Return to Transcripts main page


White House Says Health Care Vote Will Happen This Week; Congress Strikes Spending Deal to Avoid Shutdown. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired May 1, 2017 - 09:00   ET


[09:00:00] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: I don't know how it grows his base. We'll have to see.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: All right, there you go. Time for CNN NEWSROOM with Poppy Harlow and John Berman, two great journalists. Good morning, guys.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Meanwhile, Cuomo was fishing during this whole thing.


BERMAN: The question is, what do the fish think about the comedy routine?

CUOMO: Well, they were obviously distracted by the other events because they were not jumping on the hook.

HARLOW: Yes. That's your excuse, Cuomo, OK. Good start to the fishing season.

CUOMO: This time.

HARLOW: This time. Thank you, guys, very much. Let's get started.

BERMAN: All right. Hello, everyone. I'm John Berman.

HARLOW: I'm Poppy Harlow. We have breaking news this Monday morning. Quote, "We have the votes," a declaration moments ago from the President's chief economic advisor Gary Cohn, one of the most powerful people in the White House, talking about the revamped push to replace and repeal ObamaCare. Here's what he just told CBS.


GARY COHN, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF ECONOMIC ADVISOR: This is going to be a great week. We're going to get health care down to the floor of the House. We're convinced we've got the votes.


BERMAN: All right. Gary Cohn may be convinced they have the votes. The White House may be convinced. But the key question this morning, is Paul Ryan convinced because they did not have the votes on Friday? So does the White House understand the sentiment inside Congress right now?

And new questions this morning about whether the President understands exactly what's in the bill to begin with? Let's bring in CNN Senior Washington Correspondent Joe Johns at the White House.

Good morning, Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. Well, our reporting, CNN's reporting, suggests that Republicans would love to get this health care vote off of their plate. There's some indication that they may think they're relatively close to doing that, having secured the vote hopefully of a number of conservatives in the House of Representatives, but moderates continue to be the problem.

Our reporting also suggests that moderates may have to get some sweeteners in the negotiations in order to go ahead, hold their noses, and take that vote, but not clear at all that this is anywhere close to being a done deal in the House of Representatives.

Complicating the situation as you said, John, is that problem with the administration's language over specific provisions here, including the language of the President himself who suggested erroneously in an interview with CBS that, for all intents and purposes, this bill would guarantee coverage of pre-existing conditions, which doesn't appear to be true. Listen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Pre-existing conditions are in the bill, and I mandated it. I said it has to be.

JOHN DICKERSON, CBS NEWS HOST: In one of the fixes that was discussed, pre-existing was optional for the states.

TRUMP: Sure, in one of the fixes. And they're changing it and changing --

DICKERSON: Oh, OK. So it'll be permanent?

TRUMP: Of course. This is --

DICKERSON: OK. Well, that's the development, sir. But on that crucial question, it's not going to be left up to the states? Everybody gets pre-existing, no matter where they live guaranteed?

TRUMP: No, but the states are also going to have a lot to do with it because we ultimately want to get it back down to the states.

DICKERSON: OK. Is it guaranteed?

TRUMP: The state is going to be in a much better position to take care because' smaller.

DICKERSON: So I'm not hearing you, Mr. President, say there's a guarantee of pre-existing conditions.

TRUMP: We actually have a clause that guarantees.


JOHNS: Confusion there. And quite frankly, John, a lot of this right now on Capitol Hill, as it has been for the last two or three weeks, is just about as clear as mud, and the President's statements there didn't help much. Back to you.

BERMAN: No, indeed no. What the bill does not do is guarantee the prices for those with pre-existing conditions, which is key for the people who have to deal with that. Joe Johns at the White House, thanks so much.

More breaking news this morning. There is a deal, an actual deal, an actual moment of bipartisanship in America right here.

HARLOW: There is one. Yes.

BERMAN: It's so rare it's almost difficult to say it because my mouth is unfamiliar with making those sounds, but overnight, congressional leaders reached a bipartisan deal to fund the government for a whopping six months or so.

HARLOW: Yes. I mean, it's six months. It's not two weeks. It's something. And it's a deal, folks. It still needs to be approved at the House and the Senate. It includes billions of dollars in defense spending, but it does not include a dime, a dime, for one of the President's signature campaign promises, and that is the border wall.

