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House Passes Health Care Plan. Aired 3-3:30p ET
Aired May 4, 2017 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: A White House celebration over what just happened in the House of Representatives. Republicans took a very important step in living up to their party's biggest promise, the one they have repeated for seven years, the one they failed today pass just six weeks ago.
We're talking about the plan to repeal and replace Obamacare, an initial step, the House of Representatives just passing a new version of what's called the American Health Care Act, HR-1628.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The ayes are 217. The nays are 213. The bill is passed. And without objection, the motion to reconsider is laid upon the table.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The vote went along party lines, but 20 -- for the most part, but 20 Republicans did vote against the plan.
Let's go to our chief political correspondent, Dana Bash. She's up on Capitol Hill. CNN's Jim Acosta is standing by over at the White House.
Dana, Republican congress men and women, they did it this time. They passed this Obamacare replacement plan, and without a Congressional Budget Office analysis of it. Do we know when the Senate will start to take up this bill?
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there already is a working group. Our Ted Barrett has great story about this on CNN.com, that the Republicans...
BLITZER: Dana, hold on. Hold on one second. We need your microphone. I don't know if you have it there. I'm going to give you a second to get yourself attached.
BASH: Got it now.
BLITZER: OK. Good.
BASH: Can you hear me now?
BLITZER: Start -- yes, start again from the beginning.
BASH: We got a lot going on here. We keep switching microphones.
But you need to hear me.
BASH: So, as long as you can hear me now, that's good.
The House -- in the Senate, there's a working group already. And that working group, according to Ted Barrett, who has been reporting on this, is among sort of across the spectrum of Republicans, talking about the way that they can begin to work out a plan.
And the plan is not expected to look a whole lot like what happened in the House. I'm told, in fact, Mark Meadows, who is a conservative, one of the Freedom Caucus members who helped break the logjam in the House, he says he's already talking to members of the Senate. Don't expect the movement in the Senate to take -- to be warp speed, not even close.
It's the nature of the Senate to move slower. Back 40-plus days ago, Wolf, when the House thought that they were going to do this the first time around, they had a very different strategy. They thought they were going to pass something in the House, send it over to the Senate, jam it through, send it to the White House, and it would be done.
That's old news. It's not going to happen right now. So it's going to be a while before they can figure it out, because the bottom line is that the same problems they had with some of those moderates that you pointed out that didn't even vote yes today, you have those problems with Republican senators like Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who are saying there is no way that they would support doing away even after two years with the Medicare expansion, all the money that's going to many states to help pay for health insurance for people who need it.
That's just one example of many of the problems that they're going to have in the Senate. Now, don't rule it out. The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, has done hard before and somehow thread the needle before.
But it is certainly going to be hard. I just want to, before I toss back to you, also let you to listen to what the House majority leader, Kevin McCarthy, said to me after the vote that gives you a sense of how they are going to be messaging this back home in the House.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: What this does do, though, for all those people who are losing their health care because insurance is pulling out, like Iowa, Virginia, Tennessee, and others, one-third of this country only has one choice. That's a monopoly. Now we're going to provide greater choice, greater options, provide
them with a tax credit to actually select instead of government telling them what they can and cannot have.
BASH: Are you confident the Senate is going to pass something so that your members didn't just take a vote that will be in vain?
MCCARTHY: I'm confident that we just made a vote to make sure we are going to lower premiums, give people greater choice and stop this death spiral that's going forward. Those aren't my words. Those are the health care providers that are out across the country because of Obamacare.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: At the end of the day, a Republican just source put it this way to me. At the end of the day, it's a question of insurance coverage, which Democrats are demanding and put in their Obamacare bill, and costs, and that if at the end of the day Republicans can genuinely bring cost of coverage and cost of medical care down, then that's the name of the game.
BLITZER: Quickly, Dana, will the legislation that will come before -- for a vote up in the Senate, and there will be major changes, we know that. But whatever legislation does emerge, will it require a simple majority of 51 senators or will it require a supermajority of 60?
BASH: In the short-term, this particular bill, it's 51.
But there are other parts of Obamacare that, in order to be repealed, like the essential health benefits, that will need 60 votes. So, that's kind of the short and dirty way to explain that.
BLITZER: Yes, it's critically important, because there are 52 Republicans, 48 Democrats in the Senate.
BLITZER: Stand by, Dana.
Jim Acosta is over at the White House.
We see a lot of folks gathering in the Rose Garden already. The president later this hour, we expect less than a half-an-hour or so, now he will be walking down those stairs, making a statement. Set the scene for us.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.
