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McCain's Surgery Delays Vote on Senate Health Bill; GOP Senator Unsure if Health Bill Will Pass. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired July 17, 2017 - 09:00   ET


[09:00:00] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: -- with Poppy Harlow. Good morning, Poppy.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: People are wonderful. I like starting out my Monday morning that way, Alisyn Camerota. Thank you.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: I don't often say that, but today I do.

HARLOW: Thank you for that ray of sunshine which, by the way, you look like a beautiful ray of sunshine today in that yellow.

CAMEROTA: Thank you. Thank you.

HARLOW: Have a great day.

CAMEROTA: You too.

HARLOW: We have a lot to get to. Let's get started. And you, too, Berman, in the pink.

Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow.

Replacing ObamaCare, eight years of Republican promises, at least another week of delay. Senate GOP leaders have put this week's expected vote on hold once again.

This is because of Senator John McCain who is recovering from surgery for a blood clot. The Senator's recovery time is not the only uncertainty right now, though, hanging over the GOP's signature goal.

Our Dr. Sanjay Gupta will have all of the medical perspective in just a moment. Let's begin, though, with the politics of it. Our M.J. Lee is here to explain. Thank you both for being here.

And, M.J., let me begin with you. No CBO score coming today, which is really important for this, and now the vote is on hold. Why?

M.J. LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: Well, it's because John McCain is not going to be here this week.

HARLOW: But he wasn't a definite yes. That's the thing, right?

LEE: So he was not a definite yes on the final bill, but it's important to keep in mind that he was a definite yes on the motion to proceed. Myself and other reporters on the Hill were asking him multiple times last week, are you going to vote yes to actually move this bill forward? And he said yes, even though he thought that the bill wasn't perfect.

He has concerns about the Medicaid cuts that are in the bill. He's wondering what those cuts will do to the people of Arizona, but he was clear he wants to move forward on this bill.

And I think the fact that this bill has been delayed because McCain will not be here this week kind of perfectly captures just how close this vote was going to be. And McConnell, obviously, already had two "No" Senate Republicans, Rand Paul and Susan Collins, and he literally could not lose one more vote. And the fact that McCain is gone, McConnell doesn't have a majority right now.

And it's kind of hard to overstate just how uncertain the fate of this bill is now. One, because there are still so many undecideds. McCain aside, a lot of moderates -- moderate Republicans who have concerns about the Medicaid cuts that are in this bill.

And second, a lot of Senate Republicans are not even actually sure when McCain will come back. Obviously, this is a very sensitive topic that we want to discuss with care because he has had, you know, serious surgery, but it's just not clear whether he is definitely going to be back next week.

HARLOW: Next week. We're going to get Sanjay on that and all the medical implications in a moment, but the White House is getting in front of this because they know the CBO score, that is likely to come out saying how many people would be not covered as a result of this is, et cetera, is probably not going to be pretty for them.

It wasn't pretty the first time around in the Senate version. It wasn't pretty on the House version. So Mark Short co-authored this op-ed in "The Washington Post" over the weekend. Let me put part of it on the screen.

The CBO will likely predict lower health insurance coverage rates if this bill becomes law. The American people in Congress should give this prediction little weight in the bill's merit.

So the strategy here for the White House is don't believe the number they're going to give you even though we -- you know, Republicans put the guy in place who runs it?

LEE: Right, and sort of preemptively downplayed the numbers that they thought they were going to get today. Look, just to remind everyone, the last score, as you said, that came out on the first Senate bill was not pretty at all. It said that 22 million fewer people would be insured over 10 years than compared to ObamaCare.

And the Medicaid numbers were kind of a doozy, too. Fifteen million fewer people covered under Medicaid. And a lot of folks anticipated today to be a tough day because they thought those numbers would be tough. And I think maybe some folks are feeling a little bit of relief that they get to have one day that's not filled with bad headlines. HARLOW: M.J. Lee, thank you for the reporting. As always, we

appreciate it. Let's go now to our Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, and focus on the condition of Senator John McCain.

