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GOP Tax Bill Faces New Uncertainty Ahead of Vote; Tillerson to Address U.N. Security Council on North Korea. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired December 15, 2017 - 06:00   ET



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's going to be strong support or we wouldn't be moving forward.

[05:59:35] REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: The GOP tax scam is daylight robbery.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think Senator Rubio will be there.

GOV. JOHN KASICH (R), OHIO: They're going to pass it as quickly as they can.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His debate is far from over.

TRUMP: I like Omarosa. Omarosa is a good person.

OMAROSA MANIGAULT-NEWMAN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE AIDE: As the only African-American woman in this White House, I have seen things that have made me uncomfortable.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We have a very diverse team at the White House.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The press secretary said, "We believe in diversity." If that's the case, where in the hell are the black people?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Federal Communications Commission voting Thursday to repeal net neutrality protection.

SANDERS: The Trump administration supports the FCC's effort to roll back regulations.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: A disastrous decision. But we've got to do everything we can to defeat this thing.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is your NEW DAY. It's Friday, December 15, 6 a.m. here in New York. And here is our starting line.

The final tax bill will be presented by the Republicans today. But there is a snag. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida says he'll vote against it unless negotiators make the child tax credit more generous. President Trump seems to think he is bluffing. But either way the 11th hour demand threatens the GOP's slim majority to get the $1.5 trillion tax bill passed.

The question becomes will President Trump deliver on his promise of a giant tax cut for everyone for Christmas?

One of the architects of the plan in the House, Speaker Paul Ryan, is said to be doing a lot of soul searching about his career. Close friends of the speaker tell CNN he could leave Congress after the midterms just next year. That's if the tax plan passes. But Ryan and President Trump both deny the report.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Meanwhile, the way you use the Internet is about to change. The FCC repealing Obama-era regulations that govern the Internet. Internet service providers will now have the ability to slow down or even block websites and apps and charge more for faster speed. This controversial decision already meeting legal challenges. So we will explain what it means for you.

And the Omarosa saga gets more bizarre. The departure of President Trump's assistant is raising questions about why taxpayers are still paying her salary, and she's threatening to tell all about her West Wing experience. Also, this move reveals the lack of diversity inside the Trump White House.

So we have all of it covered for you. Let's begin with CNN's Joe Johns. He is live at the White House -- Joe.


President Trump and the administration continue to express hope that the House and Senate can get the tax bill to the president's desk by Christmas. The final language being crafted and unveiled on Capitol Hill today. But there is a potential for holdout votes, including Senator Marco Rubio, and some other senators who have been harshly critical of Donald Trump in the past.


TRUMP: He's really been a great guy, very supportive. I think that Senator Rubio will be there, for sure.

JOHNS (voice-over): President Trump confident that Senator Marco Rubio will get on board with the Republican tax plan despite Rubio's declaration that he will vote against the bill unless negotiators expand the child tax credit, a measure he's been pushing alongside Senator Mike Lee.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: I remain surprised that there is not more consensus to support the reality that we need to do more to help working people in this country. JOHNS: Rubio poking his Republican colleagues Thursday, tweeting,

"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."

REP. KEVIN BRADY (R), TEXAS: We're at 11:59 on the clock and, really, the pins ought to be down.

JOHNS: Rubio's demand raising additional questions about how Republicans will pay for the bill, which cannot add more than $1.5 trillion to the federal deficit over the next 10 years if Republicans want to pass the measure want to pass without support from Democrats.

With a narrow 52-48 majority in the Senate, Republicans can only afford to lose two votes and still pass the bill along party lines.

The impact on the deficit prompting Republican Senator Bob Corker to vote against the original bill. Corker telling CNN Thursday he has the same concerns he's had in the past but declined to say how he will vote on the updated legislation.

Two other wild cards, Senator John McCain and Thad Cochran, who have been away from the Capitol all week while grappling with health issues. McCain's office announcing Tuesday that the senator is being treated at Walter Reed Hospital for "normal side effects of his ongoing cancer therapy." But sources inside the Senate describe the 81-year-old war hero as "increasingly frail."

