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Trump: Repeal ObamaCare Now, Replace Later; GOP's Sasse: Just Repeal ObamaCare Now; Parts of Trump's Revised Travel Ban Take Effect; Some States Push Back on Voter Fraud Commission. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired June 30, 2017 - 12:30   ET



[12:31:37] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back. A deadline missed and now two new complications as Senate Republicans search for a compromise on a plan to replace ObamaCare. Several GOP senators were all really worried about proposed Medicaid cuts. And now, a revised Congressional Budget Office review illustrates a tough political sell.

The Senate legislation as it now stands, the CBO says will reduce Medicaid spending of $772 billion over the next decade. Plus, in part because they know those Medicaid concerns are making it a bit harder for big compromise. A small band of conservatives has persuaded the president to embrace a new approach.

First, to vote on ObamaCare repeal, then a separate effort to craft the replacement bill. Here's the president's tweet today backing this two-step approach. Immediately repeal and then replace at a later date. For President Trump, that's a big shift.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It will be repeal and replace. It will be essentially simultaneously. It will be various segments, you understand, but most likely be on the same day or the same week but probably the same day. It could be the same hour.

So we're going to do repeal and replace. Very complicated stuff. And we're going to get a health bill passed.


KING: That was then. I have a little incoming from Republican Senate leadership people since the president did this morning and they're saying split it. At this point is like rolling a hand grenade into the Senate. The whole conversation was with the president help or hurt, the delicate Senate negotiations. And from the leadership, this is a clear -- this hurts and hurts bad.

Is that fair?

LAURA MECKLER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Yes. Because the original reason why he said do it at the same time was because he knew -- and it became clear in January when this conversation was going on that you can't do them separately because they're not going to have -- and Republicans who are even remotely vulnerable vote for repeal without telling people well we'll replace it with something better. And you can't just take away something from some without giving them something else.

So that political calculation was made months ago and that's why the president said what he said. And so now we're coming back around. It turns out, yes, it's complicated, yes, it's hard, now we're here. And by saying that now, how exactly -- you already had a Senate Republican conference that was not on the same page. Trying to come up with something (INAUDIBLE) and now they're just sort of throwing a bomb in the middle of the whole thing and say -- giving a whole group of people an opening to say, well, let's just try something else and not worry about what the replacement looks like right now.

JACKIE KUCINICH, THE DAILY BEAST: Well, and that might -- what he's talking about actually might create more vulnerable Republicans. Because they're voting to just take this away and they're in a state where, you know, there's Medicaid reimbursement, there's -- if there's a complicated situation in their state, which are most states could end up expanding the map with a full repeal without a replace. Because look how well they're doing trying to craft a replacement right now. This is going to take time.

KING: And so let me play contrarian. Let me play contrarian. I think we have some sound from Ben Sasse, he's the senator from Nebraska, safe red state. He is among the small band of conservatives who have nothing else want to be able to vote on repeal. They promised voters they would repeal ObamaCare.

[12:35:02] The House bill is not full repeal. The Senate bill is now drafted as nowhere near full repeal. They want to vote on repeal because it's important to them but Ben Sasse says he's still open to a compromise. His point, if we can't negotiate to compromise in the next several days, let's try this.


SEN. BEN SASSE (R), NEBRASKA: If we don't get this resolved by the Monday of the next week, July 10th. If there is a combined repeal and replace plan, I'm writing a letter to the president this morning urging him to call on us to separate them. If we can't do them together, let's do as much repeal as we can and then let's have the president ask us to cancel on August state work period and stay here and then work on replace separate.


KING: Now the -- I get, if you split them, you complicated current negotiations and you freak out a lot of Republicans, because if you just vote on repeal not replace -- his argument is, if you vote to repeal, well, then that will give real urgency to the negotiations about replace because they'll know they have to do it.


KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes, urgency sure in a general (INAUDIBLE) large form. Urgency was actually get you to the solution. Not really. Look, if they do the repeal thing, then all the senators who are feeling safe and wanted the full repeal don't feel really inclination to vote for the overall bill. Which means that Mitch McConnell has more incentive to vote -- to craft something that actually Democrats could vote for.

Whether Democrats would vote to help Republicans, not clear. But let's say he does actually create something we can get the modern Democrats and do that. They'll never be able to match it up with the House. So you'll never actually have a final health care bill.

And then you're going into the election with a repealed health care system with no compromise anything you've been able to come up with --

KING: You are then responsible --

DEMIRJIAN: And then to the people who don't have health care because there's nothing there.

MARGARET TALEV, BLOOMBERG POLITICS: You know, I actually am going to take the contrarian side too. I think there's totally a way to do this and the reason why it's more appealing now than was in January may be that they didn't think they had in January and now they know they do have to, but there's two ways to do it. One is you do a repeal bill that has all the mechanisms for repeal, but if the trigger is, only if there's a replacement passed.

You can vote yes for it, you can pass it, and then it never happens. Or the other way to do it, is put it up for a vote. Let the people who want to vote for repeal vote for repeal. Bill goes down and then move on to tax reform.

