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Health Care Battle: Senate Leaders Pushing for Vote This Week; White House Warns Syria; Travel Ban Surprise; Russell Westbrook Wins NBA MVP Award. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired June 27, 2017 - 05:00   ET


DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Senate Republicans backing away from their party's health care proposal after a harsh score from the Congressional Budget Office. Now, the White House is conceding it is on the threshold of losing this health care battle.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN ANCHOR: The White House says Syria will pay a heavy price if it launches another chemical attack. But what prompted this warning out of nowhere from the administration?

BRIGGS: And the administration preparing yet another rollout of its travel ban after the Supreme Court agreed to take up the issue next term. What changes will happen, and how soon?

"The New York Post" phrases it, Yes, we ban, on the cover of "The Post" this morning.

Good morning, and welcome to EARLY START. I'm Dave Briggs.

KOSIK: Good morning. I'm Alison Kosik. It's Tuesday, June 27th. It's 5:00 a.m. in the East.

And new this morning on the health care battle, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is still pushing for a vote on Obamacare repeal and replace this week, despite developments that leave the Senate health care bill hanging by a thread. Two senior GOP aides telling CNN that McConnell wants that vote, but plans to assess sentiment today at a Senate Republican lunch happening around 12:30. They say he could wind up changing his plans, depending on feedback from Senate Republican leaders.

BRIGGS: The reason the GOP bill is barely hanging on, that analysis by the Congressional Budget Office, the so-called score. That shows 22 million more Americans would be uninsured by 2026. Four Republican senators already saying they'll vote against even beginning debate. And that's enough to kill the measure.

KOSIK: Others including Senators Ted Cruz and Mike Lee say they still have reservations, as well. Lee is among four senators set to meet with Vice President Pence tonight to talk about health care.

BRIGGS: For more on the CBO score and the political fallout here, let's turn to Kimberly Leonard, senior health policy reporter for "The Washington examiner."

[05:00:04] Welcome to EARLY START. Good to have you this morning.

KOSIK: Good morning.

BRIGGS: We're reliant on you to break this all down, the CBO, of course, what's new. The top-line numbers got all the attention.

When you look at this bill -- and President Trump described it, the House bill, as mean. From what we've seen of the Senate bill, which direction is it headed? Meaner or less mean?

KIMBERLY LEONARD, SENIOR HEALTH POLICY REPORTER, WASHINGTON EXAMINER: Well, it's slightly fewer people would be uninsured by 2026 than we saw in the House bill. But the numbers are still a lot higher than Republicans would want to see. And they're also high even in the coming years, in the short term. And so, that's making a lot of people nervous headed into the midterm elections next year.

KOSIK: OK. So, I have a question about the number of people who could potentially lose coverage. I was looking at page four of the CBO report. It basically says that 15 million of those people, of the 22 million, are going to be losing their insurance because the individual mandate is going away.

So, help me walk through this. So is this -- a situation where the report is saying that these 15 million people, they were only signed on to insurance because they were trying to avoid the penalty, and when there's no more penalty, they're not going to want insurance anyway?

LEONARD: So, there is some disagreement about how effective the individual mandate was in getting people to sign up for insurance. Another analysis by actuaries at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services found the individual mandate would probably impact about four million people in terms of signing up.

But -- so there's disagreement there. But there certainly is this idea that particularly Republicans are pushing that while the reason that people don't have insurance is because they're forced to buy a product that they don't want. The reality is really much more complicated because the fewer people you have signing on to these plans, the higher some of the rates go, and so premiums themselves can actually then discourage people from signing up because people are -- they get shy with some of the pricing that they're seeing.

KOSIK: So, wait, so you're saying four million and not -- where is the CBO is getting this $15 million then?

LEONARD: Well, they -- they've run their analysis in different ways. It's similar to the one they had for the House bill. The $4 million figure comes from the centers for Medicare and Medicaid services, office of the actuaries. I'm acknowledging that there are some differences between what various experts think the impact of the individual mandate was. In other words, people signing up for insurance because the government tells them that they have to, or are they doing it for other reasons.

