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Interview With Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper; Interview With Ohio Governor John Kasich; Senate Republicans Forced to Delay Controversial Health Care Vote. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired June 27, 2017 - 16:00   ET



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We begin with that breaking news in the politics lead this afternoon. Republican senators are now at the White House, arriving moments ago by bus. You see the images of the bus there. They're not at the White House to celebrate the passage of the Senate Republican health care bill, as you may recall, President Trump did with the House version.

Instead, senators, Republican senators, are there to meet with White House officials and try to search for some way forward, given that Senate Republicans right now do not have the votes needed to pass their health care legislation as is.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell this afternoon announced that he is delaying a vote that was supposed to happen this week until after the Fourth of July recess. That will buy him and his fellow Senate Republican leaders some time to make changes to the bill, to get a new analysis from the Congressional Budget Office, and then, of course, more importantly, to try to convince enough Republicans -- here are a bunch of them who are opposed right now -- who are opposed to this bill and convince them that this plan, their new plan, is the way to go.

Some of the sticking points so far, higher projected premiums according to that Congressional Budget Office analysis, millions more uninsured, some voluntarily because they no longer are required to get insurance, others no longer covered by Medicare -- Medicaid, rather. That's the program, of course, that provides care for nearly 70 million Americans who have limited resources, as well as disabled Americans.

So it's a big, tall order.

Let's go right now with CNN's Phil Mattingly. He's on Capitol Hill.

Phil, what do we expect Republican senators to raise, what issues will they discuss with Vice President Pence, with President Trump, if he's there, at this meeting? PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, a listening session was how

one Republican senator kind of characterized it as he was walking out over to that bus. Others talking about that they want to try to get at least some kind of debate going.

But, Jake, I think the interesting thing here is the issues, the problems, kind of the divides within the conference aren't secret. Everybody knows where they are. They have known for weeks. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has had a very clear understanding of what each of his members, particularly those opposed members, need to get to yes.

The problem is the ability to actually cobble together a comprehensive final proposal that could actually reach 50 votes. Jake, if you want to know just how far away they are for some senators, take a listen to what Maine Republican Senator Susan Collins had to say.


SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: I have so many fundamental problems with the bill that have been confirmed by the CBO report that it's difficult for me to see how any tinkering is going to satisfy my fundamental and deep concerns about the impact s of the bill.


MATTINGLY: So, Jake, listen to that. Keep in mind the Republican senators can -- or Republican leaders can only afford to lose two members of their conference.

Senator Rand Paul, on the other side of the ideological spectrum from Senator Collins, has made very clear that he is going to be a very, very tough sell on this as well. Just since the closed-door Republican meeting where Senator McConnell said they were going to take some more time, three new Republican senators have come out and said they were opposed to this, which kind of underscores what I have been hearing for a couple days.

Our public count of how many we had that were opposed is nowhere near what the actual count is kind of overall for the conference.

I want to take you behind the scenes a little bit of what has happened over the course of the last 24 hours. There's no question about it. The CBO score was a definite body blow to this process. You had a lot of senators come out and say that this was severely problematic both on the top-line kind of coverage number.

But also if you look at premiums, if you look at Medicaid, all of these issues are very problematic for a number of different senators. Bush, again, the big question now becomes staff, working behind the scenes, trading proposals back and forth, McConnell really trying to buttonhole senators today.

The president himself making some phone calls, meeting in person with Rand Paul. What's it going to take to get them there? I asked one Senate aide, what's going to change over the next 10 days? His response? I don't know, but we have to figure something out, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Phil Mattingly on Capitol Hill for us, thank you so much.

Also on Capitol Hill is CNN's Ryan Nobles, who joins me now.

And, Ryan, you spoke with two Republicans who could have a lot of influence on what happens next.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Jake, and really kind of a sense of relief from both Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Rounds of South Dakota, even though they kind of come at this from different perspectives.

One thing that they have in common is that they want to see a repeal and a replacement of Obamacare. They're just coming at it from different directions. Cruz's big sticking point is that he wants to see a plan where truly there is a belief that those premiums will come down, while Rounds is looking for something that both sides, both moderate and conservative wings of this caucus can come together on.

