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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

House Passes Bill to Replace Obamacare; Interview with Democratic Senator Mark Warner of Virginia. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired May 4, 2017 - 16:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


REP. LEONARD LANCE (R), NEW JERSEY: I certainly think by that time there will be a host of issues, and I will campaign vigorously for Republican colleagues.

[16:30:05] I think it's important that we retain control of the House, but I know that I voted today as my constituents would wish.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: What changes do you want to make the Senate -- do you want the Senate to make to this in addition to allowing more purchases across state lines?

LANCE: I certainly want to make sure that nobody is denied coverage based upon a preexisting condition, and, frankly, Jake, I'd like to see tort reform. It's not a silver bullet, but I think it should be part of a larger package. That, of course, would require cooperation from our Democratic colleagues. I think our Democratic colleagues should come to the table, Jake, because, after all, the legislation was initially passed when Democrats controlled the Congress.

TAPPER: Congressman, I have to say I was surprised Republicans brought it forward for a vote before the Congressional Budget Office had a chance to analyze and predict what it would mean in terms of individual insurance. Were you surprised?

LANCE: I would have preferred a CBO score first. I think that's always preferable. That doesn't mean you cannot begin the legislative process before that score occurs, but by the time legislation reaches the floor of one of the houses, I would much prefer a CBO score.

TAPPER: Do you think a CBO score, if the CBO had been allowed to analyze the bill and say 20 million or whatever the number is, of individuals, fewer individuals will have insurance or whatever the positive changes would have been, would that have changed your vote or at least given you a moment for pause?

LANCE: I would obviously have analyzed any score by the CBO, and I certainly analyzed the original score based upon a prior iteration of the bill. I think it is important that we have a CBO score on all major issues of this kind.

TAPPER: Congressman Leonard Lance from the great state of New Jersey -- thank you so much for your time, sir. I appreciate it.

LANCE: Thank you, Jake. TAPPER: Aetna just announced that they are the latest insurer to pull

out of Obamacare markets in Virginia. We'll talk to one of the senators from that state about how that might impact the future of the House bill in the Senate, next. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:36:22] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. We're sticking with politics.

As Obamacare repeal and replacement bill moves to the U.S. Senate, health insurer Aetna announced plans to drop out of individual exchanges in Virginia next year due to what they say are major financial losses.

Joining me now to discuss this and much more is Democratic Senator Mark Warner of Virginia. He serves on the Finance Committee, which oversees healthcare.

Senator Warren, thanks for joining us. Appreciate it.

SEN. MARK WARNER (D), VIRGINIA: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: So, Aetna just the latest insurer to announce pulling out of the commonwealth of Virginia. Other states are facing the same thing. According to one study, more than 20 counties in Virginia could be left with only one option on the individual market in 2018. Is Obamacare failing in Virginia?

WARNER: Well, Jake, what's happened has been -- and I was disappointed that Aetna has pulled out, but I also understand with the lack of certainty. You've got this administration who is obviously very committed to using every tool it can to try to wreck Obamacare.

So not predicting whether they're going to honor the components of the law that require and affect the risk payments to be made, the fact I heard from one insurer that they have large increases, not Aetna but another one that was in Virginia, huge increases because they're not sure that this administration is going to honor the law's commitment to the individual mandate that requires individuals to purchase health insurance.

And with that uncertainty, you see the insurers like Aetna leaving the market or you see enormous rate increases. This is not the way we ought to be proceeding. We ought to be figuring out -- and I have a lot of ideas about how you could fix Obamacare and make it better.

But instead, what we've seen is this action in the House where I know we're all kind of -- politicians and hypocrisy kind of sometimes go together, but, boy oh boy, these are the same folks in the House that used to scream, read the bill, get the CBO score, give us time. Here, we've got something that was rushed through from last night, and I believe rushed through because they were afraid what the CBO score would show in terms of real costs.

TAPPER: So, Senator, with all due respect, Obamacare insurance companies were pulling out of Obamacare exchanges long before Donald Trump put his hand on the Bible. This has been a problem going on for a long time.

WARNER: Because there's been a need to make repairs in Obamacare since the first year, just as there was a need when Medicare came in and Medicaid came in. You don't ever get it right the first time and you've always got to come back and try to adjust.

