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Report: Senate Vote on Health Care Bill Delayed; GOP Senators Head to White House Meeting. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired June 27, 2017 - 15:30   ET


[15:30:00] JULIAN ZELIZER: CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Put a coalition to together to pass legislation, not to block it. And I think it's not simply an issue of being complicated. There are fundamental divisions among Republicans and certainly with Democrats about the effects of this legislation, and in seven days, those don't go away. So, he's going to try to find ways to buy votes or to pressure people into voting, but it will be very difficult because of that CBO report and what this bill will do.

ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: And is it just because it's health care, specifically, and how complex the health care system in America is that make it so difficult, whether it would be Mitch McConnell or anybody else who's trying to get a consensus?

ZELIZER: Well, sure. It's always complicated. But changes happen. So, we do have Medicare and Medicaid. We do have the affordable care act. There have been Presidents that have been able to breakthrough and Senate majority leaders that have been able to put together a coalition. Look, this is legislation Republicans have been pushing since the legislation went on to the books. They have been trying to reverse it. So, what's striking is that they don't have a plan yet, and at the same time, McConnell is dealing with a President who has not been totally invested in this fight and is not selling to Americans what the idea is behind the change other than people are going to lose many benefits.

CABRERA: Dana Bash has been standing by at Capitol Hill as we await those senators leaving to head over and speak with the President at the white house. Dana, what is the latest there? Have they already taken off? I know the meeting's supposed to happen around 4:00.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: They have not taken off yet. You can see the very large blue bus back there and you can see senators are getting on. One senator that I sort of found interesting who is actually going is Senator Susan Collins, and the reason I say I find it interesting is because she's going to go and hear the President out, despite the fact that right here on this capitol plaza within the last hour, she said that she's pretty doubtful that the White House, that the Republican leadership in this Senate can come up with something that is so sweeping of a change that it would get her on board. She said that she actually thinks that is as similar sentiment from a few of her other colleagues.

Still, she is getting on that bus, and they are going to go and sit and talk to the President. And you know, it's interesting in that the -- the White House presence here during the Senate Republican lunch, during which, behind closed doors, Mitch McConnell actually said, we're going to delay this, the White House presence was pretty big. Not just the White House chief of staff, Reince Priebus, the vice President of the United States, but also as we learned when we saw him coming out and showed it right here on CNN, Sean Spicer, who is officially the White House spokesman but clearly was not briefing today over at the White House.

He instead joined his White House colleagues to talk and listen to Senate Republicans about strategy going forward so I thought that was also very interesting, especially given the fact that they are engaging in a very big way the President of the United States, wanting these senators to come have a broad discussion, have a family meeting, for lack of a better way to say it, to figure out how they get to yes, at least enough Senate Republicans that they actually can get the 51, including the vice President's tie breaking vote if need.

CABRERA: Dana, you covered Capitol Hill for a long time. You have relationships with these senators, and know a lot of them pretty well. Who do you think will be most influential from the leadership of this party? Is it Mitch McConnell and what he says and does? Is it the President? Is it the vice President?

BASH: That's a great question. I'm not sure any one person is going to be that influential. It's really, I think, going to come down to genuinely the substance of the changes. It just appears that the way that the discussions are going is that the leadership thinks that they have a better chance at making changes that will be palatable to the conservatives, that they probably have too much -- too far to go for moderates like Susan Collins who I was just talking about.

[15:35:00] Mike Lee walked past about a half an hour ago after this big meeting inside the Senate Republican lunch and he said he does think he can get to yes, and you heard Ted Cruz right on our air saying the same thing. That seems to be genuine. And the influence certainly has to come from somebody they trust, and I do think that Mitch McConnell, their leader, has built up a reservoir of goodwill, even though the likes of Ted Cruz and even Mike Lee and Rand Paul have not always seen eye to eye with the leadership of their party here in the United States Senate.

CABRERA: All right, Dana, I'm going to switch to Jim Acosta. Stand by and keep us posted when those senators start making their way to the bus. Jim, you're outside the white house north lawn there. What is the message from the President as he prepares to meet with these senators?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it sounds like they are trying to rally the troops. I mean, there's really no other way to put it. This is a fairly stinging defeat for the President to see this vote delayed. We'll see how long it is delayed. And you know, whether they'll ultimately get this bill out of the Senate. But we've been hearing from Sarah Huckabee Sanders over the last 15, 20 minutes, secretary of energy Rick Perry was up for about 40 minutes. When Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked about health care, it was interesting, she said they remain optimistic. The President is continuing to talk to senators up on Capitol Hill, talk to Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader earlier this morning.

