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Trump Arrives On Hill To Recruit Health Care Votes; Soon: Lawmakers Grill Trump's Supreme Court Pick. Aired 9-9:30a ET
Aired March 21, 2017 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[09:00:25] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. This is CNN's special live coverage of a vital day for the Trump presidency.
Take a look at this. Looking at two live pictures right now, any moment now, the President set to depart the White House for Capitol Hill, where Republicans are now making changes to their controversial plan to repeal and replace ObamaCare. This comes after a rough 24 hours for President Trump as the FBI confirmed his campaign is now under criminal investigation for ties to Russia. Also, the FBI Director James Comey rejecting Trump's accusations that former President Obama wiretapped him.
On the right side of your screen, look at this, lawmakers set to grill the President's U.S. Supreme Court nominee during a confirmation hearing. Democrats vowing to fight Neil Gorsuch. We're going to tell you what to watch for in what promises to be a rather contentious hearing.
But first, happening now, a make or break day for Republicans as President Trump tries to rally support for the Republican health care bill just two days before it heads to a very, very critical vote on the House floor. Our congressional correspondent, Phil Mattingly, is outside the room where the President will be meeting with House Republicans.
Update our viewers, Phil, on the very latest.
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you can see House Republican members filing into that room behind me awaiting the President. And, look, the reality is this, this is the ball game and the President is the closer.
The changes have been made that are going to be made. The vote has been scheduled for Thursday. Now, they need to whip, they need to get the requisite number of votes, and that number is 216. And the reality, also, is, Wolf, they're not there yet. They have work to do.
They have conservatives that have a lot of concerns about the direction of this bill, that it doesn't go far enough. They have moderates that are very concerned that some of their members, particularly those in the ages of 50s and the early 60s, aren't taken care of enough in this bill. Now, some of those changes that were proposed last night were supposed
to address these, but what they need, going forward -- and I've heard this from multiple leadership aides, Wolf -- is they need the President to come in this morning and close this deal.
There is some trepidation, amongst leadership officials that I have spoken to, that he hasn't been focused enough on this bill, that he hasn't been selling like they expected him to do. That's his job today, to close this deal going forward and to make sure, as we head to the vote on Thursday, that Republicans actually have the votes to pass this because if they do not, it's very clear, Wolf, health care repeal and replace, as it is currently designed, will fail if it doesn't pass on Thursday. Wolf.
BLITZER: It's going to be a close vote by all accounts. All right, Phil. Thank you.
Let's talk about how House Republicans now doctored up the bill. They did so last night, as Phil just explained. They're hoping the changes will help sway those conservatives who oppose the legislation and some moderates who haven't made up their minds. CNN's M.J. Lee is also up on Capitol Hill.
M.J., tell us about the changes that were made to the bill.
M.J. LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: Good morning, Wolf. A huge morning for House Republicans as well as for President Trump. At this meeting, we are going to find out whether these amendments that were introduced last night will be enough to win over some of the skeptical members who have had concerns about this Republican ObamaCare bill.
Let's just walk through some of the main changes that leadership introduced last night. First of all, members are getting more flexibility now on Medicaid. This includes optional work requirements as well as the option to block grant Medicaid for states.
Also, states can now no longer expand Medicaid. So for states that have not already expanded Medicaid, they can no longer do so.
Third, there was some interesting New York-only provision. This was squarely meant to try to win over some of the skeptical New York Republican members, and apparently, it has worked so far. And also, I should note that $75 billion has been set aside as a part of this amendment for tax credits for older people.
Now, I do want to talk about that last point a little bit. This is going to be a very important provision for winning over some of these moderate Republicans who are particularly worried about the effects that this bill could have on costs for some of their older constituents. But what is important to note, Wolf, is that the House has essentially punted this provision, the writing of this provision to the Senate.
