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Two Committees Meet on Health Care; Interview with Representative Mo Brooks; GOP Split on Obamacare Repeal and Replace; Dirk Nowitzki Scores 30,000 Career Points; Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired March 8, 2017 - 10:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[10:30:00] PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I walked over here from the Capitol building with a Democratic lawmaker who's on the House Ways and Means Committee. When I asked kind of what do we expect for today, he winked and said, it's going to be fun. So I think you need to know that what's actually going to happen for Democrats, do they expect to get major changes to the bill? No.

Do they expect to kind of their concerns about the legislation heard? Absolutely. And what would their focus be? According to one Democratic aide make this all about President Trump, all about President Trump's promises at one point for universal coverage, promises about what he expected to see in the healthcare plan that might not actually exist in this hundred-plus page plan. That's their focus for the day.

But, guys, major changes, don't expect them. This is expected to be long, arduous, with a lot of Democrats saying a lot of negative things about this bill.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Yes.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: A news-making wink to Phil Mattingly on Capitol Hill right now.

HARLOW: And keeping Phil Mattingly at work I suspect around the clock.

Phil, thank you for the reporting.

Joining us now, Republican Congressman Mo Brooks of Alabama.

Nice to have you here. Let me just get to --

REP. MO BROOKS (R), ALABAMA: My pleasure.

HARLOW: You know, look, you called this yesterday the largest welfare program sponsored in the history of the Republican Party. I take it you don't like what you just heard from House Speaker Paul Ryan.

BROOKS: I respectfully disagree with the speaker of the House. And there's not a close second for the largest welfare program sponsored by Republicans in the history of the Republican Party. This far and away is the biggest welfare program ever sponsored, and quite frankly it undermines the work ethic, it increases greater reliance on welfare from a federal government, a federal government that is headed towards insolvency and bankruptcy.

And while I very much appreciate the wonderful oratory of our House speaker, and Paul Ryan is gifted in that regard, it's much akin to Christmas were that oratory is a pretty ribbon and nice wrapping paper but you open up the present and it's a lump of coal. And that's what this bill is. It is a lump of coal. And they can try to make it look good and package it as good as they possibly can but it does not change what it is.

And it is the largest welfare program ever proposed by Republicans in the history of the Republican Party. It's going to be disastrous for our deficit and debt long term. It's going to make every election about how much more welfare can you give me by increasing these tax credits, these payments to the American people. Ultimately it's going to result in the demise of our country or at least contribute to our debilitating insolvency and bankruptcy.

BERMAN: So, Congressman, it's not just Speaker Ryan who is behind what you call the largest welfare plan proposed in the history of the Republican Party. It's the Republican president of the United States, President Trump, who is behind this bill now we are told 100 percent. So, you know, let's role play a little bit, Congressman.

You know, President Trump dials the phone, he calls you and says, hey, you know, Congressman Brooks, I need you with me on this, I need your vote here. What do you tell the president?

BROOKS: Well, first, my insight is a little bit different than your insight. The information I have is that the president of the United States, he wants a repeal of Obamacare and he wants some kind of replacement. As long as he can have that signing ceremony, he's very comfortable. What's in the language of the bill itself he's extremely flexible on. And I'm hopeful that we will stick to our word.

We said we're going to repeal Obamacare. Quite clearly this proposal by the House leadership is not, is not a repeal of Obamacare.

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: But - but Congressman --

HARLOW: Yes.

BROOKS: A repeal is HR 175 that takes two sentences. This is a 107- page monstrosity.

BERMAN: So, again, you know, and our information may be different here but we're hearing what you're hearing, but if the president called you and told you to support what you are seeing right now, the plan as it is right now, you would flat out tell him no?

BROOKS: I would tell him that he needs to consider some other factors. And I hope that he would be on board for actually repealing Obamacare instead of merely amending it, and that he would be on board for something that is financially responsible, that does not consist of such a huge welfare program as opposed to what we have. So I'd try to convince him to do what is right for America and what is

in the financial long term interests of America.

HARLOW: Yes, you know, it might be some tough convincing. I mean, I know you're saying it doesn't sound like the president is fully on board. Let me just read you his tweet from yesterday, "Our wonderful new healthcare bill is now out for review." He called it wonderful, those are his words. And he is facing an American public that is increasingly supportive of Obamacare, 54 percent, as you know.

Let's pull up the Pew poll, this is just, you know, two weeks old, that's the highest it's been, 54 percent approval. And of those, of those who disapprove of it, only 17 percent of them actually want a full repeal, which is what you're calling for.

You have the support, you believe, of the American public largely behind what you want?

