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New Uncertainty Over GOP Tax Bill. 5-5:30a ET

Aired December 15, 2017 - 05:00   ET


[05:00:00] DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: -- after Putin says the press is dreaming up reports of contact between the Trump campaign and Russia. What the two leaders discussed on the phone.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN ANCHOR: North Korea addressing the U.N. for the first time in a decade this morning. The stunning prediction of one U.S. senator on how the conflict with North Korea will play out.

Good morning and welcome to EARLY START. I'm Alison Kosik.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. You never like to hear odds on nuclear war but that's where we are. It's Friday, December 15th. "Star Wars" is open. It's 5:00 a.m. in the East.

We start with talking taxes. In a matter of hours Republicans plan to unveil the final version of their tax bill. Emphasis on plan to because there's new uncertainty as Senator Marco Rubio says he may vote against the bill unless the child tax credit is made more generous. Adding to the uncertainty two senators, John McCain and Thad Cochran, dealing with some health issues ahead of next week's planned final vote.

Now remember, Senate Republicans have a razor thin majority. They can't afford to lose more than two votes.

KOSIK: Vice President Pence has postponed his planned trip to the Mideast by a couple of days in case he needs to cast a tie-breaking vote. But President Trump remains optimistic promising Americans the greatest tax cut in U.S. history. Listen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think we will get there. It will be in a very short period of time. It will be the greatest Christmas present that a lot of people have ever received. It'll be something special.


KOSIK: For the latest on the tax debate, let's bring in CNN's Phil Mattingly on Capitol Hill.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Alison and Dave, for Republican leaders today is the day, the day they've said they will release the full tax overhaul plan, the final bill they plan on voting on as soon as early next week. Here's one problem, though. They don't necessarily have the votes and

late into Thursday night they were still working on hammering out the details of that bill. One of the big moments on Thursday that occurred, Senator Marco Rubio, Republican from Florida, coming out and saying he was a no on the deal that had been struck by Senate and House negotiators. His issue, the child tax credit.

Now that's a tax credit in the bill boosted from $1,000 currently to $2,000. But Senator Rubio's point, he wants it to be more refundable, basically adding more to people in terms of what they would get beyond their income tax liability.

The big problem with that, at least according to Senate leaders, is it is expensive. However, I'm told from several Senate aides that they've been working behind the scenes to try and address those concerns. Will they give the senator everything he wants? No, but they will give him something, something that Republican leaders think will be enough to get him in line.

As one Republican senator told me on Thursday, do you really think Senator Rubio wants to sink this once-in-a-generation opportunity? At least once-in-a-generation from the Republican perspective.

Guys, Democrats still unified in their opposition of this, still complaining about the process, complaining about the policy, saying that in the wake of the Alabama Senate upset that everybody should wait until Senator-elect Doug Jones is seated. That's not going to happen.

Should Republican leaders finalize their deal as they expect to, sign the conference report Friday as they expect to, release the bill Friday night as they expect to, expect them to move very quickly next week? I'm told still the timeline stands. They want the tax bill done through both chambers of Congress and on the president's desk by Wednesday -- Alison and Dave.

BRIGGS: In "Last Jedi" terms that is light speed. They are getting this through.

Joining us here in New York for the first time, Katie Glueck, senior political correspondent from McClatchy newspapers, co-host of McClatchy's "Beyond the Bubble" podcast.

Good morning to you.

KOSIK: And welcome.


BRIGGS: You had a lot of coffee to get you to the 5:00 a.m. hour?

GLUECK: Exactly. Exactly.


GLUECK: Had all the coffee emojis in the tweet.


GLUECK: Ready to go.

BRIGGS: We like to caffeinate our guests, at least for the first time.

GLUECK: I'm sure.

BRIGGS: Let's talk about this tax bill. Marco Rubio wants more than the $1100 child tax credit. And Mike Lee I think with him on that. Will Republicans give into that or will they call his bluff?

