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Senate Votes on Health Care; McCain to Speak after Vote; Trump Intensifies Assault on Sessions; Senate Subpoenas Manafort; Heller Moves to Yes. Aired 2-2:30p ET
Aired July 25, 2017 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:00:01] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Breaking news on a summer Tuesday. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Special coverage here of several major events.
Moments from now, the Senate will hold this crucial vote on health care to see whether they will begin debate on some version. I say that on purpose, some version of the Republican health care plan, a bill that's been really mysterious all the way up until now.
You know Senator John McCain has been away, undergone surgery, will be speaking live -- will be back in Washington speaking live on the Senate floor, returning for the first time since being diagnosed with brain cancer just a couple of days ago. So that's significant. We'll take that live.
Of course we're also watching the president, who is set to give this news conference as he intensifies his own attacks against his own attorney general, Jeff Sessions. Support among Republicans for the A.G. is growing, and fast. So we have those comments for you.
But first, let's talk about the U.S. Senate set to vote on whether to move forward on debate for some iteration of this Republican health care bill. It is safe to say this is one of those votes we have absolutely no idea how it will turn out. Full disclosure.
Several senators, they're still undecided. Is the plan to repeal and replace? Is it to repeal only now and replace later? Whatever the procedural vote is, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell could only afford to lose two senators. And the president is pushing members not to be the vote that shuts this whole thing down.
So, let's go to Dana Bash, our CNN chief political correspondent there on Capitol Hill.
First things first, do we even know what they are voting on?
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, in the short-term, the answer is yes, they're voting on, as you said at the beginning of this show, they're voting on whether or not even to proceed with debate. And just sort of by way of context, this is usually a no- brainer, easy vote for members of whatever party it is who's generally in the majority or who are putting a piece of legislation on the floor. Not about whether or not an amendment should pass, not about whether the final piece of legislation should pass. This is just about whether debate should start.
And this is what they have been kind of toing and froing about for weeks and weeks and weeks, even if they could get this vote over the hump of 50 votes, 50 Republican senators. That's what they need. And as we've said many, many times, it means that they can only afford to lose two Republican senators.
As you can probably see, a lot of commotion behind me. We are on the second floor of the Capitol, right next to the Senate chamber where they're going to start to take the vote. And the Senate Republicans are just about to finish up their weekly policy lunch where they have, no doubt, been talking extensively about health care and about, first and foremost this vote, whether or not it can -- it can even pass, whether they can even start debate.
And then, of course, as you alluded to, Brooke, the key question, which is, if they do, then what? Then are they going to vote for -- vote on a bill to -- excuse me, a measure to just repeal Obamacare and put off replacing for a couple of years? Didn't have the votes before. Would it now? Or will they try anyway? Who knows? And then -- and several other iterations of ideas that Republicans have in their search for 50 votes.
Right now, Brooke, Republican senators coming out. They're sort of starting to trickle out. Are saying that the leadership is cautiously optimistic that at least they can get that first hurdle cleared. But even that is something that we're going to be watching every single vote being taken to see if the vice president, who I should say is here as well, should he be needed, if he needs to clear a tie breaking vote or if they even get that far.
BALDWIN: As you hit home, the math is so key. And we know the fact that Senate John McCain, you know, fresh off this brain cancer diagnosis and surgery, will be back for the first time in Washington. What should we expect from him?
BASH: Yes. We expect that he should be returning to the Senate this hour to be participating in this vote. He has said that he will join his party to do, again, what is usually a traditional, you know, ho- hum vote, which is to proceed to a major piece of legislation, or at least an idea of legislation. He will vote yes on this and he will give a floor speech. So he will be addressing the Senate, addressing the nation. And, you know, given John McCain and his profile, indeed the world, about what he thinks the state of play is.
I was told that he is going to be talking about regular order in the Senate. That is kind of a processy term for how he thinks that things should be going here in the United States Senate, in Congress, and in Washington.
[14:05:07] It is going to be emotional. There's just -- there's just no other way to put it. This place has been stunned. I mean, he certainly is somebody who has gotten into tussles with members of both parties, but the members of both parties that he's gotten in tussles with wouldn't have it any other way. He certainly has a lot of respect and there's a lot of anticipation, a lot of -- anticipation is probably the best word for his return. And I'm sure that a lot of the desks in the United States Senate will be filled with his colleagues wanting to hear what he has to say to them.
BALDWIN: You are at the perfect perch to listen for that and to grab some of those senators also coming out of the luncheon.
Dana, we won't let you go too far from that camera. Thank you so much for now.
Dana Bash on Capitol Hill.