A spokesman for Senator Cochran, who's had a number of health problems this year, telling CNN Cochran had an outpatient procedure to address a nonmelanoma lesion on his nose. But that he is doing well and available now for votes if needed.

Vice President Mike Pence delaying a trip to Israel in case he needs to cast another tie-breaking vote.

The tax push unfolding as one of the bill's biggest proponents, House Speaker Paul Ryan, dismisses rumors that he's considering leaving Congress after the 2018 midterm elections.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're not quitting any time soon?


[06:05:03] JOHNS: Some of Ryan's close friends telling CNN the speaker has been doing some soul searching about his political future.

SANDERS: The president did speak to the speaker not too long ago and made sure that the speaker knew very clearly and, in no uncertain terms, that if that news was true, he was very unhappy with it.


JOHNS: Today, the president heads out to Quantico, Virginia, the FBI national academy, to address the graduating class there. He's also expected to spend the weekend at Camp David -- Chris and Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: OK, Joe. Thank you very much.

Joining us now, associate editor of Real Clear Politics, A.B. Stoddard; and CNN political analyst and editor in chief of "The Daily Beast," John Avlon. Great to have you both.

OK, let's talk about the future of the tax bill here. So it looked, I think, more promising yesterday, until Marco Rubio came out and said that he does not like the child tax credit. It -- the total is $2,000, but you only get $1,100 of it refundable. He wants that number to go up.

So what does this mean for the future of this tax bill?

JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, look, if Marco Rubio is breaking, that's significant. The question is, is this a deal breaker for him, or is this just a late-period negotiation? It's a small enough, specific enough complaint that it seems remediable. I think Bob Corker's about busting the deficit and debt, that's harder to fix, because that's baked in the cake.

CUOMO: A.B., are they going to pass this bill?

A.B. STODDARD, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, they are. I think I'm much more concerned about the health problems and challenges that Senator Cochran and Senator McCain are facing than Rubio's complaint about the legislation. They will find a way to meet him a third of the way or something and give him a reason to vote "yes." I just know that he is not going to be the Republican who sinks this package. I think there is much more peril with people who can't make it physically to the floor to vote. In that case, they'd have to delay it to a later time. Likely a few days after Christmas. There's a lot of drama around this. But somewhat I know they're going to -- they're going to make this happen.

CAMEROTA: Senator John McCain's health is obviously at issue. People are keeping a close watch and praying. I saw Meghan McCain on television, crying about it this week. It seems as though things are sort of dicey at the moment for when he will be able to return.

AVLON: Well, we just all should offer our prayers and respect to that family. And what a great public servant. And hopefully, he will come back and be able to cast a vote. But you know, all of these factors matter. You know, you've got to come vote in person. And so as long as there's, you know, senators defecting and other folks who may not be able to make it to the chamber, that needs to be dealt with.

CUOMO: So if McCain can't make it. And if Cochran, from Mississippi, can't make it, then those two votes just don't go into the tabulation, right?


CUOMO: So then you have a wash in terms of needing all the Democrats. And you can't have any other defections. Then you need Pence to come back.

AVLON: Right.

CUOMO: So that's why the math winds up becoming interesting.

AVLON: Voting is math at the end of the day. But you know, you need to have everyone in the chamber. So every -- any senator can hold this up at this point.

CUOMO: Do you find it curious at all, A.B., that nobody has stood up and banged on the table about whose cuts are temporary and whose cuts are permanent? Now, they sweep this question aside and say, "Whoa, whoa, whoa, it's about the budgetary rule. You know, in order to get a reconciliation done, in order to get a simple majority, we have to have these expire at a certain time."

Yes, but it doesn't say for whom. The business tax cuts are permanent. The individual tax cuts are temporary. And that's why people wind up getting, you know, a bite in the behind in the later stages of this bill. You know, 20, 22, 24, 27. Then you start getting into a situation where people actually don't get a tax cut. They get a tax increase. Why is nobody pounding on the table about that?

STODDARD: Republicans really are trying to skip over the negative polling they're seeing on this and forge ahead and get this passed. Because getting something accomplished and getting it done by Christmas is way more important right now than what is -- what is in it. It's never been approached from a holistic viewpoint. It's been a game of whack-a-mole. Every time a deficit pops up, they slap it down over here, and it's a patchwork of things.