GLUECK: Well, Republicans have indicated that they are hopeful they can get Senator Rubio on board but as you were noting earlier the margins for error for them are very thin. They can only afford two defections and we don't know what Senator Rubio is going to do about this. We don't know what Senator Lee is going to do. We also don't know when Senator McCain is going to be back in a position to vote. And so taken together, there is a lot of pressure for them to come to an agreement because they really feel that they must get this done.

KOSIK: Let's talk more broadly for a minute about political will. There's an unpopular president. 26 percent of Americans according to a CBS-Quinnipiac poll are really for this tax bill. And we've got midterm elections coming. I realize that Republicans need a legislative win at this point. But what about the optics of this?

GLUECK: Sure. Well, for the moment, there's a lot of concern about the Republican base, at least for these Republican lawmakers. They go into this feeling enormous pressure from the base to get something done, as you noted, even putting aside maybe some of the broader political dynamics and headwinds facing the Republican Party. But, look, these are lawmakers who have promised for years they were going to repeal and replace Obamacare. They weren't able to follow through on that promise, which is a big disappointment to a lot of Republican voters.

And you also hear from a lot of donors. I'm hearing that from a lot of my donor Republican sources that they really want to see them deliver on tax reform because this is the party that controls all of Washington.

[05:05:09] BRIGGS: Yes. That's why you wonder if they'll call Rubio's bluff here. He's 46 years old, certainly wants to run for president again. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to get tax reform through. Is he going to hold it up over $900? We shall see.

The optics of this tweet, though, are bad for Republicans because Rubio tweets, "Tax negotiators didn't have much trouble finding a way to lower the top tax bracket and start the corporate tax cut a year early adding at least a few hundred billion."

But the concept here is what Rubio is saying is you've found money for the top earners in this country and now you're not going to find money for low and middle income families? If they don't give him money, how bad is the optics of that going into 2018 regardless of what this bill does?

GLUECK: Well, Marco Rubio has not been afraid to go there in terms of kind of sticking it to his party on some of the economic messaging here. You know, after the 2016 presidential election when Donald Trump won, the message that a lot of Republicans took away was, you know, we do need to sort of expand our economic messaging, and this actually seems to play into that a little bit. But at the same time there is again a lot of pressure for them to reach some sort of agreement. And you're hearing from some folks on Capitol Hill saying they think that they're going to find some sort of common ground but absolutely --

BRIGGS: They're going to have to do something after he tweeted that.

GLUECK: It's going to be an interesting day.

BRIGGS: Shot of -- yes.

GLUECK: As usual in Washington.

KOSIK: Let's stay on Capitol Hill but kind of switch gears to talk about Paul Ryan. Close friends of the congressman, of the House speaker saying, hmm, he is doing some soul searching about his political career. White House saying different. Here's Sarah Sanders yesterday. We'll talk on the other side.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president did speak to the speaker, not too long ago, and made sure that the speaker knew very clearly in a no uncertain terms that if that news was true he was very unhappy with it. The speaker assured the president that those were not accurate reports. And that they look forward to working together for a long time to come.


KOSIK: OK. But is this a situation where there's smoke there's fire? I mean, you look at Republicans. They're bound to lose seats in midterm elections coming up.

GLUECK: Absolutely. And you are hearing increasing chatter about the future of Speaker Ryan on Capitol Hill. Yes, this is someone who he'll be the first to tell you. He never sought this job, he never wanted this job. This is someone who has a young family, who also talks a lot about wanting to spend more time with them. You know, certainly he is denying these reports but at the same time you do take a look at the possible timeline here.

There is a potential that he could go out after delivering on tax reform. Something he has pushed for a long time. And of course all of this comes at a time when the Republican Party broadly and certainly in Congress is dealing with all kinds of divisions, all kinds of factionalization and so it's certainly not an easy job that Speaker Ryan has. BRIGGS: Yes. He certainly doesn't want to deal with these continued

battle over sexual harassment allegations. Black Farenthold, want to ask you about him in about 30 minutes.

Great to have you, Katie Glueck, for the first time.

GLUECK: Thank you for having me.

KOSIK: Thank you. Got to leave it. Thank you.