On top of all of what we just discussed, all eyes also today on the president of the United States, who holds his news conference just a short time from now. His son-in-law, who was just questioned today, he was back on The Hill, but this time he was questioned by the House Intelligence Committee. His ex-campaign chief just was subpoenaed by a Senate panel, Paul Manafort. But it's his Attorney General Jeff Sessions who is getting slammed. Not by investigators, but by the president himself.
For the second day in a row now, President Trump has targeted his top law enforcement officer on Twitter. Let me read the latest missive. "Attorney General Jeff sessions has taken a very weak position on Hillary Clinton crimes. Where are e-mails and DNC server and intel leakers."
That tweet comes on the heels of the president bashing the A.G. for not first disclosing he was going to recuse himself from the Russia investigation, right? That came out in the nugget from that "New York Times" interview last week. Today, the new White House communications director, Anthony Scaramucci, said this on the radio.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HUGH HEWITT: Why not -- why not just fire Jeff Sessions?
ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Well, listen, I mean, you know, I think the president has certain style, certain skill set. He's obviously frustrated. I said yesterday, I think, to Sara Murray, maybe the two of them could get together. My guess is the president doesn't want to do that.
HEWITT: It's clear the president wants him gone, isn't it, Anthony?
SCARAMUCCI: I have an enormous amount of -- I have an enormous amount of respect for the attorney general, but I do know the president pretty well, and if there's this level of tension in the relationship, that -- that's public, you're probably right. But I don't want to speak for the president on that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Let's go to our senior congressional correspondent, Manu Raju, who is on The Hill as well.
And so you just talked to a ranking member of Senate Judiciary, Senator Dianne Feinstein, about Sessions and about this Russia probe. What did she have to say to you?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, she actually was a bit alarmed by President Trump's attacks against Jeff Sessions. This is someone she's served with for some time in the Senate, even though she is at odds with him ideologically, opposed his nomination to be attorney general. She said that he's a member of this body and, quote, it counts for something. And that actually -- actually means something.
There are a number of senators, Republican senators, who have come to Sessions' defense today, including Rob Portman of Ohio, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. Last week, Orin Hatch, the top Republican, the longest-serving Republican in this body told me that he does not understand why the president is going after Jeff Sessions. And even Dick Shelby, who is a former -- who serves as the Alabama senator now, was Jeff Sessions' Alabama colleague here in the Senate said the call of Sessions, he said he has a lot of support on Capitol Hill.
So even as the president is going after his attorney general, he's almost on an island on Capitol Hill because a number of people on both sides are perplexed at what he's saying, including his own party, Brooke.
BALDWIN: Listening to all of that also knowing on The Hill today, Jared Kushner, the son-in-law, top adviser is being questioned on the House side. We know tomorrow the former campaign chief, Paul Manafort, is supposed to testify. A subpoena now is the piece of news on him. Can you explain to me what's happening and thus he must appear?
RAJU: Well, that's -- the subpoena is calling for his appearance in this public session tomorrow. It's unclear what he will do. Manafort's lawyers, as well as the Senate Judiciary Committee lawyers, are engaged in discussions right now behind the scenes to try to avert a standoff tomorrow. This came after last week. They thought they had a deal to avoid this public session when both Paul Manafort and Donald Trump Jr. cut a deal with the Senate Judiciary Committee, agreed to do a provide interview, agreed to provide records to the committee.
But that sort of fell apart after Manafort privately interviewed with the Senate Intelligence Committee this morning, a separate committee, and he told the Senate Judiciary Committee he would not agree to another interview, according to the Judiciary Committee, saying that.
Now, Paul Manafort could face a contempt of Congress charge if he does not appear. That's what Senator Dianne Feinstein said earlier today. Here's what she said.
[14:10:07] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), RANKING MEMBER, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: We can hold him in contempt. And that's a more complicated process. I hope that's not the case. I think he has said that he would testify in public, and I think this is important that he do so. I think it's important that members of the committee have an opportunity to see him. He's a very complicated figure. And there is a lot of material there and a lot of questions that he raises.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: Now, a source familiar with this morning's appearance before the Senate Intelligence Committee tells me that Paul Manafort and the staff of that committee discussed that trump Tower meeting from June 2016 with Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and Mr. Manafort with the Russians in which Donald Trump Jr. was, of course, that we now know, was promised dirt on the Clinton campaign from people maybe tied to the Kremlin.
Now, Manafort only answered questions about that subject I'm told, Brooke, but he did promise to come before that committee and talk to the members and talk about a wide range of subjects at a later date. The question, though, Brooke, is will he come before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which also wants to hear from him tomorrow in that public session, Brooke.