Let's go straight to our National Correspondent Suzanne Malveaux who is on Capitol Hill this morning. There was a lot of give here from the President on this one.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There certainly was, and I actually am with you guys in trying to say this. Really, Poppy and John, the fact that it is such a surprise on Monday morning, that you would have members of Congress, who'd be working over the weekend and Sunday night, come up with this breakthrough, but it has actually happened.

And there was a good deal of give and take on both sides here, these negotiations, after weeks and weeks of tense talks, but it was very clear Republicans and Democrats did not want to have a government shutdown. So here is what is in this spending bill here, in the budget deal.

We are talking about billions in new defense spending. This is something that President Trump had insisted on. $1.5 billion for border security, that includes technology and personnel. Increases spending for clean energy and science, something that Democrats were looking for.

[09:05:06] A $2 billion boost for the National Institutes of Health, also something the Democrats were pushing. And $407 million in wildlife relief for -- rather, wildfire relief for western states. Here is what is not in the budget bill. We are talking no money for a

deportation force -- that was a real give for the President -- or a border wall. And this is something that President Trump, even at his rally just yesterday, was saying was critical and that it would happen. So that, again, controversial thing put off the table at least for now. And leaves Planned Parenthood untouched.

So all of these things together, we do expect that it'll go before both the chambers. And the House and the Senate will pass this by the end of the week -- Poppy.

HARLOW: A deal. Say it three times fast. Deal, deal, deal.

BERMAN: A deal. Bipartisan. Bipartisan. I got to write it out phonetically because I can't say it otherwise. All right.

HARLOW: Suzanne Malveaux, thank you. We appreciate the reporting.

Joining us now, A.B. Stoddard, associate editor and columnist for RealClearPolitics. David Swerdlick is here, our political commentator and assistant editor for "The Washington Post." And we're joined by Patrick Healy, CNN political analyst and "New York Times" deputy cultural editor. Very nice to have you all here.

A.B., let me begin with you and let's begin on health care. I mean, Gary Cohn, not only the chief economic advisor to the President, this is a guy with rising influence within the West Wing. His words, you know, we have confidence we've got the votes. It's going to be a very good week. So? What do you make of it?

A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR AND COLUMNIST, REALCLEARPOLITICS: Right, in a normal situation that didn't involve a couple of health care fails in the last few weeks and all the tension we know surrounding the divisions within the Republican conference on the Hill, we could take a signal from the White House and say, boy, they have the votes. I mean, if he says so.

Bu as the reporting shows, there's still a lot of skirmishing going on, with incredible hesitance coming from the moderate Republicans who are concerned, as you mentioned in the open, that if there isn't a threat to the coverage for the sick and those with pre-existing conditions, there is certainly the threat that their prices will be raised, and that House members voting to support a bill like this could see it die in the Senate and then be left with holding the political bag next November come the midterm elections, when it will only take 24 seats for Republicans to lose their majority.

So a lot of those House members who are conflicted over this bill have no interest in sending something to the Senate to see it die. They see the American Medical Association opposed, the American Cancer Society opposed, for the reasons in the changes to the pre-existing language, and they're just really backed into a corner.

I don't know that they won't come on board in enough numbers. Perhaps they will, but the best tactic for the White House is to not say anything until the votes are on the floor. BERMAN: You know, you don't want to declare victory until you're

across the finish line right there.


BERMAN: Patrick Healy, the President was with John Dickerson talking about pre-existing conditions. And he is correct that this amendment specifically says pre-existing conditions have to be covered, but what it also allows is for states to opt out of what essentially means that are guarantees for people with pre-existing conditions to get affordable coverage.


BERMAN: You can raise the rates, perhaps, to infinity here. So when the President talks like this, Patrick, does he understand what's in the bill, or is he being disingenuous by talking about guarantees to people with pre-existing conditions?

PATRICK HEALY, DEPUTY CULTURAL EDITOR, THE NEW YORK TIMES: He's doing what he's done all along, John, which is try to sort of frame the argument or frame the bill, frame whatever sort of policy plan he's rolling out on his own terms. And they are often misleading terms. They are often erroneous terms.

