Return to Transcripts main page


Is Health Care Bill On Verge Of Defeat?; Trump: Our Country Needs A Good Shutdown; Trump "Considering" Breaking Up Big Banks. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired May 2, 2017 - 09:00   ET


[09:00:00] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: -- shown to be false, stay away from it. Move on. That's the nature of that business and of life.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Let's see if they are going to discuss that on CNN NEWSROOM with Poppy Harlow and John Berman. Hi guys.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: You know, that is how --

CUOMO: You walked away from me during a conversation.

HARLOW: That's how Berman walks off the set.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: There's no conversation that I don't walk away from you on. You know, that's my M.O. when I talk to Chris Cuomo.

CAMEROTA: Very wise.

HARLOW: Tell them how you walk off this set every morning. You rip the mike off.

BERMAN: Yes, I throw it out.

HARLOW: Throws it out and then we do it again.

BERMAN: But I'll say, you know, we're doing it live.

CAMEROTA: I don't even know. See you, guys.

BERMAN: All right, guys. We got a lot to get to. Let's get started.

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

HARLOW: I'm Poppy Harlow. A crucial hour right now on Capitol Hill. Happening now, Republicans are meeting behind closed doors, a meeting that could determine the fate of the latest effort to repeal ObamaCare. CNN's whip count shows the bill is just two votes from going down, two votes from collapse. To be specific, two votes from another collapse on a policy that was Republican's signature promise for years.

BERMAN: Now at the root of the conflict, something of a Republican civil war over coverage with people with pre-existing conditions. And just like the actual civil war, it isn't clear that the President understands the details.

Let's go live now to Capitol Hill. CNN's Suzanne Malveaux is there. Paul Ryan hosting a meeting right now. I assume counting heads yet again, and we could get a sense very soon if this thing has any life left, Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. I mean, what you're looking at here is House Republicans creating again once again a sense of urgency about getting something done on the House and pushing it over to the Senate side. It is far from certain whether or not they are going to do that today. But, yes, they are meeting behind closed doors, that meeting having started in earnest.

And what will happen, in less than an hour, we expect House Speaker Paul Ryan as well as some of those people in that meeting will come forward. They will spell out what kind of support they have, whether or not they have been able to build on the momentum to get this thing through.

What they need so far, and this is the count, our breakdown, 216 yes votes from Republicans for this bill to pass. That means they can afford no more than 22 no votes. By our count here, our CNN whip count, there are now 21 no votes. There are 17 Republicans who are undecided, and that is where you are in this kind do or die land.

If they can get some of those to the other side, the yes side, they might actually have this. But even yesterday, we heard from the Vice President, Mike Pence, who said stay tuned. He did not say, yes, this is going to go through. And we don't have a vote from yet House Speaker Paul Ryan on the schedule.

The core issue, as you had mentioned before, pre-existing conditions, whether or not states would be able to opt out of insurers being able to treat them differently than perhaps other patients. Perhaps higher premiums, that type of thing. They are really alienating some of the moderate Republicans who cannot stand by this, Charlie Dent being one of them.


REP. CHARLIE DENT (R), PENNSYLVANIA: That amendment, in my view, would remove protections for people with pre-existing conditions or could potentially remove them because the states would have the option to waive out of providing those essential health benefits.

So in its current form, I would have to say that the protections simply aren't there for people with pre-existing conditions. And as Republicans, we have stood up and said we intend to protect people with pre-existing conditions, so the bill does not match some of the rhetoric we're hearing right now.


MALVEAUX: And some of that rhetoric coming from President Trump saying to Bloomberg News here, "I want it to be good for sick people. It is not in its final form right now. It will be every bit as good on pre-existing conditions as ObamaCare."

But as we know, this is not included in that provision in this legislation, so we are not quite clear what the President is talking about. This is something that Republicans are going to have to take a stand on now in the House over that very issue, John.

BERMAN: All right. Suzanne Malveaux for us in Capitol Hill. We are watching that meeting. We will go back to it the minute they start to emerge because those votes, important to count right now.

Meanwhile, new questions this morning about the President's relationship and approach to controversial world leaders.

