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GOP and White House Want to Just Repeal Obamacare; Aired 10:30- 11a ET

Aired July 18, 2017 - 10:30   ET

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


[10:30:00] TARA PALMERI, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: -- tactics work in Washington. He really wants to put these senators on the line and say, hey, in 2015, like Betsy said, you voted for repeal. Now it's your time again. He wants to put them on the floor and get them to vote.

This is something that was inspired by Senator Tom Cotton. Let's just do a repeal. Let's see if they'll actually put their names to this vote and we can move forward. Do the hard sales tactic that might work in New York City real estate work in D.C.? I mean, that's something that we're all learning each day. And as you can see President Trump is learning that as well.

But they're really going to try out the idea that there is a two-year transition. So even if they vote for repeal in the next week, they have two years to come up with a great plan, not six months, not these deadlines that they've created, but two full years.

Now here's another question. The insurance markets, their deadline is Thursday.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Right.

PALMERI: And no one will answer the question are they going to, you know, give these insurance companies more resources. The same Obamacare, the failing Obamacare over the next two years.

BERMAN: All right, guys. Tara Palmeri, Betsy Woodruff, Salena Zito, a lot going on. Thanks so much for your time helping us sift through the information that's flying in fast and furious.

We are waiting for the vice president of the United States, Mike Pence, to speak about this. You're looking at live pictures from Washington. Again, he was a central player in the administration's effort, maybe the central player to repeal and replace Obamacare and that is now falling apart. So we could learn how the administration intends to behave going forward when he speaks just ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:35:44] BERMAN: All right. Any second now we are going to hear from the vice president of the United States, Mike Pence. He's being introduced at this moment at an event in Washington. This is our first chance to hear from someone in the administration about the collapse of the effort to repeal and replace Obamacare in the Senate overnight. When he starts talking, we will bring that to you live.

In the meantime, joining me, Stephen Moore, CNN senior economics analyst, former senior economic adviser to the Trump campaign. Austan Goolsbee is here, former economic adviser to President Obama and now economics professor at the University of Chicago, and CNN's chief business correspondent Christine Romans, star of "EARLY START."

Before I get to the, you know, the PhDs here, gentlemen, I want to ask Christine Romans for some real facts, which is -- wait, before that, I think we are going to go to the vice president of the United States, Mike Pence, who is walking up to the stage right now.

Again, Vice President Pence played the central role in the administration in working out a deal for a Republican measure of repeal and replace Obamacare. So what he says matters.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Great leadership here. I -- I offer all of you a warm -- very warm welcome to our nation's capitol. Welcome to Washington, D.C. It's an honor to be here with you today with so many great American success stories. Cornerstones of American communities large and small. The members of the National Retail Federation here at the 83rd Annual Retail Advocates Summit.

Great to see you all.

(APPLAUSE)

PENCE: And I bring greetings this morning from a friend of mine, who's a businessman and knows just a little bit about retail. He's been fighting every single day to unleash a new era of American opportunity and prosperity. I bring greetings from the 45th president of the United States of America, President Donald Trump.

(APPLAUSE)

PENCE: You know, from the very first day of this administration, President Trump has been fighting to restore jobs and opportunity and prosperity all across this country. This president has signed more laws cutting through federal red tape than any president in American history. And it's already saved businesses and families up to $18 billion in red tape costs every year.

In fact, the president, early in our administration, ordered every agency in Washington, D.C. to find two regulations to get rid of before issuing any new federal regulations on American businesses large and small.

(APPLAUSE)

PENCE: And with the support of our new secretary of labor, Secretary Alex Acosta, President Trump is striking the right balance in labor relations, pointing two highly qualified experts at the labor board. And as we speak, our administration is rolling back the joint employer rule.

(APPLAUSE)

PENCE: And in case you didn't notice, the American people elected a builder to be president of the United States. And President Trump has already started to rebuild America. And we won't stop until we have the best roads, best bridges, best airports and best harbors and the best future that we've ever had. Plans are under way at the administration for an historic infrastructure bill and it's going to support a growing economy all across America.

In fact this week it is Made in America Week for our administration. And the president has been fighting for American job creators and manufacturers and American farmers every single day so that your businesses, American businesses, can sell more American goods than ever before. And, I'm here to report to you, since day one of this administration, President Trump has been fighting tirelessly to repeal and replace Obamacare.

(APPLAUSE)

PENCE: Every day Obamacare survives is another day the American economy and American families struggle. We all remember the broken promises that made it possible for Obamacare to get passed. You remember them? They said if you like your doctor, you can keep them. Not true. They said if you like your health insurance, you can keep it. Not true.

