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McCain Returns to Senate to Cast Deciding Vote on Obamacare Motion; Senate Begins Debate on Health Care Reform; President Trump Meets With Lebanese Prime Minister; Aired 3-3:30p ET
Aired July 25, 2017 - 3:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. McCain. Mr. McCain, aye.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Johnson. Mr. Johnson, aye.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The senator is not recorded.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: I vote no.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Schumer, no.
SEN. RICHARD DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: Mr. President.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Durbin.
SEN. PATTY MURRAY (D), WASHINGTON: Mr. President.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Durbin, no.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mrs. Murray, no.
SEN. RON WYDEN (D), OREGON: No.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Wyden, no.
SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), VERMONT: Mr. President.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Leahy.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Leahy, no.
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: Madam President.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mrs. Feinstein.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mrs. Feinstein, no.
SEN. BILL NELSON (D), FLORIDA: No.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Nelson, no.
SEN. DEBBIE STABENOW (D), MICHIGAN: No.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ms. Stabenow, no.
SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA: No.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Manchin, no.
SEN. TAMMY BALDWIN (D), WISCONSIN: No.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ms. Baldwin, no.
SEN. BEN CARDIN (D), MARYLAND: No.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Cardin, no.
SEN. JON TESTER (D), MONTANA: No.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Tester, no.
SEN. TOM CARPER (D), DELAWARE: No.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Carper, no.
SEN. MARTIN HEINRICH (D), NEW MEXICO: No.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Heinrich, no. Mr. Donnelly.
REP. JOE DONNELLY (D), INDIANA: No.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Donnelly, no.
SEN. TIM KAINE (D), VIRGINIA: No.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Kaine, no.
SEN. TAMMY DUCKWORTH (D), ILLINOIS: No.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ms. Duckworth, no.
SEN. AL FRANKEN (D), MINNESOTA: No.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Franken, no.
SEN. BOB CASEY (D), PENNSYLVANIA: No.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Casey, no.
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D), MINNESOTA: No.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ms. Klobuchar, no.
SEN. JACK REED (D), RHODE ISLAND: No.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Reed, no.
SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ (D), NEW JERSEY: No.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Menendez, no.
SEN. CHRIS COONS (D), DELAWARE: No.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Coons, no.
SEN. JEANNE SHAHEEN (D), NEW HAMPSHIRE: No.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mrs. Shaheen, no.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: No.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Sanders, no.
SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D), MISSOURI: No.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mrs. McCaskill, no.
SEN. EDWARD MARKEY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: No.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Markey, no.
SEN. MARK WARNER (D), VIRGINIA: No.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Warner, no.
SEN. MICHAEL BENNET (D), COLORADO: No.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Bennet, no.
SEN. BRIAN SCHATZ (D), HAWAII: No.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Schatz, no.
SEN. MAZIE HIRONO (D), HAWAII: No.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ms. Hirono, no.
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: No.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Blumenthal, no.
SEN. ANGUS KING (I), MAINE: No.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. King, no. Mr. Peters.
REP. GARY PETERS (D), MICHIGAN: No.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Peters, no.
SEN. HEIDI HEITKAMP (D), NORTH DAKOTA: No.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ms. Heitkamp, no.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: All right, so you're hearing a lot of no's, a lot of Democrats' names there being called out, but here's the headline.
The Senate has enough votes to advance the health care bill. We saw Senator McCain come in, and he was a yes. We were talking about Senator Johnson. He is a yes.
And so they have enough votes to pass this procedural vote to then open with debate.
Gloria Borger is joining us here as we're watching all of this And we have also got the little camera on the Rose Garden there in the White House. I will take that. Thank you.
And so we're waiting for the president to speak with the Lebanese prime minister, but, as we do that, this is significant because this has been a yes so far.
But, again, it's been mind-boggling for a lot of people who have been covering Washington a long time, saying they voted yes to open debate, but the debate, no one really knows what they're debating.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.
So what they're doing -- and let me just remark upon that moment when John McCain walked in the chamber.
BALDWIN: Yes, please, standing ovation.
BORGER: Yes, Brooke, standing ovation. And, you know, this is kind of McCain's natural habitat, I would say, the floor of the Senate.