BALDWIN: Manu Raju, thank you so much. Covering all things, you know, testimony, but also health care.
So let's start there with my next panel. Jonathan Lemire, White House reporter for the "Associated Press" is here. Jim Geraghty, senior political correspondent for "The National Review," and David Catanese, senior politics writer for "US News & World Report."
Welcome to a slow summer Tuesday, gentlemen. Entirely facetious.
So before we talk Sessions, which is what I really wanted to get to your reporting with the A.P., David Catanese, just on -- we just -- I just got some news in my ear from my executive producer saying that on this health care watch, and again to be clear for everyone playing along, this is the procedural vote. Again, this is not the up/down vote on health care. That apparently Dean Heller, the Republican from Nevada, who was a no on repeal and replace, who then, you know, the pro-Trump super PAC went after in Nevada, is now apparently a yes on the procedural vote. Significant?
DAVID CATANESE, SENIOR POLITICS WRITER, U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT: Very significant. Although now the two senators I'm looking at are Lisa Murkowski of Alaska --
CATANESE: And Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia.
BALDWIN: West Virginia.
CATANESE: We know Susan Collins is going to be a no. But these two other female senators, considered moderates, have said that they would only vote with a motion to proceed if they know that they're going to have something to replace the repeal with. Now, I don't know what's going on behind the scenes on Capitol Hill. I
would guess Mitch McConnell is working hard to try to assure them that he has some type of replacement eventually up his sleeve for them to get to yes. It's just unclear. Heller is very important, but those two, I think, are what this procedural vote could come down to and, if it passes, how they vote.
BALDWIN: How do they know what the replacement -- we've had weeks of discussion on Capitol Hill. Jonathan, how do we know -- how do they know what the plan would be? Because so far the math just hasn't added up. And I'm sure people watching at home are thinking, well, why are they voting on something that thus far has been a no-go?
JONATHAN LEMIRE, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "THE ASSOCIATED PRESS": They think they'll figure it out, as unlikely as that may seem.
BALDWIN: Like, on the fly?
LEMIRE: It is remarkable how this has been shrouded in secrecy. How very little of this has been broadcast to the public, how very little of this has been broadcast to the senators who are going to have to vote on this down the road.
We know the White House is pressuring Mitch McConnell. They want to see this go forward. The president is desperate for a win. We remember how he celebrated the passage of the House vote, the Rose Garden ceremony. He's looking for something here to build off of.
BALDWIN: Jim, I want to come to you in a second, but just back up to Capitol Hill. Ryan Nobles is there watching all of this.
And tell me more about how this Senator Heller vote has become a yes.
RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this is really significant, Brooke, because, as you remember, Dean Heller was one of the first -- the first of this group of moderate senators that broke away from the pack when this initial run of the Senate health care bill came before them and decided that he wasn't going to vote for it. And when he initially backed away, that's when the first attempt at passing something really fell apart. So the fact that he has revealed in just the last half hour that he is indeed a yes on the motion to proceed, that he agrees that Republicans need to get this bill to the floor to start this process, this shows that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is starting to make some progress, and he's able to convince these senators about the importance of moving the bill forward.
But we should caution our viewers, Brooke, that this doesn't necessarily mean that they're any closer to actually getting health care passed. There's going to be a vote-a-rama here. There's going to be a lot of back and forth over the next couple of days before they get to the bill that actually is something that they're going to vote on. But this is still a very big development for Mitch McConnell and it likely signals that they have enough votes for this vote later this afternoon to get the bill to the floor.
BALDWIN: Ryan, thank you. Let me just remind everyone. If you don't know all these faces and
names of all these different senators who are key in this whole repeal and replace or just repeal, let's rewind to just last week.
[14:15:08] So the president's sitting at the White House. He has this lunch with a number of Republican senators. I don't know who was up for putting this whole seating chart together, but sitting to the president's right is the senator we're talking about, this Republican senator who was the no vote, Dean Heller of Nevada. I want you to just listen to the president's quip and watch Senator Heller's face.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This was the one we were worried about. You weren't there. But you're going to be. You're going to be. Look, he wants to remain a senator, doesn't he, OK? And I think the people of your state, which I know very well, I think they're going to appreciate what you hopefully will do.
Any senator who votes against starting debate is really telling America that you're fine with Obamacare. But being fine with Obamacare isn't an option for another reason, because it's gone. It's failed. Not going to be around.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: There was more to that. Jim Geraghty, I remember when he was specifically talking, you know, to Senator Heller and saying, hey, if you're not, you know, for this, wink, wink, and he had this uncomfortable smile, like, where's the button, the eject button so I can leave this lunch ASAP.
