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Death of Border Patrol Agent Investigated; United Nations Rebukes President Trump Over Jerusalem Move; Do Rich Benefit Most from Republican Tax Bill?. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired December 21, 2017 - 15:00   ET



SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We have talked about in recent days how, behind the scenes, you had a lot of House Republicans disagreeing over what exactly was going to be included in this bill, a lot of competing priorities of what would be included.

As of now, the short-term C.R. spending bill that they are going to vote on would keep the government funded through January 19 that includes a short-term reauthorization of the FISA program, the government surveillance program that expires at the end of the year.

It includes $3 billion in funding for CHIP, the Children's Health Insurance Program, which expired back in October. Also, separately, they need to deal with a disaster relief aid bill, of course, delegations in Florida, in Texas, in California very concerned about that.

Going forward, though, potentially, once the House passes this through tonight, again, it goes over to the Senate. People up here on Capitol Hill feeling pretty good at where they are right now. But, of course, Brooke, everything on Capitol Hill, nothing is done until it's actually voted on and voted through. And once it is, that is to say this is just a short-term kick the can down the road for a couple weeks until they get into January.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Speaking of kicking the can, Sunlen, thank you so much.

Sunlen mentioned one key part of this continuing resolution, one of the critical problems sort of hanging in the balance is CHIP. That is acronym for Children's Health Insurance Program. What it does is provide medical care for almost nine million kids nationwide.

And that includes 5-year-old Hazel Hoffman of Orland Park, Illinois. Her mom, Rachael, says that the medication alone for Hazel's epilepsy cost more than $1,500 a month.

So, mom is with me, Rachael Hoffman.

Nice to meet you. Welcome.

RACHAEL HOFFMAN, MOTHER: Nice to meet you as well. Thank you.

BALDWIN: So let's just first start on your daughter. Tell me about Hazel and tell me how bad, how often her seizures are.

HOFFMAN: Hazel is actually completely under control at the moment, thank you...


HOFFMAN: ... to the mixture of the medications and the ketogenic diet.

However, her seizure onset, her syndrome onset January 5 of this year, and there was a point in time where she could have as many as 23 seizures in two hours.


And in terms of paying for it, you have gotten by thanks to CHIP. But CHIP stopped -- funding for CHIP stopped in September, Rachael.


BALDWIN: So how have you been managing?

HOFFMAN: We didn't get cut off, but it was pretty -- it's been pretty scary to think that there could be a point in time when we go to refill those medications or she may have a relapse and need to go to the hospital and there would be nothing there.

BALDWIN: We understand it's part of the C.R., so it continues to be funded through the end of March, but obviously that's not good enough for Hazel and millions of other kids in this country.


BALDWIN: What would happen then? What would your options look like?

HOFFMAN: It would be pretty scary.

I could try to put her on insurance through work, but there is no telling how much would be covered. She has had to go to the hospital as many as six to seven times via ambulance. She spent more than a combined total of 21 days in the hospital at one point. I mean, four days in the hospital can run $11,000. And that's a lot to cover, even if you are just doing a co-pay.

BALDWIN: It is obviously befuddling to parents like you, the notion of kicking the CHIP can down the road. This has massive bipartisan support, and now you have this proposed short-term solution to reauthorize it through March tucked in this spending bill in order to avoid this government shutdown.

Obviously, that's not good enough for you. What do you want, for members of Congress who matter, who have a vote, who are watching?


I just want them to understand that these are the most vulnerable people in our society that are going to be suffering if -- should something happen and it does run out. You know, what happens then? We need more of a long-term solution than these little bits and pieces, because it just isn't good enough. There has to be a long- term solution.

BALDWIN: Rachael Hoffman, thank you so much. I appreciate you, your voice. Our best to your little girl.

HOFFMAN: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Let's get a little perspective now from both sides of the political aisle.

With me now, Christen Quinn, former Democratic speaker of the New York City Council, and CNN senior political commentator Rick Santorum, former Republican senator from Pennsylvania and a former presidential candidate.

Good to have both of you on.

And just quickly following up on that interview with the mom, Chris Quinn, what are you thinking about CHIP and kicking this can down the road?

CHRISTINE QUINN (D), FORMER NEW YORK CITY COUNCIL SPEAKER: Well, it's really, as Hazel's mom said, terrifying. And it's important to recognize that CHIP exists for people who are working and make too much money to qualify for Medicare or Medicaid, but don't, as the mom said, have the resources to fully cover these really serious medical conditions.

So this mom and her family, they are doing what America tells them to do. Go out there and get a job and work. And we have to fulfill our part the bargain by making sure Hazel gets what she needs.


