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Senate GOP Health care Bill on Brink of Defeat; White House: Syria's Assad Preparing Another Chemical Attack. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired June 27, 2017 - 06:00   ET



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Republicans have gone from total secrecy to total chaos.

[05:57:27] SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: I'm concerned that the death spiral of Obamacare may well even get worse with the Republican version.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These senators need to remember that they campaigned on repealing and replacing Obamacare.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Twenty-two million people losing their coverage. That's unacceptable.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These heinous actions by the Assad regime cannot be tolerated.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The White House says there are potential preparations for another chemical weapons attack by the Syrian regime.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are warning President Bashar al-Assad of paying a heavy price if these weapons were to be used.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It's Tuesday, June 27, 6 a.m. here in New York. Alisyn is off. News machine Brianna Keilar -- I thought you'd get a kick out of that on the prompter...

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Who put that in prompter?

CUOMO: I don't know, but we will get to the bottom of it.

KEILAR: I love it.

CUOMO: All right. Here's our starting line: the Senate Republican health care bill is on the brink of defeat. A growing number of GOP senators say they oppose the plan after the CBO report came out. So what is the Republican leadership going to do? Are they going to force a vote? We will be tracking that for you today. The White House slamming the nonpartisan CBO report, citing its

history of inaccuracy and predicting how health care legislation will impact insurance coverage.

KEILAR: Meantime, the Trump administration says Syria could be preparing another chemical attack, issuing an ominous warning to the Assad regime that they would pay a heavy price if they do it again.

And the Supreme Court allowing parts of President Trump's revised travel ban to take effect. The president calls the decision a clear victory, but is the celebration premature?

We have all of this covered. Let's begin now with CNN's Suzanne Malveaux, live for us on Capitol Hill -- Suzanne.


Well, the Senate health care bill is essentially on the verge of collapse now. It does not even have enough votes to start the debate. This comes amid a devastating CBO score that is making it much harder for even those on the fence to support it.


MALVEAUX (voice-over): The Senate health care bill teetering on the edge of collapse after a devastating nonpartisan CBO report estimates that the Senate GOP bill would result in 22 million more Americans becoming uninsured by 2026. Making a vote that much harder.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: To put all this together and get to 50, it's going to be tough, and the CBO score doesn't help any. If you had problems with the bill before, you've probably got more problems new.

MALVEAUX: A White House official conceding to CNN that Republicans are right on the threshold of losing the health care battle.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: The report makes clear Trumpcare would be a cancer on the American health care system.

MALVEAUX: Four GOP senators are currently planning to vote against even starting debate on the Senate floor, which would sink the effort to pass a bill this week.

PAUL: I won't vote to proceed to it unless the bill changes. We have reached out to Senate leadership and said we will negotiate. We've had no phone calls.

MALVEAUX: Moderate Senator Susan Collins explaining her decision in a tweet, noting, "I want to work with my GOP and Democratic colleagues to fix the flaws in ACA. CBO analysis shows Senate bill won't do it."

SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI (R), ALASKA: 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. MALVEAUX: The number of GOP senators currently opposed to the

legislation has grown to six, with at least three others expressing concerns. Leadership can only afford to lose two votes to pass the bill.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: My state is a Medicaid extension state, and so we have a lot of issues.

MALVEAUX: The CBO report also estimates that over the decade, the Senate bill would reduce the national deficit by $321 billion, largely by slashing Medicaid funding by $772 billion, leaving 15 million fewer Americans covered under Medicaid, hitting older and lower income enrollees the hardest, while providing a $541 billion tax cut to the wealthy and insurers.

The legislation would initially cause health care premiums to rise, but would ultimately lead to a 30 percent reduction by 2020.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He had several calls over the weekend, hearing ideas and opinions about how to strengthen it, and he'll continue to support ways to make the bill stronger.

MALVEAUX: President Trump ramping up outreach to skeptical lawmakers while the White House blasts the nonpartisan CBO analysis, saying, "The CBO has consistently proven it cannot accurately predict how health care legislation will impact insurance coverage."


