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GOP Full-Court Press on Health Care; Explosive Testimony from Comey; Changes for Prince Philip. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired May 4, 2017 - 05:00   ET




[05:00:02] REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: We're going to pass it. We are going to pass it. We will pass this bill.


ALISON KOSIK, CNN ANCHOR: You heard it there. House Republican leadership says it's confident it has a vote to pass a health care bill today. The package heads to the floor in just a few hours from now. But can the GOP finally get President Trump the win he's been waiting for?

Good morning and welcome to EARLY START. I'm Alison Kosik.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Dave Briggs. It is May 4th. Star Wars Day. May the 4th be with you. Five a.m. in the East.

Christine Romans might be described by James Comey as mildly nauseous, but we hope she is feeling better. She'll be all right.

A huge day, though, on Capitol Hill. This morning, after a series of false starts, the GOP could be on the cusp of a big win on health care. The House set to vote today on a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare and Republican leadership says they do at last have the votes to pass it.

KOSIK: Momentum shifted when two influential moderates who had been no votes flipped into the yes column after meeting with the president and getting new commitments on coverage for people with pre-existing conditions.

BRIGGS: Certainly it's true that we've seen this movie before, but Republican leaders have been saying since the first repeal effort collapse that they would not bring health care to the floor, unless it could and will pass. So, it certainly seems likely they at least believe they have the votes this time.

So, let's bring in our Phil Mattingly on Capitol Hill with the latest.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Eight billion dollars, that is what it took for Republicans to finally get over the hump. The hump that has basically been the inability to pass the thing they campaigned on year after year after year, cycle after campaign cycle after campaign cycle, repealing and replacing Obamacare. We've seen multiple failures over the course of the last two months. Today, there will be a vote on the repeal and replace plan.

Now, guys, that $8 million came in the form of an amendment that was directly targeted at trying to assuage the major concerns that had held up this latest version of the proposal up to this point, that is price protections related to those with pre-existing conditions.

Now, those regulations in Obamacare have been considered extremely important and they are very, very popular, so much so that states could opt out all together. That's a lot of Republicans particularly those in moderate and centrist districts, those who will face very real electoral problems in 2018 not willing to come on board -- at least until Wednesday morning. That's when President Trump and two previously no vote members came together to agree on an amendment, to send 8 billion more dollars to a fund to try to help finance any premium increases that those individuals might see.

Now, that in and of itself being enough to get members to the requisite 2016 votes they need. It's a bit of a surprise, but there was a full-court press from President Trump. Vice President Pence, House leaders going member by member, the undecideds, the noes, the lean yeses and noes to try to get them to a place where they can actually finally pass this bill.

They say they're there. I'm told they're right on a razor's edge. They are very, very close one way or the other. But the feeling is, they wouldn't put it on the floor if they didn't think they could pass it. At least at this point in time, they think they can pass it.


KOSIK: OK. Phil Mattingly, thanks very much.

And Democrats obviously not sold on the changes intended to shore up pre-existing condition coverage. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer slamming the amendment, adding $8 billion to federal funding of high risk pools. In a tweet he said, "Proposed Upton amendment to AHCA, the Affordable Health Care Act, is like trying to cure stage 4 cancer with cough medicine."

BRIGGS: At the White House, Press Secretary Sean Spicer fighting back, trying to ease concerns about the pre-existing conditions issue.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Why change the pre- existing condition?

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We're not. No, no, we are strengthening. I think -- look, we have done everything to do to not only strengthen but to guarantee --

ACOSTA: Strengthening it --

SPICER: Absolutely.

ACOSTA: -- but the governor can say, you know, here is my waiver and no more preexisting condition.

SPICER: Sure we can. Jim, I want to -- but I think the fundamental point that seems to be getting lost is that if you Obamacare right now, in case after case, you are losing it. So, if you have a pre- existing condition and you have a card that says Obamacare, but no one will see you or you can't afford it, then you don't have coverage.

