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White House Briefing. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired March 14, 2017 - 14:30   ET

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


[14:30:15]

But all of that is part of a comprehensive strategy to engage with members who support us, who have ideas and want to be on-board, who want to be constructive in the process and achieve the President's goal of having a patient-centric healthcare system.

So, we are obviously in talks with House leadership about the contents of it. As I mentioned, the President will be on the phone with Speaker Ryan and leader McCarthy later this afternoon to talk to them about some of these ideas and some of the path forward. That's part of the legislative process.

QUESTION: So -- actually, I have a separate question, but just to clarify this, this involved -- the White House is working to help shape that amendment?

SPICER: Yes.

QUESTION: Okay. The visit of Deputy Saudi Crown Prince today, can you talk us through a little bit more detail? Does that involve the resumption of arms deals, is that about oil...?

SPICER: It is literally -- was wrapping up as we -- as we were walking over here, so I want to make sure that I get a read out. We'll provide that to the pool, as we do with all of the leader visits. So, I will have more details from that. They were concluding that visit as we were coming here, so I'll make sure I get it.

Blake (ph)?

QUESTION: Sean, in the middle of all of this, there's also the debt ceiling.

SPICER: Yes.

QUESTION: How urgent of a priority is this? How concerned is the Administration in tackling this, given that Secretary Mnuchin's shutdown last week...

(CROSSTALK)

SPICER: Yes. Secretary Mnuchin sent a letter noting that under the Budget Reconciliation Act, the Congress debt authority had until March 15th. He notified them of that. We'll continue to work with Congress. As you know, we'll be releasing a budget later this week. It's part and parcel of our approach to fiscal responsibility, to making sure that we talk about the path forward, how we address both the ending fiscal year 17. It goes until September 30th of this year.

And then the budget which would be fiscal year 18, but we address our budget deficits, our debt and our spending going forward is something that is a holistic conversation that Secretary and Director Mulvaney and others -- the President, the Vice President -- are engaging with Congress on. So, this isn't a -- our job under the law was to notify them of the authority that they've asked. But when it expired and I think the Secretary will work with Congress on a path forward, as far as debt situation.

QUESTION: Let me get your reaction to Jonathan Gorga (ph), one of the architects of Obamacare. He called it potentially the plan you put forward if it's implemented, his quote "scam". Your reaction to that would be what?

SPICER: I think -- you know, I think the plan that he helped create hasn't done so well for Americans seeking health insurance. Again, I have to go through the numbers, but just think about what he sought out to do. I mean, there was a pool of people that needed health care. They got about nine million of them.

You've got 14.4 plus-or-minus millions of people who claimed a hardship exemption, so they have no insurance, they're not receiving Medicaid, that don't qualify for any other assistance, who can't afford Obamacare. And then you've got another six million-plus that have chosen to pay the penalty.

So, I would argue that just on what he sought to achieve in a plan that he helped craft didn't achieve too many great results. Of the people that did get it, their premiums have gone sky high, their choices have gone down and single-handedly, had a tremendous effect through the rest of the healthcare system.

So, people who weren't even affected by Obamacare initially have now paid higher premiums and get less choices, so even for the 175 million people who get employer-based healthcare, they felt the impact of what he sought out to do through higher prices, fewer choices. So respectfully, I think that he should just hang out more time at MIT and focus on -- and allow good ideas to continue to come forward so that we can focus on achieving the President's goal of doing what he sought out to do in the first place.

Azeed (ph)?

QUESTION: Sean, the President several times recently have said that he would like his healthcare plan to have healthcare for everybody.

SPICER: Right.

QUESTION: The CBO score yesterday seems to indicate that that's not the case. Will the White House commit after these phases two and three, if they are implemented, if they're ever offered publicly that there will be healthcare for everybody -- if you can define that phase, please?