MALVEAUX: And Vice President Mike Pence will be hosting four senators who oppose the bill, including Mike Lee, for a critical dinner tonight, two senior aides telling us that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is still moving forward with this vote, but he may reassess after a GOP lunch that happens later today, so watch what happens this afternoon -- Brianna, Chris.

CUOMO: All right, Suzanne, thank you so much. Appreciate it, as always. Let's bring in our panel: reporter and editor at large for CNN Politics, Chris Cillizza; congressional reporter for "The Washington Post," Karoun Demirjian; and CNN political analyst David Drucker.

So Mr. Cillizza, when you look at the state of play today, you have two different battles, right? You have McConnell and his own people within the GOP. Can he bring it to a vote or even debate?

And then you have this other battle, which is we have problems in lots of markets involving health care. You're going to see premium spikes. Things need to get done here: Republican, Democrat, bipartisan or otherwise. How do you see it?

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS CORRESPONDENT AND EDITOR AT LARGE: Well, so the first problem will tell us a lot about how the second problem gets addressed. The first problem is, this was always going to be a very difficult vote for Mitch McConnell to get across the line. They have 52 senators, and you're seeing the problem of a sort of

widely varying ideological caucus. You have Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Rob Portman of Ohio on the sort of centrists on the coverage end, really focused on the CBO report, 22 million less people who will get insurance.

On the other end, you heard from them: Rand Paul, Mike Lee, Ted Cruz, who think the bill doesn't go far enough. Those factions are always going to exist. McConnell is aware of that. I don't know that that changes on July 11, or July 18 or July 25, any more than it changes on July Fourth.

Now, if they do -- if McConnell does say, "You know what? The votes are not there; they're not going to be there. We need another plan. That's when it gets to your second point, Chris, is what do they do then? Because there are going to be premium spikes. There are going to be things that they're going to have to address, and there's going to be a lot of political fallout, frankly.

If Republicans can't do the thing that they spent seven years insisting would be the first thing that they would do, the thing that Republican base voters hate the most, which is they want to get rid of the Affordable Care Act, there will be political fallout within the base.

KEILAR: This is an essential issue, David, for Democrats and for Republicans going into the midterm election next year. So when you look at this, does this seem as if it is dead, period, or is this just dead for now?

DAVID DRUCKER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it's just in trouble for now, but I think...

[06:05:04] KEILAR: Big trouble, little trouble? Do you think they can pull this off on Thursday?

DRUCKER: Mitch McConnell is very crafty. You know, everything that Congress does that is this big, whether Democrats are in charge or Republicans are in charge, always looks dead at some point before it's finally alive. So in some ways it's a good sign, right? Because if they didn't get to this point where it looked like all was lost, there wouldn't be a rainbow on the other side here.

And what they have to do is work through the tension that Chris and Chris are both talking about, which is coverage, on the one hand, and this desire to make sure as many people have access to insurance as possible, and costs, on the other hand, because there is already a huge problem with premiums and deductibles people can't afford.

And Chris, you are right. Regardless of what Republicans decide to do or not to to, the health care system is in trouble and needs to be fixed; and that's why I tend to think they're going to get somewhere and get this done, even if it's in July sometime, because the option isn't just, well, gee, this bill is in trouble; people don't necessarily like it. Let's just move on and worry about it later. Republicans either have to fix the current system or replace it with

something else, because there are lots of problems, and they are now going to shoulder the blame. And so given those options and given the political implications of not delivering on this big, huge promise, I think that they'll get there eventually.

CUOMO: So Karoun, the shtick for the Democrats has been, yes, sure, there are problems with the ACA. The Republicans wouldn't work with us when we were in power, and now they have a bill that doesn't address what the problems are. Is that at all entering into the bigger discussion among Republicans about other options here?

KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, at this point they're grappling with the one that's in front of them. But certainly, you're hearing a lot of Republicans starting to echo what has been Democrats' complaints for a long time, especially with the CBO report. When you have a number like 22 million people out there that are going to lose their insurance, you're hearing people like Susan Collins point to that. You're hearing others point to that and say that's just unacceptable.