And I'm sure it cheered him on to be applauded by both sides of the aisle, which hardly ever happens. And, of course, he was one of the votes that pushed it across, the number of votes that they needed.
So, he came back to do that and also some other business later in the week.
But getting to your point, which is that, you know, they don't know what they're going to be voting on, but they are at least opening this bill up to an amendment process, and nobody knows what's going to happen after that.
I think this is not the way Mitch McConnell would have preferred to do business. He would have liked to have had a bill that people could vote on after this motion to proceed. But that's not the way it is because Republicans can't agree.
And they haven't been able to agree for years and years, so now they're going to have to figure out whether they can, and it's going to be it's going to be quite a process, but at least now the president will be able to get a vote at some point on some version of health care reform in the Senate.
BALDWIN: Speaking of Democrats, I know a lot of Republicans, even including in the White House, have been calling Democrats obstructionists through this process.
But let's just underscore the point, which is they have not been able to get to yes. This is intraparty politics as we have been watching the different iterations of the bill try to make their way and they just haven't had the math.
BALDWIN: Gloria, stay with me.
Let me just bring in another one of my favorite voices from Washington, David Chalian, our CNN political director, watching all of this play out as well.
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: hey, Brooke.
BALDWIN: Please jump in. Jump in.
CHALIAN: I just want to mention to some folks who watch the Senate floor at home, they sometimes -- they may be confused as to why they're seeing all these Democratic senators walking over to the Republican side of the Senate right now.
That's because each senator, it seems, is greeting John McCain right now on the Senate floor. So you see there's Bernie Sanders now walking over to greet him.
And you see senator after senator now coming up to greet him personally and, you know, give their best wishes to him, no doubt, in addition to that, you know, huge ovation that you were talking about with Gloria.
This is clearly quite a big moment for John McCain to be enveloped by all of his colleagues here on his return to the Senate.
BALDWIN: Listening to you, I'm also squinting just to try to see if I can see John McCain myself as well.
CHALIAN: He's just out of the picture frame there, exactly, yes.
BALDWIN: Oh. No. That's not -- oh, there's Senator Bernie Sanders. OK. Well, they're hugging. You can tell they're hugging.
CHALIAN: You can see his hand at the top of the screen there, yes.
BALDWIN: OK. OK.
Of course you recognize John McCain's hands. And you know all things Washington and senators and the like.
Beyond that, though, all right, so this is a win for Republicans in the sense that they have got the yes on the procedural vote. But let me just channel everyone else watching and just say, well, now what?
CHALIAN: Yes, no, it's an excellent question. It's unclear.
I mean, now what is they're going to have this debate and they're going to be a series of amendments put in place here because what they have just agreed to debate to, actually, is the House bill.
And nobody in the Senate thinks that the House bill is the one that they're going to vote out of the Senate at the end of the day if they get to one. Remember, that's the bill that the president himself called mean. So, that is not going to be the end result here.
CHALIAN: This is a victory for Republicans, no doubt. They basically, you know, avoided a terrible death of the bill before it even got started.
That's basically what happened here. By being able to have this procedural maneuver to get on the bill, they avoided an early sort of departure from this entirely.
But now the hard work, which has begun, begins in earnest, because now not only does Mitch McConnell have to, as you have seen all along, cater a little bit to the left on the moderates, a little bit on the right on the more conservatives, all doing it why trying to keep the 50 votes in place.
And they only have 52 to play with. Not only does he have to do that. He has to make sure the kill off every amendment that the Democrats are going to try to push or that some moderate Republicans or conservative some Republicans will push that could be seen as a poison pill to the overall bill.
BALDWIN: Got it.
David, thank you. Let's listen in. MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: On this vote, the
yeas are 50 and the nays are 50. The Senate being equally divided, the vice president votes in the affirmative, and the motion is agreed to. Clerk will report the bill.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Calendar number 120, HR-1628, an act to provide for reconciliation.
BALDWIN: So that was the vice president, and that was the tie- breaking vote. You see the votes on your screen, yeas 51, nays 50.
David Chalian still with me, so there you have it. It passed, as we assumed, with the vice president doing the tie-breaking vote.