Look, this is a strong man, if ever there was one. He is 80 years old. This is -- you know, according to his team, they're explaining it, Sanjay, as a fairly routine procedure, but you're a neurosurgeon.

Talk about what it means to have a two-inch blood clot removed from right above the left eye. They call it minimally invasive. What does this all mean?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: First heard about this, it did sound pretty minor, a minor procedure, but I just want to be clear, what he has had done here, he's had what's known as an eyebrow craniotomy. And I just want to explain that for a second.

First of all, an incision is made in the eyebrow. That's why it's called that. And the incision is hidden. You won't see a scar afterward.

But be clear, when you feel underneath your eyebrow, there's bone there and that's this bone over here, just above the eye sockets. And that bone is actually removed and so you gain access to the brain that way.

So this wasn't just something in the skin or more superficial. They needed to remove bone. They needed to actually go into the area around the brain, and I'll just show you. It sort of takes you into this area, in the front of the brain here on the left side, again, as you know.

[09:05:00] So whether it was on top of the brain or in the brain, whatever this abnormality was, they're calling it a blood clot, we don't know. But we know that it did involve going into the brain. And again, you said five centimeters. That's about two inches, so from here to here. Pretty sizeable, what we're talking about.

We don't know what this is. It's -- the pathologists have to look at this under a microscope and determine for sure what it is. It could be a blood clot, which would probably be the best news of all, but the pathologists want to be sure that it's not something else as well.

HARLOW: What are the important things that would lead neurosurgeons like yourself to look for something like this? Right, you wouldn't just typically scan for something like this.

GUPTA: Exactly.

HARLOW: And I've read a lot about the fact that he has had this history of melanoma and that can cause some bleeding right in the area. Is that why they would have been checking, or what else could it have been?

GUPTA: Yes. When you look at the -- what the hospital has said very carefully, they said that Senator McCain came in for a routine scan. That's important because they're indicating that he didn't come in for a particular reason because he was having problems.

It was a routine scan and most likely, Poppy, as you point out, that's because he has this history of melanoma. And not only does he have a history of melanoma, he has a history of melanoma right in his left temple region, very close to where we're talking about now for this operation that he has had done on Friday.

The big concern and the reason people get these scans is the cancer. Is there some evidence that the cancer has come back? You know, we want to make sure that we can catch these things early. That's typically why scans are done.

Again, we don't know that this is melanoma by any means, but that is the big concern. And that is why whatever this thing is -- they're calling it a blood clot -- when it's removed, you want to look at it. You want to look at it specifically under the microscope and see if there's anything that indicates this could be melanoma. That's --

HARLOW: Right.

GUPTA: That's how you treat this. You try and remove this early and aggressively.

HARLOW: Yes. And very quickly before you go because I know you have to go to your other job at the hospital, real importance is where it is, right? Is it between the skull and the membrane that covers the brain or is it further in? And we just -- we don't know.

GUPTA: We don't know that, but I think the -- even a little bit upstream from that, if this is melanoma, I think that's going to raise a series of questions as to, is this adequately treated now? Is he going to need further treatment? Is that going to delay his recovery?

Even if it's outside the membrane, as you point out, of the brain, that's still going to raise all those questions for him, Poppy.

HARLOW: Yes. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thank you very much for the expertise.

GUPTA: Yes. Thank you.

HARLOW: We appreciate it. Here to discuss the politics of health care and, of course, wishing Senator John McCain a very quick recovery is our panel. Shannon Pettypiece, White House reporter for Bloomberg News; Amber Phillips, political reporter for "The Washington Post's" political blog, "The Fix"; and Patrick Healy, "New York Times" editor and CNN political analyst. Nice to have you here.

So, Amber, let's listen to a Republican, Republican Senator Susan Collins, speaking to Jake yesterday about where things stand in her mind.


SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: There are about eight to 10 Republican senators who have serious concerns about this bill. And so at the end of the day, I don't know whether it will pass.


