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Senate GOP Health Bill Collapses. Aired 7-7:30a ET
Aired July 18, 2017 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: The players in the room have no credibility, because they have lied publicly, indignantly, emphatically and constantly.
[07:00:08] SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: If it were anyone but Jared Kushner, the son-in-law of the president, if it were anyone else he would be fired.
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY.
And we do begin with breaking news for you, a major blow to the Trump agenda. The Republican effort to repeal and replace Obamacare collapsing after two more senators announce their opposition. This all happened as President Trump was hosting a dinner with some senators, trying to gain more support.
CUOMO: The problem is, nothing drives prices more than uncertainty, and you've just had a huge dose of that injected into the health care system. So what's going to happen now?
Well, the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, is pushing for a vote on a repeal without a replacement plan. What's that about? Showing tax savings to move forward. What's the cost? Millions of Americans would lose their subsidies.
We have it all covered for you. This is an urgent situation. Let's begin with CNN's Suzanne Malveaux live on Capitol Hill -- Suzanne.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Chris.
Well, President Trump as he approaches his six-month mark of his presidency with his record low approval ratings now a devastating blow, another blow to his top priority in his legislative agenda, also to the promise that Republicans made to repeal and replace Obamacare.
MALVEAUX (voice-over): Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell giving up on Republicans' seven-year effort, now pushing to repeal Obamacare without a replacement plan in place. The latest effort collapsing after two more Republican senators
announced their opposition to the bill simultaneously on Monday night, ensuring that the plan would fail.
McConnell still planning to hold a vote in the coming days, on a 2015 measure that would repeal Obamacare but delay it taking effect for two years while a replacement bill is crafted.
President Trump responding to the setback on Twitter, tweeting, "Republicans should just repeal failing Obamacare now and work on a new health care plan that will start from a clean slate. Dems will join in."
This despite the fact that a straight repeal has little to no chance of passing. And it could leave millions uninsured and the insurance markets in turmoil.
The president's proposal starkly different from the promise he made on the campaign trail.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Obamacare is a disaster.
Repeal it and replace it.
Repeal and replace.
Repeal and replace.
Obamacare, we're going to repeal it. We're going to replace it. We're going to get something done.
MALVEAUX: President Trump was trying to drum up support for health care, hosting a handful of senators at a White House dinner Monday night, as senators Lee and Moran announced their opposition.
The president expressing optimism earlier in the day.
TRUMP: The Republican senators are great people, but they have a lot of different states. Some states need this; some states need that. But we're getting it together, and it's -- it's going to happen, right, Mike?
MIKE PENCE (R), VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes, sir.
TRUMP: I think.
MALVEAUX: Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer immediately celebrating the defeat, tweeting, "This second failure of Trumpcare is proof positive that the core of this bill is unworkable."
As Republicans continue to be split about the path forward, with conservative pushing the clean repeal effort and moderates like Senator John McCain calling for bipartisanship, McCain stressing that Republicans should receive input from members of both parties as they work to produce future legislation. (END VIDEOTAPE)
MALVEAUX: And if McConnell's last-ditch effort to repeal and not replace Obamacare fails to be a real test for lawmakers, whether or not they are willing to shore up Obamacare or just let it wither. Republicans have said time and time again that they believe that Obamacare is collapsing so it remains to be seen whether or not they will be willing to work with the Democrats to actually fix it -- Chris, Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: Suzanne, thank you very much.
Let's bring in our panel. We have CNN political analyst David Gregory; CNN Politics reporter and editor at large Chris Cillizza; and "Washington Post" congressional reporter Karoun Demirjian. Great to have all of you.
David Gregory, for people who are just waking up, let's retrace the timeline of how this all fell apart last night. Last week, there were two senators who publicly said they could not support the Senate bill: Susan Collins of Maine and Rand Paul said they could not support this. But Mitch McConnell still believed and the White House still believed, at least what they said publicly, that they could have the votes, and they were going to get this across the finish line.
Then last night, President Trump invited seven senators over to the White House for dinner. These were all, as we understood it, "yes" votes, but influencers who could go out and spread the message.
Oh, I'm forgetting one part of this chapter, which is John McCain got surgery, emergency surgery, and so he was needed and they -- Mitch McConnell said he was going to delay the vote.