BROOKS: I believe that the American public is, vast majority, in favor of the stance that I have particularly they understand --

(CROSSTALK)

HARLOW: They're not, sir. They're not, sir. I just showed you polling.

BROOKS: No, no. I --

HARLOW: And that's more recent polling.

BROOKS: I'm sorry. By the polling kind of information that you just shared, Hillary Clinton is president. So we know -- we know that polling --

HARLOW: That's absolutely -- that's absolutely false. This is a Pew poll of Democrats and Republicans in a broad swath of America.

[10:35:04] BROOKS: We know that polling results are determined to a very large degree by the way in which you counts the question. If you were to share with the American people the kind of collapse that is going to occur soon very soon with Obamacare because it is financially unsustainable, if you share with them the continuing huge hikes in insurance premium costs caused by Obamacare, then the numbers shift quite dramatically in favor of repeal.

So I've been -- I've been in elected office now off and on since 1982, over three decades, and I know how polls can be used to try to enhance a position even though that polling data does not reflect the true attitudes of the American people.

BERMAN: And it's not --

BROOKS: And that Pew poll that you cite, I would respectfully submit, was not done in such a fashion as to properly characterize the issue that's truly before us.

BERMAN: Well, there are other polls, too, which show support for Obamacare rising.

HARLOW: Kaiser.

BERMAN: But let me tell you about a poll that I don't think you'll argue with, and that would be polling the members of your own party in the House of Representatives on the vote as it stands now. Do you think that your House speaker, Paul Ryan, and the House leadership, has a grasp on how solid the opposition might be to this plan?

BROOKS: Well, I'm not sure myself how solid the opposition is in the House of Representatives. I will say that as of today, the speaker of the House will need a substantial number of Democrats to vote to repeal Obamacare and support the House leadership replacement plan in order for it to pass the House of Representatives.

Right now there are simply not enough Republican votes to pass this huge new welfare program that is being sponsored by the House leadership.

HARLOW: Last few weeks ago you went on a local radio program in your great home state of Alabama, and you talked about this in depth and you talked about the fact that you blame those without a spine to stand up to those angry constituents at these town halls. And you said that it was in part because of these town halls that you don't think a repeal will get through.

Really, it's the constituents' fault?

BROOKS: No, I'm giving them credit. You're calling it fault. Certainly politics is somewhat in a vacuum. Those people who rush in to fill a vacuum, they are the ones who control the political outcome. Right now, due credit to the Democrats, the socialist wing of the Democratic Party, those people who like the Affordable Care Act, they are very active in pushing forward their views, their effort to keep Obamacare or something very similar to it.

And to their credit, I believe that they're having an effect on some of our weaker-kneed Republicans who are unwilling to stick to their commitment to actually repeal Obamacare. And again, what's being pushed right now is not a repeal of Obamacare. It is an amendment of Obamacare.

We keep the huge welfare program at extraordinary cost, over $100 billion a year, money basically that the American citizens don't have, can't afford to give up, and that the federal government needs to quit borrowing.

BERMAN: All right. Congressman Mo Brooks from Alabama, who told us this is the biggest welfare plan ever proposed by Democrats, also told us it will not pass without Democratic votes. Making some news here.

Congressman, thanks so much.

So what does the president do about this? How does he overcome the opposition we just heard from Congressman Brooks? Conservative media, they are talking about this nearly nonstop. And a lot of places on conservative media simply not buying it. So how can the president win over the blogs, the talk radio hosts? We'll talk to them, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:42:49] HARLOW: President Trump issuing a stern warning to fellow Republicans, if his party's plan to repeal and replace Obamacare fails, you can expect, in his words, a, quote, "bloodbath" in the 2018 midterms. The White House is doing a full court press to try to get their own party on board.

BERMAN: It's not just the lawmakers they need to sell, though. Winning over conservative media could be key and more so in the headline this morning on Breitbart.com, this is the site that used to be run by Steve Bannon who now works in the White House. It says, "Freedomworks Opposes Speaker Ryan's Obamacare 2.0 Plan." They chose the words Obamacare 2.0 plan right there.

On Tuesday, syndicated conservative radio host Michael Medved, a recent critic of the president, asked the White House this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL MEDVED, NATIONALLY SYNDICATED RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Do you think the White House could a do a better job of focusing on the issues that really matters, reforms that matter to the American people, rather than getting distracted to these incendiary conflicts as we move forward into the coming months?

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Thanks, Michael. You know, respectfully, I would say that we have been focused.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: All right. Well, Michael Medved, author and host of "The Michael Medved Show," joins us now. Did he get a full answer from the White House? We'll ask. And also we're joined by CNN political commentator and host of "The Ben Ferguson Radio Show," Ben Ferguson.