HARLOW: Amber, it's interesting because you say -- or she says -- seemingly, the more time that passes, the harder this is getting for McConnell. You say this delay could actually be a blessing in disguise. Why?

AMBER PHILLIPS, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST'S THE FIX BLOG: Yes. I think it could allow leader McConnell to try to corral more votes. You know, as M.J. said earlier in your show, it is really, really tight right now. They can afford basically no one else to come out against this bill.

That being said, that is one option and one perspective to look at this delay in the vote. I think Senator Susan Collins is speaking a degree of truth when she says, look, time is not the Senate bill's friend right now.

They've had about a month to look at this, to debate it. They've made significant changes to it. And there's been no significant changes in who opposes this and, more importantly, for Senate Republican leaders who supports it.


PHILLIPS: So I think Republican leaders have time to corral more votes, but this could also give more time for opposition to harden.

HARLOW: And, you know, if you look, Patrick, at just the read outs from the Governors Meeting over the weekend, it was not looking good. I mean, you knew that people like Republican Brian Sandoval of Nevada and, of course, Senator Dean Heller who tracked closed with him, you know, are very concerned about this and what it does to Medicaid.

You knew where they would be, but there seemed to be a lot of concern. Some people -- Governor Malloy saying that the administration was contradicting itself, liking the CBO score at one -- or CBO at one point and not liking them on other points.

AXIOS said an interesting note this morning and they say -- they quote a senior administration official as saying if, at the end of the weekend, nobody else has jumped out of the box, that's a win. That's a pretty low bar for a win.

[09:10:00] PATRICK HEALY, DEPUTY CULTURAL EDITOR, THE NEW YORK TIMES: That's a pretty low bar, Poppy, but it's true. The Governors, you know, Meeting in Providence this weekend, you know, came out -- many of them came out very strongly against this bill, and that included Republican governors, you know, Vermont, of Nevada, like you said, Brian Sandoval. The Governor of Kentucky had concerns. Kind of all over the map.

What's interesting here, Poppy, is that, you know, about a month or so ago, you had two governors in particular, the Republican Governor of Ohio, John Kasich, and the Democratic Governor of Colorado, John Hickenlooper, who, you know, made some very strong statements against the earlier version of this bill. And now you're getting many more governors sort of coming to the fore.

And the problem here for Mitch McConnell and the Senate leadership in terms of the delay of the vote is that, if this vote is delayed one or two weeks, that only gives more time for people who rely on ObamaCare in states like Nevada to keep up the pressure on Governor Sandoval, to keep up the pressure on Senator Dean Heller and -- you know, to oppose this bill.

And you don't really have forces on the other side who are coming out in those, you know, one or two weeks and saying, oh, OK, these are all the great reasons why this isn't going to affect, you know, Medicaid recipients in a state like Nevada.

HARLOW: Right.

HEALY: So you're seeing just such an escalation here.

HARLOW: So, Shannon, this White House needs a win, and they're having a hard time getting a legislative win on health care. We'll see what happens, this delay yet again, and we'll see what the reaction is to the CBO score when that comes later this week.

At the same time, despite the President tweeting otherwise, this is a very bad approval rating number that has just come down in the latest polling for the President. Thirty-six percent, according to this ABC News/"Washington Post" poll. That's the lowest since modern polling began 70 years ago.

And now, he goes into his second six months. What do you do with this, if you're sitting and strategizing at the White House?

SHANNON PETTYPIECE, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, BLOOMBERG NEWS: Well, as you mentioned, getting any legislative wins on the point -- on our points on the board are going to -- it's going to be difficult at this point because that low approval rating gives him very little leverage in Congress. With a president with 36 percent approval rating, you can't twist many arms with that, so it's going to be difficult in Congress.

He has picked a lot of the low-hanging fruit he can pick legislatively with these executive orders, with these regulatory rollbacks that he's done. So now, I think they turn overseas. They've been trying to focus on ISIS, trying to take the message there, on improving relations with certain countries, but they're also going to try and get the messaging back on their own turf.