JIM GERAGHTY, SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, "NATIONAL REVIEW": Yes. That smile was melting like an ice cream cone on a 150-degree day.
Yes. Look, I'm not that surprised by Heller making this decision because nobody -- it's like, right now, think of the entire health care process --
GERAGHTY: Repealing and replacing Obamacare as a giant Jenga tower with all those wooden blocks.
GERAGHTY: No one wants to be the one --
BALDWIN: This is an easy pull, this initial vote.
GERAGHTY Exactly. You don't want to -- you know, look, all you're doing is saying, let's keep going. Let's keep voting on this. Let's continue with the legislation. You don't want to be the one guy who says, no, I'm not going to do it, and the entire tower comes crumbling down and you've got to build it all up again. BALDWIN: I like the -- I was trying to sit here racking my brain for
some sort of analogy. Thank you for Jenga. We'll come back to that in a second.
Phil Mattingly, I don't know if you heard the Jenga analogy with how this procedural vote is sort of one of those easy tiles you pull out of the Jenga tower where this doesn't make the whole thing crumble to the ground. So how significant is this procedural vote and does it really matter the initial no's or yes's, I mean, your thoughts.
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's hugely significant. I think there's no question about it. Look, we can read between the lines right now when Dean Heller comes out as a yes, when Rob Portman comes out as a yes on this vote. These are holdout senators who have had very serious and significant policy issues that have essentially, on their own, killed various iterations of this leading up to this point. They've got the votes. And I think that's pretty clear that they're going to be able to get 50, maybe even more than that, this in vote here shortly. And they will move forward on to this debate.
Now, you -- everybody that's been talking to you has made very clear the realities here. This doesn't, by any means, guarantee that they're going to get this done. In the end, this is a very convoluted, complicated and politically dangerous process that Republicans would be heading into.
But it's important to note, and I've had Republican aides and, frankly, Senate Majority Leader McConnell make this point repeatedly over the last couple days, you can't move on unless you get past this first procedural vote. And, Brooke, don't undercount the importance of momentum. Each step in this process gets them closer to the finish. Each step in this process makes it even more complicated to oppose. And I'll say another thing, when this process is all said and done, it will likely be at 4:00 or 5:00 in the morning. That is a very difficult vote for an exhausted senator to all of a sudden vote against given all the work that they've kind of put in up to this point. There's a very real reason that Democrats and kind of people opposed to this process have tried so hard to sink this --
BALDWIN: Phil, forgive me, I'm going to cut you off. We're going listen to the Democratic minority leader here on the Senate. We'll come back to you.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), MINORITY LEADER: Process which has locked out Democrats from the very beginning. The very first thing this Republican Congress said to the American people is that health care is going to be a partisan project, undertaken by Republicans, and Republicans alone. Right out of the gate, Democrats were locked out.
The majority leader elected to forge a bill in secret and bypass the committee process entirely. No public hearings. No open debate. No opportunity for the minority to amend the bill or even read it. No opportunity for the minority to amend the bill or even read it before it emerged from the leader's office. Their plan all along was to keep their bill hidden for as long as possible, evade scrutiny, hide the truth from the American people, and then jam the bill through in the dead of night on a party line.
And now, here we are after so much cloak and dagger legislating, about to vote on proceeding to a debate on one of the most important issues of our time, a sixth of the economy, tens of millions, health and even life affected without knowing exactly what we'll be debating on. Perhaps nothing could sum up the process that's gotten here -- that's gotten us here quite as well as this.
[14:20:08] Now, the best the majority leader's been able to cook up is a vague plan to do whatever it takes to pass something, anything, to get the bill to a House and Senate conference on health care. My colleagues, plain and simple, it's a ruse. The likeliest result of a conference between the House and Senate is full repeal of the Affordable Care Act or something very close to it. It will certainly mean drastic cuts in Medicaid, huge tax cuts for the wealthy, no help for those with preexisting conditions, and tens of millions losing health care, particularly in poorer and more rural states.
The hard right Freedom Caucus in the House would never accept a Republican bill that only repeals a few regulations in the ACA but leaves much in place. And I would say to my colleagues, particularly those on the other side of the aisle, who have heartfeltly fought hard for not cutting Medicaid drastically, for keeping preexisting conditions, for not doing tax cuts to the rich while you're cutting health care to the poor, don't go along with this motion to proceed, because you know and I know what it will lead to. All the things you've been trying to avoid will emerge from that conference and you will hurt the people of your states dramatically.
We all know what's happening here. The leader could not get the votes on full repeal because it's so damaging to America. He could not get the votes even on the -- his own bill. So instead, the plan is to come up with a proposal that's simply a means to repeal. A means to dramatic cuts. A means to getting us in conference, and we all know what the result of that conference will be.
