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Today: House Votes On Health Care Bill. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired May 4, 2017 - 09:00   ET


[09:00:00] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, guys. A lot of news today. Let's get started.

All right. Good morning, everyone. I'm John Berman.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Poppy Harlow. Right now, on Capitol Hill, a defining moment for the Trump White House is taking shape in a Republican Congress that has been waiting seven years to deliver on a signature promise.

BERMAN: Yes. The vote to repeal and replace ObamaCare floor action starts very shortly. It seems clear that more and more Republicans are lining up in support of this latest measure. What is not clear is how many people with pre-existing conditions might lose insurance or how much their rates will go up. It is not clear because Republican leadership decided it is not important to ask right now. What is important to them right now is winning this vote.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thanks to President Trump's leadership, Congress is going to vote to repeal and replace ObamaCare.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R), MAJORITY LEADER, UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: We're going to pass it. We're going to pass it. Let's be optimistic about life.


BERMAN: All right. CNN's Phil Mattingly hasn't slept in three days.

HARLOW: That is true.

BERMAN: On Capitol Hill, counting the votes right now. Where do things stand, Phil?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, things have gotten better, not worse, since last night. That's what I was just told by a senior GOP official. They believe votes are actually moving in their direction, even more so than when they decided to pull the trigger on this vote.

And it's worth noting, they made very clear they were not going to schedule a vote unless they were sure they could get 216 on the floor. That's where they were last night. And since that time, momentum seems to be heading in their direction. Several not just undecided guys but NO's as well, firm NO votes, have come over just over the course of the last one or two hours. That bodes very well for the future of this vote.

I will say, at the moment, you can see Republican members streaming in behind me. They are headed into a closed-door conference meeting with leadership where they will map out what they are going to be doing over the course of the rest of the day. The purpose for this vote, maybe try and swing a couple of last-minute holdouts, if you will, before they get to this point.

What they would like to see is as many people voting for this as possible. That provides protection in numbers of those centrists, those moderates who have been so wary of coming aboard up to this point.

The real question, though, John -- and you kind of nailed it here -- Democrats have been talking too about their decision to move forward on this without an updated CBO score, without a lot of time to read the changes in the bill. They believe this is a massive political liability. Republican leaders believe they have the votes. It is time to move this process along. They've spent enough time working through this. It is time for the Senate to take their turn with it.

Now, it is worth noting, guys, it is 42 days to the day since this effort imploded in catastrophic fashion, even saying that health care was done. They were moving on. The Speaker himself saying ObamaCare, it is the law of the land.

Well, at least today, Republicans say they are going to try and change that. Political liabilities aside, they believe they're there. They believe the momentum is in their favor, and they believe they are well on their way, guys, to clearing that 216-vote threshold.

HARLOW: But ObamaCare is still the law of the land unless this thing can make it through the Senate. Phil Mattingly, thank you very, very much, on the Hill for us.

Let's bring in our panel because the White House Majority Lead Kevin McCarthy is insisting -- you heard him say -- we have the votes. Be optimistic about life.

Dana Bash, our CNN Political Correspondent is here. CNN's Chris Cillizza, our editor-at-large, is here. And April Ryan, our political analyst and correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks, as well as David Drucker, our political analyst and senior congressional correspondent for the "Washington Examiner."

So, Dana Bash, two-fold question, a, if they can get it through, how big is this for Republicans in the House to go home on this recess and say, look, this is a down payment on the promise we have been making over and over again? And then is there any reason to believe that this can make it through moderates in the Senate?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: A lot of ifs. First and foremost, talking about the House and what the Republicans are hoping to do. No question, they're going to get it assuming that this does pass and that their vote count is right, a big W on the column. And for something this important, this politically high on the list of promises that they have made over and over since ObamaCare became the law of the land, you have to give them a political win.

Then the question, though, is the policy. And these members are going to be taking this vote, and then they're going to be going home to their constituents for the week, to spend a week's recess back home. And they are already bracing for what we are hearing already and seeing in our inboxes, Democrats beating them on the specifics, on the questions about pre-existing conditions and, you know, giving states an out, governors an out. Could that really mean that people with pre-existing conditions will be left without coverage for the first time since ObamaCare became the law of the land?

And to your second question, Poppy, the Senate, that's a whole different ball game. And the members in the House frankly seem a little bit exhausted by this, eager to move on to other things and know that the Senate is going to be much more difficult when you come to it, never mind pre-existing conditions but cutting the Medicaid expansion, the money that the federal government gives to states, all the states that took this, to help low-income Americans get health care.