[07:05:03] Then they had this dinner and during the dinner these two senators -- it was Mike Lee of Utah and Jerry Moran of Kansas -- held hands figuratively and announced together at the same time via Twitter that they were not going to support this bill, neither one of them then becoming the 51st vote but together, announcing this, and it all unraveled. How do you see it?
DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, look, the clash all along in this has been the view of conservatives who don't believe that government should be involved in the health care system in the way that Obamacare originally committed the government to being involved. And those Americans including Trump supporters who have come to rely on more federal subsidies, a bigger footprint on the part of the federal government in the health care system, you know, helping people to deal with preexisting conditions, and other difficulties in the health care system. Those two simply clashed.
There's a lot of governors out there, including conservatives who like the idea the federal government was offering more subsidies with regard to expanding Medicaid to help people who are lower income in their state. Very hard to take all of that back.
You also have a president who is disengaged, who didn't appreciate the complexities of health care, who's at 36 percent approval, so a lot of Republicans thinking, look, we have a real split on the ideology on this, and we have real concerns about whether taking such a tough vote is ever going to be backed up.
None of this is a recipe for success, and now the real work of what do you do next, now that you've been kind of talking down the insurance markets, talking about the death spiral, what do Republicans and Democrats do together to try to make some fixes at least?
You boosted the uncertainty in order to drive change. Now you have to live with that uncertainty, and it's going to destabilize the markets in terms of the pricing model.
Chris Cillizza, a little bit of irony at play here. Yes, to David's point, nobody wanted to be number 50 or 51, which shows the kind of toxic political environment even within the GOP, but the two senators who wound up putting the last nail in this coffin weren't people who want to protect the Medicaid population. They were people who wanted a big gaudy tax savings number, and that became revealed as a potential bait and switch, that those cuts that they were relying on as fiscal champions may not have been certain, and that wound up turning their backs. True?
CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS CORRESPONDENT AND EDITOR-AT-LARGE: That's right. Look, you had two people, Mike Lee and Jerry Moran, who sit in states that are two of the most conservative states in the country and two people who just got reelected in 2016. So no primary to worry about. This was not by accident.
As Alisyn pointed out, a statement released via Twitter at 8:30, neither of them wanting to be No. 51, or 50 on the bill, so that was 100 percent on purpose.
The problem always for McConnell and would be the problem if they tried to do anything else. You have serious disagreement between what conservatives want and what the Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Rob Portman, Pat Toomey even in Pennsylvania of the world want, and those two things can't really work together.
You either get more cuts or full repeal in the case of Rand Paul, or you get Medicaid expansion not phased out in the way in which he was. You get more protection for rural, poor, older residents. Those two things don't work together. That was always McConnell's problem. He had so little wiggle room, and he had such big differences between the two sides.
That's why I don't think there's 50 votes for anything, including straight repeal among the Republican Party at the moment. I remain to be convinced there's been zero evidence since this bill went from the House to the Senate that there's a majority of Republicans who are going to be for anything as it relates to repeal or reform or replacement of the health care law.
CAMEROTA: Karoun, John McCain has said he's recovering from surgery to remove a blood clot, but he still thinking about this; and he put out a statement. And here is his vision for how this should go. "One of the major problems with Obamacare was that it was written on a strict party-line basis and driven through Congress without a single Republican vote. As this law continues to crumble in Arizona and states across the country, we must not repeat the original mistake that led to Obamacare's failure that Congress must now return to regular order, hold hearings, receive input from members of both parties and heed the recommendations of our nation's governors so that we can produce a bill that finally provides Americans with access to quality and affordable health care."
You, of course, are on Capitol Hill all the time. You talk to members. Is his vision possible?
KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": His vision is very nice, and it may yield some smaller -- well, it may yield some smaller fixes that, because in the discussion about the comprehensive health care field, you may find areas where there's actually agreement between Republicans and Democrats.
[07:10:07] But in terms of them being able to sit down and somehow, after seven years of this political mud-slinging or more, be able to sing kumbaya and come to a massive comprehensive bill that's all going to be fine, especially saying that's going to happen within a two-year window, if they pass their kill bill first, that is a stretch.
You haven't seen enough agreement across the board within the GOP itself, and then you add the Democrats to that, they make the more moderate Republicans look extremely conservative. So you're asking to resolve differences between even more people if you're going to try to do that, and Congress just isn't very good at that right now.
