Return to Transcripts main page


McConnell Delays Senate Health Care Vote; Rick Perry Talks U.S. Energy Dominance at WH Briefing; McConnell Speaks on Senate Health Care Vote Delay; Schumer Responds to Senate Health Care Bill. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired June 27, 2017 - 14:30   ET


[14:30:00] UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: It seems like he doesn't have the political capital that most presidents do to kind of get the party in line.

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS, (R), MAINE: This president is the first president in our history who has had neither political, nor military experience. And thus, it has been a challenge to him to learn how to interact with Congress and how to push his agenda forward. I also believe it would have been better had the president started with infrastructure, which has bipartisan support, rather than tackling politically divisive and technically complex issues like health care.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: And, Senator Collins, are you going to go to the White House today and hear the president's pitch?

COLLINS: I am going to the White House. If the White House wants to -- if the president wants to have a meeting with me, I'm certainly willing to go and listen to what he has to say. I will say that I have so many fundamental problems with the bill that have been confirmed by the CBO report, that it's difficult for me to see how any tinkering is going to satisfy my fundamental and deep concerns about the impact of the bill.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: More personal charm, right? You know, personal charm can only go so far from the president's end, right? He has all these other gaps.

COLLINS: Personal relationships do matter. And I think that the president is smart to bring the members of the caucus -- I think it would have been more effective to have done so earlier in the process. And he did have one lunch, which I attended and made several suggestions which were not adopted into the bill.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Senator, what about these attack ads, pro- Trump ads for like Dean Heller to sort of --


COLLINS: I am very disappointed to see any --


RICK PERRY. U.S. ENERGY SECRETARY: Together, state, tribal, business, labor, all together, one room, happily sitting down and discussing how we're going to go forward, what the path forward is for U.S. energy dominance. And President Trump wants America to achieve energy dominance by utilizing our abundant resources for good, both here and abroad.

An energy dominant America means self-reliance. It means a secure nation, free from the geopolitical turmoil of other nations who seek to use energy as an economic weapon. An energy dominant America will export to markets around the world, increasing our global leadership and our influence.

At DOE, and across the administration, we're ending the bureaucratic blockade that has hindered American energy creation. The United States has been a net energy exporter -- excuse me -- a net energy importer since 1953, almost as long as I've been alive. But thanks to innovation, technology advancements, we're on the brink of changing this, and in very important elements of an American energy portfolio.

You know, 10 years ago, people would never have guessed that by 2018, the United States is expected to be a net energy exporter of natural gas. American companies can and already have exported U.S. LNG to our international trading partners in Europe and Asia. Unleashing our full energy potential in this country will lead to robust job growth and expansion in every sector of our economy.

This week, we will also reaffirm our commitment to clean energy. That binary choice between pro-economy and pro-environment that has perpetuated, or I should say, been perpetuated by the Obama administration has set up a false argument. The fact is, we can do good for both. And we will.

There was one fact missing from the headlines about the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris agreement. That is that the United States already leads the world in lowering emissions. We've done this through innovation and technology, not by signing agreements. The Paris agreement put the taxpayer on the hook for a costly deal. There was $1 billion already out the door. Thankfully, this president has the good sense to step in before billions more had been committed.

[14:35:14] We've already seen the fruits of innovative clean technology like CCUS, Carbon Capture Utilization Sequestration, that PETRA Nova Plant on the outskirts of Houston, Texas, uses a process to remove 90 percent of the carbon dioxide after coal is burned to generate energy in a clean way. Then it uses that captured carbon for enhanced oil recovery. Instead of preaching about clean energy, this administration will act on it.

I believe no clean energy portfolio is truly complete without nuclear power. And so does the president. If you want to see the environment and the climate that we live in affected in a positive way, you must include nuclear energy, with its zero emissions, in your portfolio. Do it safe, do it thoughtfully, do it economically.

Under the leadership of the United States, the world can benefit from that. This administration believes that nuclear energy --

ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: We've been listening into the White House press briefing. That is Energy Secretary Rick Perry.

As soon as we see Sarah Huckabee Sanders take the podium, we'll dip back in, especially during that question-and-answer session. Because we know there will be a bunch of questions, presumably on the health care issues, the repeal, replace. The Senate's plan to replace Obamacare now being delayed for a vote until after the July 4th recess.