And, yes, there will probably be a continuing resolution. But this mom needs to plan for Hazel's life. And not knowing if in three weeks from now this safety net is gone, how can she do that appropriately?

And you know, the tax bill, we all know adds to the deficit. And I have heard some Republican members of Congress say there will be no cuts to Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security, which I find hard to believe. But if they stick by that, and no one wants cuts to those programs, CHIP will not be renewed.

This is a result of adding so much to the deficit and needing to pay for these tax cuts. And this is isn't a made-up story, 23 seizures she talked about in a day. Hazel won't be able to live without this medicine. And Congress has an obligation to remember Hazel, not just what the president of the United States wants, and get this program renewed in full.

BALDWIN: Sure. And I'm sure, Senator, you are compassionate as a father of many, in

hearing this mom's story. It's just I know this is also about the deficit, and pennies, nickels and dimes, and it just leaves a lot of Americans thinking why, to the Democrats and Republicans, why drag this out with the health care of Hazel and millions of kids at stake?

RICK SANTORUM, CNN COMMENTATOR: Well, with all due respect, I haven't heard a single Republican talking about not reauthorizing CHIP or not funding CHIP.

This is not a controversial issue. No one is out there saying we need to cut the CHIP program. No one is out there saying we shouldn't fund the CHIP program. In fact, point to one Republican who has said we should get rid of this program or we should defund it or we should cut it.

BALDWIN: I think the issue is, well, what happens after March?


QUINN: And it's expired. And, Senator, it expired too. So, actions speak louder than words.

SANTORUM: I gave you a chance to talk. Now, Christine, you need to give me a chance to talk.

QUINN: No, I just wanted the facts out.

SANTORUM: The fact is that the program has money in it, as we all know. As your -- as the wonderful mother of that little girl said, her program hasn't been cut off.

Why? Because there is money in there to continue to provide subsidies and support for the CHIP program. So, with all due respect, this is a chess match and there are a lot of pieces on the chessboard.

But let me just assure you, this is probably the most popular health care program that both Republicans and Democrats support. So I would say to that mother who was on the show, you have no fear at all that the CHIP program will not continue.

Now, there may be legislative reasons for it to be delayed until March or put in the C.R. and it's going to be a bigger package of this. You know what? I understand how that can be disconcerting, but let me just give you all the assurance that I can that CHIP funding is going to continue.

There will not be cuts in it. There may be cuts in Medicaid and Medicare and other things, if you're doing a bigger -- but I can tell you one program that is not going to be reduced is going to be the CHIP program.


QUINN: Look, Brooke, I hope Rick is right.

Senator, excuse me.


BALDWIN: We all do.

QUINN: I really do.

But we need to note, for the record, the Republicans control the House and the Senate, and CHIP expired in October. The money that is left in some states will certainly run out, by all accounting and analysis out there, by the end of February, mid-March.


SANTORUM: That's why they're putting money in the C.R.

QUINN: But it's not the same thing as a program. And the Republicans let the program lapse. So, actions may speak louder than the words that senator referenced.

BALDWIN: We hope -- listen, let's take the senator, we hope the senator is right, and we hope that they follow through on continuing funding it for a long, long time.


BALDWIN: Let's talk taxes. Let's move on to that.


SANTORUM: Something less controversial.


BALDWIN: Taxes, you know, that old thing.

You have more and more Americans, affluent Americans, they are coming out against the tax bill, specifically Abigail Disney. I don't know if the two of you have seen this. Her Facebook post has now been shared thousands of times, Abigail Disney, as in Disney World.

Here she was.


ABIGAIL DISNEY, DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKER: They made a lot of money. They gave some of that money to my dad. And then my dad gave it to me.

I did not do anything to earn that money, and yet I'm about to get a huge handout from Congress. You might have heard it called a tax cut. And, yes, it's a very fat tax cut for me, along with some other people and corporations mostly in the 1 percent.

But it's probably not going to be a meaningful tax cut to you. For example, if you work for a living, your income is probably going to be taxed at a higher rate than mine once I set up a pass-through corporation to send it through.

That's right, 21 percent.

I really hope I have made you angry. You should be. No one who votes for this tax bill will be voting with your life in mind.


BALDWIN: Adding to that, you have Dave Chappelle, who has got this new Netflix stand-up special, was filmed long before Congress passed tax reform. But he talks about -- well, listen for yourself.


DAVE CHAPPELLE, COMEDIAN: I listen to them say naive poor white people things.

"Donald Trump is going to go to Washington and he's going to fight for us."



CHAPPELLE: I'm standing there thinking to, my man, you dumb mother (EXPLETIVE DELETED).



CHAPPELLE: You are poor. He's fighting for me.