It's "Made in America" week at the White House. They've been doing these theme weeks, like infrastructure week and energy week, that really haven't really gone over. They have another opportunity here.

And remember back to November, December timeframe. President Donald Trump was in -- he was the President-elect Donald Trump, and he was going after companies on Twitter. He was going after Ford for sending jobs overseas. He was going after Boeing for, you know, charging a lot, you know, for these fighter jets. That was an effective message.

And even Democrats then, they were afraid of that guy. And they kind of liked that guy who was going to go after companies and create jobs. So he can do things. This is sort of his --

HARLOW: But the --

PETTYPIECE: -- his comfort zone, jobs. He could get back on comfortable turf there.

HARLOW: The problem becomes then his companies or, you know, the Trump Organization companies and the Ivanka Trump companies with all those things that are made overseas come into the spotlight and there are a lot of questions that they need to answer there.

Patrick, let me get your take, if you dig into some new other polling numbers. The NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll, really telling because the constant beat has been, yes, but the President is doing very well among his base and among those counties that flipped for him.

Well, here are the counties that flipped from Obama to President Trump. And he now holds only 44 percent approval rating, a 51 percent disapproval rating. Is that more telling actually than the overall approval rating number?

HEALY: Yes, that's clearly bad news. And these are the counties that the White House is very much looking at, both for the 2018 midterms, Congressional midterms, the degree to which President Trump has kind of an albatross around the neck of candidates, and then certainly 2020.

You know, President Trump is already very seriously taking his re- election prospects. And he looked with a real point of pride at counties in states like Michigan and Pennsylvania that he was able to flip to himself from Obama. Those are states that he very much wants to carry again, you know. And it's really kind of an open question, I mean, when this sort of trend lines are going downward, kind of what he can do to help himself.

[09:14:53] Another danger, though, Poppy, related to that is that President Obama -- excuse me, President Trump is also playing -- you know, he's making kind of some veiled political threats to Republican senators who aren't necessarily getting on board with him.

You know, Jeff Flake in Arizona is one who President Trump has been meeting with possible candidates to primary. You know, Jeff Flake, when he runs for re-election.

So again, you're seeing kind of softness for him in these counties like the poll shows, but you're also seeing some trouble he may get into in states with the senate Republican caucus, if seen as going after his members. So it's a thinning base of support right now.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Which is a difficult way to start the second half of your year. But they are trying to do that with these theme weeks, which we will talk about in just a moment. Thank you all very much, Shannon, Amber, and Patrick. We appreciate it.

A presidential pivot, the White House is unveiling more of these theme weeks, but will Russia and the controversy surrounding it Trump all?

And a violent weekend in Chicago. Anti-violent activist, one of the several people shot and killed this weekend alone. Dozens more wounded. We'll have a live report coming up.

Also sexual harassment claims continue to rock Silicon Valley. Well, now, our Laurie Segall is bringing you survivors and their candid stories.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was the moment that I felt my leg being grabbed under the table that I thought holy moly this is real.




HARLOW: So right now at the White House, an effort to shift focus away from Russia, the administration is launching "Made in America Week" campaign to underscore a top priority for the president's base and that of course, is jobs.

All of this as the Russia investigation could mushroom even more this week. A big question, will Donald Trump Jr. and former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, testify this week before the Senate Judiciary Committee?

As you know the committee has said they would like to hear from them about that meeting with the Russian lawyer.

Let's get reaction on Capitol Hill. Joining me now, Republican Congressman Scott Taylor of Virginia. He's also a Navy SEAL. He fought in Iraq. It's nice to have you. Thank you for being here.


HARLOW: Thank you for your service. Good morning.

So let me get your reaction to the Republican chair of the House Oversight Committee, Trey Gowdy. Let me quote him. "This drip, drip, drip about Russia is undermining the credibility of this administration." Is he right? Is it hurting the credibility of the administration?

TAYLOR: I think in many circles, yes. Listen, it's important that the White House certainly pivot. You just said that they're going to be doing that to talk about what the priorities are for the administration.