SPICER: Sure. I mean, I think everybody who -- I mean, look at what Obamacare did. Again, I just ran through the numbers. You've got 30- plus million people of an Obamacare mandated under penalty of law that you had to have health insurance. 9 million of the 30-plus million -- plus-or-minus people got it, 4.5 million said no, we'll pay the penalty. Another 14 or so million people said that we'll claim a hardship.

So, that was a government-mandated system and they choose not to do it. I think that in many of these cases that if people were given a choice and the option to get a plan that sought their plans, was tailored to what they wanted, it wasn't forced down their throat, that (ph) didn't give them services they didn't (ph) wanted (ph) and brought down cost -

I read you some of the stories of the individuals I mean we've seen tremendous growth from people who got a reasonably priced plan on the individual market, $119, $150 bucks a month -- which I think for people who aren't getting their services through Medicaid because of their financial situation, for many middle class families, while that's still a struggle, it's an obtainable goal in many cases.

When you're talking about $350, $500 on the individual market, that's a huge chunk of somebody's individual take home pay.

And -- and I think that getting a process that we have down (ph) that levels the playing field allows people who aren't getting it through an employer based system to get the tax credit that at the same time lowers cost and creates -- creates more competition and choice is actually going to give more people the option to have healthcare and to give more Americans that ability.

I mean, right now they don't -- they're choosing not to do it.

QUESTION: (OFF MIKE) Even (ph) if we (ph) granted (ph) you (ph) more people, that's still not everybody so...

(CROSSTALK)

SPICER: No -- no -- no but there -- everybody -- everybody has a choice to get it and that's what I think we want to do is give everyone who wants to get healthcare the financial ability to get it is -- is what the president is trying to achieve through this and I think this is the system that will get them there.

Right now, they're being forced to get it by a government run system and in huge margins choosing not to. I think that's the system.

And, by the way, they're getting a system that's failing and that is collapsing on its own and is only going in the wrong direction with higher prices, higher premiums, higher deductibles and lower choice.

I mean that's what you go now. If you're an American citizen, on the Obamacare exchange, you're paying more, you have a higher deductible and your choice is going down. And so that is an unsustainable, unacceptable outcome for Americans who need care.

Dave (ph)

QUESTION: Thank you Sean. On immigration, a group that tracks the number of sanctuary cities in the U.S. came out with a report today saying there's now nearly 500 sanctuary cities across the country and that number has grown by about three dozen just this year.

Does that concern the White House and doesn't it suggest that your warnings about withholding federal funds is not getting through to people?

SPICER: I think the last poll I saw on this issue, on sanctuary cities, you know, was somewhere in the 80 percent that the American people don't support sanctuary cities, they don't want their tax dollars used to finance people who are in this country illegally.

I think if you are a mayor or a councilman or a state representative or a governor in a state, you need to answer to the people that -- that elected you, whether or not you're going to support this.

From a federal perspective I think the president's been very clear that we're not going to use federal taxpayer dollars to support cities that support services to people who are here in this country illegally.

But I think, at the end of the day, this is a question for mayors and council members at the local level who have to answer to the people that elected them with clearly a position that is not in keeping with what most Americans believe.

Aman (ph).

QUESTION: Thanks Sean. You mentioned the call with the CEO of Anthem (ph) Health (ph), can you tell me what this proposal the president (ph) means (ph) for health insurance companies?

Will their profits go up or down under the president's proposal?

SPICER: Well I don't think that's been the focus of the president's proposal. It's not about them, it's about patients, it's about -- but I think what it means for them is that they finally get to create more choice and more plans and allow people to chose a plan that fits them. Right now they don't have that choice and, frankly, in more and more markets, companies like Anthem, United Health, Cigna are pulling out -- Aetna -- because they don't have the choice and because of the government mandate.

I think what we want to do is allow competition and choice to exist so that they can offer more options for the American people.

QUESTION: But will those companies make more money under the President's plan? SPICER: I -- I -- It's -- I don't know the answer to that, that's not been the focus of what we're doing now and, at the end of the day, right now they're pulling out of market after market leaving the American people with fewer and fewer choices so right now it's not a question of they're -- they -- you know from the last I checked I think many of them are doing pretty well.

