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Senate Rejects GOP Proposal to Repeal and Replace Obamacare; McCain Makes Dramatic Return to Senate; Trump Questions Sessions' Loyalty; Study: CTE Found in 99 Percent of Ex-NFL Players' Brains. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired July 26, 2017 - 05:00   ET


[05:00:04] DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: A hero's welcome for John McCain back on the Senate floor. The must see moment where Senator McCain urged his colleagues to get back to business. It was an inspiration.

Great to see John McCain back on the Senate floor.

Good morning and welcome to the Emmy-nominated EARLY START. I'm Dave Briggs.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, that's right. We did get a nomination for --

BRIGGS: Before my time, but congrats.

ROMANS: We have a big piece on with Arwa Damon, 24 hours inside ISIS, a fantastic reporting from international team.

BRIGGS: Good stuff.

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans. It is Wednesday, July 26th. It is 5:00 a.m. in the East.

Just hours after Senate Republicans cleared a major health care hurdle, green lighting a floor debate, senators decidedly 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.

The rejection, an early sign of the chaos that is expected as GOP leaders work to find a plan their conference can actually agree on.

BRIGGS: Today, senators are expected to cast a vote on repeal only. It too is expected to fail though because many Republicans reject the repeal without a replacement ready. The president Trump also agrees with that characterization.

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


PROTESTERS: Kill the bill! Kill the bill! Kill the bill!

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


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

BRIGGS: All right. Let's bring in Kimberly Leonard. She's the senior health policy reporter for "The Washington Examiner". She's in our D.C. bureau.

Good morning to you, Kimberly.

ROMANS: Good morning.


BRIGGS: All right. This is pretty wonky. What's behind this and what's ahead of us? Let's start with that. What happened yesterday? How significant was it?

LEONARD: That's right. So, what happened was that there was a motion to proceed, which basically unlocks 20 hours of debate to begin talking about what they want to see in this bill. It allows for the presentation of different amendments, and it also allows the kind of the back and forth to go on within the public sphere so we can see what different senators are going to be voting on. They're going to be presenting a lot of different amendments over the coming days.

ROMANS: They had a chance to advance something yesterday and at least one of those proposals didn't make it.

LEONARD: That's right. So, what they did essentially was they brought forth the better care reconciliation act, which is that bill that they've been working on behind closed doors for a couple of months, and it included a couple of amendments. What happened though was that because those amendments have not been scored, the Cruz Amendment, and then another one that allowed for additional funding for Medicaid, they actually needed 60 votes to advance it instead of the 50 they're typically required under reconciliation, assuming a tie breaking vote by Vice President Pence.

And so, that did not come anywhere close to passage. You have several Republicans come out against it as well.

BRIGGS: OK. So, ahead of us is a vote on repeal only. Are there the votes there?

LEONARD: Well, you've had -- you have had certain senators -- Republican Senates come out against that. Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Senator Susan Collins, Senator Capito of West Virginia, and so, without those votes, it's hard to see it go forward. But perhaps there are other amendments that would be presented that would make them more comfortable with voting with this.

We'll see. We'll see what happens. Certain senators who we expected might not vote for the motion to proceed yesterday ended up opening debate. So, there may be some deals ahead for them and for their states.

ROMANS: I think a lot of Americans are hearing policy and they're hearing Senate rules and they're hearing about, you know, conference committees and reconciliation. The fact is, in three months, open enrollment begins. And the White House has an incredible amount of leverage.

Obamacare still is the law of the land right now. And in three months, there are millions of Americans, 10 million on Obamacare, 22 million who don't have health care who need to get into the system who have to start making some big decisions. That to me is what's really interesting here is that we still don't know what it's going to look like, the American health care consumer.

LEONARD: That's right. And what it also underscores is that if they are unable to pass some sort of repeal or replacement bill, they're going to have to work with Democrats to make sure that next year isn't a complete disaster in terms of these exchanges. We're seeing a lot of insurance companies leaving different counties. We're seeing rate hike requests in the double digits. And for people who don't receive subsidies, that can make health insurance really expensive.

And so, if they were to work with Democrats, they may suspend certain taxes like the health insurance tax, which could reduce premiums by as much as 5 percent, or they might even look to add a reinsurance package.

[05:05:08] And that would help some of the higher cost plans to allow them to be paid for through federal funds and lower premiums for everyone else.

BRIGGS: So, the president made clear what he would like to see with an interview with "The Wall Street Journal", saying, quote: The trouble with straight repeal is you'll have millions of people out there that will say well, you know, how do we know we're going to have health care? And I hate to do that to people. So, I'd rather see replace. I'd rather add the replace. And we have a very good plan.

