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Many Republicans in the Dark About Health Care Bill. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired June 16, 2017 - 16:30   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: We're back with more in the politics lead.

The U.S. Senate has two weeks before the July 4th recess and its self- imposed deadline to pass a version of their bill to repeal and replace Obamacare. Now, many Republicans remain in the dark about what's going to end up in the legislation. And finding a compromise that both chambers of Congress can live with, not to mention all the Republicans in the Senate, seems to be a tough task.

[16:30:06] CNN's Phil Mattingly is on Capitol Hill for us.

And, Phil, I have to say no hearings, no analysis by the Congressional Budget Office. Everything is being done behind closed doors. What's the deal?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, I had one Republican staffer who told me, if you say you know what's going to be in the Senate health care bill, you're either lying or you're a senior adviser to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Look, the calculation here is this -- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made clear, he wants his members to have space, to actually negotiate on some very, very complicated issues, whether it's Medicaid expansion, the tax credit, what to do with Obamacare regulations. And that meant a closed door process. It's obviously not ideal. It's not what we're used to and it's also something that's frustrating members.

Take a listen to what Alaska Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski said on local Alaska radio.


SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI (R), ALASKA: Yes, I've got a problem with it. If I'm not going to see a bill before we have a vote on it, that's just not a good way to handle something that is as significant and important as health care.


MATTINGLY: And, Jake, that's a sentiment you hear from a lot of senators. They want to know what's actually going to be inside of this bill. They understand the parameters of the negotiations right now, but they also recognize the stakes. This is one-sixth of the economy. It's also opening them to Democratic attacks. Senate Minority Leader

Chuck Schumer sending a letter to Senator McConnell today, saying, why don't we all have a 100-senator meeting in the old Senate chamber to try to discuss this, trying to figure out a path forward? A little political posturing there.

But there's a recognition that this is something they can be attacked on. But again, the calculation from the Republicans from the McConnell team is this is the best way to go forward doing it. This is the only way they think they can get to the 50 votes they need to actually move this forward, Jake.

TAPPER: But, Phil, I mean, the attacks are coming from inside the House. After lobbying and celebrating the House bill, the president, President Trump earlier this week meeting with Senate Republicans called the House bill mean and said he wanted more money in the bill.

What might that criticism mean in practice?

MATTINGLY: So, the interesting element here is what the president is asking for, more money. It's rather ambiguous, but it's actually somewhat addressed by what we do know about the Senate negotiations up to this point.

Look, there's a recognition that the CBO score is saying 23 million people would lose or would be without insurance over the course of the next decade because of the House bill. Everybody knows that's problematic. They do plan to add more money on the tax credit side, try to address lower income individuals, older Americans as well.

But the bigger issue right now, Jake, is with House Republicans. Think about that vote. They only passed it by two votes. They had several House Republicans basically come to yes at the very end. Several in endangered districts who really kind of walked the plank because the president behind closed doors I'm told promised them, he would help sell this bill, he would help raise money for them. He would help campaign for them. And now, he's essentially undercutting the entire proposal all together.

I can't tell you the amount of profanity that showed up from House staffers once they heard this story from the president, the recognition they were almost being thrown under the bus. The big question is when the Senate votes on this, the House will still get another shot. Did the president hurt himself, hurt House Republicans when this bill gets back over to the House if the Senate actually passes it?

It's an open question right now, but I can tell you, there are a lot of bruised feelings right now by those lawmakers who took a very difficult vote.

TAPPER: All right. Phil Mattingly, thank you so much.

Let's bring in the political roundtable to talk about this and much more. And, Kristen, let me start with you. I mean, the commercial writes

itself. President Trump called the House bill mean, the same House bill that Congressman Zoloft voted for or whatever. I mean, that's not helpful.

KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER: Yes, but Democrats have been calling Republicans mean for decades now.

TAPPER: This is the president.

ANDERSON: That's not a new charge.

What I think may actually be worse, is A, is if these bills do pass, somehow it makes it to the president's desk, it get signed, and people still see their premiums going up. They feel like their health care is not better. That would have a bigger effect --

TAPPER: The substance more than the (INAUDIBLE), yes.