It would be an ideal scenario to be able to do this, but it's kind of pie in the sky; and maybe it's the way that business could have been done back when John McCain was a young senator. But that's not the way it's working right now.
And so it's a very, very tall hurdle, although like I said before, in the process of having those comprehensive discussions, you may find smaller fixes to the Obamacare situation that you could do if you can find commonality, but it's probably going to be the little things, not the whole.
CILLIZZA: Just one quick point I wanted to make. There is no way, Karoun is right, all of what she said. There is no way Mitch McConnell, after this tooth pulling process for him, is going to say, "You know what we should do? We should spend the next 18 months relitigating health care with the possibility that we're going to wind up in the exact same place that we are today."
CILLIZZA: The reason for the repeal vote, the reason he's pushing for a repeal vote is because he can say to conservatives, "I did everything that I could. We had a straight vote on repeal. There isn't a majority for this. We are moving on." This is a clear the decks move. He does not want to spend one more second talking about health care, even acknowledging that yes, there are political consequences to that fact.
GREGORY: But look, look at all the tension that we're about to see. First of all, if they couldn't do this on health care. Can they really get major tax reform? That's why conservatives like Paul Ryan have been countenancing all of this lunacy out of this White House, that they think this is the conservative moment to get major tax reform.
What's happening to the conservative project in America? You know, you now have, since 2000, the expansion of Medicare with the prescription drug benefit. You have the new entitlement in Obamacare. And now you have a Republican administration which completely casts aside core conservative principles and is coddling Russia, for goodness sake.
What has happened to the conservative movement? That's a lot of the energy that's going to be taking over as we get into a midterm election year, and it mirrors all of this tension that's going on on the left within the Democratic Party. This is not just an inside the beltway concern. This is really starting to affect how governors think and how they start planning their electoral strategies. That gets in the way of doing kind of pragmatic policy in Washington over something like health care.
DEMIRJIAN: Although if I could just jump in, before we toss the towel in for the entire Republican agenda, I think for tax reform it's slightly different. Because there's been a lot of actual substantive ideas kicking around the last several years that they haven't had a chance to gel together and try to make it to the big bill. I'm not saying that means it will be successful, but health care was unique, in that this was a political fight for the last seven years that they had to turn into a policy thing as soon as they got the full majority in the White House.
CUOMO: Also, the narrative wound up being blown up, because what was sold as tax savings and cost cutting wound up being revealed as taking subsidies and money from the most vulnerable people. That might not be as blatant a narrative with tax reform. Sometimes the idea of cuts is more appealing there. But just look at the poll numbers.
CAMEROTA: OK, so 35 percent, this is a new Bloomberg poll out today. Thirty-five percent of Americans say at the moment -- of course, this is a snapshot of today that health care is the most important thing in the country. They -- it's far ahead of the economy right now. It's ahead of terrorism, immigration, 10 percent, health care is at 35 percent.
But 64 percent in this Bloomberg poll disapprove of the way President Trump has handled the health care debate. That's a big number, David Gregory.
GREGORY: Yes, it is. And you know, this is presidential leadership that's being examined. The president is appealing now and spending a lot of time especially taking on the news media, trying to discredit the news media. He's talking to a narrow band of his followers and trying to expand it beyond that. But the real promise, even for many of his followers, was to deliver. Was to somehow change Washington. We see this when presidents come in on this mandate of change, whether they can actually lead up to it.
He didn't know. I know people who have talked to him. No level of depth on policy on health care. So if he's going to outsource this, he's doing it and trying to use the bully pulpit ineffectively, because he's so unpopular. He is not seen as the change agent on health care. And yet, it's a core promise that he was going to be the guy who could change the way Washington worked to knock it out.
CUOMO: Right, but he had to adopt that promise, right? In fairness to the president -- and we know he watches -- he had been much more expansive in his personal reckoning of health care until he decided to become a Republican.
[07:15:11] CUOMO: And there is a little bit of a lesson in this current situation, that the president and his party are going to have to pay attention to, moving into tax reform. It comes in the version of a poll. ABC/"Washington Post" poll, 63 percent say it is more important for the federal government to provide coverage for low- income than cut taxes.
Now here is what I would suggest is a lesson in that, Cillizza. You tried to sell tax savings in health care as a virtue, and it got revealed as something that would hurt people and the vulnerable people.