They feel like they dodged a bullet to a certain extent today because this bill had no chance of making it through the Senate by Friday. But a lot of these problems that Phil just talked about that exist right now are still going to exist once they get back from this Fourth of July break.


They are going to have to make some big changes before the bill has any chance of moving forward -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Ryan Nobles on Capitol Hill, thanks so much.

Let's bring in CNN's Jim Acosta. He's at the White House for us.

And just a short time ago, they held an on-camera briefing for the first time in a week.

Jim, what has been the reaction from White House officials to Senator McConnell announcing that they're putting off the vote until after the Fourth of July?


Well, we should point out also, in just a few moments, we do expect to have some video coverage of the president's sitting down with some of these GOP senators who have traveled over here by bus over to the White House to meet with the president about this imperiled legislation.

It's never a good day when a bunch of senators have to get on a bus to come over to the White House to deal with something like this. The question is whether this is sort of a routine checkup or if this bill is truly going into the operating room. And as for what the White House is saying about this, the deputy

spokeswoman, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, told reporters at a briefing, a very short briefing for her -- Energy Secretary Rick Perry talked for about 40 minutes and then she only spoke about 20 minutes in the Briefing Room earlier today.

She said that, yes, they're going to be making some adjustments, talking about making some changes to this legislation. She also pushed back on that Congressional Budget Office score of the Senate health care legislation that found that 22 million fewer Americans would have health insurance, but, Jake, here's how she characterized what the senators are going to be talking about when they start meeting with the president here this afternoon.

Here's what she had to say.


SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There's a reason he's bringing senators over here today to talk through. We know there's going to be changes. We know there's going to be adjustments. The thing that the president was committed to is making sure that anybody that currently receives Medicare -- that's not -- Medicaid, sorry -- Medicaid, that's not touched.

And that is consistent with what's in the bill.


ACOSTA: Now, we should point out you heard Sarah Huckabee Sanders say at the end there, Jake, as you know, she said that there are not going to be any Medicaid changes in this bill.

But we have all been reporting that there's going to be some $800 billion reduced in spending in Medicaid over the course of the next decade. That is going to be result in Americans losing their health insurance.

That is -- and changes to Medicaid that are going to be part of this will result in cuts. So, that's simply not a factual statement coming from the White House.

One other quick thing we want to point out, she was also asked during that briefing, Jake, whether or not the president views the current Senate version of the bill as being -- quote -- "less mean" than the House bill.

You will recall the president referred to it as mean behind the scenes with a group of Republican lawmakers earlier this year. There was no answer from Sarah Huckabee Sanders to that question. She said she has not asked the president that particular question, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Jim Acosta at the White House for us, thank you so much.

The Republicans' decision to delay a vote on the bill may come as welcome news to certain governors, including some Republican governors, who warned that the bill would hurt Americans.

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, and Ohio Governor John Kasich, a Republican, join me now.

Thanks so much for being here. I really appreciate it.

I don't think I have ever done one of these bipartisan interviews, so it's nice.

Governor, let me start with you, Governor Kasich.

So, Majority Leader McConnell, he pulled the bill. It's not going to be considered this week. He wants to put it off until after the Fourth of July. He says he wants to make changes to the bill. What changes would you like to see?

GOV. JOHN KASICH (R), OHIO: Give you -- the big change I would like to see is to get some Democrats involved. I would love to see the Democrats announce that they want to be constructive and together they can make this thing stable and they can make it something that can last, that can have resilience, because if one party does it, we're going to be right back where we were when Obamacare went through on a partisan vote.

So, I think bringing some -- and I'm hearing some of the senators -- Senator Murkowski was saying it's time to listen to people, constructive people on the other side. And I happen to agree with that.

So, there are many things that can be done. First of all, the biggest problem is the lack of resources. There isn't enough money in here to support the program. It's like having a car, but no gasoline. It doesn't go very far.