ACOSTA: Why not fix that?

SPICER: We are. We are guaranteeing but I don't know how much -- we have literally --


ACOSTA: -- going to have be altered? Why not just keep that protection --

SPICER: The president has made it very clear that pre-existing conditions are covered in the bill under every scenario.


BRIGGS: OK. You heard Spicer there saying that some people with Obamacare coverage are losing it. He is talking about more insurance companies pulling out of Obamacare marketplaces.

Now, just yesterday, Aetna announced it is drawing from Virginia, saying it's on track to lose $200 million this year alone. Also, the biggest remaining insurer in Iowa says it also may leave the program, leaving most counties in that state without a single insurer on Obamacare in 2018. The stakes are huge.

Let's bring in CNN contributor Julian Zelizer, professor of history and public affairs at Princeton.

[05:05:02]Good morning to you, sir.

KOSIK: Good morning.


BRIGGS: The stakes are enormous here for, well, the entire country, but for the Trump administration. We have so many questions about the changes made. We don't know how many states will apply for a waiver. We don't know how many will be granted a waiver, but how significant is this House vote in the Trump administration and House Republicans.

ZELIZER: It's huge. The Trump administration doesn't have any major legislative victories after the first hundred days, which is pretty remarkable, and this is an issue that everyone thought would pass on day one, or day one. This is something the Republicans have been calling for. So, Trump needs a victory and the House Republicans need a victory to show the Speaker Ryan can actually move bills.

But this could be a costly victory. So, that's what Republicans are trying to gauge right now.

KOSIK: And you're seeing Republicans, you know, very reticently sort of signing on to this after this $8 billion sweetened little pill that was put on in which really has a lot of questions surrounding it. I mean, why make this push to get this on the floor when it's the Senate where it's going to really, really have an issue?

ZELIZER: Well, they're trying to get this done before they go to recess. Before they go back to the district so they can say we actually delivered. There's a fear also that the longer you wait, the more the details will become public, meaning that the effects of the waiver and how this will all work will get out into the media and be discussed, so will the cost of the program.

So, you're trying to get the vote before the information is there. That's the tactic on the table.

BRIGGS: Right, because we don't have a CBOI score and the prior CBO score said 24 million people that lose insurance, premiums would go up 15 to 20 percent in the short term. But as for the Senate to Alison's point, what is the biggest challenge there? Is it the moderate senators, or strictly budgetary, archaic as President Trump says, rules in the Senate? Can this bill survive just based on their rules alone?

ZELIZER: Both. So, Senate Republicans are not very eager to move forward on this bill. There's many moderates that don't think they could survive this bill becoming the law, not this bill going down to defeat.

But there's also this rule. It's a rule, the reconciliation process. It basically allows you to get it through the budget process, where there's no filibuster. And that's a big deal.

The problem is, this might violate the technical rules required to use that process, in which case, Senate Republicans wouldn't have the votes to pass this.

KOSIK: OK. Not just health care yesterday, but also, we saw Mahmoud Abbas at the White House with President Trump.

President Trump saying something very interesting.

BRIGGS: Sure did.

KOSIK: I want you to listen and then we'll talk about it after.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's something that I think is frankly maybe not as difficult as people have thought over the years, but we need two willing parties. We believe Israel is willing. We believe you're willing, and if you both are willing, we're going to make a deal.


KOSIK: OK. So finding Mideast peace has been something that's been sort of this elusive thing that almost every president has tried to succeed in -- finding Mideast peace. What is it that Donald Trump is going to bring to the table that you can guess? Why he thinks that it's so easy to get that peace going.

ZELIZER: It's a little like when he said Andrew Jackson could have prevented the Civil War. It's the same kind of confidence that just putting a deal together with someone who knows how to makes deals is possible. This is an issue that requires caution, cautious rhetoric and deep respect for both of the parties. So, I don't know what he has in mind, but I think it's a dangerous attitude to start the negotiation process.

