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Senate GOP Health Care Bill on Brink of Defeat; White House: Syria's Assad Preparing Another Chemical Attack. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired June 27, 2017 - 07:00   ET


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When you kill innocent children, innocent babies, that crosses many, many lines.


[07:00:09] ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome to your NEW DAY. Alisyn is off. Brianna Keilar by my side. Good to have you.


CUOMO: Always. And up first, Republican leaders in the Senate facing the prospect that their health care bill could be on the brink of defeat. You have a lot of Republican senators. They don't even want to debate it yet. Why?

Well, most recently, the Congressional Budget Office weighed in, and they show that the impact of the Senate version is just about as dangerous as the House version.

So what's the response from the White House? Well, of course to blast the basis of criticism. In this case, a non-partisan organization known as the CBO. The White House is saying they have a history of inaccuracy.

KEILAR: Meantime, the Trump administration says Syria's Assad is preparing for another chemical strike. The White House issuing an ominous warning telling the Assad regime that it would pay a heavy price if they carry out another attack. We have all of this covered. Let's begin with CNN's Suzanne Malveaux live for us on Capitol Hill -- Suzanne.


Well, the Senate health care bill is on the verge of collapse this morning. It does not even have the support to bring it to a debate, and this comes amid the devastating CBO score yesterday, released yesterday and is making it even harder for the moderates to sign on.


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 very tough, and the CBO score doesn't help any. If you had problems with the bill before, you've probably got more problems now.

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), NEW YORK: 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've 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."

(END VIDEOTAPE) MALVEAUX: Vice President Mike Pence will host four senators tonight, three of them undecided, one of them against the bill, Mike Lee, to try to convince them otherwise.

And what we're watching for this afternoon, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, holding a GOP lunch, and senior aides telling us that look, he is still pushing forward to the Friday vote, this week's vote, but after that lunch, he could reassess -- Brianna, Chris.

CUOMO: Suzanne, as you keep saying ten, and it bears repeating, this is about people, not just politics, so let's discuss. We have reporter and editor at large for CNN Politics, Chris Cillizza; CNN political analysts Abby Phillip and Jackie Kucinich.

Jackie, why do we say it's just people? Look at Susan Collins up in Maine. She's a real Republican, but she's also got a real issue. One in every five people in her state, many in rural areas on Medicaid. Two out of three kids who need this kind of help. The disabled, the elderly...


CUOMO: ... who are, a lot of them who are in convalescence centers. All of those funding streams are in this bucket of money we're talking about. That's driving even GOP resistance.

KUCINICH: And to your point, I looked at the headlines of several papers of these moderate members. And Susan Collins, older rural Mainers would be hit hard by the Senate bill. So to your point, they're seeing this on the front page of their papers this morning, talking about this CBO score and the people that are going to lose health care under this bill in the next ten years.

So when you -- when Rob Portman wakes up and sees Cincinnati hospitals fear Senate ACA bill, that's going to hit home. And he's going to be getting calls and getting a lot of questions, not only from the people who are sick but also from people who take care of them at the hospitals and these providers.

KEILAR: I wonder, Chris, what is worse: not making good on this promise of repealing Obamacare, or, for instance, taking someone who's in their mid-60s, is on -- you know, they're getting $26,000 a year in their income, and then you quadruple the cost of their health care? I mean, which -- this is a very tough decision for Republicans, but which one is worse?

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS CORRESPONDENT AND EDITOR AT LARGE: That's the rock in a hard place question they have, Brianna. It was never going to be simple to repeal Obamacare. And let me just add parenthetically, that's not really what the American Health Care Act does. It -- it certainly takes out large elements -- the individual mandate, largest among them -- of Obamacare. But this is not a full- scale repeal of Obamacare. It's why people like Rand Paul and Ted Cruz oppose the bill.

But you've hit on the essential question, which is for seven-plus years, this was the central piece, not a piece, the central piece of the Republican argument for why they needed to be put in power. It is why the base voted for them, gave them control of the Senate, gave them control of the House, elected Donald Trump. It's a big piece of all of that electoral map.

And yet, you get to it, and the political reality, as Jackie has nicely outlined, in local, in these states is not that simple.

Overhauling health care is really hard. Remember Donald Trump said, "I never thought it would be this hard." There's a reason six presidents before Barack Obama tried and failed, because it's difficult from a policy perspective. It's even more difficult from a political perspective, because it touches almost everyone's life. This is not an abstract conversation for many people. It's a cost. It's a monthly "Can I afford this?" conversation, and that's when politics gets personal. And that's when it becomes really difficult.