BRIGGS: All right. Coming up, North Korea's ambassador to the U.N. will be in New York this morning to address the U.N. Security Council for the first time in 10 years. The meeting comes after a jaw- dropping prediction Wednesday from Senator Lindsey Graham. The South Carolina Republican hawk giving 30 percent odds that President Trump orders a first strike against North Korea to stop it from developing a nuclear weapon capable of hitting the U.S.

He also told the "Atlantic" that if Pyongyang conducts another nuclear test, its seventh, those chances climb to 70 percent. Graham says the topic of North Korea comes up all the time when he plays golf with the president as he did on Sunday. Later promoting the president's golf course on Twitter.

KOSIK: Donald Trump calling Vladimir Putin after the Russian leader praised the president publicly for his administration's accomplishments. The White House says Mr. Trump thanked Putin for acknowledging America's strong economic performance and also discussed working together on the crisis in North Korea.

Earlier in the day the Russian president held his annual news conference and complimented the Trump administration for its, quote, "fairly serious achievement." He also called reports of contacts between Russia and the Trump campaign dreamed up.

BRIGGS: All right. Tech giants slamming the FCC's decision to scrap Obama-era net neutrality rules. What exactly does this mean and how will it affect your online experience, next.


[05:13:42] BRIGGS: All right. The talker on Twitter for the past week. Tech giants like Amazon, Facebook, Netflix vowing to fight the FCC's decision to roll back the Obama-era net neutrality rules. The Republican-led commission voting 3-2 along party lines to repeal regulations that stopped Internet service providers from deliberately slowing down or speeding up traffic from specific Web sites and apps. The rules also prevent Internet providers from giving their own services an advantage over rivals.

KOSIK: New York's attorney general, Eric Schneiderman, he's already working on a multistate lawsuit to roll back the FCC vote. Washington state attorney general Bob Ferguson also indicating he will sue.

Among opponents of the change, this tweet from Netflix. "We're disappointed in the decision to gut net neutrality protections that ushered in an unprecedented era of innovation, creativity, and civic engagement."

BRIGGS: Internet service providers applauding the move. This from Verizon, "Verizon fully supports the open Internet. We will continue to do so. Our customers demand it. Our business depends on it."

The repeal of net neutrality regulations does not take effect until next year. And the issue may wind up being decided in court and Congress could also step in with a legislative solution.

[05:15:01] KOSIK: President Trump praising the $52.4 billion merger between Disney and 21st Century FOX. White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders confirming the president congratulated FOX mogul Rupert Murdoch. "Vanity Fair" reports Trump actually called to make sure Murdoch was not selling FOX News.

The president believes the deal could be good for jobs but here's the thing, this is a horizontal merger between two direct competitors. So what that usually means is you're going to see job losses and you'll see less competition and more concerns for anti-trust concerns. In fact, the companies say the merger saves $2 billion but analysts expect most of those savings will wind up being in layoffs.

Now the administration's reaction winds up being in stark contrast to the AT&T and Time Warner deal. Time Warner is the parent company of CNN. That is a vertical merger between two companies that do not compete. However, the Justice Department recently moved to block that deal.

Now the deal also helps Disney transform into a streaming video giant to rival Netflix. It's now the majority owner of Hulu and plans to launch its own streaming service next year. So Disney will be pulling its content from Netflix in 2019, removing TV and films from Lucas Films, Marvel, Pixar, and Disney Animation.

New York City Police now investigating sexual misconduct and rape allegations against music and media mogul Russell Simmons. The NYPD has not received a direct complaint against Simmons but began the probe based on multiple accusations being reported in the media. Simmons' attorney Brad Rose releasing this statement saying, Russell Simmons fully supports and will cooperate with the police inquiry and is confident of a swift resolution.

In a statement to CNN, Simmons vehemently denies the allegations, posting this photo on Instagram with the comment, "Today I begin to properly defend myself. I will prove without any doubt that I am innocent of all rape charges."

BRIGGS: We shall see. OK. Ahead, LeBron James and Lonzo Ball face- to-face on the court for the first time. And it didn't turn out too well for the rookie.