[09:05:19] There are Republicans in the Senate, more than enough to kill this, who say, uh-uh, we don't like that idea. So it is going to be quite powerless in the Senate, but they also have a leader, Mitch McConnell, who has done perilous before and been successful.

BERMAN: Mitch McConnell eats perilous for breakfast, Dana Bash. Chris Cillizza, I am old enough to remember when Republicans --


BERMAN: I'm old enough to remember when Republicans cared a lot about things like CBO scores.


BERMAN: Cared a lot about things like how much is this going to cost, how many people will it affect? I'm old enough to remember 2009 when a then young Paul Ryan, nearly in his teens, was talking about then ObamaCare that was just passing, and he said this.


REP. PAUL RYAN (R), SPEAKER OF THE UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: I don't think we should pass bills that we haven't read, that we don't know what they cost, and if you rush this thing through before anybody even knows what it is, that's not good democracy. That's not doing good work for our constituents.


BERMAN: I was joking about him being a teenager, but he did look like it there.


BERMAN: So what's changed? Why, all of a sudden, don't Republicans care? Am I so naive as to think there should be consistency here?

CILLIZZA: The consistent thing is that, in 2009, this was a political football, and in 2017, it is a political football. It's just the other team has the ball. Remember, Nancy Pelosi's famous line, "Let's just vote on this so that we can read it" --

HARLOW: See what's in it, yes.

CILLIZZA: -- or "see what's in it." No CBO score on this. You know, a lot of members may not be totally familiar with it, thus you have the Upton Amendment, this $8 billion for high-risk pools coming in sort of at the last minute as a savior. Upton was against it, now he's for it.

So what you're seeing here is, I think, Republicans led by Paul Ryan saying, OK, we have two not great options. One is we, again, fail to even bring it to a vote. This is the thing that we ran on for seven years that we promised our base we would do.

On the other hand, you have, OK, we bring it to a vote. As Dana makes a point, the Senate is problematic. The CBO score is problematic. Donald Trump is problematic because he's super unpredictable. But they think voting on it, being able to go home and say, we did this thing, forget what happens in the future, we did this thing that we said we were going to do, that they badly need that.

HARLOW: OK. So, April, you have got this new Upton Amendment, less than 24 hours old. It puts $8 billion over five years into the high- risk pool. Just a point of fact here, the man who heads up the Kaiser Family Foundation, they know health care in and out, says it is going to cost at least $25 billion a year nationally to provide for these pools.

Now, you do have some money from this hundred billion dollar allotment as well, OK? But now, if this makes it through, this is on Republicans' watch, right? Every sick kid is on Republicans watch. What is the political risk for them?

APRIL RYAN, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, AMERICAN URBAN RADIO NETWORKS: You know, the political risk is huge because you have millions upon millions of Americans who have pre-existing conditions, and there is still so much uncertainty. And as I said before, many of these people look at insurance as assurance. People want to be assured that, with their pre-existing conditions, they will be covered and not have to spend a lot of extra money out of their pocket. That's one of the reasons why they have insurance, for certain set costs.

But now, there is so much uncertainty. There's uncertainty about the CBO score. Yes, you have these numbers, but you don't have the total picture. And what will happen later on down the road? That's the question. But, you know, when you think about this and the uncertainty, and I'm

really looking to see and listen to what happens after this does or does not pass -- and it looks like it could pass at this point maybe -- what the American public will say. What will be happening at the town halls? How will people react?

And you have to remember, one of the pre-existing conditions when it comes to women and childbirth is a C-section. So pre-existing conditions are real for so many people and this affects so many people. And now, the question is, what will the uncertainty do in the hinterlands all around this country, you know, in the next couple of days?

BERMAN: Yes. Look, I was at a charity yesterday that works with sick kids, and they were terrified because every sick kid who survives and goes through this program, they say, will have a pre-existing condition.

HARLOW: Yes, for the rest of their lives.

BERMAN: And they do not know how they will be affected going forward. So it is something very, very real, very, very tangible.

David Drucker, to you, I don't think that the White House can get the credit for the Upton Amendment. That was something that was fairly organic inside Congress. But, you know, President Trump, does he get some credit for keeping the fires burning on this? You know, it was President Trump who, after this all went down in flames 42 days ago, fairly quickly after sort of said, hey, let's keep working on this. Let's keep the fires burning, as it were.