They have made the calculated decision that this is going to be something that the Senate will work on, that it will not be included in the amendment that the House takes up later this week. So we are going to find out later today if this will be enough for the moderate Republicans, the idea of punting this to the Senate. And, of course, President Trump is going to play a big role in trying to rally these moderate Republicans, Wolf.
[09:05:01] BLITZER: Yes. He's heading your way from the White House this morning, this hour, in fact. All right, M.J., thank you. M.J. Lee up on Capitol Hill.
Let's get some analysis on this critical day. You know, Gloria Borger, 216 votes, that's the magic number they need, Thursday, on the House floor to pass this legislation. Normally, the majority would be 218, but there are some House vacancies, members of the House who are now serving in the cabinet of the President. So 216, it could go either way.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: It could. And, again, you know, this is a real burst test for the new President who ran on the fact that he is a negotiator, that he can get things done, that he knows how to bring people together.
And so he's now going up there on Capitol Hill, not to convince Democrats because they're all opposed to it, but he's got to convince Republicans to go along with him. The question is whether he uses the carrot or the stick. And at this point, you know, he'll probably say better to be with me than against me, and we've made the changes that you moderates need. We made the changes that you conservatives need.
But he's got a 37 percent approval rating. Very high among Republicans, of course, but a 37 percent approval rating, if that approval rating continues to go down, and it does affect Republicans, they're going to be less likely to jump onboard with him. But they all need this in their districts, and John knows this better than I do.
They all ran on repealing and replacing ObamaCare. And if they can't do this, they will look like they can't ever get anything done. And that's what's at stake for them. So in the end, he may get these folks to go along with them.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: But they ran in 2010, in 2012, in 2014, and 2016 on this with a Democrat in the White House.
BORGER: Right. Exactly.
KING: Now, they have a Republican in the White House and they have to govern. It's not just opposing ObamaCare, not just promising to repeal it. Now, they have to replace it.
And I think the most important part for this -- and Senator Santorum could help us on the dynamics -- is this is round one for the President. Gloria's right, we've never seen this president. The "Art of the Deal" is the book about Donald Trump. This is what he thinks he will be great at in Washington. We're about to find out.
There are complaints from the leadership that he keeps saying everything's open to negotiation at the time when he has to say no. Negotiations are over, pass this bill as it is. But let's say they get the votes in the House. Tough sell over the next few days to get those votes, but let's say they get them. Republicans understand we can't fail here.
Then it's going to get changed again in the Senate, without a doubt. That's statewide Republicans. Donald Trump carried these House districts. He's talking to House members. He won most of these districts.
Statewide, it gets a little interesting. So then what does the Senate do? And then it comes back to the House, probably a more moderate bill. What does the President do then?
So this is round one, an important test for him, for party discipline, and to see how into the weeds and the details this President will get.
BLITZER: Yes. This is all about how a bill becomes a law because even --
BLITZER: As John points out, even if it narrowly passes the House, there's a much smaller Republican majority in the Senate -- 52 Republicans, 48 Democrats. You lose three Republicans, if all the Democrats hold firm -- and it looks like they will -- it's over.
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes, that's right. And that's why you heard Donald Trump -- he was in Kentucky yesterday -- name checking some of those Senators. Mitch McConnell, of course, he actually got booed when he came out to introduce Donald Trump. He mentioned Rand Paul. Rand Paul, I think, got a smattering of applause.
But, yes, he knows that he's got to those folks together in the Senate. And the problem in the Senate for this bill, that's going to wind its way ideally through the House, if you are Donald Trump, is that the Senate is much more moderate. You've got folks Lisa Murkowski, you got people like Susan Collins, and then you have people like Rand Paul, who is, essentially, caucusing with the House Freedom Caucus now.
So how do you get all of those folks together on one bill that works and has to go back to the House and also works? But not only that, there's also prong two and prong three, and what this actually looks like if it's even passed? Will it be a political liability once it's passed, if it's even passed?
BLITZER: If it's passed. Rick Santorum, you served in the U.S. Senate from Pennsylvania. You're a Republican. What do you think?
