't.

CUOMO: Donald Trump wrote that in 2000 in his book, making an argument for how wrong it is to not provide coverage to everybody. Do you think the president has two minds on this? And that's why he doesn't have his arms around this bill; that's why it's not being touted as Trumpcare? Because fundamentally, he doesn't agree with you guys.


CUOMO: He doesn't agree that not covering people is the way to go.

COLLINS: All of us want everyone to have insurance. There's no two ways about it. Some, certainly the young, have decided it's not worth it.

But again, the other side, the dark side of universal care, the cancer drugs you don't get in Europe because they put in ROI. They say you're a certain age. Your life expectancy does not justify the cost. You're not going to get the treatment.

In the United States today, we don't do that. We give people that are 85 years old a replacement hip if they need it. When...

CUOMO: Right, but they have Medicare. They're not going to be exposed to the same things in this bill as people who are 55 and people who are making 20 grand. You know, and as you get lower on the economic scales, they're going to lose coverage, according to all estimates and experts.

I don't understand why you guys are unwilling to own that reality. It seems to be a chonk (ph) in the wheel of progress for you guys, because you're trying to have it both ways.

COLLINS: Well, it's not a reality until it happens, and we don't agree with the CBO's score on the people that are going to lose coverage. And again, the debate on universal coverage or single payer system, we've had that debate. America solidly saying they don't want a Canadian-European-style medical system where there's an ROI put on health care. And you may say an MRI is specialized care.

CUOMO: No, I don't think it's specialized care.


CUOMO: I'm saying it's wound up playing out that way, because they're so hard to get.

COLLINS: Well...

CUOMO: It's hard to get approvals, and it's even harder in places like Canada. And they come over here to try and get them. I agree with that. I've heard those reports before. But I think that's a nod towards the system not being a death spiral horrible thing that you guys paint the ACA as.

[07:15:11] COLLINS: Well, the ACA is in a death spiral. In one third of the counties, there's no competition.

CUOMO: But that's not a death spiral then. If it's in one third of the county is a death spiral, that's not a death spiral. If I told you that one third of your health is in trouble, you wouldn't think you're going to die tomorrow. But you're painting that as a political reality to play the game, and now you've got to live with it.

COLLINS: Well, again, we're going to see what happens today. And I think America, once we get into Secretary Price making changes that are not scored by the CBO either for cost or for coverage. And I think we'll convince some Democrats in what we call our third bucket of selling insurance across state lines to lower the costs.

CUOMO: You can do that now in certain ways, and there's never been any demonstration that that's going to reduce costs. You price the plan on where you are, not where the company is.

COLLINS: Well, competition does work. There's no two ways about it.

CUOMO: But does it create competition?

COLLINS: ... fundamental tort reform and malpractice reform, that's another one that will reduce the cost. I think we'll get some Democrats on that. But that's phase three, later this year. We've to get it passed in phase one, and that's this afternoon. And as the president said, it's going to pass or not. If it doesn't and we have Obamacare, unfortunately, the train wreck of Obamacare, we'll be watching that play itself out later this year and into next year. And I think that will be a tragedy for America.

CUOMO: Chris Collins, appreciate you making the case, as always.

COLLINS: Thanks you.

CUOMO: Have a good weekend. Look forward to the vote today.

COLLINS: OK, thanks, Chris

CUOMO: All right. Coming up in our next hour, Health & Human Services Secretary Dr. Tom Price. He's one of the architects of the bill that goes up for the vote today. How does he make the sell to you -- Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: We look forward to talking to him.

Meanwhile, if the House bill does pass today, it faces an even bigger challenge in the Senate. Our all-star panel breaks down what happens next.


[07:20:56] CAMEROTA: All eyes on the U.S. Capitol there. Here's a live shot this morning where, in just a few hours, the House will vote on the GOP's health care bill, or not. Unless they delay it again.

President Trump issuing an ultimatum to House Republicans: vote today or keep Obamacare. So there's a lot at stake. Let's discuss with our great panel. We have Chris Cillizza, "Washington Post" national reporter; Michael Smerconish, CNN political commentator and host of CNN's "Smerconish"; and Abby Phillip, CNN political analyst and "Washington Post" reporter. Great to see all of you.