You are having a cross-pollination of talking points, as well as Democrats seized on this term "mean" that the president used and they've kind of used that to try to characterize this, which Republicans are not necessarily following suit there. But they are looking at some of the policy points that Democrats are making and saying that's just going to worsen the problem. Like that clip of Rand Paul being played earlier, that this might actually be more problematic if we pass this.

The question going forward is whether they can then, you know, move past this initial jockeying stage. Democrats have had more of the pulpit in assessing what this bill is. They got out first. They got out further. They defined the negatives. And you've seen that there are negatives in the CBO report that other Republicans that -- the fringes of the party have gotten -- gotten on board with.

So can they have a discussion that is not just about the immediate politics of trying to stop or start this bill this week and get to the actual substance. That's a down the line question for next month at the earliest if they finish it, you know, this week.

CILLIZZA: Just very quickly. The political reality Republicans here is that Republicans are grappling with -- and Karoun hits it exactly -- is the idea of deficit reduction, appealing to many fiscal conservatives, but really sort of, you know, a generalized amorphous idea, the deficit is big; we need to get it down. That's important for the future generation.

Twenty-two million people -- fewer people having coverage is a much more easily understandable hit you in your home, know someone who loses coverage issue, and therefore much more politically powerful.

So the problem is that the carrot for Republicans here is teeny, and the stick is huge, politically speaking.

CUOMO: Well, it's a big dollar amount, but health care doesn't speak to budget cutting.


CUOMO: This is like, if they were like, you know, shedding money off all of the agencies and here's the savings, we're going to pass it along in tax reform, it would make sense.

You know, Cillizza has a new gimmick, where he's going to have an emoji face every day to identify the state of play of whether or not there's going to be health care. Have you heard about this?

KEILAR: No, I have not.

CUOMO: Can you approximate what your emoji face is today in terms of whether health care gets passed? Is that the emoji face? So it's kind of a 50/50?

CILLIZZA: That's what my face always looks like, Chris.

CUOMO: I would say...

CILLIZZA: Look, I think that was my 50/50 towards sad face. I only have basically three looks.

So I just don't -- I think Dave Drucker is right. I think proclaiming it dead on a Tuesday when McConnell has said it's going to -- the vote ideally for him would be on a Thursday, we have seen him say this. I think back to the Budget Control Act of 2011, right? When everything looked lost, Harry Reid goes to the floor; it's over. Then Biden, Joe Biden and Mitch McConnell come up with something.

You can resurrect these things when they look dead. I would just say there are entrenched views. Susan Collins is not going to vote for something -- I'd be stunned if she did -- that had 22 million less insured particularly rural Americans in a state like Maine. I think eventually, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska is going to come to the same place.

Politically for Rand Paul, or Mike Lee or Ted Cruz have said, we need to root and branch, get rid of Obamacare. This bill is not going to do that, because it is, by necessity, a compromise.

So there's just hard and fast views that I'm not sure will change, and this is not Mitch McConnell with five seats to play with or four seats to play with. It's two seats to play with.

So I think if you were a betting person, in my opinion, as of today, it's less than 50/50, though that doesn't mean it's zero or even ten. I would say it's more than that, but certainly less than a 50/50 shot.

KEILAR: All right. Chris, David, and Karoun, much more ahead to discuss with you guys.

We do have some breaking news, though. The White House is warning that Syria is possibly preparing for another chemical weapons attack. They're warning Assad that his regime is going to pay a, quote, "heavy price" if they do it again. That being a chemical weapons attack like we have seen in the past.

CNN's Barbara Starr live for us at the Pentagon. She has breaking details. What can you tell us, Barbara?


It was an extraordinary late-night statement from the White House with no follow-up so far this morning. It's got everybody's attention from Washington to Moscow to Damascus. The White House putting out a statement. Let me quickly read part of it, saying -- and I quote -- "The United States has identified potential preparations for another chemical weapons attack by the Assad regime that would likely result in the mass murder of civilians, including innocent children."

Now, the White House also saying that if the Assad regime goes through with this, it will pay a heavy price. And Moscow a short time ago, the Kremlin firing back, calling this statement unacceptable, although the Kremlin has said that Russia is opposed to the use of chemical weapons.