What we've not seen is a willingness, particularly from our Republican colleagues at least in the House, to do anything other than this, you know, repeal drum beat. Now we've seen what their repeal and replacement looks like, and I think the American people are going to say, as they already said on the earlier bill, not just "no" but "hell no" to this bill. Twenty-four million people losing health insurance, tax break for the rich, ending up with folks with preexisting conditions. I've got a daughter with juvenile diabetes. She will be fine, but a lot of folks with preexisting conditions aren't going to be able to get affordable health insurance.

And what has not received much attention, and I'm a numbers guy and was a former governor, you know, the whole basis of this bill was almost an $820 billion in effect transfer from federal responsibility on Medicaid back to the states.

TAPPER: Right.

WARNER: This is a big financial scam that I've actually been surprised more governors haven't been more outraged because they're going to be caught, you know, with the bill basically.

TAPPER: So, Senator, let me ask you, what is going to happen in the Senate? You work closely with a lot of Republican colleagues. There are 10 Democratic senators up for election next year who represent states that President Trump won. Is it possible that some version of what just passed the House will pass the Senate?

[16:40:02] WARNER: I think there is a possibility to say, how can we fix Obamacare, and if we need to call it something else to make that politically palatable, so be it.

But I don't think this bill that was rushed through the House, that the American public I believe already said about a three or four to one basis based on polling didn't like that bill. And that -- and this bill got even further to the right to try to appease the Freedom Caucus, I think this bill has no chance in Senate. I do hope that reasonable folks in both parties can sit down and actually try to fix this because we're playing with people's, not just healthcare but in many ways with their lives.

If they -- if you got preexisting conditions and you can't get access to health insurance, this is not something -- this is more important than a political football.

TAPPER: Speaking of Russian, Senator, or rushing, we want to have you back to talk about the work you are doing on the Senate intelligence committee. WARNER: Sure.

TAPPER: Thank you so much. Appreciate your time.

WARNER: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: Two senior White House officials say the mood there when the vote passed was like election night in Trump Tower. Is the administration racing their Trump brand champagne glass too soon?

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: We're back with more in the politics lead.

Let's pick back up with our political roundtable.

Bill Kristol, let me start with you. We just heard Democratic Senator Mark Warner touch on something we've been talking about during the commercial break, which is Democrats really haven't made much of a stink about the fact that about $800 million, $900 billion in Medicaid funding is going to be pushed to the states from the federal government. In other words, a Medicaid cut, while repealing the ObamaCare taxes will be a tax cut of a trillion dollars or so. A lot of which was - is going to go to rich people.

BILL KRISTOL, THE WEEKLY STANDARD EDITOR AT LARGE: Yes, obviously ObamaCare taxes were levied mostly on the wealthy. That's how President Obama sold them. The republicans were a little bit mechanical in thinking about this. We have to repeal ObamaCare, that means we have to repeal every tax increase that paid for ObamaCare. Instead of saying - which would have been more of (INAUDIBLE) I think we'll say, well, OK, if there's going to be a trillion in tax cuts, let's do it across the board tax cut for working families, let's cut the payroll tax by one percent or something. That would be pretty popular with a lot of middle-class working class Americans. They literally repealed the ObamaCare taxes which do go - and that tax cut goes almost entirely to the wealthy. I think (INAUDIBLE) they made a little bit of a mistake by focusing in the last month on pre-existing conditions, which as we your discussion with Steve Scalise, (INAUDIBLE) in the show is pretty complicated. And the republicans got pretty good at confusing that enough it was unclear how much damage was done on that front. Instead of just saying, are you kidding? You are taking $800 billion from healthcare for mostly for poor Americans and giving it that in tax cuts to the top 2 percent. That I think that's an easier argument for democrats to have made.

TAPPER: Do you agree?