Abby, let me start with you. This is the first real test of President Trump's deal making, so how is it going to go?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, we're already seeing it kind of going exactly the way Trump is known to operate, which is he's calling their bluff. He's walking away from the table and seeing what Republicans do.

I mean, one of the interesting things about this week is that Trump has been working with them. He's been trying to do as much as he can to control and really pressure lawmakers to come to his side. But he is not necessarily doing it with the details, and that's where we are seeing the deal actually kind of falling apart, that the Freedom Caucus wants real policy. And that's not really the language that Trump speaks.

So I think at the end of this week, the question will be, is that kind of political pressure, the sort of, like, "Voters are going to hold you accountable," enough to govern in Washington in a very new environment for Trump, where he's not as comfortable and familiar with the policy as maybe others in Washington, including Mike Pence, are?

CUOMO: And Cillizza, welcome to the show and to the family, my brother.


CUOMO: So another thing that he Trump has going against him here is he doesn't seem to be putting his arms around this bill and slapping his name on it, the way he does most things that he likes. And could that be because he doesn't agree? He wants a win.

But I just quoted to Chris Collins a page out of his own book that he wrote calling for universal health care, saying again, you know, "The idea that millions of Americans live day-to-day in fear that an illness and injury will wipe out their savings and drag them into bankruptcy. How can we truly engage in the pursuit of happiness as our founders intended?" A man who wrote that...

CAMEROTA: That was 17 years ago, we should say.

CUOMO: But he has not said, "I was wrong." Well, he's never said that about anything. He's never changed his mind about policy. He said very recently he wants everyone covered.

CILLIZZA: Yes. I mean, look, the most consistent thing about Donald Trump from a policy perspective is how inconsistent he is.

I mean, look, this is someone who was a Democrat for much of his life prior to running.

I think in the primary campaign in 2016, there became this idea that Donald Trump was a strong conservative. The truth of the matter is, Donald Trump is not particularly ideological. Donald Trump likes winning. Donald Trump likes making good deals. The only thing that he is sort of has a consistent line throughout his career is on trade.

ON things like the health care vote, he never engaged in anything like this, certainly at this scale like, ever before. And I think what you see here -- Abby mentioned his deal-making, or lack thereof. What you see here is Donald Trump hedging his bets.

You're already seeing some leaking saying, "Well, Paul Ryan forced us to do this, but we should have done tax reform. We should have done something else."

You know, sure, but that's not exactly -- when you're trying to get to 2016 votes and you're not there yet, the whole "Let's start the blame game," you know, eight hours before the vote is not necessarily the way to go.

So I do think, look, he is always looking out, as many politicians are.


CILLIZZA: He's always looking out for himself.


CILLIZZA: And he doesn't have that core belief system, because he thinks about -- he believes in himself. He believes in winning.

CAMEROTA: Winning. I mean, there's that motivation. He does want this in the "win" column.

Michael, what do you think and what do your listeners and viewers think? Do they like this bill?

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, they don't understand what the bill is. And frankly, I'm not sure they're all that different from the members of Congress, despite all the complains of seven years ago, the Democrats rushed a bill without ever having read it. You remember that famous Nancy Pelosi quote which came back to haunt her, and I think it's case of deja vu with regard to that.

[07:25:08] I think there's a big-picture problem for the GOP. And by the way, I do not rule out that they are successful later this afternoon. But the big-picture problem is this. The Affordable Care Act, say what you will about it, but it had a pretty simple objective. And the simple objective was to provide more Americans with health care coverage. There's no common denominator to what's being discussed in the House today, other than it isn't Obamacare.

What exactly are the universal tenets that Republicans are seeking to pass today, and then next week, arguably, in the Senate? And they've had seven years to get it together, but there is no -- and you can ask Secretary Price in the next hour when he's your guest. But to my way of thinking, there's not a universal cause here that brings them together, other than to continue to be against Barack Obama.

