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Five GOP Senators State They Cannot Vote for Current Senate Health Care Reform Bill; Bill Clinton Speaks at Conference of U.S. Mayors. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired June 24, 2017 - 14:00   ET


BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: -- Senator Dean Heller the latest to join that group. There's at least three other senators on the right hand side that are planning to review it more over the weekend. They have expressed some concerns.

A vote is set for next Thursday, but even with the bill on shaky ground, President Trump is optimistic it will pass. In his one and only tweet so far today he focused on health care and attacking the opposition. He writes, quote, "Democrats slam GOP health care proposal as Obamacare premiums and deductibles increase by over 100 percent. Remember keep your doctor, keep your plan?" CNN Congressional Reporter Lauren Fox joins me now from Washington. Lauren, a big concern for opponents is what this bill may ultimately do to Medicaid. So what would happen?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: So if you remember under the Affordable Care Act states got the option to expand Medicaid that helped insure lower income, working poor populations. Under the House bill that expansion would end in 2020. The Senate bill phases it out more slowly over time so the states have more time to adjust. But over the long term the growth in cuts would be even larger than the House bill.

SANCHEZ: Now, the five GOP senators that are opposed to the bill in its current form, three others still reviewing it, how does Mitch McConnell bridge that gap?

FOX: That's the big challenge this week and something we're all going to be watching closely over the next five days ahead of the vote. I think we have to remember that what conservatives want and what moderates want are vastly different. Moderates want to make sure that they curb spending. They want to make sure Medicaid gets more money, that there's more protection for people who are trying to get drug treatment. Conservatives, on the other hand, want a fuller repeal of the Affordable Care Act. They also want to make sure that there are more Obamacare regulations that are repealed. And they want to cut funding for Medicaid even more.

SANCHEZ: Now, Democrats are saying that the Senate version is even meaner than the House's version, using the president's words. Former Vice President Joe Biden called the cuts to Medicaid cruel in a series of tweets. We also heard from Hillary Clinton who had some pretty strong words not just for the bill but for Republicans in general, right? FOX: Certainly. She called them "the death party" if they pass this

bill. And that's going to be something that's on the minds of moderate Republicans as they go into the 2018 midterm elections. A lot of them, like Senator Dean Heller, are having a hard time getting to yes on this bill, something to watch for sure.

SANCHEZ: We will keep our eyes on it. Lauren Fox, thank you.

FOX: Thank you.

SANCHEZ: Let's talk about this with Michael Blake. He's the vice chair of the Democratic National Committee, a former White House aide under President Obama. Michael, according to an NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll, more people trust Democrats to handle health care than they do the Republicans. But we've seen Democrats losing some key special elections lately. What do they have to do to capitalize on this trust?

MICHAEL BLAKE, VICE CHAIR, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE: Boris, great question, and great to be with you.

First, let's be clear. You know, our party, the Democratic Party is fighting to create more access and opportunity as it relates to health care. All we're seeing from the Trump/Pence/Ryan agenda is taking health care away, and Mitch McConnell is obviously doubling down on that.

When you think about 23 million Americans will lose access to health care, that is not what we should be doing at all. As elected officials we should be helping people, not hurting people. And when we see the Congressional Budget Office will be scoring the bill on Monday and a vote coming out on next Thursday, that's why at least five Republicans said thus far they can't vote for this bill.

Now, as it relates to the special elections, let's be clear. These are districts that are in very deep red seats. For context, in 2009 when we had special elections under President Obama we won all five seats. We didn't lose our first one until May, 2010. And so when you talk about seats that in the Ossoff race you lose by four, and in the Archie Parnell you lose by three, that's showing incredible progress. There are 71 districts, Boris, that have better Democratic numbers than the Ossoff race did. And so we're making incredible strides and progress. The fact the Republicans are competing in these seats is a reminder that we are the ones fighting for opportunity for all while they're fighting for the top one percent.

SANCHEZ: Now, Michael, I have to ask you about this explosive report in "The Washington Post" claiming President Obama knew about Vladimir Putin's direct hacking orders of the 2016 election. And specifically this quote from one former Obama administration official saying it's the hardest thing for them to defend in their time in the administration, saying "I feel like we sort of choked." Do you believe the Obama administration choked?

BLAKE: Absolutely not. When you look at and read the report, it conveys that President Obama took actions, whether it be economic sanctions, the closing of Russian offices, sending out Russian diplomats and sending them back to Russia, and so actions were taken. And also conveyed in the report, Boris, is that the reason why he was mindful is he didn't want to seem like he was leaning toward one side and one party in that manner and people feeling like you're trying to tilt an election in that manner.

