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Senate Barely Advances Health Care Bill; Lawmakers Vote Overwhelmingly for Russia Sanctions Bill; North Korea Reacts to New Sanctions Bill; Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired July 26, 2017 - 04:30   ET



[04:31:36] DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: And a hero's welcome for Senator John McCain back on the Senate floor. The must-see moment where McCain urged his colleagues to get back to business.

"What have we to lose by trying to work together to find those solutions?"

Nice to hear those words from anyone in Congress. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Dave Briggs.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Certainly an emotional moment when he was welcomed by his friends and colleagues on the Senate floor.

I'm Christine Romans at 32 minutes past the hour this morning.

Just hours after Senate Republicans cleared a major health care hurdle, green-lighting a floor debate, senators decisively rejected the first GOP proposal to repeal and replace Obamacare. It would have combined an earlier Senate bill with $100 billion additional dollars for Medicaid to appease moderate Republicans and a proposal to allow Bare Bones health insurance plans to satisfy conservatives.

Now the rejection is an early sign of the chaos expected as GOP leaders work to find a plan their conference can agree to.

BRIGGS: Today senators are expected to cast a vote on repeal-only.. It too is expected to fail because many Republicans reject a repeal without a replacement ready. The president also suggested he wants a replacement.

Just voting to begin debate proved dramatic. The Senate voting to do so by a margin of zero. Vice President Pence had to break the tie after these chants from the Senate gallery.


UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: Kill that bill. Kill that bill. Kill that bill.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sergeant-of-arms will restore order in the chamber.


ROMANS: Now despite needing the vice president to cast the deciding vote, President Trump calls it a big step in the right direction. But bottom line, the path to an actual plan on health care far more complex than just agreeing to debate it.

CNN's Phil Mattingly has more from Capitol Hill.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Dave and Christine, it was just days ago that the Obamacare repeal effort was dead in the U.S. Senate. There was no path forward, there was no way to bridge the divides. Well, on Tuesday, became clearer, it is very much alive by the slimmest of margins.

Senate Republicans voting to move forward on debate. A key procedural vote. But one thing is clear as well. There's no clear path forward. Things are only going to get more difficult. Take a listen to what Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had to say.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), SENATE MAJORITY: It's an open amendment process. This is just the beginning. We're not out here to spike the football. This is a long way, but we'll finish at the end of the week hopefully so we're pleased to have been able to take the first step in that direction.


MATTINGLY: Now, guys, that was Senator McConnell just after the vote, and the reality when you look forward at the roadmap is things are complicated. There are going to be several amendments in fact unlimited amendments by the time this process is all over so long as those amendments are germane and fall under the budget reconciliation rules.

That means Democrats right now are drafting and crafting amendment after amendment after amendment to make Republicans take a very difficult vote, very potentially politically disadvantageous votes as well.

And one other key point here. Republicans don't have an end game here. That was what they initially wanted to talk into this process with. A very clear, kind of final amendment that everybody would agreed to. That is something that has failed repeatedly up to this point.

Now how did they actually get to this point? A lot of promises, a lot of assurances, and a few guaranteed amendment votes. But those amendments all likely to fail so the question still becomes -- how does this all end? And the reality, particularly when you listen to, say, Senator John McCain on the floor after the vote, is they don't know yet and it's not clear that they have the votes.

[04:35:10] We'll have to wait and see over the next couple of days to see if they finally get there, but make no mistake, guys, this was a huge win for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a huge win for President Trump and most certainly a step forward in a process that up to this point I don't think anybody was totally sure they were going to finish -- Dave and Christine.

BRIGGS: Phil Mattingly, thank you.

You heard Phil there mentioned John McCain, the Arizona senator, making a dramatic return to the Senate. The senators greeting their esteemed colleague with a standing ovation. His first time back since being diagnosed with brain cancer.

ROMANS: McCain with a scar over his eye from brain surgery making a pitch to restore order and civility to the Senate chamber.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: 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 happened. Let's leave the history of who shot first to the historians. I suspect they'll find we all conspired in our decline, either by deliberative actions or neglect, we've all played some role in it. Certainly I have.

Sometimes I've let my passion rule my reason 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 managed just three yards and a cloud of dust while critics on both sides denounced 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.


ROMANS: We should note when he delivered his speech, McCain said he would not support the Senate's health care bill, quote, "as it is today." Six hours later, though, McCain did vote to advance the GOP bill and keep debating it.

