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Senate Bill to include Repeal of Obamacare Mandate; CBO: Mandate Repeal would Leave 13M without Insurance; Sessions Denies Lying under Oath about Russia Contacts. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired November 15, 2017 - 10:00   ET



POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: He is planning a trip to Capitol Hill tomorrow, to try to sell his tax cuts. Let's go to Capitol Hill. Suzanne Malveaux is there and Christine Romans is here with the details, the important details on what this means and for whom. Suzanne, to you first, what's happening right now?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The chair of the Senate Finance Committee, Orrin Hatch, is going to be gaveling that session, day three of the markup of this bill. That is going to happen in just a few minutes or so. And then really all of these amendments are going to be introduced, potentially hundreds of amendments, to see how this changes. This is really kind of must-see TV, if you want to know how the sausage is made here on Capitol Hill. But essentially, this was a bombshell Republican -- the Senate Republicans introducing this idea that, yes, they're going to go ahead and try to repeal the Obamacare mandate, individual mandate to get this done, to afford to be able to get this thing done, to have it cost no more than $1.5 trillion so they can pass it with a simple majority.

So there are different plans on the House and the Senate side. As we said before, on the Senate side, you've got the repeal of the Obamacare mandate. Not included on the House side. On the House side, in terms of tax brackets, reduced to four income brackets. On the Senate side, that is a little bit more expansive, seven income brackets. On the House side, calls for a full repeal of the estate tax, a little bit different on the Senate side, doubling the estate tax exemption.

And then finally on the House side, immediately reducing the corporate tax rate, on the Senate side, phasing that in, delaying that a little bit. These are saying that can be worked out. What we are going to see is on the Senate side wait until after Thanksgiving for a vote on that. There are still some questions whether or not they can convince folks who were against repealing Obamacare, replacing that.

Senator John McCain was one of them. He says, yes, he could possibly, potentially go for the Senate plan here, but we're still waiting to hear Senator Lisa Murkowski, as well as Susan Collins. Those are still big question marks whether or not they would be able to sign on and get that simple majority. On the House side, we're seeing a floor debate that will take place. And then tomorrow, as expected, the vote will happen and then we will wait after the holidays to see whether or not they can reconcile these two different versions.

At the same time, Democrats are not waiting for this fight, not waiting for this battle. At noon, we're going to see the House Democratic leadership, Senate Democratic leadership holding a rally with progressive groups to say, look, this is not going to happen. Not tolerated. And as we saw, it worked the last go-around. That is the strategy this time. Poppy? John?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Suzanne thanks so much. Christine Romans, repealing the individual mandate. That's a big change in this bill. What exactly would that mean?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well, so that's the glue to the Affordable Care Act. So you take the glue away and the pieces start to fall apart. Premiums would rise about 10 percent year after year. Right away, you would see about 4 million people - new people uninsured. That's likely because young and healthy people are going to say, forget it, I'm not going to buy Obamacare. I'm out.

And then by the year 2027, you would see 13 million. The point here is this adds $338 billion to the tax plan. That's what they need. They need the money for tax cuts. And what do those tax cuts look like? They're packaging this as middle class tax relief. So here are some proposed middle class - middle income tax brackets there, 22, 24, 32 percent. But those expire by the year 2025.

I want to be really clear about this. That middle class tax relief is temporary. It expires. Individual tax cuts expire. The pass-throughs also expire. Those are the small and medium-sized businesses. But the corporate tax cuts are permanent here. And that's what's -- so key here. A 20 percent corporate tax rate would be a huge tax cut for business and it would be permanent.

Now, the White House has been selling this, Gary Cohn, the president's chief economic adviser, has been really selling this as you give relief to companies, and that's going to help people. Because companies are going to take that money and they're going to build factories and they're going to hire workers and they're going to expand. Listen to Gary Cohn with a group of CEOs yesterday, when those CEOs were asked, what you are going to do with this money.


QUESTION: If the tax reform bill goes through, do you plan to increase investment, your company's investment, capital investment. Just a show of hands, if the tax reform goes through? OK.

