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Trump Lays Out New GOP Tax Plan; Interview with Senator John Kennedy; DHS Urged to Waive Jones Law; Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired September 27, 2017 - 10:30   ET


[10:30:08] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news. Details on the president's new tax plan just released. So what is inside?

CNN chief business correspondent Christine Romans here with me.

What are we learning?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: A framework for fixing our broken tax code. Look, everyone agrees the tax code is broken.

BERMAN: That's the actual title?

ROMANS: That's it. A framework for fixing our broken tax code. Here's what's in it. Cutting tax rates for everyone. The lowest tax rate now 12 percent. That's actually up from where it is in 2017, but at 12 percent, it's doubling the standard deduction, so that's awash there.

The middle class tax bracket, 25 percent. The top, 35 percent. So that's a tax break for the richest Americans. Also kills the estate tax and the alternative minimum tax. So those are two things that are good for wealthy people.

Business tax cuts, this is something the world wants, you know, companies all agree on this. Democrats have said we should cut the corporate tax rate to 20 percent in this framework. Again, this will all be negotiated and hashed out with the writers in Congress and a pass-through rate of 25 percent.

I just talked to real estate developer Don Peebles, New York real estate developer, who said this is great for rich entrepreneurs, New York real estate developers and the like. People who can -- now their LLC income can be taxed at a much lower rate. He thinks that's going to spur economic growth and job creation, frankly.

Not a lot of details on how we pay for it. A lot of these deductions are going away, the state and local tax deduction, under this framework, would go away. There are some other deductions that would go away, for example, for writing off medical costs and student loan costs. So simplifying the tax code, which is just -- we really need that.

Simplifying the tax code. But cutting taxes here. And there's been an assumption that some economists have disagreed with that this is going to be such fuel on the flames of economic growth that it will pay for itself in the economy. And many economists say that that's not likely to be true.

BERMAN: No. We haven't seen that in the past. But just to be clear, the president has said all along, what he wants the middle class tax cut and he might actually raise taxes on the rich. We don't see that in this plan at all.


BERMAN: Here's big tax cuts for the wealthy.

ROMANS: A 35 percent top tax rate, which is a cut from 39.6 percent. Now there has been some musing that the tax writers, a couple of Republican sources have told us, that the tax writers could have guidance that they could add a fourth tax bracket in the negotiations, if necessary which would fulfill the president's promise -- he's said several times that he would like to raise taxes on the richest people.

His chief strategist Steve Bannon at one point was suggesting maybe 44 percent to 45 percent for rich Americans. But the official plan here is to cut these tax rates, double the standard deductions, so the first $24,000 of income would be federally tax free. And that lowest tax bracket of 12 percent.

BERMAN: Nothing on carried interest in there, which we had told might be part of it. That's interesting as well. Again good --

ROMANS: It's a framework, John. Just a framework.

BERMAN: Yes. Just a framework. It's just the beginning.

Christine Romans, great to have you with us. Thanks so much.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

BERMAN: Joining me now is Republican Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana.

Senator, thank you so much for being with us. You are a tax cutting zealot. You've been talking about tax reform for some time. So this has to be a pretty big day for you, sir. I know you've said you're particularly concerned about the middle class getting tax cuts, because as we were looking at this framework right now, it looks like the wealthy do pretty well here.

SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R), LOUISIANA: Well, John, I've been around here long enough to know that people talk a lot. You've got to watch what they do. Now, right now, it's a pretty broad-based plan, looks like, to me, it's about $4.5 trillion to $5 trillion worth of cuts. We'll probably do a budget resolution, leaving room for maybe $1.5 trillion. And these are going to be a lot of offsets, there has to be, to make the numbers work.

I don't believe in making tax policy on the basis of class. I want to help everybody. It's no secret my primary concern on the personal side is ordinary people, middle class. The best way to do that is standard deduction. If you're a couple making $70 grand a year, you take the standard deduction, you file jointly, you pay about $3500 in federal income tax. After doubling the standard deduction, you'll pay about $1700.

That's going to help -- 70 percent of our economy is consumer driven. That's going to help people and help the economy.

On the business side, I agree with all of it, but I'm primarily interested in helping pass-throughs, the small businesses, LLCs, MLPs.

BERMAN: Right.

KENNEDY: There's no margin of error for us here. We have to do this. It's good for the economy and it's good for the American people.

BERMAN: I'm old enough to remember when Republicans were very concerned about deficits and debt. And you used a word that I haven't really heard from the White House or a lot of Republicans over the last month. And that's offsets.


BERMAN: Are you going to insist that this tax cut, which could be, you said, I don't know what you said, $4 trillion or $7 trillion maybe, is all going to be offset and paid for?

KENNEDY: I think we have to do offsets. My numbers show me that -- and I don't know what the president's going to say, but my numbers show me this is $4.5 trillion to $5 trillion.