You know, there's also been some great work that's been done both on Capitol Hill and with the presidency, but it is important that they sort of pivot and get off of this.

Because let's face it, there are some self-inflicted wounds here as well, too. At the same time, there's a lot of hysteria and overplaying from the other side as well, too.

You know, I talked to a lot of folks that are just on the street, regular American folks, who may not watch cable news, for example, and they're not so swept up and they're not so hell bent on every single thing being a Russian conspiracy. They want to see results.

HARLOW: But, Congressman, you would agree, surely, your constituents care that American elections are secure. I know that to be the case.

TAYLOR: Yes. Because I hear that very often.

HARLOW: So let me get your reaction.

TAYLOR: Let me touch on that really quickly because people are concerned about the integrity of elections, but to see a Russian conspiracy on every single corner, they are not. They think it's overplayed.

HARLOW: OK, so let me get your reaction then because you said, look, there are some self-inflicted wounds here and you've also that there's some hysteria. I know you mean, for example, some Democrats calling this treasonous.

TAYLOR: Of course.

HARLOW: Because you've said that before on our air.


HARLOW: However, here is what conservative columnist and Fox News contributor, Charles Krauthammer writes, "The Russia scandal has entered a new phase. There is no going back. This is not hearsay, not fake news, not unsourced leaks.

What Donald Jr. and Kushner and Manafort did may not be criminal, but it's not merely stupid, it's deeply wrong, and a fundamental violation of civic honor. With having that meeting, attending it saying, I love it, according to Donald Jr., is that a violation of civic honor?

TAYLOR: Well, I don't know about that. With all due respect to Charles, who says it much more eloquent than I ever could -- it's troubling, it's inappropriate. I said that also as well, too, so is the DNC trying to get information from Ukraine. Those are all inappropriate stories.

HARLOW: So that's not apples to apples. Frankly, you know that. That is not the highest levels of the Ukrainian government meeting with members of the Clinton campaign. That never happened. It is not apples to apples comparison.

So I'm asking you, do you believe that it is a violation of civic honor to have had this meeting, knowing that it was from a concerted Russian government effort?

TAYLOR: What I said was -- and certainly something that someone else did doesn't excuse behavior of someone else. Let's get that clear, but sometimes we tend to focus on what's just going on now and not other facts as well. I said it was inappropriate. I think it's inappropriate.

I think it was a grave mistake. I think the administration, if anyone had contact with Russians or anywhere, get it out there. Get it all out there, just like Chairman Gowdy said before. No more drip, drip, just get it out there.

HARLOW: So do you think that it's believable, then? Because the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Mark Warner, I'm sure you heard this yesterday also told our Jake Tapper that he thinks it's, quote, "unbelievable."

That neither the son nor the son-in-law ever shared that information with the candidate, with their dad. Do you buy it? Do you think it's believable that Kushner and Donald Jr. never went to the president with this?

TAYLOR: I really don't know. I mean, think about when this was. Think about what the context was. This was before all the Russia hysteria. This was in June. I know they had many meetings. I do think my senator, who I have respect for -- we talked about this -- I think he's making a huge mistake in terms of what people really care about.

And that's the integrity of these elections. There has to be a policy that gets put forth by Democrats, by Republicans that deters and makes it very clear to other nations that they will not, in fact, mess or meddle within our elections -- hysteria as well, too. I think he's overplaying it.

HARLOW: All right, I really want to get to health care but would like an answer to that question first, do you believe --

TAYLOR: Which one? I'm sorry.

[09:25:05]HARLOW: Do you believe that the son or the son-in-law, Jared Kushner did not tell the president?

TAYLOR: I believe the meeting was inappropriate. I said that before.

HARLOW: So I just didn't asked you that. What I asked you is do you believe that they didn't tell their father about this? Do you believe that or not?

TAYLOR: I don't know. I have no idea.

HARLOW: OK, let's move on to health care, Vice President Pence and Republican Senator Susan Collins on very different pages when it comes to the Medicaid portion of the Senate's new health care bill. Listen to both of them.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: President Trump and I believe the Senate health care bill strengthens and secures Medicaid for the neediest in our society.