But a very interesting moment happened at the very end of this briefing, at which point Sarah Sanders cut the briefing short and took off. She was asked a question by NPR whether the President believes that this current Senate version of the bill is less mean than the house version, you'll recall the President, it was reported, and even acknowledged this, referred to the house health care bill that they celebrated in the rose garden earlier this year, he referred to it in a closed-door meeting with senators as being, quote, mean. And so, Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked by a reporter here at the white house briefing whether or not he feels that this Senate bill is less mean, and she just didn't answer the question. She said, well, and this has been a common answer coming from the white house these days, she said, well, I just haven't had a chance to ask the President about that.

So, you're hearing from a number of senators coming out this afternoon and I heard this from a Republican source earlier today that they are really upset about this ad that was being placed by this outside group, America First, priorities, going after this embattled, endangered Republican senator out in Nevada, Dean Heller, hitting him for his opposition to this current version of the Senate health care bill. You're hearing a number of senators coming out and saying that they're upset about this and I talked to a key Republican source who's close to this process earlier today who said you just don't do that to senators, and so even though it wasn't the White House doing this, there are a number of people inside that outside group who are very close to the white house, who used to work for the White House and also work for the Trump campaign and so this may be a learning lesson here for the white house moving forward that you just can't go after senators like that when you want to cobble together just enough votes to get this over the finish line.

CABRERA: Jim, thank you. Let's hear what Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell had to say just moments ago.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, (R-KY), SENATE MAJORITY WHIP: 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. 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. It's an ongoing discussion, and members have -- want -- 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. We need -- it's far enough down the path to where there were a few issues extant that needed 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.


[15:40:00] CABRERA: I want to bring in CNN senior economic analyst Steve Moore who used to advise the Trump campaign and Andy Slavitt, once the acting administrator for the centers for Medicare and Medicaid services, he managed the affordable care act in the Obama White House. You guys are numbers guys so let me throw a few out there. We have the CBO score that came out yesterday. 22 million more Americans, it says, will not have health care in the next decade under the current Senate plan versus what is current law, Obamacare.

Also, it said $321 billion will be reduced from the deficit. So, conservatives like to hear that number. But Steven, one of the big questions is how is this going to lower the cost of health care in America? We've heard from both conservatives and moderates saying this bill doesn't get the job done and it's not just premiums, it's the out-of-pocket cost that has a lot of people concerned, people may pay less for their insurance, but they go to the doctor and they're having to pay out-of-pocket, more for deductibles or copays. What would you do or what would you advise these senators to do to make this bill more palatable?

STEVEN MOORE, CNN SENIOR ECONOMIC ANALYST: Well, part of the problem, by the way, with Obamacare is that people are actually paying higher premiums and higher deductibles, so you're essentially under Obamacare paying more money for less insurance so that's been a catastrophe and I have to say that I think one of the things that is misleading about this CBO score is it assumes we're going to be fine if we do nothing but we're not. We see week after week that Obamacare is melting down and there won't be -- in ten years, there won't be an insurance market left. Now, Republicans have a big problem with that 22 million number because it certainly looks like a big sore thumb in this bill and they're going to have to convince American people that they're going to bring those costs down and the way to do that is through more competition, allow people to buy insurance across state lines, do medical malpractice liability reform, more transparency and pricing, more high deductible policies that lower your premiums, things like that will bring down costs and perhaps as much by 30 percent or 35 percent.

CABRERA: Andy, what's your thought?

ANDY SLAVITT, MANAGED AFFORDABLE CARE ACT DURING OBAMA ADMINISTRATION: I think the big struggle that the Senate has right now is Democrats generally want to push health care policies to cover more people. Generally speaking, Republicans want to push down costs. This bill does neither. This bill causes people to lose coverage and makes the coverage more expensive. So, the problem that McConnell has isn't a political one. It's a political one borne out of the fact that this bill is really not fixable. I've been in health care in the private sector for 20 years. I ran the aca exchanges so I learned a little bit about what it's like inside, enough to know that this is not something that can be fixed from tweaking a few things.

CABRERA: So, when we look at 22 million fewer people who would be uninsured under the current direction that this is headed, Andy, do you think, though, part of that could be people who choose not to get health insurance.

SLAVITT: Well, look, I think let's just look at a couple ways. First of all, let's stipulate that nobody can predict the future and it's not 22 million, if it's 18 million or 15 million, it really doesn't matter. Conclusion's no different. There's a lot of people that are going to lose coverage. Most of the people that lose coverage in this bill lose it because they lose Medicaid and Medicaid goes away. So, these are low income people, they're kids, they lose coverage. And then the second reason is because the cost of insurance spikes, particularly if you're over 50 and the tax credits go down. So, what CBO says is insurance becomes unaffordable and low-income people essentially stop being insured in in bill. That's the principal reason. I'm sure there's a little bit of an effect of some young people that wouldn't buy it otherwise but that's not the real issue. The real issue is Medicaid and people over 50.