BALDWIN: So, Senator, I mean, listen, obviously, they don't speak for all of Americans, but the question is, you know, how does the administration, how do Republicans shake off this perception that this tax bill is good news for the rich, especially if you have rich people speaking out against it?

SANTORUM: Well, first off, the reality of the situation is going to hit.

Two realities. Number one, people are going to start to see their take-home pay go up starting next year, because tax rates are reduced across the board. So, everybody is going to get some reduction in taxes.

Number two, you are already seeing the way corporations are reacting by reducing the corporate tax. You have a whole slew of companies, and more to come, they are going to increase wages, they're going to provide bonuses, they're going to do things that are going to reinvest that money in America.

Here's the other point I would like to make about Ms. Disney. I have no idea what tax bill she is looking at because that is absolutely false. Unless she's a manufacturer, unless she makes something, from, what I understand, she says she doesn't do anything with her money, she just got it, she can't set up a pass-through organization and pay 21 percent.

That's not permitted under the bill. So, again, this is just frankly liberals out there trying to repeat falsehoods about what this bill does. This says, if you are a manufacturer, if you are making something, if you're creating jobs, and you're employing working men and women with wages, then we're going to give you a lower rate to compete with corporations.

But if you are Rick Santorum and you're someone who is a consultant, you can't set up a pass-through organization. If you are an investor, you can't set up a pass-through corporation. You are going to pay at the rates that you were before.

BALDWIN: So, Chris, I want your response to that. But I do want to point out one -- in the middle of that what the senator said in terms of some companies, he's absolutely correct. And I think it's important to point that out, specifically Wells Fargo, the fifth -- the third bank of course said they plan to hike their company-wide minimum wages to 15 bucks an hour.

SANTORUM: Comcast.

BALDWIN: Comcast, AT&T promising $1,000 bonuses.

SANTORUM: So, if you would be working for MSNBC, you would be getting a bonus right now, Brooke, just so you know. I don't know. Maybe you should talk to Time Warner.


BALDWIN: Nevertheless, that's a good thing for the administration. Just trying to sneak that in there.

Go ahead, Chris.


BALDWIN: I'm glad I work for CNN, for the record.



QUINN: Look, I think there were falsehoods in what the senator said. And I'm not going to comment on Ms. Disney's personal financial situation.

But the majority of people, 83 percent of Americans who will get a tax break from this, a sustained tax break, are from the 1 percent. There are some Americans, middle-class Americans, who will get about a $1,500 to $1,800 tax break to start.

In less than a decade, that one -- basically one-shot tax break will be gone. That's the reality. There will be a little bit there. It will be gone.

And as it relates to companies -- and I want to applaud the companies who are saying and doing the right thing, which they are not required to do, of course, and going to up salaries.


QUINN: But as just as many companies we're seeing reports of that they are going to use the savings to buy more stock, not invest in their work force.

So the massive kind of benefit for workers, we are seeing contradictory information about how much that will play out.

And, again, the facts are that this is a tax break for the very rich.; 83 percent of those who benefit are the richest richest in America. And if you live in some states, like New York and New Jersey, you are no longer going to be able to make certain deductions, like your local and state taxes, so your taxes, notwithstanding the one-shot break, will go up significantly.

And in less than a decade, all of the tax cuts on the middle class disappear. This is a permanent benefit for the super rich and corporations, who have no requirement to put back in.


BALDWIN: Although the House speaker says could make them permanent on the individual side.

QUINN: Could.

BALDWIN: Again, it's one of those, could, maybe, we don't know.


QUINN: I could wake up tomorrow and be Heidi Klum and a model. It's not going to happen.


SANTORUM: That 89 percent of New Hampshireans are going to get a tax cut

So, I don't know where you are getting this 1 percent. The fact of the matter is that the top 50 percent of income earners in this country right now pay 97.5 percent of all taxes.

And so, yes, they're going to get -- the top half earners, since they pay 97.5 percent of the taxes, they are going to the ones who are going to get the tax break. But the idea that the top 1 percent get 80-some percent, that is just blatantly false. QUINN: No, it isn't, Senator. It's not. And another fact is that

the one-time tax breaks to middle class will go away, and they will have no permanent benefit.


SANTORUM: They will be extended, just like they were under the Bush taxes.


BALDWIN: Oh, promises, promises.

SANTORUM: Well, they were. They were extended by President Obama.


BALDWIN: Senator Santorum, Chris Quinn, I would rather you than Heidi Klum any day on my show.


QUINN: Thank you.

BALDWIN: For the record.

Thank you both so very much. Great to see both of you.

QUINN: Happy holidays.


SANTORUM: Merry Christmas.

BALDWIN: Thank you. Same to you, to both of you.

Breaking news here, the U.N. ignores warnings from President Trump and Ambassador Nikki Haley today and votes overwhelmingly to condemn the U.S. recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital. We have details on how the White House might respond to that.