We are also monitoring the podium here inside Capitol Hill where we are expecting at any minute a briefing and some reaction from Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell. to explain his thinking behind delaying the vote.

I want to get to Dana Bash, who is there, who is helping to break this news for us.

And, Dana, the bottom line is they didn't have the votes. But how likely is it that this -- that their task coming back to unite is going to get easier after this recess?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's still very, very tough. The Senate majority leader, we expect, will probably say that he wants to try to figure this out and get people on board before recess, even though they won't have a vote until afterwards.

But to answer your question, maybe the best way to do it is, I'd like you to listen to what Senator Susan Collins of Maine, a moderate, who kind of, you know, maybe broke the seal of Republicans revolting against the leadership, even on a process vote to start debate on this. A process vote that is usually not very controversial. She made it so. And listen to what she said after coming out of today's meeting.


COLLINS: Rewrite of the bill. Then obviously, I'm open to taking a look at that.


BASH: So, Ana, basically, what she was saying is that she -- Susan Collins doesn't think that there is going to be much that can be done to get her vote.

And every vote really does matter here. Republican leadership and the White House can only afford to lose two Republican Senators, and no more, in order to still have this pass the United States Senate. She said she just doesn't see her vote changing at all. And also, some of her colleagues, who are in opposition to many parts of this bill for various reasons. It's going to be a very heavy lift to change minds that are pretty much against it now.

CABRERA: And I know, Dana, we didn't get to play the full sound there. But we were actually listening in to Susan Collins and what she had told you right before we tossed to the press briefing. And we'll go back to the White House press briefing in a moment. BASH: OK.

CABRERA: But one of the things that Susan Collins said that we had heard in the sound byte that we played earlier is that this was the first president in history with no political experience, no military experience. And she said, in her words, that it's been a challenge for him to interact with Congress. Does that seem like a bit of a dig at the president?

BASH: Yes. I think, certainly, he could take it that way. It's also just a fact. He's new at this. He is new at this in a way that we haven't seen in American history, for the reason that Susan Collins said. No president has had neither political experience nor military experience. And certainly, he had a lot of experience in doing deals when he was in the business world. And that was a big part of his selling point to voters when he was campaigning for president. But it's very different to do deals in the private sector and help to craft very complicated legislation where you have a lot of different factor and a lot of different --


CABRERA: Dana, I'm sorry to interrupt you.

Mitch McConnell is just now taking the podium. Let's listen.

[14:40:02] SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, (R-KY), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: I think you may have already heard. We're going to continue the discussions within our conference on the differences that we have, that we're continuing to try to litigate. Consequently, we will not

be on the bill this week. But we're still working toward getting at least 50 people in a comfortable place.

We're going down to the White House at 4:00. The president invited us to come down. The White House has been very much involved in these discussions. They're very anxious to help. And we appreciate the invitation. And I hope all of our members will head down. I think that will likely be the case.

SEN. JOHN THUNE, (R), SOUTH DAKOTA: Well, the schedule may have changed a little bit but one thing that hasn't changed is that Obamacare is collapsing. It is a failed system that needs to be replaced. And we believe that the legislation that we're trying to get up on the Senate floor and considered there will take America in a better direction. It will help bring stability to the marketplace. It will bring affordability to people across this country who are suffering under the curse of high premiums and high deductibles and high out-of-pocket costs. So much so that, since 2013, in the individual market, premiums across the country have literally more than doubled. That has to be addressed.

We want to make sure that we are preserving the access that people have to coverage for preexisting conditions. And also we want to make sure that Medicaid is sustainable, not just for today but for the future as well. And that we give states more flexibility to design programs that make sense for their populations. And I've seen many of the experiments and examples that have worked across the country where they're operating at a much more cost effective and efficient way, saving taxpayer dollars and giving high-quality health care to the people in their states.

Those are our objectives in this. And as I said, while the schedule may have slipped a little bit, we are intent on rescuing Americans from a failed system that has driven up their costs and made it more difficult for them to find coverage.

SEN. JOHN BARASSO, (R), WYOMING: The pain of Obamacare continues to get worse around the country. I was in Wyoming this past weekend, visiting a hospital, talking to doctors and nurses and patients. So many of them impacted in a bad way by the Obama health care law. I had a woman in the office this morning from a small community in Wyoming. Lost her insurance when Obamacare came into play. It was good enough for her and her family. But apparently, it wasn't good enough for the Democrats. She now -- she and her husband have a policy, it's expensive, it doubled in cost. Her deductible is $6,500 for her as well as $6,500 for her husband. She says he will not go to a doctor. She is counted as somebody insured under Obamacare. But according to them, he does have usable insurance.