You can see they're making preparations right now for this victory lap that President Trump and House Republicans are going to be taking here in the Rose Garden in just a few moments. And over my shoulder, you can see members of the House Republican Caucus are making their way to stand behind the podium there, stand behind the president, as he declares victory here, after the House passed the repeal and replace law to take out Obamacare.
And, Wolf, we can tell you in just the last several minutes, we also spotted the House speaker, Paul Ryan, making his way into the Oval Office. Our camera is positioned so you can actually see into the Oval Office there. And for a few moments, you could see the House speaker shaking hands with some top officials here at the White House. He was shaking hands with Steve Bannon. Lots of smiles in the room.
So, obviously, after seven long years of chasing this quest, that they feel very good that this has actually happened. Now, of course, there are going to be some big questions for the president. We will see if he comes out here and takes any questions or if he just wants to make this statement and get on his plane and head up to New York City.
But one of the big questions that is going to be asked, Wolf, is about preexisting conditions. Obviously, that's been a big subject of debate heading into this vote today. And we heard how the White House is going to plan on talking about all of this over the coming days, because, as you know, the Congressional Budget Office, from what we understand, is still planning on releasing a score on this House Republican bill over the next couple of weeks.
It's expected to show in that score that perhaps millions of Americans will be losing their health insurance as a result of this legislation. And what you heard from a White House spokeswoman earlier today, sort of a sneak preview of coming attractions, Sarah Huckabee Sanders was in the Briefing Room talking to reporters earlier today in an off- camera briefing, and said that, well, it's impossible, used the word -- quote -- "impossible" to score this bill, because it is unclear as to how many governors are going to be seeking waivers when it comes to that provision protecting Americans with preexisting conditions, and then just how many different Americans in those individual states will be affected by all of this.
And so the White House trying to set the debate a little bit, offer a prebuttal to some extent as to that very, very big question. But going back to the campaign, Wolf, being out on the campaign trail with President Trump throughout that entire election cycle, this is, along with building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, this is without question his biggest campaign promise.
And they are at least clearing one major hurdle in getting this through the House today. No question still has to go through the Senate. And when you talk to White House officials, here, they understand that's going to be part of the process.
And what is interesting about all this, Wolf, is heading into this vote, they weren't making any assurances to House Republicans that, by the way, when your bill gets to the Senate, it's not going to undergo major changes. It is going to undergo major changes. And the question, of course, becomes when it comes back to the House after it undergoes those changes, can they possibly get this to the president's desk?
It's a long, long way to go. That's why you heard Democrats -- here hearing a lot of Democratic strategists in this town also celebrating. They may be opening up cans of beer on the Republican side, but I think they're popping some champagne bottles open up on the Democratic side up on Capitol Hill, Wolf.
BLITZER: They see some political opportunities, Jim Acosta at the White House.
We will of course have live coverage once the president goes from the Oval Office, walks down those stairs into the Rose Garden and makes his statement.
Brooke Baldwin is with us.
Brooke, you know, a big, big win for the Republicans in the House of Representatives today. Don't want to take anything away from that. But there's still a long, long way to go before this legislation or something, anything along the lines of repealing and replacing Obamacare becomes the law of the land.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Let's dig into -- put politics aside for just a second and dig into more of the policy and really the biggest differences here on this Republican bill vs. what we know from the Affordable Care Act.
I have got Tami Luhby with me. She's a CNN Money senior writer. Jeff Zeleny, who thought he'd be covering the president meeting with the Australian P.M. momentarily, and here we have him obviously with the victory lap at the White House. And David Chalian is here with us as well.
But, Tami, on your piece, the biggest changes, everyone's talking about preexisting conditions and this $8 billion over the course of five years. Spell it out for our viewers, how this would be so different.
TAMI LUHBY, SENIOR WRITER, CNNMONEY.COM: There's going to be a lot of changes coming down, if this passes in the Senate as it does in the House.
It may change a lot. But if it doesn't, you're going to see less generous subsidies, particularly for lower-income people. You are going to see major changes to Medicaid. You're going to have lower- income adults are going to be probably kicked out of the program eventually. And you're going to see a lot less federal support for Medicaid.
You are going to see older enrollees paying more, which is why the AARP is so upset about it. And if you let your coverage lapse, you're probably going to have -- be examined for preexisting conditions.
So, Obamacare had a lot of protections for people with preexisting conditions. But under this repeal bill, if you let your coverage lapse, you may not have those types of protections.
