Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Showdown Vote on Health Care; Rules Debate on Health Care Bill; CBO Score for Health Care Bill; What's In and Out of Health Bill; British Police Make Two Arrests. Aired 9:30-10a

Aired March 24, 2017 - 09:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:31:42] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm John Berman.

Win or go home. President Trump lays down an ultimatum to House Republicans, vote today on the health care bill and pass it or lose and go home. In his mind, live with Obamacare.

HARLOW: Right, the political stakes could not be higher, folks. A big test today, not only for the GOP-controlled Congress, but for this president, his first big legislative test, will he deliver? Will this be the art of the deal?

Our panel is back with us.

And, Mark Preston, let me begin with you.

I mean you made the point time and time again, he has been able to sort of rule by fiat.

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICS EXECUTIVE EDITOR: Right.

HARLOW: Right, executive order after executive order.

PRESTON: Right.

HARLOW: This is not that. Can this be the legislative, can this be the president that actually can win through legislation?

PRESTON: This is the hard work of Washington. And this is why, you know, a lot of Americans out there hate Washington because they see it as gridlocked. But, in many ways, this is how our government was structured and how it works and allows us not to, you know, to my point about ruling by fiat, have a king or a queen who decides what we do.

HARLOW: Yes.

PRESTON: I mean that's why we broke away from Great Britain. You know, the legislative body, Congress has as much power as the president does. And that's really what makes us special.

But to you point, can he make it happen? You know, last night I was more pessimistic than I am this morning. Now, I'm only a little bit more optimistic.

HARLOW: Why?

PRESTON: But I think we're at about a 51-49 percent chance. Because I do think there's going to be an incredible amounts of pressure in the coming hours right now to turn these people around, to at least make sure that there isn't a loss on the first vote. This is the first of multiple votes that's going to happen, not only in the House but in the United States Senate and then they all have to come back together. You don't want to deal your president a losing hand on the first vote.

BERMAN: And, Jackie Kucinich, a couple of interesting things, though, that have happened just on this very show. Number one, Jeff Zeleny reported he's hearing from Republicans, the possibility that maybe the vote might not happen today, it at least opens the idea of pushing it back even further. And just now we heard from moderate Republican Leonard Lance from New Jersey who's voting no and has been voting no for a while. But one of the interesting things is, you know, we pressed him on the idea of these essential health benefits, these things that were promised under Obamacare, you're guaranteed maternity care, you're guaranteed, you know, prescription drug coverage, also for drug addiction coverage, that's being removed from this. And we asked him, in his mind, does that make the bill worse or better? And he said even worse. It's getting further away from some moderates here. This just goes to show the difficulty this will have going forward.

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, absolutely. I mean if this hits the Senate, I think Trump might go into a new level of frustration for - for that matter.

But here's the thing, something Preston said earlier really struck me about how he has a source saying the president might not want to work with the Freedom Caucus anymore. Well, if they manage to sink this bill, he's going to have to. He's going to have to really get used to that idea because this is the same bloc of votes - they're going to have quite a bit of power if they're able to bring this down. Whether or not people point the finger and blame them, still, a lot of these members, they're not going to find anyone to run to the right of these guys. That position really doesn't exist because they are so far to the right.

So he - this isn't Wall Street. This isn't something you can walk away from. The same people are going to be in that chamber, at least the rest of this year and part of next. So he's going to have to figure out a way to work with this Congress if, in fact, this does go down.

HARLOW: He does. They also have to work with him in a way that they get accomplished what they want.

KUCINICH: True. [09:35:01] HARLOW: And all this talk about, they keep moving the goal post, moving the goal post, moving the goal post. Nia, do you believe that the Freedom Caucus - and let's pull up those essential benefits again, because these are really critical for a lot of Americans.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes.

HARLOW: Did they overplay their hand on this one?