But it's the American people and its patients that are losing under the current system so I think there's a way you can do a little of -- Hunter (ph).

QUESTION: Yes. We've seen the White House and Secretary Price push back on calling this healthcare bill Trumpcare. Does anything need to change for the president to be comfortable putting his name on the bill?

SPICER: Well -- I don't -- I mean, I don't think the Obama Administration didn't label it Obamacare, they call it the ACA. I mean, this is the American Health Care Act, the president's proud of it, the president's proud of the fact that we're working with congress.

But this is a bill that's -- it's not his, it's a joint effort that we've worked with the House and Senate on. He's proud of it, he's proud of the impact that it's going to have on -- on American patients.

So I don't think this is about labels and names, this is about getting the job done. John (ph).

QUESTION: (OFF MIKE) (inaudible) You keep pointing out that the CBO did not take into consideration phases two or three. Some people might say that the White House has been criticized, the CBO, for not taking into account phases two or three in their scoring of the first phase of this. How are they supposed to take into account something that doesn't yet exist?

SPICER: Well, I think that's -- that's a question for the House to offer. There are constraints that are put on the CBO in terms of what they can consider. But I think the point that we want to make is that -- and it came up yesterday at the briefing -- if members are going to base their vote off a score, they need to under the totality and the comprehensive nature of -- of the entire program. And so to base your score off of one piece of information is literally -- hold on, let me answer the question. QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

SPICER: I understand that. But what I'm saying is that, that the question that keeps being asked is to see all of the reports on this about how it's going to impact and not note -- I mean I don't -- I don't recall too many packages that ran on the evening news last night or too many of the stories, noting that it was one piece of a comprehensive package, noting that it was prong one of three prongs.

So, you know, respectfully, I think that when we've gone out here and tried to make sure the people understand the comprehensive nature of what is happening and why it has it happen. It wasn't by choice that we had to do this, there are certain ways that it had to be conducted because of how it was constructed in the first place, in terms of how it gets repealed and replaced.

The reconciliation piece of this, which is, inside baseball Senate talk, is -- may not make a lot of sense to people, but it's the way that we have to go -- the process by which we have to achieve this because of the Senate rules, which is how it was constructed in the first place when Democrats enacted in 2009.

That being said, when we talk about this -- again you guys, when there's -- there's a report that comes out on the evening news or on cable news or in the paper and it doesn't explain the comprehensive nature of this and just says, the CBO says this is the impact -- full stop, it is incumbent upon us to make sure that people who are -- trying to understand what we are doing, understand there are two more pieces to come of this.

And like anything else, it's like building a puzzle. If you only put a third of it on the table and said, hey look, this puzzle's incomplete, we hid the other two third pieces, is not explaining to people how the whole thing comes together. I think that is a very, very important piece of complaining how this whole thing is going to matter and impact the American people.

QUESTION: The other thing I'm curious about too is, can -- can this thing -- the president called it a big beautiful negotiation.

SPICER: Yeah.

QUESTION: People like Jim Jordan say, it's a big beautiful dud. Is there a way to hammer this thing into shape where you can satisfy...

SPICER: I hope so.

QUESTION: ... conservatives or -- or do you have to -- as has been suggest by a number of people -- rip it up and start all over again. Because Jim Jordan, just this morning, was saying that the fundamental aspect of what was promised to the American people by House members, when they ran for election back in the fall and by the president when he ran for election is not in this bill.

SPICER: Right. Well, respectfully, I would suggest that it's gone through two House committees, that consisted of over 50 Republican members when you look at both committees with unanimous support. So I get that we can't...

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) either one of those.

SPICER: OK. I don't know that that's actually true.

QUESTION: That's what they say...

SPICER: I understand that, but I -- I'm gonna use Major Garrett to fact check you.

