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Trump, Pence try to Rally GOP Support. CBO: 22M fewer Insured by 2026 under Senate Bill; Paul Ryan, GOP Leaders Speak amid Health Care Battle; Report: GOP Bill gives Hefty Tax Cut to the Rich; Interview with Sen. Tom Carper. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired June 27, 2017 - 10:00   ET




POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Top of the hour. Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow. John Berman has the day off.

At any moment on Capitol Hill, we will hear from Speaker Paul Ryan and other GOP leaders in the House. What is their response to the CBO score of the Senate health care bill? Right now, the Senate bill could be on the verge of collapse.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell expected to gauge his own Republican support at a party luncheon today. And even the White House is now tapping down expectations. One official there acknowledging, the growing likelihood of defeat saying, quote, "We're right on the threshold."

In fact, this fight could be over before it even starts. Why? Because four Republican senators citing grave concerns after a scathing report from the Congressional Budget Office because 22 million more Americans would lose their coverage within a decade under the Senate plan. The lawmakers say, well, they will vote against even beginning debate on this. That's a move that would kill the measure.

We're covering all the angles. Let's begin with Ryan Nobles on hand for the beginning of that presser. It's pretty clear what Paul Ryan is going to say this morning. He was previewing it in some other interviews.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. They don't see that they'd be putting too much stock in the CBO score. Republicans have been throwing -- casting doubt on whether or not this is something that should be relied upon in terms of whether or not this bill should be moving forward, Poppy.

But we do want to hear what the House Speaker has to say particularly about what the House's plans are if this Senate bill does in fact make it through that side of the Capitol and make it back over here. Are they going to push through a vote as quickly as Friday and have this health care bill done before everybody leaves for the 4th of July recess? Of course, that is still a pretty big if because the Senate has a lot of hand-wringing to do before they get to that point. But because there have been so many changes to the Senate bill at this point, it's a much different bill now from when it left this side of the Capitol.

You know, is House leadership concerned that some of their more conservative members are going to be disappointed with the changes until the changes don't go far enough. Those are all important questions for House Speaker Paul Ryan and the leadership, Kevin McCarthy is expected to be here as well. Their opinions matter. It's not their turn at bat, so to speak, in terms of the legislative process. But whether or not this bill gets pushed through, it's going to have to come back here for one more passage before it heads to the president's desk. Poppy?

HARLOW: Yes. All right, we're waiting to hear from them. We'll dip in live as soon as it begins. Ryan Nobles, thank you very much.

But does a couple votes, possibly, deciding the Republican signature legislation, the repeal of Obamacare. Well, the White House is pulling out the big guns. President Trump and Vice President Pence, both personally courting lawmakers, trying to reach that all-important 50 vote threshold and then of course, Vice President Pence would break the tie.

Our Susan Malveaux is on Capitol Hill. These four senators though, don't seem to be on the verge of leaning toward yes, they seem pretty far from yes at this point.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They are pretty far from yes, Poppy. And one of the things that we are keeping a close eye on is - I talked to two Democratic senators who said, do not rule out Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's ability for horse-trading to really get people what they need. And so, there's a combination here that's happening here with the White House.

The GOP leadership and even some super PACs that are in support of Trump. And that is the game of carrots and sticks, if you will, the carrots that we are watching, this luncheon, this GOP luncheon that is going to happen with the majority leader. What does he see coming out of that? Is he able to asses or reassess whether or not he can get those votes necessary to cross the threshold.

Tonight, later, the vice president hosting four key Republican senators, three who are undecided, one vehemently against it, Mike Lee, can he actually put them over the top as well. And then the sticks, those super PAC that we are seeing that is already targeting some of those vulnerable senators, namely, Dean Heller of Nevada, who has already seen that in play.

One of the things that senators are saying and there are at least four of them who say we are not going start this debate. We need more time here. We need to take a look at the legislation and see if there is a way to compromise. One of those senators, Senator Lisa Murkowski, who said she just wanted a little bit more time.

[10:05:00] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI (R), ALASKA: I don't have enough information. I don't have enough data in terms of the impact to my state to be able to vote in the affirmative. So, I'm trying to get the information. This is big stuff. And so, making sure that we get it right is something that I have said, is an imperative. I don't think it's asking too much to say, give us the time to fairly and critically analyze these numbers.