[09:09:59] DAVID DRUCKER, SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, WASHINGTON EXAMINER: Well, look, I think, clearly, that the vote today, as long as it is successful, is a win for him in that this has become so much bigger than just about health care and understanding how important health care is to so many Americans. This has become really about whether or not Republicans in the House and Senate and President Trump in the White House can actually run the country.

They have full control of Congress and the White House. There are no excuses. And the implosion of the health care bill the first time around in March really sent a message that they didn't know what they were doing, that they were feckless, and they weren't able to come together to actually get anything done. They put things like tax reform in question and a number of their priorities.

And so that's why I think today is so important. But ultimately, it is going to get down to policy. And, you know, what I think a lot of us sometimes forget is there is pressure to do something about health care because so many people have experienced rising premiums, deductibles that they find unaffordable.

And if this bill, whatever version it ends up in at the very end, doesn't put downward pressure on premiums and deductibles to make things more affordable, Republicans are going to catch a heck of a lot of blame for changing an insurance system that provides a lot of protections for people and doesn't actually fix the problem that people wanted fixed in the first place.

HARLOW: It is a really important point, and it gave some sort of wind into the sails of Republicans, the fact that yesterday, Aetna came out that they're pulling out of the individual, you know, exchanges in Virginia totally. Losses this year upwards of $200 million. Iowa is facing the potential of no ObamaCare providers on the individual exchanges next year.

Dana, is this, though -- it's not a perfect fix, right -- just the House wanting to get this off their plate and push the problem to the Senate?

BASH: Yes. I mean, that's the absolute truth, that they needed to get enough votes, that they were sort of trying to scramble between this caucus and that caucus. And, you know, we'll see. It seems that they've got it with a little bit of cushion, and it is absolutely to try to, you know, kind of just break the logjam and get it to the next step.

The next step, assuming that it goes as planned today, is not expected to be, you know, instant. I mean, I'm talking to sources in the Senate, in the White House, who say, you know, they realize that they're just going to have to take a breath and let the Senate do its thing. And it's a big question about what they are going to even come up with, if anything.

And by the way, just to be clear, we are talking in the short term about only needing 51 votes. Never mind that 60 vote, you know, filibuster proof margin. Fifty-one votes because of the procedural way that they're passing this in the house. So it means that they can't afford to lose two Republican senators. That's not a lot.


BASH: And there are more than two who are already saying no way are you going to cut Medicaid expansion for people in my state who are relying on it for so many things including, just one example, opioid abuse. I mean, that is something that is rampant in Ohio and New Hampshire and other places where they are relying on this money. And they're concerned that it's going to go away, never mind for the basic rudimentary health care that they're providing their constituents.

HARLOW: Yes. You're going to hear from Senator Bob Casey in just a little bit on that and more.

Dana Bash, April, David, Chris, thank you all very much. Stay with us. We've got a lot ahead in the House right now, which is in session. And the first floor debates on the Hill are starting within the hour. We're watching all of it, ahead of today's crucial health care vote happening very soon.

BERMAN: FBI Director James Comey hasn't had enough. Back up on Capitol Hill today. He got a grilling by senators yesterday. Today he is meeting with the House.

You can bet Susan Rice will come up. We saw a picture of her over there. She will not be going to testify.

And then the late night battle. What is OK to say on late night T.V.? Stephen Colbert pushing the limit, saying he doesn't regret what some people thought was a vulgar joke.



BERMAN: All right. The House is in session right now. Members beginning the process that will lead we believe soon to a vote to repeal and replace Obamacare. And it does seem like more and more Republicans are lining up in support of this measure.

Seven years after Republicans began this process, began their opposition to Obamacare. Our M.J. Lee is on Capitol Hill watching people go passed. M.J., what exactly got this measure over the hump overnight and just what's the mood there with people milling about.

M.J. LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: Well, what's fascinating, John, is that as you know very well, even until probably 24, 30 hours ago, this was a bill that looked as though it was on the brink of collapse.

There were a slew of lawmakers, Republican lawmakers, who were coming out to say, look, I simply can't support this bill and the key issue was that many members believed that the pre-existing conditions protection that are in Obamacare would be eroded too much and they were hearing a lot of complaints from constituents as well as interest groups.