BRIGGS: Yes. The premium certainly was good news to some Republicans. But let's talk about the political reality here. I can look down at the list and just name in addition to the noes on this, Collins, Cotton, Sass, Lankford, Murkowski, Portman, Moore Capito. I mean, you're talking about a lot of Republican senators who may not be a flat-out no on this bill, but they certainly can't support it as of yet.

What are the chances in your estimation that we can have a vote this week?

LEONARD: Well, the sheer numbers -- the sheer numbers alone right now make it look unlikely. But remember, going up into the House bill's vote, there was a lot of doubt then, too. I think what we'll be watching for today while we're on the Hill is asking lawmakers what kind of deals are going to be made. You know, there are roughly $200 billion in savings that this bill includes.

And so, what we might see is deals made for increasing funding for opioid addiction treatment, mental health, Medicaid, things like that. So, we're really going to be watching for that, as well as the possibility of other senators coming forward and saying that they can't support it. You know, the further this moves left, you see people on the right become more hesitant and vice versa.

KOSIK: I mean, you hear a lot from these Republican senators, saying, I just need more information. I need more time to go over the CBO score and to go over the legislation. Case in point, Senator Murkowski.

Take a listen.


SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI (R), ALASKA: Today, 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 to much to say give us the time to fairly and critically analyze these numbers. These numbers that we're talking about, these are men and women. These are our families that are being impacted.

So, let's, please, get it right.


KOSIK: So, you've got senators kind of fighting for their political life there in some way, shape, or form. At some point, they would have to answer to their vote. And then you've got the White House coming out attacking the CBO's analysis of this bill, saying that the CBO has consistently proven it cannot accurately predict how health care legislation will impact insurance coverage. [05:05:06] In 2013, the CBO estimated that 24 million people would

have coverage under Obamacare by 2016. It was off by an astounding 13 million people. And then the CBO estimated that 30 million people would be un-insured by 2016, and it had to reduce its estimate by 22 million.

A lot of differing views here clearly.

LEONARD: That's right. Yes, and, you know, those analyses, they really -- you know, they look at the exchanges that people signed up for. And those numbers did end up being lower than what the CBO had projected. The reasons vary. There certainly were expectations that the CBO made that turned out not to be correct.

Overall, they ended up projecting the number of uninsured roughly about right. But a lot of that had to do with the fact that a lot more people signed up for Medicaid than had been initially anticipated.

BRIGGS: All right. So, two very differing takes on the Affordable Care Act. One from President Trump, basically let this thing crash and burn. Another from Susan Collins, a moderate senator.

She sent out this tweet last night, I want to work with my GOP and Dem colleagues to fix the flaws in the ACA. CBO analysis shows Senate bill won't do it. I will vote no.

So, is there any sentiment that that is shared, that notion of let's fix what was wrong with the ACA, or is she alone in that?

LEONARD: I haven't heard very many Republicans speak that way about what -- what's going to happen to the ACA. You know, the focus for so long, for so many years, has been on repeal and replacing Obamacare. They're limited in what they can do through the path that they've chosen with reconciliation.

But that also complicates some of the results they're getting. With using reconciliation, it's very hard to see the same results that we've had. When President Trump says, I don't want to see anyone lose insurance, that's going to be hard to achieve with some of the changes they're making.

BRIGGS: Well, this is going to be hard to achieve, as well. Mitch McConnell has his hands full.

All right. Kimberly Leonard, thanks so much. We'll see you in 20.

KOSIK: Thanks so much. We'll see you in about 20 minutes.


LEONARD: Thank you.

BRIGGS: All right. Last night, the White House issued a warning aimed at Syria. In a statement, the White House says: There are potential preparations for another chemical weapons attack by the Syrian regime that would lead to mass murder of civilians. It also warned President Bashar al Assad that there will be a heavy price to pay if such an attack is carried out.

So, what prompted this warning seemingly out of nowhere?

For the latest, let's bring in international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson, monitoring developments from Abu Dhabi.

Nic, this is counter to what we've seen for the most part from the Trump administration. They didn't want to telegraph anything they did in terms of military preparations, a different approach here.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes. It seems to be so. I mean, that was how the strike happened last time. The 59 cruise missiles that were fired on to Assad's air base where the chemical weapons attack was perpetrated from. No warning. It was a surprise to the international community, certainly a surprise to Assad and his backers, Russia and Iran.