The Republican proposal, there's a number of key points to it. We limit the dreaded mandates that people across the country hate that you have to buy a government-approved product. We eliminate all the taxes. And we return a lot of authority to individuals and states, getting things out of Washington. And I will tell you, when I was in the State Senate, we always felt that we could do a much better job with the same amount of money, helping more people, more patients, more families with health care if we just had Washington not telling us how to do it. Because we knew better at home than people did in Washington. And that's how we feel. It's very important in terms of putting Medicaid on a sustainable path for the future. The states need the authority to do it in the right way. Medicaid was initially set up to help poor women, children, and the disabled. And it has taken in a direction way different than that with bonus payments to sign people up for Obamacare who are able-bodied, working-age individuals.

Finally, our proposal really focuses on this high cost of insurance that people are faced with, the doubling rates of Obamacare. What we do, looking at these rates -- and the CBO says it's actually lowers the rates for insurance 30 percent a couple of years from now. That's what people are screaming about at home, the increasing rates. And the projections for next year are even higher under Obamacare. So Obamacare is a bust. It's going off a cliff. The Democrats are saying, stay on board. We're trying to rescue the American people from this bus that they're on.


MCCONNELL: No, no. We're continuing to talk about it. It's a very complicated subject. I remember how challenging it was for the Democrats when they were enacting this back in 2009 and 2010. It's a big complicated subject. We've got a lot of discussions going on. And we're still optimistic we're going to get there. UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Will your ongoing discussions involve

Democrats at all?

MCCONNELL: They're not interested in participating in this.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Can you address for a minute, though, I know that legislative process, you have to go back and recalibrate these bills here, but you spent a lot of time in private writing this bill, you dialed into conferences. Isn't that an indictment to what you put forth at this stage that it wasn't ready to go.

[14:45:13] MCCONNELL: No.


MCCONNELL: No. It's an ongoing discussion. And members have -- several of them want more time. We have a number of different discussions going on that have been going on for six weeks now, and they continue. This is a big, complicated subject. If none of you have ever covered a big complicated bill, they're hard to pull together and hard to pass.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: You have done a great job of holding together your caucus. But have never yourself had to steer into these big pieces of legislation. What have you learned about the process, about being in the position so far? It's not done yet.

Secondly, what should the president be doing at this point to get this bill passed?

MCCONNELL: Well, the president has been very involved over the last week. Talking to members individually. He wanted to talk to all of us together today. I think that's helpful. And, look, legislation of this complexity almost always takes longer than anybody else would hope, but we're going to press on. We think the status quo is unsustainable for all the obvious reasons we've discussed over and over and over again. And we're optimistic we're going to get to a result that's better than the status quo.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Leader McConnell, the president had deferred to you largely on this legislation. Now that you have not accomplished it on your preferred time frame, is it going to be the president that takes it over the finish line? Is that his goal now?

MCCONNELL: Well, we always anticipated the president would be very important in getting us to a conclusion. After all, under our system, he's the man with the signature. And in the early stages, it would candidly kind of been a waste of his time in the early stages. We needed to get this far enough down the path to where there were new issues extant that need to be closed and we're delaying the process so that we can close those remaining issues. And he's fully engaged and being helpful in every way that he can, including the meeting this afternoon.

Thanks a lot. CABRERA: OK, I want to go back out to our Dana Bash, after we heard

from Mitch McConnell there, the Senate majority leader, who has delayed the vote on the Senate's health care plan until after the Fourth of July recess.

And, Dana, he kept on coming back to this is very, very complicated.

BASH: Yes. It is complicated. There is a reason why up until Obamacare passed, it was impossible for Democratic and Republican Senators to get to a point where they could figure out a real way to overhaul the health care system. And even Obamacare was very, very difficult. They did it because they had a super majority of Democrats in the United States Senate, 60 votes.

But at the end of the day, this is now a Republican government. It is now in the hands of Mitch McConnell, who you just heard, and he's got to figure out a way, along with the White House and with the president, to thread the needle and get to "yes" here in the Senate.