HENDERSON: You know, at this point, they seem to have won this battle in terms of getting those emergency benefits -

HARLOW: (INAUDIBLE). I mean -

HENDERSON: Yes, I think - I think you're right. But I think it's always - that was always the play. You've got to move it right to the House -

HARLOW: And then you bring it back.

HENDERSON: And then you bring it back to the Senate into a more moderate position.

HARLOW: Right.

HENDERSON: I think for the House Freedom Caucus, they have to figure out, can they count this as a victory and move on, right? That they got the emergency health benefits stripped from it. Is that enough for them to sell to themselves, sell to their constituents and say, you know, we voted for this and we got this - this done. I think that's going to be the big question because you have all of these groups essentially saying this is Obamacare. It's Obamacare-lite, conservatives saying that, and - or it's Ryancare. It's not - you know, it's Republican in name only and wanting - seeing Donald Trump as somebody who can make it more conservative and seeing Ryan as somebody to blame. So the House Freedom Caucus, I think they've got a tremendous amount of power here if they end up pulling this across the line, you know, I imagine that Trump will be very pleased with them.

BERMAN: It's interesting, I mean if you follow Twitter, some of the Republican - or conservative, I should say, thought leader, Steve Dees, who we all know from Iowa -

HENDERSON: Yes.

BERMAN: Laura Ingraham, they're all ono saying vote no on this.

HENDERSON: Yes, that's exactly right.

PRESTON: Right.

HENDERSON: Yes.

BERMAN: They're all saying there's no point to entertain this. So you're getting a lot of pressure from a lot of these people, Lynn Sweet. And Poppy said something, and I would never disagree with Poppy Harlow because I'd be wrong -

HARLOW: Not on air.

BERMAN: I would be wrong most of the time. But Poppy said, you know, he's going to have to work with the Freedom Caucus or the Freedom Caucus is going to have to work with him. But the whole idea of the Freedom Caucus over the last few years has been, they just say no, right?

HENDERSON: Yes. Hell no caucus.

BERMAN: They're not about working, they're about not working. And maybe, you know, philosophically about not working and not getting things done, Lynn.

LYNN SWEET, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "CHICAGO SUN TIMES": Well, that was when they had a Democratic president, so you had nothing - nothing to lose by saying no. Now you have something to lose.

What I think is interesting here is that Donald Trump is saying that the members - his own Republicans in the House of Representatives are not a compliant board of directors where he could just replace or knock off if he doesn't like what they do in order to get what he wants. So this is a block of members who if they aren't - maybe they'll come across today. We don't know. But this is life in Congress. They're going to be there. They're going to disagree, especially if you talk about some taxation and spending plans. And even if they say no, they are an important block of votes. Unless then you force President Trump down the road to start replacing them with Democrats. And in order to do that, you're going to have to have some policies that probably will then turn off some Republicans. That's always the equation here. This is the first time that Trump and his White House has had to navigate this.

So this is the road to the right number of votes, in this case 216. It's not a path that no one knew about. You know, this is like going up Highway 95. We know - we know the route. And it just seems to - the only one who seems surprised that this is as difficult as it is for the moment seems President Trump, which is why, rather than have a defeat today, maybe give more time, play the bigger - you know, play the more magnanimous person and see if there's any weekend pressure on these members that might get their vote because isn't it better to have a win than to have a defeat on a self-imposed deadline.

HARLOW: But talking about a path to the - you know, a path, if anyone knows how to find a path where one doesn't exist, it's this president on his road to the White House, right?

HENDERSON: Yes.

PRESTON: Yes.

HARLOW: How many times did we all say there is no path, and there was indeed a path.

BERMAN: Yes, in those exact words. HENDERSON: Yes. Yes.

HARLOW: Indeed a path.

Mark Preston, to you. Not getting enough attention I think this morning is the new CBO score which says this costs more -

PRESTON: Right.

HENDERSON: Right.

HARLOW: And, by the way, 24 million people still won't have coverage in a decade. And guess what? That doesn't even include essential benefits being taken out, which will fix the cost issue but it will hurt the how many people are insured issue.