TAPPER: Why have Democrats not been part of the process?

GOV. JOHN HICKENLOOPER (D), COLORADO: Because the Republicans have been very focused trying to put together a bill, ram it through, get it through without a lot of discussion.

And they knew it was going to be difficult, right, to give $230 billion worth of tax cuts to the richest Americans. There are a lot of Republican senators that are not happy to go along with that.

So, I think it's good news that they're going back and discuss it, and I think the key, as Senator Kasich said, is resources, right? You can't -- you need resources or else you're going to end up having to roll back coverage both in the exchanges and both in Medicaid.

TAPPER: He called you Senator Kasich. You're Governor Kasich.


TAPPER: You really know how to hurt a guy.

KASICH: Yes. TAPPER: But speaking of senators, have you talked to your senators

about this? You each have one Democrat and one Republican representing your states.


TAPPER: Well, I mean, Sherrod is not for it. I haven't spoken to him lately.

But with Senator Portman, my office is in touch with his office all the time. And he knows about my deep concerns about Medicaid expansion, about the funding of Medicaid, about the rickety-rockety nature of the exchange, which needs to be fixed, so that working poor people can get coverage.


Look, Jake, there's a couple things we need to know. If people don't have health care and they're sick, they're not likely to work. If they're hungry, they're not likely to work.

So one of the things we have to do is make sure people can get primary care health coverage, that their deductibles is not through the roof, so the mentally ill, the drug addicted can get what they need, so they can get on their feet.

Contrary to what most people might think, the Medicaid expansion population, they're only on the program for about 18 months. They're not there for a lifetime. They're just not. They move up, and then sometimes they stumble and they come back.

On the exchange side, there's a lot of people in the working poor. Now, if you do not fix this and get people primary care, then people will live in the hospitals and the emergency rooms. It will drive up the cost for everybody and the middle class will begin to pay a price.

TAPPER: Governor Hickenlooper, what fixes would you like to see made to Obamacare to make Obamacare run more smoothly?

As you know, a lot of people have seen their premiums go up, and they don't think it's a good program for them.

HICKENLOOPER: Well, certainly, the exchanges have seen some of their premiums have gone up dramatically.

Remember that these are people that most of them didn't have any coverage before Obamacare. We haven't gotten our arms around it. One way to do that is to stabilize the pool to make sure that you don't have these very small number of high-cost incidents.

These are people that go into the pool, get their -- whatever the procedure is that they need and then they move out of the pool and stop paying premiums. That's never healthy for a pool.

Also to look at things like -- I mean, go down a whole list of the preventions and surveys and making sure that people who have chronic illnesses, we keep on top of them. Or if there's a potential that they've got an indication they have got a medical condition, get to it early.

TAPPER: Let's talk about a specific condition I know you're very worried about in Ohio, and that is people struggling with addiction to opioids.

The CBO, the Congressional Budget Office, estimates that roughly 15 million fewer Americans will be covered by Medicaid in 2026 under this current Senate Republican proposal than under Obamacare. The cuts will save $772 billion.

What kind of effect would that have on the opioid crisis and those struggling with it?

KASICH: You have a harder time being able to treat people, Jake, and, as you know, people who have these addictions, sometimes, they fail three, four, five times. Some of them never succeed.

But you have, I think, an obligation. And many of them come from your next-door neighbor, unfortunately. These are people who come from families that play by the rules and then one thing leads to another and they have an addiction.

It would definitely harm them. But let's not just focus on that. Let's also talk about something that Americans have not wanted to talk about most of the time, and that's the issue of mental illness. People who are mentally ill shouldn't be sleeping under a bridge or living in our jails.

And if you check, you will find out that so many of the mentally ill are in our prisons and our jails. And that's not right. And, as John mentioned, the chronically ill, they have got to get treated. So, if you shut down Medicaid expansion too fast or if you starve Medicaid, there's not enough money.