GARY COHN, CHIEF ECONOMIC ADVISER: Why aren't the other hands up?


ROMANS: That's Gary Cohn saying, why aren't the other hands up. There were one or two hands went up in that room. When you listen to corporate earnings calls, you guys, you hear these CEOs asked again and again. So if you get a corporate tax cut, if you get -- if you're allowed to bring in -- cuts back at a very low tax rate, what are you going to do with them? Many of these CEOs say it will be share buybacks and dividends for their investors, not necessarily - there's no guarantee it would go to the middle class.

HARLOW: What -- recent history shows they've done in the past.

ROMANS: So that awkward moment there with Gary Cohn getting a lot of play this morning.

BERMAN: It is a corporate tax cut that is factual, whether or not it gets passed down to workers, that is theoretical.

ROMANS: A permanent tax cut in the Senate bill, but a temporary middle class tax cut.

BERMAN: All right, Suzanne Malveaux, Christine Romans, thanks so much.

Joining us now to discuss, CNN political analyst, Ryan Lizza, CNN political commentators, Brian Fallon and Doug Heye.

[10:05:03] Doug, to you, we suggested, so crazy it might just work, adding, Obamacare repeal, which they couldn't get through before, to a tax reform plan, which is difficult to begin with. But, you know, look, overnight, there seems to be some optimism that you're hearing, percolating in the Senate. What do you think?

DOUG HEYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You're starting to hear that from a lot of senators, members of Congress who have been talking to folks in the Senate as well. Look, I think that the GOP on Capitol Hill knows, and certainly what I've heard time and time again, is that this is their Elvis Presley moment. It's now or never. If we can't pass this, whatever the details that we can certainly argue about later, if Republicans can't pass some kind of meaningful tax reform or tax cuts. They're going to have a very hard time going back to their base voters, who they need. They're going to have a very hard time going back to their donors.

And that's the thing I hear the most from Congressional Republicans. Their donors, people who have been there forever for them, since their first race, city council or state House or state legislature seat are saying, if you don't pass something, we have nothing to hang our hat on and we're going to walk. That's a real problem for them.

HARLOW: Ryan, in the midterm re-elections, how will Republicans defend against attacks from Democrats that we know will come that sounds something like this. You instituted permanent corporate tax cut at the expense of health care for 13 million Americans. You and I know the counterargument, but is that a tough narrative for them?

RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it is, but as Doug has pointed out and almost every Republican you talk to, they believe politically that passing nothing is far worse than passing something that will make them vulnerable on some of these attacks. I think most Republicans think that they can defend themselves from those kinds of attacks. Tax cut is a bread and butter issue for most Republicans. And it is far better for them, they believe, to, you know defend against those traditional attacks than to go into a general election, having no legislation passed whatsoever.

But, you know, Brian can probably speak to this. The details do matter, right? And as that report pointed out, that Christine did, making a corporate tax cut permanent and the middle class tax cut, you know, going away after 10 years, I would -- I find that very hard to believe that's going to end up in the final legislation. I don't think most Republicans want to defend themselves on that. That's very difficult to explain.

BERMAN: Well, they might have to because they may need that to make the numbers work. -Brian Fallon, Doug Heye suggested this is an Elvis moment here. It's now or never. For Democrats, are you all shook up, continuing with the metaphor?


BERMAN: I know.

FALLON: Look, I think we have to break down where this pressure is coming from on the Republican side. Doug is right and Ryan is right when he channels this fear that exists on Capitol Hill among Republicans that if they don't get anything done, then they're really screwed.

But where is that pressure coming from? It's coming from their donors, people like Lindsey Graham has said it out loud. It's their donors that are telling them don't call me again if you don't pass this corporate tax reform package. It is actually running against their interests in these suburban districts that is going to dictate control of the House next year. You have one of the lead provisions of this measure is getting rid of the deduction for state and local taxes. That will croak taxpayers. More affluent, suburban-dwelling taxpayers in places like southern California, Orange County, where there is a swath of districts, Republican-held districts, where Democrats think they have a real chance to take those seats, upstate New York, New Jersey, where Leonard Lance and New Jersey 7th, suburban Philadelphia, these are the places that are going to determine control of the House of Representatives next year.