RICK SANTORUM, FORMER UNITED STATES SENATOR: I think conservatives in the House are really mad, and they have every right to be mad, in my opinion, because Paul Ryan is doing something differently than Republicans have done, really, since they've been in control since 1994. And that is when the House introduces a bill, under Republican control, you put the most conservative thing that can possibly pass forward because you know, once it gets over to the Senate, it's coming back the other way. And Ryan didn't do that.
Ryan thought he would short cut the process, put forward a bill that he thought that could actually pass in the Senate. And conservatives know, even if it is a bill that could pass in the Senate, it won't because the Senate's going to want to make their mark on it and move it even more to the left.
So that's why conservatives are mad because they know they're going to get a worse bill in the end because we didn't start in the right place. And so what the conservatives are trying to do right now is pull it back and make it more conservative, so they have some negotiating room when it goes to the Senate. And, unfortunately, you know, to some conservatives' minds, that hasn't happened.
Now, having said all that --
[09:10:02] BORGER: Will they vote for it?
SANTORUM: Having said all that --
SANTORUM: -- you know, there's some wheeling and dealing that's going to go on. Conservatives do want some things, in addition to the changes. Whether they'll get them or not, I don't know. The bottom line is, to John's point, they got to pass this bill.
And I understand the betrayal that they're feeling because I'd feel the same way if I was one of the conservatives, but they also understand that you can't fail and risk this thing blowing up. And so I think, you know, they made some improvements. I think the amendments that were put forward are good amendments. They strengthen the bill.
Look, I don't know of a single major bill that came before the Republican Congress that we knew we had the votes before it went to the floor. And --
BLITZER: You like that give away to upstate New York Republicans?
HENDERSON: Well, yes.
SANTORUM: It's to make sure that counties can't levy taxes on Medicare. So it actually prevents tax increases at the local level in New York, that's what this is all about. And those are the beautiful things that can you do in legislation that's broad, that you can put little things in there that don't affect anybody else that gets you votes. And that's what they got to do.
KING: Right, right.
BORGER: But this is what Donald Trump campaigned against. This is what Donald Trump was saying, you know, we're not going to have --
SANTORUM: Oh, no, there's a beautiful thing.
BORGER: Oh. Big beautiful negotiation, right?
BORGER: But those are exactly --
SANTORUM: That's the art of the deal.
BORGER: But those are exactly the things that Donald Trump said he would never have in his legislation which is sweeteners for specific special interests. And in this case, the special interests are moderate --
SANTORUM: Are taxpayers in --
SANTORUM: Are taxpayers in New York.
BORGER: No, are moderate Republicans in New York.
BORGER: Those are the special interests this is for.
SANTORUM: Well --
KING: But, Wolf, remember, Jen lived this from the Obama perspective -- forgive me -- but the Republicans used this very effectively in 2010. Again in 2012, even though the president was re-elected, Republicans did OK beneath him in 2012. And certainly, in 2014 and 2016, this was a rallying cry for Republicans.
This is about to become the Republican's issues and potentially, the Republican's problem. We're talking about, can they pass the bill now?
And next year, we have a mid-term election, the President's first. It usually goes bad for the president. Then the President's re-election cycle.
It's interesting, as we watch this go forward as a policy debate, the politics of it too. Because with the President down on the road last night in Kentucky, look at that speech.
Your premiums will go down and go down quickly. The cost of drugs will go down and go down quickly. Remember, if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. If you like your plan, you can keep your plan. Some of the things being said, particularly by the President right
now, could potentially come back to haunt Republicans in the next election.
BLITZER: Let's let Jen Psaki weigh in.
BLITZER: You were the communications --
JEN PSAKI, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR FOR PRESIDENT OBAMA: No, I --
BLITZER: -- director in the Obama White House.
PSAKI: I would say, look, it's troubling when you see the President, a Republican president, going to Kentucky, a very red state, to try to rally support and really votes. Now, Rand Paul may be a unique character. I think we can all agree to that.
