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Seven-Year Ditch: GOP Suffers Obamacare Repeal Loss; McCain, Obama's Ex-Opponent, Saves Obama's Signature Law; Top Senate Dem Speaks After Obamacare Repeal Fails. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired July 28, 2017 - 11:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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[11:00:17]

ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Hello. I'm Ana Cabrera. Thanks so much for being with us on this Friday. From slim to none, the seven-year ditch, the Senate failing in a dramatic fashion to fulfill a seven- year Republican promise to change the health care law.

Rejecting the slimmed down Obamacare repeal plan in a fatal blow delivered by Republican Senator John McCain. So much drama, you could hear a gasp in the Senate chamber as he gave the bill a big thumb's down.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Peters?

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CABRERA: You see Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer, waiving after the dramatic McCain vote. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell standing there stoically with his arms folded. Schumer later choked up even talking about McCain's return to D.C. for this vote despite his brain cancer diagnosis.

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SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: Let's turn the page another way. All of us were so inspired by the speech and the life of the senator from Arizona. He asked us to go back to regular order, to bring back the Senate that some of us who have been her a while remember. Maybe this can be a moment where we start doing that.

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CABRERA: The majority leader, Mitch McConnell, now saying it's time to move on.

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SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: As I said, we look forward to our colleagues on the other side suggesting what they have in mind. So now, Mr. President, it's time to move on.

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CABRERA: Let's get right to CNN's Phil Mattingly on Capitol Hill. Phil, quite a dramatic ending to the years long fight over Obamacare.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, question about it. Look, at large points of yesterday, it wasn't expected. Republican leaders thought they were going to get there. House Republican leaders thought they were going to get there as well.

Ana, the conference that all House Republicans had this morning behind closed doors was scheduled with the expectation that they would be meeting to talk about how to setup and eventually vote for a conference committee with the U.S. Senate.

And they yet they simply weren't able to get the job done. Now I mentioned the House lawmakers right now passed their own version of this. The speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, I'm told at this closed- door conference meeting essentially telling his members, look, we did our job.

At one point basically saying we are the only functioning arm in Congress right now. He also publicly just released a statement saying, quote, "We were sent to Washington to fulfill the pledges we made to our constituents.

While the House delivered a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare, unfortunately, the Senate was unable to reach a consensus. I'm disappointed and frustrated, but we should not give up. I encourage the Senate to work toward a solution that keeps our promise."

You heard that from a lot of members of the House. They are very frustrated with the Senate. We are going to underscore what happened here, Ana, and that was when it came to repeal and replace or repeal only or skinny repeal or really any kind of broad-based Obamacare health related issue, Senate Republicans were simply incapable of getting 50 Republicans to agree on one thing.

Take a listen to what another House Republican, Charlie Dent, had to say about what went wrong.

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REP. CHARLIE DENT (R), PENNSYLVANIA: I was not surprised. It's pretty clear to me that this process was not a good one. I think one of the issues was the president never laid out core principles and didn't sell them to the American people. I think that was a big part of it. There's a lot that went wrong. They should never have tried force it on a partisan basis. I think that's why we are where we are.

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MATTINGLY: That's a pretty good rundown of the litany of complaints not just from House members, but also kind of the realities of how things went south. I can tell you Republicans frustrated over here and in the Senate.

But something else I heard a lot last night leading up to this vote and definitely afterwards, a lot of Republican senators, Ana, didn't want to take this vote. They didn't want to be the one to sink it, but they didn't want to take this vote.

There are a lot of risk involved about whether or not the House would actually go to conference or pass this. A lot of concerns for the Senate Republicans could ever agree on anything more wholesome.

And so, the idea that this went down while it frustrated a lot of senators and Senate Republicans have made very clear, they absolutely want to repeal and replace Obamacare. Not everybody was sobbing.

CABRERA: So, the question is now, what's next, Phil? What are you hearing?

MATTINGLY: Yes. Look, that's the biggest question. As I just read from Speaker Ryan, they want the Senate to do something. They stand over here ready with their bill. Here's the reality. That sound you played from Senate Majority Leader McConnell is a crucial moment here. We are moving on.