And that's not my opinion. That's the opinion of tax policy experts who've seen this come together way too quickly on a deadline.

So you're going to end up with a bill that, you know, when posed this question about the deadlines you hear -- my favorite line for Republicans is what we heard before with the Bush tax cuts: "Some other Congress will definitely extend them. It will be no problem."

And -- and the deficit spending that these tax cuts produce are going to be magically remedied this year, I mean, 2018 before midterm elections sayeth the Republican relationship by making welfare reform pass and saving us a whole bunch of money. Welfare reform that basically President Trump campaigned against in 2016.

AVLON: Yes. I'm so old I remember when George W. Bush said you shouldn't balance the budgets on the back of the poor.

[06:10:05] CAMEROTA: Wow, you are old.

Bob Corker has been vocal. He doesn't like this, you know, deficit addition. So he could hold it up, right? I mean, if Marco Rubio doesn't want to be the person on whom this falls, Bob Corker could be, right?

AVLON: Sure. I mean, this could play in any number of ways. What senator wants to be the one who says that, you know, they killed the tax bill. The folks in this has been political. They want to get it done by Christmas. They want to show a win on the board. So the focus is getting it done, not getting it done right. That's just the fact of it.

But Corker, who is not running for reelection, could be in a position to say, "Look, I'm -- I'm the last fiscal conservative. That means fiscal discipline. That means fiscal responsibility. This bill doesn't do that."

CUOMO: Ordinarily, somebody says, "What you heard about me isn't true, what my alleged friends say," I usually believe it. But with Paul Ryan and speculation about him leaving, it makes a little bit of sense, A.B., just beyond the reporting. Because again, Ryan says he's not thinking about leaving. The president says he'd be very disappointed. He doesn't believe that report. But friends around Ryan say maybe he is thinking about leaving after the midterms.

And the reason it makes sense is because he used to be, you know, this guy who fought the good fight. I'm going to do the right thing. I don't care if I have to say it. Nobody likes it. And all of a sudden, he's lost his voice.

STODDARD: I've covered Paul Ryan for years. He used to be considered a radical fiscal hawk. He was the one that basically designed a plan. It's called the road map for -- for basically to balance the budget. And it involves steep Medicare reform cuts that the party was terrified of embracing but eventually did. Democrats always said Paul Ryan -- you remember the commercials -- was going to push Grandma over he cliff.

Paul Ryan didn't want to be speaker. I don't think he needs to search his soul at all. This is -- this makes complete sense to me that he has put in his time. He's done the best he can to get his conference to -- with a Republican president passing tax reform, a long-time goal.

But this is a mess of a party. It's very divided. It's going to lose seats in the midterm election, perhaps its majority. And it makes perfect sense to me that he's decided to move on. I don't know that he leaves the Congress, but it makes sense that he definitely decided to leave the speakership.

CAMEROTA: Right. I mean, reluctant leader. This is -- this comes as a surprise to you, John?

AVLON: Well, look, I think -- I think there certainly is a lot of talk about this. This is not a -- this is a frustrating job. John Boehner basically left, because he was tired of dealing with what he termed the knuckle-draggers in his conference. That term he used. And he thought it would be better to go home, and drink red wine, and cut his grass in Ohio...

CUOMO: Have a good rye (ph).

AVLON: Whatever your hobbies might be than deal with the chaos of this conference. That's been a frustration for Paul Ryan, as well. Let alone dealing with President Trump. I mean, this tax bill they're about to pass may be a check-the-box accomplishment, but it is counter to all of his rhetoric about fiscal responsibility, fiscal discipline. Which I know he feels sincerely.

It's got to be tough. If you are a conviction person, to do something like this that is anathema for what you've argued for years, you know, with the kids and the metaphors about your children and what you're doing for them. And now not only do you participate in it, but you say nothing. That's a lot to swallow for somebody.

Yes, but you know what? Your time at the gavel, your responsibility. No pushing it off on the president.

CAMEROTA: John Avlon, A.B. Stoddard, thank you very much.