SANTORUM: Right, yes.
PSAKI: But, you know, he's been very quiet on this to date, and there's a different chess game that they have to play now from what we had to do in 2009. We were worried about moderates, moderate Democrats, losing moderate Democrats. We were less worried about progressives.
They are losing from both sides of the party. That's hard because you have to walk a very difficult, you know, tightrope there. So when it goes to the Senate, there are a lot of moderates who've already been out there on Medicaid, on Planned Parenthood, and a number of issues. You also still have conservatives concerned about costs.
It's going to be very tricky when you get down to the politics of this. But this is going to be a very long road. ObamaCare took eight months to pass. There's going to be a lot of ups and downs in this in the months ahead.
BLITZER: Jeffrey, you know, because you've studied this for a long time as well, the President campaigned repeal and replace ObamaCare. He really wants this. And I think he wants it, in large part, so he could get on to other issues like tax cuts, trade, this huge infrastructure bill he wants. But he can't do anything, he says, until this is resolved.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: That's true, but you know what hasn't come up in this conversation at all? Think what the bill will actually do. Like, what about 24 million people losing their health insurance? What --
SANTORUM: That's not going to happen. TOOBIN: Oh.
SANTORUM: That's just a joke. I mean, the CBO estimate is a joke. I mean, you know, the 5 million people are going to drop off Medicare that are fully funded just because there's no mandate.
TOOBIN: Twenty-four million people losing health care, cutting --
TOOBIN: -- how about raising --
BLITZER: This is what -- for those who don't know -- the Congressional Budget Office came out with an estimate --
TOOBIN: Taking --
BLITZER: -- 14 million would lose --
TOOBIN: However many.
BLITZER: -- within a year, 24 million over 10 years.
TOOBIN: How about an enormous tax cut for wealthy people in the United States? How about the substance of this bill? That's something that, I think, is extremely important and will have tremendous relevance to peoples' lives. And, you know, as we discussed these tactics, I just think that's something that we ought to keep in mind.
PSAKI: But that's the core reason why a number of Republicans in the Senate are opposing the bill, Medicaid, the Medicaid cuts. That is the challenge that is really hard to overcome.
You have 11 republican governors who've expanded Medicaid in their states. That has real impact. Block grants do not work. I know you're going to disagree with me --
SANTORUM: They do work.
PSAKI: -- but they prejudge how many people should be on Medicaid. That absolutely does not work. There are going to be millions of people without health care.
So there are substantive questions, I agree with you completely that need to be focused on, but to the credit of a number of Republicans in the Senate and in the House, the reason they're opposing is because of substantive issues, at least in the moderate wall.
SANTORUM: The greatest innovations that we've seen on Medicare is because of flexibility that were given to states. Rhode Island is a classic example of that. I mean, Rhode Island's program was given a broad waiver. They have cut costs and reduced -- they have run an efficient program, and Indiana. There are several others that have done so. Block grants do work. The most successful thing Republicans ever did was the 1996 Welfare Reform Bill, which I was one of the authors and I can tell you we did block grant it. We put work requirements. We put time limits and we -- and in fact --
BLITZER: Let me interrupt for a second. The president's motorcade now arriving up on Capitol Hill to meet with Republicans to try and get them on board, very quickly.
SANTORUM: The block grant for welfare was set in 1996 and has not been increased since then. Why? Because states have innovative. They've been able to reduce the program, and that's what we need. We need to drive innovation and it's never going to happen in Washington so the block grant is the right approach and Republican governors are wrong on this because they are worried their money.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You did it with a Democratic president.
SANTORUM: We did.
KING: When you do big things like this, isn't it best, Obamacare was passed on without Republican votes. It looks like the repeal and replace is going to be passed without any Democratic votes. When you do big things like you know you are going to have to fix it and you know you will not be perfect even with the best of intentions you get things wrong. When you do big things or the economy changes or something happens, wouldn't it be best if somehow you could have some political consensus?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: It would. Here's another question --
SANTORUM: Not with this environment.