[10:40:03] We were told that health insurance costs would go down. That one wasn't true either. Our administration has actually shown that the average premium on the individual market has more than doubled since Obamacare went into effect less than four years ago and in some states it's more than tripled.

When Obamacare passed, we were promised that families would save up to $2500 in premiums every year. But the average Obamacare plan today costs nearly $3,000 more than a plan did in 2013. While premiums are soaring, choices are plummeting.

Next year, nearly 40 percent of America's counties, including nine entire states will have only one choice of a health insurance provider, meaning they'll have essentially no choice at all. And even worse, dozens of counties will have no health insurance providers whatsoever on the Obamacare exchange in 2018.

Men and women behind these statistics are real people facing a real crisis. Behind every number is a name and behind every name is a story. I've heard them as I traveled across this country on our president's behalf. I've heard firsthand from job creators just like all of you in this room and working families about the burden that Obamacare has placed upon them. The burden of higher costs, fewer choices and worst care for the most vulnerable.

Obamacare has failed and Obamacare must go.

(APPLAUSE)

PENCE: President Trump and I are grateful for the efforts of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the vast majority of Republicans who worked so hard in the House and Senate to keep their promise to repeal and replace Obamacare. As the president just said earlier today, most Republicans were loyal, terrific and worked really hard and there are no truer words. But, last night, we learned that the Senate still doesn't have consensus on a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare at the same time.

President Trump and I fully support the majority leader's decision to move forward with a bill that just repeals Obamacare and gives Congress time, as the president said, to work on a new health care plan that will start with a clean slate.

You know, the Senate actually passed the very same bill in 2015 and sent it to President Obama's desk and they should do it again. But to be clear, the Senate should vote to repeal now and replace later or return to the legislation carefully crafted in the House and Senate. But either way, inaction is not an option.

Congress needs to step up. Congress needs to do their job and Congress needs to do their job now.

(APPLAUSE)

PENCE: And as the president said with his inexhaustible optimism and determination, stay tuned. We will return. We will rescue the American people from the disastrous consequences of Obamacare and restore a health care system based on personal responsibility, free market competition and state-based reform.

That's the American way to meet the health care needs of the American people in the 21st century. We are not going to stop fighting until we get it done.

(APPLAUSE)

PENCE: But I'm here today on the president's behalf to say thank you. Thanks to the National Retail Federation and all the members for what you do for America --

BERMAN: All right. The vice president of the United States, Mike Pence, there speaking to the National Retail Federation with strong words now about what the administration wants in this effort to repeal and replace Obamacare. He said repeal now and replace later.

That is now the goal of the administration. And he said Congress needs to do its job now. Pressure from the administration.

He also added, pointedly and subtly, most Republicans were loyal. Most, but not all. It was the defection of two Republicans overnight that really sealed the deal and called the current effort to repeal and replace Obamacare to collapse on itself. And now the administration as we said wants repeal now, replace later.

Joining me to talk about this, Stephen Moore, Austan Goolsbee, Christine Romans.

Romans, let me start with you.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Sure.

BERMAN: Because we do have some numbers on what repeal now and replace later would mean from the Congressional Budget Office.

ROMANS: If you repeal today, with no replacement right away, this is what you have in the first year. 18 million new uninsured people. Three years, by 2026, 32 million assuming there wasn't some kind of a replacement. So that's a lot of people uninsured. And you would see premiums spike according to analysis from Kaiser Family Foundation, and health care economists and of course the CBO.

Because you would repeal the mandate. There would be no mandate to get insurance. So healthy people were not big consumers of health care would just get out.

[10:45:02] And that would mean it would be much more expensive to insure everybody else. So that's where the tilt comes out, becomes lopsided then non-workable.

BERMAN: Stephen Moore, what do you do about those 18 million people who would lose their insurance over the next year? Is repeal now then a concern?

STEPHEN MOORE, CNN SENIOR ECONOMICS ANALYST: Well, I think the way this would work is that you would have a bill that would basically say as of, say, January 1, 2019 or January 1, 2020, Obamacare is repealed. And to Christina's point, I think what would happen is you would keep the law in place, you know, up until that date. So it would give Congress -- so I think Christine is being a little bit apocalyptic there.

I think what would happen is you'd have two or three years for Congress and the White House to get together and come up with something that works. It is interesting, I want to make one other quick point. You know, Christine mentioned the fact that, you know, you would have as many as 15 million, 20 million people drop out if they had a choice. What that means is they don't want Obamacare. Right? That they can't afford it. That it's too expensive.

