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Tax Overhaul Bill Passes Senate; Government Shutdown Near?; No Positive Train Control At Amtrak Crash Site. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired December 20, 2017 - 05:30   ET



[05:30:12] MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The ayes are 51, the nays are 48. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is passed.


DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news this morning, historic.

A major rewrite of the tax code on the way. The Senate passed the bill early this morning. It gives Republicans their first major win of the year.

Could it cost them in the midterms and what does this bill mean for you?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: And a government shutdown could be days away. What's holding up lawmakers and what's most likely to happen by Friday.

I love those congressional deadlines.

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: Especially when they come on the Friday --

ROMANS: Right before Christmas.

BRIGGS: -- before Christmas.

I'm Dave Briggs. Thirty minutes past the hour. Thanks for joining us this morning.

Historic news on Capitol Hill. Republicans' big tax overhaul is all but a done deal. In an early morning vote just a few hours ago, the Senate approved the final version of the bill, scoring Republicans their first significant legislative win since President Trump took office.

The measure has proven unpopular in most polls. It passed along party lines 51-48.

ROMANS: The approval came over the objections of Democrats on the Senate floor and protesters in the gallery.


PROTESTERS: Don't kill us. Kill the bill, don't kill us. Kill the bill, don't kill us.

PENCE: The sergeant at arms will restore order in the gallery.


ROMANS: President Trump celebrating on Twitter moments after the vote.

"The United States Senate just passed the biggest in history tax cut and reform bill. Terrible Individual mandate (Obamacare) repealed."

BRIGGS: Now you see the president inviting Republicans to join him at the White House this afternoon to tout passage of this major legislation. The only hitch, the House will have to vote to pass the bill again.

CNN's Phil Mattingly up all night on Capitol Hill. He has the details.


PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christine, and Dave, without any question at all, the biggest hurdle Republicans face as they tried to pass their tax overhaul -- something that hasn't been done in 31 years -- and getting it through the U.S. Senate.

And early on Wednesday morning, that's exactly what they did by a vote of 51-48 along partisan lines. Every Republican that was in attendance voted for their $1.5 trillion tax plan.

Now, Republicans say this is something that will benefit the middle- class. That on the corporate side will completely overhaul how the code currently stands.

It's something Democrats have attacked, saying that the corporate cuts are skewed heavily in the favor of business. The individual cuts, they expire at a certain point and aren't nearly robust enough.

Republicans say even though current polling shows that Americans don't trust this bill and aren't sure what it will actually do, they're willing to sell it.

Take a listen to how Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell responded to my question after the vote.

Do you believe there's a need for Republicans to go out and sell this bill given how Americans are currently viewing it?

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: Absolutely. I mean, we're looking forward to it. My view of this, if we can't sell this to the American people we ought to go into another line of work.

MATTINGLY: Now guys, in an interesting wrinkle this vote wasn't the final vote. The House still has to vote again. That's right.

The House voted on Tuesday to pass the bill 227 to 203 -- another big vote. The expectation was the Senate vote would be it. It would be headed to President Trump's desk.

Well, not anymore. Because of the Senate budget rules, three small provisions -- technical corrections, mainly -- were pulled out of the Senate bill. That means it has to go back to the House.

Now, this isn't any type of big problem. The bill is no danger at all. House Republicans will pass it Wednesday, probably shortly after noon -- Christine and Dave.


ROMANS: All right, Phil Mattingly. Another long day for him today.

Democratic frustration boiling over leading up to that vote. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer pausing his closing arguments to scold Republicans who were talking during his remarks.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), SENATE MINORITY LEADER: Nearly 145 million middle-class families under $200,000 will either get tax hikes -- can we have order, Mr. President?

SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: The Senate will be in order.

SCHUMER: This is serious stuff. We believe you're messing up America. You could pay attention for a couple of minutes.


BRIGGS: No shortage of reaction after the vote, including this tweet from Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, former vice presidential candidate.