KING: That's the point.
BORGER: People adjusted to Obamacare, whether they like it or hate it they know what it is, and in some states the premiums have gone up dramatically, like in Arizona, and Dr. Price, the head of HHS has promised you will not be financially worse off as a result of this new bill.
And I think this is where the rubber meets the road. I think voters out there and you are talking about their health care. You are not talking about some abstraction, it's their family and pocket book and it's their sickness if they get sick.
And they are going to hold Republicans now to the standard, just like they held Obama to if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. So whether you call it Trumpcare or Ryancare, or whatever, when the smoke clears and if this gets passed, the Republicans now own this and they understand that and that's why they're so afraid of it.
BLITZER: Joan, you wanted to make a point. JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SUPREME COURT ANALYST: Yes, I was just going to make a point, we're talking about from the start to the end. Remember, Obamacare was signed in 2010, I think it was March. We're just about on the anniversary, it went through a court challenge in 2012 and a court challenge in 2016. However this plays out we are still looking far down the road, and it's not just the people who have to get used to it, it's also the judiciary and the litigation that's going to come for sure --
BLITZER: Do you think it will be challenged?
BISKUPIC: I think for sure. That's just the nature of the game. And also if it's something that, you know, Democrats and consumers want to challenge it, definitely.
NIA MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Even the Republicans are saying this is phase one and there's a phase two and three, and all of those phases depend on some consensus.
SANTORUM: And there's going to be something that require bipartisan --
BLITZER: But Senator, you know the Senate, it's going to be hard enough to get 51 Republicans onboard. Can they get 60 on board in phase three? That's what it will require a majority of -- super majority of 60.
SANTORUM: Yes, it all depends on what happens in phase one because if --
BLITZER: Let's say phase one passes.
SANTORUM: OK, then there are things that will help the system work better now that a new system is in place, and I would think that you will find some bipartisan support, and some are really common sense things. Others are going --
BLITZER: You think eight Democrats will support it?
SANTORUM: I think it's possible.
BLITZER: Because the argument that they make is don't believe the CBO, Congressional Budget Office, numbers because they don't take into account phase two and phase three, but what if they pass phase one and phase two and three really don't materialize, there will be court challenges to phase two, which is administrative and regulatory changes that the secretary of health --
SANTORUM: Yes, look, I would make the argument that phase one actually does save money, and it's lower budget numbers. It does drive down the cost -- I mean, the CBO estimate, other than what I think the widely wrong estimate of how many people will drop out of the insurance market because there's no mandate, or Medicaid, they over exaggerated that. They always do. They over exaggerate the benefits of mandate by half when it came to Obamacare and they are underestimating -- markets work and can drive that across. They always do.
JEN PSAKI, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR FOR OBAMA: The CBO cost savings was underestimated, and it was overestimated how many people would be left -- I think that's hard to swallow.
SANTORUM: One is an analysis of what the government spending is going to be based on policy, and the other is what is the uptake, what is the uptake of people buying insurance based on incentives because of costs and market versus mandates, and they always score mandates higher than markets and that's why the numbers are bad.
BLITZER: What happens if this fails on Thursday?
[09:20:03]BORGER: It's a big problem for the president, and it's a big problem for Paul Ryan. I think his speakership might well depend on it.
SANTORUM: No chance that's going to happen.
BORGER: OK, and I am not predicting failure either, by the way, because I think when you are -- what normally happens in these situations having watched these votes for many years is that you have people sitting in the back of the chamber who wait until they see if their vote is actually needed.
If their vote is needed, they will vote with the president and if their vote is not needed and they don't want to vote for it for all kinds of reasons, they won't vote for it. You will have a lot of people hanging back and watching the vote.
SANTORUM: There will be 217 or 218, and they will figure it out.