KING: This is in part process conversation. Can you change the process to somehow then get you to the policy? But the new CBO numbers, the revised CBO numbers. I mean, just look at the graphic there I put up on the screen.

This is the hard part for senators especially from senators that accepted the Medicaid expansion, have an expanded coverage for poor people and elderly people, low-income people dropped 26% in Medicaid spending in the next decade. Dropped 35% over the next 20 years in Medicaid spending. The president and others have been saying, this is not a cut in Medicaid, we're just slowing the rate of growth.

But if you're in one of those Medicaid expansion states and you look at that drop, you think, how do I sell that?

MECKLER: Well -- and let's talk about why this is so hard which explains why these numbers are there. And that is, because most of the ideas that have widespread Republican support for health care are not ideas that increase the number of people with insurance by a large number. That's the heart of this and this been true for many, many years. Is that their ideas are not going -- if the problem you're trying to solve, the problem that the Affordable Care Act was trying to solve principally was getting people coverage. And if that's your -- and that's now the problem that if you take it

away, they need to then suddenly fill it. And none of these ideas really do that. And that's why you see these dramatic numbers.

Medicaid is, at the end of the day a way to get people coverage. And so when you take money away from it, the number of people covered goes down. I mean, those are just basic math facts here, and the basic problem Republicans have, they never grappled with in all the years that they were wanting to talk, calling for repeal of ObamaCare, they never came together around a plan that they could defend and support as a party.

KING: It will be interesting to watch. Remember, senators, they were supposed to pass that today in the Senate, they didn't. They're home for the holidays. We'll keep an eye, see any town halls, any reaction and give you that big story.

Up next when we come back though, the president waited for weeks while his travel was tied up in the courts. Last night, he got to implement parts of it. So, how did it go?


[12:42:53] KING: Parts of the Trump administration's travel ban took effect a little over 16 hours ago and the White House already making the case Americans are safer from terrorism.


JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, I think it was a great victory for the president. We're going to focus on these six countries alone who have really failed states with terrorist bases in them.


KING: So what do we know about the first hours of the new policy? CNN's Laura Jarrett helping us keep track of it. Laura, how is it going so far?

LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, John, we haven't seen the same sort of scramble at airports this time around from the travel ban. And senior administration officials tell us that it's really almost impossible to know how many refugees and visa applicants are going to be affected by but it has already been challenge in court. The latest dispute stems from the fact that the Supreme Court had said that people from those six Muslim majority nations must prove a bona fide relationship to a person in the U.S. in order to come into the country. But the state of Hawaii says that the government is now using that decision to wrongfully keep out a host of people like grandparents, aunts and uncles who arguably do have a close relationship.

And so the state is asking that same federal judge who originally blocked the travel ban back in March to weigh in and clarify exactly who can come in and who can't. And the judge now ordered the Justice Department to respond to this motion by Monday. But for now the travel ban remains in effect.

And in the meantime, the State Department now says that fiances will be considered bona fide family members despite putting out different guidance yesterday, John.

KING: So they're adjusting as they go along. It will be polite and say it's there for now. But do we get any sense in the administration when they'll be able to give us a first set of numbers, this number, x number of people were turned away?

JARRETT: No. They really say it's hard to know because most of that is going to be will going on at the consul over abroad, in the international offices and not here at the airports anymore. Because these are really perspective applicants instead of people who already have visas because they're allowed to come in.

KING: Laura Jarrett keeping track of that for us. Laura, thank you very much.

[12:45:01] This was a win for the president after waiting months, whether you agree with this policy or not, waiting throughout this court battles, he did get a chance to implement it during the campaign. It was first call the Muslim ban. But the administration argued repeatedly that there's an urgency to this.

Critics have said, if there was such an urgency to it, how do we go throughout it. You know, nothing bad happens or there were no terrorist attacks during the long stretch while it is in the courts. When do we have a better sense of the grade they get for implementing this and impact?

DEMIRJIAN: Nothing happens as we know in October and the Supreme Court decides in favor of upholding the ban. I mean, we're talking about countries that were not the source of the terrorist who has carried out the biggest attacks in the United States. We aren't even talking about home-grown issues right now.

You know, we're focusing so much on this and they're claiming the victory because, you know, we'll going to be safer because we're keeping these people out. Hopefully we won't have anything bad happen. Nobody wants that to happen, but he has to get through the next stretch of time until it gets to the Supreme Court, until the Supreme Court decides, yes, it is OK with nothing happening before the jury get to call this a win, I think.

MECKLER: I think that really what this policy is about is a less about this temporary, alleged temporary ban on these six countries. What this really is, if you read the executive order, what it is, is to give the administration time to review the policies every nation in the world has. About what kind of information they give us to vet their people. And what they're going to do as the Department of Homeland Security is going to make recommendations to the president of, what other countries maybe should be banned in the future.

Whether this should be a permanent ban for the six there now. We're not really looking at a temporary situation, we're looking at a pressure technique, an ability to say to every country in the world, if you don't do what we want, your people could be banned, too. And that's the long-term plan here.

KING: Let's come back up. We're now five and a half months into the administration. The travel ban was signature issue in the campaign. I just want to show just a graphic so far. You know, we just talked about health care and that is a TBD at best.