KOSIK: Why do you think he's in such a rush to have these grand moments? I mean, not just with Mideast peace, but with North Korea as well and with Syria? I mean, it seems like in his first 103 days he's trying to really --

BRIGGS: Well, North Korea is a nuclear weapon threat. That's different.

KOSIK: But he's trying to find solutions to huge problems all at once.

ZELIZER: He wants to demonstrate that he can govern. This is the criticism that's now emerged that for all the talk, for all the bluster, he can't deliver. And I think this bothers him. So, I do think at some level, he wants to show that he has some victories.

He's also hearing from Republicans who are already thinking of 2018 and saying, look, we control both branches of government, Congress and the White House. We should be producing legislation, overseas deals and we have nothing right now.

And so, I think he's feeling some of the pressure to show that's not true.

BRIGGS: All right. Front page of all the major national papers -- James Comey, to varying degrees, Anthony Weiner, Huma Abedin, but James Comey hearings at the heart of what happened on Capitol Hill today. Through all of this, to the mildly nauseous that he may have impacted the election, what did we learn yesterday from Comey's testimony?

ZELIZER: Well, we learned he feels some regret that he might have swayed the election. He didn't say much about why he didn't talk about the Russian investigation.

[05:10:03] But he generally stood firm with what he did and doesn't feel remorse or regret. Mildly nauseous is an understatement, if that did sway the election. So, this is the same figure we knew a few weeks ago.

We also learn that Bill Clinton activities effected how this was all perceived and could have really cost her politically, Hillary Clinton in pretty profound ways and that's an ongoing story in their life.

BRIGGS: And you're talk about Bill Clinton boarding the plane on the tarmac of Loretta Lynch in Arizona, yes, James Comey said that was kind of the tipping point for him, feeling that he had to speak you.

We'll catch you in half an hour as well. Thank you, sir.

KOSIK: Thanks very much.

ZELIZER: Thank you.

KOSIK: All right. We have been telling you about a mysterious meeting at Buckingham palace this morning and we have new information about the royal family. Details live from London, next.


[05:15:00] BRIGGS: Breaking news emerging from an emergency meeting of the royal staff at Buckingham Palace in London.

KOSIK: After speculation online, the palace has just made the announcement about the royal family.

And let's quickly bring in CNN international anchor Max Foster. He is live for us at the palace.

Max, what are you learning about this announcement?

MAX FOSTER, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Well, it's actually about Prince Philip. So much speculation around this morning. We didn't know the meeting was taking place. They called the staff at Buckingham Palace and then made the announcement.

And we were told after the staff said Prince Philip is effectively stepping back from public life. Not entirely. He will still get involved in some public engagements, but most public engagements in his diary. Currently, will stay there, but after the autumn, he's not going to be involved in any more public engagements.

He is in his 90s and he was out yesterday and he looked well so, we didn't really know what was going on in terms of the announcement but it just seems as though he is pretty much exhausted from the heavy schedule he has got. He's got hundreds of charities he works with. He'll still be associated with them, but he won't be involved in public events. And he -- we're told that he has the full support of the queen on this and she will carry on as normal.

KOSIK: Max, can you tell if his health has taken a turn from the worse because now this announcement is coming about him stepping back from public life? FOSTER: I think his health is fine and he's just older and they have

to make a decision about how much work he can do. They have been handing over more work to the younger members of the royal family. And we thought, possibly, the queen was going to be handing more work to Prince Charles and Prince William, for example.

But it wasn't about her. It was about Phillip, but he's integral to her life. He's described as her strength and her stay. He's always by her side.

So, this will be significant in that we'll be seeing the queen on her own a lot more without her husband. That person that's that tower of support, and he doesn't spend much time here at Buckingham Palace, anyway. It's largely Windsor. So, I think increasingly both are going to be stepping back and this is part of that transition.

BRIGGS: All right. Max Foster live for us in London, thank you, sir.