And Nikki Haley said this time that not only is Assad potentially going to pay a heavy price, but they'll be responsible -- there will be responsibility on the part of Russia and Iran. Now, it's interesting today that we're hearing from the state media in Syria, the Syrian state media under President Bashar al Assad, quoting a mid- level Russian official as saying that there seems to be the -- we are witnessing a new and unprecedented and ridiculous provocation of Syria. That's how the Syrian state media is putting it.

Now, we know that yesterday Secretary of State Rex Tillerson talked with his opposite member of the Kremlin, Sergey Lavrov. And today, President Putin's spokesman has said that Russia is strongly -- strongly condemns the use of chemical weapons. Now, what does Secretary Tillerson say to Sergey Lavrov about possible chemical weapons preparations inside Syria, we don't know. But the Russians seem to be responding in a way to that today.

But, certainly, the Syrians for their part are taking this as they do with everything else and turning it into own propaganda -- Dave.

BRIGGS: All right. Nic Robertson live for us -- thank you.

KOSIK: OK. It's a busy news day. The president's travel ban will go before the Supreme Court next term. But what happens in the meantime? We'll break it down next.


[05:13:42] KOSIK: Welcome back.

Key elements of the president's travel ban could take effect in just a few days. Taking an unexpected approach, the U.S. Supreme Court is allowing some people from six Muslim-majority countries to be kept out of the U.S. by the ban and allowing others in until the justices consider the case next term.

BRIGGS: President Trump hailing the ruling on Twitter last night, calling it, quote, A great day for America's future security and safety, courtesy of the U.S. Supreme Court. He said, I will keep fighting for the American people and win.

The Department of Homeland Security hoping to learn from its mistakes and promising a better rollout than the chaos passengers witnessed at the airports back in January.

KOSIK: OK. So, for the time being, the bottom line, if you have a clear connection to the U.S. -- personal or business -- you can come. If you don't, keep out.

CNN justice reporter Laura Jarrett, she joins us from Washington this morning.

Good morning, Laura.


BRIGGS: So, how exactly, how and when is the administration planning to implement new rules based on the Supreme Court's decision? What's the timing of all this?

JARRETT: Well, the Trump administration is really proceeding with caution this time around. I think trying to avoid some of that chaos that we saw in January. The exact rollout plan is still unclear at this point.

Now, earlier this month, the president directed officials at the State Department and Homeland Security to begin implementing the travel ban 72 hours after the court gives the green light, perhaps hoping for a court victory like we saw yesterday.

[05:15:14] So, you could see the travel ban begin to take shape as early as Thursday this week.

BRIGGS: OK. The court also says someone needs a, quote, bona fide connection to travel to the U.S. Is it exactly clear what that means?

JARRETT: No, not the all. I talk -- not at all. I talked to several experts yesterday that said, well, how bona fide is bona fide? The court tried to give examples of what could count as that type of close familial relationship like a mother-in-law, the plaintiff in the Hawaii case, or perhaps a student that's been admitted to a university here in the U.S.

But there's bound to be some disputes on the line. For instance, what if, you know, it's a fiancee, does it have to be a close blood relative? These are the types of questions that are going to pose problems for people at the border or in consulars around the country. And so, it's kind of ironic that the ruling from the highest court may lead to more lawsuits this summer.

KOSIK: OK. So, the entire purpose of this ban was to allow officials to conduct a global review, vetting procedures for foreigners. Where exactly does that review stand? JARRETT: Yes. So, under the executive order, the government is

actually supposed to conduct a worldwide review of all vetting procedures around the world. That was the whole point of the travel ban, to say we need a pause until we can figure out what's going on. And so, we should see later next month the government has 20 dates to conduct this review.

So, we should see later next month the results of it. But it's interesting to note that, you know, there's only a 90-day travel ban.

BRIGGS: Right.

JARRETT: And so, it -- the travel ban itself is going to expire before the Supreme Court even hears the case next fall.

