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Report: Vote on Healthcare Bill Friday AM; 5 More Hours of Debate No Unity Among Republicans Yet. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired March 23, 2017 - 15:30   ET

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


[15:30:00] PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I can tell you talking to people and members in closed door meetings at the white house and Capitol Hill there simply is not a clear way the thread this needle. There's a pendulum here, you swing it one way the conservative you lose moderates, swing to the moderate side you lose conservatives, they're not there yet, no vote tonight. All members will meet at 7:00 p.m. to figure out the path forward.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Huge, huge, now that we know this mega health care vote has been postponed. Phil Mattingly, breaking the news. Thank you.

I have Steve Israel now a CNN political commentator. Lahnee, first to you, how big of a blow is this for the administration and for Paul Ryan right now and does this just get punted down the road? What happens?

LAHNEE CHEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think, Brooke, at this point it's maybe a little premature to say exactly what happens, one thing for sure is they didn't have the votes to get this finished so in a sense it is a problem for the President and for the speaker. This doesn't mean it's all dead but does mean they need to focus the fundamental question of whether the Republicans want the status quo of Obamacare or if they want something different and if they want something different they have to figure out a different way to get to yes.

BALDWIN: You know the workings of Capitol Hill and the arm twisting and know we had the freedom caucus at the White House and Paul Ryan was meeting with the moderates at Capitol Hill. Explain what goes into these behind the scenes meetings and kind of things that happen when you realize you don't have enough votes to go?

STEVE ISRAEL, FORMER CONGRESSMAN, NEW YORK: Well, Brooke, this was a house of cards and the problem is every time they gave a card to the moderates they a took a card away from the freedom caucus and many woke up this morning realizing this would be a close vote but there would be vote. In the last hour to two hours they described this as a roller coaster that was running out of steam. Now Paul Ryan has a very serious problem. He could have put the bill on the floor and engaged in hand to hand combat for votes, every day that goes by is not an advantage to Republicans or the President. So, this is not what they envisioned when they woke up this morning. This is what happens when you thump your chest when Sean Spicer says we're gaining votes and say it's going to pass when you don't have a sufficient whip count.

BALDWIN: He said there's no plan B, the train is leaving the station. All stand by as we are getting a number of different members to speak with us, Phil Mattingly, let get back to you.

MATTINGLY: I'm here with Congressman John Yarmuth of Kentucky. Who is the top Democrat on the budget committee? Just to start, you have been through these kind of pressure situations before but you had an inkling this was going to happen?

REP. JOHN YARMUTH, D-KENTUCKY: I did. First of all talking to a lot of Republicans none of the Republicans actually like the bill so nobody is really happy about this. And also, they are getting immense pressure from the outside, the hospital associations, nurses association, advocacy groups, AARP and offices flooded with call so they're trying to fight that dilemma, how much do we care about the party and our political hides. And the big problem here is nobody is thinking about what the best health care bill is.

[15:35:00] That's my biggest concern.

MATTINGLY: As they meet with their members what is a pathway forward?

YARMUTH: I don't think they have one without Democrats. I think the country wants us to work together to solve these problems and what they have done essentially is to kind reframe the affordable care act and now they're trying to back off with that because that caused problems with some of their members, I don't believe they'll be able to get to 216 for any piece of legislation right now, they're going to have to deal with us.

MATTINGLY: As a veteran if you have been up here you know things are as dead as they can be until they're alive again, is there anything you can see as a spark that it's coming back?

YARMUTH: I don't really see it. I know the President is trying to move certain bills for others, not health care bills, there are no more earmarked so you can't guarantee a road or a bridge but when you have 30 members already coming out and saying we're not going to vote for it is a lot more difficult.

MATTINGLY: This is something they have campaigned for seven years, everybody knew this was coming. Is this something that just dies now?

YARMUTH: I don't see it going forward. They could work with us.

MATTINGLY: What could they do.

YARMUTH: The insurance market is only about 5 percent. Everything else is working fine and we agreed on that in the rules committee and we could say let's work together to fix the individual market and we could do that without -- insurance for everybody else.