And that's where Republicans are 48 hours before they expect or hope to have some sort of vote on it.

CUOMO: So one of the immutable laws of politics is that perception is off from reality. Right?

So Abby, let's flip this around. Why do they want to repeal it? Well, because you have many people in this country who believe that they are suffering under the ACA, if they're in the individual market, and their deductibles are too high and their premium have -- premiums have popped or will pop, and that's who they are talking to, with this need for repeal.

Now, is that number as big as all the people who were going to be added to those who don't have care? No, but it's a real group. It's a motivated group, and they do need relief. So how do you handle that point?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I mean, I think that there is a need to actually do something, and I think Republicans know that. Democrats actually, many of them, do know that, and this bill does some very small things that Republicans haven't done over the last, let's say, six years, to stabilize the marketplace, which is funding these cautionary subsidies that help the insurers keep the marketplaces afloat.

So in some ways, they have within their abilities some tools to actually stabilize the marketplace and bring costs down for people right now, that they've refused to do up until this point.

And in the meantime, they're working on this bill that now has a whole host of other problems. And I think that one of the biggest issues going into the next couple of years is that the CBO estimated that the premiums and deductibles are probably going to rise in the near term under this bill before they fall a little bit over the long-term.

So you know, I think that they're trying to fix two problems: a political one, which is that they have to say they're repealing Obamacare; and a tactical one, which is that they actually do need to stabilize the marketplace. But the effort to repeal Obamacare is not necessarily helping in making things better in terms of the costs in both the near term and the long-term.

[07:10:05] KEILAR: Abby's absolutely right with that, Jackie. When costs -- it's about cost; it's about coverage. I remember, because we were on the Hill covering the passage of health care reform together.

And I remember when it all started out Democrats who wanted to pass health care reform were talking about attacking those costs, fee for service, and then all of a sudden, it went away. And we didn't hear them making that promise, because it's such a big piece of this, but it's a hard thing to achieve. This is a problem that Republicans really need to tackle if premiums are really going to go down.

KUCINICH: But how do you do that when you have this condensed schedule? And that's what you hear other -- some Republicans asking. This is being forced through in just a couple days after just a couple days of looking at it. And the CBO score just came out yesterday, which is one of the reasons you hear Republican senators not only balking on voting for the bill but balking on a procedural measure to even take up this bill, because they want to force the Senate to talk about this more and to work out the issues.

Now, if they do that, that could create more problems. It's more time. You may not have the same unity, but at the same time, you might end up with a better bill. You never know.

KEILAR: Because remind us, when it was Democrats, there were -- there were CBO scores. And then they would take the CBO score, and you might tinker with something to try to adjust the number. This was seen in a way as not just the end point a couple days before a vote.

KUCINICH: Exactly. And it's not the end point yet either. We're -- I think we're expecting some deals to be made over the next couple days. We don't know what they are yet, but Mitch McConnell needs to do something that isn't whisper sweet nothings in their ear to get these -- get some of these members that are on the fence on board.

CUOMO: Well, look, Chris Cillizza, the political miscalculation here is they're playing too heavy to the repeal and not enough to the realities. What Abby was pointing out about them stabilizing the markets is that something they refused to do for many years. So the genuineness to want to help people with their premiums is now exposed in light of the measure they're putting in this bill they should have been doing all along and didn't.

However, there's something else. One of the biggest reasons that premiums are going to pop -- not according to me, according to the experts who measure the actuarial tables -- is prescription drug prices. Why isn't there more momentum around fixing that part, maybe even first, you know, because you might get everybody on board with that?

CILLIZZA: Well, OK. Everybody on board, I'm skeptical of, only, Chris, not because I don't think consensus could actually exist, but because Donald Trump's name would be around it, and I just don't think you're going to get Democrats who are going to sign onto anything that has Donald Trump's name on it because they don't trust him. They just won't. They won't do it, no matter what Mitch McConnell says.

CUOMO: Bernie has been talking about it. Tammy Baldwin we had on has a cosponsored bill with John McCain. I mean, there's a lot of energy around prescription drugs. And it pops 70 percent. I mean, it's time for that industry to get hit. You know?

CILLIZZA: Yes. There are bills out there that do that sort of thing. Look, I talked about this a lot, just because of my own personal experiences. My sons have bad nut allergies. EpiPen price gouging, which has been in the news the past year and a half, it's ridiculous. I mean, it's beyond ridiculous.

