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GOP Obamacare Replacement Bill; Intel Committee Cancels Cohen Meeting; Hurricane Maria Hits Puerto Rico; Kimmel on Cassidy Lie; Trump Slams Emmys. Sen. Angus King Interview. Aired 8:30-9:00a ET

Aired September 20, 2017 - 08:30   ET


[08:30:00] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Are very different things. Can you, with a clear conscience, say that this bill will have, at the end of the day, as many people covered in this country, the way they are now, and they can afford it if they are under Medicaid the way they are right now?

SEN. BILL CASSIDY (R), LOUISIANA: There are more people who will be covered through this bill than under the status quo. There --

CUOMO: Access to coverage or actually covered?

CASSIDY: Actually covered. And as regards to affordability, there's a fellow whose daughter has a pre-existing condition in Louisiana. His premium now this year is over $40,000. Under Obamacare, his premium is over $40,000. Somebody in insurance once told me that Obamacare doesn't work if you work. If you make too much money to qualify for a subsidy, you get stuck.

Now, we are helping those working families. We're not penalizing them because they cannot afford a premium which is too rich for them. Rather, we are helping them afford their premiums and removing the penalties. We are better for working families.

CUOMO: Yes, but how are you better if you enable insurance companies to either not provide coverage to certain people if they don't want to or to price them out of coverage in a way that right now they're not able to? Remember, for those at home, the ACA wasn't just about bringing down costs. It was about guaranteeing outcomes. It was about insuring protections for people. That can be expensive, but it was so necessary for somebody like Jimmy Kimmel without the paycheck, a kid like Jimmy Kimmel has, and people with pre-existing conditions and people who are over 50 and people who are working check to check, like in many of the Republican constituencies around this country. It was about making sure they got protected. You're taking that away.

CASSIDY: No, we're not taking it away. Indeed, the only way the state can drawdown money from the federal government is if they provide coverage. And the money they're receiving is on net (ph). For little states, a little bit more.

CUOMO: But they're going to get to define what that means --


CUOMO: In a way that doesn't apply now. It's in the law.

CASSIDY: It's --

CUOMO: It's in the bill.

CASSIDY: If I may speak.

CUOMO: It's in your bill, senator.

CASSIDY: If I -- if I may speak. I know it's in my bill.

CUOMO: Please.

CASSIDY: We take it through the CHIP program. The CHIP program, which has a defined actuarial value. There's nobody who criticized the CHIP program. They all think it works. We take it through the CHIP program. Ron Wyden, the senator from Oregon, the other night was on the floor castigating our plan. He finished by saying, but on a happy note, we just reauthorized the CHIP program. Our bill goes through the CHIP program. It's how you provide and judge the coverage. And -- and we protect those --

CUOMO: But then how do you explain the resistance, senator?

CASSIDY: And we protect those with pre-existing conditions. Whatever is offered has to be affordable and adequate.

CUOMO: But the AMA, the AARP, the CBO of their early scoring, you know, you guys are trying to rush this through before you even have a CBO score. I don't even know how you square that with respecting the reconciliation rules. And you have Republican senators from the kinds of big states that spend a lot on health care because of the complexity of their coverage needs, why are they all against the bill? Have they eaten on the insane root or are they seeing something that you don't?

CASSIDY: Yes. Yes, so what I would say, if I was a doctor in Texas, and I know that now there's going to be billions more in Texas to provide health insurance coverage for those don't -- who don't have it, working families, I would ask, why did the AMA do that? But all I can say is that no one -- everyone fears change. Everyone says even if it's from worse to better, I don't want change.

Reality is, think of that fellow back in Louisiana who's paying over $40,000 a year. He has a special needs daughter. He's got to take care of her. That insurance may be adequate, but for him it is not affordable. Under Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson, the state has the ability to put in things which makes it both adequate and affordable. Indeed, they're required to do so. Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson protects those with pre-existing conditions. It is a better path forward.

CUOMO: And that's why you have those governors in some of the states saying it's not going to be enough. They'll have the control, but they want the resources (ph). CASSIDY: And three and four times as many -- and four times as many governors saying that they do want it. Four times as many more saying that they do.

CUOMO: Which brings us down to the votes. Do you think you have the votes to get this passed?