MATTINGLY: You know where the Democrats stand, they were unified, but Congressman Yarmuth makes a very good point, there have been a ton of internal splits and that puts them in the bad position they're in and at least for the moment there's no vote.

BALDWIN: Thank you. Congressman, thank you so much.

If you grab other members of Congress, we'll bring you back. This all-important health care vote supposed to happen today the seventh anniversary of Obamacare, the vote has now been postponed. Let's head down the road to the White House to our senior correspondent Jeff Zeleny, do we have response yet from the administration?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Brooke, the White House right now basically learning about this nearly the same time we did in conversations from the leadership office here to the white house. This was not a complete surprise despite Sean Spicer's announcements that there's no plan B, the White House saw this sort of heading in the direction here, but so far, we have not gotten an official reaction, he is talking to aides, but so far, no reaction. At the same time, a few moments ago, as we saw the video on your air here was meeting on a different subject matter, on the south side of the White House so he is just being brought up to the speed, so this certainly takes away the symbolism. The White House was hoping to get a vote on the seventh anniversary of the signing of Obamacare, so certainly a different feeling, something in works so long and you talk to some people inside this administration close to this President, they wish this could have been taken care of before he got here.

They wish Republicans and Democrats would have worked together to improve the affordable care act, now it is the burden of this administration, this Congress to figure it out. It is his responsibility. A few weeks ago, the President said if this fails he'll blame it on Democrats, the Democrats have not been involved at all. As Phil said smartly earlier, things are never dead in Washington until they completely are. This could be revived. They are certainly looking for extra votes, but again, this is one small piece of the puzzle. Right now, they're going back to the drawing board essentially trying to figure out what the next steps are because quite frankly, Brooke, they do not know.

[15:40:00] BALDWIN: You know how it works, they're dead until they're alive again. Jeff, thank you so much, as soon as you do get an official statement let us know from the White House. Bringing you three, we are functioning in real time, there isn't an official statement, other than just saying surprise from the White House. So we know that the Republican caucus is meeting tonight at 7 p.m., the vote has been postponed, now what?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: We have no idea. You know, it doesn't seem to be another plan and obviously, they pulled it because they didn't have the votes an didn't want to embarrass themselves on the first big legislative item by losing because that would really have killed it so they're going to have to resurrect it in some way shape and form and now they know what's wrong with it can help them figure out what they can get and sell it. The political danger is that you have a recess coming up and they're not going to get anything done before the Easter recess and they're going to go home to their constituents, and people are going to be complaining and I wonder whether recess and they're going to go home to their constituents, and people are going to be complaining and I wonder whether we're going to hear from the President and one thing you can be sure of is he will blame the Democrats.

BALDWIN: As Jeff said though, he can't blame the Democrats, this is a fight within the Republican party.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: We can't over state that it is a big blow. We don't know if it is a temporary blow or a momentary one. What this fund mentally exposes this, Republicans are not agreed upon on how to accomplish an eight-year long promise to their voters and to the American people that they're going to get rid of Obamacare. This exposes an inability to deliver on their central organizing principal of a political promise for the last eight years and they're not able to deliver on it, perhaps they might, but this is exposing the fact they can't as of now.

MH LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: And down the road speaker Ryan has two options, the first is if the votes are not there is to put the bill on the floor any way and let it fail which would be a terrible thing to do because it's actually asking the members to play a game of chicken, have the bill die in the house and that's a terrible outcome for everyone involved. The second option is to postpone this and try to get to a deal with the freedom caucus or try to bring the moderates on board but David you have been so good at emphasizing this, at what point where have we seen a whole bunch of lawmakers got behind the bill? We haven't seen a moment like that and I don't believe we have reason to believe that White House will get that offer --

CHALIAN: Right.

BORGER: They started with a bill that nobody really liked. If they had started with a bill that a lot of people liked and some didn't they would have been better off but when they gave birth to this bill nobody liked it except maybe Paul Ryan and I'm not so sure he liked all of it, so that's been a problem for them as they try to herd these cats and the conservatives keep moving the goalposts and you have a real problem and I don't know how you resolve it and haven't even gotten to the Senate.