(LAUGHTER) QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

(CROSSTALK)

SPICER: Now -- but -- but my point is, I -- I think that we've got tremendous support, the president, as I've stated, wants to work with them. There will a manager's amendment. I hope that ultimately -- yeah, I'd love to have every member support this on both sides of the aisle.

I think the president's principles and goals are going to benefit every American and obviously the more support we get, the better. And as we continue to meet with members and talk to them and get their ideas, I think we we're going to have a phenomenal outcome of this bill. There's a lot of ways we continue to gather input and ideas and the more that we can get that will achieve that goal, great.

And so I hope that he continues to provide us with constructive ideas. And we look forward to getting as many men as possible.

Major?

QUESTION: Sean, let's continue that conversation.

SPICER: Sure.

QUESTION: Because the Manager's Amendment...

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: The Manager's Amendment...

SPICER: Yeah.

QUESTION: ... is (inaudible) mission that the bill, as written, can't pass. You wouldn't...

SPICER: No, that's not entirely true.

QUESTION: ... if you had the votes, correct?

SPICER: Well, no, I think it's a -- it's a admission of what we stated at the beginning of this entire process, which is, the president was going to engage with members, to hear their ideas, he welcomed them. Director Mulvaney stated it multiple times and Secretary Price, the vice president.

We're not -- this has never been a "take it or leave it" and I've said it from this podium, the president's talked about it, as you mentioned just a second ago. This is an opportunity to hear from individuals in groups and -- and insurance and -- and victims of Obamacare and doctors.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

SPICER: Hold on... QUESTION: ... freedom caucus support...

SPICER: It's not a question of just -- it's not -- it's not about about...

QUESTION: ... or the tax credit or some other operations.

SPICER: It's -- it's not about one caucus or one member, I think -- no, I think this is about bringing people together. And if we have great ideas that will achieve a better outcome for the American people, then we're gonna listen to them and we're going to incorporate them. That's -- I don't -- I don't think that this is -- we have been very clear from the get-go.

If you can come with a good idea that will strengthen this bill that will benefit American patients, we'll do it. And -- and so, the manager (ph) limit (ph)...

QUESTION: This bill is about getting votes. All right, you can't have a strong bill that can't...

(CROSSTALK)

SPICER: No, no. You can (inaudible) -- absolutely. But you can jam it through a bill and get it out, get 2018 (ph), and send it over to the Senate.

But I think that we want to get the strongest bill through the -- through the House with as many ideas in. And I -- and opinions, and facts that will -- that will help strengthen this as possible.

So, I'd rather, instead of getting a bill through with, you know, 2018, 2019, work on a process as the speaker and the majority of Don (ph), that brings in additional ideas. And if we can get the bill higher and higher, we will.

QUESTION: To -- to Tom Cotton's point, because you talked about it just a second ago, Congress two and three (ph)...

SPICER: Yeah.

QUESTION: He went out of his way to describe that process, process two and three, because at least the third of that's gonna require 60 votes, because it's outside of reconciliation by definition, as mythical, imaginary, and just spin. He's telling House Republicans don't buy into this third- or second-prong argument as a practical legislative matter don't exist.

They need 60 votes to get them. And so, if walk the pike (ph), here's where's it not Ryan, on this first initiative, you're not gonna get second and third phase of this process because it can't get through the Senate.

SPICER: So, there's a couple things. First, this is the only vehicle that seeks to achieve what people on our side of the aisle have been talking about since 2010. This is it. If we don't get this through, the goal of appealing Obamacare and

instituting a system that will be patient-center is going to be unbelievably difficult. This is the vehicle to do that. And so we welcome Senator Cotton's ideas.

But the second prong of this is administrative in nature. It is something that we've delegated to Kathleen Sebelias, who was then the Secretary of Health and Human Services to do.

So, prong two is actually fairly easy to do. Because the same authority that was granted to Secretary Sebelias now had is in -- is in the offices of Dr. Price. And he has the ability to implement and work on that and I think he noted it yesterday that his office is already been going through and doing that.