CASSIDY: Well, we'll see. I'm not doing the whip count, but we think it works. We think it works.

There's going to be some states like Virginia in which Democrats will vote against their state getting billions more to cover those who are lower insured. A state like Missouri, where there's a democratic senator under pressure to vote no for a bill that brings billions more to provide insurance to those in Missouri. Florida, the same way. Maine.

CUOMO: Right.

CASSIDY: The Democratic senator there. There will be so much more coverage in Maine under Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson. I hope they vote for their constituents, not for the party line.

CUOMO: Well, right, and they're reversing that criticism on you. They're saying, yes, there's money, but there's strings. We have control, but we're not going to have the same ability to cover the poorer people that we do right now and this money's going to run out at some point in the future. That's the debate.

CASSIDY: No, the money is actually focused on those who are from 50 to 138 percent of poverty level, just like the CHIP program, so it's actually focused on those who are lower income.

As regards to the money running out, actually the money continues. People who are saying that, saying that the bill runs out. This is through the CHIP program. The CHIP program has to be reauthorized every five or ten years. It was just reauthorized. There's always bipartisan support. So this will be reauthorized, as will the others, but the income actually continues. So I think that's a little bit of a red herring.

[08:35:12] CUOMO: Senator, I appreciate you coming on NEW DAY to make the case for your bill. Appreciate it.

CASSIDY: Thank you.

CUOMO: Be well.



Joining us now is the independent senator, Angus King, of Maine. The state that, as you just heard the senator say, is going to benefit mightily from the Cassidy-Graham plan. And we have Angus King. He's a member of the Senate Intel Committee as well. Senator, thanks for being here.

SEN. ANGUS KING (I), MAINE: Absolutely, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: You must be very excited about the benefits that Maine is going to experience under Graham-Cassidy, as you just heard from your colleague there.

KING: Well, I don't understand what Senator Cassidy was talking about in terms of additional money, because all of the analysis I've seen is that actually Maine is going to lose, over the course of this bill, in terms of the money that's flowing into the state now to support health care.

But one of the -- one of the real problems, and Chris touched on it, we don't have a Congressional Budget Office score on this. We're flying blind and they're going to rush this through, or try to rush it through -- I hope they fail -- next week without really knowing what the impacts are going to be, what the costs are going to be, how many people are going to lose their coverage.

Essentially, I see this -- I characterize this bill a shift and shaft. It's shifting the responsibilities to the states to determine who gets coverage for pre-existing conditions, what the costs are going to be, what the minimum coverages are going to be, and then give them less money to do it. The overall affect, as I understand it, and I can't be as confident as Senator Cassidy because I haven't seen the Congressional budget Office score, but the overall effect is going to be negative and that's why those groups are taking about it. I'm worried about the effects on my rural hospitals.

And so we've got two problems here. I think the bill itself is a bad bill. But the process is just atrocious. It came out of nowhere. It was negotiated behind closed doors. They're going to have one hearing on Monday. I call it a fig leaf hearing.

We've had a bipartisan process going on for the past month. That's been aborted now because this thing is -- has sort of taken over the action. And, in the meantime, we're not going to take some simple steps that could be taken by next week to bring down premiums for next year. It's really a tragedy.

One of the sponsors said yesterday essentially he's rooting for chaos. He said, if you don't pass our bill, you're going to get chaos because we're not going to fix any of the problems in the Affordable Care Act and we're just going to let it all collapse. And I just think that's irresponsible.

CAMEROTA: Senator, this is why it is so confusing for our viewers and for all America because you just heard Senator Cassidy there, he said, verbatim, we protect those with pre-existing conditions. More people will have coverage under his plan. And, once again, I mean he made this point so crystal clear, Maine will get far more money than they do now. So, I mean, who are we to believe?

KING: You're to believe the Congressional Budget Office. They're nonpartisan. They are, in fact, led by a Republican. And they are the ones who are set up to settle these kinds of discussions.

What will the dollar values be? How much will the cuts be? How many people will lose coverage? That's what they're in the business of doing. The problem is, these guys aren't going to wait for that. My understanding is that we're going to get a sort of bob-tailed response from the Congressional Budget Office on Monday or Tuesday, but not on the big picture of how much it's going to cost and where the costs are going to fall, which states are going to be hurt and, most importantly, how many people are going to lose insurance coverage.