CUOMO: And look, there's no question that Michael's right about that. You just have to look at the math. They want to take money out of the system and talk about how big that number is but then not own the resulting lack of coverage.

CAMEROTA: They say optionality. What they always tell us, Michael, is that their unifying principal is we'll have more options. People don't have options now. You only get one choice or no choices, and we're giving people back their freedom. That's what they tell us.

CUOMO: Right. But it's spin. And you had the CBO scores and a lot of other experts who say it sounds good. Not true.

Abby, the bigger problem, though, is let's say they get through the House. And, you know, it's a Friday. I'm rolling the dice. I'm saying it gets through the House. It's too big to ignore the repeal and replace pledge. Now you get into the Senate. That is a much tougher challenge. There's almost zero chance that something that gets through the Senate looks like what will get through the House today. Then what?

PHILLIPS: Yes, all of these conservative goodies that they're piling into this bill, are really not going to survive the Senate. And it's -- it's not even just about conservatives or even moderates in the Senate.

We're talking about people like Senator Tom Cotton, who is not a moderate by any stretch of the imagination. But he's in a state where a lot of his constituents are benefitting from Medicaid, and he's concerned about those insurance numbers. He's concerned about the amount of money that's going into the system. He's concerned about how the feedback from the governors has been, "You guys are basically shifting all the responsibility onto us." And so the Senate is a completely different ball game.

One of the interesting things I'm hearing a lot this week is that, you know, Republicans in the House are saying, "Well, we've gotten commitments from Mitch McConnell to do X, Y and Z." We've not heard anything from Mitch McConnell, and that's not by chance. It's because Mitch McConnell understands the Senate is very different. He understands the game is going to be very different over there, and he's not willing to make, you know, hard and fast commitments about what's going to happen, because he cannot guarantee that virtually any of this stuff is going to be passable in that chamber, where he's going to need 52 votes, some from moderates, some from conservatives where this health care bill is deeply unpopular in their states.

CAMEROTA: Hey, Chris, is Paul Ryan being John Boehnered? Meaning, meaning, you know, does his political future rest in the hands of the House Freedom Caucus?

CILLIZZA: I'm sure John Boehner would love being made into a verb.

You know, yes. In some ways it's meet the new boss, same as the old boss. Right? What was the problem in 2012, 2013, 2014? The problem is the same as now, which is the House Freedom Caucus, the 40-ish most conservative members, want purity. You know, they want full repeal and full replacements. Or they want things that can't be in the bill. Now every time you put -- Abby makes this point -- every time you put another conservative goody in there, you lose another moderate. You lose someone who's from a state that relies on the Medicare expansion. You lose a swing state or a swing congressional district vote. And that's your problem is that sometimes the math doesn't add up.

I'm with Chris; not just because we have the same first name. I do think -- I do think they will find some way to get it through, although I mean, who knows? But the bigger problem is the Senate bill, let's say the Senate passes something.


CILLIZZA: It's going to be radically different from the House. Then it goes to a conference committee, and I don't know that a piece of legislation comes out of that conference committee that everyone will vote for. So this is step one of a multistep congressional process. They thought this was the easy part.

CUOMO: Cillizza, Camerota, Cuomo.

CAMEROTA: There's a lot of commonality we have here, with Chris Cillizza.

CUOMO: Last word, Smerconish, who I'll call "Smerconi-osh" so you fit into the club. What do you think the chances is it gets through today?

SMERCONISH: Slightly -- listen, Mr. Cuomo, you know that my privileges to predict anything about Donald Trump...

CAMEROTA: Have been revoked.

SMERCONISH: ... where withdrawn on NEW DAY about nine months ago.

CUOMO: It's a new day. That's why we named the show that.

SMERCONISH: So you should vote against what I'm about to say.

CAMEROTA: We're going to do the opposite.

SMERCONISH: OK. I would say slightly better than 50/50 that they win this afternoon, which probably means Vegas should vote against it.

CAMEROTA: Well, we're taking note of all that. Panel, thank you very much for all of your great insights.

CUOMO: All right. So one of the things that's been clouding --