ANDERSON: The other problem though from the process side is people sent Republicans to Washington to make change. Republicans control all of the branches of government besides the Supreme Court, of course, which is independent. If they've gone to Washington and they can't pass a bill, they can't change things, then less than they proposed something that was mean, it's, we sent to you bring about change and you didn't deliver.

It's almost as if Democrats can have a different message to swing voters that's less about policy and more about -- these guys didn't deliver the change they promised. I think that's another sort of landmine out there for Republicans in all of this.

TAPPER: Do you buy, that the ineptitude, potential ineptitude charge is worse than --

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, but that doesn't mean that it isn't bad, you know, that he said that. I think that it is problematic to have him describing the bill that way, the way the Democrats are describing it. Also, I mean, this was a bill -- I seem to remember there was a lot of hoopla when it was passed.

TAPPER: Celebration in the Rose Garden.

POWERS: It's the biggest thing that ever happened, literally. I mean, it was like, even -- you know, everyone was talking about what a major deal this was for the president and he got this bill passed and, you know, and now, it just turns out that the bill is a mean bill that he doesn't even really like, you know, which -- look, I think the truth was at the time, we -- we really didn't know that this bill was going to end up over in the Senate and it probably wasn't going to just look exactly the way that it did over there.

[16:35:06] But, you know, he certainly took a lot of credit for this very mean bill.

TAPPER: And, Anne, I mean, one of the things we just heard Phil talk about, the Senate doing this all behind closed doors because Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, wants there to be room to negotiate. He's just talking about negotiate within the Senate Republican caucus. He's not talking about Democrats or independents.

ANNE GEARAN, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes. I mean, it's one more thing on the list that doesn't look great about the process here, and, I mean, either the president didn't know what was in the bill when he had the original hoopla ceremony, or he changed his mind afterwards, again, as Phil said, people feel like they have had the rug pulled out from under them, and now it, it appears that the fix to the extent that there's a fix would, you know, could be something done only with -- among a few people and House Republicans are like, well, what about us?

It's a difficult -- it's difficult ground for all of them, and if they feel like the president doesn't have their back, that makes it all the worse.

TAPPER: I mean, you can understand though why House Republicans would feel a little thrown under the bus. They worked so hard to get this passed. Several of them risked their seats. I mean, it could really be in the same way Democrats risked their seats in 2010 to pass Obamacare.

ANDERSON: I completely understand --


ANDERSON: -- why House Republicans would feel the way they feel. On the other hand, I also feel like they shouldn't be too surprised. Donald Trump has changed his positions on issues at the drop of a hat based on whoever talked to him last on the phone a multitude of times. So, in a way, I feel badly for them. I understand their anger. In the other sense, I don't feel like they should be that surprised.

TAPPER: Interesting.

So, there's a "New York Daily News" story that was really interesting I want to ask you about. The reporting that a Trump family event planner who even planned Eric Trump's wedding is being appointed by the president to run the office for federal housing programs in New York, obviously, an office that oversees billions of taxpayer dollars. She has no housing experience. She claims to have a law degree that "The Daily News" says the university has no evidence of.

This is not exactly draining the swamp.

POWERS: No. I mean, but this is sort of the cronyism I think that is associated with the Trumps. I mean, they like -- clearly, Donald Trump likes to have his family and people that he knows around him and, you know, some of the people I think he's chosen to appoint to some positions probably fall into a similar category. So, I think it's not OK, but I don't think it's surprising.

TAPPER: I mean, this isn't even top ten in terms of stories today, but I do feel like if George W. Bush had done this, or Barack Obama, this would be a much bigger story.

GEARAN: Yes. Actually, that's an excellent gauge, right? I mean, you know, where on any given day does something we all would have been talking about for -- you know, for two days or two weeks fall? You know, this is like ten, right?

TAPPER: Right.