HARLOW: Just hours from now, President Trump is set to speak with Russian President Vladimir Putin. This is the first time that the two leaders will speak since Russia denounced last month's U.S. missile strike on Syria. This phone call comes less than 24 hours after President Trump said he would be, quote, "honored" to meet North Korea dictator Kim Jong-un if the conditions were right.

Our Senior Washington Correspondent Joe Johns is live at the White House with more this morning. Any word from the White House on what Putin, you know, and the President may discuss?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: No word in specific, but I can tell you these two men are a bit familiar with each other. This is not by any means, by any stretch of the imagination, the first time they have talked. I think we just go to the graphic and show you.

On November 14th of last year, the two men talked. It was Donald Trump's first week as President-elect. Then in January, January 28th of 2017, one week after the election, they talked again. Both of those calls presumably would have been congratulatory in nature.

[09:05:10] But the third call happening the first week of April was all about the St. Petersburg bomb attack where 14 people killed, almost 50 people injure. In that call, the President of the United States was extending his condolences and offering any assistance the United States could bring.

Today's call also comes at a time of renewed interest, as you said, in the relationship between the President, the Trump administration, and a number of people who've been described as despots and dictators, including Kim Jong-un. And the President just made some comments about him yesterday. Listen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If it would be appropriate for me to meet with him, I would absolutely. I would be honored to do it. If it's under the -- again, under the right circumstances.

(END VIDEO CLIP) JOHNS: OK, caveat there, under the right circumstances. But he said a lot of other things about some controversial leaders around the world.

Let's start out with Kim Jong-un. We have a graphic on that. He's called him a smart cookie. To President Erdogan of Turkey. "I give him great credit," Donald Trump has said.

President el-Sisi of Egypt, called him a fantastic guy. Vladimir Putin there, he called better than Barack Obama. And President Duterte of the Philippines, he had a very friendly talk with him.

So why is this important? It's important because human rights activists and some of the President's critics on Capitol Hill say when the President gives sway to these leaders, when the President invites them to the White House, or otherwise communicates with them, all he's doing is giving the stamp of approval from the White House to authoritarian figures. Back to you, Poppy.

BERMAN: All right, I'll take it. Joe Johns at the White House, thanks so much. Joining us now, Independent Senator Angus King of Maine.

Senator King, thank you so much for being with us. You know, you called the first version of the Republican health care plan bad and flawed. You also said, and I want to read this, "It would shift and shaft the people who need coverage." You know, aside from being a skillful alliteration, what did you mean by that, and does it apply to the current version of the bill being discussed as well?

SEN. ANGUS KING (IND), MAINE: Well, shift and shaft refers specifically to one of the ways they were funding it, by shifting $880 billion from the federal government to the states and allowing significant reductions in the number of people who were covered. The Congressional Budget Office said 24 million people would lose their coverage.

And again, to call it a budget plus, that it was really good, simply by shifting the cost to the states, I mean, that's pretty easy work. Why not we shift the cost of the Air Force to the states? That would help the federal budget, but it doesn't do the states much good. Shifting it from one level of government to the other is not a reduction.

HARLOW: Eventually someone has to pay. Senator, a lot of Republicans are talking about the so-called high-risk pools, that's what the Vice President said this week, will cover those as pre-existing conditions in what he claims will be an affordable way. Your state of Maine is the only example where they have worked, and that's because you guys levied a tax, $4 a month, on everyone to pay for this.

As it stands now, do you think that model can work in the Republican plan? Because we don't see anything in it, a funding mechanism for it, at this point.

KING: No, there is no -- I mean, there is funding. They're talking about $15 billion over, I think, nine years. I did a back of the envelope calculation. And by the way, you don't want to be passing major pieces of legislation with back of the envelope calculations. The first thing they should do is take a deep breath and get the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office to give them a review of what would this really do.

But the bottom line is, if you take the main plan and scale it up nationally, it would be something like $4 or $5 billion a year. They're proposing $15 billion over nine years, so it is almost two- thirds below what would be adequate to do it, even if they were replicating the Maine plan. And there were other issues in Maine.