So trying to be responsible and appropriate in leadership, which is exactly what we're not seeing from Donald Trump. When you have Donald Trump conveying in a tweet that nothing happened, well, one, we know that's just a lie. That's just completely not accurate.

[14:00:09] Number two, Donald Trump and the Trump administration has been conveying, well, they haven't been following the Russian attacks on the election. Well, how are you sitting silent and idly by right now?

And then thirdly, when you think about what's been happening, when you see the continued reports that in these closed Senate sessions that apparently Trump has been communicating to the national security officers in different aspects and obviously former director Comey to try to get rid of the Russian investigation, it shows what was really at stake. You had President Obama that was taking actions, and obviously more could always be taken, versus Donald Trump who is just sitting on the sidelines just trying to protect themselves.

So again, let's be clear in what we're saying here. We are taking actions, the Democratic Party is taken actions. The Democratic Party is showing leadership. Donald Trump is sitting on the sidelines clearly to trying to help protect himself and protect those at the top one percent. And that's the reason we have to continue these investigations while we cannot sit idly by and make sure we get to the bottom of what's happening with Russia and trying to interfere in our elections.

SANCHEZ: Michael, I do have to ask you about another portion of that report, though, that says in no uncertain terms that there was a sense within the Obama administration that Hillary Clinton was going to win the election and that led to a lack of urgency. What do you make of that specific piece of the report?

BLAKE: Well, none of us can obviously comment fully on what may be in the information itself. But let's convey this I think essentially 99.9 percent of people externally and internally in different aspects were presuming that Hillary Clinton was going to win. Obviously all the polls were indicating it as such.

But the critical question is, what did you do with that information? And as the report indicates President Obama took actions, and actions moving forward. However, in the reverse what we're seeing with Donald Trump right now is literally ignoring what are the clear facts of 17 intelligence agencies saying that Russians hacked into elections, had impact on the state electoral colleges -- the state electoral systems, rather. And moving forward he's essentially saying we should just move on as if nothing is happening.

And so we are recognizing the information and we're making progress on what's happening here. But let's make sure we're staying focused on what's happening today. How are we being united as a party? How are we uniting as a Democratic Party so we can move forward and make sure we're communicating people from the school board to Senate, from the city council to Congress, from state house to the White House, how we're building up a party and moving forward, versus just talking about what happened in 2016 and not trying to have progress as we're seeing on the other side.

But the reality is you're going to have a vote coming up next week where 23 million Americans could potentially lose their health care. They want to know what are we doing for them. The Democratic Party is fighting for them. The question is, what is the Republican party doing for them?

SANCHEZ: There's a lot of questions, especially this week, about the cohesiveness of the Democratic Party, with some Democratic lawmakers calling for Nancy Pelosi, the leader of the House, to move aside because she's, according to some, including the president, helping Republicans win races. Do you think she's toxic for Democrats?

BLAKE: Absolutely not. So Donald Trump communicating what he believes, let's just make sure he stays focused on the facts. This is the same one who said he supposedly had tapes and all of a sudden he didn't have tapes. So his tweets can speak for themselves.

Nonetheless, when we think about our party, again, we have to be clear. We're talking about deep red seats. And the fact is the fact we're having conversations around Kansas and Montana, Georgia and South Carolina, and the fact that the Republican Party is spending tens of millions of dollars to compete in these races, which, again, for the Georgia seat has been held by Republican for 37 years, that is the real momentum that you're seeing on our side, that progress is being made.

We have to remind ourselves of the successes that have been happening thus far. Look at what happened in Delaware, the fact that we were able to win the seat so we could hold on to the state Senate. The progress we're seeing in terms of historic turnout in New Jersey and Virginia to get ready for the gubernatorial races. The municipal races happening all across the country, states such as Iowa where I am today where they're going to have municipal races, school board happening on this year.

So no, not at all. Nancy Pelosi is a key reason why we have health care, her leadership is the reason we're able to have health care. There will always be family conversations within the party of ways you can make progress, but we have to be united right now. We cannot be Obama Democrats, Bernie Democrats, Hillary Democrats, third party Democrats. We have to be a united Democratic Party because what is at stake is what's clear on today and on next Thursday -- 23 million Americans could potentially lose their health care. That's why we have to be united and pushing back and calling out the Republicans that are not going to stand up for you.

SANCHEZ: To be fair, it was Bernie Sanders who also said the Democratic Party has to do some soul searching. Michael, we have to leave it there but we really appreciate your time.