BRIGGS: So it's Attorney General Jeff Sessions facing an uncertain future. White House officials are urging President Trump to cut out the public shaming of Sessions. Sources tell CNN chief strategist Steve Bannon, chief of staff Reince Priebus, and other senior officials have talked up the attorney general, reminding the president of Sessions' long standing political loyalty and that he has been one of the most effective Cabinet members in advocating for his agenda.

ROMANS: Still the president on Tuesday delivering another public critic of his AG.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am disappointed in the attorney general. He should not have recused himself almost immediately after he took office. So I think that's a bad thing not for the president but for the presidency. I think it's unfair to the presidency.

I told you before I'm very disappointed with the attorney general, but we will see what happens. Time will tell. Time will tell.


ROMANS: "Time will tell." Jeff Sessions also getting public support from former Senate colleagues after President Trump went off on Sessions in his latest tweet storm. He called Sessions weak asking why he wasn't going after crimes supposedly committed by Hillary Clinton.

BRIGGS: In a "Wall Street Journal" interview, President Trump also seems to dispute whether Sessions showed the loyalty everyone says he did. The president saying, quote, "When they say he endorsed me, I went to Alabama, I had 40,000 people. He was a senator from Alabama. I won the state by a lot. Massive numbers. A lot of the states I won by massive numbers but he was a senator. He looks at 40,000 people and he probably says what do I have to lose and he endorsed me, so it's not like a great loyal thing about the endorsement."

ROMANS: It's interesting because it really gave him legitimacy with people who wanted to be sharp -- hard on illegal immigration.

BRIGGS: No question.

ROMANS: A lot of these really important, you know, right matters. Right? And they gave him --

BROWN: And still to this day give him conservative legitimacy.

ROMANS: Right. Right.

BRIGGS: A lot of conservative said that's the reason they remain in his camp.

ROMANS: It's so interesting that he's downplaying the importance of that.

The "Journal" with an editorial this morning saying Trump's suggestion that Sessions prosecute Hillary Clinton is the kind of, quote, "crude political retribution" you expect in Erdogan's Turkey or Duterte's Philippines.

BRIGGS: The president's relentless attacks on Sessions are being viewed by some as a form of cyber bullying and it's renewing claims by critics that his behavior is unpresidential, beneath the dignity of the office.

[04:40:03] President Trump firing back at those critics at a rally last night in Youngstown, Ohio.


TRUMP: Political correctness for me is easy. Sometimes they say he doesn't act presidential. And I say, hey, look, great schools, smart guy, it's so easy to act presidential, but that's not going to get it done. In fact, I said -- it's much easier, by the way, to act presidential than what we're doing here tonight, believe me. And I said --


TRUMP: And I said, with the exception of the late great Abraham Lincoln, I can be more presidential than any president that's ever held this office. That I can tell you.


BRIGGS: Mr. Trump also making the claim that no president has done anywhere near what he's done his first six months in office. He says it's not even close, but John McCain in that floor speech said we've done nothing other than nominate Neil Gorsuch so I don't know if that was exactly intended at the president or not.

ROMANS: Two senators with comments about President Trump caught on a hot mike.


SEN. JACK REED (D), RHODE ISLAND: This is crazy.


REED: I mean, I don't say that lightly.



ROMANS: That's not all Susan Collins said. Now she and a Republican congressman are apologizing to each other. The details next.


[04:46:01] ROMANS: The Senate finally moving on health care legislation but President Trump is ready to move on tax reform. Speaking to the "Wall Street Journal," the president says his plan should focus on the middle class even if it means taxing the wealthy more.

This is what he said, quote, "The people I care about most are the middle income people in this country who've gotten screwed, and if there's upward revision it's going to be on some high income people."

Trump didn't elaborate exactly. The White House's current proposal is vague about how it will ease the middle class's tax burden. Meanwhile, it lists specific benefits for high income Americans like repealing the estate tax and the alternative minimum tax. In fact it cuts many deductions that help middle class families like those on medical costs, student loans and child care.

And the White House still wants to tackle tax reform this year promising it will boost growth, economic growth to 4 percent. Many experts say that's optimistic. They expect a slower 1.8 percent growth rate. But the president really doubling down there in that "Wall Street Journal" interview saying it's going to be the middle class who gets tax reform. Wall Street really thinks it's going to be companies that are going to get a windfall and a 15 percent corporate tax rate.