So, that phase is easy to do. The -- the third prong, which is all of these things that conservatives have been championing for a long time. And frankly, many Democrats agree with us on. It's -- it's ability to bring down cost through selling over state lines and allowing small businesses to group together.

It's something that -- that we've been talking about for -- for, you know, over a decade....

(CROSSTALK)

SPICER: And -- and I think that -- we cannot just hit 60, I think this is something that should bring people together. I think there is bipartisan bicameral support for almost every one of these things because they benefit -- there's no one that doesn't benefit. I mean, who could be against allowing insurance to be sold over state lines?

It's something that you can do to your car -- I mean, so many -- I mean, there's no other product that I can think of -- I'm sure someone will fact check me on this -- but for the most part, the American consumer, when you want a product, you can go online, you can go to a store, you have choice. You could go to a store across state lines.

If you live in Virginia, you drive to Maryland or the District, you know, and -- and shop around. With our insurance, we don't have that ability. There's no question that increased competition drives down cost. It is just a -- the -- you know, an economic certainty. And allowing greater choice will do the same.

And so, I think respectfully I would say to any senator like that -- that has that concern, there is no other entity that I can think of, the greater choice and greater competition doesn't drive down cost significantly. And all we have to do is look no farther than Obamacare. I read off three of the individuals the president has met with yesterday who are victims of Obamacare. In every one of those cases, the insurance premium went sky rocketing when -- what? -- when choice and competition went away. Most any person that was in the individual market eight or nine years ago, will tell you that, you know, depending on the plan, you could get a plan for as low as a hundred bucks and change. Now, the cheapest plan you can get is easily in the $300 range. And so, the question that you have to ask yourself is what changed? Competition went down and choice went down. And I think allowing both of those to reenter the marketplace will achieve in itself that goal.

And going through the additional pieces of reform will also do the same thing. There's so many ways that we can achieve greater choice and competition that unquestionably bring down the cost of healthcare that benefits every American, whether or not you're in the exchanges, or not on an employer-based plan. And again, we -- we have to have this conversation in the context of what's going on now.

Talk to somebody that's on Medicare or Medicaid. Ask them if the doctor and services that they used to be getting are available to them. I know so many times now, when you walk into the doctor, they have a sign that says we no longer accept Medicaid. I mean, that -- that used to be a -- a given almost.

And now, for older Americans, for -- for Americans at the low-end of the income scale, it's becoming harder and harder to find a place that even takes your insurance. And I think that to find that an acceptable income, the question has to be asked to people who oppose this, no matter what side of the aisle they're on, is: What is your alternative?

Because the ideas that they propose, we can incorporate. We can make this better and better. But to sit back and act as though there's a choice -- doing nothing is not a choice. And that's something the president has done.

QUESTION: Thanks, Sean.

As you know, the DOJ now has an additional week to produce evidence that President Trump was wiretapped by the Obama administration. How confident is President Trump that any evidence will arise to support his claim?

SPICER: I think he's extremely confident. There have been -- I mean, I've mentioned this before. I'll let their -- them do their job. I'll let the House and Senate and I'll let the DOJ report this. But as I've commented in the past, I think there is significant reporting about surveillance techniques that have existed throughout the 2016 election.

I'll leave it to them to issue their report. But I think he feels very confident that what will ultimately come of this will vindicate him. QUESTION: And a quick followup.

SPICER: Sure.

QUESTION: When a decision is announced, whatever evidence or potentially no evidence is released, will he make a statement about the evidence or lack of evidence?

SPICER: I've been asked this I think at least three times. And I don't want to pre-judge what's going to come. I'm sure you will do a fine job of asking me the question when there's a report to be asked, and I will not be able to escape it.

But I don't want to get ahead of what the president may or may not do.

Jim?

QUESTION: Evidence will be presented?

SPICER: I -- I don't want to get ahead of -- as I mentioned, I'm not going to...

QUESTION: Because the House Intelligence Committee has given the administration until Monday...