[10:35:07] I know what I think. The budget resolution is going to show. There's going to be a gap. And we're going to have to do offsets. Now, will it -- will it be awash? No. And by the way, I have never said that tax cuts will pay for themselves. They won't. But if we couple them with the appropriate offsets, which is what tax reform means to me and you do a reasonable amount of dynamic scoring, I think this is going to help the economy.

And what choice do we have? We've tried everything else. We've tinkered with interest rates. We've done stimulus spending, we've done quantitative easing out the Wazoo. This is all that's left. And it's probably what we should have started with.

BERMAN: I want to get to what you've been talking about the last few months in a second but I also want to tap into the fact that you're on the Senate Judiciary Committee. And I know you've been talking about offering protections for the special counsel -- the office of the special counsel which would essentially make it harder for the president to fire the special counsel.

Do you think those protections are necessary?

KENNEDY: I think what the first thing we need to do, and I haven't made up my mind on the bill. I want to make sure it's constitutional. There are a lot of people -- I'm not thinking in terms of a particular president or personality, I'm thinking in terms of separation of powers. We heard some pretty smart people yesterday in committee say that it would be constitutional. On the other hand, I do support the FBI investigation. I think the FBI needs to be allowed to do its work. But they're looking at the criminal side of this.

I want to look at the public policy side. I think Congress needs to do its work, too. I think we need to start subpoenaing people, not to try to see who did -- if anybody did anything wrong. I mean, though that's something we need to look at, I want to know more about what Putin did in terms of the election. And what -- what we can devise on our own to stop that.

BERMAN: Right. The president calls it a hoax. The president calls it a hoax.

KENNEDY: Well, you know, the president -- you'll have to ask the president about that.

BERMAN: We do.

KENNEDY: I -- I know you do. I have seen enough information, classified and unclassified, to believe that Putin tried to interfere in our election. They've been doing it for years.

BERMAN: Right.

KENNEDY: Putin is a pirate. He's running a third-rate country with nuclear weapons. And this is their way of getting attention and they're going to keep doing. I want to know what we can do to protect our democratic process.

BERMAN: Senator, I want to talk about health care because you alluded to that earlier, when you were saying you thought you should have done tax cuts first all along. What Congress has been dealing with is health care. You call health care now dead as a doornail, which seems --


BERMAN: -- pretty dead and definitive to me. But the president has been writing about it again this morning. He says, we will have the votes for health care but not for the reconciliation deadline on Friday which needs 60. Get rid of the filibuster rule. But he's still talking about health care. Do you just want to forget about this for a while?

KENNEDY: No. Never confuse a defeat with a final retreat. We will come back to health care. But I don't believe in kidding around and screwing around and not telling the American people the truth. The Graham-Cassidy bill is dead as a doornail. I think Bill and Lindsey worked hard. They did the best they could, but we obviously have an ideological divide within our caucus. We need to address that.

We do need to do health care reform. I think we will get it done. But I don't think we're going to get it done in the next -- this fiscal year. I wish we could. I don't know why we can't multi-task up here. But we seem to only be able to do one thing at a time and sometimes we don't do that one very well.

Look, there's no margin of error for me. I was sent up here to fix -- to replace Obamacare and put something better in its place. And I was sent up here to help ordinary Americans share in the great wealth of this country by fixing the tax code. And we failed so far on health care. We're not giving up, but the votes weren't there.

I mean, I don't believe in nibbling around the edges. The bill was dead, it wasn't going to pass, so let's move to tax reform and come back to health care. That doesn't mean we're giving up, I'm not, I just want to go get tax reform done and I want to do it by November. And I want to make it retroactive to the first of the year.

And if that means working nights and working weekends, and working in the evening, so people have to miss "Wheel of Fortune" every now and then, we need to be doing it. There's no excuse for us not to be able to do this by November.

BERMAN: You are in big trouble with the "Wheel of Fortune" lobby now, Senator.

Senator John Kennedy from Louisiana, thanks so much.

KENNEDY: Hey, I love "Wheel of Fortune."

BERMAN: I'm a "Jeopardy" guy myself but we'll leave that where it is.

KENNEDY: I figured.

BERMAN: Senator, thanks so much.

KENNEDY: I could have told you that, John. I predicted that.

BERMAN: Senator, appreciate you having us -- having you with us. Great to have you.

KENNEDY: Thanks, man.

[10:40:01] BERMAN: All right. Amid criticism that he is not doing enough, President Trump has upped the federal response or upped his activity in the White House and the response to Puerto Rico. This as residents send out requests for help to the mainland. Stay with us.


BERMAN: All right. People in Puerto Rico desperate for food, fuel, water. There is some help on the way. A U.S. naval vessel, a hospital ship is headed there in about a week. And more aid has been arriving by plane all morning.

Joining me to discuss, Puerto Rico's secretary of Public Affairs and Public Policy, Ramon Rosario.

Thank you so much for being with us, sir. I want to start off by asking you about the Jones Act. This is the law which requires that cargo between U.S. ports need to be carried on U.S. vessels. It was waived in the wake of Texas and Florida so aid could get to those states more quickly and efficiently. It hasn't been waived yet for Puerto Rico.