The Affordable Care Act came in just as this Maine plan was being implemented, and it helped. So what they are proposing is a little bit of a shell game, and I don't think it would solve the problem.

BERMAN: One of the things you are starting to hear from members of the House and Republicans in the Senate is, you know what, just get this through the House. We'll fix it in the Senate. Roy Blunt, the Republican from Missouri, said, "I think what they should be focused on is getting this process moving and, frankly, passing the obligation over to the Senate." Does that make sense? Is this the way to get stuff done?

[09:09:59] KING: No, I think that would be a big mistake. If I am a House member from even a marginally competitive district, I'm not sure I want to make a potentially career ending vote on something that the Congressional Budget Office hasn't even looked at yet.

I mean, that first bill was a disaster, and I haven't seen much that would improve it. Premiums would go up dramatically, particularly for older people. You know, 24 million people losing their health insurance, and that's what the Congressional Budget Office said, which, by the way, the Republicans control. They named the chair, so this is not a Democratic plot.

I would never vote for this bill without getting a score because, you know, I could write the ads, "This guy voted to take your health insurance away." I think the idea of passing it over there and then hoping something better happens here, I think, would be a real mistake.

HARLOW: Yes. And that's what those House Republicans have decided. Is it worth the political capital, if its' just going to change a lot in the Senate, to be a yes vote on it?

Let me switch gears and get your take on this because, as you know, a lot has been made of the President's comments about the Civil War and his interview with Salena Zito. Here is part of what he said, "People don't realize, you know, the Civil War, if you think about it, why? People don't ask that question, but why was there a civil war? Why could that one not have been worked out?"

Again, as a Senator from Maine, the home state of Joshua Chamberlain, one of the heroes of Gettysburg, what is your reaction to that? KING: Well, my first reaction is the President ought to read

Lincoln's first inaugural, and then he ought to read Lincoln's second inaugural, where the haunting words -- I think the most haunting line in all of American presidential literature -- "and the war came." And Lincoln outlined why it was unavoidable.

And there have probably been a million words written about that -- Shelby Foote's trilogy on the Civil War, McPherson, "The Battle Cry of Freedom" -- the question of why the civil war is one of the most heavily researched and discussed topics in American history.

And the basic reason was from the time Lincoln was elected in November of 1860 to when he was sworn in in March of 1861, seven states had seceded from the union. Why the civil war? Lincoln had a stark choice. Let them go and break the country in half or fight the war in order to keep the country together.

BERMAN: Does it concern you at all that the President was asking the question or using those words in that way?

KING: You know, the Civil War is the seminal event in American history, and it concerned me he was being so cavalier about, you know, why did it happen and Jackson could have prevented it. Jackson died 16 years before the Civil War began. You know, this is important and very deep stuff, but to say nobody asked why, I mean, that just doesn't pass the straight face test.

HARLOW: Senator Angus King, we appreciate you joining us this morning. Thank you.

KING: Thank you.

HARLOW: Coming up for us, a bloody passenger dragged off a plane, a bungled apology a few times, and now United Airlines' CEO will face lawmakers in just moments on Capitol Hill.

BERMAN: And the President's statements about the Civil War coupled with his seemingly fuzzy understanding of the details of his own health care plan, not to mention his desire to meet with the North Korean leader, some people note this is a bizarre 24 hours. One historian even questioned the president's mental state. Stick around.



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. A critical day ahead for President Trump, really, as we told you right now House Republicans are meeting behind closed doors. They are talking about this new plan to repeal and replace Obamacare, two votes away, though, from collapsing.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: And on the president's schedule this afternoon, he will have his third call with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Notably the first time the two leaders spoke since those U.S. missile strikes on Syria. Let's talk about it all, M.J. Lee is here, CNN national politics reporter, Errol Louis, CNN political commentator and political anchor of Spectrum News. Susan Page joins us, the Washington bureau chief for "USA Today" and Ron Brownstein, CNN senior political analyst and senior editor for "The Atlantic."

And I should note, a new tweet from the president calling for a government shutdown. We'll get to that in a moment. Stick with us for that.