And what our goal is, I think, as conservatives and free enterprise people is to move towards a system where everyone can essentially buy an insurance plan that -- is tailored to their need. This is America. You know, you get to buy something that is tailored to your needs, to your affordability. And I don't understand -- that's pro-choice. Why are liberals against that?

BERMAN: Stephen Moore, you know, Christine Romans is many things, but not apocalyptic. She is the sunniest person I know.

(LAUGHTER)

MOORE: She and I are best friends. I love Christine.

BERMAN: Austan, what do insurers -- what happens to the insurance market if the Senate, if Congress and the president were to do repeal now and replace later, even if, technically the law would be on the books for another year or two? What would these insurance companies do in the meantime? What would happen?

AUSTAN GOOLSBEE, FORMER OBAMA ECONOMIC ADVISER: Well, you know what would happen. It would be -- we're going to go back to the Medieval Times when insurers spent their time trying to figure out how to get the sick off their rolls, put in lifetime caps, cancel your insurance if you had any pre-existing conditions. And they compete over how to find the healthy and give them low prices.

I guess it's OK if you want to just go back to the old days, but I think there's a reason why Obamacare is favored 2-1 over Trumpcare and there's massive opposition by the American people. It's not just among politicians. It's not just among the Democrats plus a bunch of the Republicans.

The American people, overwhelmingly, do not want to do the repeal bill that they are going to try to jam through. So I just don't think that that's going to work.

BERMAN: You know, Christine Romans, you've been noting about what this might mean for the overall agenda.

ROMANS: Well, one thing, if you repeal and have a two-year window to replace, you are assuming that Congress can get its act together and decide on something together. That's a very big assumption. What I've been watching is what this means for the rest of the agenda, whether it's trade, whether it's the yearly budget which comes out this week, whether tax reform, whether it's infrastructure.

I mean, these -- there are high hopes that this president had a very big agenda that a Republican White House or a Republican Congress together would be able to get through. I think this imperils that entire agenda if there isn't clarity and solution on this.

BERMAN: The vice president took up all of our time so really 20- second answers to the next two questions.

Stephen Moore, to you, do you think the Russia investigation has slowed down or complicated this effort to get health care through?

MOORE: Is that a trick question? Of course it has. And I agree with Christine. I mean, the problem with this Obamacare taking so long is this put the rest of the agenda, especially the tax cut on hold. And that's a problem for Republicans.

BERMAN: And so, Austan, I am curious. You know, Democrats who have not been part of this effort said they would be, perhaps. I want to know one area, one reasonable area where Democrats you think should reach out to Republicans in an area to reform Obamacare, to repair it as you would. One area you think they might agree to?

GOOLSBEE: Well, the area that Democrats would agree to, if you think that the exchanges are falling apart, the answer is to encourage people to participate, not to do the opposite. So if they came to Democrats and said let's do this in a bipartisan way to try to encourage participation, I think the Democrats would certainly be on board with that.

BERMAN: I lied, I just got a little bit more time.

MOORE: Actually you do that by lowering the price.

BERMAN: OK.

MOORE: Lower the price for people and they'll participate.

GOOLSBEE: OK. Then they should focus on lowering the price, not on ripping up what is already established.

BERMAN: So how can you lower the price?

MOORE: At least some agreement.

GOOLSBEE: Well, one way you could do it is you could start by reinstating the risk orders provision which allows the insurance companies some certainty that they know that the distribution of people that are going to buy the insurance are more like the national distribution, not just the heavily sick.

Number two, you shouldn't fight the Medicaid expansion. You had a series of red states refusing to expand Medicaid. And there are a series of what -- what have in the past been bipartisan ideas that they can start with.

[10:50:07] The Trump administration's approach has been a purely partisan approach. Even though he barely won the election, he didn't come in with a bipartisan approach.

(CROSSTALK)

MOORE: Obama did it without a single Republican vote, too.

GOOLSBEE: Obama won in a landslide. Reagan won in landslide. Trump barely won.

BERMAN: I will say that there has been some partisanship here on both sides. I'm not doing equivalence right there but I don't think there can be a shock to anybody that there's been partisanship.

Stephen, you know, look, I'm going to put you on the spot here because we're just getting some information from a Republican senator. This is from Dana Bash. A Republican senator who asked to speak without attribution said that the feeling inside the Republican caucus is some frustration at Senators Mike Lee and Jerry Moran for making this announcement while President Trump was having dinner with Republican senators. It was beyond rude, the Republican senator said of Lee and Moran's move. Yet this senator also noted that this says a lot of what this -- hang on one second. We're going to listen to Chuck Schumer.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: -- U.S. Senate. After numerous delays, false starts, false predictions and two pulled votes, it should be crystal clear to everyone on the other side of the aisle that the core of the bill is unworkable. It's time to move on. It's time to start over. Rather than repeating the same failed partisan process, yet again, Republicans should work with Democrats on a bill that lowers premiums, provides long-term stability to the markets and improves our health care system.