I want to say that he mentioned that the president wants to meet with all Republican Senators in one place to discuss this. I actually just to want show you what's happening here. That is a very large bus that is going to bring the Republican Senate conference, probably about 50 -- maybe all 52 will go. We'll see -- to the White House to meet with the president. Which is going to happen a little bit more than an hour. So, this is something that they obviously are scrambling to do, to try to get Republicans focused, to try to get them all in one place in a very sort of -- a place with a lot of gravity, the White House and with the president to talk about not just the substance.

But my sense, just in talking to the White House officials and leadership aides, to remind these Republican Senators the promise that they made over and over again to their constituents, that they will repeal Obamacare. And they need to figure out a way to get there.

And look, even though, as you and I talked about 10 minutes ago or so, Susan Collins was saying she just doesn't see herself getting to "yes." As we were listening to Mitch McConnell, Mike Lee, a Republican of Utah, who's on the more conservative side of the Republican spectrum here, he said that he does think that he can get to "yes." And he's feeling good about the way the conversations are going. Ted Cruz has told colleagues of ours the same thing. So, it seems as though their focus in the Republican leadership is trying to make the conservatives happy. That it's going to be more difficult to get the moderate. But again, the question is whether they can find that secret sauce, Ana, to get to at least 50 Republican Senators to agree to something. And whether or not this more time does help that or whether you kind of -- you fill the vacuum of time, which is basically what Mitch McConnell initially thought when he said, I want to have this deadline before July 4th recess. Because the more time you give, the more time you take.

[14:50:37] CABRERA: Let's look in now to the minority leader, Chuck Schumer, who just walked out and approached the cameras.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, (D-NY), SENATE MINORITY LEADER: OK. Well, what happened in the last few hours is a metaphor for what is going on here about health care. Democrats held pictures of working families who would be hurt by Trumpcare. Republicans were in their lunch with Steve Wynn, a multibillionaire, who would have benefitted with a huge tax cut. We're talking about average American working people. They're talking about multibillionaires. That's why they're in such trouble. That is why they're in such trouble. Because their bill is aimed at helping the very wealthy, whereas we are trying to hurt -- to help American families. We know the fight is not over. That is for sure.

We're not resting on any laurels, nor do we feel any sense yet of accomplishment, other than we are making progress because the American people are listening to our arguments.

Over the next couple of weeks, we know that leader McConnell will try use a slush fund to buy off Republicans, cut backroom deals, to try and get this thing done. So we're going watch this bill and all the machinations, closed-door, behind closed doors, as they might be like a hawk.

But the truth is, as CBO made clear yesterday, the Republicans cannot excise the rotten core at the center of their health care bill. No matter what tweaks they may add in the next week and a half, no matter how the bill changes around the edges, it is fundamentally flawed at the center.

The American people don't want Medicaid slashed. They don't want the help they need to fight opioid addiction, to help their parents in nursing homes, to help those with preexisting conditions, and just to help the average person who needs good health care. The American people don't want all that changed and eliminated.

The Republican bill is rotten at the core. The American people are not for big tax breaks to the wealthiest of Americans, nor are they for dramatically cutting their health care. That's why the bill has about 17 percent popularity in America. And even Trump voters don't like it. That is not going to change with any little tweak that wins over this Senator or that.

No matter what last-minute amendments are offered, the bill will force Americans to spend more of their paychecks on health care, to receive fewer benefits so that the wealthiest Americans pay less in taxes.

Until Republicans abandon that core, that core, that rotten core, they're not going to succeed in winning the American people over. And it makes it much less likely that they'll succeed in getting a bill done a week from now, a month from now, a year from now. The ultimate reason this bill failed is because the American people just didn't like it. It's not what America stands for.

Now you say, well, will you work with your Republican colleagues? We want to. And we have two suggestions. First, abandon tax breaks for the wealthy. Abandon cuts to Medicaid. Abandon repeal. And we can sit down and talk about improving health care.

We think the ACA has done good. We're the first to say it needs further improvement. We want to sit down and talk to you about it. But we're not going to be in a position where we say, OK, only 15 million people will be uncovered. We'll support that bill. Billionaires will only get a $40,000 tax break instead of a $57,000 tax break. That's not the kind of compromise we're talking about. They really need some structural revisions.