It goes beyond just the usual spin, and it goes into kind of Donald Trump's sort of view of the world. In this case, he was facing hard right conservatives in the House, the Freedom Caucus, that wanted to create basically as many exceptions as possible for states to be able to opt out of the health care plan that would remain in place.

And you know, in doing so, he's essentially trying to dress it up as something that, yes, might technically have pre-existing health condition coverage but, again, has so many sort of holes that states can get out of, that you're going to find a lot of Americans, including a lot of Trump supporters, if this bill were to pass, you know, will be lacking that kind of coverage.

But the broader issue, John, too, is that there was a thought, I think, that once President Trump got beyond kind of the hundred-day mark and the need to rush, rush, rush, and pass, and get wins on the board, like a House vote on health care, that, you know, there might be kind of a broader governing plan here. And in this case, it would be involving the Senate, coming up with some kind of an agreement that might be able to pass both chambers, which are controlled by Republicans after all, and that's something you just haven't seen yet.

[09:10:03] HARLOW: So here's the thing. You have Congress going on to recess on Thursday, so the President says no rush, no rush, take your time. But here is what "Politico" says, "some senior Republicans are worried that if they fail to get it done by Thursday, it would fritter away critical momentum. Skittish Republicans would go home, face a barrage of pressure from Democrats and progressive outside groups." David, do you agree? Is there indeed a rush, if it's not a hundred-day mark, it's before that recess? DAVID SWERDLICK, ASSISTANT EDITOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: I think the

pressure is on them to take some positive steps to show that they're moving the agenda so that members of Congress don't face this criticism that they're going on yet another recess without getting anything done and that the White House doesn't face the continued criticism that they can't get this health care bill through. But I think that A.B. and Patrick are right.

There are several problems for the White House in terms of making good on this health care promise. One is this sort of shorter-term issue of forcing Republicans in the House to walk the plank on some measures that are unpopular in swing districts, only to potentially see them fizzle out in the Senate.

And then the other problem is this, that if they actually do get this passed, do get it through the Senate, they do change the law to reduce this list of essential health benefits that are required, to change the way the rules are for pre-existing conditions, if not to get rid of that coverage for pre-existing conditions, then they own this law.

And that, I think, is the fundamental tension for Republicans right now. They know that if things are enacted and that they don't bring premiums down and that people aren't happy with their coverage options or the breadth of coverage, then it's now a Republican. It's no longer a Democratic problem or failing.

BERMAN: So, A.B., this is one of those days that, you know, we almost don't know how to deal with because Congress has reached a bipartisan agreement here on this budget deal to fund the government for a few months, you know. But even that is progress here, you know.

And what's in the deal, the President gets a military spending. He gets some money for border security but, you know, he gave in on a whole bunch of things here, including no funding for the border wall, continued funding for Planned Parenthood, there's more funding for the NIH than he wanted. So who got more in this deal? I'm hearing a lot more Democrats crowing than Republicans.

STODDARD: That's what's so interesting is, you see statements coming out from liberal and progressive groups and they are exuberant, basically saying this affirms that fighting Trump is going to work, and that's not what Republicans want to hear this morning.

President Trump will obviously go out and say it's the best spending bill ever, and I got everything I wanted. But the truth is, there's a real tension among Republicans about funding the wall, and that's going to be a fight that they face again when this bill expires on September 30th.

The Democrats knew that Paul Ryan was too nervous about the implications of defunding Planned Parenthood in this bill. He said so publicly several weeks ago that this wasn't the time to do it, so that's a victory for them. And the fact that, you know, the deportation police and the wall weren't funded is something they'll take as a victory in addition to those other spending for wildfire relief and the other things that they wanted, so they see this as basically a Republican defeat.

And really, what is the lesson for the funding bill going forward for Trump? President Trump needs to realize the Republicans are so divided in Congress, the more that they forge ahead with tax reform and something super challenging or even a Republican health care fix without bridging those divides, the more emboldened the Democrats become and the more they end up winning themselves.

HARLOW: Hey, guys, before we let you go, very quickly, there's a really important moment in the President's interview with John Dickerson of CBS about, you know, what surprised him about how Washington works. Let's listen to what he said about the Senate rules.


TRUMP: I think the rules in Congress and in particular the rules in the Senate are unbelievably archaic and slow moving and, in many cases, unfair. In many cases, you're forced to make deals that are not the deal you'd make.