"This secret, rushed, partisan tax bill in no way truly reforms the system. What we need to reform is Congress, and that's what we'll do in the midterms."

ROMANS: The White House standing by claims that the tax bill will cost the president a fortune.

Here's CNN's Jim Acosta yesterday.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The president did say that this tax cut bill would cost him a fortune. That was false, right?

SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: No, because on the personal side this actually could impact the president in a large way.

ACOSTA: As you look at this now would it balance out corporate versus personal if he's going to come out ahead.

SANDERS: I'm not sure if he's done a side-by-side but I know that there are a number of provisions that would negatively impact the president personally.


ROMANS: We don't know what they are for sure. It's impossible to know for sure because the president keeps his tax returns secret.

[05:35:03] Key measures, though, will help the president, his family, and his businesses, like doubling the estate tax exemption or lowering the tax burden on pass-throughs. Pass-throughs pay taxes through an owner's tax return, not at the corporate rate, and make up the majority of the Trump business empire.

In fact, there are many tax goodies for the family business commercial real estate, like reducing the tax on income from real estate investments and larger deductions on commercial property.

BRIGGS: All right. Let's bring in CNN political analyst David Drucker, senior congressional correspondent for the "Washington Examiner." He joins us --

ROMANS: Welcome back.

BRIGGS: -- from D.C. Good to see you, sir.

Look, we'll never know because we will never see the president's taxes, but the bottom line is this is a major win for President Trump at the time he desperately needed just that.

DAVID DRUCKER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST, SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT, WASHINGTON EXAMINER: Yes, it is a big win for him politically in that it's his first big legislative victory. Everything that he's done up until now that's been an achievement has been executive action. He has not been able to work with Republicans in Congress where they hold majorities to get something major done.

Now that is no longer the case and I think that that has shown at least Republican voters concerned about whether or not it was worth giving their own party full control of government, that they can actually get something done.

He could build momentum off of this. Republicans could see, at least short-term, a political benefit to being able to work with the president.

And I think one of the things the president did differently with tax reform versus health care is he didn't spend months beating up his own party and his own party's bill on Twitter and through other avenues while the negotiations were happening. He didn't antagonize members of his own party and he seized the results of what happens when you act in a more conventional, if you will, presidential way.

ROMANS: And now -- excuse me -- and now he has the repeal of the individual mandate which is, some would say, a death now to Obamacare right here inside of this tax reform. So he did get that Obama -- that repeal of Obamacare individual mandate through there.

You know, the approval is not very high and we heard from Paul Ryan and others yesterday who sort of blamed the media for that. They were focusing on the negative, or we keep talking about how it's a corporate-tilted tax plan, which it is.

But you look at this CNN poll here. Today, 55 percent oppose a tax plan. Compare that with last month when 45 percent did.

Here's what the "Journal" says. "The Wall Street Journal" editorial board says this.

"We'd dislike this bill, too, if all we knew what was the media reported. The polls show that most Americans don't even think they'll get a tax cut when nearly all taxpayers will. Perhaps voters will find that irrelevant in 2018, but the result is certainly better for Republicans than explaining another legislative failure."

All along, you heard from Republicans who said failure is not an option here on taxes.

DRUCKER: Yes, and ironically, the failure of health care probably helped facilitate this win on -- this accomplishment in terms of tax reform because coming out of that, Republicans from all factions of the party -- even the reddest of districts and the reddest of states -- were concerned that if they couldn't get anything done, their own voters next year would sit on their hands, not show up, and that was a guaranteed loss.

And so they looked at an imperfect tax bill -- something that voters don't yet appreciate -- and thought to themselves it's a better position to be in than another failure. And I think that's true.

If you look at where the Republican base was they weren't going to blame President Trump but they were going to blame Republicans in Congress, and they're the ones on the ballot.

Now, the challenge for Republicans, obviously, is to get voters to like this thing and there's a lot you can say about the bill. I think the danger for Republicans -- even for Democrats who keep focusing on in their view this being tilted toward the wealthy -- is actually the more well-to-do, upscale, suburban voters.