All of this coming oddly enough as Syrian state media today put out images of Assad meeting with wounded troops in Syria, sort of this Syrian propaganda machine that the world has come to know so well, gearing up yet again.

So look, where are we on this? What could the intelligence be that the White House is talking about? Last time it was a combination of communications, intercepts, and overhead imagery that led the U.S. to be certain in its view that Syria was behind that chemical weapons attack in April. We'll have to see how all this sorts out and what the White House is willing to say about what it knows -- Chris.

CUOMO: All right. Barbara Starr, this is a big deal, no matter where the intel is coming from. Thank you very much. You're going to hear a lot of political comparisons to President Obama and his red line. Don't get caught up in that jazz. What matters right now is, what would this mean for the United States if another attack like this happens and why is the White House showing its hand so soon? Our panel will take this on, next.


[06:17:03] KEILAR: The White House issuing an unusual statement overnight, saying that Syria is preparing another chemical weapons attack. Also warning Bashar al-Assad that they're going to pay a heavy price if he follows through on this.

Let's bring back Chris Cillizza, and David Drucker. And also joining our conversation now is retired Lieutenant General Mark Hertling.

OK, so General, I want to read what the White House put out overnight. It says, "The United States has identified potential preparations for another chemical weapons attack by the Assad regime that would likely result in the mass murder of civilians, including innocent children. The activities are similar to preparations the regime made before its April 4, 2017, chemical weapons attack." It goes on to say that "The United States is in Syria to eliminate ISIS. If, however, Mr. Assad conducts another mass murder attack using chemical weapons, he and his military will pay a heavy price."

Why say this now? What is the White House, in your estimation, trying to achieve?

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: I'm not sure, Brianna, other than a warning. It seems to go against, as Chris said earlier, what candidates said on the campaign trail about warning our enemies what we are going to do next.

And this is very different from the last attack in Syria. Then it was a reaction to a strike. Now we're talking about the potential for a preemption of a strike, based on whatever kind of intelligence, whether it's human intelligence on the ground saying this is going to happen, overhead imagery that's showing planes being loaded or some type of communication that we're overhearing.

So all of those things are a little bit different than that -- than that reactionary strike a few weeks ago. And it causes some challenges, because the command, Central Command claimed last night they had not heard anything about a potential strike. So we're talking also about the challenges associated with communication and collaboration on a whole of government approach.

CUOMO: All right. Let's say they're right. General, a quick follow- up. And please, Chris, David, weigh in as you see fit.

Let's say they're right. They have good intel, must like they did last time. They have an opportunity to see this coming. What are the Americans' options in terms of what they would do if this line is crossed, and we should remind people of what the effects were of that chemical attack on the citizens there last time. Put up the pictures of it.

You have to remind the urgency of doing this to your own people. You're going to see children. You're going to see their parents. You're going to see them in different states of distress with very little capability on the ground there to help them.

So General, what's your insight on that part?

HERTLING: Well, what you're going to see, Chris, is either another T- land (ph), Tomahawk strike, which is unmanned or you're going to see some type of aircraft strike that will go in, along with hopefully, some diplomatic effort. All of those things in a preemptive strike, after it's been announced, have all sorts of changes of capabilities, because in that strike we gave -- the president gave a little bit of warning before he conducted that strike. It was less than a couple of hours.

Right now, you now have a warning, where Russian air defense systems can be turned on, people can prepare, bases can be unmanned. So you have a whole lot different perspective.

And plus, if you send a manned strike in, you would have to send in not only the bombers and the fighters, but you would also have to send in the jammers to make sure those Russian air defense systems, which are pretty prevalent across Syria, don't get turned on.

KEILAR: David, what are your thoughts when you see this warning?

DRUCKER: Well, this is really fascinating, because this is 180 degrees opposed, in a sense, to how President Trump as a candidate said he would conduct U.S. foreign policy. He was very critical of past Republicans for being too active in the Middle East and, in a sense, being too active in trying to be the dominant power in the Middle East.