CABRERA: Stephen, one of the biggest criticisms is that this is a huge tax cut for the wealthy at the expense of the lower class or middle- income people and the tax policy analysis found those earning more than $5 million or more would get an average tax cut of $250,000 in 2026 under the current GOP plan. Those earning $875,000 would get an average tax cut of $44,500 a year. Does that make sense to you?

MOORE: One of the features of Obamacare, people forget, is this huge tax increase. I mean, people forget, Obamacare was one of the biggest tax increases in American history. It was essentially a big redistribution plan and our analysis at Heritage Foundation shows those tax increases had a very negative effect on the economy.

[15:45:00] They reduced employment. They had a very negative effect on investment. I mean, if you want more business to invest, why would you tax business for investing more through the capital gains tax. Why would you, if you want insurance to be cheaper, why would you put a tax on health insurance plans. If you want better, you know, innovation in health care, why would you put a tax on things like new drugs and vaccines and medical devices. So, this is one of the best features of the bill is getting rid of those tax increases. I think they'll help the economy a lot and I think they'll help the insurance market, but I just wanted to go back to this main point because I think it's the central point of disagreement.

This plan Republicans are talking about will reduce the cost of health care because it's going to increase the competition and increase the amount of choice that patients have in terms of buying their care. One of the biggest problems I've had with Obamacare is it has all these essential benefits so you can't buy a basic health plan. You have to buy essential a Cadillac plan and that covers for 25 or 30 different kinds of services that many Americans, A, don't want and B, can't afford. Because as you just heard Senator Cruz say the average family is paying $5,000 more for health insurance. And if you are earning $40 to 50,000 a year, you can't afford this.

CABRERA: According to the CBO score, it is the middle class and the sicker people with preexisting conditions that could be negatively affected by the GOP plan. Obviously, the GOP plan could still change as there aren't the votes to get this plan passed just yet.

We got to leave it there, guys. Thank you very much for joining us.

Happening right now, Republican senators are heading to the White House for their 4:00 meeting with the President and his administration. We'll have more on that in just a moment.

Also, the administration delivering a stern warning to the Syrian regime, saying it sees evidence that it may be planning another chemical attack. You're watching CNN special live coverage.


CABRERA: Following breaking news here on CNN. You're in the newsroom and we are awaiting a meeting between the GOP senators and the President and the vice President and members of the white House as they try to figure out where to go with their plan to repeal and replace Obamacare. This coming after just a couple hours ago, Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, made a big announcement saying the vote on the GOP plan in the Senate to repeal Obamacare or replace it with something else will be delayed until after the July 4 recess. Something he did not want to do and was pushing not to have happen all week long, trying to bring up some momentum for this bill. I want to go to dana bash who has recently heard from the vice President who has been part of this full court press to try to bring a consensus to the GOP and the Senate, Dana.

BASH: That's right, Ana, and now someone who we understand was instrumental with the Senate majority leader saying, we need more time. As he was leaving for the White House, I attempted to ask him one question about it. Here's what happened.


MIKE PENCE, UNITED STATES VICE PRESIDENT: Good discussions today, we are going to keep talking. Obamacare is collapsing all over this country, and President Trump and Republicans in Congress are absolutely determined to repeal and replace Obamacare and give the American people the kind of health care reform they deserve.


CABRERA: Do you think the delay is really going to make a difference?

BASH: So, we're going to keep working it and that's exactly what is about to happen starting in 5 or 10 minutes at the white house. All of the Republican senators, pretty much all of them, we believe, got on a bus, left the capitol to head to the White House which was part of the discussion, the idea to have this meeting with Republican senators and the President himself at the white house. This does appear to be an idea borne out of discussions earlier today with the vice President and the Senate majority leader about finding a way to get a path forward. And whether or not just being in a room together at the white house with the President will spark that conversation. Certainly, don't expect there to be serious substantive conversations about the regulations, for example, that Ted Cruz wants relaxed from Obamacare and other things like that, but I think the notion of why they, the Republicans, got the majority. And they will argue that it's in large part because they have promised to repeal Obamacare. So, having that kind of obsession the leadership and those at the white house feel will be very helpful at this very critical juncture for this issue among Senate Republicans.

CABRERA: Dana, stand by. I want to bring in April Ryan. She is a CNN political analyst and reporter for American Urban Radio Networks. April, I know you were inside that White House briefing when they talked about this health care situation and how they are still hopeful that there will be some kind of legislation that comes about in the Senate that will be able to get passed. How influential is the President among those senators who are the holdouts currently?