BALDWIN: I still have Lahnee and Steve Israel with me. So, the vote has been postponed. Can both of you talk me through -- we were talking before with all this behind the scenes arm twisting. How intense has this been for the White House and talking to these far- right Republicans and Paul Ryan talking to these moderates as recently as this afternoon?

CHEN: Recently it's accelerated because here is the reality. This is one of those situations where there's enough blame to go around for everybody. So, for the conservatives the notion that they were going to take what's known as a clean repeal vote without considering what might go in Obamacare's place seems to be fundamentally irresponsible.

BALDWIN: Stand by. Here is the President.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: It's great to be with you and I don't know who is starting it off? I'll start it off. First of all, I want to thank you for your support on health care. I know you had a big problem with Obamacare and everybody does, so welcome to the crowd. But I very much appreciate you being here and I very much appreciate your support. I'm glad to welcome the truckers, I must say you are the leaders, you are the big ones, I was very impressed to get you, I think it was the white house to get you, no one knows America like truckers, you see every hill and every valley and every pothole on our roads that have to be done, from border to border from ocean to ocean, it's true, and you love America and you love the spirit and we love your spirit and we want to thank you very much because very special people. Through day and night and all kind of weather truckers course the arteries of our nation's highways. You carry anything and everything, the food that stocks our shelf, the steel that built our cities, you think I wrote that? I want to save that paragraph.

But America depends on you. And you work very hard for America. Many of you spend weeks away from your families doing what sometimes can be a very difficult and dangerous job to put it mildly but you take care of yourselves, you look out for your friends and you don't stop until the job is done. That is true. Obamacare has inflicted great pain on American truckers. Many of you were forced to buy health insurance on the Obamacare exchanges. You experienced a crippling rise in premiums and dramatic loss in option and take a look at what's happened with the cost and deductibles through the roof and hopefully you won't have to use it because you won't have that kind of injury, so a lot of trucking businesses are out of busy, which is tough, many union drivers have slated to have their -- taxed and been against it and trucking companies considered large employers have to offer government mandated health insurance.

[15:45:00] You have the mandate that just doesn't work for them. Forced to do things that you don't want to do today the house is voting to repeal and replace the disaster known as Obamacare. We'll see what happens, it's going to be a very close vote. After we repeal and replace Obamacare -- it's close enough because close to politics, they know it's no good, everybody knows it's no good. It's only politics because we have a great bill and I think we have a very good chance, but it's only politics. After we repeal and replace Obamacare we're going to do everything we can to make sure truckers stay busy moving American goods made by American companies and workers, a big difference out there now, don't you think? We will rewrite our broken tax code and eliminate job killing regulations where you guys are so subject to regulations an we're going to free it up, you're going to be back to business and we'll make sure America's infrastructure is the best in the world right now it's probably the worst it's been in 40 years, I have friends in business saying trucking from Los Angeles, New York and back is very tough on the trucks, never used to be that way with the condition of the roads and highways, so I look forward to hearing from you. We're going to have a long talk though not too long because I want to get votes. I don't want to spend too much time with you and lose by one vote, then I'm going to blame the truckers, but we're going to talk for a while and then I'm going to go back to business and I appreciate you all being here and maybe we'll go around the table and introduce yourself and your company real fast and the press I'm sure they'll be excited.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: We want to pull away, the President meeting with members of the trucking industry as he was getting the information apparently that this all-important health care vote has been postponed, Gloria Borger has been on the phone talking to a senior White House source.

BORGER: A senior White House official told me there's going to be a vote, tomorrow morning, and that the debate on the health care bill will start this evening and the reason they postponed this was because they didn't want a vote at 2:00 in the morning and so this senior White House official said there's going to be a vote tomorrow, the only difference is it's not going to be in the middle of tonight.

BALDWIN: Got it. Got it.

[15:50:00] BORGER: And we're obviously waiting for people on The Hill to talk about this.