Nice to have you both. And Michael, let me -- let's actually get both of your temperatures, starting with you, Michael, on your listeners. I mean, you talk to folks and you talk to conservatives. Do they like what the Republican Party is offering now to repeal and replace Obamacare?

MEDVED: Well, look. Let's be fair. This is not a big monster bill like Obamacare was. It's not over a thousand pages. But it is 70 pages. And there is a lot of technical aspects to it. Most people don't really understand what the essence of the bill is. And I think that one of the things that Speaker Ryan and associates can do is to be more forceful in indicating that what this bill does is it doesn't take away choices for the American people. It gives them additional choices. And that's what the Republican Party should stand for.

The idea that people who like Obamacare, fine, but what is important is that people have more liberty, more choice to go ahead and devise their own health insurance and to get the kind of health insurance and negotiate for the kind of health insurance that they want, less government compulsion, more individual choice.

[10:45:12] BERMAN: You know, Ben Ferguson, before you tell me whether or not you support or oppose this.

BEN FERGUSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Sure.

BERMAN: You know, I am curious, because, you know, a lot of conservative media, Breitbart seems pretty opposed to this right now, Freedomworks, the Heritage Action.

HARLOW: Yes.

BERMAN: Out against it. The Koch brothers, they don't seem to like it one bit. So again, I'm just asking you, what you are hearing from people calling in? Are you hearing support or opposition to this as it stands right now?

FERGUSON: I would say overwhelming opposition. I spent three hours only on this issue yesterday. And I would say probably 75 percent of the people that got through on the phone to the show said they did not like it.

Now, the big question I asked them was, what specifically do you not like? And then the majority of the responses were, well, I am seeing people that I trust, they are telling me that this is no different or not that different from Obamacare, they start calling it RINO-care for "Republican in name only." And so there is a trust issue here with the Republican leadership. I'm not -- I'm excluding the White House from that. I'm talking about Paul Ryan and his leadership.

There is also a little bit of the art of the deal here. I think there are some congressmen that read that book probably and they're negotiating by calling this Obamacare 2.0 to get more of what they want in there.

Now I reminded people on the show yesterday, I said, remember, you may not get exactly what you want because you have to have the votes to pass something. And what was proposed out there of a complete repeal of this and then some sort of replacement is probably not reality because the votes aren't there.

This is going to be negotiating. It's going to be ugly. And I reminded them yesterday, that's a good thing. This is a complicated bill. It shouldn't be easy to fix it and replace it. It should be fought over in the public. And people should be able to read the bill. That's the one good thing I think the speaker did here was of transparency, putting this bill online so that people can read it and most people really liked that aspect of it. And it was short. It was -- you're talking about 70, 71 pages here compared to over a thousand.

MEDVED: Right.

FERGUSON: People can actually read that. Average Americans can and they probably will.

HARLOW: Berman can read that in the commercial break. Michael, to you --

FERGUSON: Exactly.

(LAUGHTER)

HARLOW: You -- you think, and I wonder if you're a little bit in fantasy land here, you think that the president should include Democrats here. Is he going to do it?

MEDVED: Well, there's no question. If you look at the mistake that Barack Obama made with Obamacare, it was pushing through a massive reorientation of the American health care system without a single, not even one Republican vote. That's a mistake.

The Republicans simply are not going to get anything passed here unless they have a buy-in from a few dozen Democrats in the House and at least two or three Democrats in the U.S. Senate. They need to do that. And there is no reason not to do that. When we have done major reforms in the past that have been successful, things that have changed America for the better including welfare reform in 1996, which provided more liberty, less government spending, more individual choice, that welfare reform was signed by Bill Clinton. It was drafted by Newt Gingrich with significant Democratic support. And that's the kind of reform that is needed here.

I think the American people are longing for it. I think that President Trump talked about that kind of leadership. And rather than focusing on Breitbart, for instance -- Breitbart has always hated Speaker Ryan. They've been going after Speaker Ryan obsessively like Captain Ahab and Moby Dick, and the great white whale.

So I would just ignore that a little bit and focus on actually what we could do to improve the level of choice and effectiveness if our health care system for the American people.

BERMAN: But the thing is now is it's not just Speaker Ryan. I mean, President Trump, you know, he has bought into this. He called it, you know, our own wonderful.

MEDVED: Sure.

HARLOW: Wonderful bill.

BERMAN: And he called it wonderful and we even understand -- our reporting is overnight that he thinks now he may need to offer more support to this than before, he's got a whole sales plan for this right now.