BALDWIN: So, it's interesting. Some of the folks who would be most affected, whether it's the older population, or, you know, more working-class, those were, David Chalian, Trump voters.
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes, no doubt.
Some of his core constituencies are going to be most impacted by the changes in the health care law from Obamacare to now this American Health Care Act, if -- again, if indeed this becomes the law of the land. We're not there yet.
But that is one of the arguments that a lot of Democrats have been making to Republicans, reminding them over and over again. You hear it, that this is getting to his core constituencies.
Now, they will make the argument that Obamacare was collapsing under its own weight and that in these core constituencies, they, too, were fighting higher premiums and lack of access because insurers were leaving the marketplace. And they say this fixes those problems for everyone.
And just quickly, Jeff, how much credit does the president deserve?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, it's his first legislative win. So, I think he deserves a fair bit.
He was on the phone with a lot of members sort of working it. Sometimes, he was not as helpful as other times. In fact, sometimes, he gummed up the works. He did know the specifics of the bill here.
But, going forward, I think the question is, can he bring some outside groups who are opposed to this still, can he bring them on board? We will see.
BALDWIN: You know, Wolf, that the president was -- is planning still on coming to New York. He hasn't been back home since he -- what, 107 days, I believe, is the time frame, but a great curveball, I guess, thrown in his way with this win for him and the House Republicans.
BLITZER: Yes, he worked hard to get it. He personally lobbied several undecided or even critical Republican lawmakers. He got the win 217-213. It was close; 20 Republicans went against the legislation. No Democrats supported it.
But it's a win in the House of Representatives.
Julie Pace is the chief White House correspondent for the Associated Press, a CNN "INSIDE POLITICS" contributor.
Julie, we understand the president was watching the vote come in with some of his top aides in the Oval Office?
JULIE PACE, ASSOCIATED PRESS: Which isn't a huge surprise, considering that this president is frequently watching television. So this time, he was watching something that actually passed, which is a change for him.
But, you know, for this president, this is kind of a reversal, because after the first health care bill never even made it on to the floor, he was willing to walk away. He said he wanted to move on to tax reform. And then I think what you saw happen is it really sunk in for him and for other Republican leaders that this is something that they promised.
And the impact of having full control in Washington and not being able to pass an Obamacare repeal, at least out of the House, could have been potentially devastating for them.
BLITZER: And was there any real fear, based on everything you heard over there, that this could go down to defeat?
PACE: You saw more optimism from the White House this week than last week, as they started to feel like they were getting more votes, though.
I think that they and Republican leaders on the Hill weren't going to be celebrating until they actually got every single vote counted on the floor.
But when the Upton amendment, which added $8 billion more to this fund for people with preexisting conditions, when that came forward, and it seemed like they were able to get a couple more lawmakers on board through that provision, that's when I started to sense some more real confidence from the White House.
BLITZER: Julie, I want you to stand by.
You know, Gloria, I'm going to be really anxious to see the tone the president sets in his remarks in the next few minutes.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Right, because this is not -- this is halftime. This is, you know, not a full-on victory for him, although, as Jeff pointed out it's his first, you know, legislative win.
BLITZER: Major legislative win.
BORGER: And so the question is also the people around him.
Nancy Pelosi said that this win is going to be tattooed on their foreheads. Well, now there's going to be a picture of everybody. And I guarantee you that the congressional campaign committee is going to be looking to see at each person who was here standing next to the president on this.
And if we just take a step back for a moment and think about, guys, what happened here today, this is one-sixth of the American economy. And this bill was approved with no hearings, with no Congressional Budget Office score about how many people would be affected and what it would cost, and without a legislative text for people to read. [15:15:00]
When you think about that, that's kind of stunning. And there's going to have to be a lot more detail fleshed out by the time this goes to the Senate about what the effects of Medicaid would be in the states, if states -- block grants, what effect that would be.
What would happen to small businesses as you get rid of the employer mandate, for example, for businesses who have less than 50 people? How will that affect people who are currently forced -- their insurers now -- their companies now have to pay for their insurance? How would it affect people with preexisting conditions who have a lapse in their policies?
There's one estimate I looked at today that said about five million people with preexisting conditions would be affected. So, we're going to need to look at all of this, because we haven't really done it yet.
BLITZER: The speaker, Paul Ryan, is there. Republican lawmakers , they have gathered on the steps of the Rose Garden to congratulate the president, big win for the president, big win for the speaker, big win for the Republicans in the House of Representatives. He's there with the Republican leadership and many Republican members who came over.