And the Democratic challengers in these districts are going to be able to go to those voters and say, these Republicans, in order to provide a permanent 20 percent top tax rate for the corporations in this country that are already doing, recording record profits, in exchange for that, they raised your taxes, because 47 million households in the United States of America, according to the Tax Policy Center, will see a net tax hike under this bill. So to me, it's political suicide. The only pressure that they're really responding to here is from their donors.

LIZZA: Can I throw out one dynamic that I think is being overlooked, that I think is really interesting in the Senate. You have two Republican senators who have decided to retire, right, Bob Corker and Jeff Flake. And they in their retirement speeches, they basically said they're going to spend the rest of their term being a check on Donald Trump. And I think when you're lacking at the vote counting in the Senate, one of the questions you have is, how did two senators who believe and have said that Trump is basically a sort of threat? How do they position themselves on this tax cut debate?


HARLOW: Because Corker likes it. Corker likes it, because of the Math and because of the deficit.

LIZZA: They're Republicans. And you would think that they would support this tax cut just for policy reasons alone. On the other hand, they have to know, by voting for it.

[10:10:01] They are giving the president that they have said is a threat, an enormous political win, putting him in a position that would be stronger for re-election, and sort of strengthening the White House.

And I think one of the questions for those guys is, now that they have said that they are so in opposition to Trump, can they justify giving him their vote on a core issue in a way that they know is going to strengthen him politically, even if they agree with the underlying policy.

BERMAN: Jeff Flake has not said that that's his goal. Jeff Flake has actually said conservatism is his goal. And Bob Corker has specifically said on this, the deficit is his concern. I would be surprised for them to go against what they consider to be their conservative Republican principles here, just to stick a finger in the eye of the -


LIZZA: We actually saw with McCain and health care.

HARLOW: Well -

HEYE: Regular order.

HARLOW: Doug, quickly, Doug, your thoughts on that because I see it slightly differently. I'm just wondering devil's advocate here, than Ryan. Isn't their argument exactly the opposite of that? Isn't their argument, do what you believe is fundamentally right, not politically expedient.

HEYE: Well, that always should be the argument. It's clearly as we've seen not just in the past few weeks but the past year, the past five years. Republicans are in a very difficult spot. Whatever they do, they have an existential problem. It truly is, they're damned if they do and they're damned if they don't. That's the problem they face going into next November.

BERMAN: Well, the risk they're taking here and we will see is if this does pass, you know what does it mean for the voters that Brian Fallon is talking about. And does it come to effect, does it come to a pass before 2018. We'll find out. Guys, stick around. We have a lot more to discuss with you.

HARLOW: Was that fun to say "regular order." BERMAN: I love "regular order."

HARLOW: Gentlemen thank you very much. It is no secret, top Republicans want Roy Moore out of the race in Alabama. But what does President Trump want? We don't know because we really haven't heard from him.

BERMAN: Plus, elections are chaotic. That's the defense from Attorney General Jeff Sessions. That is how he explained his conveniently selective memory.

And then three college basketball players back in the United States after being accused of shoplifting in China. Those players will speak very shortly.


[10:16:25] BERMAN: All right. This morning, Roy Moore is still in the Alabama Senate race, but national Republicans are calling to drop out because of the on the record statements from women that he molested a 14-year-old girl and sexually assaulted a 16-year-old. The Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, he has an idea who he thinks he would like to get in the race. Watch.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MAJORITY LEADER: The name being most often discussed may not be available, but the Alabamian who would fit that standard would be the attorney general, who was totally well known and extremely popular in Alabama. That, obviously, would be a big move for him and for the president.