SWEET: And -

HARLOW: They're going to go to a vote on this, Mark Preston, without - without a score on the new - is that bad?

PRESTON: Poppy, why are you so caught up in all these numbers and details?

(CROSS TALK)

PRESTON: You know what's interesting is -

HARLOW: They were railing about Democrats on this same point.

PRESTON: The CBO score, right. And the CBO score is so secondary right now, right?

HENDERSON: Yes.

PRESTON: There is so many problems before you even get to the CBO score with this bill that Republicans have basically written it off. You're absolutely right. Because a CBO score, which, by the way, for our viewers out there, the Office of the Congressional Budget Office, non-partisan, run by a Republican -

HARLOW: Yes.

PRESTON: Appointed by the Republican Congress. So, again, not good news, but so secondary because they can't even get enough votes for this bill within their own conference.

BERMAN: It cuts the deficit less and doesn't insure more people, Nia.

HENDERSON: Right. Right. And, you know, to people in the House Freedom Caucus, the Tea Party, they don't really - aren't necessarily concerned about the number of insured. They're certainly concerned about what this does to spending. So it's not a good thing for them that this current version of it isn't that great. And you hear the White House say, well, this is just phase one, right?

[09:40:16] PRESTON: Right.

HENDERSON: There's a phase two. There's a phase three.

HARLOW: Maybe.

HENDERSON: We'll tell - yes, right.

HARLOW: Maybe.

HENDERSON: Well, tell that to the person whose premiums are going to go up most likely -

HARLOW: Yes.

PRESTON: Yes.

HENDERSON: If you believe the CBO score in this first year.

BERMAN: And the risk of going home, by the way, the - you know, Lynn Sweet, you're talking about the risk of delaying and going home at the same time, man, oh, man, I mean what would happen at these town meetings? What will you hear from constituents? Because up until now it hasn't been, you know, rah-rah, Lynn, vote for this plan.

SWEET: OK, a few points here that I hope I can make quickly. The Freedom Caucus has never had as a platform that they want to expand health care coverage or even give more access. That's a Democratic issue. So that's interesting to see how this is playing out because on one hand the Republicans are owning that they have to do something to provide at least more access. That's one.

Two, when you start taking away preventive services and pediatric care, a lot of parents are going to hear that, and that will give them pause to say, what will this really mean for my policy? I've got children. You might say it's saving me money, but we're not stupid. If we then get billed a la carte for a package of services - for services that we were getting in package.

BERMAN: Yes.

SWEET: You have to convince people in a short window with a lot of unknowns that this really is what people say this is. And I can't even, as a reporter, right now, tell everybody, since we may end up with 50 different state plans, that the plan you will get when you look at the cost really will give you what you want if you have to do an a la carte program.

BERMAN: Health care - health care continues to be a complicated issue and one that will take explaining from every member of Congress.

SWEET: Always.

BERMAN: All right, guys, Mark Preston, Nia-Malika Henderson, Lynn Sweet, Jackie Kucinich, thank you so much.

We're talking a lot about whether or not this bill will pass, you know, but it is important. What is in it and what it means for you, that's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:46:24] HARLOW: The Republican health care bill could live or die in the next few hours. The rule debate underway on the House floor right now. The full House debate set to begin in just a few hours.

BERMAN: Yes, you're looking at the live action as it's taking place. And this will go on all day. There is a serious question about what is in this bill because it keeps on changing.

Our MJ Lee on Capitol Hill with that.

MJ.

MJ LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Hey, John and Poppy.

We have been following the political debate on Capitol Hill very closely. And in a few hours we don't know exactly how Republicans will vote on this bill. But a lot of people either way are going to be very curious to know what exactly is in this bill. So let's talk about that for a little bit now.

The bill would repeal the Obamacare subsidies. Those subsidies would be replaced by refundable tax credits that are based on age and income. The House has also decided to set aside around $85 billion so that tax cuts can be given to older constituents. That was after some members raised concerns that not enough money was going to help these older constituents get the money they need for coverage.