POWERS: I mean, he has his children -- you know, his children -- one of his children in the White House and her husband. I mean, that's not really -- again, that's the kind of thing that if Hillary Clinton had done it, the world would have exploded if Chelsea Clinton was working in the White House, right, you know? But we just --

GEARAN: If Chelsea Clinton had -- if they had hired Chelsea Clinton's wedding planner to work like in any administration position anywhere.

POWERS: Yes, right.

TAPPER: Do you think the world is just --

GEARAN: The world would have blown up.

TAPPER: -- is it -- our norms just changing, our standards just lowering and we just don't even care about this as a society anymore?

ANDERSON: So, I'm trying to put myself in the mind if I'm arguing -- the Trump administration's reason why they would do this. I'm trying to play devil's advocate here because I don't think that she's the right choice.

TAPPER: Please, OK.

ANDERSON: Look, there are actually some instances where Donald Trump has had people that he's dealt with in the private sector who he has brought in who have done a good job. Brad Parscale who did the digital work on Donald Trump's campaign. I believe he had come in because he had done some websites for some golf courses or some hotels that Trump had done, and did actually a very admirable job on the campaign. That may be an entirely different story than what we're seeing here with HUD.

But I think the president views people that he and his family have worked with in the private sector, he just gives them this preference. I don't think it's a good way to govern the country but I think that's got to be the thought process that's going to his mind.

POWERS: Can I just say I actually -- I don't -- I have to disagree with that. I think they are cronies. Do you know what I mean? I think they are people that they can control and that are loyal to them, right? So, they are people that they have brought in who have no experience, who may be very good people, but because they don't really know what they are doing, they are going to do whatever the Trumps tell them to do. I mean --

ANDERSON: The other problem is, it's being able to fill some of these positions.


ANDERSON: Right now, granted, this position at HUD is probably not someone that's not going to wind up having to lawyer up because of the Russia investigation, but if you're somebody who is competent and on the outside and there's an opening in the administration, you have to be thinking twice about taking that job.

POWERS: Yes, that's true.

TAPPER: Right.

ANDERSON: And so, who else is in line potentially to take these jobs?

TAPPER: But let's just to step back -- take a step back and look at what the job is. It's real interesting. Donald Trump comes from the world of New York real estate, and he obviously expanded it throughout the world as well, but New York real estate. This person is going to be doling out billions of federal dollars for housing in New York.

I mean, that is a job that it would be nice to have somebody that you can theoretically make suggestions to because you've got a lot of friends in New York real estate.

POWERS: Exactly.


GEARAN: As do your sons who are running your company, right? Yes. I mean, the lines -- the potential lines that you can draw there that are not good are obvious.

[16:40:02] But I think the -- you know, from -- to, again, sort of take your devil's advocate position a step further, they have been very clear that in Trump world, that they will go with comfort and that they are less concerned about appearance than previous administrations, and so far, they have not suffered greatly for that. So, I don't find this surprising.

TAPPER: Well, I mean, his approval rating is 38 percent, but I take your point.

Let me move on to the Cuba policy because I do want to ask about that. The president had a rather stern speech today announcing the policy saying he's cancelling the one-sided deal with Cuba. But a lot of the Obama policy actually remains and a source from the office of one Cuban-American lawmaker complained that the policy isn't doing that much new and it's pretty weak.

What do you make of this?

ANDERSON: I'll draw a parallel between this and the news we heard around DACA. And --

TAPPER: DREAMers, the DREAMers. ANDERSON: And the DREAMers. Where you have a president who has very

tough rhetoric and gives very tough speeches, and then, does the policy always match it? Not necessarily.

He's a president that loves getting people riled up and giving these big bold speeches about big bold things he's going to do to make America win again, but this is not the first time that the policy underneath has not been as bold as the rhetoric he has out in speeches?

TAPPER: What do you think, Kirsten?

POWERS: Yes, I think that's right. I mean, I think I'd be surprised if he actually knows what the policy is. I think this is something that seems was hammered out with Senator Rubio and it's something that he's out, you know, reading a speech about. But fact matter is, you know, it seems to be, you know, around the margins maybe changing a few things but most of the foreign policy advisers' altitude was actually, what we were doing before wasn't working.