[15:55:00] APRIL RYAN, CNN ANALYST: The President always, no matter who it is, this office is very influential. But what's more influential is the public, the people, the constituents that these senators have to serve. And if these people are taken off within 10 years, that's a real issue, so that is one of the reasons why there is a controversy and a real conversation that's happening here in the White House as to how to cut the effects, the drastic effects, of the repeal and replace efforts. And the White House clearly does not like the CBO score. We heard that from Sarah Huckabee Sanders today, saying when it comes to budgets, CBO is fine, but when it comes to scoring something like this, it's off, basically. So, the White House is really trying to figure out how to keep this promise to the American people. Well, it leaves to those that the supporters of the President are looking forward to this repeal and replace effort. So, at issue, they want to repeal and replace.

CABRERA: So, what has been your sense of the White House strategy in terms of how they've gone about this, and are they sticking with that strategy, changing it, do you have an idea?

RYAN: Well, the issue is how do you knock down premiums. You talk about tax cuts and things like that, but where does the money come from? So, you have to figure out the ways and means to pay for this, you have to figure out how not to knock people off. They have to go back and talk to groups to find out, how do you fix this so there won't be such a drastic problem. You've got the house bill, now you've got the Senate bill. Both of them are turning people off. Medicaid is affected. It's not just minority groups, it's white people who supported this President, the core base who will be affected by this. So, they've really got to go in and dig in hard and come up with ways to work this out. On the Senate, they have 13 white men. They might need to expand their pool to women. We understand preventative care for any issue is not really in the package. We also understand the issues of mammograms and prenatal care are not there. So maybe they need to expand a little bit more and figure out how to tweak what's here and add a little bit more. But right now, they're putting their heads together and they're talking about what they can do to fix it.

CABRERA: Julian Zelizer, CNN political analyst and historian is also with us, as well as Doug Heye, former communications director for the RNC. Julian, let me ask you about this strategy we're seeing playing out. We are preparing for the senators to be bused over to the white house. They are scheduled to have a meeting with the President at 4:00. Wouldn't we all like to be a fly on the wall inside that room? How do you see this playing out?

JULIAN ZELIZER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST AND HISTORIAN: Inside that room, I assume there will be some carrots and sticks. On the one hand, President Trump wants to put partisan pressure on the Republicans to get this through and to make sure this campaign promise doesn't fall apart. But on the other hand, he has to sell the ideas, he has to calm the fears of people like Senator Collins who say, I can't vote for this. I can't take away the benefits of so many Americans' basic health care benefits. Everyone in the room knows that over the next week, there will be protests in key parts of the country against this bill because of the delay that Senator McConnell has just announced. So, it's a carrots and sticks meeting.

CABRERA: Doug Heye, do you think it's riskier for the Senate to vote for this bill or against it?

DOUG HEYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: That's a good question. There are political risks in either direction which is why I think Mr. McConnell was smart to pull this away from having a vote this week. Chuck Schumer said this was a metaphor for health care. The parties remain divided amongst themselves. We see them being corporate-tized. They need to come together and have McConnell figure out the policy and Donald Trump figure out the rules.

CABRERA: It's been a long time that it would gather enough support to pass. Hasn't it been a long time?

HEYE: The big chunk of 2014 was trying to help Republicans put together some kind of health care bill. We couldn't do it. Republicans have a hard time coming to agreements on health care as John Boehner said earlier this year.

CABRERA: If you were the President, Julian, what would you be doing? What issue within the bill would you be focusing on to try to tweak to make people happy?

ZELIZER: You have to reduce the Medicaid cuts. That's clear. That issue gives opponents a certain kind of moral authority that supporters of the legislation simply don't have at this point, and I do think they have to ease off on some of the changes that are going to be made in terms of what the states have to require of insurance companies, because people don't want to pay high deductibles to lose basic benefits. All of that is problematic, because conservatives in the Senate, conservatives in the freedom caucus when this goes to the conference committee won't accept that. You have a fundamental problem in the bill that I'm not sure those tweaks will be able to resolve. I'm glad I'm not President or Senate majority leader right now.

CABRERA: Doug, we have less than a minute, but do you see any chance they come back from break and say, hey, you know what, we can't do this with just Republicans. Let's bring in Democrats and try to work out a deal that's bipartisan.

HEYE: I think McConnell will try to make a deal with just Republicans. The Republican battles you've seen will be an all-out war with recriminations and being a traitor to the party. That's something Republicans can't afford, especially when they control the government right now.

CABRERA: Julian, go ahead.

ZELIZER: I would rather move to other issues, frankly, such as tax cuts. I agree that wouldn't fly in the partisan world in which we live.

CABRERA: Lots to play out. Again, the President expected to meet with those senators from the GOP caucus at any minute at the white house as they figure out what the next steps are and their plan to repeal and replace Obamacare.

That's going to do it for me in the newsroom on this Tuesday. Thanks so much for being with us.