They are -- they are trying to rush this through. They don't -- I believe they don't want the Congressional Budget Office score because that's what's always sort of tripped them up on the last two or three rounds of this. And they're trying to make an arbitrary deadline of next -- end of next week. Why don't we just take a deep breath, have hearings, listen to the experts, listen to the insurance commissioners, the governors, all of those people and come up with something through the process where we know what we're doing and not being asked to jump off a cliff without knowing what's at the bottom.

CAMEROTA: Very quickly, if they somehow had the votes, if they could somehow get to 50, can they pass it without the CBO score?

KING: I believe that they can. They're going to get a -- I believe that what they're going to do is get a Congressional Budget Office score that the -- that the bill fits within the reconciliation rules. But that doesn't tell you about what the long-term impact is going to be. So I think under the rules, they can do that. But under the rules of common sense and good process, they shouldn't be able to do it. They shouldn't do it.

And, in the meantime, I have to emphasize, there is -- there's some pieces of the Affordable Care Act which we could fix in a week that would bring premiums down this coming year by, it's been estimated, about 20 percent. And these folks are absolutely saying, we're not going to do that.

[08:40:11] In fact, we were working very closely with Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray. And I was involved with Mike Rounds from South Dakota and we were close. And then this thing just shut it all down. And so instead of doing it the right way, we're doing it the wrong way and we're going to come up with a bad result that's going to affect millions of people. And one-sixth of the U.S. economy, without any real serious analysis of what the affect is going to be. I -- it's not that I disbelieve Senator Cassidy, but I guess I go back to Ronald Reagan, trust but verify. And I'd like the Congressional Budget Office to do some verification before we have to vote on this things.

CAMEROTA: While I have you, because you're on the Senate Intel Committee, I just want to ask you a couple of questions about the Russia investigation. Long-time attorney and associate of Donald Trump, Michael Cohen, was supposed to be interviewed by your staffers on your committee. What happened? Something went wrong with the Michael Cohen interview.

KING: Well, after the Jared Kutcher experience, we held came in and talked to the staff behind closed doors, we held it confidential. That was the understanding. He came out and made a big public statement which exonerated himself. The committee decided we -- we were going to have a -- essentially a rule or an understanding that when witnesses come in to be interviewed by the staff behind closed doors, nobody is going to talk about it afterwards.

So this fellow was in the middle of his interview, and in the meantime a public statement from him was issued. At that point the committee said, this isn't playing by the rules, so we're going to cut this off. And we'd like you to come back, thank you very much, in a public hearing where we -- where everything is public and we can question the witness and follow the evidence where it leads.

So basically, as I understand it from the chair and the vice chair, bipartisan, by the way, absolutely bipartisan, he didn't play by the rules the committee had set up and so we've decided to try to pursue it in open -- in an open session, which I think is fine.

CAMEROTA: OK. We'll see when that happens. Senator Angus King, thank you very much for being with us this morning.

KING: Thank you, Alisyn.


CUOMO: All right, the big story we're following this morning is Hurricane Maria. It is pummeling Puerto Rico. Conditions right now, dangerous. The damage, already bad. This island already beat up from Hurricane Irma. We're going to take you there live. We have a storm chaser who caught unbelievable video of the storm. Stay with us.


[08:45:36] CAMEROTA: Hurricane Maria is tearing through Puerto Rico as we speak. This is the scene right now at the famous El Conquistador Hotel in Fajardo. That's on the east side of the island. You can see a window's been blown out. Ferocious winds are continuing to just batter around those palm trees.

We have storm chaser Mike Theiss. He shot that window -- he shot that video through the window for us and he joins us now from inside the Conquistador.

Mike, what's the scene?

MIKE THEISS, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC PHOTOGRAPHER: Well, we just now came out of the safe room and I was able to look outside and the windows are broken on the back side of the hotel. And from the scene there of the damage you were looking at, it's a lot of awning, the light (ph) damage that came off the building itself. It's nothing major structural that I can see right here.