It's not -- it's a long failed policy that Obama reversed and so, you know, they responded to some political complaints but it doesn't seem to be a serious overhaul.

GEARAN: A couple of data points that I think are important. They are not closing the embassy that was reopened. That's the most important thing --


GEARAN: -- that was part of the Obama plan.

This is a way to chip away at some of the -- the edges of that policy in a way that's politically advantageous for the Rubio Miami Cuban constituency and which, even though these are not huge actions, they are not supported by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. They came out with a statement against it.

TAPPER: But it does give the Cuban-American community that are hardliners on this, which is something to say, look, we did get some of this rolled back.

GEARAN: Right, because some -- these things do actually put money in the pocket of the military. That's true.

TAPPER: All right. Kirsten, Kristen, Anne, thanks one and all. Appreciate it.

Next, could you soon be order thing your non-GMO vegan granola via Amazon? The tech giant just acquired Whole Foods and is betting food delivery could be more efficient.

And last week, we told you about an American island sinking into the sea. It turns out President Trump was watching and what he told the island's mayor after that story ran, coming up.


[16:45:00] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD, I'm Jack Tapper. Turing to our "WORLD LEAD", is he dead or alive? Russia's Defense Ministry is claiming today that ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was possibly killed in a Russian airstrike last month in Syria. Barbara Starr is at the Pentagon for us. Barbara, we haven't heard from Baghdadi since November, he does keep a rather low profile. Do U.S. officials think that this claim that he might be dead is credible?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, I have to tell you, Jake, there's a lot of skepticism in the U.S. military and the U.S. Intelligence Community. Why? Number one, Baghdadi looks after his own security. The claim is that there was an air strike in -- near Raqqah, Syria, about three weeks ago against a compound. I think we have some aerial shots to show you of this compound that was struck, and there were 300 ISIS operatives and Baghdadi may be there. The picture is a little suspicious, to begin with, because it's a pretty clean site. You don't see craters. You don't see rubble. Very unlikely that Baghdadi let himself be at a meeting of 300 people knowing full well he might get -- this large group might get spotted, so a lot of skepticism about that.

U.S. officials say there were airstrikes by the Russians in the region, but nothing to confirm Baghdadi was there, and in fact, they are looking at an area perhaps a bit further south. If we have a map to show everyone, southeast of Raqqa there's a town called Mayadin. This is a town where the U.S. now believes a number of ISIS leaders have fled to from Raqqa. Whether Baghdadi is there or not, still an open question, Jake.

TAPPER: If true, how much do intelligence experts believe the death of al-Baghdadi might impact the operational capability of ISIS?

STARR: Not all that much at this point. The U.S.-led coalition very much pushing them out of the territory, dismantling that so-called Islamic state. That is step one, but the really big issue on the horizon now is ISIS essentially becomes this franchise operation around the world. We have seen the attacks in London, in Iran even, in the Philippines, in Afghanistan. This is an organization that inspires people around the world to commit violence, whether Baghdadi is alive or dead, that violence may not be stopping anytime soon. Jake?

TAPPER: All right. Barbara Star at the Pentagon for us, thank you so much.

Turning to our "TECH LEAD" now, online retail giant Amazon is buying organic grocery chain Whole Foods for nearly $14 billion in cash making its biggest push yet into traditional retailing. The deal shows Amazon's interest in traditional Brick & Mortar stores even though Amazon itself had a lot to do with hurting traditional retail businesses, such as The Borders book chain. It's not clear how much the online retailer and the offline grocer will be integrated. Amazon did say Whole Food's CEO will remain in that role and at headquarters will remain in Austin. No word yet on how much Amazon plans to integrate whole food products either in its online marketplace. The sale has not yet been approved by Whole Foods shareholders. It's expected to be concluded in the second half of this year.

[16:50:11] President Trump called the Mayor of Tangier Island, Virginia and said don't worry about the fact that your island is sinking into the ocean. What did he mean by that? we'll talk to the Mayor next.