In the sense of where is the president on keeping his signature promises. If you look at ObamaCare repeal and replace, it's TBD. There's been some progress, the House passed the bill but we don't know. We're going to get a tougher trade deals that the president talked about it again today with South Korea. We're expecting an announcement this week about steel imports. We're told that has been pushed off probably to next week.

A tougher administration posture, maybe some tariffs and sanctions against people there. A crackdown on immigration, we don't have a wall yet. They build a (INAUDIBLE), sanctuary cities laws, bills being move in Congress. There has been some tougher enforcement at the state level so there's some progress on that one. If you look at tax reform and infrastructure are dreams at this point if you're talking about having them done in the first year.

As we head into the July 4th weekend, the Senate is home, they are headed to an interesting track in what happens in this town when they come back because next year is an election year. What would the president's grade be?

DEMIRJIAN: Incomplete?


DEMIRJIAN: I mean, frankly.

TALEV: I think it depends on what you're judging it on, right. I mean, I think on the judicial tracks (INAUDIBLE) with the Supreme Court and on the track of dialing back regulations, we tend to look at accomplishments in terms of what have you added to government. But there has -- there's been a lot of taking away from government, whether it's staffing, filling out the places like the State Department. Whether it's the beginning of the moves towards reduced regulation. All of that counts and all of that is permanent and while we all sit around here talking about tweet storms or whatever, real stuff going on.

But in terms of concrete legislative accomplishments and the in terms of building up that base number so that it becomes more of a mandate with which you can really wield a hammer, you know, absolutely he's behind in the curve in where they wanted to be.

DEMIRJIAN: I think it also matters to kind of by what the biggest campaign promises were, right? And the biggest campaign promise are the ones that are on your incomplete list because they require some sort of buy-in from the legislative branch, and that hasn't happened. I do want just to make one other point though about kind of (INAUDIBLE) the Muslim ban going forward. You know, we have to look at what's going to happening elsewhere in the world, too.

Are other countries going to take similar steps? If there's a pipeline that's cut off for people from these countries where the leaders of these countries don't really care that much about the, you know, the individual, you know, livelihoods of those people. Do things get better or worse there? Did they resolve their problems or does it get more exacerbated

And then back on the American home front -- I mean, I don't know that necessarily taking a month off for summer break makes everybody decided they can work better together in all these issues and resolving them. Because, again, they all hit at this very human, very emotional, where people live topics, right?

KING: Depends what they hear back home.

When we come back, remember after the election, the president said he thought he lost a couple states because millions of undocumented folks voted illegally? Well, his new commission says it trying to find the proof.


[12:53:35] KING: Welcome back. A White House commission born of a wild conspiracy theory is getting down to business. If you consider trying to prove a fantasy, a wise use of taxpayer resources. This all started back in January, when you might recall the president embraced the idea that as many as 5 million illegal undocumented workers voted illegally in the 2016 presidential elections.

Remember, he said he would have won places like New York and Virginia had it not been for such widespread illegal voting by people illegally in the United States. Never mind that even most Republican secretaries of state pushed back immediately. They say the scope of illegal voting is actually quite tiny.

The president formed a commission, put the vice president in charge along with the Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach who shares the president's view, an illegal voting by the undocumented is a national crisis. The commission is now asking states for their voter files and including social security and party affiliation information. Plus, any data on felony convictions or voting histories since 2006.

Virginia's Democratic governor call it is a giant effort to frighten legal Latino voters and he's telling the White House to take a hike. In a statement, Governor Terry McAuliffe says his state already has big elections planned this year and I'm not diverting resources that could potentially compromise that work to enable this politically motivated and silly posturing.

Where does this go? I was struck. They had a meeting, and the thing that I was struck by, number one, should they be asking states for these information without any baseline proof that this happened? There is zero proof that his happen.

[12:55:01] Number two, the statement from the vice president about the commission meeting said nothing about voting machine integrity. Said nothing about Russian election hacking. If you want to have a national commission on voter integrity, if you feel you have to ask these questions about something that even Republicans tell you never happened, fine, bit why not also add some credibility to it?

KUCINICH: And you also have the factor that states are pretty protective of how they conduct their vote which is why you even see places like Iowa saying, yes, we'll give you what's legal under Iowa state law but, no, you can't have all of this information. So it's not only Democratic administrations that are saying, no, thanks. It's Republicans too, because this is a matter of pride and a matter of -- there's legislation in states and laws in states that say some of the stuff can't go to the federal government.

DEMIRJIAN: You got to wonder also if there ends up being a chilling effect for the other thing that you're talking about right then. Yes, it would make sense if the commission especially in this day and age just focus on everything including those threats that the intelligence community has documented exists and that were tried for at least 21 states. I think they just said a few days ago.

But as part of that, the federal government, government agencies want to be able to have more contact with states to make sure that they step up their defenses and they are having resistance to that because they should be protected.

That's all. I'm got to jump in here. Wolf Blitzer be in the chair after a break. Have a great weekend. I hope to see you Sunday morning but I'll see you before the 4th. Have a good one.