And I think that's a common-sense thing. You don't have to be a Republican or a Democrat to see $800 for an EpiPen or whatever your medicine is, is not practical, is not something that the average person can or should do.

This is, though, why people feel so disenfranchised and dissociated from politics, because they view it as, to your point, Chris, these are things there's common agreement on that doesn't really exist in a partisan way, outside of Washington.

But because Trump is who he is, because tribalism is where it is -- Donald Trump didn't invent political tribalism, but he certainly pushed us -- pushed everyone more into their tribes. You won't see that.

Jackie makes a point. You're talking about an amazingly truncated schedule. CBO report Monday afternoon, vote Thursday. That's better than the House, which was vote, then CBO report. Right?

I mean, so you're dealing with this schedule that is not conducive to say, "Let's all sit down together. Let's figure out what we can do." That's not going to happen, even though, as you rightly point out, there are clearly issues here, not every issue, but there are clearly parts of this that will need to be addressed, and that both sides actually could find some common ground on.

KEILAR: All right. Chris, Abby, Jackie, thank you so much to all of you.

And we do have some breaking news, because the White House has been issuing or is issuing an ominous statement that has to do with Syria preparing another chemical weapons attack, warning that Bashar al- Assad and his regime are going to pay a heavy price if it happens again.

Barbara Starr live for us at the Pentagon. What's the latest there, Barbara?


An ominous statement from the White House overnight, and so far this morning, no clarification about what they're talking about. [07:15:07] Let's get right to that statement, and it says in part --

and let me 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."

The statement goes on to say that if Syria were to carry out such an attack it would pay, quote, "a heavy price."

No clarification from the White House, the Pentagon, or the State Department, about what is really behind all of this, what the intelligence is, what the U.S. knows and what preparations it may be making.

Is this a new red line from the president? Is it another U.S. counter attack in the works? We simply do not know the answer at this point.

The Kremlin this morning speaking out about all of this, saying that the U.S. statement, what it views as a threat to attack Syria again, in the Kremlin's view, that that was unacceptable.

And even as all of this is going on, photos emerging of Bashar al- Assad in Syria, put out by state-run TV, visiting wounded troops in that country -- Chris.

CUOMO: It gets very complicated, very quickly. The simple proposition, you hurt women and children, the United States is going to step in. The president of the United States said Bashar al-Assad doing that to his own people crosses a lot of lines, as Barbara Starr just reported. What does that mean? What can you do? We're going to have to wait for more information.

So he said that the Obamacare process moved too quickly. We're talking about the Republican on your screen, Senator Saxby Chambliss. That was his criticism at the time of the ACA. So how does he feel about this process? What really matters in health care, and what is this veteran's perspective on the red line in Syria? Next.


[07:20:52] CUOMO: Republicans are struggling within their open ranks. You have senators there who have populations that are sensitive to Medicaid, who need the funding that the CBO says is going to get cut in this new bill.

So GOP aides tell CNN that the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, still wants a vote this week. Democrats say things are moving too fast. Some Republicans say that, as well. And we heard a lot of this during the Obamacare debate, and that took a year. There are so many hearings, we almost got sick of covering them. Now, there have been none.

So let's get some perspective on what's going on here, what needs to happen, next. Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia. Now, he is a veteran of the Senate. He was against the ACA and is in favor of repealing and replacing. Senator, thank you for being with us this morning. And what is your

perspective on this process this time, which is certainly more accelerated than we saw with the ACA?

SAXBY CHAMBLISS (R), FORMER GEORGIA SENATOR: Well, clearly health care reform in its current state is one of the most difficult issues we've ever addressed from a policymaker standpoint. It was tough back in 2009, as you alluded to. It took most of the year to get it done.

Remember, Democrats couldn't agree. Democrats had control of the White House, the House and the Senate, had 60 votes in the Senate, and they had a very difficult time coming up with a bill that folks could agree on. And in fact, we all remember the famous line of Nancy Pelosi, who said, "Let's pass the bill and then read it."

Well you know, you can't do that now, because Obamacare is crashing and burning. And I know people are alarmed when they say the CBO says 22, 23 million people are going to be without health insurance. But remember, there were 30 million, 40 million, whatever the number was, of uninsured individuals in America when Obamacare passed. Well, guess what? When Obamacare crashes and burns, that's how many uninsured individuals there are going to be.

So here is where Mitch McConnell is today, and this is what a good leader does. He said, "Look, I've got folks on both sides of this issue. I've got this group meeting discussing. I've got this group and comes out against it. I've got this other group." OK, guys, it's time to fish or cut bait.