Our Nick Valencia is in Gaston, Alabama, Roy Moore's hometown, with more. What are you hearing?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, there, Poppy. Conservative leaders are increasingly abandoning ship on Roy Moore, even while he maintains some support here throughout the state. You have conservative leaders drawing into question Moore's character, asking him to explain the inconsistencies of his defense of these sexual assault allegations. Other conservative leaders asking him to flat-out withdraw.

It was yesterday we heard from Attorney General Jeff Sessions who says he has no reason not to believe the women who are alleging sexual assault. And we're also hearing from top Republican, Mitch McConnell, who drew into question the character of Roy Moore, also suggested that Sessions might be a good write-in candidate.

And it's Moore who's punch back on McConnell in a tweet that he sent, questioning the leadership of Mitch McConnell. Saying, "Mitch McConnell is attempting to subvert the will of Alabamians yet again, this time helping elect a far-left Democrat!" We're also hearing from Roy Moore at a campaign rally yesterday, calling this a spiritual war at a church yesterday, remaining defiant, and saying that he -- in one case didn't even know the woman accusing him of sexual assault.


ROY MOORE (R), SENATE CANDIDATE: After 40-something years of fighting this battle, I'm now facing allegations. And that's all the press want to talk about. But I want to talk about the issues. I want to talk about where this country is going. And if we don't come back to God, we're not going anywhere.


VALENCIA: Moore's supporters have done a lot to try to discredit the women that have come forward with stories of either sexual assault or relationships attempted by Moore with these young women. And this race is growing tighter, as Moore is just in a few points ahead of his Democratic challenger, Doug Jones. And that says a lot, guys, considering the last time a Democrat was elected to Senate here was about 20 years ago. Poppy, John?

HARLOW: Nick Valencia reporting for us. Thank you.

Roy Moore says he wants to talk about the issue. An issue is multiple allegations on the record of sexual assault.

BERMAN: Sexually molesting a 14-year-old might be an issue for some people.

HARLOW: That's an issue. That's an issue. Our panel is back. Gentlemen, thank you for being here. Doug, to you, overnight, the RNC's poll funding and Sean Hannity - I mean, you know, said something that I think surprised a lot of folks. He's you know one of the only journalists who interviewed -

HEYE: Journalist --

HARLOW: Journalists. He's one of the only figures who interviewed -- thank you -- Roy Moore. And now he's saying -- he's turning on him. Listen to this.


SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: For me, the judge has 24 hours. You must immediately and fully come up with a satisfactory explanation for your inconsistencies that I just showed. You must remove any doubt. If you can't do this, then Judge Moore needs to get out of this race. This country has way too many issues and problems.


[10:20:00] HARLOW: So, why cut the cord now? I mean, this is Mitch McConnell, this is the RNC funding. This is Sean Hannity, who obviously has the president's ear. The president hasn't said anything yet, but why the turn now?

HEYE: Well, I think it's becoming clear in some of the private polling that we're seeing that Doug Jones would win, Roy Moore would lose. And obviously, Republicans don't want to lose the Senate seat. But for me, it's -- you know, so many people have said, gosh, it's amazing that we're going to this point where we may have to potentially unseat a senator who's just been elected.

If you look at what's happened with Republicans over the past five years, I don't know why anybody is surprised. We had Christine O'Donnell, Sharon Engle, the Bush tax cut failure to pass the extension, we have the government shutdown, Eric Cantor's loss, which I kind of remember a little closely, John Boehner's retirement. We still have more to go before we finally hit rock bottom, which is crazy when you consider that we have the House, the Senate and a majority of governors. But that's the Armageddon that we're potentially heading into for next November.

BERMAN: So, Brian Fallon, the Jeff Sessions' notion, Jeff Sessions, maybe put him in there as a write-in candidate. The big questions are there. Would he do it? Could he win? Would the president want him to do it? And what would be the implications of that if the attorney won?

HARLOW: They won.

FALLON: Donald Trump, obviously, the opportunity to pick a new attorney general, one presumably that wouldn't have to be recused from the ongoing Mueller investigation. So I think that that prospect is quite dangerous. But I think the idea is not even a sure thing for Republicans. Because as much name I.D. as Jeff Sessions does have, anytime you're waging a write-in campaign, running against another Republican whose name is actually on the ballot, you have the potential to split the vote on the Republican side. It may make Doug Jones' chances in Alabama, the Democratic candidates all the better.