Again, not owning the specifics to say the least, but a very good plan.

ROMANS: What is that?

BRIGGS: Bottom line, what is that? To Christine's point. What has a chance in the Senate?

LEONARD: Well, we have a couple of different options, but one of them is what -- has kind of been called the skinny repeal on Capitol Hill and what that would do is just repeal a couple of aspects of Obamacare.

It's possible that they could create some sort of a rescue package for the next year for the exchanges that would allow them to be stronger for next year and that could be considered a replacement package. It's really unclear at this point. We have a lot of amendments that are going to be presented. One of them is from Senator Graham and Senator Cassidy that would essentially provide additional funding to states to allow them to craft their own plan. That could be something that goes under the replacement idea.

But at this point, we don't have answers to all the different amendments that are going to be presented. But that's something we'll be watching for the next few days and covering thoroughly.

BRIGGS: You mentioned that skinny package, if you will. It essentially rips out the mandate.


BRIGGS: Would not take all the healthy people out of system and leave all the sick people, which is exactly what perhaps got us into this mess?

LEONARD: Well, it could do that. Some people, however, are already choosing not to purchase insurance because it's gotten so expensive for them. And by that, I mean those people who don't qualify for subsidies.

So, if you're an individual and you're making more than $78,000 a year, you don't necessarily qualify for health insurance subsidies, which makes some of your coverage very expensive. So, you already have people who are making that choice of either purchasing short term health insurance plans, or not having insurance. So, that's obviously risky for them.

And so, we may see some changes in terms of how they work to bring people in, but the backup plan that they had, which was going to -- to the individual mandate which was going to provide a waiting period before people are allowed to enroll in health insurance if it's not continuous is not something that's going to pass the rules of the Senate.

ROMANS: I think it's fair to say there are a lot of provisions that are unloved and contradictory, and a lot of tough decisions to be made to satisfy the moderates. You anger the conservatives and --

BRIGGS: It's going to be almost impossible to thread that needle.

ROMANS: All right. Nice to see you. Thank you so much. Come back in a few minutes. We'll talk more about the health care drama. Nice to see you. Thanks.

All right. There was drama on the Senate floor ahead of the health care debate. Arizona Senator John McCain getting a hero's welcome back from his Senate colleagues. McCain returning to cast his vote. His first time back since he was diagnosed with brain cancer. BRIGGS: In a moment, no one who saw it will soon forget 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. 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 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 loud mouths on the radio and television and the Internet. To hell with them!



BRIGGS: Vintage maverick yesterday.

We should note when McCain delivered his speech he said he would not support the Senate's health care bill, quote, as it stands today. Six hours later, McCain voted to advance the GOP bill.

ROMANS: He says he'll be around in Washington this week for all the health care drama that his vote needed for, and then he's going to go home and treat his illness. But he promised to be back.

We wish him well.

[05:10:00] Attorney General Jeff Sessions now facing an uncertain future and 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's been one of the most effective cabinet members for advocating the president's agenda.

BRIGGS: Still, the president on Tuesday delivering another public critique of his attorney general.


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. 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.


BRIGGS: Teasing the next episode, if you will.

Jeff Sessions also getting public support from 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.

ROMANS: When you listen to the president talking about the timeline there, how he would not have nominated him attorney general if he'd known he was going to recuse himself -- well, he didn't know he was going to recuse himself.

BRIGGS: That happened after the fact.

ROMANS: The timeline there is a little -- it's not as if Jeff Sessions had a crystal ball and can see what was going to come --

BRIGGS: Yes, what would be revealed after he was nominated.

ROMANS: Right. You know, "Wall Street Journal" interview of President Trump also seems to dispute whether Sessions showed the loyalty everyone gives him credit for.

The president said this: 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 endorsement.

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

And let's just remind folks, he did go way out on a limb, Jeff Sessions, in supporting President Trump, took a lot of heat from people on the right. Still, today, is the reason many conservatives, especially on immigration, support this president.

ROMANS: I'm thinking of the moment after the now notorious Access Hollywood tape.


ROMANS: Who stood by him?

BRIGGS: Really one congressman that was Senator Jeff Sessions. ROMANS: All right. President Trump renewing pressure on companies to

manufacture in the U.S. His target this time: Apple. How the company responded, next.


[05:17:05] ROMANS: President Trump promises Apple will build three beautiful plants in the U.S. Speaking to "The Wall Street Journal", the president says he told Apple's CEO Tim Cook, quote: Unless you don't start building your plants in this country, I won't consider my administration an economic success, adding that Cook promised to go forward with those plants. The president did not elaborate on the location or the size of those plants or what they would make. Apple didn't comment.