Now you're going into tax policy, but beware that people now understand what you mean when you say that you're cutting, that it's not just about the cut. It's about for whom and don't give it to the white collars. Give it to the needy, the blue dollars and the working and the below working class.
CILLIZZA: Two things. That's what Donald Trump ran on. That's how he won Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Right? So that's point one. And to David's point about keeping campaign promises.
Two, let me just throw in one other thing. Barack Obama, who we don't talk about as much as we should, given that it's -- the bill is colloquially known as Obamacare, the law.
I think Republicans drastically underestimated what the Affordable Care Act's popularity would do without Barack Obama in office. We knew, following this bill for a long time, following the law for a long time, it was basically a stand-in for Barack Obama's popularity.
So Republicans looked at Obamacare and said, "O, it's so unpopular. People would love to get rid of it." Really, it was just that Republicans didn't like Barack Obama. Once he left, all of a sudden, it was the Affordable Care Act, and that was a whole different thing. And to that poll's point, people want what they currently have. They don't want you to take away what they currently have. The devil they know is better than the devil they don't know. CAMEROTA: Yes, that's an important point. People resist change,
particularly when you don't know what the change will look like, and if you're going to lose that and we've seen that play out, writ large.
Panel, thank you very much for all of that perspective.
CUOMO: All right. So here's what we know. The latest Republican health care Bill dead. How do they feel about straight repeal? That's what the man on your screen wants to do.
Let's vote and cut all the taxes that fund the subsidies in health care. Is that an answer? We have a member who may say yes. A member of the Freedom Caucus, next.
[07:21:38] CUOMO: Uncertainty is the last thing that our health care system needs right now. It will drive price increases more than anything else, and now that the GOP bill has died, that's exactly what we have, is more uncertainty. So what will happen next?
Well, there is a call to repeal without replacing. There was a tweet just sent out: "Republicans should just repeal failing Obamacare now and work on a new health care plan that will start from a clean slate. Dems will join in." This comes from the president. Is that the way forward?
Joining us now, Republican Congressman Jim Jordan of Ohio. Good to see you, sir. The Freedom Caucus has a different idea which is, look, let's just do a straight repeal bill right now, get an up and down vote on it and move from there. Would you be in favor of that?
REP. JIM JORDAN (R), OHIO: Yes, totally in favor. Chris, that's what we told the American people we were going to do. Remember, our repeal legislation has a two-year wind-down, so a two-year phase-in gives us time to work on the replacement. This is what we told the American people what we were going to do. This is what we passed last Congress.
So let's put the same thing on President Trump's desk that we put on then-President Obama's desk. It will be a different outcome. President Trump will sign it. Then we can come together and work on a replacement to deal with those -- those key issues that actually will bring down premiums for middle-class families.
The criticism is casualties, that what you guys call tax savings really takes the form and the practicality of subsidies and money that the most needy, the most vulnerable among your voters needs to support their health care, and you'd be taking all that.
JORDAN: Chris, the casualties are right now. Crawford County, Ohio, a county I get the privilege of representing, has no insurers in the exchange plans right now. The casualties are what Obamacare has done to premiums for middle-class and working-class families in the small and individual market. Casualties is what we currently have. That's what has to change. That's what the American people elected Republicans to do in 2010, 2014, and of course, last November.
So let's just simply do what we said: repeal it, then replace it. The president is exactly right, two separate bills. Do the first one, have a wind-down period and during that wind-down period work on the replacement. If you're -- if you're accurate this uncertainty is there, I think it's that Obamacare is driving up the costs and driving up the uncertainty right now, not the fact that we haven't done legislation. But if you're right, we'll have time to work on a replacement. Let's do that strategy, repeal and replace.
In fact, Freedom Caucus, we introduced that same piece of legislation, that clean repeal, back during the House debate. That is early this spring. We reintroduced that same -- I reintroduced it, that same piece of legislation, that clean repeal.
Let's focus on that.
CUOMO: Didn't it fail in part, because it wasn't a good idea, even though it was a simple promise. It didn't make the situation better? How does pulling all of the subsidies and money that people need to finance their health care, how is taking all of that and passing it on to tax cuts to whomever you want, how does that make it better?