HENDERSON: It's hard to imagine Paul Ryan bringing this up for a vote on the anniversary of Obamacare's passage in 2010 without thinking that he is going to have the 216 --
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: The way these things generally work is that Paul Ryan will never allow this to lose. If they think they will lose, they won't bring it up. It's never going to be --
BLITZER: Yes, but Jeffrey, even if they cancel the vote, that's a setback.
TOOBIN: It's certainly a setback but at least it allows them to keep pushing on it. Seems to me based on how these things always work, there will not be a negative vote.
KING: But it's fascinating in the sense, that I agree completely, the speaker can do the math and the president will go and say we cannot fail. This is our first big test, we cannot fail. They will get something through the House is my bet. The question is what happens in the next two steps there.
But the interesting part, again, this president is now central to this process. This is not his signature issue. This during the Republican primaries, the president came this way to repeal and replace because he realized it was in the bloodstream of base Republicans and he had to be there.
If you go back to the beginning of the Trump campaign, he was not a reflexive repeal and replace guy, but he saw the energy for it out on the road as he travelled and he saw the energy for it on the debate stage and became a repeal and replace guy.
He would much rather focus on trade and economics and immigration, but he decided, the outsider president decided to accept Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell's schedule, and do the inside game first on Obamacare. We'll see if it benefits him or if it opens a trap door.
PSAKI: When we get to recess, and there are supporters of Obamacare, the people that feel they will use health care, and they are doing protest, and whether they come back and President Trump wants to still use the political capital on this, and that's going to be a big question on that.
BORGER: It's so interesting, because the order in which you choose to legislation as a new president is so important, and they chose this, as John is saying. They chose this as number one. I might have chosen something like infrastructure because they would have been able to get Democrats onboard and pass something. But every president has this question of what do you do first because that first thing can very often become your signature.
SANTORUM: First, you want to do hard stuff first and not easy stuff.
BORGER: Well, but you want to win, right? Trump wanted to win.
SANTORUM: You have reconciliation, and there's a window under the budget window to do reconciliation, and you have this window. So they had to do health care first. Politically, they had to do it legislatively and it is hard and whether Trump has gotten a whole lot of momentum, their hope was there's a lot of momentum after his inauguration. Obviously that's not been as strong as they'd like, but this may be -- this was the only window to do --
HENDERSON: This is a slap in the face to Obama, right? Donald Trump ran a very much anti-Obama, nothing like setting the course for the presidency by being the first act, if they are able to do it, ripping out the main part or the main guts of Obama's legacy by repealing Obamacare.
BLITZER: Very quickly, Jen, when the Republicans argue Obamacare is on its deathbed right now. If they do nothing to change it within a year or two, it's over, the premiums will skyrocket and the deductibles will skyrocket and people will not have the opportunity to get health insurance. Your response?
PSAKI: It's not factually true. One, there's more than 20 million people who have health insurance. The uninsured rate is at the lowest rate in history, right around 10 percent. This administration put out information that people who received tax credits, almost 85 percent of the people did not see any increase in their premiums. I think it's important for Democrats to acknowledge that even if Hillary Clinton would have been elected there would have been some necessary changes to Obamacare. There was not enough competition in the market.
Some people (inaudible) other people supported other things, but there would have been changes that would have taken place, but that doesn't mean you absolutely destroy the entire health care bill that is now health care in America, and that's what the Republicans are trying to do right now.
BLITZER: The president of the United States is up on Capitol Hill right now, and he is going to be going into a meeting with Republicans to work this issue of health care, repeal and replace Obamacare. You see members of the Secret Service and the entourage getting ready to walk into this meeting. We will have coverage of that.
[09:25:06]There's the president right there. Let's listen.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you get the votes, Mr. President?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I think so.
BLITZER: You think you are going to get the votes, a reporter shouted, and he said I think so then he continued.
SANTORUM: Aren't you supposed to be a little more confident?