You are watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.


BALDWIN: It has been one month now since Border Patrol agent Rogelio Martinez died from injuries he suffered while on patrol in West Texas.

The FBI says they still don't have a concrete answer about what happened.

CNN correspondent Scott McLean spoke with the agent's fiancee.



future, and what he planned, what we wanted to do. And we always spoke about getting old together.

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's been a month since Angie Ochoa's fiance, Border Patrol agent Rogelio Martinez, was killed on duty, a month wondering what happened.

OCHOA: The whole thing is very confusing. And, you know, just the fact that nobody is getting any answers just makes it even worse.

MCLEAN: On the night of November 18, Martinez was working alone, checking culverts along the interstate near Van Horn, Texas, about 30 miles from the Mexican border. Whatever happened next left Martinez badly injured and unconscious.

He never regained consciousness and later died in the hospital from head injuries.

OCHOA: I still have the last "I love you" note that night he left to work. It said, "I love you." And I found it the following morning when I was going through my makeup.

MCLEAN (on camera): How did that make you feel?

OCHOA: It tore me apart, just to know that someone loved me that much, and now he's gone, with no answers.

MCLEAN (voice-over): A second agent, Stephen Michael Garland, was also found injured in the same area, but survived. The Border Patrol union was quick to label it attack.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott called it murder. And on Twitter, the president used the incident to promote the southern border wall he's promised to build.

But the local sheriff, Oscar Carrillo, who responded to the scene that night, says it did not look like an attack to him. He suggested the agents may have fallen eight to ten feet to the bottom of the culvert. He told "The Dallas Morning News," it's even possible they were clipped by a passing tractor trailer. The union disagrees.

CHRIS CABRERA, NATIONAL BORDER PATROL SPOKESMAN: These agents didn't get clipped by a truck. They didn't get clipped by a car. They were attacked. It's just -- it's plain to see that they were attacked.

MCLEAN: According to a Department of Justice official with knowledge of the investigation, the FBI was investigating several possibilities, including an accident, an attack or a dispute between the two agents.

In the weeks after the incident, the FBI set its sights on two brothers, who had crossed the border illegally according to a search warrant mistakenly filed in open court. Investigators searched the vehicle they were in for evidence that might tie them to the scene. The FBI has since indicated it's no longer looking in that direction.

MCLEAN (on camera): You had the opportunity to actually go out to that scene. What did that tell you?

OCHOA: I find it very hard that a fall could have caused all the damage that he had. And as far as him being, you know, sideswiped, it couldn't have happened either because he was not off the freeway. He was actually on the side road. From the damages to his face, I mean, there's no way. There's no way.

MCLEAN (voice-over): The one person who might have answers, Agent Garland, says he doesn't remember anything after arriving at work that day. Garland has so far not responded to interview requests and Ochoa says he's also not reached out to her family to offer condolences.

OCHOA: And I just figured, you know, eventually, you know, he'll start remembering things and then they'll catch the ones that -- that did it. But now it's just -- it's -- it's become so hard to believe that he can't remember anything.

MCLEAN (on camera): For its part, the Border Patrol union says that Garland suffered severe head trauma, that he wants to remember what happened, wants to get it out in the open, and ultimately wants justice to be done.

Scott McLean, CNN, El Paso, Texas.


BALDWIN: Scott McLean, thank you so much.

Next, potential White House fallout from a vote at the U.N. today condemning President Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. We will discuss whether the White House might actually pull funding, follow through with the president's word, from some of its allies.



BALDWIN: We are back on this Thursday. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

The United Nations has just voted overwhelmingly to condemn President Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital. The president warned nations that they risk losing funding if they cast their vote against the United States.

U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley with this stinging rebuke just before the vote.


NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: The United States will remember this day in which it was singled act for attack in the General Assembly for the very act of exercising our right as a sovereign nation.

We will remember it when we are called upon to once again make the world's largest contribution to the United Nations. And we will remember it when so many countries come calling on us, as they so often do, to pay even more and to use our influence for their benefit.


BALDWIN: Let's go to David Sanger, our CNN political and national security analyst and also a national security correspondent for "The New York Times."

David Sanger, always a pleasure, sir. Obviously, this vote mostly symbolic. So what's the real-world implication of that kind of rebuke?

DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, the really fascinating part, Brooke, here is not that it passed.

We expected that the resolution would pass, because it's consistent with resolutions that the U.N. has passed many times since 1967, saying that the status of Jerusalem has got to be negotiated between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

What's remarkable here is who voted against the U.S. and with those past resolutions.

BALDWIN: Talk to me about that.

SANGER: Britain, France, Germany, Japan?