BRIGGS: Right. So, this all might be moot. The court did not mention some of the president's tweets, some of the states that the lower courts held against him. Is that good news for President Trump?

JARRETT: Not necessarily. You know, the court really sidestepped some of the deeper constitutional, tricky questions for now. Perhaps they couldn't reach a majority as easily right now. Perhaps they're just saving them for a later date.

But the lower court's grappled with how to interpret the president's own words and what sort of constitutional weight that should have when evaluating an executive order like this. So, at some point, they're going to need to give the lower court some guidance on that, I think, Dave.

BRIGGS: Still a long way to go.

All right. Laura Jarrett, thanks so much.

JARRETT: Thank you.

KOSIK: OK. Serena Williams returns serve after getting dissed by tennis legend John McEnroe? Coy Wire with details in this morning's "Bleacher Report," that's next.


[05:22:08] BRIGGS: All right. Let's talk some sports. The NBA's first-ever awards show taking place here in New York City last night.

KOSIK: And the biggest question of the night -- who would be named this year's most valuable player.

Coy Wire has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report".

Good morning, Coy.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alison and Dave.

It all came down to James Harden and Russell Westbrook. The Rockets' bearded one versus the Thunder guard who can do it all -- scoring, rebounding, assisting. And the winner, taking nearly 70 percent of the first place votes, Russell Westbrook. His individual stats were among the greatest ever seen in the NBA, breaking Oscar Robertson's record for triple-doubles. He's known for playing with passion and emotion.

He barely held back those emotions when thanking his family last night.


RUSSELL WESTBROOK, THUNDER GUARD: I told myself, I ain't going to cry, but --


I can't say thank you enough. There's so many things I can say about you guys for putting me here. I'm just thankful for having you guys in my corner. So, I love you guys.



WIRE: Eleven-time NBA champ, the iconic Bill Russell received the Lifetime Achievement Award last night. He was joined on stage by several fellow big men including Shaquille O'Neal, Kareem Abdul- Jabbar, and the 83-year-old didn't miss the opportunity to talk a little trash.






WIRE: A great moment there.

Now, it's an all-SEC college World Series final. Watch Florida's Dalton Guthrie run deep into foul territory to catch LSU's foul ball, and a mouthful of dirt. Check this out again as his face doubles as a shovel. That's the type of stuff that will get you the win.

Guthrie's hustle pays off for the gators. They were chomping, too. They win game one of the best of three, 4-3. Teams that win game one, check out this knowledge bomb, win 71 percent of all time. So, Florida off to a good start.

Over the weekend, tennis legend John McEnroe said Serena Williams is incredible, and the best female player ever. Well, when an interviewer asked why female and not just best player, period, McEnroe said, because, quote, if she played the men's circuit, she'd be like 700th in the world, unquote.

That didn't sit well with Serena. She tweeted, saying, quote, Dear John, I adore and respect you, but please, please keep me out of your statements that are not factually based. I've never play anyone ranked there, nor do I have time. Respect me and my privacy as I'm trying to have a baby. Good day, sir, unquote.

KOSIK: He really -- he knows how to stir it up, doesn't he, John McEnroe?

[05:25:00] WIRE: That's what he does.

BRIGGS: Coy, if she played John McEnroe right now, could he win a game?

WIRE: I'd pay big bucks to see that. She would whip his butt while pregnant.

BRIGGS: Six-love, man. No chance. I would pay to see it.

Coy, thank you, my friend.

KOSIK: Thanks, Coy.

WIRE: You're welcome.

KOSIK: OK, a growing number of Republican senators say they won't back their own party's health care plan. What can the majority leader do to gain their support after a troubling score from the congressional budget office?


KOSIK: The White House is conceding it's on the thresholds of losing the health care battle. The score from the Congressional Budget Office has some Republicans jumping ship. Now, a number of GOP senators not only against the bill, they don't even want to begin debate.

BRIGGS: The U.S. says it has concerns another chemical attack could happen in Syria. The warning from the White House and why it says it won't just blame the Syrians alone.

KOSIK: And both sides claiming a win after the Supreme Court agrees to take up the travel ban in the fall.