BLITZER: You know, it was his first go around. The speech he delivered last night in Louisville was supposed to be a health care rally, if you will, but it was only, what -- he only spoke about 5 minutes for health care, which is suggesting to some that he wants to get this over with so he can move on.
HENDERSON: It was pretty much in the middle of the speech, and a lot of the speech was, I think, you could have heard it on the stump a year ago, and it was rehashed talking points from his inauguration as well and ended with the whole idea of making America great again and safe again.
There have been, I think, people concerned about whether or not he's in the weeds on this and whether he is all in on this, and you heard early on, Paul Ryan last week say he's in there and twisting arms and trying to make deals and we will see if that works.
I do think it was significant that Mitch McConnell got booed yesterday. That's in some ways is Exhibit A about Trump's power versus the power of a lot of these folks.
BLITZER: Certainly is a problem. The other big story we are following this morning, momentarily, the Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch will start answering questions from senators, Republicans and Democrats. A half hour for each senator to ask a question, and Gorsuch will respond.
Our CNN Supreme Court reporter, Ariane de Vogue, is up in that room. Set the scene for us, Ariane.
ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN SUPREME COURT REPORTER: You know, Wolf yesterday these hearings were really about Merrick Garland. The Democrats were furious that he never got a hearing. So today we think we will turn to the issues and Neil Gorsuch.
One issue that will for sure come up is abortion. Keep in mind, Trump said he wanted to put pro-life judges on the bench. Democrats think that that allows them to go hard on Gorsuch on that issue.
They will also ask him about his independence from Trump, right. Gorsuch has never really directly in the public responded to Trump's criticism of judges. We will see that, and maybe questions on the executive order.
And finally, Wolf, they will go after whether he favors the big guy over the little guy. It's going to be a long hearing, nine hours, they say -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Nine hours today and then more tomorrow. The chairman, Chuck Grassly, says the senators will have a half hour to do Q & A with Judge Gorsuch today and then tomorrow a second round, 20 minutes each. So it's going to be two days of a very important hearing.
Jeffrey Toobin, this is critically important. One of the most important things any president could do is select nominees to serve on the United States Supreme Court.
A president can serve four years or eight years. A Supreme Court nominee, in the case of Judge Gorsuch, he's only 49 years old. He could spend 30 years, 40 years. This is a lifetime appointment.
TOOBIN: Think about this, in the fall of 2040, when Tiffany Trump and Malia Obama are having their first presidential debate, he will still be on the Supreme Court. The scope of this is -- you know, John (inaudible) Stevens served from 1975 until 2010. That's how long these tenures are.
I mean, obviously, we think we know the issues that will be before Justice Gorsuch, you know, abortion, affirmative action, campaign finance, but we can't even predict what they will be thinking about in dealing with in 2040, all we know is that the same people will be there in charge.
BLITZER: Go ahead, Joan.
BISKUPIC: Yesterday he was able to portray himself as every man, but the Democrats are going to come after him on the fact that they think he is more of a friend of corporations rather than the little guy. It will be interesting to see if he can keep up that same persona that he had.
The way he presented himself to the American public yesterday was a man who puts on the black robe and sometimes even trips in that black robe, and he's from the west and comes from a pioneer stock, and I think it's going to be up to Democrats to try and throw him a bit off his game to see what he's really about.
They might not be able to do it, but we might get a clue as to where he is at on equality and due process.
BLITZER: Dan Blair is with us. Dan, welcome. You're the author of a book entitled, "A Survivors Guide for Presidential Nominees" and you have got some advice for anyone that has to go through the confirmation process. Go ahead.
DAN BLAIR, AUTHOR, "A SURVIVOR'S GUIDE FOR PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEES": That's right, Wolf. This book was put out by the National Academy of Public Administration that I formerly led and it's a blueprint for nominees as they go through the process, and it covers the pre- nomination process, and the post-nomination process and the confirmation process. And it can be very intimidating for someone who's not --
BLITZER: He is arriving there now. He's meeting with the senators, Judge Gorsuch, but go ahead.