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Report: Health Care Billed Pulled At Trump's Request; Ryan Told Trump Health Bill Won't Pass. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired March 24, 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] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN LEWIS, D-GEORGIA: I'm going to fight every single attempt to turn a deaf ear, a blind eye and cold shoulder to the sick, to seniors and working families, Mr. Speaker I'm going fight every day, every hour, every minute, every second and oppose this bill with every breath and every bone in my body. We must not give up, I will not give in, not today, not tomorrow and never, ever on this bill there's only one option and that option is to vote no. We can do better, Mr. Speaker. We must do better. Vote no on this bill.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Democratic Congressman John Lewis. The house vote on the American health care act is now expected to start any moment.

We're going to turn now to someone who is going to vote against the Republican plan to replace Obamacare. Congressman Mo Brooks is with us, a member of the conservative wing of the party. Thanks so much for joining us.

REP. MO BROOKS, R-ALABAMA: My pleasure, Wolf.

BLITZER: I know you're going to vote no, but apparently there's a meeting you're going to go into, are you going into another meeting with the speaker?

BROOKS: As soon as this we will probably be informed then whether there will be a vote or whether it's been postponed.

BLITZER: What do you prefer?

BROOKS: Well, the House Speaker is in a very difficult position, on the other hand the President asking for a vote, on the other hand if it puts votership at risk 2018 because Congressman who vote yes on this very bad piece of legislation are at greater risk of losing their nominations to Democrats and you increase the likelihood that Nancy Pelosi might be the next speaker of the house, so Paul Ryan makes big bucks to be speaker of the house and has a big choice to make.

BLITZER: But what would you tell him?

BROOKS: I would tell him this. I'm not going to suggest how he should or should not conduct himself, if you want a vote I'm more than happy to have a vote, I think it's bad. Over the short term it's going to increase premium costs according to the Congressional budget office and long term it's unsustainable huge welfare program one quite frankly we can't afford.

BLITZER: I assume you met with the President and he made his case at least publicly saying the last best chance to repeal and replace Obamacare, if it doesn't happen now it's not going to happen. What was your response to him?

BROOKS: Well, I don't believe in surrender on an issue of this magnitude. I believe we need to repeal Obamacare, give it a definitive date of which the repeal takes place after the legislation passes and in that window come constructive solutions and if you want to remove the repeal part of this current legislation then with you put Democrats in a position no longer voting to repeal if they cooperate and join us in trying to better address the health care challenges we face, so I hope they will give him better counsel and the fight goes on.

BLITZER: Anderson.

BROOKS: Hi, Anderson.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Do you want to see this done more incremental rather than attempting some large bill like this again?

[15:35:00] BROOKS: I think it was very unwise to link the repeal aspect which we probably have the votes in the house and Senate to do, which two years albeit vetoed by President Barack Obama, but to replace all that, without any vote, that means you have to get a 90 percent or so consensus and very difficult to do with any piece of legislation so I believe it needs to be segregated. The Democrats know it's going to be repealed at some date and let's get the parties to come together and come up with a bipartisan solution.

COOPER: We know you are on short time, thanks for joining us.

Dana Bash is standing by with more what are you hearing?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: You just heard the Congressman, but let me put in context what he said the house Republicans are now going to head into a meeting of all Republicans, not a regular, but a special meeting among all house Republicans. Why is that significant? Because they're doing that instead of if you look at the time it's 3:35 p.m. eastern instead of going to the house floor and taking the vote as pushed by the white house. Not only that, they went into recess on the house floor, now that's basically because all Republicans are going to be in this meeting but I can tell you from experience when they go to recess in the house at a time when they are expecting and planning to hold the vote, that doesn't portend well for the vote even holding the vote in the first place so we are waiting to find out whether or not the speaker is going to tell they are going to pull the bill. All signs are leaning that way. We don't know for sure if that's going to happen or if he's going to delay it but I can tell you this is not a good sign, Anderson.