But Errol, you know, this health care bill is teetering, right? Two votes away is the latest whip count from the failure. You even have some big surprises on the Republican side who you thought would be supporting this bill.

Billy Long of Missouri comes out yesterday and says, look, it doesn't protect pre-existing conditions, I'm out. If this is all going to change in the Senate any ways, how are they making the political capital decision that it is worth, the House Republicans, their vote to say yes?

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, this is the challenge, right? The worst thing that could happen to a Republican member of Congress who thinks that this might be an issue is to sort of lose on the issue and then the bill goes away anyway because it never gets a vote or it never passes in the Senate.

So what they're talking about today, no doubt, is in the kind of political calculus that politicians understand, which is to say if you want me to take a hit for this, you have to guarantee me that some version of this is going to survive --

HARLOW: Which they can't do. You cannot make that guarantee.

LOUIS: No, of course not. Of course not.

BERMAN: M.J., what people don't see during the break, you are on the phone and working your sources because you are involved in our whip count right now trying to see where things stand. Republicans are two votes away from this going down right now in the House right now. Where do you see this moving? If they lose it, it is not going to be one or two votes that puts it over the top. It will be ten breaking all of a sudden, right?

M.J. LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: Yes. I think the important thing to keep in mind about the whip count is that, yes, we currently have 21 Republican noes, but those are only the people who have been willing to publically say that they're opposed to the bill.

We don't know how many members have privately polled said, I don't want to say no in public, but I'm not going to be able to support this bill.

And also keep in mind that the dozens of people who are undecided, you know, if we are going by this whip count, we are assuming that all of the people who are undecided will vote for the bill. So this is a really precarious situation that leadership finds itself in.

[09:20:02]And I think it is interesting that for a while now this whip count has remained, you know, somewhere around the low 20s for now and that is because members are very, very aware that they don't want to be the member that puts that whip count above the 20 no threshold because they don't want to be blamed for tanking a bill that is supposed to repeal and replace Obamacare.

HARLOW: Susan, where does the criticism fall big picture here if this thing doesn't make it the second time around and what it says about the party and its leadership in total because it is not like they just came up with the fact that they want to repeal and replace Obamacare. They have been working on this for seven years. It is their signature promise and if they can't get it done, what does it say?

SUSAN PAGE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "USA TODAY": Well, I think it raises questions about Speaker Paul Ryan and whether he properly laid the ground work to manage a quick repeal and replacement during those years when they were vote after vote repealing Obamacare when you knew President Obama was going to veto it.

And I think it also raises questions about the White House. You know, the thing that has created great problems in these final hours are the president's own words where he was unable to explain in a cogent way how the pre-existing condition protections worked.

Focused attention on the fact that -- the plan that is going to be voted on would give states the opportunity to get a waiver that could very well make coverage unaffordable for people with pre-existing conditions.

That is one of the real fault lines. It is one of the things people like most about the Affordable Care Act. So the idea that you are going to lose that protection for millions of Americans is something that makes it very hard for even some conservative Republicans like Billy Long in Missouri to vote for it.

BERMAN: To be clear, it is not at all clear that the president understands the details of what's in this bill and he has not explained them clearly once yet over the last two days. Maybe he does and maybe he will, but up until now we haven't seen it.

Ron Brownstein, Poppy, alluded breaking news, Donald Trump moments ago writing and let me read this to you so we fully understand it, "The reason for the plan negotiated between the Democrats and Republicans is that we need 60 votes in the Senate," which are not there. He's talking about the bill to fund the government.

He also says, "Either elect for Republican senator in 2018 or change the rules now to 51 percent." This is the line that people are talking about, "Our country needs a good shutdown in September to fix mess."

The president of the United States just called for a government shutdown, Ron. And if I'm reading this correctly, it's because he doesn't like the idea that you need 60 votes in the Senate to get things passed. He doesn't like the reality.

HARLOW: He got the Supreme Court justice with 51, right?

BERMAN: But the separation of power seems to be dragging this guy down a bit.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: And this is the second time in the last few days that he's basically urged Senate Republicans to challenge the filibuster. It goes along with his criticism of the courts and the press, really pretty much, any institution that could provide a check, he has been, you know, forceful in trying to undermine.