MALVEAUX: Another moderate Republican senator, Susan Collins of Maine, tweeting this out this morning, saying, "I want to work w/ my GOP and Dem colleagues to fix the flaws in ACA." Affordable Care Act. "CBO analysis shows Senate bill won't do it. I will vote no on mtp." Motion to proceed.

And Poppy, as you know, that is a pretty rare stance from a Republican, essentially saying, look, perhaps this process is over. We are moving on to work with the Democrats, but even Democratic senators saying today that they are not ready to move on just quite yet, that you might see something out of McConnell today.

HARLOW: I think, indeed. Susan Malveaux, thank you, on the Hill for us.

Joining us now, Doug Heye, CNN political commentator and former communications director for the RNC, Symone Sanders, CNN political commentator and former national press secretary for Bernie Sanders presidential campaign, and Douglas Holtz-Eakin, president of the American Action Forum, he's also the former director of the Congressional Budget Office. So nice to have you all here.

Doug Heye, let me begin with you because you used to be a big wig over at the RNC. And according to our Jim Acosta, White House official told him last night, quote, "We are right on the threshold of losing health care." They went on to say, if the Senate can't get this one done, if McConnell can't pull this off, they are just going to move on. They're going to move on to tax reform. You say it is make or break time for Republicans. So, A, can McConnell pull it off? And if he doesn't, is this the end of repeal and replace for Republicans?

DOUG HEYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR AND REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, I do think Mitch McConnell can pull it off. If we learned one thing about Mitch McConnell over the years, it's that he rarely if ever loses. I remember when I was back at the Republican National Committee, when we were fighting Obamacare, there were so many times where we thought Obamacare was on the brink of losing and then it passed.

I can tell you. When I worked in the House of Representatives, so many times we tried to put Obamacare replacement language together and struggled to do so. But ultimately, the House, finally, just earlier this year, was successful when they had a make or break moment, had to pull a bill then at a second bill that we thought was going to fail and they ended up getting it through. Mitch McConnell is $200 million - excuse me, $200 billion that he can work with members on to try and get them forward. It's a tough haul, but it's not impossible.

HARLOW: It is a tough haul, indeed. Symone, to you, I know you don't like this Senate bill.


HARLOW: Putting that aside -- thank you for clarifying that. Putting that aside for a moment, do you think that Democrats need to do more and say, hey, we will help, because you are looking at a situation where, as you know, Obamacare is not working for everyone. You've got 47 counties across America where next year, they are not going to have any choice in their exchange for the insurance plan. They won't have a choice of a plan that they want. So, do you want to see Democrats raising their hands a little bit more?

SANDERS: So, one, I'll note is a lot of these insurers are pulling out of these market places, one, because of the uncertainty around subsidies and the uncertainty that the current president of the United States, Donald Trump, sold himself. Look, I think that Obamacare needs to be fixed. We need to expand upon the really great work that has been done. That is not what this bill does.

Democrats have been locked out of this process, the Republicans in the House and in the Senate decided to do this party line. They decided not to include the Democrats. They decided to ram through these disastrous changes. And now, we're looking at a situation where there's a disastrous bill that takes away health care from 22 million people potentially and penalize people who couldn't afford health care in the first place and wouldn't let them be on - attain health care for the next six months.

So, I think that Democrats, absolutely, need to hold the Republicans feet to the fire on this. But working with them on this bill is not the answer. Look, we need to fix Obamacare. And if the Republicans are willing to come to the table to do that, I think Democrats should sit there, should cooperate and we should come up with a bipartisan effort to expand on the success of Obamacare, but this is not the way.

HARLOW: It may be what happens if McConnell can't get this through. We'll see.

Douglas Holtz-Eakin, to you, you used to be the guy in the line of fire, I will say, running the CBO. Which is you've noted before, the party that put the CBO leader in power is generally the one that doesn't love the CBO. And Republicans don't like the CBO right now. Do they have merit in their argument because the line that we keep hearing out of Republicans, the CBO gets almost everything wrong, which isn't factual. They get some right and some wrong.