COOPER: CNN has learned according to a source that the President of the United States has asked the speaker to pull the bill. Is that --

BASH: There you go. There you go. That's not surprising given the fact given what I just described and the scramble here and the fact they went to recess and announced they were going to have a meeting of all house Republicans. Very interesting they put this on the President himself. I do have to tell you that this is you know sometimes when you hear things information that sources give you come into more clarity, so that's basically what just happened is I was told earlier you know just because the white house is saying have this vote, which Sean Spicer did, he announced that the vote is going to happen, which is again, very unusual for the white house to make a legislative announcement from the white house podium, he did that, and at the same time I was warned by a source in the Republican leadership just be careful because that's not necessarily what the President wants. Well, now we know what the President has asked for at least this is their plan on how to publicly explain it to put the onus on the President and delay this and not have it in the Republican lap, this clearly was discussed, intentional to play it like this, to spin it as a Presidential decision and not surprising given what we have been talking about all day long the fact that it was very clear the votes were not there and could have gone not just down but down big time if they decided to take this vote.

BLITZER: And we are getting word that speaker Paul Ryan will hold a press conference, you're a Republican, hearing what?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Same thing. The vote is going to be pulled. There was concern this morning that it was not looking good, not a positive feeling throughout the white house and more and more when Vice President Pence went up to the white house there was concern not only were they having a difficult time pulling some of these house freedom caucus members over given the concession made earlier this week as they were making concessions for them as we heard a lot of moderates were falling off the block so that's the difficulty now to satisfy one wing of the Republican party you're losing others.

BLITZER: David Chalian, if the President of the United States is now telling the speaker don't hold this vote you're going to lose, pull the vote, it sounds like a done deal.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: It sure does. And we are going to hear from speaker Ryan at 4:00 p.m. and curious whether President Trump has something to come out and say something about this.

[15:40:00] Just stepping back -- I know we are following every little development of what's happening throughout the day but it is astounding to me that President Trump and speaker Ryan are now going to have to speak and address the country about why Obamacare is going to stay in place why that is going to remain the law of the land despite a decade of promises to get rid of it.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Or, or, why they postponed it a short term. We were sitting here yesterday about this time when a senior white house official made it very clear that the President was laying down the law there was an ultimatum you were going to have a vote, that's the way Donald Trump does it. And now, it seems to me that the house Republicans seem to be almost more afraid about losing than the President. You know?

CHALIAN: They're worse off than yesterday. They lost more votes than last night.

BORGER: But I think maybe Paul Ryan -- and we have to understand and report out the dynamics of all this but is it the house Republicans were going to the President and saying look, we cannot lose this or is it the other way around?

COOPER: Jim Geraghty, what would your headline be on this.

JIM GERAGHTY, SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, NATIONAL REVIEW: You know there's a drawing board back there and you can go back to this, and as bad as this is I think holding the bill and having it lose by a bunch and have 30 house Republicans vote no, 40...that would be worse. This is frustrating they get to go out and say, you know, we didn't have the votes, conservatives wanted one thing, moderates wanted another. We knew we weren't going to get any cooperation from Democrats, we got to back to the drawing board and try again. This happens in politics, this will be a bad day I think passing something Republicans really didn't like and felt like they had to, and watch it go to Senate and it gets a little bit worse, all a sudden each step of the process it got worse and then you have to pass it because that's all you have.

JENNIFER PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Time has never been their friend on this and I think the Democrats are going to continue to make the case that Republicans are still trying to take health care away, as anybody learns more about the specifics of what is in this bill, what has been in the bill, which if they break it apart in incremental pieces you assume they could pass.

COOPER: So many people were making the point that there was this rush do this they go to recess, go back to their districts, and there's town hall meetings, and the recess, seems to be the case.

PSAKI: And people who are supporters of Obamacare will make the case and we know even if they trying to back to the incremental passage is good and selling it is easier, but even selling small pieces of this is not going to be agreed on, the essential requirements we've been talking about here that weren't in place until 2009 people are going to be screaming b about the loss of maternity care, they tried to reduce Medicaid and people are going to be screaming about this.

BORGER: What about god forbid they cancel their Easter recess and god forbid the house Republicans and Democrats work together which is stunning because they don't like each other, but they are in a pickle and they have got to do something and time is not on their side, you're right, why not cancel the recess, have all these guys sit around a table together and figure out what will work in each chamber without -- and communicate.