CUOMO: So Secretary of State Rex Tillerson breaking with the president again. And this time it's North Korea, or at least it seems that way. It's very hard to figure out where the message is consistent and where it isn't. But it does raise a question: is Rex Tillerson on his way out?

CAMEROTA: And we asked a group of Trump voters whether they regret voting for the president and how they're feeling today. They had some very interesting answers. That's ahead on NEW DAY.


[06:17:29] CUOMO: All right. In just hours, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is going to address the U.N. Security Council on North Korea. Now this comes at an interesting time. You've got Tillerson saying we need to sit down with Pyongyang, no preconditions. And you've got the White House now questioning how Tillerson is going to be able to do this job long term, saying that they're not on the same page.

Let's bring back John Avlon and A.B. Stoddard.

A.B., what is the reality about how many hands are on Rex's back, pushing him toward the door?

STODDARD: There's a divestishure [SIC] -- divestiture issue that is leaving Tillerson in his seat. Because he wants to make it to a year mark. It's financially disadvantageous for him to leave beforehand. So he continues to say that he is doing just fine. He often describes it as a very difficult job. He's happy to keep on working in this job. But it's very clear...

CAMEROTA: Just explain that. He has to stay a year in his public service job for financial reasons?

STODDARD: Which is why he wanted to stay a year. He didn't want to be booted out in December of 2017. And so when he gets to this year mark in January, I can pretty much -- I'm betting my house that Tillerson is not going to be secretary of state in February.

CUOMO: That's a very short tenure, right? I think only like Alexander Haig and he would be, like, competing for the shortest tenures. Is that relevant at all to him?

STODDARD: You know, I think it's very clear Rex Tillerson, Chris, was once one of the most powerful men in the world, and he had a wonderful job as president of Exxon. He was left alone to do his job. He didn't have to answer to reporters. He certainly didn't have to answer to a West Wing of a Trump White House and Jared Kushner trying to be de facto secretary of state, or any of these other issues that have challenged his tenure since day one.

He's clearly fed up with this. They're fed up with him. It's very dysfunctional, but it's really a disservice to us, because around the world, every head of government, adversary or ally knows that this administration does not speak with one voice.

CAMEROTA: Your harrumphing leads me to believe you have something to say.

AVLON: My harrumphing? No. This administration can't lose an opportunity to throw Rex Tillerson under the bus. And it sends a chaotic signal to our allies and our adversaries around the world. I mean, you know, if he's hanging on on the job so his golden parachute can fully inflate, that doesn't really serve the public.

But there's chaos that comes from the administration. It's not just Rex Tillerson's fault. Morale is miserable at State Department. Key positions remain open. And there's no sense that a new secretary of state is going to solve these problems, because tone comes from the top. The chaos is coming from the West Wing at the end.

[06:20:10] CUOMO: I would never condescend to say that your moral outrage is merely a harrumph. But how come you are not assuaged by the president saying with clear voice, "Rex is here"? If that doesn't tell you everything you need to know. "Rex is here. He's inside right now." Rex is here, he's staying here?

AVLON: Yes, it's what he said, "Rex is here." And in fact, Rex may be here. That doesn't mean, you know, he's not in the process.

CUOMO: You don't see that as a full-throated "Rex isn't going anywhere"?

CUOMO: I think that is well short of that. The question then becomes what's the succession plan? More importantly, look, you know, we've got serious issues on the table. We've got -- we've got Russia, which apparently the president doesn't want to deal with except to occasionally play footsie, you know, phone calls in exchange for being generous about the American economy. We've got North Korea obviously. This is urgent. This is real. And we still don't have adequate representation, for example, in Korea.

So you know, we've got the Olympics coming up. The administration has been hawkish. You can say that actually is responsible. But not if nobody's at the wheel.

CAMEROTA: A.B., this is urgent. I mean, perhaps more urgent than we even worried about with North Korea. Lindsey Graham had an interesting statement. He says that he gives it a 30 percent chance that President Trump will order a first strike on North Korea: "I would say there's a 3 in 10 chance we use the military option." So that's a specific mathematical calculation he's using. What does that tell us?