There's no question, conservatives have campaigned on this for year after year after year. Kind of a key point it was -- this is one of the primaries with majority in the House, majority in the Senate.

[11:05:06] Part of the reason they have somebody in the White House that is a Republican. They are not going to leave this issue entirely. But if you look at the Senate floor schedule, if you look what they have on deck, whether it's the debt limit or spending bills, national defense authorization act, tax reform, their budget, there's not a lot of time or space to continue this debate.

Will there be bipartisanship right now is the biggest issue. There's Republicans and Democrats on both the House and Senate, Ana, who know that a short-term stabilization package given some of the problems in the individual market is both necessary and they hope likely.

The big question now is Republicans have said repeatedly, we want to repeal, fix. Fix is an (inaudible). Can you pull them over to fix? If they can answer the question, yes, perhaps bipartisanship is possible. If they can't, which seems more likely. We'll see -- Ana.

CABRERA: We'll see about the process moving forward given that there is so much criticism about how that process unfolded and the leadership (inaudible) there. Phil, thank you so much. We know you haven't slept much. You are keeping everything together, we appreciate it.

Now repealing and replacing Obamacare was one of the president's top priorities so this blow on Capitol Hill comes as the White House is engulfed in turmoil. I want to get to CNN's Kaitlan Collins joining us from the White House. What is the mood there right now, Kaitlan?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, it's been pretty quiet for most White House officials. We have heard from the president. He tweeted in the wee hours of the morning that he was disappointed, expressing that frustration and saying that those who voted against this bill had let Americans down.

That they were going to go back to his plan along, which was to let Obamacare implode and then deal. About an hour ago, we heard from the president, again. Let's put those tweets up on the screen.

Trump said, "If Republicans are going to pass great future legislation in the Senate, they must immediately go to a 51-vote majority, not senseless 60. Even though parts of health care could pass at 51, some really good things need 60. So many great future bills and budgets need 60 votes."

Now of course, this wouldn't have helped the president last night or the Republican Party because they only got to 49 votes for this bill in the wee hours of the morning. But putting that aside, this is a big setback for Republicans. They have run on this for seven years now to repeal and replace Obamacare. Now, their efforts have largely been derailed -- Ana.

CABRERA: Yes, they have, the House, the Senate and the presidency. Kaitlan Collins, where we go from here is yet to be seen. Thank you.

Joining us to talk more about all of this is CNN political director, David Chalian and "Wall Street Journal" politics and business reporter, Shelby Holliday. So, David, how interesting is it that McCain was the deciding factor here? A man who ran for president against President Obama, in effect now siding with Obama rather than the president from his own party.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Great. I don't think Obama was much of a factor here. I think it has to do with the McCain/Trump relationship and the unique position that McCain holds at this particular moment, not only with his reputation as a maverick, he certainly wants to solidify and likes to play into.

But also because of his health matter that he has recently revealed, now going back to Arizona to start treatments on his brain cancer. That put him in a really unique spot. He sees that spot-on Tuesday with that big speech when he came back and laid forward the path here of why he did not agree with the process in the way this was happening.

What I find really interesting, if you look at the history here, obviously Donald Trump, two years ago, made jaws drop in American politics when he took on John McCain and suggested he wasn't a war hero when he clearly was in many people's minds.

Yet, he was able to get past that and go on, win the nomination, the presidency. John McCain has a little bit of payback here because he clearly was the critical vote that derailed the president's top initiative.

CABRERA: Shelby, I want to get your take on that because it really was a big moment during the campaign when we heard then Candidate Trump come out and criticize John McCain, questioning his heroism because he was a prisoner of war. He was somebody who had been captured.

It was shocking. That was the word some used, how could Candidate Trump even survive that to continue on in his quest for the presidency. Look where he is now. Is this a moment where that instance came back to haunt the president?

SHELBY HOLLIDAY, POLITICS AND BUSINESS REPORTER, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL": It might have. If you look back to McCain's speech on the Senate floor earlier this week, there were some tea leaves you could read from that speech. He mentioned the Senate is a check on the executive. They are equal to the president.

Here he is standing up to the president. I don't think McCain would take such a personal thing and use it as, you know, revenge against the president. This is an issue he deeply cares about. Certainly, it comes back around to Trump. You could glean from that speech he gave. He wanted to return to regular order.