[10:10:00] CBO is most important when the Congress is doing something genuinely new and innovative. The Senate bill has also innovative features. That means CBO has very little history on which to base their projections. They'll do the best they can. But if you run the clock forward 5 years, it is inevitable they will be wrong. The real question is whether they are biased in some systematic way and they do a very fair job with trying to put their estimate in the middle. It'd be just likely to be too high as too low.

The one thing I would point out is that CBO operates under some very special handcuffs. I mean, they have to compare to current law. So, in the case of Medicaid, that means they have to assume that it will be possible to plow enough taxpayer money into it over the next 10 years to have that program survive.

I think that's highly questionable. If you look at CBO's own budget projections, inside of eight years, the U.S. will be running trillion dollar federal deficits every year. The heart of the deficits will be the rising spending on Medicaid, Medicare, Affordable Care Act, Social Security. It's quite inevitable that we do Medicaid reform.

And so, a real policy choice is not the Senate bill versus some imaginary baseline. The real policy choice is Medicaid reforms now or some other in future. And that's the way it should be framed.

HARLOW: Doug, to you, the CBO number is getting all the attention. But the Tax Policy Center came out with some analysis that's just pretty damming as well in terms of, you know, who benefits financially here. And they estimate that the richest Americans, the 0.1 percent of the richest Americans that make $5 million or more a year are going to get an average tax cut annually of $250,000 in 2026.

At the same time, the CBO came out and points out that a person making 26 grand would pay more for their coverage under the Senate bill, whether they are 21, 40 or 64 years old. Is that a tough narrative for Republicans to fight on this one?

HEYE: It sure is. Republicans argued at the time that Obamacare was just massive wealth redistribution. So repealing and replacing it would do the opposite effect. I think one of the things that Republicans and conservatives always talk about is that when Democrats enact entitlement programs, they do so in part because they know how difficult it is to get rid of them.

Republicans have been trying for seven years to get rid of Obamacare. It's not an easy thing to do. And while I think a lot of the focus right now is on Mitch McConnell. Some of it should be on President Trump as well.

He's making phone calls. But he needs to step up and do more. He's tweeting about anything other than repeal and replace today. He's taking his eye off the ball. The only difference that we have in dynamics between this year and last year is we have a Republican president. It's up to him to help deliver that ball home as well.

HARLOW: A message to the White House. Before we wrap, Symone to you, Democrats not exactly on a role lately, obviously, lost a presidency but also lost these four special elections. You've got Bernie Sanders. The guy that you worked for, for a long time, saying, quote, "The Democratic Party lost this election." What needs to change?

SANDERS: Look, I think -- one, these were special elections. And so, I think a better - let them assess of where the party is. Is the House of Delegates, for example, the general assembly in Virginia upcoming this fall, so that's the race to watch.

Look, I think we need the changes. We have to run better candidates and we have to run on a really good message. The Democrats have to keep the pressure up on health care. All of the polling has shown that health care is a more potent issue for the voters right now than anything else --

HARLOW: Symone, hold that thought, apology for interrupting. Let's listen to Paul Ryan, Speaker of the House, who is taking questions.


REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: He's actually a Republican appointee, if I'm not mistaken, Tom Price appointment.

Look, I have always had my own complains about methodologies of score keeping. We all have our preferences in our opinions in these things. But it is important that we have a scorekeeper. We can always complain about the nature of the score. I think their coverage numbers, there's more to the story than what the number implies, but having said that, it's important that we have a referee.


RYAN: It is.


RYAN: Nope, they haven't even finished their bill. So we have not made any of those decisions. I'll leave it up to the Senate.

QUESTION: Mr. Speaker, order in the House health care, you put it up once, you put it down again and it went through. What is your advice to Mitch McConnell this week?

RYAN: It's private. Meaning, I keep my advice between the two of us. Look, I would not bet against Mitch McConnell. He is very, very good at getting things done in the Senate, even with this razor thin majority. I have every expectation that the Senate - I don't know what day - but I have every expectation the Senate will move this bill. And I assume this bill will have changes. You know why? Because we all made promises we would do that. Every Republican senator campaigned on repealing and replacing this law.