They're not independently rich but they are --

ROMANS: Right.

DRUCKER: -- doing pretty well. They think this thing is going to hurt them.

They tend to vote Republican and they tend to vote Republican because they want tax cuts. And if they don't think this bill helps them -- if they think it actually penalizes them it's going to be very -- it's going to be more difficult for Republicans to hold the House majority next year.

BRIGGS: You have two different narratives on this bill. The New York tabloids summing them up. "It's A Wrap," "Positive or Art of the Steal." So we will see which really takes shape over the next year or so.

Friday, government funding runs out. Are we headed for a shutdown?

DRUCKER: I think they're going to avoid it. I don't think they're going to want to step on their own message, the Republicans, in terms of the tax reform victory and trying to sell that.

If the government were to shut down it would be on them, most likely. They would look like they are incompetent and can't govern. After what is happening this week I don't think that's where we're headed.

ROMANS: All right.

We saw this tweet from Jeff Flake shortly after the passage of this thing last night. This is what he said.

"Bipartisan DACA bill will be on the Senate floor in January."

Do you think the deals that were made with some of the holdout Republicans will be -- those promises will be kept?

DRUCKER: Well, we're going to have to see.

I mean, I think that if Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, made a deal with his Republican colleagues to do certain things, he's going to do his part to honor the deal. But they have to get legislation through the House. They have to keep a president, who can often change his mind, on board with something, so we're going to have to see.

[05:40:05] But I think the intent is there, at least, from Mitch McConnell and that we'll have to see how far they can push this.

Obviously, the president's base is going to be resistant to a DACA fix but the broader Republican universe of voters, I think, will be OK with it, especially if it's paired with border security.

ROMANS: You know, something that doesn't get a lot of attention but, you know, the Federal Reserve is starting to raise interest rates again. The economy is doing very, very well. Ironically, you could see the Fed have to be raising interest rates to sort of counteract the stimulus that comes from tax cuts, you know. It's really kind of an interesting juxtaposition there.

DRUCKER: You know, well look, it's a good problem to have. I mean, look --


DRUCKER: -- the country, coming out of the recession, has -- the economy has grown and job -- and unemployment is obviously down. But there are a lot of people that have felt that the growth could have been more robust. That Americans could have experienced more wage growth and therefore been more mobile and had more choices.

And so, I think the test for this tax plan is whether or not it creates the kind of economic environment that Republicans have said for the last eight to 10 years that was missing. And now, the onus is on them.

If the economy does now grow in the manner in which President Trump and the Republicans are promising it's going to give Democrats something to crow about, especially the next time they control government, and that will happen eventually.

They're going to want to make changes to the tax code and that would give them more political ammunition to do so.

BRIGGS: If it does grow, though, you've got 10 Senate Democrats up for reelection in Trump states so that could be a huge risk for them.

David Drucker from the "Washington Examiner," thank you, sir. Appreciate you being up early.

ROMANS: Nice to see you.

DRUCKER: Thanks a lot.

BRIGGS: All right.

President Trump's eldest son suggesting a high-level conspiracy is at work trying to block his father's agenda.

Speaking at a Conservative Student Conference in Florida, Don Jr. lashed out at Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe and the media's coverage of the Russia investigation. He said government higher-ups were backing a scheme to undermine the Trump agenda.


DONALD TRUMP, JR., PRESIDENT'S SON: My father talked about a rigged system throughout the campaign and people were oh, what are you talking about. But it is, and you're seeing it.

There is, and there are people at the highest levels of government that don't want to let America be America. They don't want to let the little guy have a voice.


ROMANS: Don, Jr.'s comments drew serious concern from former CIA and NSA director Gen. Michael Hayden on CNN last night.


GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN, FORMER DIRECTOR, CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY AND NATIONAL SECURITY AGENCY: When I first heard that earlier this evening, that was a little scary. I mean, that is -- that is an appeal to the heart of autocracy and challenging the patriotism of those folks who work in the United States government.