This actually comes to relief to millions of people around the world because there was a lot of false reporting spreading around the Internet. Buckingham Palace is number one trending story on Twitter worldwide. Again, false reporting that he had serious health problems, 94-year-old stepping back.

To some sports next: the Cavs crews and LeBron James weighs in on the racial slurs hurled at baseball star Adam Jones in Boston. Andy Scholes joins us this morning with the "Bleacher Report", next.


[05:22:00] BRIGGS: All right. Let's talk some sports.

On the same night fans at Fenway gave Adam Jones a standing ovation, a fan was ejected and banned from the park for life for a racial slur.

KOSIK: Andy Scholes has more on this morning's "Bleacher Report".

Good morning.


Yes, on Tuesday night, the national anthem at Fenway was sung by a young Kenyan woman and after she sang, a fan used a racial slur in the stand. That's when Calvin Hennick who was the game with his interracial son and black father in law confronted that fan.


CALVIN HENNICK, RED SOX FAN: And then the white fan right next to me middle-aged man leaned over and said, "She sang too long and she n- worded it up." It was the day after the Jones incident and he was sort of proving, "I can say whatever I want to say to whoever I could say it to." I think it was pointed at us.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SCHOLES: Now, Hennick summoned security. The fan was ejected and banned for life from Fenway Park. The Red Sox issuing a statement saying they will not tolerate racial slurs from fans and they referred the matter to the Boston Police Department who was investigating. The president of the Red Sox as he believes this is the first time a fan has ever been banned from Fenway.

Now, as for the game, we saw more fireworks between Orioles and Red Sox. Second inning, Orioles pitcher Kevin Gausman hits Xander Bogaerts and he gets ejected from the game immediately. Now, the Orioles were just furious because he was trying to throw a curveball. Both teams were warned before the game by Major League Baseball to cool it after feuding for a few weeks now.

Outfielder Adam Jones was also ejected from this game in the 5th inning because he was arguing balls and strikes. The Red Sox would win 4-3.

All right. LeBron James just toying with the Raptors last night in game two of their series. Look at him spinning the ball before nailing the three. LeBron with 39 points in this one as the Cavs beat the Raptors 125-103, and after the game, LeBron weighing in on what happened in Boston to Adam Jones and how he has been treated there had by fans.


LEBRON JAMES, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS: I've been to Boston. I played in Boston a lot. I just try to have tunnel vision when I play. I don't -- I can't recall me ever hearing something that was racism towards me.

Racism is going to be a part of time forever I believe, but I think for us, people that have opportunities to have a voice and people that have an opportunity to have some -- you know, some play on the youth that's coming up, we have to lead them the best way we can.


SCHOLES: In another NBA playoff game last night, guys, the Spurs easily beat the Rockets to even that series at a game a piece, but their point guard Tony Parker left with a knee injury and he could be lost for the rest of the playoffs. So, that would be a big loss for the Spurs if in fact that is the case.

BRIGGS: Kawhi Leonard would have to carry him my friend.

All right, Scholes, that is some bad stuff happening in Boston. Good story there.

KOSIK: All right. Badly in need of a legislative win, President Trump, he could get it today. The bill to repeal and replace Obamacare is headed to the House floor. But can last minute changes get it over the hump? That's next.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: We're going to pass it. We are going to pass it. We will pass this bill.


KOSIK: You heard it there. Confidence among Republican leadership. They say they have the votes to get a health care bill through the House today. But after repeatedly falling short, are they setting the president up for another let down?

BRIGGS: And a major announcement from Buckingham Palace. Prince Philip stepping back from public life. We have details on the changes live from London. Some rampant speculation on the story. We'll get to London live in a moment.

Welcome back to EARLY START, everybody. I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: Good morning. I'm Alison Kosik, sitting in for Christine Romans. It's 30 minutes past the hour.

And this morning, after a series of false starts, the GOP could be on the cusp of a big win on health care. The House is set to vote today on a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare and the Republican leadership says they do at least have, or at last have the votes to pass it.