He talked about defeating ISIS. He talked about being more aggressive militarily, to handle our enemies. But he, very similar, in fact, to President Obama, talked about taking a lighter approach and not getting as involved.

And what we have here is an administration now that is not just sort of reasserting American influence in the Middle East in terms of our actions, but if you look at the warning that came from secretary -- from Ambassador Haley -- excuse me -- saying to Iran and Russia, "This includes you," this is a sort of another interesting dichotomy, where we have the president often coddling Vladimir Putin and Russia, but his top lieutenants and advisers sending a message that we're not going to put up with intransigence, especially in this region where Russia has really been competing with us and trying to push us out.

So to me, that's what's most interesting about the threatened strike. And it could be a message to Russia, in a sense, to see what they plan to do about something to avoid action by us, and assert, in a sense, even going back over the region, where Iran has been moving in, and Russia has been tanning pat in Syria.

CUOMO: So Chris, you see a fairly stark plus/minus -- General, correct me if this is an improper analysis -- but on the plus side, you come out early and you say, if you do this, cross this line, you are in trouble. They know America can deliver. Maybe Assad thinks better of whatever plan our intelligence suggests you do.

The negative side is once a line is crossed, now you must act. "Must" in quotes, because things can get complicated. How do you see it?

CILLIZZA: Well, two things, first. I think that so much of what Donald Trump does, what motivates him, is less policy conviction than do, undo, or do things related to Barack Obama, particularly as it relates to this red line. Obviously, Donald Trump viewed that, and many Republicans viewed it as sort of the inefficacy -- easy for me to say -- of Barack Obama's foreign policy. That he would say things and then not follow up.

The strikes in Syria done earlier this year, Donald Trump viewed as a way to say, "See, I'm not that guy."

I think this is a way to say, "I'm not going to be that guy, so be under no illusion." The thing that is hard, and the Trump administration does this in both foreign and domestic policy, and the general mentioned this, is there's not a whole lot of context or case here. It sort of comes out of nowhere. It's on a Monday night. You don't have a coordinated from -- a coordinated response. There's a little bit of confusion as to what -- what specifically is the threat here?

There's a little bit of confusion as to this is a president who said we shouldn't warn of our tactics. You know, we shouldn't reveal our tactics.

So they do a lot of things in which they just act, and then it's not clear that the case behind it has been made.

You know, that said, I do think that Donald Trump wants the world to know, and David touched on this. He wants the world to know there is a different sheriff in town, that in his view, Barack Obama's threats were largely meaningless to the world, and he wants the world to know that his threats will not be. I think broadly speaking, this is in keeping with that.

KEILAR: Yes. General Hertling, when you look at this, though, this is something that clearly -- and we're going to learn more about this today -- sends a message, ultimately whatever the president does. Do you see it as a data point on this question of what is the Trump doctrine?

HERTLING: It is a data point on that, Brianna. It's also a data point on what is the Trump strategy for the Middle East. But it's also what is the data point for the Trump strategy, according to the world. Because we can't take this part of the Middle East in a vacuum, especially with the players involved.

There are things going on all over the world, in Europe, in Ukraine, where Russia is involved, where they have -- Russia has given some warnings to the United States about what they will and will not accept.

If we're going to draw the line and then react to it, OK, that's good. But let's have a strategy for what the end state is.

And what I -- further what Chris said, yes, it was announced late last night, and that was about 6 a.m. in Syria, 6 a.m. in Syria. So they now have had an entire day to think about it while we're just beginning to talk about it here on the East Coast.

[06:25:16] KEILAR: All right, General.

Gentlemen, thank you so much. And we are going to learn more about this today, so stay tuned for that. You know, President Trump right now is hailing the Supreme Court's travel ban decision. He's calling it a clear victory, but is this celebration premature? We'll have a live report from the White House, next.


CUOMO: Important decision from the Supreme Court that the president is calling a victory. The court revived parts of the halted travel ban, and agreed to hear full arguments on this case in the fall.

CNN's Joe Johns live at the White House with more. You know, usually, the Supreme Court comes out with a paragraph explaining their orders. This time it was about 16 pages, Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Certainly was, Chris. It was a lot more.