You see, the problem is, the resources are not there to run the program. If they would be willing to keep the resources there for an extended period of time -- and that's all about discussions and negotiations -- and make the exchange more solid -- right now, on the exchange, you know, under the House bill, and I think under the Senate bill, we haven't seen the numbers in the Senate bill, but under the House bill, you can get a tax credit for $3,000 or $4,000 to buy health insurance.

What can you buy for $3,000 or $4,000 for a year for health insurance? And if you get it, your deductible is so high, you can't afford it. So, these are problems that can be fixed.

See, I believe that they're all fixable, that if we can get away from the political sloganing that we see and we can get reasonable people in a room -- because I have been there. I have been there when we balanced the budget. I was there during welfare reform. You get reasonable people in the room, we can stabilize these systems.

And then we can, on a bipartisan basis, begin to deal with the primary cause of rising health care costs. Right now, we're not there.

TAPPER: Governors, stick around, if you would.

We're going to take a quick break. We will be right back. We have much more to talk about.


[16:18:14] JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: We're back with Democratic Governor Hickenlooper of Colorado and Republican Governor Kasich of Ohio talking about health care reform.

Governor Hickenlooper, let me ask you a question. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that many of the 22 million additional uninsured people if the Republican bill were to pass, it says 22 million uninsured, many of them would be uninsured because they decided not to buy insurance because there would no longer be a requirement and a penalty if they did so. Is that necessarily a bad thing?

GOV. JOHN HICKENLOOPER (D), COLORADO: Well, of that total, be a relatively small number that made that choice. The vast majority would be forced out either through Medicaid or the shrinking of exchange and lack of subsidies. I mean, a lot of these people are working poor. They're, you know, many times working two jobs, and they still can't afford basic health care coverage.

So, those subsidies, you know, even up to 200 percent, 300 percent, 400 percent of the poverty level really is necessary or they won't be able to afford it. I don't think there are very many that will say, well, you know, I'm just not going to do it. I think what they would do --

TAPPER: It's millions of them. I'm not sure exactly what the specific breakdown, but it is millions of people wouldn't have insurance because they opt out of the system and some people say, you know, that's a good thing, that's freedom, and that's liberty.

HICKENLOOPER: Well, that works as long as they can get back in, as soon as they need a procedure, right? They've got preexisting conditions, but if there's -- I mean, that's one of the things that needs to be fixed is allowing people to go in and out of the system when they need it and then not pay premiums when they don't need it. There is no system in the world that's going to work successfully with that kind of a structure.

GOV. JOHN KASICH (R), OHIO: I think it's also possible that if you were to give flexibility to the states on the essential health benefits, you could lower requirements.

[16:20:00] TAPPER: You could lower requirements for insurance companies.

KASICH: Yes. I mean, there's a number of things. I mean, there's a problem with ratios between the people at the top and people at the bottom. You got the federal government trying to regulate insurance, what they shouldn't do and I give the Senate credit for addressing that.

But if you give us some flexibility on the essential health benefits, you probably will lower the cost. Also improve the pool. John mentioned that. Improve the pool so that you just don't have sicker people, but also healthy people in there. I think people are likely then to find the insurance affordable.

TAPPER: Well, let's talk about. What's an essential health benefit that you think should be optional? Because some of them --

KASICH: Well, there's a whole series of them. The two that I tend to think should not be optional would be mental health coverage, because I think we've ignored the mentally ill in this country, and the issue of addiction. I think it's fair to say there should be some guardrails.

I mean, you've got to look at the whole list and each state could be in a position to be able to make some good choices about what fits them, but I think there are some guardrails that ought to apply. I think there's guardrails -- you know, you have a relationship with the federal government. They expect something, we expect something, and you reach a middle ground. That's what negotiations are all about.

TAPPER: Do you agree with that, Governor Hickenlooper? Do you want those options so that Coloradans don't have to have for instance maternity care or prenatal care in a plan if they don't want it?

HICKENLOOPER: Well, it depends on what you're cutting. But I think maternity care should be in there. I think that not every plan needs it, if someone -- if a woman is over 50 years old, why does she want to pay for that? But I think that there are other things and we would -- we might disagree, once we talk, I think we work out the compromise.