STODDARD: Well, you know, there's been a lot of talk among national security experts and foreign policy voices in this town about the fact that the administration is preparing for a preemptive strike. And that's just not the kind of thing I think that we're supposed to be talking about.

I think Senator Lindsey Graham sees that there is not actually an obvious choice to succeed Tillerson at the State Department. I think Senator Graham would love that job. He's obviously very -- you know, has a lot of expertise in this area. But for him -- if he thinks that he's helping the administration by speaking in a way that Tillerson isn't to sort of intimidate the North Koreans into not testing anymore, there's a 70 percent chance that President Trump responds with an attack if they test again.

This kind of talk coming from a senator, I just think, is saying, "This is what the -- I think the administration will do." I think it's really exceptional. I think he means well. But I think it might be because it looks like CIA Director Pompeo is not going to be filling Tillerson's spot and maybe Lindsey Graham is up for that after all his conversations on the golf course with President Trump.

But that's a really ominous thing for a senator to be saying that the administration is going to do.

AVLON: Yes, and look, put the criminology aside about, you know, who's going to succeed Rex at state. This is merely Lindsey Graham, I think, too casually talking about the prospect of war, perhaps nuclear war. But also reaffirming the fact that this is nonzero.

The administration believes the previous administrations have been way too lax. If things are getting to a passing point that cannot be hard, right, if North Korea can get nukes on -- and missile son submarines, that that's incredibly dangerous for the world and the United States and cannot be allowed to happen. So they believe fundamentally you get further on a kind word and a gun than a kind word alone. They're going to be tough wherever possible. But this is going to hit a breaking point at some point, possibly in 2018.

CUOMO: So you have North Korea, where every military expert tells us that that option is not just -- not the first. The second was probably the penultimate option.

AVLON: Right.

CUOMO: Then you go to a place where they don't seem to want to be strong, which is Russia. They have sanctions that were passed 98 to two that seemingly are still not enforced. And now we have this phone call between Trump and Putin. What was it about, John?

AVLON: Well, look, you know, President Putin yesterday gave his sort of rambling year-end conference call. He said he's going to run for a fourth term as -- third term as an independent.

CUOMO: Said Russian interference in the American election was nothing.

CUOMO: Of course. And then praised President Trump about the economy, which apparently provoked a thank-you phone call. This obviously is not the biggest deal between our two countries. As the "Washington Post's" exhaustive and excellent reports show, this president seems to be an ostrich when it comes to the very credible accusations, evidence of Russian interfering in our election. He doesn't want to deal with it.

He, however, can't resist an ability to sort of thank you for praise. It's this -- this is a -- the oddest and, I think ultimately, one of the most troubling things about this presidency, is that Donald Trump will lose no opportunity to criticize anyone on the world stage but has consistently avoided criticizing President Putin. Why?

CAMEROTA: A.B. Stoddard, John Avlon, on that ominous question, we will wrap. Thank you both very much.

So Omarosa out of a job at the White House, but why is she still on the payroll at the taxpayers' expense? We discuss what's going on with her, next.


[06:29:07] CAMEROTA: Press secretary Sarah Sanders defending diversity at the White House following the news that Omarosa is now out.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: With Omarosa leaving, how many senior staffers here at the White House are African-American?

SANDERS: Look, we have a really diverse team across the board at the White House. We always want to continue to grow the diversity here. We're going to continue to do that and continue to work hard.


SANDERS: I don't have a number directly in front of me. Specifically not African-American. But I can say, again, we have a very diverse team at the White House. Certainly, a very diverse team in the press office. And something that we drive for every day is to add and grow, to be more diverse and more representative of the country at large.


CUOMO: The question was how many senior staffers are African- American? And the answer was all of that words spaghetti.

CAMEROTA: So CNN political analyst and editor in chief of "The Daily Beast" John Avlon is here to discuss.

She said, "We have a really diverse team in the White House."

AVLON: Yes, OK. Let's see some numbers. No, I mean, she's not ready for that question. Let's find out at the press conference today.

CUOMO: Then say, "I don't know. I'll get back to you about that."

AVLON: Correct.