It's not surprising he voted against this given the scramble that the Senate had this week to get the votes. But I also think it's -- it's really interesting that McCain now goes back home for treatment. We are not sure when he will return.

[11:10:13] CABRERA: Do you think he --

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CABRERA: -- change his mind about where he was voting in this regard?

HOLLIDAY: I'm not sure because they have had conversations about this. The president was cheer leading the Senate just last night saying go Republicans, go. We know he made a phone call late last night. We know the president was watching.

John McCain seemed like he made up his mind. He was talking to the senators who are also voting no. He was not really showing openness to the argument of voting yes. I'm not sure there's anything the president could have said. If anyone swayed it, it would have been his colleagues and they didn't do the job.

So, we know that Republicans will be a man down after the August recess. We are not sure how long that will be. The Senate will certainly have to return to regular order and work with Democrats because where do they go from here without being able to get Republican support.

CABRERA: Let's talk about that. Exactly, David --

CHALIAN: I just want to make one more point about McCain there because of his unique position, his stature in the party and his health issue, he's sort of in making this vote was able -- there was a lot of people who voted yes on this and the Republican conference really didn't want to. That is what Phil Mattingly was just talking about in the hallways. You have to remember, this was a very unpopular solution to repealing and replacing Obamacare, even among Republicans, this was not a widely popular bill across the country.

John McCain was able to provide cover and actually now even some members can go home and say, I did. I followed through on my promise, I voted for repeal and replace, but we are not stuck with some bill that most of the country did not like at all.

CABRERA: I have to wonder if really his health diagnosis had a bigger role in his decision thinking he had nothing to lose, politically. It really puts something in perspective in terms of life in general. He says he did the right thing in terms of doing the right vote.

It wasn't politically motivated, but let me ask you in terms of what's next, Shelby. Now we hear tax reform is kind of a big hurdle they are going to try to get over. Will that be easier or harder than health care?

HOLLIDAY: It will be easier. It will not be easier because you still have these two factions within Congress, within the Republican Party, the moderates and conservatives. You have some fiscal budget hawks. You have people who don't want to take anything away from Americans in terms of help that they are already getting.

And so, when you look at tax reform, there are some major sticking points. The border adjustment tax is gone. That was a big deal. That was a sticking point for months and months and month. They have made progress on that at least in terms of agreeing on something.

But you still have questions about how low the corporate tax rate could be, whether or not you are going to lower taxes for all Americans or just middle-class Americans. Major questions about pass through taxes, which is a really nerdy subject.

But they have not agreed to a lot of these nuances in the bill or the plan. We didn't get very many details about the plan. My colleague, Richard Rubin, writes a lot about this.

He said we have so many details left unknown even after they released a few more details this week. It's not going to be easy. It is not an easy task, talking about reforming the tax code or health care. They are huge parts of the American economy.

CABRERA: Like you said, it's not Republicans versus Democrats. It's Republicans who can't seem to agree, even though they hold all the chambers when it comes to leadership on Capitol Hill. David, Shelby, thank you all very much.

Adding to the president's very bad week is the war breaking out inside the White House prompting covers like this. CNN reporting about the fate of Reince Priebus and what the president is being urged to do.

Plus, he's in charge of the White House message, but what happens when the words from the communications director are rated NC-17? Some work places would fire someone for the same thing. We'll discuss.

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[11:17:47]

SCHUMER: -- John McCain, he and I have been friends for a very long time, ever since the Gang of Eight, which we put together. I have not seen a senator who speaks truth to power as strongly as well and frequently as John McCain.

Very same courage he showed as a naval aviator in Vietnam, he showed last night and has shown time and time again. He's just a wonderful man. I treasure his friendship and just the fact of knowing him. I have known a few great m in the Senate.

I'd put Ted Kennedy in that category and I put John McCain in that category, too. Certainly not to be forgotten, of equal praise are Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, they were amazing. Women are in so many instances stronger than men.

They brag less about it, but they are. Last night sort of proved that. Somebody who is in a family of strong women, I very much appreciate their strength, their courage and their dedication to principle, despite. Where do we go from here?