JORDAN: It's a good idea, because it's what we told the American people we were going to do and what they elected to us do. And it always -- it is the same thing we passed last Congress. If it was good enough last Congress. This is what drives American voters crazy. It was good enough last Congress. Why isn't it good enough this Congress when it really counts? Let's -- let's pass that.
CUOMO: Why isn't it, though? Congressman, answer your own question. Why do you think all these senators in your party and House members in your party didn't like the reality of who that money was going to be taken away from?
[07:25:08] JORDAN: Well, I think -- I think saying you don't want to vote on it is different than actually when it's put in front of you. I always tell people that's why they play the game on Friday night. If you just went with the conventional wisdom, the underdog would never win.
So let's actually put it out there to see what happens when the roll call is actually called, when it's time to actually put up the vote and see what members do in light of what they did last Congress and what they told the American people for six years they were going to do.
So let's bring it up for a vote. You know, conventional wisdom -- the conventional wisdom would have been, you know, the Super Bowl would have been over after three quarters last year; but the New England Patriots and Tom Brady didn't think that. So let's call up the vote, and let's see what happens. I actually think there's a good chance it passes, which is, again, exactly what we told the American people we were going to do.
CUOMO: So what happens if you were to vote on a straight repeal and all that money is taken out of this system. Then in the interim, between when you have that vote and how you figure out how to replace it, what happens to all those people...
CUOMO: ... who need the subsidies and who need Medicaid to get health care?
JORDAN: Chris, I'll say it for the third time. The bill we passed last Congress, the same bill we introduced this Congress has a two- year time period on it. So that nothing changes in that two-year time period. So -- but you repealed it and say effective date is in the future, but in that time period, then you now have the catalyst to actually get to the replacement.
And I think, frankly, you might have -- you might have the better ability to bring Democrats and Republicans together like Senator McCain and others have talked about to actually say, "OK, here's some things we can do on Medicaid. Here's some things we can do with the opioid problem."
But at the same time we want some of these key policy changes that we believe will bring down premiums like easier formation of association of health plans like interstate shopping for insurance, like greater access and ability to use your health savings accounts.
CUOMO: So why don't you just -- why don't you just pitch those instead of a straight repeal? Why don't you pitch the ideas for how to tighten up certain of the exchanges, mostly in states where they didn't expand Medicaid and you don't have enough young people coming into the market, which is a fundamental problem with insurance. Why don't do you it that way instead of going straight repeal when it's so controversial?
JORDAN: Two things. We can -- we should talk about all that and try to bring that together. But the main thing I keep coming back to is what do we tell the American people we were going to do? We told them we were going to repeal it. We know what it has cost. Crawford County, Ohio, in the Fourth District of Ohio which I represent, no exchange plans. We know how bad it is. So let's...
CUOMO: Why are there no exchange plans in Crawford, Ohio?
JORDAN: Because of Obamacare. It's so expensive right now they're not, no -- there's no plan for them to even to go to if they're in the Obamacare exchange right now because of how -- how bad this law is.
CUOMO: Don't the insurers...
JORDAN: That's why it has to change.
CUOMO: Don't the insurers that pulled out of there and the ones who refused to go in, don't they say there aren't enough young, healthy people in that county system for them to support the pricing model?
JORDAN: Well you're right. That's one of the flaws of Obamacare, is a lot of young healthy people say, "I'm not going to pay these exorbitant premiums. I'm not going to pay $400 a month for a $6,000 deductible plan. That's what we're trying to change.
So let's get rid of the law, and let's work on bringing back those things that will lower those premiums, giving more -- allowing consumers to pick the kind of plan that actually fits their needs and their family's needs. That's what we're focused on doing. So let's do that approach again. After all that's what we told the American people we were going to do; that's what they elected us to do.
CUOMO: I get it but, you know, there's the impact of a promise also. But we'll have to see if this is the way forward for your party, if this is the way they go with this bill. We're going to come back to you and figure out what it means. Congressman...
JORDAN: Never hurts to do what you said, Chris. Never hurts to do what you said.
CUOMO: That's true. Certainly in politics, delivering on a promise can have currency. It's always good to have you chew on the details with us here on NEW DAY, Congressman. Thank you.
JORDAN: Thank you, Chris.
CAMEROTA: Well, Chris, President Trump claims that he has signed more bills than any other president has in his first six months. Is that true? We have a CNN reality check next.