And we have a second suggestion for our Republican colleagues to work with us. Abandon the closed-door, secret process they have used. Go to regular order. Have committee hearings. Allow amendments. And go back to the idea that you need 60 votes, a bipartisan majority, to pass a bill, and we can start over again and work together and try to get some improvements in our health care system.

But if our Republican colleagues stick to this base bill, which so hurts working families, which so benefits multimillionaires, and them almost alone, we're going to fight the bill tooth and nail. And we have a darn good chance of defeating it. A week from now, a month from now, a year from now.

Senator Durbin?

[14:56:00] SEN. DICK DURBIN, (D), ILLINOIS: You know, for the last several months with the new Republican majority in the Senate and the House, we have really seen a national debate on health care. I think it was long overdue. The net result of it, today, more Americans support the Affordable Care Act than at the beginning of the debate. As people reflected on what we set out to achieve with the Affordable Care Act, they realized how fundamentally positive it was for them and their families. To get rid of the problems of pre-existing conditions. To make sure that everybody had access to quality insurance, to provide Medicaid for those people who had low income jobs and no benefits, who for the first time in their lives now had medical insurance coverage, to provide a subsidy --

CABRERA: We're going to break away from this press conference with the Democratic leadership in the Senate.

And we want to listen in to Sean Spicer. Our Dana Bash just caught up with him outside the capitol. Let's listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Later on, today, the president's pitch.




SPICER: The president's going to have a great discussion with the Senators about what we have to do on health care. And --


BASH: I'm sorry, I didn't mean to bump into you. I meant to push into you.



The Senator McConnell's address is right now. I'm sure he'll --

BASH: What brings you here, Sean?

SPICER: It's an important subject.

UNIDENTIEID REPORTER: And is this the president talking to the Senators today or is this --


CABRERA: So very few words from Press Secretary Sean Spicer, who we originally thought was going to be giving the White House press briefing today. It is not him, clearly. As we see Rick Perry, we're monitoring the White House press briefing. Rick Perry is there to talk about energy. The White House calls it Energy Week. We also saw Sarah Huckabee Sanders. And as soon as she comes back to the podium, we'll listen in.

I want to go back to Dana Bash, though, because she just tried to speak with Sean Spicer.

What we could hear from that very brief exchange was he was there because he has some important business to do. Do you get any sense of who he's going to meet there in that area?

BASH: No, well, he's leaving the capitol. And what I don't know is whether he was actually in the Senate Republican lunch. It sounds like he could have been. And I'm going to try to confirm that. There was, as Phil Mattingly was reporting, a pretty heavy White House presence up here during this lunch. The White House chief of staff, Reince Priebus, was here. The vice president, Mike Pence, and others from the White House legislative team. So, it's possible that Sean was in that meeting.

Having said that, given the fact that there's a White House press briefing going on, Rick Perry or not, as soon as I looked up at the door and saw that it was Sean Spicer coming out of the capitol, I thought, wait a second, is that really him? But it was. And obviously, as you saw, it was a little bit bumpy. And not just our camera but others trying to figure out what he was doing here. And more importantly, getting a comment on the big news from the United States Senate about -- and the Republican leadership that they are punting on bringing the health care bill up for a vote this week. Something that the president himself was working to avoid. Making phone calls, talking to people like Senator Mike Lee of Utah, who told me last night that he got a call from the president. And he is not alone. But instead, because that didn't work, the president is going to host all Senate Republicans in about an hour at the White House to try to figure out if there's another way.

CABRERA: All right, Dana Bash, keep us posted as you continue to see people tricking out of that area.

I want to go to M.J. Lee, who is catching up with some Senators reacting to this announcement from Mitch McConnell delaying the vote. One of them, Senator Ron Johnson, who was initially coming out prior to the CBO score saying he was not supporting the Senate version of the bill.

M.J., what is he saying now?

M.J. LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLTIICAL REPORTER: Well, remember, Ron Johnson, the Senator from Wisconsin, he has been one of the most critical lawmakers when it comes to this bill on the substance of it. But also when it comes to the process, he has been very clear and publicly saying that he wants Mitch McConnell to give his colleagues more time to consider this bill, as well as the CBO score. Now coming out of Senate lunch just a little while ago, Ron Johnson said that he was grateful to leadership for giving members more time to think about this bill and that he, you know, truly appreciates the fact that we have more time.