I would plead one last time with my friends on the other side of the aisle, and I know you've sincerely tried to modify and change things. Turn back. We can go through regular order. We want to work with you. We know that ACA is not perfect. But we also know what you've proposed is much worse.
We can work together to improve health care in this country. Turn back now before it's too late and millions and millions and millions of Americans are hurt so badly in ways from which they will never, ever recover.
I yield the floor.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MAJORITY LEADER: Mr. President.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Majority leader.
MCCONNELL: Seven years ago -- seven years ago, Democrats imposed Obamacare on our country. They said costs would go down. Costs skyrocketed. They said choice would go up. Choice plummeted. Now Obamacare's years-long lurch toward total collapse is nearing a seemingly inevitable conclusion. And it will hurt even more Americans on the way down.
This, my friends, is the Obamacare status quo. This is the status quo.
We had to accept it for a long time. We don't have to accept it any longer.
The American people elected a House with a vision of a better way on health care. Then they elected a Senate. Then they elected a president.
Now, having been given a responsibility to govern, we have a duty to act. The president's ready with his pen. The House has passed legislation. Today, it's the Senate's turn.
That starts with a vote we'll take momentarily her. The critical first step in that process, the motion to proceed.
It's the vote that determines whether this debate can proceed at all. Whether we'll even take it up. After four straight elections in which this was a huge commitment to the American people, it's the vote that determines whether senators of both parties can offer their amendments and ideas on health care.
[14:25:23] Well, I told the people of my state over this period that I'd vote to move beyond Obamacare. And that's what I'm going to do today by voting yes. And I would ask all my colleagues to join me in doing so.
We've already shown it's possible to put legislation on the president's desk that moves us beyond Obamacare and its years of failure. We did that two years ago. President Obama vetoed what we passed before. President Trump will sign what Congress passes this time.
I want to thank the president and the administration for all they've done on this issue already. They've worked with us every step of the way, and they, like us, know the consequences of failing to act.
Look, we can't let this moment slip by. We can't let it slip by. We've talked about this too long. We've wrestled with this issue. We've watched the consequences of the status quo. People who sent us here expect us to begin this debate, to have the courage to tackle a tough issue. They didn't send us here just to do the easy stuff. They expect us to tackle the big problems. And obviously, we can't get an outcome if we don't start the debate. And that's what the motion to proceed is all about.
Many of us on this side of the aisle have waited for years for this opportunity and thought it would probably never come. Some of us were a little surprised by the election last year. But with a surprise election comes great opportunities to do things we thought were never possible. So all we have to do today is to have the courage to begin the debate with an open amendment process and let the voting take us where it will. So, that's what's before us, colleagues. Will we begin the debate on
one of the most important issues confronting America today? It's my hope the answer will be yes.
Now, Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that following the vote, Senator McCain be recognized to speak for debate only for up to 15 minutes, and that the time not count on HR 1628.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is there objection?
No objection heard.
MCCONNELL: Mr. President, I move to proceed to calendar number 120, HR 1628.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The clerical will report.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Motion to proceed to calendar number 120, HR 1628, an act to provide for reconciliation pursuant to Title II of the concurrent resolution on the budget for fiscal year 2017.
MCCONNELL: I ask the yeas and nays.
CROWD: Kill the bill. (INAUDIBLE).
MCCONNELL: I ask the yeas and nays.
CROWD: Kill the bill. (INAUDIBLE). Kill the bill. (INAUDIBLE).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sergeant of arms will restore order in the chamber.
CROWD: Kill the bill. (INAUDIBLE). Kill the bill. (INAUDIBLE).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sergeant of arms will restore order in the chamber, please.
CROWD: Kill the bill. (INAUDIBLE). Kill the bill. (INAUDIBLE). Kill the bill. (INAUDIBLE). Kill the bill. (INAUDIBLE). Kill the bill. (INAUDIBLE). Kill the bill. (INAUDIBLE). Kill the bill. (INAUDIBLE). Kill the bill. (INAUDIBLE).
[14:29:40] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The sergeant of arms will restore order in the chamber.
CROWD: Kill the bill. (INAUDIBLE). Kill the bill. (INAUDIBLE). Kill the bill. (INAUDIBLE). Kill the bill. (INAUDIBLE). Kill the bill. (INAUDIBLE). Kill the bill. (INAUDIBLE). Kill the bill. (INAUDIBLE). Kill the bill. (INAUDIBLE). Shame. Shame. Shame. Shame. Shame. Shame. Shame. Shame. Shame. Shame.