Do you want to see it waived for Puerto Rico, sir?

[10:45:03] RAMON ROSARIO, SECRETARY OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS AND PUBLIC POLICY: Of course. That way to help us to bring more help from other countries outside of the United States. Of course that relief would help Puerto Rico right now.

BERMAN: Is it frustrating that the administration has not granted that waiver yet?

ROSARIO: We are glad of the help that they already have deployed in Puerto Rico, but, of course, we need a lot of help more. We are asking to the federal government, the governor of Puerto Rico talked to President Trump yesterday, and we are asking for more help.

This is a chaotic situation. We need food, we need water, we have communities without those basic elements that we need to live. And we're asking for more help, not only personal, but also resources.

BERMAN: Specifically what do you want more of?

ROSARIO: More personal from the federal government. We need more. Because we have 78 municipalities and not all of them are receiving food and water. We have that need. We need more personnel here. We are making our best effort with the limited resources that we have from the federal government right now deployed in Puerto Rico, but it's not enough to cover all the island. The island, from north to south, from east to west, is having the same critical situation that we see in San Juan.

BERMAN: Do you see a federal government presence? We're told, you know, thousands of U.S. officials there, including FEMA, and U.S. military. Do you see them out in the streets where they need to be?

ROSARIO: The people that are here from the federal government is working very hard. We have almost 600 DOD, Department of Defense, personnel down here. We have a lot of FEMA administration personnel helping us. But, honestly, it's not enough to cover all the island and give to the Puerto Ricans, the 3.5 million American citizens here the help that we need.

BERMAN: The president yesterday at the White House said that the federal response to the disaster in Puerto Rico has been great and amazing. Are those words that you think properly describe what you're seeing?

ROSARIO: Maybe it's true what he's saying, but we need more from the federal government right now. We have a lot of American citizens here suffering. We are around water, so help -- we need more help. That's it. We need more help from the federal government. They are doing a great job, but we need more. It's not enough. That is the truth. From the people that are living here.

BERMAN: 3.5 million Americans, as you say.

Ramon Rosario, thanks for being with us. Good luck.

ROSARIO: My pleasure.

BERMAN: The NFL -- the president, I should say, tells NFL players to stand during the national anthem. Now the Green Bay Packers have a request for their fans.


[10:52:39] BERMAN: The Green Bay Packers planning a display of unity during the national anthem in tomorrow night's game against the Bears and now they want their fans to join in.

Coy Wire has more in the "Bleacher Report." Hey, Coy.


Last Sunday in Cincinnati, a few Green Bay Packers sat on the bench during the national anthem, but a majority of them stood linked arm in arm, and quarterback Aaron Rodgers says that is what the team will do tomorrow again tomorrow at Lambeau Field, this time in front of their own fans who they're asking to help them in promoting equality.


AARON RODGERS, GREEN BAY PACKERS QUARTERBACK: We're going to continue to show love and unity and this week we're going to ask the fans to join in as well and come together and show people that we can be connected and we can grow together.


WIRE: Now the Packers players released a statement last night saying that they represent all individuals with diverse backgrounds, who desire equality, tolerance, justice. That is the reason that they are displaying solidarity.

And --

That's Joey Odoms, a member of our National Guard who served in Afghanistan and is now the former national anthem singer for the Baltimore Ravens. He announced yesterday that he's resigning after three seasons because of what he calls an ethical decision.

That resulted, he says, from the tone and action of a large number of NFL fans. He said he feels unwelcomed and that he doesn't belong on the field anymore.

Odoms had met coach John Harbaugh in Afghanistan where Odoms told the coach he wanted to be the team's anthem singer.

As the people of Puerto Rico deal with the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria, several U.S. athletes have stepped up with donations and have started crowd funding sites. Mavericks player J. J. Barea, who is from Puerto Rico, is one of those players and he got an awesome gift from team owner, Mark Cuban, as well. Cuban offered J. J. the team plane so he could transfer food and water and supplies to his home country.


J. J. BAREA, DALLAS MAVERICKS GUARD: He's an awesome man, he's my good friend. And I texted him one time and he said, yes. So all the Puerto Ricans and all the Latinos in Dallas and in Houston, they helped put all this together, so thanks to everybody, but we're just trying to help. It's really, really bad down here.


[10:55:07] WIRE: Now J. J. Barea's crowd-funding site on has raised over $120,000, John. His mother returned with him last night back from Puerto Rico, but his father stayed there to help distribute supplies and find good use for those funds.

BERMAN: Good for him, good for that whole family.

Coy Wire, thanks so much.

All right. Be sure to watch tonight at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, Anderson Cooper hosts a town hall, "PATRIOTISM, THE PLAYERS, AND THE PRESIDENT." That's tonight 9:00 right here on CNN.

All right. We do have breaking news, sources telling CNN the president is embarrassed and the word they used, pissed, after his candidate lost in Alabama. We're following all the latest developments. Stay with us.