[10:15:00] Point two, the law is collapsing. 41 percent of counties in America now, you have only one plan to choose from. So you're seeing - families get hit with another double digit premium increase. You're seeing choices evaporating in much of America. Blue Cross, Blue Shield just pulled out of Wisconsin last week. They pulled out of Missouri. They pulled out of Ohio. 94 out of 99 counties in Iowa next year are scheduled to have no plans left. This law is collapsing. It's in a tail spin. We have a duty and an obligation to step in front of that collapse and rescue the health care system for people who are in the individual market. So, I believe they will get this done. I believe they will get it done because they said they would get it done.

QUESTION: Mr. Speaker, are you taking the temperature of your members while this debate goes on in the Senate, particularly the Freedom Caucus. Are you getting their impressions of the changes as this goes along or you just going to wait until the final bill?

RYAN: We just don't know what the final bill is going to look like. So, all of our members are just waiting and seeing what the Senate does. We all have opinions on what the best possible policy is.

And yes, the reconciliation system is a little frustrating because we can't put all the bills in there we would want. We are doing medical liability reform later this week, for example. But our members are just waiting to see in a constructive way what the Senate can produce and then we'll make the decision after they do that.

Thanks, everybody. Appreciate it.

HARLOW: All right. There you have a brief Q & A session with House Speaker Paul Ryan there. "I would not bet against Mitch McConnell." That is the line from the House Speaker to the Senate Majority Leader who is trying desperately to get this thing through or even at floor for debate.

Let's bring back our panel. Symone finish your thought.

SANDERS: Basically, what the Democrats need to do, run better candidates, run on the issues and one of the most potent issues right now is health care. So, they have to keep the pressure up. We have Senator Heller, right now, in Nevada who is experiencing an amazing amount of scrutiny. He is the only senator up for re-election 2018 in the state in which Secretary Clinton won in 2016. And he's having trouble with this bill. This is a disastrous bill that is going to harm people. And that's what Democrats need to be talking about.

HARLOW: He's facing some pressure from a super PAC in his own party, putting out a nasty ad against him today.

Doug, to you, the line when asked -- when Speaker Ryan was asked by one of the journalists there, what is your advice to Mitch McConnell? He first answered and said it's private, but then he said I would not bet against Mitch McConnell. McConnell has a good track record. Is Paul Ryan correct?

HEYE: I think absolutely. Mitch McConnell has a great record. I would not bet against him. People who tried to bet against Mitch McConnell in the past and they lost on that. The House and Senate have actually moved a lot of legislation so far this year. They have moved more bills. President Trump has signed more bills in law at this point in his presidency than Barack Obama has. Now --

HARLOW: Hold on, more executive orders, not major, you know landmark legislation.

HEYE: Well, landmark legislation takes a long time. So, to think that we are going to be able to just magically move Obamacare replacement -


HARLOW: But he's the one -- President Trump is the one who said on day one, we are going to repeal. He made these promises.

HEYE: Yes. He was wrong. He was wrong. I'm not defending Trump here on that promise. I am saying that they have been more productive. Paul Ryan had a great op-ed this morning in a review about the progress that the House has made. The Senate has made similar progress.

But these big things are hard to do. Democrats know that when they enact some kind of an entitlement program, it's really hard to repeal them or replace them or even change them.

HARLOW: OK. Final thought, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, to you. It was interesting there that Paul Ryan was asked of faith in CBO director Keith Hall and he said, absolutely, he was appointed by Republicans, appointed by Tom Price and it's important we have a scorekeeper.

HOLTZ-EAKIN: I think that's exactly right. It is fair to take issue with particular judgments the CBO makes. There are a lot of tough calls on the impact on repealing the mandate, for example and other things in the bill. But I do think Congress needs a scorekeeper. And I do think the integrity in the process is something that people really shouldn't question.

HARLOW: Thank you all, nice to have you. Thanks for sticking around.

We have a lot ahead this hour, an uphill battle for Republicans on health care as you've just heard. Are Democrats though, doing enough to find a compromise? You heard Symone Sanders say, Obamacare needs to be fixed. A Democratic senator will join us with that next.