Let's put the bill on the floor. Let's thoroughly debate it and open before the American people. Let's let them know what each side is talking about. Let the Democrats engage. They've got some good ideas, too, I'm sure. So let everybody engage in the process on the floor of the Senate.

Whether he gets those 60 votes to get that done today, whether he backs off and says, "OK, let's go back and discuss it some more," I don't know what's going to happen, but here's what I do know. I think it would not be good leadership on the part of the members of the Senate on both sides of the aisle to let Obamacare crash and burn without doing something to fix it or repeal it and replace it. So ultimately, I think that's going to happen. It may not be today, but...

CUOMO: Well, a couple of things. One, in terms of the process, you're painting Mitch McConnell as somebody who's trying to have a deliberative process to get it out to the people so they can understand the competing arguments. But that doesn't seem to be the reality, Senator. I mean, he did it behind closed doors. There haven't been any hearings. They were intentional in making it secretive. Is that -- is that a fair appraisal to say that McConnell wants this to be an open process of debate now?

CHAMBLISS: Well, how much do you need to debate something that's been debated over the last seven years?

CUOMO: A lot, when you're changing it in a fundamental way that maybe doesn't address the concerns that you outlined.

CHAMBLISS: Yes, but -- but you know, you can't turn on your channel or any other channel these days without hearing this insurance company is pulling out of this state from an Obamacare standpoint.

CUOMO: Yes, but you know why that's happened. It's not as simple, right? A lot of states didn't accept the Medicaid expansion. You haven't had the subsidies guaranteed by this administration. That scared insurers. You had Republicans who are reluctant to do what they're doing now in this bill. Not talking about it, but they're shoring up markets with guaranteeing subsidies to the insurers in these markets in this bill that they wouldn't do for all these years. That helped destabilize. It's not as simple as just the system failing.

[07:25:20] CHAMBLISS: Well, if you let Obamacare run its course, Chris, I don't care what states do or the federal government does. It's the insurance companies ultimately that have to make the call, and they're making that call, and they're pulling out.

We are -- President Trump has come out and said we're going to continue these subsidies. I'm not going to leave these folks hanging fire. But you take a state like my state that did not expand Medicare for what I thought at the time were good and valid reasons on the part of our government. He said look, federal government is going to pay for this for five years, but at the end of five years, my taxpayers are going to have to pony up another "X" number of millions or billions of dollars over the next ten years. And I'm not willing to commit them to do that.

So that's why I say it's not a simple issue.

CUOMO: Understood. I'm just saying the president is tacitly allowing those subsidies to go forward. Now, he did dangle them over the head. I'm sure that wasn't helpful to insurers in making their decision.

But all of this just underlines the need to hear these ideas of people's elected constituents and elected leaders. And let them make their decision about which way to go forward. We'll see if they do that.

While I have you the president's recent statement and the statement out of the White House and the ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley, that if Assad drops chemicals on his people again, that's a line. And if he crosses it, there's going to be a price to pay.

What do you make of that warning, and what do you make of that implied promise of action on the part of the United States?

CHAMBLISS: Well, I remember very well the red line being drawn in, what, 2012, I guess it was, and when we got to that point of it actually being crossed, and we backed away from it.

I know how passionate the president was, as was everybody else -- didn't make any difference, Republican or Democrat -- when they saw back in April the sarin gas that had been dropped on women and children, and the reaction of those folks, and the death of them.

And so I think what the president's here saying is that, look, we have an indication they may be doing this again, and if they do, they're going to pay a heavy price. What is that price? I'm not sure what it will be, but I do think he's been very plain about the fact that, if you cross it, you're going to pay a consequence.

Now, does that mean we're going to stick our -- we've got our toe into Syria now. Are we going to stick our foot in there? Going to stick our leg in there? Or just what are we going to do?

I think it's only right that Bashar al-Assad be called on the carpet for this and that he be required to pay a heavy military price in the event he continues to kill thousands and thousands of people like he's done for the last decade.

CUOMO: This has been a humanitarian nightmare for years. What will happen to change that? We'll see.

Former senator Saxby Chambliss, always valued added. Thank you for being on NEW DAY, sir.

CHAMBLISS: Thank you, Chris.

CUOMO: Brianna.

KEILAR: If the Senate GOP bill goes down in defeat, how are Democrats going to part of fixing the Affordable Care Act? We're going to ask a Democratic senator, next.