So, Ben Ferguson, specifically, how effective do you think the president can be?

FERGUSON: Well, I think there's two things here that he can be very effective on. One, he has shown, especially during the campaign, that he knows how to communicate directly with those people that are in support of him. I also think he understand how to put pressure on congressmen or senators that may not be getting along with him or not maybe acting like they're going to hold out on this type of bill.

But I don't think what you're seeing right now is what the final product is going to be. I also think you're going to make -- he's going to do a big push here, and it's a smart push, to make it clear to the American people, hey, this is going to be something that is going to replace Obamacare, you do not have to worry about elapsing coverage or losing health care and then having some sort of in between period until you get new health care.

That's one of the reasons why Obamacare, I think you see in these poll numbers, is that -- basically it's this all-time high since it was passed, because Democrats were brilliant on this issue.

[10:50:03] They fear-mongered and said the Republicans are going to take away your health care and you may not have coverage for a time before you get their new plan. This proves -- this bill proves that will never happen and the Republicans have to go out there then and let the people know that and then work through this to get them something that people agree with.

I ultimately think that you're going to see this probably passed. I think it's going to be a little bit different than what it is right now. I do think the voters -- because every Republican, Paul Ryan was smart about this today, he reminded every Republican out there, you ran on this issue. If we don't do this, every one of you is going to have to go back your home and run for reelection and you're going to be one of the guys who are going to say, didn't help us get this done.

BERMAN: All right. Ben Ferguson, Michael Medved, interesting to hear both your takes and just trying to sell your listeners 75 percent oppose as Ben Ferguson.

HARLOW: Guys, thank you very much.

Coming up, the congratulations pouring in for Dallas Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki.

BERMAN: You called him.

HARLOW: Yes. He had a career milestone that only a handful of NBA players have ever reached. Andy Scholes with the "Bleacher Report" next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: All right. NBA superstar Dirk Nowitzki reaching a milestone few have reached before.

Andy Scholes with more on "The Bleacher Report." Hey, Andy.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, what's going on, guys? You know, I've had the pleasure to cover Dirk in Dallas for a couple of years even the year he won the championship. I got to tell you, there's no superstar in the NBA that is more humble than Dirk.

This is his 19th season with the Mavs. It was this bucket right here. He became just the sixth player in NBA history and the first international player ever to reach the 30,000 point mark. And after a timeout the seven-footer from Germany just gets mobbed by Mavs owner Mark Cuban, and his teammates, as they all celebrate.

Dirk said afterwards a very emotional moment for him and he hopefully has a couple of more buckets left before it's time for him to ride off into the sunset.

You know, congrats came just pouring in for Dirk from everywhere, even Dirk's good friend actor Ben Stiller posted this funny video.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BEN STILLER, ACTOR: Hey, Dirk, just here in my farm, they told me that you hit 30,000 points. I don't really follow basketball but that's incredible. I mean, in one game? Amazing. Anyway, I got to get back to my chores. Take it easy. Check the cattle.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHOLES: Who knew Ben Stiller had a farm?

Gonzaga officially punching their stake at the NCAA tournament last night with a win over St. Mary's. The Zag, with just one loss, they're likely going to earn a number one seat for the second time in school history on selection Sunday this weekend.

Now yesterday here in New York, all the broadcasters from Turner Sports and CBS who will be calling the tournament game were here for media day. And with Gonzaga being one of the favorites this year's tournament, I had to ask them, guys, you know, Gonzaga's mascot is the bull dog but everyone calls him the Zag. I was asking them, you know, what's a Zag? And it turns out, Zag, you know, is really just a nickname for Gonzaga.

[10:55:03] Because a lot of people like to say Gonzaga? But they just call them the Zag so we all remember to say Gonzaga. So there's a little life lesson for you.

(LAUGHTER)

BERMAN: All right. Andy Scholes, thank you so much. You know --

HARLOW: Important life lesson.

BERMAN: Yes. They're just happy to be called the one seed if they get in the tournament.

(LAUGHTER)

BERMAN: Thanks, Andy.

HARLOW: Thank you all for joining us. I'm Poppy Harlow.

BERMAN: I'm John Berman. "AT THIS HOUR WITH KATE BOLDUAN" starts after a quick break. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone, I'm Kate Bolduan. Right now a storm is brewing on Capitol Hill. House Republicans preparing to battle their own leadership on an issue that's probably brought the party together more than any other -- getting rid of Obamacare, of course.

You're looking at live pictures, we're going to show you, as members of two House committees begin the formal process of working through --