I think -- I don't often have too many nice things to say about Mitch McConnell, but I do think you have to give him a nod. 48 hours ago, it was not at all clear that you'd see the likes of the RNC and Sean Hannity abandoning Roy Moore, but I think when Mitch McConnell came out and said, "I believe the women," that was a turning point. I'm sure he has his alternative motives. He wants to keep the seat. He's in a long-term war with Steve Bannon who has backed Roy Moore, but he did do the right thing here. And it's potentially made this seat more vulnerable.

And you can't underestimate the stakes of how important control of this seat is because what the retirement of Jeff Flake in Arizona, with the vulnerability of Dean Heller in Nevada. If the Democrats can pull off this upset in Alabama, you would have a legitimate chance next November to actually take back the Senate, which no one would have thought possible a few weeks ago. And unlike sometimes when the Democrats are caught unprepared not having a good candidate in some of these deeply red stakes because they're not expecting it to be competitive. Dick Jones is a great candidate, former federal prosecutor who tried a big civil rights case from 50 years ago, arson case involving a church bombing down in Alabama. And so, and the national Democrats are handling this just right. They're staying the heck away, not allowing Republicans to try to nationalize this race down there. He's doing a good job and this might create a real serious pickup opportunity that might have ramifications for control of the Senate next year.

HARLOW: All right. Ryan Lizza, I want to address something else. The president just took to Twitter, to make a statement. Let's read it. "Do you think the three UCLA basketball players will say thank you President Trump? They were headed for 10 years in jail!"

Obviously, he had conversations with President Xi of China. They were being held in their hotel room awaiting trial. They are home on U.S. soil. What do you make of the president writing this?

LIZZA: It's classic Trump. If he does something that he thinks he deserves appreciation for, he's usually the first one to point it out. Other presidents might just allow the appreciation to come naturally. I'm sure there would be a lot of discussion in the press about how he was responsible for this. I'm sure the UCLA players are appreciative that -- if he had something to do with this, which it seems like he clearly did. But Trump does not have any unventilated thoughts and one of the things he likes is a claim for actions he believes he deserves a claim for. So, classic Donald Trump I think we would be surprised if he wasn't tweeting about this.

BERMAN: Do we think this is happening in a vacuum for his ongoing feud with many athletes in multiple sports over the last month?

LIZZA: Huh, I hadn't thought of it that way, John, to be honest. Maybe that's in the back of his mind, but I think - look, when he does something, he gets very agitated if he does not get an outpouring of support and a claim. You know, sometimes my title here is political analyst. Sometimes you need a psychological analyst for Trump. But he does seem to have a -- be very needy when it comes to appreciation and praise for something he believes he did that deserves it.

HEYE: And John and Poppy, I'm wearing my north Carolina Tar Heels tie, and I would tell you that unless it's congratulating the Tar Heels for winning the national championship, Donald Trump, please don't tweet at my alma mater.

HARLOW: Gentlemen -

BERMAN: Doug Heye, Ryan Lizza, Brian Fallon, all the important things. Thank you so much, gentlemen.

[10:25:00] All right, the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, we were just talking about maybe his next job, but what about his current job? And did he lie under oath when he was trying to get it? We're going to talk to a key member of Congress about that, next.


BERMAN: Attorney General Jeff Sessions, he is fighting back against accusations that he lied under oath. This is after he forgot and then remembered a meeting that he held with Trump campaign advisers that dealt with Russia.

HARLOW: This as the president's son, Don Jr., admits to sending a few messages with "WikiLeaks" during the campaign after U.S. Intelligence officials say the site leaked hacked e-mails from the DNC and from Hillary Clinton's campaign manager. You saw the details of that when it broke yesterday. Here to discuss all of this, taxes a lot, Republican representative Chris Stewart. He is a member of the House Intelligence Committee.