HARLOW: Yes, David Swerdlick, you are forced to make deals in Washington where your entire party doesn't fill all 100 seats in the Senate. I mean this is important because he was able to get his Supreme Court pick confirmed because they changed the rules in the Senate, 51 votes, simple majority. Did you read that as him saying I'd like to see a change that way as well for legislation?

SWERDLICK: I mean, maybe he's hinting at that. But what I see is this whole pattern that is -- you know, I don't know if I want to say it's funny, but it's funny in a sad way. The rules of the Senate are archaic. Health care was more complicated. Who knew?

You know, also in that interview, or maybe it was the A.P. interview, where the President said, you know, essentially, oh, you know, it turns out this job is harder than running my real estate empire. He may have been the only person in Washington that didn't know all of these things before he became President. And you know, some of this, you can expect as a learning curve that all presidents face, but some of this is that he sort of oversold the idea that he would be able to get things done quickly and easily in Washington.

[09:15:07] BERMAN: All right, David Swerdlick, A.B. Stoddard, Patrick Healy, thanks so much guys for being with us.

Well, he bragged about killing with his own hands and he called the U.S. president a son of a whore and now he gets a White House invitation after a friendly conversation with President Trump, this morning, brazing for backlash.

Plus if you don't like the story, how about make the reporter easier to sue, top White House aide says they've looked at changing libel laws. Isn't as easy as they think it is.


And severe turbulence so severe there were broken bones, bruises and blood on overhead bins. Were passengers warned? You'll hear live from the person who filmed this video, straight ahead.


HARLOW: All right, he's been accused of many human rights abuses, has admitted to killing suspected criminals with his own hands and called former President Obama, quote, "son of a whore."

[09:20:03]And the president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, now has an invitation to the White House. That invitation coming during a call between the two leaders. The White House is defending it as criticism mounts.

BERMAN: And as a reminder, it was just six months ago that Duterte in a speech to business leaders says he used to go around in his words "looking for a confrontation so I could kill." That was during a stint as mayor in the '80s. Listen to this.


RODRIGO DUTERTE, PHILIPPINES PRESIDENT: I must admit a third of the killings really happened during police encounters and I know it because I'm not trying to I said pull my own chair but in Davao, I used to do it personally, just to show to the guys that if I can do it, why can't you?


BERMAN: A guy who brags about killing, a guy who calls names. The president is now a guy with a White House invitation. CNN international correspondent, Ivan Watson, joins us right now. An interesting discussion it seems and an interesting invitation -- Ivan.

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. An invitation in both the White House and the Philippines president's office put out read-outs saying that the conversation was warm and friendly and that he was discussing North Korea, that was one of the issues.

And top White House official, Reince Priebus has come out since then saying, hey, we need the Philippines as part of a broader coalition to deal with the North Korean dictatorship. Take a listen.


REINCE PRIEBUS, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: The purpose of the call is all about North Korea. There is nothing right now facing this country and facing the region that is a bigger threat than what's happening in North Korea, and if we don't have all of our folks together, whether they're good folks, bad folks, people that we wish would do better in their country doesn't matter, we've got to be on the same page.


WATSON: Now, here's the thing, John and Poppy. The Philippines does not have much political or economic leverage over North Korea. It is the rotating chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, that's ten countries that does not include Korea. It's not a big player when it comes to North Korea and its nuclear program.

Another thing that Presidents Duterte and Trump discussed was Duterte's very controversial drug war, in which he is believed to have ordered a crackdown that has led to the deaths of more than 7,000 people.

The police in the Philippines have killed more than 2,500 suspected drug users, all they claim in self-defense, and that is part of what has human rights activists and of course, Democrats criticizing the invitation of this self-confessed criminal, and killer, rather to the White House.

Look at this tweet from Senator Chris Murphy from Connecticut, quote, "We are watching in real time as the American human rights bully pulpit disintegrates into ash."

Now, of course, Duterte famously cursed former President Barack Obama, but he seems to have an affinity for President Trump. He said, quote, "We both like to swear. One little thing, we curse right away. We are the same." He called former President Obama a son of a whore -- Poppy.

HARLOW: Ivan Watson, this affinity as you reported on for a long time seemingly for strong men leaders. Ivan Watson for us, thank you.