We want to go straight to Miami Beach now where former president Bill Clinton is addressing the annual conference of mayors in Miami Beach. He's there greeting the crowd. More than 250 mayors from across the country gathered together, the 85th annual meeting of mayors.

[14:10:07] We've been waiting for him to take the stage for several hours now as he continues to greet the crowd. He's expected to talk about a variety of things -- sustainability, livability in cities. But with so much going on, not just the health care debate but the state of the Democratic Party, the state of all the investigations across the House, the Senate, and the special counsel into the White House and links to Russia, the possibility of collusion, and the possibility of obstruction of justice, we will see if he mentions any of that as he walks over to the podium. We hand it over to former president Clinton.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: First of all, I want to thank Mayor Levine for that unbelievable introduction. This is a good example of Clinton second law of politics, always be introduced by a good friend. They will exaggerate your virtues, minimize your vices, and otherwise try to pull the shades over your eyes. I thank you.

I want to thank Mayor Cornett for his leadership at the conference, and for having me at the 20th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing. It was a very moving thing. After the bombing the city adopted a whole new motto and a commitment to inclusion and working together that is profoundly moving. And when you see it in practice, it makes you want to emulate it.

And I want to thank the mayor not only for having me in Miami Beach, and I guess you all got his world renowned global tour. And I know he also got you a watch from Detroit which I think has not been delivered yet. But it's a powerful thing. I have been there many times and I probably bought more of those watches than any individual American just giving them away because it makes a point. They sell -- only the watch works made in Switzerland and it's part of their marketing because every one of those watches cost between 10 and 20 percent of anything it would cost anywhere in the world because everything else is made in America.

And there are two production lines, one of them headed by a woman who was cleaning the building, old empty General Motors building, when Tom Korologos (ph) sank $45 million of his own money into this without a clue whether it would work. Met her, and he said you're smart. You think you could work on the production line? She said, sure. So he put her to work. Few weeks later he said you're the best watch worker we've got. All these big hulking guys I hired keep coming to you to figure out how to do it better. Do you think you could manage a production line? She said, sure.

So I get there, and here's this woman who just a few weeks earlier was on her knees cleaning a building, running a production line making wonderful watches, rebuilding the economy of one of our cities. It's a metaphor for what all of you believe in and what you can do. So the mayor, I'm really kind of mad at the voters because, you know,

back when he had more free time he'd go interesting places with me and we had a lot of fun. And now he's got a real job, and I barely see him.

But I want to congratulate you publicly on your engagement, for bringing your fiance and her family here and with your mom and cousin. And it will make you a better man, Philip. So I wish you well.

I want to thank Tom Cochran for his long service to this group. You know, I went -- I met with the mayors every single year I was president. And I always looked forward to it. And --


BILL CLINTON: I always look forward to it. And in no small measure I think this organization has thrived because in sunshine and storm you show up and you believe in the potential of America's cities. And I thank you for that.


BILL CLINTON: I want to acknowledge my mayor, Mayor de Blasio, and congratulate first lady for her award and all the other awardees.

[14:00:06] There are so many friends here I wouldn't have time to say anything else. But I do have to say that the mayor of Little Rock Mark Stodola, is here. And that's where my presidential library and center are. He went to work for me in 1974, 41 years ago. I'm pretty sure he wasn't old enough to vote. And if not, he'll appreciate the exaggeration.


BILL CLINTON: The long-time mayor of Boston, Tom Menino, who was a good friend of Hillary's and mine, once said the true privilege of being mayor is that I have the opportunity to be everyone's neighbor. I think his successor, Marty Walsh, is proving to be a worthy good neighbor. But that's really true for all of you.

I got up this morning and I wrote this out. So if you will forgive me, I normally, you know, to speak off the top of my head, but this is what I sort of think you do. You're a neighbor because you actually see and hear from your constituents every day. I'll never forget walking down the streets of Columbia with Steve Benjamin, funky little place he took me in to get coffee and rolls. Some of the things I've done with many of you. You don't see these people as demographic groups to be delivered whole cloth for votes. You see them as real human beings who want a chance to work, to learn, to start businesses, to raise kids on safe streets, to live in decent affordable housing, and to be able to retire in dignity, and to be of use in old age.

They're likely to be proud of their own identity, but to relish urban diversity. They want police they can trust, rely on, look up to, without worrying about whether their kids will not come home some day because of the color of their skin, the way they dress, their fondness for tattoos, or just being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

And of course they want the garbage picked up and the potholes fixed. They hire you to figure out how to do all this, and to keep them involved along the way. Otherwise your job is a snap.