But I will say you were asking what got this bill across the finish line in the end we're about to find out in a little bit when the House actually votes and this won't be final until we see that vote count the addition of $8 billion over the course of five years to fund high risk pools.

Now this is something that the lawmakers say would go to helping fund people with pre-existing conditions. They are now saying this additional funding is what made them feel more comfortable that these pre-existing condition protections will be protected.

Now a lot of experts that we have spoken to in the health care industry say that $8 billion figure is actually not that a lot. It is really a drop in the bucket and plenty of lawmakers are not yet comfortable with that.

HARLOW: It is an important note because the thinking that this $8 billion, M.J., just totally changed the game and now they are going to get it through, I mean, that's not really it.

[09:20:07]That's a really small amount of money over five years when you talk about what those high risk pools actually need to be funded. Kaiser Family Foundation comes out this morning and says you really need $25 billion a year to properly fund these things. LEE: Right. Politically speaking, I think this is going to be the big hang up. As members look forward already to 2018, they know this is going to be the issue that Democrats really pound them on, and they made this clear that they're going to sell this going forward at the political message.

Saying that this is a referendum on the Republican Party that Republican lawmakers will have voted for something that eroded the protections that are in Obamacare for people with pre-existing conditions.

And Poppy, you understand this very well. I think that the issue of pre-existing conditions is one that a lot of people understand. I think health care, as the president has said himself, is very, very complicated. It is a very big and complicated issue.

But when you say pre-existing conditions a lot of people understand exactly what that means because they have family members and friends, people that they know in their own life who suffer from some kind of medical history.

BERMAN: M.J., what seems to be happening, if you are getting some votes that were hard no votes flip to a yes, a couple of lean nos now saying lean yes, these votes tend to gather momentum. No one wants to be the one vote that makes a difference.

But now Republicans seemed to have some cover as they're getting a little leaning wave here. It may pass by a small handful. Even if it's only three or four, then they're not the single vote and it is harder to campaign against them going forward?

LEE: That's right. It is interesting. I was talking to Congressman Chris Collins of New York, who was walking by here and he said, look, this better pass basically by a handful of votes. Hopefully two or more because nobody in the Republican Congress wants to be labeled that last person who got this unpopular and controversial bill over the finish line.

They're already thinking about the political ads that are going to be put against them heading in 2018. They know that this is going to be something that Democrats are going to be all focused in, that health care will be issue that Democrats use to go against Republicans.

And there is already a lot of talks among Democrats that this might be the year, next year might be the year in the election cycle that they take back the House.

HARLOW: M.J., stick with us, keep us posted. We're waiting also to hear from Manu Raju, our reporter on the Hill, with more.

Let's bring back our panel, Chris Cilizza to you. Why, if you are a Republican in the House in the fence and you know that this is not going to make it through the Senate in this form, you know that, why would you vote yes and risk those ads in the midterm?

CHRIS CILIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER AND EDITOR-AT-LARGE: It depends what your district looks like, is the short answer, Poppy. If you are in a district that Hillary Clinton won or Donald trump won narrowly, you almost certainly won't vote yes.

I think what the Upton amendment should get credit for it. Look, Fred Upton and Billy Long are not in districts that they need to be worried about re-election. The problems that Republicans were having were there were a lot of people who should be yeses and that they're in pretty safe districts.

Even if there is a huge blow back they should be able to withstand it politically. But they were noes and that was putting a lot of pressure on who are people in swing seats who really can't be because it would be very hard for them to be yes.

What the Upton amendment I think does is give the people who should be yeses politically speaking enough cover to be yeses. There is still going to be a lot of noes in this, and I guarantee you, almost to a person, those noes we can go through that list. If Donald Trump got more than 50.1 percent in any of their districts, that's the reality of how this is going to shake out.

BERMAN: You're looking at live pictures from the floor of the House right now. They're talking about the rule that will then be voted on. This is the opening stage of what will be a historic day.

HARLOW: In just a few hours.

BERMAN: In just a few hours on Capitol Hill. This looks like it is going to happen and signs are right now it is going to pass, David Drucker, which means it goes to the Senate. Dana Bash was saying it may not be taken up there very soon in terms of action.

But put yourself in Lisa Murkowski's seat right now and Rob Portman's seat right now and Pat Toomey from Pennsylvania's seat right now. These are considered more moderate U.S. senators, who are feeling some pressure from their electorate.

Some of them just got re-elected so there is a little less pressure right now, but what will they fell and how do you think they will react going forward. People have said it is going to die in the Senate. I'm not so sure that we know that.