RYAN WILLIAMS, FORMER DEPUTY NATIONAL PRESS SEC'Y, ROMNEY 2012: You may not ever be able to please the freedom caucus people the demands last night -- you can have all the time to negotiate but if you're going to fight during a reconciliation bill, how can you ever come to a --

DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER TO NIXON, FORD, REAGAN, CLINTON: First of all, I think it was very smart not to hold the vote, they were headed for lopsided defeat and for all the reasons we talked about. That way, I think they ought to appoint a Senate and house committee and compromise over the next month and in the meantime, do tax reform and change the subject because I think if they keep on focusing on health care there's a good chance --

BORGER: I like your idea.

STEWART: Go back to when this bill was first rolled out Congressman Tom Cotton was the first to say hold on a minute. Pull the bill, to your point, let's everyone sit down and put together a bill that both sides will agree on that they can get input from their districts and move forward from there and there's still a great deal of desire to get something from Republicans to get passed and repeal and replace Obamacare because that's what they all campaigned on.

[15:45:00] BLITZER: Jen Psaki, you know what the President is going to say, many times politically the best thing for Republicans is not to have a vote. Let Obamacare continue for another year. It will be awful, it will be a disaster, it will self-instruct and then the world will see how bad it is. Politically say just let that happen, he said for the American people we need to get repeal and replace underway to help the American people but politically his argument would be the Obamacare law is awful and is good that it's going to self-instruct.

PSAKI: It's good -- and most people are only focused on politics and saying a lot of different things which tells you a lot, but that's a pretty outdated view of politics, that would have been four years ago, six years ago, but Obamacare now is supported by 53 percent of the public, statistically in states across the country, this is the health care they are enjoying an living so you're talking about taking this away from them, so I think what we are seeing is actually the politics have changed, people are using outdated numbers and outdated view and as time goes on it will become harder and harder if they have a conference, committee to push this through.

BLITZER: Anderson, I'm going to be curious to see, we're going to hear from Paul Ryan, but I'm curious with whether the President will make an appearance --

COOPER: Or does he have Paul Ryan take the hit and not communicate about this for a couple of days and Mar-a-Lago comes up for the weekend.

GERGEN: He can't not speak.

BLITZER: You think he's going to make an appearance?

GERGEN: He has to make an appearance in the next 24 hours.

BORGER: Or a tweet.

GERGEN: He's the leader of the country.

BLITZER: He is spending the weekend at the white house. He is not going to Mar-a-Lago, that is what they announced at the white house earlier today. Jack Kingston, former congressman is with us as well, a Donald Trump supporter, what's your reaction, Jack?

JACK KINGSTON, FORMER CONGRESSMAN: I think Paul Ryan just saved the majority or temporarily we remember under Tom Foley when the Democratic party members had to walk the plank on the BTU tax and the expression became the BTU, the house guys game the scapegoats and cost them the majority. I think Paul Ryan knew if OK if I get my guys to walk the plank on this there's no way it's going to pass the Senate anyhow and I have burned up a lot of capital and goodwill and the house isn't going to forgive me so this Paul Ryan does have another time to fight another day, this isn't the end of it because remember Obamacare is doomed under the current path. It's unsustainable, we can change it or modify it but it is not going to be the same as it is now in two years so I think the opportunity to go back and through regular order and possibly getting Democrats and Senate on board and maybe even pre-conference in it informally I think there's a great possibility.

BLITZER: Explain what you mean on regular order?

KINGSTON: Go through committees, have hearings, have interest groups, witnesses, hearings and amendments and say we're not going to rush this through in the meantime we're going to work on infrastructure, maybe immigration reform, energy and might even redo the tax reform package in its entirety, but ways and means subcommittees of energy and Congress will be working on a new health care bill or approach and do some things that tom price talked about. Tom price can do a lot through executive orders, tort reform, things like that can be done through the regular order process.

BLITZER: Very quickly, jack, who is the bigger loser in the media fight the speaker or the President?

[15:50:00] KINGSTON: I think it's the house, I just don't think it's the speaker. You clearly had the division of the Tuesday group moderates and conservative freedom caucus, while I think while Paul Ryan will be the center of it I think it's the house in general and what they're doing is going into the locker room at halftime and don't have points on the board and yet the game is not over with and if they come back and have success on tax reform and other legislative issues this game is not over but I think Paul Ryan today made a very brave and difficult decision to live to fight another day.