RUTH MARCUS, THE WASHINGTON POST COLUMNIST: Well, it's a slightly less politically - it has the appeal of being bashing on tax cuts for the wealthy, which always plays well. The downside is that you're then concentrating on a lot of money from Medicaid which goes to poor people, which isn't necessarily - I mean I think that these Medicaid cuts are very severe and going to be big problems for states. I think Senator Warner is right in saying that we should be hearing from governors about this because, you know, ObamaCare expanded Medicaid greatly, at least allowed states to choose it. But when you're trying to rile up, as democrats, a big proportion of the people arguing that this hurts poor people isn't necessarily congruent with the message that you're trying to get out.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And I get what you're saying that - you know, to say, oh, look, another tax cut for the rich is very politically potent, but the idea of people who are suffering and sometimes suffering the most in their personal lives, it is such a human message to say, you're going to be, you know, basically screwed even more because of these guys. And that's why Nancy Pelosi was so forward leaning in her political speech, 100 percent political speech on the House floor saying, your constituents don't know your name but they're going to when I'm done with you. And they were singing na, na, na, hey goodbye because they feel they that they have political momentum because they feel that this is so dire in a lot of these districts. They might be flat wrong, and they certainly might be flat wrong. At the end of the day, when this goes through the Senate and you have a different spectrum of republicans who are going to have to deal with this in order to get it out of Senate.

OLIVIER KNOX, YAHOO NEWS CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: And part of this is a calculation too about who the swing voters going to be in 2018. And they're going to figure out what you see in terms of engagement from middle-class suburban parents isn't necessary the tax cut for the rich. It's the -- you are taking away healthcare for babies, pregnant moms. And so, that's a more potent argument for some of the people that democrats think are going to be the swing voters in the midterm.

TAPPER: A lot of politics here though obviously not surprisingly. I know that there were democrats in the House that wanted to introduce the bill a few weeks ago with ObamaCare fixes. Obviously, there's some problems, insurers are pulling out of state exchanges. Here are our fixes, and they were discouraged from doing so. I suppose it is easier if you're in the minority to not have an alternative that people can pick apart. You're just the ones who are standing there with your hands up blameless.

KRISTOL: Remember, the republicans refused - they had a sort of quasi-media alternative in 2010 but they didn't actually introduce, which they could have a full-blown tax credit replacement, alternative to the exchanges. And so both parties have done this. It paid off for the republicans in 2010. The bad stories, true bad stories about ObamaCare. We will see what happens this time. I think it is a political very tough vote. I talked to one republican member who said, we may have just have voted -we may be about to vote to elect Nancy Pelosi speaker.

TAPPER: You could have -

KRISTOL: Exactly the same thing that happened in 2010. On the other hand, it's - we'll see what the Senate does. I think the most interesting reporting I've just seen, I know you guys reported this on as well on CNN is that the Senate - Mitch McConnell convene I think a dozen senators in his office Tuesday to begin working on a Senate bill and I think they exposedly say was, well begin from the House bill? No, let's just write a Senate bill.

TAPPER: Is that right? Tell us about that.

BASH: Well, I should say our Ted Barrett is reporting that there was a group of about 15 republican senators across the republican spectrum.

TAPPER: From Mike Lee to Susan Collins?

BASH: Exactly, the most conservative to most moderate, starting over and getting together and trying to figure out where they need to go to get the republican votes to get this off the Senate floor. That's the way it should be done, by the way. You should start from there.

[16:50:065] KRISTOL: But then it's going to come back to the House and then Paul Ryan will have a tough time making the House swallow the Senate bill.

(CROSSTALK)

BASH: Before it comes back down, it's got to - it's got to go to the Senate.

KRISTOL: Well, true.

MARCUS: Right. And the Senate republicans with even less - a smaller margin are going to face exactly the same problem that Paul Ryan and the House republicans did, which is that that caucus ranges the gamut from Mike Lee -

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Exactly.

MARCUS: - and Ted Cruz to Susan Collins. And you can only lose a few of those, even with Vice President Pence to cast a tie-breaking vote. That's a hard - that's a hard caucus of cats to herd there.

BASH: You know what, at the end of the day, even by the 2018 election it's unclear if we're going to know the core answer, which is, is cost going to go down as republicans promised? Probably the answer will be no, and the question is then will constituents and voters punish republicans.

TAPPER: Short term though, President Trump, Olivier, seems to have some spring in his step. He does have a victory, it is a smallish victory in the sense that there's still a lot of obstacles before this becomes law and we still don't know what this will mean in terms much voters and his voters.