But the wind was just ripping through the lobby when those windows broke in. There was glass flying around. Lots of debris flying around. Basically that is what it looked like inside the eyewall of a category four hurricane. CAMEROTA: Mike, is everybody else still in that safe room?

THEISS: Yes, they are. Everybody is still safe. The management's done a great job here. They've kept everybody safe. And I was able to slip out to get a couple shots because I really wanted to see what was going on outside. But what I saw outside was not pleasant and I have a feeling there's going to be a lot more of that.

CAMEROTA: And, Mike, just tell us -- set the scene for us. What's it like in that safe room? How many people are in there? How long were you in there? How big is it?

THEISS: Right. Well, it's like a ballroom. And there's about 40 of us, maybe 50 of us. Half of them are employees, the other half are people -- guests who were staying here. But, you know, we're all safe. Everyone's OK.

It was really loud. Like -- like a woman screaming at the top of her lungs is what it sounded like during the eyewall. But now it's starting to wind down. I do believe the worst is over, although it's still very dangerous outside. But it's starting to wind down now, and it was a heck of a ride.

CAMEROTA: Yes, listen, that description that you give is chilling, the idea that the wind was so intense and shrill that it was like a woman screaming, you know, at the top of her lungs.

So you've done this a lot. This is your career. So how does Maria compare to other hurricanes you've covered?

THEISS: This is in the top two. The only other hurricane that I can compare it to as far as wind was Hurricane Charlie in south Florida. Hurricane Katrina I covered, which was intense, but that big story was storm surge. But as far as wind goes, this hurricane, Maria, and Hurricane Charlie are my top two hurricanes for intense wind.

CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh. Mike Theiss, we appreciate you sharing all of your video with us. We appreciate you coming out to talk to us. It was really fascinating to talk to you right in the thick of it.

So, be careful. Obviously, it's still very dangerous because now the storm surge and all of the rain continues. So, please be careful. Thank you. We'll check back with you in the days to come. Thanks for being with us.

THEISS: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: All right, we're keeping an eye on Hurricane Maria, of course. But first, here's what to watch.


ON SCREEN TEXT: 10:30 a.m. President Trump meets with President Abbas.

12:40 p.m. Former President Obama at Gates Foundation.

2:30 p.m. Fed. Chair Yellen holds a news conference.


CAMEROTA: OK, back now to all the news about health care.

Jimmy Kimmel, last night, calling a U.S. senator a liar over the latest push to repeal Obamacare. Wait until you hear what Jimmy Kimmel said about the Jimmy Kimmel test.


[08:52:01] CUOMO: Jimmy Kimmel taking a stand against the new Obamacare repeal bill, calling it author, Senator Bill Cassidy, a liar. Kimmel says Cassidy is not living up his promise that any new plan would have to pass the so-called Jimmy Kimmel Test. And the included a list of items and families not being denied care because they can't afford it being the primary one. Here's a clip.


JIMMY KIMMEL: And this guy, Bill Cassidy, just lied right to my face.

Do you believe that every American, regardless of income, should be able to get regular checkups and maternity care, et cetera, all of those things that people who have health care get and need?


KIMMEL: So, yep, is Washington for nope, I guess.

Stop using my name, OK, because I don't want my name on it. There's a new Jimmy Kimmel Test for you. It's called the lie detector test. You're welcome to stop by the studio and take it anytime.


CUOMO: Joining us now is CNN media analyst Bill Carter.

How does it play?

BILL CARTER, CNN MEDIA ANALYST: Well, I think it plays very well. I think Jimmy is a really sincere guy. I mean I know he's not one of these polished and plucked persons that Kellyanne Conway attacks in Hollywood. This is a sincere -- he's a regular guy, Jimmy. He's a decent guy. I like him enormously. And he was in a personal situation. He speaks from his heart. This is a real world problem he had, and he identified himself as a rich person, so he didn't have to worry about taking care of his son, but another person would have all of these problems, hundreds of thousands of dollars of bills now and then there would be bills later. This boy's going to need a lot of care. When he's 20 years old, he's going to need another operation. So I think Jimmy is connecting with people with this. They are looking at him and saying, I -- this guy is speaking for me if I have -- if my kid has a problem.

CAMEROTA: And what's the upshot of that? In terms of public policy -- you know, there -- obviously there was a time when Walter -- what, Walter Cronkite said --


CAMEROTA: To have moved the political needle.