Nia, this is -- the president momentarily, we're told, will walk out of the Oval Office into the Rose Garden.
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and he clearly wanted to make this a moment and make it a television moment. Right?
We have had sports teams come to the White House and then stand behind the president. And in some ways, this is a similar picture, all the Republicans there behind this president. They couldn't get it done weeks ago, and now they can.
BLITZER: And the president is now being introduced. You see the speaker, see the majority leader, Kevin McCarthy.
The president has now been formally introduced. Let's listen in as he gets this round of applause.
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Speaker Ryan, Majority Leader McCarthy, Majority Whip Scalise, Chairwoman McMorris Rodgers, Chairman Brady, Chairman Walden, Chairwoman Black, Congressman MacArthur, Congressman Meadows, and all the principled members who are standing with us here today, on behalf of President Trump and the first family, welcome to the White House.
PENCE: And thanks to the leadership of President Donald Trump, welcome to the beginning of the end of Obamacare.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
PENCE: It was March 2010, seven years ago, Democrats passed a government takeover of health care. And, at that time, Republicans in Congress promised the American people that law would not stand.
Today, thanks to the perseverance, the determination, and the leadership of President Donald Trump and all the support of those gathered here, we have taken a historic first step to repeal and replace Obamacare, and finally give the American people the kind of health care they deserve.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
PENCE: So, today, with heartfelt gratitude for all he's done to keep his word to the American people, and for all he will do to continue to make America great again, it's my high honor and distinct privilege to introduce to you the president of the United States of America, President Donald Trump.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, Mike.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
TRUMP: That's the group. Thank you. Thank you very much.
This really is the group. What a great group of people. And they're not even doing it for the party. They're doing it for this country, because we suffered with Obamacare. I went through two years of campaigning, and I'm telling you, no matter where I went, people were suffering so badly with the ravages of Obamacare.
And I will say this, that, as far as I'm concerned, your premiums, they're going to start to come down. We're going to get this passed through the Senate. I feel so confident. Your deductibles, when it comes to deductibles, they were so ridiculous that nobody got to use their current plan, this nonexistent plan that I heard so many wonderful things about over the last three or four days, after that.
I mean, it's -- I don't think you're going to hear so much right now. The insurance companies are fleeing. It's been a catastrophe. And this is a great plan. I actually think it will get even better.
And this is -- make no mistake, this is a repeal and a replace of Obamacare. Make no mistake about it. Make no mistake.
TRUMP: And I think, most importantly, yes, premiums will be coming down. Yes, deductibles will be coming down.
But, very importantly, it's a great plan. And, ultimately, that's what it's all about. We knew that wasn't going to work. I predicted it a long time ago. I said it's failing. And now it's obvious that it's failing. It's dead. It's essentially dead.
If we don't pay lots of ransom money over to the insurance companies, it would die immediately. So, what we have is something very, very, incredibly well-crafted. Tell you what. There is a lot of talent standing behind me, an unbelievable amount of talent. That, I can tell you.
You know, coming from a different world and only be a politician for a short period of time, how am I doing? Am I doing OK? I'm president. Hey, I'm president.
TRUMP: Can you believe it? Right? I don't know. I thought you needed a little bit more time, they always told me. More time. But we didn't.
But we have an amazing group of people standing behind me. They worked so hard. And they worked so long. And what I said, let's do this, let's go out, just short little shots for each one of us, and let's say how good this plan is. We don't have to talk about this unbelievable victory. Wasn't it unbelievable? So, we don't have to say it again.
But it's going to be an unbelievable victory actually when we get it through the Senate. And there's so much spirit there. But I said let's go out. We have a little list of some of the people. And I think after that list goes, if they don't talk too long, our first list, we're going to let some of the other folks just come up and say whatever you want.
But we want to brag about the plan, because this plan, really -- uh- oh.
TRUMP: Well, we may. But we're just going to talk a little bit about the plan, how good it is, some of the great features.
I want to thank Paul Ryan. He's worked so hard.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
TRUMP: I was joking. I said, you know, Paul for the last week, I have been hearing Paul Ryan doesn't have it. It's not working with Paul Ryan. He's going to get rid of Paul Ryan.
Then, today, I heard Paul Ryan's a genius. He's come a long... (LAUGHTER)
You know, the groups have all come together. We have the Tuesday Group. We have so many groups. We have the Freedom Caucus. We have -- and they're all great people. And we have a lot of groups. But they all came together, really, Paul, I would say in the last three, four days, especially in the last day.