(CROSSTALK)

SPICER: I understand. It's given the DOJ, and the Department of Justice, again, we covered this yesterday. But I'm not going to get ahead of what they may or may not submit.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: ... maybe nothing.

SPICER: No, that's not -- I think there is, at least from where we stand, we know that there is significant reporting on this -- on the subject that...

QUESTION: Something will be presented.

SPICER: Yes, I feel very confident of that.

QUESTION: OK. And a followup on coverage.

SPICER: Of course.

QUESTION: You were saying that, you know, people if they can't get access to insurance, they don't have coverage.

SPICER: Right.

QUESTION: But if you remove the individual mandate, you are going to have people who are not going to buy coverage. They're not going to buy insurance. And so getting back to the Congressional Budget Office score, would you concede that there will be some coverage losses, perhaps in the millions? That there will be millions of people who will not have health insurance as a result of what you're doing?

SPICER: Well, again, sure, except you have to look at the current situation. You are mandated by law to buy insurance right now under Obamacare; 13-plus million people have asked for a hardship exemption, and then 6.5-plus million people have determined to pay the penalty.

So currently, if you -- if we look at the universe and say it's roughly 30 million people, only 9 million people engaged in the exchanges when required by law. The majority, almost two-thirds, if my back-of-the-envelop math is right, about two-thirds have chosen to either apply for a hardship exemption or pay a penalty.

So...

QUESTION: A mandate forces people to buy insurance, and if they don't have insurance, then you have the free rider problem in the system..

(CROSSTALK)

SPICER: Right, but look at what's happening now. So...

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: ... if you have free riders and those folks...

(CROSSTALK)

SPICER: No, no, no -- because the current -- right...

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: ... a car accident and show up at the emergency room, and then the healthcare is much more expensive.

SPICER: But they do it -- but my point, Jim, is that the way the system was constructed under Obamacare, you -- they -- they created a system to force people to buy plans that they did not like, that were mandated by the government in terms of what was part of the plan, what it had to cover, the deductible, et cetera, et cetera.

And yet roughly two-thirds of the people either paid a penalty or asked for a hardship exemption. They didn't do it. And so the idea is actually if you could bring down costs and choices and allow people to find a plan that fit their budget; that was tailored to their needs, there's actually a higher likelihood that they will find something that they want at a price that they can afford.

As to right now which is I get a plan that I'm forced to buy that has a deductible that I can't afford, but I've got a cute little plastic card that I can wave around.

QUESTION: At least it will get you coverage...

SPICER: No, no, no, that's not true.

QUESTION: If you show up at the emergency room, if you've been hit by a bus, you're not...

SPICER: Sure.

QUESTION: ... going to be just paying out of pocket to the hospital...

(CROSSTALK)

SPICER: But under any...

(CROSSTALK) QUESTION: ... you're going to have some sort of catastrophic coverage that will make sure you have insurance.

SPICER: Thank you. That's -- that's a great advertisement for...

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: You're welcome.

SPICER: Thank you. That's exactly what the president's trying to do, because right now you've got -- of the attempt to get 30 million people covered, 14.4 million or 14.5 million people applied for a hardship exemption. They're exactly the people that you're talking about.

Another 6.5 million people have asked -- have paid the penalty and don't have it. So we have roughly 20 million people in this country who were supposed to be paying -- required to buy healthcare that have chosen not to do it, who fall in exactly to the category that you're talking about.

The question...

(CROSSTALK)

SPICER: No, no, no...

QUESTION: The number is massive by the year 2026 --

SPICER: Right. And so the point that -- hold on. But if they actually had choices, and had a plan option that was down at a budget they could afford, there is a highly likelihood that they would buy a plan that was A, tailored to them, and B, actually that they could afford.

So to your question about catastrophic, right now that's in most cases not even an option. In a third of all the counties of the United States, they only have one choice. In five states, they have one choice. Can you imagine if they could actually buy a plan --

QUESTION: -- talking point but --

SPICER: It's not a talking point.