John McCain said it all on Tuesday night. I hope this is a turning point, his speech. When he returned to the Senate and his vote last night and his actions in the last few days. Do I hear an echo?

You know, on health, we have to shut that off, whatever its doing. What is it? OK. Thank you. On health care, I hope we can work together to make the system better in a bipartisan way. I'm optimistic that can happen. I think, at the very beginning, we should stabilize the system.

[11:20:03] We should make permanent the cost sharing, which keeps people's premiums down and the counties that are covered up. We should look at reinsurance. Tom Carper and Tim Kaine have a bill. Susan Collins and Bill Nelson have a bill.

That will help stabilize the insurance market. We should look at Claire McCaskill's bill for the bare, b-a-r-e counties for a relatively small counties almost all rural that are not covered. That's what we should do initially.

But then we should sit down and trade ideas. Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray are already talking about doing that. I'm hopeful they can begin a series of hearings. Nobody has said Obamacare is perfect. Nobody has said our health care system doesn't need fixing.

The problem was, when they tried to pull the rug out from under the existing health care system. So, change it, improve it, but don't just take a knife and try to destroy it and put nothing in its place.

So, we can work together and I said that on the floor last night and a whole number of Republicans who were usually more quiet and more conservative came over and thanked me and said they want to do it.

So, on health care, but also in the Senate as a whole. I hope what John McCain did will be regarded in history as a turning point where the Senate turned back from its partisanship and started working together. We long for it. We yearn to work together.

There are various forces, they call them centrifugal forces that get in the way. But I think sometimes you need a little spark to inspire the forces coming together to outweigh the forces coming apart. John McCain may have done that.

I intend to follow. I'm not finished. Two other things I would say. President Trump did a tweet last night and a tweet this morning. Not presidential. His tweet last night said we are going to let the system collapse. We are going to hurt innocent people because we are angry we lost politically. That is small.

That is not what a president does. I hope our Senate colleagues, our House colleagues on his side of the aisle will turn a deaf ear on that. The things I mentioned will help make the system stronger. They are not ideological. We can do those first and look at each other's ideas.

The idea of sabotage is a bad thing. Donald Trump does even get it politically because if we sabotage the system, it will hurt him as well as millions of Americans.

Second, this morning, Donald Trump pulled away from the bipartisanship that John McCain and so many senators felt last night by saying we should change the rules and go to 51. Hello. He had 51. He only needed 51 in the health care bill and couldn't do it.

So, let him turn around, too. Let him understand that the only way we get major things done in America, in the Congress and particularly in the Senate is bipartisan. I hope he changes.

His analysis is based on fluff because he had the 51 votes already, with reconciliation and he couldn't get it done and he says let's go down to 51. I just don't get it.

Finally, just a deeper analysis. Will people blame Mitch McConnell? I don't think that's fair. I think there were deep, deep fault lines in what our Republican colleagues tried to do.

Because Donald Trump and the Republican Party campaigned on one thing, lower premiums, more coverage, don't cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. And the bill they put together did just the opposite. They didn't campaign on what they proposed, tax cuts for the rich, slashing Medicaid --

CABRERA: All right, we are going to pull out of here. We've been listening in to the top Democrat in the Senate, Chuck Schumer, praising Republican John McCain for being the deciding vote against the Republican efforts to repeal Obamacare in the wee hours of the morning. He also praised two Republican women who voted no. So, the top four for Republicans is now in question. Democrats and Republicans like John McCain calling for bipartisan solution to fix Obamacare's problems, admitting there are problems.

The president meantime says let it implode then catch some deals. Schumer calls that move un-presidential.

[11:25:08] Up next, we'll talk about the White House infighting that is now making it more and more difficult for the president to get anything done. Stay with us.

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CABRERA: A source close to the president called Reince Priebus the worst chief of staff in 25 years. CNN is learning some close to President Trump are privately urging the president to make a change. They believe Priebus has proven ineffective both in shepherding the president's agenda and in imposing order amid White House chaos.

The knifes may also be out for national security adviser, H.R. McMaster. Congressional and administration officials tell CNN McMaster is at odds with senior White House officials, cabinet members, and even the president himself.