SENATOR SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: This bill would impose fundamental, sweeping changes in the Medicaid program and those include very deep cuts. That would affect some of the most vulnerable people in our society. You can't take more than $700 billion out of the Medicaid program and not think that it's going to have some kind of effect.


HARLOW: So what is it? Does it help the most needy, as the vice president said, or does it hurt the most vulnerable as the Republican senator says?

TAYLOR: Well, two things. Listen, they're going to have to work through their differences, of course, to get something in the Senate. But look, Virginia didn't expand Medicaid because we knew it started out at 5 percent of our budget. It's at 22 percent now and unsustainable trajectory.

There's not a sane person on Capitol Hill who would tell you that Medicaid is on a sustainable path. Furthermore, you have a weird distortion, actually bad one, that has Medicaid expansionist states and Medicaid expansion reimburses able-bodied childless adults at a rate of almost 90 percent from the federal government as opposed to 50 percent or 60 percent for those who the program was actually designed to deal with, the needy, poor kids, pregnant women and such.

So the most vulnerable of our population, I believe, to get in on a sustainable track, you do have to slow the growth of Medicaid so that we, in fact, can deal with the most needy of our population.

HARLOW: So you don't think --

TAYLOR: Sorry, I can't hear you.

HARLOW: Can you hear me now?


HARLOW: OK. It's like a Verizon commercial. So you don't think that the reduction in growth, the $772 billion reduction in Medicaid expansion growth for these states over a decade is going to hurt people because Senator Collins is saying it hurts the most vulnerable.

You argue that will not happen. Despite your state not expanding, I'm just asking, is that what you're comfortable with for folks across America to rely on it?

TAYLOR: Well, let's be clear, there will be states who did expand who will fight against that, who did -- they're sort of incentivized to put people on the rolls who are able-bodied childless adults with a reimbursement rate at that. I think you have to get a handle on this or will end up hurting more people if you don't deal with the growth of Medicaid, an unsustainable rate. So you have --

HARLOW: Because here is what --

TAYLOR: I'm not done yet.


TAYLOR: Look, you also have to deal with the fact that we are hurting families across this country. There's a huge swath of families who have way high deductible. Their premiums are insane. They're paying more than they pay on their mortgages. We're hurting more people right now by not getting this deal done.

HARLOW: I have sat with those families. I sat with a couple in Kentucky who said it's over $800 a month for us so I hear you. However, look at these latest numbers from this new ABC poll that I think are really revealing.

It found that half of Americans still want Obamacare. They just want it in a little bit different form, 50 percent want Obamacare, 24 percent wants, you know, the GOP proposals that are out there right now.

Outside of what it takes to get the wins on this for the Senate Republicans, what about what the American people want? I mean, that's double the amount of people that like the GOP plan that say stick with what we've got and, of course, there are revisions that need to happen.

TAYLOR: So here are a couple of things. Obamacare has been with us eight years now. There are some good things have come out of it, like pre-existing conditions, letting folks stay on their parents' plan until they're 26 years old. We're not changing that.

But in my opinion, number one, I believe we could do a better job explaining to the American people our philosophical differences, and that is, of course, you know -- right now, ACA is very one-size-fit- all Washington.

Health care is consumed at the local level. So we believe that it should be the states and the local localities that should be dealing with that much closer to the patients themselves. But I think that we have to do something about it.

I believe that the ACA is fundamentally flawed. I think that health care before could have been changed or tweaked, if you will, to deal with some of the issues, good things that came out of the ACA.

But I think it's fundamentally flawed and to not act is wrong. So I think leaders must act. Dems should come to the table, too, and work with us to fundamentally fix ACA and health care.

HARLOW: I think Americans would really welcome bipartisanship in Washington. Congressman Scott Taylor, thank you for joining us and again, thank you for your service to this country.

TAYLOR: Thank you, Poppy. Appreciate it.