ROMANS: Don, Jr.'s remarks come as some on the right, including him, are ramping up attacks on the special counsel's probe, claiming it is politically compromised.

Earlier this month, the special counsel removed FBI official Peter Strzok from his team after an investigation turned up anti-Trump texts he sent during the campaign.

BRIGGS: A single vote shifting the balance of power in the bellwether state of Virginia. A recount flipping a seat from Republican to Democrat in the state's House of Delegates, leaving the lower chamber evenly split.

Democrat Shelly Simonds emerging from the recount as the apparent winner in the 94th district and one single vote taking the seat from Republican David Yancey. The outcome ending 17 years of Republican control of the House, forcing the GOP into a rare power-sharing scenario with Democrats.

A three-judge panel still must certify the election results later today.

Don't let anyone tell you your vote doesn't count.

ROMANS: It sure does.

BRIGGS: Virginia proved it does.

ROMANS: It sure does. All right.

A Florida police officer is lucky to be alive this morning after this. The suspect takes off with the officer hanging onto his car. We'll show you how it ends.


[05:48:20] ROMANS: Confusion and contradiction in the wake of that deadly Amtrak crash in Washington State that killed three people. Officials now saying the stretch of track where the train derailed did not have positive train control, a system that automatically slows down and stops a speeding train.

The NTSB says a different safety system was in place. One that most likely would not have prevented the derailment.


BELLA DINH-ZARR, VICE CHAIRMAN, NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD: We have confirmed that PTC was not installed on this line. Sound Transit had Centralized Traffic Control which is CTC, and this is a system that allows for dispatch direction over the train. CTC cannot enforce speed restrictions on a train like PTC can.


BRIGGS: Two of the three people killed in the derailment have now been identified. Jim Hamre and Zack Willhoite were advocates for passenger railroad service and members of the Rail Passengers Association.

Still no explanation for why the train was going 80 miles an hour in a 30 mile an hour zone. The NTSB says it is waiting to interview crew members currently hospitalized.

ROMANS: Caught on body cam in South Florida, Pembroke Pines police officer Jon Cusack dragged for a half a mile after reaching into a car to stop a suspected drugged driver.

According to authorities, the 19-year police veteran saw a man and a woman asleep inside a parked car with a clear baggy containing an unknown substance.

BRIGGS: After being woken up the driver, identified as Thomas Cabrera, gunned the engine and sped off with Officer Cusack holding on to avoid being run over. He eventually let go, suffering serious road rash injuries to his arms and legs.

[05:50:03] Cabrera caught by police after a high-speed chase. He's charged with attempted murder.

The parents of a baby that grew from a human embryo frozen for nearly 25 years are ecstatic this morning. Emma Wren Gibson delivered last month in Tennessee after originally being frozen as an embryo in October of 1992. She is the longest-known frozen human embryo to ever be born.

ROMANS: Her parents, Tina and Benjamin Gibson, tried for years to have a baby.


TINA GIBSON, MOTHER OF NEW BABY: I tear up thinking about it because it's just -- you know, it's just such a blessing.

They were like well, Tina, this is a world record. And I just looked at them and I was like what? And they were like yes, it's been frozen for 24 and a half years. And I was like are you kidding?

If this embryo had been born when it was supposed to have been, you know, I was like Dr. Keenan, we could've been best friends. I was like I'm only 25.


BRIGGS: That is great stuff. Baby Emma perfectly healthy.

Previously, the oldest known frozen embryo that resulted in a successful birth was 20 years old.

ROMANS: All right. McDonald's is launching a new burger unlike any patty before.

BRIGGS: Oh, yes.

ROMANS: You have got to hear what it's like. Dave can't wait to eat it. Details on "CNN Money Stream," next.


[05:55:45] BRIGGS: All right. History made on the hardwood last night as a legendary coach reaches yet another milestone.

ROMANS: Andy Scholes has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report." Hey, Andy.