It would also repeal the individual and employer mandates. This is an issue we all know a lot about because it has been such a political issue. The requirement in Obamacare that every single person has insurance coverage and that companies that have more than 50 people also provide insurance for their employees.

It would also make big changes to Medicaid. States would get a set amount of money based on the number of enrollees. So a lot of big changes that are in this bill.

And we should also note a last-minute change that was made to this bill is the repealing of the so-called essential health benefit that covers everything from maternity coverage, hospitalization, mental health coverage. This, as we all know, because we've been talking about this so much, is a last-minute concession that the White House and leadership offered to members of the House Freedom Caucus. And, of course, what we're wondering right now is whether that last-minute deal will be enough to bring on board these conservative members today.

BERMAN: All right, MJ Lee for us, giving us a sense of what is in this bill. Again, some changes just adopted over the last 12 hours or so. So it's good to keep abreast of this situation.

Thanks, MJ. You are looking at live pictures of the House floor right now. This is the debate on the rule for all of this. A procedural measure, but key. It is all happening right now, and we are on it all day.

HARLOW: We are expecting to hear from the president in the next hour. We'll carry that for you live.

And we do want to continue telling you the latest on the breaking news out of London. British police are making a lot of progress in their investigation into that terror attack. Two significant arrests. Also, much more detail about who this attacker was. That's straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:53:27] BERMAN: All right, the breaking news, we have some developments in the House vote on the bill to repeal and replace Obamacare. Information from our reporter, Jeremy Diamond, at the White House, who tells us that President Trump is making calls this morning. The White House - a senior White House official says that the president is determined to pass this bill. But a different senior administration official says that while there has been some movement towards support, the question is, is it enough. Now, you can interpret that as you will. I think if it was enough already, we would know. But the White House thinks there is at least some movement today. So stay tuned on that.

HARLOW: We know the president has said he's at the end of his rope. This is it. Do or die day. We will be following it all.

We're also following something new this morning, that is two significant arrests in the London terror attack investigation. We're also finding out a lot more about the attacker, who he was and what he did in the days before this horrific attack.

Nick Paton Walsh is live for us in London with the developments.

First on that point of these arrests. Who has been taken into custody?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We don't know at this point, but it is rare for Scotland Yard here, British police, to use the phrase "significant." And obviously it comes after they have had at least 40 hours now to start combing through perhaps the identity and connections of this man. We know they have seized 2,700 items they're now searching through which contains a lot of computer data. And as of this morning, when they made the announcement, they were still going through five addresses, searching those. So a huge dragnet being put out now. Nine people have been arrested. Eight still in custody at this point.

More being known about Khalid Masood, named as the attacker. He was born Adrian Russell Ajao, converted to the Islamic faith at some point. Unclear at this point that that conversation had anything to do with this crime or whether he was radicalized at some point or just simply psychologically unstable.

[09:55:12] We also know, too, that he did, in fact, hire a car in Birmingham, where he lived, traveled to Brighton, a southern coastal town, and then up to here on the day of the attack, where on this Westminster Bridge, now teeming with people, as it was about 47 hours ago when this attack occurred, drove it up onto the curb here, onto the sidewalk, and down towards where he crashed it into the parliamentary railing before attacking and taking the life of a police officer, Keith Palmer here. Three other victims on this bridge, one of them an Americans, Kurt Cochran.

But the scene around me here, intimate in flower memorials, down towards Big Ben, a London cultural landmark. People often oblivious here, it seems, tourists. For those who use this as part of their daily routine, it's memory changed, altered forever.

Back to you.

HARLOW: No question. Nick Paton Walsh live for us in London, thank you for that reporting.

Meantime, back here in the United States, the clock is ticking for the president and for House Republicans, the big vote on health care, it is today. That's the plan for now, at least. Can this president really win his first legislative battle? That is straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)