On the issue of North Korea, the president is leaving the door open for military force, here is what he just said.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I will not be happy if he does a nuclear test, I will not be happy and I can tell you also I don't believe the president of China, who is a very respected man, will be happy either.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not happy meaning military action?

PRESIDENT TRUMP: I don't know, we'll see.


HARLOW: This news comes as South Korea says its neighbor to the North most recently displayed its failed missile launch from a new type of missile.

BERMAN: A spokesman for the U.S. Pacific command says the device blew up harmlessly over North Korean territory and while this is the second failed missile tests in a row for North Korea, observers say the country continues to approve its capabilities with each launch. Let's talk about some of these foreign situations right now. Joining us is Congressman Adriano Espaillat of New York. He is a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Congressman, thanks so much for being with us.

Let's talk about the president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, who is gunning a White House invitation, the guy who called President Obama the "son of a whore." This is a guy connected to the deaths of thousands of people inside his country, albeit he says in a drug war. But what kind of message does this send to the world?

REPRESENTATIVE ADRIANO ESPAILLAT (D), FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE: I think the White House is rolling out the red carpet for all these human rights violators from Putin to Duterte and now even speaking very light about the Kim regime. So the White House has really stooped down to a level unforeseen before in history with regards to our position on how we should react to human rights violators.

HARLOW: I don't think a lot of people would see it as the White House right now at least rolling out the red carpet for President Putin after those airstrikes in Syria that were directly, you know, in the face of what Russia wanted, that's your opinion.

[09:25:08]However, you know, when he invited President El-Sisi of Egypt to the White House, two, three weeks later an American citizen held in jail there for three years was released, something that did not happen under the Obama administration. Could this prove to be an effective tactic? El-Sisi has been criticized as well for human rights violations.

ESPAILLAT: That may be the case. One case we got someone released from jail but the actions of Duterte are pernicious. They're reprehensible. He is a blood thirsty killer and the White House is rolling out the red carpet for him saying he will help put with North Korea.

We don't think he'll be influential in a discussions or diplomatic efforts to bring justice to that rogue regime in North Korea and we think that the president again has slipped down a slippery slope at engaging these very rough guys across the world that are beating up on their people basically.

BERMAN: Congressman, there was a deal overnight inside the House for a spending bill that will fund the government for another six months or so, no funding for the border wall, increased funding for NIH, no halt of funding for Planned Parenthood. Democrats got a lot of what they wanted in this. So you know, 102 days, I guess, that is where we are in this administration, 102 days in. What are your opinions of President Trump as a negotiator?

ESPAILLAT: Well, he's the king of the deal. He wrote a book about it, but this is a clear victory for Democrats I think. It shows that the organization, the mobilization of people across the country it's working and to have for me particularly the NIH funding is crucial because it has many research institutions, Columbia University, many of the hospitals are in my district, New York Presbyterian, Mt. Sinai, Mt. Fiore.

So this is critical to research in my district. I think it's a big victory. No money for wall, no sanctions for sanctuary cities, more funding for Planned Parenthood through September. We'll take it up again at the end of the year, but right now I think we could call it a victory.

HARLOW: We have to get you on with Biden.

BERMAN: Joe Biden, the former vice president of the United States was up in New Hampshire last night speaking. We don't have time to run the clip. He said I'm not running, and then smiled, but he's in New Hampshire, do you believe him?

ESPAILLAT: I love Joe Biden. Let's see what happens.

HARLOW: Come on.

BERMAN: Do you want him to run?

ESPAILLAT: Well, you know, he's a guy that I think has brought Democrats together. He had a personal decision that he had to make back when he decided not to run. Let's see what happens in the future.

BERMAN: Do you want him to run?

ESPAILLAT: I would welcome him to consider it.

HARLOW: Is he the best Democrat right now to win in 2020?

ESPAILLAT: There's lots of good candidates that are coming down the pipeline.

HARLOW: That is such a non-answer.

ESPAILLAT: Let's not get there. Let's take it a step at a time and we'll see what happens next time around.

BERMAN: Congressman Espaillat, thanks so much for being with us. We appreciate it.

HARLOW: All right, still to come for us, the president twisting arms, trying to get new health care legislation passed this week. What he is saying to try to sell the bill though, could it cost him those critical votes?