But this renews pressure on Apple to shift manufacturing from Asia where most of it occurs to the U.S. The iPhone is assembled by hundreds of thousands of workers in China, while most of Apple's 80,000 U.S. employees are in retail, with a much smaller number of engineers and tech brainiacs. However, Apple is the world's most profitable company, so profitable partly because of the cheaper manufacturing overseas, huge margins on those iPhones.

But one of Apple's biggest suppliers, Foxconn is considering opening a factory in Wisconsin and Apple started a $1 billion fund to create U.S. manufacturing jobs.

BRIGGS: Yes, you'll hear more about that Foxconn announcement.


BRIGGS: That's a pretty big deal.

All right. Barbara Sinatra, the widow of the legendary Frank Sinatra has died, a former model and Las Vegas showgirl, she was the last of Frank Sinatra's four wives. They were married the longest, 22 years until Frank's death in 1998. She was also a prominent advocate and philanthropist, raising millions of dollars to help abused and at-risk children. A spokesman says Barbara Sinatra died of natural causes at her home in Rancho Mirage, California. She was 90 years old.

ROMANS: All right. A growing crisis for the NFL and every parent with a child who plays football -- alarming results from a new study on a degenerative brain disorder linked to football, hard hits in football.

Andy Scholes has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report".


[05:23:20] BRIGGS: All right. Some stunning results from the largest study ever linking football to the generative brain disease CTE.

ROMANS: Andy Scholes has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report".

Hey, Andy. ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good morning, guys.

You know, researchers at Boston University studied the donated brains of 111 deceased former NFL players and found that 110 of them were found to have a degenerative brain disease CTE. That's more than 99 percent.

Now, CTE is believed to be caused by repeated trauma to the head. It can only be diagnosed in someone after death. And now, it's important to note that in this study, many of the donated brains came from former players and their families who were worried about CTE while the player was still alive and the lead author of the study said, many questions remain unanswered, like how common is this? And how many years of football are too many?

NFL issued a statement saying these reports are important for advancing science related to head trauma and the league will, quote, continue to work with a wide range of experts to improve the health of current and former NFL athletes.

All right. NFL news, Dallas Cowboys cut wide receiver Lucky Whitehead on Monday after reports that he was arrested for shoplifting last month. But Whitehead said that it wasn't true and the cops in Virginia had the wrong guy, and he wasn't lying. Police say the man who was arrested didn't have ID but provided Whitehead's name, birth date and Social Security number but they now admit to getting it wrong.

Reporters asked Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett multiple times while other players on the team who are dealing with legit off the field issues aren't being treated like Whitehead.


JASON GARRETT, COWBOYS HEAD COACH: This will be the last time I'll say it. I appreciate your interest in it.

[05:25:01] We made a decision yesterday in regards to Lucky Whitehead, that we think it's in best interest of the Dallas Cowboys. We're standing by that decision, and we're going to move forward.


SCHOLES: All right. One of the biggest rivalries from last summer's Olympics was back in the pool for round two yesterday. In Rio, Lilly King famously beat Russian Yulia Efimova who had previously been banned from the sports for doping. Now, they were facing off again yesterday in the women's 100-meter breast stroke.

Check out the stare down by King before the race. And King not only beat Efimova. She set a new world record in this one by 0.22 seconds. And she said afterwards, this rivalry is definitely there. It's not going anywhere. We really don't like each other.

All right. Finally, an amazing birthday for a special ten-year-old Cubs fan at Wrigley Field yesterday. Daniel Rodriguez has Down syndrome. His favorite is Cubs catcher Wilson Contreras and these two met months ago and immediately became pal. And Daniel got a big hug from Contreras out there on the field, along with a ton of Cubs swag.

And to make this day even better, Contreras in his first at bat belted a three-run home run for the Cubs. How about that? They would win this game big, 7-2 over the White Sox. It's just a pretty awesome day out there, I imagine, guys, for Daniel on his tenth birthday.

ROMANS: That's what I love about sports, right there.

BRIGGS: Reminds me of Seinfeld, with Paul O'Neill had hit two home runs for the kid that was in the hospital. You remember that episode?

ROMANS: Oh my God!

SCHOLES: Haven't seen that one, Dave.

BRIGGS: Paul O'Neill, good stuff.

All right. Thank you, my friend. Appreciate it.

SCHOLES: All right.

ROMANS: All right. President Trump sounding upbeat as the Senate begins to debate health care.


TRUMP: We're now one step closer to liberating our citizens from this Obamacare nightmare.


ROMANS: One step is true, but it will take a very giant leap to get from debating a bill to passing one.