Here he is, Senator McCain.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I have been so addressed when I have sat in that chair, and that's as close as I will ever to a presidency.
MCCAIN: But, anyway, it's an honorific we're almost indifferent to. isn't it?
In truth, presiding over the Senate can be a nuisance, a bit of ceremonial bore. And it is usually relegated to the more junior members of the majority.
But I stand here today looking a little worse for wear, I'm sure. I have a refreshed appreciation for the protocols and customs of this body and for the other 99 privileged souls who have been elected to this Senate.
I have been a member of the United States Senate for 30 years. I had another long, if not as long, career before I arrived here, another profession that was profoundly rewarding, and in which I had experiences and friendships that I revere.
My service here is the most important job I have had in my life.
And I'm so grateful, so grateful to the people of Arizona for the privilege, for the honor of serving here and the opportunities it gives me to play a small role in the history of the country that I love.
I have known and admired men and women in the Senate who played much more than a small role in our history, true statesmen, giants of American politics. They come from both parties and from various backgrounds. Their ambitions were frequently in conflict.
They held different views on the issues of the day, and they often had very serious disagreements about how best to serve the national interest. But they knew that, however sharp and heartfelt their disputes, however keen their ambitions, they had an obligation to work collaboratively to ensure the Senate discharged its constitutional responsibilities effectively.
Our responsibilities are important, vitally important to the continued success of our republic. And our arcane rules and customs are deliberately intended to require broad cooperation to function well at all.
The most revered members of this institution accepted the necessity of compromise in order to make incremental progress on solving America's problems and defend her from her adversaries.
That principled mind-set and the service of our predecessors who possessed its come to mind when I hear the Senate referred to as the world's greatest deliberative body.
I'm not sure we can claim that distinction with a straight face today. I'm sure it wasn't always deserved in previous eras either. But I'm sure these there have been times when it was, and I was privileged to witness some of those occasions.
Our deliberations today, not just our debates, but the exercise of all of our responsibilities, authorizing government policies, appropriating the funds to implement them, exercising our advice and consent role, are often lively and interesting.
They can be a sincere and principled, but they are more partisan, more tribal more of the time than at any time that I can remember. Our deliberations can still be important and useful, but I think we'd all agree they haven't been overburdened by greatness lately.
And, right now, they aren't producing much for the American people. Both sides have let this happen. Let's leave the history of who shot first to the historians. I suspect they will find we all conspired in our decline, either by deliberate actions or neglect.
We have all played some role in it. Certainly, I have. Sometimes, I have let my passion rule my reason. Sometimes, I made it harder to find common ground because of something harsh I said to a colleague. Sometimes, I wanted to win more for the sake of winning than to achieve a contested policy.
Incremental progress, compromises that each side criticized, but also accept, just plain muddling through to chip away at problems and keep our enemies from doing their worst, isn't glamorous or exciting. It doesn't feel like a political triumph. But it's usually the most we can expect from our system of government, operating in a country as diverse and quarrelsome and free as ours.
Considering the injustice and cruelties inflicted by autocratic governments and how corruptible human nature can be, the problem- solving our system does make possible, the fitful progress it produces and the liberty and justice it preserves is a magnificent achievement.
Our system doesn't depend on our nobility. It accounts for our imperfections and gives us an order to our individual strivings that has helped make ours the most powerful and prosperous society on Earth. It is our responsibility to preserve that. And even when it requires
us to do something less satisfying than winning, even when we must give a little to get a little, even when our efforts manage just three yards in a cloud of dust, while critics on both sides denounce us for timidity, for our failure to triumph.
I hope we can again rely on humility, on our need to cooperate, on our dependence on each other to learn how to trust each other again and by so doing better serve the people who elected us.
Stop listening to the bombastic loudmouths on the radio and television and the Internet. To hell with them.
MCCAIN: They don't want anything done for the public good. Our incapacity is their livelihood.
Let's trust each other. Let's return to regular order.
We have been spinning our wheels on too many important issues because we keep trying to find a way to win without help from across the aisle.
That's an approach that's been employed by both sides, mandating legislation from the top down, without any support from the other side, with all the parliamentary maneuvers that requires.