CHALIAN: Yes, because they're the ones who scheduled the vote. We should make clear here, that's a convenient reason not to want to vote at 2:00 a.m. in the morning. They made a lot of hay about the middle of tonight and Obamacare being passed in that fashion, Christmas eve late in the Senate, but the reality is if they have the votes today the vote would be today.

GLORIA: This afternoon, right.

CHALIAN: That's the political reality. And they don't have the votes right now. That's why we don't see voting on the house floor right now. So, my interpretation of this tell me what you think wants to stop everyone from declaring this dead.

GLORIA: Right. And also, saying that we're wrong that it's not --

BALDWIN: A big blow.

GLORIA: That it's not a big blow.

CHALIAN: Also to me feels like buying time to rally the last votes they need.

LEE: Because right now we don't know they'll have the votes by 9:00 a.m. tomorrow morning, what would they need to do to get on board some of these moderates, so far all of the conversations, the phone calls, the closed-door meetings, they have resulted in nothing to indicate that a big chunk of the conference will come on board and support this bill. And I don't know what could change in the next couple of hours to make that happen.

BALDWIN: Is it possible they know something or from a freedom caucus meeting today. They wanted this ironclad document, maybe there's something we don't --

BORGER: Maybe they're counting votes and close but not there and going to need some time and clearly don't want to let this sit because once you let it sit as we were talking about before as I spoke to white house official, if you let it sit-out there then you run into the Easter recess, constituents being at home and this source was saying to me we are going to have a vote and I think that's clearly part of their concern, also clearly they believe they can get it or wouldn't be having it.

BALDWIN: Steve Israel, the notion that Paul Ryan was supposed to be speaking and postponed multiple times and now according to Gloria and the White House a highly-placed source, yes, there will be a vote tomorrow morning.

ISRAEL: Three things, Brooke, it ain't over till it's over. It ain't about baseball, but this bill on the floor. You take the vote when you have the votes. I promise you, that if they had 216 votes at 2:00 a.m., this vote would be at 2:00 a.m. And the third thing, picking up on something Gloria said earlier about members of Congress going to their districts, I just read some analysis from focus groups that I think are just fascinating and maybe an unprecedented dynamic. On the issue of who gets the blame, Trump supporters will not blame house Democrats and they will not even blame Donald Trump. According to these focus groups, Trump supporters will blame house Republicans. And, so, the real liability here, the real risk and threat is not necessarily to President Trump as much as it may be to house Republicans for not getting this thing done.

BALDWIN: The note about the Democrats precisely being what President Trump has said. If this thing doesn't get through, blame the Democrats. Lahnee Chen, what do you think?

CHEN: Yes, I think house Republicans have a lot of exposure. I think Senate Republicans have some exposure, too. This is something they've been talking about a very long time. The point I want to return to is this, Brooke. Conservatives share some of the blame because of unreasonable expectations. On the side of the moderates they've known these provisions are in the bill. For example, the notion Obamacare, this might gut the essential health benefits requirement. That's been part of Obamacare seven years. They're wising up to the fact they might have to vote against it. If they've been opposed to Obamacare they are opposed to this, too. This is coming together in a bad way right now.

BALDWIN: I understand we have new reaction, thank you, gentlemen, very much. New reaction from the white house. Let's go back to our senior white house correspondent there Jeff Zeleny. Jeff, what are you hearing now from the administration?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Brooke, we just talked a few moments ago, with the deputy press secretary here at the White House, Sarah Huckabee Sanders. She is saying nothing has changed here. The position on this is still the same. They are working forward. They simply did not want to have votes in the middle of the night as Gloria was saying. I will quote exactly what she said here, Brooke. She said we will move the vote until tomorrow morning so we do not end up voting at 3:00 in the morning. [15:55:00] That is what's happening. The debate tonight is going on

as planned till tomorrow morning. As David pointed out, the vote is not scheduled by the folks here at the white house, the vote is scheduled by the majority leader's office in consultation with the speaker of the house and they have not yet said that. So, the white house is trying to project an air of calm, an air of confidence, there is nothing to see here. The minute it looks like this is going south, people are certainly not going to change their position and say, wait, I was for that, ways for that. It will go the other direction.