CARTER: In Vietnam, yes.

CAMEROTA: And -- yes. And so now there's -- all of the late night hosts are so political.


CAMEROTA: Does this change the policy somehow?

CARTER: I don't know if it changes policy. I don't know how these people respond. They want to dismiss people like Jimmy Kimmel. Well, what does he know. I'd like to see Bill Cassidy go back on and talk to Jimmy now. Let's hear what he says to Jimmy now. And Jimmy would get into his heart, I think, because this is what it's about. It's not about -- when it comes down to it, it's not about money anymore. It's not about politics or ideology. People --

CUOMO: He's putting a lot on his plate, though. I mean, first of all, comparing late night guys to Cronkite, that was a very different moment and it was why it changed the coverage.

CAMEROTA: Well, my point is that they have a lot of eyeballs and does it move the needle at all?


CUOMO: Right. But it's -- but it's about the forum also, all right? You know, Cronkite was the voice of American conscience right then. Would Kimmel be that and would it be fair to have a senator who knows this stuff inside and out as a clinician and as a policy going against a comedian?

CARTER: I think Jimmy could stand up very well, because I think he would cite the specifics of his situation. And unlike Walter Cronkite, Walter Cronkite didn't have a son in Vietnam. This is about his own kid. It's about his own experience. I think that hits people in a different way than what -- than just saying --

CUOMO: But Cassidy's going to say, yes, but this bill takes care of it. It protests pre-existing conditions. It gives more money to the states. It does a lot of good things.

[08:55:04] CARTER: Jimmy would cite all the associations that says it doesn't, that have total credibility, the AMA, the cancer society and all that are against it. I think he would say, I know from a lot of people in this situation, and he talked to the doctors, what would happen if this -- if these laws change. I think he would be able to understand up very well. And Jimmy's a tough guy. I think he'd handle it really well.

CAMEROTA: Let's talk about the backlash, if that's what you want to call it, or at least just the response to Sean Spicer's appearance at the Emmy's.


CAMEROTA: So Stephen Colbert didn't bring it --

CARTER: Address (ph) --

CAMEROTA: And it -- what's that about? Was that a conspicuous silence?

CARTER: It -- he did address it a little bit, you know, off the air. But I think on the air he doesn't want to give this too much, you know, play. Remember when Jimmy Fallon mussed Trump's hair? It lasted a long time and gave him a little bit of a, you know, backlash. And I think -- now, Colbert is never going to have that because his bonafides for attacking Trump are really solid. But I do think he doesn't want it to continue. And I think there's probably a feeling like, OK, that's enough with Sean Spicer. Let's not make it last because there are obviously people uncomfortable with him giving a forum to Sean Spicer.

CUOMO: What did you think about the president talking about the Emmy's?

CARTER: Well, it was fascinating. I mean he had a day when he, you know, said he would destroy a country. He said he'd sign this health bill. And then he finished the day by saying, hey, the ratings were bad for the Emmys. It just shows you what's in his mind.

And, by the way, they make jokes about it. He was upset he never got an Emmy. He's still upset that he didn't get an Emmy.

CAMEROTA: I mean, but it was just -- the juxtaposition of being on the world stage --

CARTER: It was crazy -- amazing juxtaposition.

CAMEROTA: You know, meeting with all of these international dignitaries --

CARTER: Right. Yes.

CAMEROTA: And then tweeting about the Emmys.

CARTER: But aren't we always saying, the things that Trump does are like no one else ever did before. And it's -- it crosses every line. It's like, oh, here's another example. So --

CAMEROTA: Bill Carter, great to talk to you, as always.

CARTER: Great to talk to you. Always good to be here.

CAMEROTA: All right, CNN's coverage of Hurricane Maria will continue on CNN "NEWSROOM" with Poppy Harlow and John Berman after this very quick break.

We'll see you tomorrow. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. I'm John Berman.


[08:59:56] Breaking news this morning, millions of Americans are being hit right now by a catastrophic storm. As we speak, Puerto Rico is taking a direct hit from Maria, a category four hurricane. The governor there calling it the most devastating storm in our -- in the history of our island. And it is not nearly over.