You know, no one has dominated the game of women's basketball like Geno Auriemma over the past three decades. And last night he reached yet another milestone, the 1,000 career win mark. You know, they've had plenty of things to celebrate at UConn over the years, winning 11 national titles, undefeated seasons.

And, Geno getting emotional after the win when talking about this latest milestone.


GENO AURIEMMA, HEAD COACH, UNIVERSITY OF CONNECTICUT WOMEN'S BASKETBALL: We poured our heart and soul into this and we've gotten more back than we ever deserved, so thank you all very much.


SCHOLES: Only four coaches in women's basketball have ever reached the 1,000-win mark. And get this, two happened last night. On top of Auriemma, North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell also joining the exclusive club with a win on Tuesday.

All right. Finally, it's going to be a very special Christmas for one Texans family. Texans offensive lineman David Quessenberry is going to suit up for his first NFL game after a successful bout with cancer.

That was Quessenberry back in April after receiving his last chemo treatment at MD Anderson Hospital in Houston. He was so excited he broke the bell you ring there.

Now, Quessenberry was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma three years ago.

And guys, he played in the preseason with the Texans and got cut. He then went on to the practice squad and got activated, and he's going to get to make his first NFL regular season game on Christmas day. How cool is that?

ROMANS: Great, nice. BRIGGS: Wow, on Christmas Day.


BRIGGS: That's fantastic.

ROMANS: Great for him.

BRIGGS: Thanks, Andy.

SCHOLES: All right.

ROMANS: All right, that's your sports.

Let's get a check on "CNN Money Stream" this morning.

Global stock markets are mixed right now. Tech stocks dragged U.S. stocks lower Tuesday but stock futures are higher now after the Senate passed that final tax bill late, late in the night.

Banks likely big winners of a lower corporate tax rate. They pay some of the highest effective tax rates. It's why bank stocks have rallied nine percent since the House first passed its tax bill last month.

The Senate Banking Committee rejecting President Trump's choice to lead the Export-Import Bank. The Congressman, Scott Garrett, was a fierce opponent of the institution. He's calling it a bank that embodies the corruption of the free enterprise system.

The agency provides loan guarantees to overseas buyers of American exports. This is the first time the Senate voted to block a White House nominee.

All right.

McDonald's is going vegan, in Europe at least. It will sell a McVegan burger in hundreds of restaurants across Sweden and Finland.

The sandwich contains a soy patty bun and an eggless sandwich sauce. I'll say that again. An eggless sandwich sauce.

Norwegian food company Orkla helped develop the meat-free burger.

Vegan is a hot market. Research firm Euromonitor says global sales of vegan food increased nearly eight percent last year.

No word yet on when or if the meal will make it stateside.

Dave Briggs can't wait to eat the eggless bun and meatless sauce.


ROMANS: He can't. He can't stop laughing about it.

BRIGGS: Have you seen "DUMB AND DUMBER" when Jim Carrey says, "That sounds good. I'll have that." ROMANS: You are never going to eat that burger.

BRIGGS: It's like a legislative process. I'm sure it tastes better than it sounds --

ROMANS: All right.

BRIGGS: -- ultimately.

ROMANS: Thanks for joining us. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I've lost it. I'm Dave Briggs. "NEW DAY" starts right now.

We'll try and see you tomorrow. It will be better.

ROMANS: We'll be better tomorrow. We'll be better tomorrow, I promise.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Wednesday, December 20th, 6:00 here in New York.

Chris is off; Bill Weir joins me. Great to have you here on this very busy day.

BILL WEIR, CNN ANCHOR: Busy day. Good to be with you, my friend.

CAMEROTA: Great to have you.

OK, so a landmark overhaul of the nation's tax code now just hours away from reaching the president's desk. The Senate passing the GOP bill overnight. The last undeclared Republican, Jeff Flake, voting yes.

The House expected to follow suit today in a re-vote approving this bill that polls show is deeply unpopular with the American people.

President Trump already spiking the football, praising what he calls the biggest tax cut in history. He plans to hold a news conference at the White House this afternoon.