[10:23:14] HARLOW: Just moments ago, House Speaker Paul Ryan said he wouldn't bet against Mitch McConnell when it comes to getting the Senate health care bill passed. But McConnell has a tough road ahead on this one. Four Republican senators say they will not vote yes to even bring this bill to the floor for debate. That would kill it unless it changes.

Democratic Senator Tom Carper of Delaware is here. Thank you for joining me.


HARLOW: Good morning to you. So, you are quoted in "The New York Times" as saying that this Senate bill, quote, "Breaks with our moral obligation to care for the most vulnerable people in our society." Now, Symone Sanders, who was Bernie Sanders' communications director, just told me, as a Democrat, as someone who hates this Senate bill, quote, "Obamacare needs to be fixed." Do you agree with her?

CARPER: There are a number of things that you could fix in the Affordable Care Act. There are a number of things that ought to be preserved. I think one of the best ways to figure that out is to do what we have done in the past. We worked on the Affordable Care Act. We had like 80-some days with hearings, with the meetings, 300 and some amendments that were offered but 163 Republican amendments accepted (ph). We should go through that process. We should do it with their bill. Whatever they come up with at the end of the day, go through that process and wind up with something in between the Affordable Care Act and what they are suggesting. It would probably be a better outcome in the end.

HARLOW: So, I mean, it sounds like you are admitting Obamacare needs changing, needs fixing. You are upset at this process with 13 senators happen essentially in secret behind closed-doors. What would you change with Obamacare? What is the single biggest fundamental failure of Obamacare?

CARPER: Keep in mind that 50-some percent of people in this country gets their health care from large employer plans, about 25 percent get their health care from Medicaid and 15 percent get their health care from Medicare.

[10:25:04] And what we call Obamacare is really 5 percent or 6 percent of the people. -


HARLOW: I'm worried about those people and I know you are, too, senator, right? Those are people that aren't lucky like I am to get insurance through their employer.

CARPER: The reason why that 5 percent or 6 percent of the people in the exchange -- they are paying more for their health care is because the exchanges have been destabilized in part by the current administration. Three things we should do.

Number one, reinsurance. We should offer reinsurance along the lines that Senator Kaine and I have proposed. Number two, make it clear that the individual mandate or something like the individual mandate is going to say in place. And number three, make sure the cost sharing arrangements are preserved as well. Do those three things, we bring down the instability in the market places.

Health insurance companies would come in and be with one another. We'd end up with better coverage. All the stuff that Donald Trump talks about, we want better coverage, better quality care, less money, we should stabilize the exchange. We can do that. What he is doing is actually destabilizes the exchanges.

HARLOW: Do you think that -- I mean, because you have been pretty candid, Senator, in saying that your own party, the Democratic Party has struggled to get their message through to Americans on health care. Why do you think that is?

CARPER: This is a hard subject. It's not an easy thing to do. There is a lot of disinformation. But actually, it turns out there are a number of things, we I think, basically, agree on that we can do and should do in order to do those three things that the president likes to talk about. We ought to do those things.

HARLOW: Why do you say the party has not been good enough at communicating it? Because it's been a tough run for the party in general, you lost the presidential election. The Democrats lost all four special elections in the last few weeks. Where is the communication barrier? How can that improve?

CARPER: I think by simply going through what I call regular order, having all these hearings, people having a chance to say who likes this, who don't like this, offer amendments. I think at the end that would work. Thomas Jefferson used to say that people know the truth. They won't make a mistake. There's been a whole lot of disinformation, frankly untruths, some of it coming out the White House, I hope not so much from us.

We need to get to the truth. And if we do, we can work through this. We'll end up with better health care coverage, less money and frankly, cover everybody. We come very close to covering everybody. That's what people want.

People want us to work together. I want to work together. I'm happy to work with the Republicans and Democrats. We can figure this out. We can't do it if we try to do it all Democrat or all Republican.

HARLOW: They do, indeed. The American people want you guys to work together. Senator Tom Carper, thank you.

CARPER: Thank you Poppy.

HARLOW: All right, voices on both sides of the aisle, urging the Senate not to rush, to wait. Some Republican senators, like Lisa Murkowski of Alaska saying exactly that. Others, like our next guest say the Senate health care bill is, quote, "The best we can do." We will hear from Republican Senator John Thune right after this.