QUESTION: -- coverage in those states --

SPICER: No, no, it means -- right and --

QUESTION: If you pull this away, then you're going to have people in a lot of states who aren't going to have access to coverage because they can't afford it with the tax credit you're providing.

SPICER: No, no -- totally false.

(CROSSTALK)

No, actually -- you've got 175 million Americans that get their insurance through their employer. And frankly, right now, they're the ones who are paying higher and higher premiums because a system that was only supposed to help people get access and require them, get a government-mandated, government-run healthcare, has actually gone amok.

QUESTION: (inaudible) healthcare. Medicare is government-run.

SPICER: Right. And what's happening? More and more --

(CROSSTALK)

SPICER: I think you need to maybe get outside and talk to some of them. Because more and more Medicaid recipients, in fact more and more Medicare recipients, aren't actually able to get coverage. Again, it's one thing to have a card. It's another thing to walk into a doctor's office and then to tell you, we no longer accept Medicaid anymore. That's not care.

QUESTION: So the president is OK with --

SPICER: No, no -- the President's goal is to provide healthcare coverage to every American. And right now they are not getting that. And by giving them more choices at a lower cost, more Americans can either buy healthcare for their family or themselves, or in a lot of cases for their business, without paying the penalty, which is what a lot of them are doing, or forcing people into exchanges that have fewer and fewer choices.

The system now is not working. The costs are going up, the choices are going down, and deductibles are going up. That is not an option. And for every American -- I mentioned this earlier -- to make this look like a choice, there isn't really a choice. The system that we have now, it's failing. The choice is whether we give them an opportunity to have real care, and in a way that is tailored to them and their budget.

Jeff -- QUESTION: Sean, on a different subject, the intelligence committee yesterday, when responding to the Department of Justice's request for more time, basically issued a subpoena threat. Does the White House have a reaction it that? Do you think it'll come that far?

SPICER: As I said, as has been noted, the department asked for an additional time. And that will be up to the intelligence committee to grant that time. But they're working on that.

QUESTION: And on a separate note, you mentioned the President's call with the CEO of Anthem. Does he have a position on Anthem's efforts to merge with Cigna, which was challenged by the Justice Department under President Obama?

SPICER: I don't -- I'm not aware of a that. I don't know that that would -- the President's ever expressed any personal view. I think that would come under the FTC, if I'm correct. And so I'd refer to you that. Jonathan --

QUESTION: (inaudible) follow up on Marcus' (ph) question about (inaudible) that that meeting was just finishing up when you came out here. But can you give us a sense of what was on the agenda before they sat down?

SPICER: I think the President had a call earlier with the King a couple weeks back. I think they talked about safe havens in Syria. They talked about the threat of ISIS. I would expect all of those came up. But again, I think I will provide a readout to you all, to everyone in the pool about what happened, that will more clearly define that.

John Gitsy (ph) --

QUESTION: Thank you, Sean. Coming up in the rest of the year are four special elections for the U.S. House of Representatives, all of which are sure to draw national attention as venues for debate on the American Healthcare Act. Does the President plan to be involved on behalf of the Republican candidates, perhaps appear on their behalf in the districts, as this may well be a barometer of what (ph) people feel about the American Healthcare Act?

SPICER: You're also going to have elections of Virginia and New Jersey as far as I'm aware. And I think that as we get further into the schedule and get closer to elections, we'll obviously entertain requests from candidates at a variety of ballot level to gauge the President's support. So you know, he has been very supportive of candidates in the last cycle. I don't see him not being continued support of people that want to fight hard for the agenda. We're not at that point yet, so I can probably give you more at some point as we hold closer to the elections. But in a lot of those cases, it's going to be dependent on whether or not there's a request from the candidate.

Julie (ph) - QUESTION: Sean, you said earlier that the White House doesn't have projections on how many people will lose coverage. Is that a projection that hasn't been made yet? Are you saying that the White House is not gonna come out with those?

SPICER: We don't -- that's not something that OMB does.

[14:59:00]