BILL CLINTON: This morning you met about sustainability, health care and jobs. When I leave you will talk about the need for immigration reform and to find ways to curb gun violence. The commitment you have to actually doing real things that affect people's lives in a positive way is the main reason I showed up every year to talk to you when I was in the White House and have come back several times since.

The reason I have invited so many of you to appear at the Clinton Global Initiative and the Clinton Global Initiative for America, I am grateful to you all just for showing up. I used to say I went to the White House as a governor, served as president, and came out as a mayor.


BILL CLINTON: And what I meant by that is I found then, still find it profoundly alien that public rhetoric is divorced from the real lives of real people.

Mayor Emanuel is here. You know, he came to the White House with me and he took on much more circuitous route. He went to the White House and he went to Congress and President Obama took him back to the White House. He finally found his way home to Chicago and sanity as mayor, where if you listen to him he is solely responsible for breaking the World Series jinx.


BILL CLINTON: Most of you were smart and just took the right job in the first place, and I congratulate you for it. there is no point in any other politics other than that which dominates being mayor today.

[14:20:03] The rise of tribalism all over the world is basically, I'm convinced, a reaction to the profound dislocations of the global financial crisis and the speed with which all the old social and economic arrangements have been uprooted, and the deepening decades long trend toward greater inequality. And you can add your own list.

But in the end what tribalism amounts to is politics rooted in a simple principle. It's us versus them. I want us to win, and for us to win they have to lose. If you did that, most of you would be out of a job. You can't just pick up the garbage in some neighborhoods or fix the potholes in others. And if even people suspect you do, in New York you read about it in the newspapers every day.

Sometimes in our city you get shot first and questions are asked later, but nonetheless there's a reality to all this. Oh, yes, we have to grapple with what one of my favorite writers, Bill Bishop, wrote in the book called "The Big Sort." He lives in Austin, Texas, and he's a liberal Democrat, makes no secret about it. But he lived in a neighborhood that had one Republican family in a voting precinct where John Kerry defeated President Bush three to one. And he said I love the fact that I had a Republican neighbor. We went walking every day. Our children played together. We had great arguments. I learned so much, but I learned I was the only person that was nice to him. So he moved to a neighborhood in Austin where President Bush beat John Kerry four to one. And the argument in the book is both neighborhoods were poorer because of this move.

And he said I started looking and realizing that increasingly Americans really are -- we're less racist, sexist, homophobic, religiously prejudice than we used to be, we just don't want to be around anybody that disagrees with us or read or look at anything that disagrees with what our established opinion is. And that has led to reinforcing these trends that I already mentioned.

However, there's not as much of it in America's cities for the simple reason that real life keeps intruding. And you are privileged to be on the cutting edge of those intrusions. Real life questions mean there's not as much blatant discrimination against immigrants because if you live in the city you're more likely than not to know that immigrants are twice as likely as native born Americans to start new jobs and half as likely to commit crimes.

If you live with the right kind of diversity --


BILL CLINTON: If you live with the right kind of diversity, you might even know that the murder rate by Muslim Americans is one-third the national average, not three times the national average.


BILL CLINTON: So what does all this mean? It means one of the advantages of you're coming together is that in communities at least 30,000 or more you're comfortable with and see the promise of diversity of background and skills and thought. You're more likely to understand that no matter how good it is politically from time to time to practice tribalism, us versus them is a very poor way to run any kind of railroad.

Economics, about which I think I demonstrated I know a little, is about addition, not subtraction. Creative societies are about multiplication, not division. And good politics is about problem solving and opportunity seizing, not how to stretch the limits of acceptable use of power. That's how we got to be the longest lasting freely elected democracy in all of human history.

[14:25:00] We have a constitution, which drives us all nuts from time to time because it slows things down, but there's supposed to be, because of our constitution, some things we just won't do.

SANCHEZ: That is former president Bill Clinton speaking to a gathering of more than 250 mayors for the 85th conference of mayors in Miami Beach, Florida. He talked a bit about immigration, diversity, saying us versus them is no way to run a railroad. However, he did not mention health care, division within the Democratic Party, or any of the investigations that are facing the current president and administration. So we will leave it at that.

That does it for this hour of CNN Newsroom. I'm Boris Sanchez in for Fredricka Whitfield. I'll be back with you tomorrow at 2:00 p.m. right here on CNN. "Vital Signs" with Dr. Sanjay Gupta picks up right after a quick break. We thank you so much for joining us. Have a good night.