People with complex disabilities, especially children with complex disabilities. I know -- I talked to Senator Gardner and that's one of the things that concerns him, that, you know, figuring out what those -- what that baseline is. What is the foundation of which each state then can build off of? And how do we -- you know, almost all of us realize we've got to make some changes and control costs in health care, we just don't want to roll back coverage on millions of people.

KASICH: Just think about what he said about the coverage for maternity leave. I mean, each state could design a plan where we could reach agreement on there are certain people that shouldn't have to buy that, and there's others that should. I mean, this is what -- Jake, the most important thing in reaching agreement on a big, big thing is to just get some basic principles in place. Then when the principles are in place and Hickenlooper and I get into a room, we wrestle each other into the ground, I give a little bit, he gives a little bit. That's the nature of how it works around here traditionally.

How it works now? Forget it. There is no compromise, there is no talking, and it's not just Republicans. Democrats did it as well. And we've got to end the civil war on all of these subjects where I'm a Republican, you're a Democrat. Why don't we be Americans? Why don't we get over all this party business because people are getting sick of it. They're getting fed up with it.

HICKENLOOPER: And I would throw in, every time you see on these shows anywhere, any elected officials on the air says, they're party right after it. Why don't just have senators and governors or whoever, when you're talking to them, you say right at the beginning, just let it go, you know, the R or D --

TAPPER: You're editing our chyrons now?

HICKENLOOPER: I am. I'm making a constructive suggestion.

TAPPER: I don't know about that, but I do appreciate you being here together, especially. Governors Hickenlooper and Kasich, thank you so much. We appreciate it. Thank you.

KASICH: (INAUDIBLE) for giving us time.

TAPPER: Our thanks to the governors.

Let's listen to President Trump at the White House meeting with Senate Republicans right now.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's melting down, as we speak. Rates are going up.

In fact, it's very interesting, Lisa, that you're sitting next to me, because in Alaska it was 206 percent. A 206 percent increase in Alaska. And I used to use Arizona as the standard. That was 116 percent.

So, it's really meltdown, and we're going to try and solve the problem. So, I invited all of you, and I think we have either 52 out of 52 or 50 out of 52. And John, either one is met good, I think, as a percentage.

So, we're going to talk and we're going to see what we can do. We're getting very close. But for the country, we have to have health care, and it can't be Obamacare which is melting down.

The other side is saying all sorts of things before they even knew what the bill was. This will be great if we get it done. If we don't get it done, it's just going to be something that we're not going to like, and that's OK, and I understand that very well. But I think we have a chance to do something very, very important for the public, very, very important for the people of our country that we love.

So, I'll ask the press to leave. I greatly appreciate you folks being here. We love you very much. You're very kind and very understanding. But we will now ask you to leave. Thank you very much, everybody. Thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP) TAPPER: All right. President Trump just minutes ago meeting with 50 or so Senate Republicans, the Senate Republican health care bill is obviously in trouble. They do not have the votes. It has been pulled. It will not be voted upon this week, it will be voted upon after 4th of July.

We're going to take a quick break and we'll be right back.


[16:29:08] TAPPER: Welcome back.

We are keeping an eye on the breaking news, the health care vote in the Senate delayed. Republican senators right now at the White House talking to the president about a possible path forward.

But we want to turn to the world lead now for one second. A stern warning came from the White House. Syria could be preparing another chemical weapons attack, and if an attack occurs, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would face a heavy price, the White House warned. The Pentagon said they've seen the same activity at the same air base struck by U.S. Tomahawk missiles in April in response to a chemical attack that killed dozens of civilians, including children.

CNN's Barbara Starr is at the Pentagon.

And, Barbara, it seems like this sounds a lot like a red line for President Trump.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: It does, indeed. President Trump making clear he will not tolerate another attack by the Syrians and hoping to use the Russians to pressure Assad to back off.


STARR (voice-over): Syrian President Bashar al-Assad climbs into the cockpit of a Russian aircraft. The Kremlin's military chief of staff watching nearby.