TAPPER: Welcome back. Turning to our "BURIED LEAD" now, that's we call stories that are not getting enough attention. Last week in our "EARTH MATTERS" series, we brought you the story of a disappearing island in the Chesapeake Bay called Tangier. The Army Corps of Engineers tells CNN that erosion, climate change and associated rises in sea level could make this historic crabbing community uninhabitable as soon as 20 years from now, and if a major storm hits, it might happen sooner. Now, since we reported on Tangier last week, President Trump himself watched our story leading him to personally call the Mayor of Tangier. And James Eskridge, the Mayor of Tangier joins me now. Mr. Mayor, thanks so much for joining us. Tell us what President Trump had to say to you when he called.

[16:55:24] JAMES ESKRIDGE, TANGIER MAYOR: First of all, it was -- it was quite a surprise that he did call here, and we talked about the support that he had here on the island, that a large number of people here supported Donald Trump, and we talked about protection that we need. We need a sea wall from the erosion problem and I also told him that you know, I was glad that he was -- he was the President and I believed he was the man for the job, and I know the folks over here were quite happy to have him as President.

TAPPER: Did he offer any specific solutions or mention what kind of help he'll provide to make sure that your island survives?

ESKRIDGE: We did not go into any details about, you know, exactly what we needed or how much of it, but we did talk about -- I told him that one thing we were encouraged with that he had reduced like regulations and the time -- the time it takes for a study, like environmental impact studies because the sea wall that we're supposed to get next year, this had been into work for like 20 years and that's ridiculous. I mean, we've lost so much land in that amount of time and the cost is going up, so we need things to be speeded up.

TAPPER: So many of the families, as you know better than I, have been living on Tangier Island literally for generations. Despite scientists saying that the island is disappearing for a number of reasons, erosion, changing of patterns in the Gulf treatment and of course, climate change, President Trump assured you that the island is going to be around for at least another 100 years. That -- I'm sure that sounds reassuring, but are you -- you must still be worried about what the scientists are saying.

ESKRIDGE: It was reassuring coming from him, but I think he was mainly focusing on the -- on the sea level rise part of it. Sea level rise may be occurring, but it's at such a slow pace and the erosion, the effects from the erosion we can see almost weekly and that's what we're focused on because -- and if we get a severe storm or tropical system, a North Easter, man, it really -- it really chews the shoreline up, and it's at such a rapid rate that we're losing the shoreline that that's what we're focused on is the erosion.

TAPPER: You said you wanted the President to build a wall around the island. Can the wall stop the erosion that you're talking about?

ESKRIDGE: Definitely. On the west side of the island we were losing probably 25 to 30 feet of shoreline a year, and they completed a sea wall on the west side in 1989, I believe, and we haven't lost one inch since then so it works, but we need it on the east side, and around the rest of the island, and if we can get that, we'll be here for hundreds of years to come. I know the island also is settling and sinking, but we can pump material onto the island to build the island up if we can address the erosion problem.

TAPPER: I know that you're focused on the erosion problem, but as you know the Army Corps of Engineers and others say that climate change is exacerbating the erosion problem. There are other issues too, having to do with changes in gulf stream patterns, but many scientists say climate change is a real problem for your island. You don't seem convinced of it.

ESKRIDGE: I know there's changes in the climate. I mean, I can see it. I'm on a boat pretty much every day for most of the day, and I can see changes in the patterns of the weather and it's definitely changing. I'm just not totally convinced it's manmade, that man is causing it.

TAPPER: All right. Mayor James Eskridge, thank you so much. Really appreciate your time, sir.


TAPPER: Of course, the overwhelming majority of climate scientists, indeed scientific consensus states that climate change is real and at least in part caused by man's activity. We're going to continue to cover the effects of climate change on THE LEAD and continue to keep tabs on the good people of Tangier. Tune into CNN's Sunday morning for "STATE OF THE UNION". My guests will be Senators Bernie Sanders as well as Marco Rubio. It all starts at 9:00 a.m. Eastern and again at 12:00 noon. That's it for THE LEAD," I am Jake Tapper wishing you a good and happy weekend. I turn you over now to Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Thanks for watching.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN THE SITUATION ROOM HOST: Happening now, breaking news, under the bus.