BALDWIN: Sure.

ZELENY: The White House trying to keep this going forward. But, Brooke, no question that things are in flux right now, and the white house cannot guarantee that a vote will happen tomorrow morning because the votes right now of 216 simply aren't there. But an air of confidence so far being projected at this hour here at the white house, Brooke.

BALDWIN: OK, Jeff, thank you so much. Go ahead, Gloria.

BORGER: And I'm just hearing that the rule under which this will be considered at this point is under what's called regular order and that requires five hours of debate. And, so, Republicans did not want -- if you have to have five hours of debate, they didn't want to have this vote in the middle of the night as Jeff was saying, and my source was saying. So, that's another reason that they decided to put it off until tomorrow morning. But obviously, it does give them more time to herd the cats.

BALDWIN: Actually, here's Mark Meadows, the chair of the house caucus.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MARK MEADOWS, R-NORTH CAROLINA: Here's what I'd like to ask you all to do, is give it up for our law enforcement officers and say thank you. All right. So, here we are tonight, continuing to debate this in good faith. Not only with our own conference, but certainly with the President engaged. We have not gotten enough of our members to get to yes at this point under what we are currently considering. However, I would say progress is being made and that progress that is being made is really -- should be applauded with the efforts of the white house to try to not only deliver on a campaign promise, but to deliver lower premiums for every American from coast to coast and in between.

And, so, I would say at this point the President's engagement is unparalleled and I believe in the history of our country to actually engage a number of members, whether they be moderates or conservatives, and I think it's indicative of just a President that wants to solve problems. Even meeting with somebody like Elijah Cummings on drug -- prescription drug, actual cost and price. I mean, what he said today in the meeting was he singled out Elijah Cummings and said he wants to work on an issue for a Democrat. This is a President that wants to get things done. So, I can tell you the freedom caucus is committed to working with the President to get this done.

This artificial deadline that we have at this particular point of a vote tonight actually is something that we imposed on ourselves. So, I'm very encouraged and optimistic that if we continue to work together -- and by that, we plan to reach out to some of the members of the Tuesday group to have some real discussions on how we can come together and have consensus, realizing there's different motivations for different members of our conference.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Where will the discussions take place, what's on the table?

MEADOWS: I think the procedures for going forward are still fundamental and they have not changed for the last couple of weeks. If we can make sure that there is an adequate safety net that preexisting conditions are taken care of, where truly premiums start to go down for moms and dads, that's what it's all about. And I can tell you that that's what I heard over and over again, was does this bill actually lower premiums significantly enough to make a real difference for people that are struggling to pay for health care. And I think that we have that at the very core of where we are.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Is this DOA in the Senate?

MEADOWS: I've been having a number of discussions with my Senate colleagues, both some that are considered to be very conservative and some that are considered to be not as quite conservative. And I'm optimistic that finding common ground with at least 51 or 52 senators in that way, I would be hopeful -- I won't even go there. We'll just say 51 or 52 senators.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (Inaudible)

[16:00:00] MEADOWS: Really right now in terms of talking about specifics of negotiations, I'm not going to do that. I can tell you -- I know that's what everybody wants to here is what would get you here. We've communicated that very effectively with the President and his staff, but it's really not about what I want. It's about what those constituents want back home. And, so, in doing that we started reviewing some of the text that the administration and our leadership has put forth. There were a number of questions in terms of what it did and what it didn't do. We had a question just in here now is does this unfairly penalize veterans. We're not sure of that answer. If we're not sure of those answers, we need to read the bill and understand the bill fully before we take a vote on it. And, so, do I think it gives the President a loss, absolutely not. I mean, when you look at this, we are going to get to the finish line because the President's committed to get to the finish line. Moderates and conservatives are committed to get to the finish line. And when we get there, we will be able to applaud a process that is the very fabric of who we are as an American people. It's the debate real ideas that affect real people day in and day out.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you think you can have a vote on this tomorrow? MEADOWS: I can tell you as soon as I get done here, I'm making a call

to Tom MacArthur and trying to reach out to some of the Tuesday group. I think it's important for me to --