We're getting nothing done, my friends. We're getting nothing done.
And all we have really done this year is confirm Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.
Our health care insurance system is a mess. We all know it, those who support Obamacare and those who oppose it. Something has to be done. We Republicans have looked for a way to end it and replace it with something else without paying a terrible political price. We haven't found it yet. And I'm not sure we will.
All we have managed to do is make more popular a policy that wasn't very popular when we started trying to get rid of it.
I voted for the motion to proceed to allow debate to continue and amendments be offered. I will not vote for this bill as it is today. It's a shell of a bill right now. We all know that.
I have changes urged by my state's governor that will have to be included to earn my support for final passage of any bill.
I know many of you will have to see the bill changed substantially for you to support it. We tried to do this by coming up with a proposal behind closed doors, in consultation with the administration, then springing it on skeptical members, trying to convince them that it's better than nothing. That it's better than nothing?
Asking us to swallow our doubts and force it past a unified opposition. I don't think that's going to work in the end, and probably shouldn't.
The administration and congressional Democrats shouldn't have forced through Congress without any opposition support a social and economic change as massive as Obamacare.
And we shouldn't do the same with ours. Why don't we try the old way of legislating in the Senate, the way our rules and customs encourage us to act? If this process ends in failure, which seems likely, then let's return to regular order.
Let the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee under Chairman Alexander and Ranking Member Murray hold hearings, try to report a bill out of committee with contributions from both sides.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
MCCAIN: Something that my dear friends on the other side of the aisle didn't allow to happen nine years ago.
MCCAIN: Let's see if we can pass something that will be imperfect, full of compromises, and not very pleasing to implacable partisans on either side, but that might provide solutions for problems Americans are struggling with today.
What have we to lose by trying to work together to find those solutions? We're not getting done much apart.
I don't think any of us feels very proud of our incapacity. Merely preventing your political opponents from doing what they want isn't the most inspiring work. There's greater satisfaction in respecting our differences, but not letting them prevent agreements that don't require abandonment of core principles, agreements made in good faith that help improve lives and protect the American people.
The Senate is capable of that. We know that. We have seen it before. I have seen it happen many times. And the times when I was involved even in a modest way with working on a bipartisan response to a national problem or threat are the proudest moments of my career and by far the most satisfying.
This place is important. The work we do is important. Our strange rules and seemingly eccentric practices that slow our proceedings and insist on our cooperation are important.
Our founders envisioned the Senate as the more deliberative, careful body that operates at a greater distance than the other body from the public passions of the hour.
[15:20:05] We are an important check on the powers of the executive. Our consent
is necessary for the president to appoint jurists and powerful government officials and, in many respects, to conduct foreign policy.
Whether or not we are of the same party, we are not the president's subordinates. We are his equal.
As his responsibilities are (INAUDIBLE) many and powerful, so are ours. We play a vital role in shaping and directing the judiciary, the military, and the Cabinet and planning supporting foreign and domestic policies.
Our success in meeting all these awesome constitutional obligations depends upon cooperation among ourselves. The success of the Senate is important to the continued success of America.
This country, this big, boisterous, brawling, intemperate, restless, striving, daring, beautiful, bountiful, brave, good, and magnificent country, needs us to help it thrive.
That responsibility is more important than any of our personal interests or political affiliation. We are the servants of a great nation, a nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
More people live free, have lived free and prosperous lives here than in any other nation. We have acquired unprecedented wealth and power because of our governing principles and because our government defended those principles.
America has made a greater contribution than any other nation to an international order that has liberated more people from tyranny and poverty than ever before in history.
We have been the greatest example, the greatest supporter, and the greatest defender of that order. We aren't afraid. We don't covet other people's land and wealth. We don't hide behind walls. We breach them. We are a blessing to humanity.
What greater cause could we hope to serve in helping keep America the strong, aspiring, inspirational beacon of liberty and defender of the dignity of all human beings and their right to freedom and equal justice?
That is the cause that binds us and is so much more powerful and worthy than the small differences that divide us.
What a great honor, an extraordinary opportunity it is to serve in this body. It's a privilege to serve with all of you. I mean it. Many of you have reached out in the last few days with your concern and your prayers, and it means a lot to me. It really does.