I see Mark and I see Kevin. I see so many people. Jim. We just have developed a bond. This has really brought the Republican Party together. As much as we have come up with a really incredible health care plan, this has brought the Republican Party together.
We're going to get this finished, and then we're going -- as you know, we have put our tax plan in. It's a massive tax cut, the biggest tax cut in the history of our country. I used to say the biggest since Ronald Reagan. Now it's bigger than that, also pure tax reform. So we're going to get that done next. And this really helps it.
A lot of people said, how come you kept pushing health care, knowing how tough it is? Don't forget, Obamacare took 17 months. Hillary Clinton tried so hard, really valiantly, in all fairness, to get health care through. Didn't happen. We have really been doing this for eight weeks, if you think about it.
And this is a real plan. This is a great plan. And we had no support from the other party.
So, I just want to introduce somebody to say a few words who really has been, I think treaty, very unfairly, but it no longer matters, because we won, and we're going to finish it off, and we're going to go on to a lot of other things. And we are going to have a tremendous four years and, maybe even more importantly, we're going to have a tremendous eight years, but we're going to start off with just a great first year.
And, Paul Ryan, come up and say a few words. Congratulations on a job well done.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Thank you, guys. Thank you.
First, thank you, Mr. President. Thank you. Thank you for your leadership.
RYAN: There are too many people to name who played such an important role in helping us get to this part. But I want to thank a few people in particular. I want to thank
Chairman Greg Walden, Kevin Brady, Diane black, Pete Sessions, and the members of their committees for all the hard work they put in to getting us to this point.
RYAN: I want to thank all the other members who contributed to making this the best bill possible. It really was a collaborative, consensus-driven effort. I also want to thank the team here at the White House. I want to thank Tom Price.
I want to thank Mick Mulvaney. And I especially want to thank Reince Priebus. We could not have done this without you, gentlemen.
RYAN: You guys are the best.
Of course, this would not have been possible if it weren't for these two gentlemen behind me. This is the fourth presidency I have served with. I have never, ever seen any kind of engagement like this. I want to thank Mike Pence and I want to you President Donald Trump for their personal involvement in working with our members and working to get this right, for getting this done and getting us to where we are.
Thank you, gentlemen.
RYAN: Today was a big day, but it's just one step in this process, an important step. We still have a lot of work to do to get this signed into law.
And I know that our friends over in the Senate are eager to get to work.
RYAN: They are. We're going to see that work through. You know why we're going to see this work through? Because the issues are just too important. The stakes are just too high.
The problems facing American families are real. And the problems facing American families as a result of Obamacare are just too dire and too urgent.
Just this week, just this week, we learned of another state, Iowa, where the last remaining health care plan is pulling out of 94 of their 99 counties, leaving most of their citizens with no plans on the Obama market at all.
What kind of protection is Obamacare if there are no plans to choose from? And this is a trend that we're seeing all across the country. The truth is, this law has failed and it is collapsing. Premiums are skyrocketing and choices are disappearing. And it's only getting worse, spiraling out of control. And that is
why we have to repeal this law and put in place a real vibrant marketplace with competition and lower premiums for families. That's what the American Health Care Act is all about. It makes health care more affordable. It takes care of our most vulnerable and it shifts power from Washington back to the states and most importantly back to you, the patient.
Like I said, we have got a lot of work to do. But one thing is now clear. Republicans are committed to keeping our promise to lift the burden of Obamacare from the American people, and put in place a better, more patient-centered system.
It is my pleasure at this time to thank and to welcome to the stage someone who helped make this so possible, our very talented majority leader, Kevin McCarthy.
MCCARTHY: I remember the very first time I came down here to see the new president, President Trump.
We talked about health care. You know what the president said? He said, let's not make this partisan. Don't do what you think is right for the Republican Party. Do what's right for the American country.
And, today, that's exactly what we did. You see, if you simply read the papers from this week, you take politics out of it, and you put people before politics, how do you look in the faces of 94 counties in Iowa out of 99, where not that they won't have very many choices, they will have no choice?
How do you care for preexisting conditions, when there's no care at all? Or you read the paper yesterday and you look at Aetna pulling out of Virginia, or to Tennessee next year with 16 counties with no care.
Or what about those families that paid into those 23 co-ops that Obamacare created with more than $2 billion? Eighteen of them have collapsed. And the only answer that this American government --