Coy Wire tells us why in this morning's "Bleacher Report."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [05:21:44] BRIGGS: Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball, President Trump's favorite player, playing in his first game against his childhood hero, LeBron James.

KOSIK: Dreams do come true. Coy Wire, you've got more in this morning's "Bleacher Report."

Good morning.


Lonzo Ball says he grew up idolizing King James and LeBron says that when he heard that, he'd been paying attention to Lonzo's career ever since.

We have to show you, though, a funny moment yesterday before the game against the Lakers. The Cavs visiting a Cleveland children's hospital when a young fan had a request for LeBron regarding Lonzo. Listen.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you drunk on Lonzo for me?

JAMES: I got you. I got you.


JAMES: I got you. He might not be in my way. Once he sees I'm about to take off, he might have moved out the way.


WIRE: And LeBron was right. Lonzo wanting no part of trying to stop King James from dunking. Getting all the way out of the way. LeBron attacking the rim. The Cavs easily win 121-112.

But check this out, LeBron takes time with Lonzo at the end of the game to share some words of wisdom for the young jedi and asked afterwards what he said to Lonzo, LeBron's response was it's not for me to discuss.

Let's go to Thursday night's football. Kind of a snoozer. And before the game is when all the magic happened. While their team lost the game last night two Colts super fans, Jennifer Hardy and Joseph Swing (ph) celebrating the night they'll never forget. They got married on the field at Indy before the game and not engaged now. Married. And you saw Blue there using cue cards to conduct the ceremony because of course mascots can't talk.

The couple sealed the deal with a kiss and then afterwards they were surprised a trip for two all expenses paid trip to Super Bowl LII for their honeymoon. All is good.

All right. We want to show you this moment. Kisses from KD, as the Warriors taking on the Mavericks. And Devon Harris throws an air in pass and hits a fan in the face. Kevin Durant, league MVP, goes over and kisses the young lady on the cheek. How about that? Durant tied a season high with 36 points in the win.

Kevin Durant is on a roll this week. Earlier in the week we showed you how he gave a pair of signed shoes to a kid, made him cry, now he's handing out smooches.

BRIGGS: But wait, so go back to LeBron. He's using like baseball tactic --

KOSIK: We're going to talk like this from now on.

BRIGGS: Now reveal -- what lip readers are going to want to analyze what he might have been saying?

WIRE: Many wondering, some saying, is he telling Lonzo hey, keep your game together, I might come join you. Others are saying maybe it's about him regarding his dad and, you know, be mindful of the father, of course, getting in a lot of heat and debate and controversy even with his own team.

KOSIK: Didn't want any lip readers. No lip readers.

BRIGGS: All right. I'm going to keep mine.


BRIGGS: I don't know about any conspiracy theory abound.

KOSIK: OK. Coy Wire, so good -- so good to see you.

BRIGGS: Thank you, man.

WIRE: You too.

BRIGGS: OK, ahead, Senator Marco Rubio making last-minute demands as lawmakers prepare to unveil their final tax bill. The latest on negotiations in a report from Capitol Hill next.


[05:29:11] BRIGGS: Tax day in December. Republicans planning to unveil their final tax plan this morning. But one key senator still on the fence. Could Trump's big tax cut go down in defeat?

KOSIK: President Trump making a call to the Kremlin just hours after Putin said the press is dreaming up reports of contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia. What the two leaders discussed on the phone, next.

BRIGGS: North Korea addressing the U.N. for the first time in a decade this morning. The stunning predictions from one U.S. senator on how the conflict with North Korea just might play out.

Welcome back to EARLY START, everybody. I'm Dave Briggs. Happy Friday.

KOSIK: Happy Friday to you. I'm Alison Kosik. Good morning. It's 30 minutes past the hour and in a matter of hours Republicans plan to unveil the final version of their tax bill, emphasis on plan to because there is new uncertainty with this. Senator Marco Rubio says he may vote against the bill unless the child tax credit is made more generous. Adding to the uncertainty, two senators John McCain and --