Can I go back to health care for one minute because I think it is revealing whether they narrowly get over the top or fall short, the fact that it is this difficult I think underscores much trouble Republicans are having reconciling the traditional small government ideology with the material needs of a coalition that is now heavily centered on older and lower income whites.

If you look at those 22 who have said no or 21 and many of those who are undecided, they are not especially disproportionately concentrated in districts that Hillary Clinton won. It's kind of surprising.

Donald Trump won many of the districts. You mentioned Billy Long. Donald Trump won his district by 45 points. The most common element, I think, of those Republicans who are resisting this bill, as we'll point out in a piece this morning is that most of them are in districts older than the national average, more seniors.

And as we have seen older Americans are people 50 to 64 have been adamant in their opposition to this bill, particularly the idea of withdrawing the guarantee on pre-existing conditions.

HARLOW: You'll remember in that interview with Tucker Carlson in Fox, the president himself, you know, acknowledged this plan the first time around, Errol, was one that was hurting some of his biggest supporters.

LOUIS: Yes. Well, that's right. That's right. And if we are going to have sort of a rational debate about this, I think what has almost doomed the bill, we'll see how it all plays out, is this need to try and get it done within weeks, within days, within the first 100 days, now day 103. It took 14 months and it took a lot of bargaining.

The whole master deal that was cut with the pharmaceutical industry kind of take them out of it. These were big decisions that were made by what was a unified Congress at the time.

Right now, you don't have the unity and if they are not going to take advantage of the time, which is something sort of on their side and if they are not going to rebrand it and move forward and call it Trumpcare and move on to a different topic, they're setting themselves up for a big defeat.

BERMAN: All right, guys. Go ahead, M.J. LEE: I was going to say I think we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that the big pictures was that Republicans are -- it is true that they are closer now than ever before to repealing and replacing Obamacare.

[09:25:08]You know, the House, the Senate and the White House all controlled by the GOP and I think we shouldn't underestimate how difficult it is for lawmakers to, one, buck the president and, two, buck the promise that they have made for close to ten years.

BERMAN: We will see. You know, Paul Ryan, House Republicans behind closed doors right now. We will see when they emerge what they say. Are they closer to the votes or not. Guys, thanks very much.

We are minutes away as well from the opening bell on Wall Street. President Trump says he's considering breaking up the big banks. Wall Street, though, maybe not buying it.

Let's see CNN chief money correspondent and star of "EARLY START," Christine Romans. What's going on?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: I didn't see the market move at all on that comment, that tweet you guys were just reading. So pretty interesting there. Wall Street taking it very seriously of a shutdown threat either here, but what a run for text stocks here.

First of all, the Nasdaq at the highest in history boosted by Apple, Netflix, and Amazon shares. Also, they are all at record highs. More earnings today in the start of a two-day fed policy meeting. So that could be why you have a pause here going on in the markets.

Investors seemed to be ignoring overall everything except the Trump policies that will make them money, tax reform, deregulation now, infrastructure. The good mood is something the president is happy to take credit for.

He takes credit for the jobs market too. Something he isn't willing to take credit for, Friday's weak report on economic growth. The president telling "Bloomberg News," that's a holdover from the Obama administration.

In that same interview, the president poking Republican orthodoxy in the eye with these two comments. First that he would break up the big Wall Street banks. Investors are not buying it. Bank stocks has had a great run into the Trump rally and they barely faltered on that comment.

Second, a traditional GOP no-no, you guys, a gas tax. The gas tax has not been raised since 1993, but Trump said he would consider it to pay for infrastructure. There's a look at gas prices. They've been rising just over so slightly this year, but they are still near decade lows.

So who would feel a gas tax disproportionally, you guys? Rural and lower income drivers, Trump's base, ironically -- Poppy.

HARLOW: Fascinating and very important point, Christine. Thank you very much. Christine Romans for us. Right before the opening bell.

Still to come, honored to meet with the dictator. Wondering why the civil war happened. Surprising answers from the president in several different interviews. What's going on in the White House?