DAVID DRUCKER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I wouldn't bet on this dying in the Senate because I think Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is very adept with this sort of thing is going to find a way to get this thing through the Senate.

[09:25:05]Because this has become so important to Republicans from a political standpoint to satisfy their party that wants to see something done about Obamacare and that they have to prove that they can govern.

Now with the way the Senate shakes out is as you mentioned you have some centrist members who are going to be concerned about pre-existing conditions and other insurance protections. Then you have conservatives who are going to worry that this really is only a partial repeal of Obamacare no matter what they're calling it.

That it is not going to do enough to really put downward pressure on premiums and deductibles and they think that it leaves too much of the Obamacare architecture in place.

We will find out what the CBO score for the new version of the bill really does because Senate Republicans are going to vote on this after a CBO score, not before.

And they're going to have to see if they could change the narrative on this because what happened at the very beginning is Republicans started out at least from the perspective of Obamacare being unpopular and they were here to replace it with something better.

Now Republicans are fighting uphill pushing an unpopular bill at a time when Obamacare is right side up for the last two months people have found it to be more popular than unpopular. That creates a lot of political challenges for Republicans.

There is a lot in this bill that they would prefer not to deal with, but I would not assume that given all of these difficulties that Mitch McConnell won't find a way to get it done.

But as Dana had mentioned, they could lose only two votes. Even when they lose those two votes, it requires Vice President Mike Pence to be the tie breaker in favor of this thing.

So it's going to be difficult. I expect it to go to the floor and face a vote where there could be hundreds of amendments put up for a vote and McConnell and his team and the rest of the Republicans are going to have to decide what kind of changes they want to make going in, which they are not going to make.

And then you will watch the Democrats trying to do everything they can to stop it. But if McConnell has the votes, they won't be able to.

HARLOW: Let's go to our Manu Raju. He's on the Hill with a little bit of breaking news on the developments. What are you hearing?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Yes, that's right. Talking to a number of members going into this conference meeting, one of the things that we are hearing is some criticisms from members, even supporters of the bill of the process.

Remember, this is a bill largely in the last couple of weeks that have been cut -- deals have been cut through a handful of members, has not been a formal score or estimate from the Congressional Budget Office.

There has not been the actual hearing on this specific latest bill and of course, it could restructure about a fifth of the economy. One of the supporting votes was Mark Sanford of South Carolina, who I had a chance to talk to. He was pretty critical of the process. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RAJU: What do you think about the process here? There has not been a CBO analysis. There has not been a hearing on this specific bill. Does that concern you?

REPRESENTATIVE MARK SANFORD (R), OVERSIGHT AND GOVERNMENT REFORM COMMITTEE: Certainly. I mean, that's why I was one of the hold-outs in the first go around. It has been a truncated process. I think it is not what a lot of us would have liked to have seen from the standpoint of more robust debate, but we are where we are.

RAJU: Do you wish the leadership would slow down on this?

SANFORD: Yes. I think that the notion of where it's good for all parties in a debate, this idea of going from subcommittee to full floor vote and the vetting that takes place in doing so I think is invaluable.

Again, if you look in terms of context prior to the Friday they pulled that out a couple of weeks back, this bill has seen 17 legislative days. In contrast, we saw 186 legislative days with the Affordable Care Act.

We saw 166 days with Medicare Part D. So it is, again, even though we've gotten an elongated process now passed the vote that would have taken place Fridays back, it is still shorter than what we have normally seen.


RAJU: And John and Poppy, this shows the level of concern there is about the process among some of the members, even who are going to support it. They know this is not exactly what they campaigned on. They know they campaigned on repealing and replacing Obamacare, but a proposal did not come together until late. This deal cut at the last minute.

This amendment that will actually help with the pre-existing condition concerns not drafted until late last night. But still a vote today and perhaps getting this passed, but still concerns within the ranks, guys.

BERMAN: All right. Manu, thanks so much. Guys, standby for a second. We want to bring in Cristina Alesci right now. We are seconds before the opening bell. Wall Street obviously keenly interested in what's going on in Capitol Hill -- Cristina.

CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN MONEY BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: That's right. They are. Investors are looking at Capitol Hill. But it's not really important to them the ins and outs of what is going on with Obamacare. What is really important is whether the White House can rally enough Republican support to get a bill through Congress. And what essentially that means to Wall Street is that the --