COOPER: Joining us also Timothy O'Brien, "The Art of Being the Donald," Tim, you and I talked about President, his past the way, what his brand is, what damage does this do to that, to him being a closer to being a great deal maker somebody who can get somebody in a room and hash things out?

TIMOTHY O'BRIEN, AUTHOR, "THE ART OF BEING THE DONALD": Well, I would remind you that "The Art of the Deal" was written by a ghost writer and he has never been good at negotiating or navigating complex deals in his career. All the complex deals he tried to put in motion in the earlier part of his career became failures and on top of that reality negotiating across the board with those who have a financial outcome in mind is very different from going to Washington and try to get legislation passed in which you have stakeholders whose interest is bringing back something to their constituents that they can be proud of. All the members of the GOP that Trump has to play ball with here aren't necessarily loyal to Trump's kind of outcome in this. And so, I think this is very damaging for him. It's still only two months into his tenure --

COOPER: Hey. Tim, we are just putting some tweets on the screen. This is from Robert Costa who I guess is now doing an interview with the President and he's tweeting about it. He says, what a conversation, I'll type it up quick. He quotes the President saying, I don't blame Paul. President Trump just called me, he said still on the phone. We pulled it, he tells me. That's what we're seeing so far.

O'BRIEN: So, you know, it took us seven years to get here. The GOP has had seven years of criticism of Obamacare and during that entire time they could have developed a sophisticated alternative. They clearly didn't. You had a President who campaigned on an early and immediate repeal of Obamacare and an adequate replacement. They haven't gotten there. I don't think anybody comes out of this looking good. It's a bad legislative moment. It's a bad moment just to be an American and be --

COOPER: Tim, listen, sorry, let's listen in here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What are the next steps?

REP. BRADLEY BYRNE, R-ALABAMA: We don't know. It's a good idea for everybody to go home, get some rest, calm down a bit, don't react emotionally, and remember we have a lot of other things to do here in addition to this and this problem is not going away.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Did President Trump ask him to pull the bill?

BYRNE: I understand President Trump agrees with the decision.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Did the President ask the speaker -- did the speaker recommend --

BYRNE: I don't know the answer to that. The President agreed with the decision. That's enough.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: And, Congressman, is it clear there is not going to be any action on health carol this year now? Is this -- are you moving on to something else?

BYRNE: We are moving on, but that doesn't mean we're not going to do anything this year. That's two different points. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Bradley Byrne, Congressman confirming what we have been reporting. The vote has now been pulled. There will be no vote today. You're going to see a lot of representatives, members of the house, Democrats and Republicans, scurrying out of Washington as quickly as they possibly can for the weekend.

COOPER: Yes, or longer. We'll be on air, though. Lots more --

BLITZER: We're not going anywhere.

COOPER: We're not going anywhere. It seems like most people are talking about doing this incrementally moving forward.

BORGER: Right. And I think as you just heard, I think they're not quite sure where they go. The interesting thing to me from our Jeremy Diamond who just reported this from the white house was that the bill, it was Ryan's decision to pull the bill, and that he went to the President and said, I think we ought to do this. And probably explained to the President what the ramifications would be both for him and for members of Congress that perhaps control of the house was at stake. That, you know, they ought to pull it for now. But what happens next, I agree with David that I think they can't give this up. And maybe they approach it more incrementally, which would be a more logical way to do it. And maybe they get together with Republicans and Democrats and form a special committee on this. But they can't give it up because it was the one issue everybody agreed on.

COOPER: Does now a game of finger pointing begin, blaming?

BORGER: It started yesterday.

GERAGHTY: Tomorrow morning's tweets should be fascinating. Look --

BORGER: Set your alarm.

GERAGHTY: Getting involved in finger pointing, for 48 hours fine, everybody can yell at each other. Then at some point you're left with the same problems. As said earlier, time is not on the Republican's side.