BRIGGS: There can their plan but that does not sound like the plan that will come out of the House. Correct?

ROMANS: Yes. Absolutely. See, the president, I mean, I'll be honest with you, there are people who are advising him on tax policy who they're not quite so sure they're going to be able to get the middle class tax reform this time around. Maybe --

BRIGGS: Or anything at this point.

ROMANS: Right. Right.

BRIGGS: Long way to go on tax reform.

Two Republican members of Congress apologizing to one another following a series of verbal jabs over the past week. A dustup between Maine Senator Susan Collins and Texas Congressman Blake Farenthold began with him railing against GOP holdouts on health care saying it was, quote, "repugnant" the Senate didn't have the courage to act and adding this.


REP. BLAKE FARENTHOLD (R), TEXAS: Some of the people that are opposed to this, there are some female senators from the northeast. If it was a guy from south Texas I might ask him to step outside and settle this Aaron Burr style.


ROMANS: All right. Farenthold of course referring to the 1804 duel when Aaron Burr killed Alexander Hamilton. It wasn't in south Texas. It was in New Jersey. Then adding fuel to the fire Senator Collins was caught on a hot mike at a hearing Tuesday talking to North Carolina Democratic Senator Jack Reed.


COLLINS: Did you see the one who challenged to a duel? REED: I know. Trust me. Do you like why he challenged you to a

duel? Because you could bear the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) out of him.


COLLINS: What a fat guy. Well, he's huge and he is so -- I don't mean to be unkind but he's so unattractive it's unbelievable. Did you see the picture of him in his pajamas next to this bunny? Playboy bunny?


ROMANS: I guess senators gossip around --

BRIGGS: Yes, they do.

ROMANS: On the water cooler, too.

BRIGGS: Always a reminder that mikes are hot. Collins referring to this photo apparently from a 2009 costume party fundraiser with Farenthold in his (INAUDIBLE) pajamas next to a woman in lingerie. In the past, Farenthold has told the "Houston Chronicle" the picture seems to pop up on Twitter every week. No doubt about it when you take a photo like that. It ain't going away any time soon.

ROMANS: All right.

BRIGGS: Susan Collins said a lot more into a hot mike with Jack Reed that perhaps we'll talk about later in the program.

ROMANS: Forty-nine minutes past the hour. Eye-opening results from the largest study ever linking football to the degenerative brain disease CTE. The Boston University study involved the donated brains of 111 deceased former NFL players, and 110 of them were found to have CTE. That's more than 99 percent.

The disease is believed to be caused by repeated trauma to the head. The brains came from players at every position. I think that's really important.

BRIGGS: No doubt.

ROMANS: They died as young as 23 and as old as 89. The coauthor of the study concluding, quote, "There's no question that there's a problem in football."

BRIGGS: Incredibly important when we look back on football. We look ahead, it's important to note that a lot has been done.

ROMANS: Right.

BRIGGS: Especially at the youth level where our children, a lot of your children play, a lot has been done to protect young heads. The football helmets have come a long way.

ROMANS: All right. 50 minutes past the hour. Two tech billionaires Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg in a public feud. We'll tell you why on CNN Money Stream next.



ROMANS: The House of Representatives passing a new sanctions bill targeting Russia by a vote of 419 to 3. It gives Congress the power to block the White House from weakening or repealing these sanctions. The legislation which also hits Iran and North Korea, now that legislation moves to the Senate. We have reaction from Russia and North Korea.

Want to bring -- go to Moscow first and bring in CNN's Clare Sebastian. Good morning.

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christine. Yes. So we know already that the Kremlin and the Foreign Ministry, they view this extremely negatively. They've said on multiple occasions in recent days that this would only serve to worsen the relationship between Russia and the U.S.

I want to bring you some new comments that we've got from the deputy foreign minister today speaking to the Russian news agency (INAUDIBLE). He says -- the question of course is that, you know, what will Russia do in response, the deputy foreign minister said, well, you know, they've warned the U.S. on multiple occasions about retaliation measures and they don't see the point in doing it again.

[04:55:08] So certainly that's the kind of rhetoric we've seen stepping up in recent weeks, repeated hint of retaliation.