KNOX: Right. And I actually want to grab something that Bill said at the very top of the show, which was basically that one anything that the republicans did today was avoid what would have been a catastrophic defeat. Let's flip what actually happened into what might have happened. Take the bill to the floor, either have to pull it or it goes down. Now you have an angry base to whom you've made promise after promise to repeal and replace ObamaCare. You have something that republicans are very concerned about, which is looking like they can't govern, and you have a President whose ability to sway his own party is already under fire, who would have lost another time. So a big part of the victory party here today is kind of we dodged a bullet, you know. This is - it's good that we started this process, but, man, just imagine, just imagine had it gone the other way.

TAPPER: It would have been a catastrophe so -

MARCUS: A little bit of a self-inflicted bullet. I - even if this gets through the Senate, which I think is going to be very hard to do, then if something gets through the Senate, how does that something then pass the House given that 217 vote today?

TAPPER: Oh, you're thinking about tomorrow.

MARCUS: I don't stop thinking about tomorrow.

TAPPER: You're thinking about tomorrow, you always are. Dana and Bill, Olivier and Ruth, thank you so much. Health care is of course not the only victory the president is celebrating. He signed an executive order protecting in his view religious freedom. What does this new executive order do? We'll talk about that next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:55:00] TAPPER: More on our "POLITICS LEAD" now. President Trump today signed what he called a religious liberty executive order just a short while ago. In an impassioned speech, he claimed the new order would give religious organization quote, "their voices back by allowing them to be more politically active without risking tax-exempt status." Joining me now to discuss this, and more is CNN's Rene Marsh. And Rene, during the campaign Mr. Trump talked about dismantling the Johnson Amendment which prohibits nonprofit groups like churches and synagogue to participate in politics. But can you undo a law and amendment with an executive action?

RENE MARSH, CNN GOVERNMENT REGULATION CORRESPONDENT: Although he said many times in the campaign trail that he wanted to kill this law, he can't. That has to be an act of Congress. But with this executive order that he passed today, he's hoping to at least weaken the Johnson Amendment with today's executive order. But after a careful review of the text of the order by our legal expert, we get the sense that this executive order today won't really change much at all.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: This financial threat against the faith community is over. No one should be censoring sermons or targeting pastors.

MARSH: Under the federal tax code, the Johnson Amendment says the IRS can investigate churches and they can potentially lose tax-exempt status if they engage in politics. Trump's executive order intends to weaken that law, but only Congress can repeal it. During his campaign Trump told catholic television channel EWTN, he was upset that the law was preventing him from getting religious endorsements.

TRUMP: And I said, when are you going to endorse me? And they said we can't do that. And I said, why can't you do that? They said we're not allowed to do that if we did that we'd lose our tax exempt status.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.

TRUMP: And I said, why is that? And they told me about the Johnson Amendment, 1954. And I said we're going to get rid of the Johnson Amendment.

MARSH: Trump's executive order is intended to give the IRS more discretion to ease up on any enforcement against religious groups who get political. Minutes after the new executive order was signed, the ACLU said it would file a lawsuit. But once the text of the order was released, the language was noticeably scaled back and some on the left say the order actually won't change much at all.

DAVID SAPERSTEIN, UNION REFORM JUDAISM SENIOR ADVISER: The churches of America, the clergy of America, they have free speech now. They can say and do whatever they want.

MARSH: Some conservative religious groups said the executive order didn't go far enough. Others applauded the President.

TONY PERKINS, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL PRESIDENT: This executive order and the statements by the President today says that the hostility that we've seen toward religious freedom at the hands of our own government in the last eight years is coming to an end.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MARSH: Well, an earlier version of the executive order said it would provide regulatory relief for organizations with religious objections to provisions in ObamaCare, any provision that mandated that employers had to provide certain health services like contraceptives. It is worth pointing out when we reviewed the actual text that language isn't there. So a lot of the language we thought was going to be in here actually, in the end, was not, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Interesting. Rene Marsh, thank you so much. Appreciate it. Be sure to follow me on Facebook and twitter @jaketapper. You can tweet the show @theleadcnn, we actually read your tweets. That's it for THE LEAD, I'm Jake Tapper, turning you over now to one Mr. Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Thanks for watching.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN THE SITUATION ROOM HOST: Happening now, breaking news, Trump's big win. President Trump scores his first legislative victory.