[15:55:00] The individual insurance market, more and more places you have one insurer and more and more insurers are saying, we can't make money on this, too many people are old and sick. In that sense time isn't really on the side of Obamacare. Yes, on the one hand you get people used to it. Listen, I don't like this, my premiums are too high, my copays are too high. That gives you pressure. The question of this whole required benefits of health care, Republicans need to level with people. These are part of what's making things expensive. This is part of what's making premiums up. I you say to insurance companies you have to cover all this, you decide it's important. We can take it way, premiums will go down. Flip side is they like this stuff, maternity care, pediatric care, that kind of stuff. This is the choice before consumers. The problem of health care politics is there is always somebody who is going to come along and promise a better deem. They don't give specifics, details down the road. That's what Trump did. What Democrats did with Obamacare. I will give you the best possible deal, you'll love the coverage, you won't pay very much, but we're going to make the math work.

BLITZER: And if somebody, god forbid is diagnosed with cancer, they want chemotherapy to be included. Sara is at the white house. We are now hearing from the President through Robert Costa. The President according to Costa telephoned him -- phoned him to give him his reaction.

SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Reporter: that's right. What the President said was, we pulled the bill. He told Robert Costa, I don't blame Paul Ryan. But behind the scenes we're already seeing some of the finger pointing. Senior administration officials are telling me, my colleague Jeremy Diamond that it was Paul Ryan's decision, the House Speaker's decision to pull the bill, that he made clear earlier in this meeting with Trump that the votes weren't there and that was his recommendation. Meanwhile, though, we're hearing from house leadership aides that ultimately the final decision was the President's to pull the bill. So, there is a little bit of sort of this blame game that's already going on. I think a couple things are clear, though, wolf. One, the President did not make the sell here. He touted himself as the ultimate deal maker. He couldn't get this deal done. He couldn't get the votes to make it happen. And, two, this wasn't what the President wanted to be focusing on. He wanted to move on. He wanted to go to tax reform. I think that calls into question whether we are going to see another crack at health care any time soon, or whether the white house will, in fact, just barrel forward with some of these other items.

BLITZER: Any indication that the President will actually make a statement, go before cameras?

MURRAY: We are waiting to see that. We know that one of his events has been moved into the oval office. That may be an opportunity perhaps to get some reaction from him. I can tell you that his top aides are huddling right now. We saw white house press secretary Sean Spicer head toward the oval office. Obviously, a number of reporters are waiting to get some kind of official update as to what happens next. So, we're still waiting to see if we will hear from the President on this directly.

BLITZER: Is there a sense over there of defeat?

MURRAY: I think it's interesting when you look back at Sean Spicer's briefing today when he was saying everyone sounds so defeatist. You know, so fatalistic. He seems defeated. In that briefing he seemed very down when he was trying to say that the President did everything he could to get this passed. I think there was a deep sense of frustration in this white house. They felt like this would be a clear victory for them. This is something Republicans have been campaigning on for years. And I think frankly they were shocked to see the level of opposition given what a priority Republicans have made this for seven years, wolf. I think they had certainly underestimated the complexity of this issue and now they're at a point where they have to regroup and figure out what to do next. BLITZER: We're standing by to hear from the speaker of the house.

He's going to go to the lectern there and make a statement presumably answer reporters' questions as well. We don't know about the President, whether he's going to be doing something similarly. Sara Murray, you're there at the white house. As of yesterday, even earlier today, at least officially publicly, the press secretary was voicing optimism. This was going to pass. When did they get a sense, though, in the real world that it was in such deep trouble?

MURRAY: Well, I think even though they were expressing this optimism publicly, that this was going to pass, I think even last night they certainly knew the bill was in trouble. $ they may have said they were moving this vote for scheduling purposes, but administration officials I was speaking with were honest about the fact that the votes weren't there. There was a problem. They were having issues wrangling these votes. So, I think even last night they knew it was in trouble. I think they hoped maybe this ultimate -- ultimatum would make them pick the President's side versus the Democratic side. The ultimatum didn't pan out for them, Wolf.

BLITZER: The President is staying here in Washington over the weekend. No Mar-a-Lago this weekend, is that right?

MURRAY: Having problems hearing...

BLITZER: We just lost Sara. I think we're going to continue our special live coverage right now. Jake Tapper continues with the lead. Jake?