I have had so many people say such nice things about me recently, that I think some of you must have me confused with someone else.
(LAUGHTER) MCCAIN: I appreciate it, though, every word, even if much of it isn't deserved.
I'll be here for a few days, I hope managing the floor debate on the defense authorization bill, which I'm proud to say again is a product of bipartisan cooperation and trust among the members of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
After that, I'm going home for a while to treat my illness. I have every intention of returning here and giving many of you cause to regret all the nice things you said about me.
MCCAIN: And I hope to impress on you again that it is an honor to serve the American people in your company.
Thank you, fellow senators.
Mr. President, I yield the floor.
BALDWIN: What an incredible display of strength and humor from a man who, you saw his stitches over his left eye, underwent brain surgery 11 days ago.
Senator John McCain coming back to Washington to make sure he casts that vote, which, again, passed 51-50, the vice president casting the tie-breaking vote to open debate on health care.
Ana Navarro, a dear friend of Senator McCain's, you spoke with him a couple days ago. This is emotional for you.
ANA NAVARRO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Oh, I have got chills.
Listen, he's there against doctor's orders, but, you know, I knew that John McCain would be back in the game. He is committed to this. This is what makes him tick. He wants to have a legacy. He wants to make a difference, the same way he has done for so many years.
And just the power of this man who got up from his sickbed, who just received a devastating diagnosis, going up on that Senate floor and telling his colleagues from his own party and the other party, we must do better. We must work together. We must get back to regular order. And, yes, I voted for this bill, but I'm not going to vote for it in the way that it stands right now.
The power of a man who is making this huge sacrifice...
BALDWIN: Ana, forgive me, forgive me.
We're going to pull away from you. Here's the president of the United States. (JOINED IN PROGRESS)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ... truly great health care for the American people. We look forward to that. This was a big step.
I want to thank Senator John McCain, very brave man. He made a tough trip to get here and vote. So, we want to thank Senator McCain and all of the Republicans. We passed it without one Democrat vote.
And that's a shame, but that's the way it is. And it's very unfortunate.
But I want to congratulate American people, because we're going give you great health care. And we're going to get rid of Obamacare, which should have been, frankly, terminated long ago.
It's been a disaster for the American people. Thank you very much.
Good afternoon. And thank you all for being here.
It is my honor to welcome Prime Minister Saad Hariri of Lebanon to the White House.
The prime minister and I have just concluded an extensive conversation about the challenges and opportunities facing Lebanon and its neighbors. Lebanon is on the front lines in the fight against ISIS, al Qaeda, and Hezbollah.
The Lebanese people of all faiths are working together to keep their -- and you know this, and we have been discussing this at great length -- their country safe and prosperous. They love their country, and they're going to keep it safe and prosperous.
Mr. Prime Minister, I want to commend you and your people for standing up for humanity in a very troubled part of the world. The ties between our two countries stretch back more than a century, long, long relationships.
In 1866, American missionaries founded the American University of Beirut. Now, more than 150 years later, and with ongoing American support, this university continues to educate generations of leaders in the region.
Today, our two countries seek to strengthen our relationship in many ways, including the pursuit of stability, mutual prosperity and peace.
What the Lebanese armed forces have accomplished in recent years is very impressive.
In 2014, when ISIS tried to invade Northern Lebanon, the Lebanese army beat them back. Since that time, the Lebanese army has been fighting continually to guard Lebanon's border and prevent ISIS and other terrorists, of which there are many, from gaining a foothold inside their country. The United States military has been proud to help in that fight and
will continue to do so. America's assistance can help ensure that the Lebanese army is the only defender Lebanon needs. It's a very effective fighting force.
Threats to the Lebanese people come from inside as well. Hezbollah is a menace to the Lebanese state, the Lebanese people and the entire region. The group continues to increase its military arsenal, which threatens to start yet another conflict with Israel, constantly fighting them back.
With the support of Iran, the organization is also fueling humanitarian catastrophe in Syria. Hezbollah likes to portray itself as a defender of Lebanese interests, but it's very clear that its true interests are those of itself and its sponsor, Iran.
I have repeatedly emphasized that Syria's neighbors in the Middle East