And Christine, not just for this new round of sanctions but for previous rounds. You'll remember back in December when the Obama administration confiscated two diplomatic compounds, not in Russia, in the U.S. and expelled 35 of their diplomats. The Foreign Ministry at the time said that they were considering doing the same but it never happened. President Putin never brought in any retaliatory measures.

So they're now saying that that might happen as well. And I think the mood here after, you know, seven or so months of the Trump presidency, where there have been no conceivable improvements in the relationship with Russia is that they're running out of patience -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Thank you so much, there in Moscow, Clare Sebastian.

BRIGGS: North Korea, one of the three nations being targeted in the House sanctions bill. Senator Bob Corker, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, says the measure may undergo a few tweaks before it gets out of the Senate. This comes as North Korea threatens a nuclear strike on the heart of the U.S. if any attempt is made to remove Kim Jong-un.

That's a response to a comment last week from CIA director Mike Pompeo who said the North Korean leader should be separated from his growing nuclear stockpile. CNN's Will Ripley live in Seoul with the latest.

Good morning, Will.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Dave. It seems like North Korea is responding much more strongly to that rhetoric from Pompeo than they are at the prospect of more sanctions. Keep in mind, there have been six rounds of increasingly strong sanctions against North Korea that have done little to slow their nuclear and missile programs. They launched an ICBM on the Fourth of July and the North Korean economy grew by 4 percent last year, according to South Korean estimates despite these sanctions. That's largely because of trade with China.

But what we are seeing is a very strong response to those remarks by Pompeo who not only talked about regime change that the United States was hoping for but also saying that the North Korea people were hoping that Kim Jong-un will be ousted from power. That has prompted a familiar threat from Pyongyang. A nuclear attack against the United States, but analysts believe they are becoming increasingly -- they're getting closer to their goal of having the kind of weapon that could deliver a nuclear warhead to the mainland U.S.

And there are also indications based on satellite imagery that the North may be preparing for another missile launch possibly on Thursday, the 27th of July, the anniversary of the signing of the Armistice that ended the Korean War. North Korea calls it their victory day. And intelligence shows that they could be preparing to launch a missile to send a very defiant and threatening message to the U.S. -- Dave.

BRIGGS: All right. Will Ripley live for us in Seoul. Thank you, sir.

ROMANS: Just about the top of the hour. So let me at this time for a check on your money this morning. Global markets higher after another record setting day on Wall Street. I feel like a broken record.

The S&P 500, the Nasdaq hitting record highs. The Dow rose 100 points on the back of strong earnings from McDonald's and Caterpillar. Investors today tuning in for more corporate reports including Boeing, Coca-Cola, Ford and Facebook. And it's also the conclusion of the Feds' July meeting.

Meanwhile, President Trump tells the "Wall Street Journal" Fed Chair Janet Yellen may keep her job when her term ends in February, but that economic adviser Gerry Cohn is also in the running.

More production cuts for GM as it tries to curb its huge inventory of unsold cars. General Motors reported second quarter earnings and profits fell by more than 40 percent. Still that was better than Wall Street expected largely because of cost cutting. And more cost cutting is on the way. GM plans to trim U.S. production by another 150,000 vehicles this year because auto sales are slowing after years of record highs. GM sold 30,000 fewer cars sold last quarter. And this is a public feud for two tech billionaires. Elon Musk and

Mark Zuckerberg sparring over the future of artificial intelligence. The Tesla founder often talks about the dangers of AI describing it as a threat to the human race. Facebook's Zuckerberg is more optimistic telling Facebook's users it is irresponsible to drum up doomsday scenarios. Musk shot back on Twitter calling Zuckerberg's understanding of AI limited.

BRIGGS: Mine, too, is limited but it concerns me when you allow AI to take control of our systems. At some point they outthink us generally speaking.

ROMANS: It's very -- too brainiacs fighting it out.

BRIGGS: We'll let the billionaires keep that.

All right. EARLY START continues right now.

BRIGGS: The health care debate is underway, but after one vote still Republicans have a long road ahead if they want to pass a new health care law and repeal the old.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am disappointed in the attorney general.


ROMANS: A stinging public rebuke of the attorney general, but President Trump now being urged to tone down his television and Twitter attacks on Jeff Sessions.

[05:00:05] A hero's welcome for John McCain back down the Senate floor. Must-see moment where Senator McCain urged his colleagues to get back to business.