I heard the Republican leader this morning say that Democrats, quote, "decided early on that they did not want to engage seriously," unquote, on health care. In the same speech, the Republican leader also admitted that the very first thing the Republican majority did this Congress was to pass reconciliation so they could pass health care on a party line vote. 50 needed. No Democrats needed.

Early on, the majority leader told Democrats, we don't need you. We don't want you. Respectfully, I take issue with the idea Democrats didn't want to engage on health care. The majority leader admitted that he decided the matter for us when he locked Democrats out of the process at the outset.

At the very beginning of this Congress, President Trump and Leader McConnell said don't come knocking at our door on health care, we don't need you. Now that their one-party effort has largely failed, we hope they will change their tune.

It seems like many Republicans are ready for a truly bipartisan effort on health care, indeed. My friend Senator McCain has urged it quite strongly, saying, quote, "Congress must now return to regular order, hold hearings and receive input from members of both parties." And he said that while recuperating in Arizona. So that's how strongly he feels about it.

Other Republican senators have made similar comments. But the Republican leader still plans to ignore their advice and, instead, plans on holding a proxy vote on a straight repeal of our health care law first.

Make no mistake about it, passing repeal without a replacement would be a disaster. Our health care system would implode. Millions would lose coverage. Coverage for millions more would be diminished. Our health care system would be in such a deep hole that repair would be nearly impossible.

In passing -- in fact, passing repeal and having it go into effect two years later is in many ways worse than the Republican health care bill that was just rejected by my Republican colleagues. It's like, if our health care system was a patient who came in and needed some medicine. The Republicans propose surgery, the operation was a failure. Now Republicans are proposing a second surgery that will surely kill the patient.

Medicine is needed, bipartisan medicine, not a second surgery. We urge our Republican colleagues to change their tune. Passing repeal now is not a door to bipartisan solutions as the majority leader suggested this morning. Rather it is a disaster. The door to bipartisanship is open right now, not with repeal but with an effort to improve the existing system.

[10:55:09] The doors is right open right now. Republican leadership only needs to walk through it, as many Republican members are urging. The door is to accept the progress we've made in our health care system and work to improve it. The Affordable Care Act isn't perfect, but repealing all of the good things about the law will create such chaos that there will hardly be anything left to repair.

Republicans don't need to wreak havoc on our health care system first in order to get Democrats to the table. We are ready to sit down right now if Republicans abandon cuts to Medicaid, abandon huge tax breaks for the wealthy and agree to go through the regular order, through the committees, with hearings, on to the floor, with time for amendments. That's how we perfect legislation here. That's how it's been done for 200 years.

Almost inevitably, when you try to draft something behind closed doors and not vet it with the public, it becomes a failure. In this case, a disaster.

So, again, our Republican colleagues don't need to wreak havoc on our health care system first in order to get Democrats to the table. We are ready to sit down right now, again, if Republicans abandon cuts to Medicaid, abandon tax breaks for the wealthy, and agree to go through the regular order.

The door to bipartisanship is open right now. Republicans only need to walk through it. And I'd remind my Republican friends that the CBO has already scored the idea of a clean repeal bill and it would be a catastrophe. Listen to what nonpartisan CBO, CBO appointed -- the head of CBO appointed by the Republican leader of the Senate and the Republican leader of the House.

Here's what CBO said. It would cause 32 -- now here's what CBO said about repeal. It would cause 32 million Americans to lose their insurance, premiums would double while cutting taxes for households with incomes over $1 million by over $50,000 a year. It would end Medicaid expansion with no grace period or option for states who like their Medicaid expansion and want to keep it.

In many ways, it's just as cruel, if not crueler to Medicaid as the Trumpcare bill in a different way. So I would expect the same senators who were concerned about Trumpcare bills, Medicaid cuts will be equally concerned about what repeal and delay would do to Medicaid. Many of my Republican friends rejected roundly the idea of repeal and delay several months ago at the beginning of the year when President Trump first proposed it.

It seemed like that was what the Republicans would do. Here are just some of the names back then who said repeal and then replace. Later doesn't work. Here they were. Cassidy, Alexander, Collins, Corker, Cotton, Hatch, Isaacson, Moran, McCain, Murkowski, Paul.

What I would tell those colleagues and all the others, the idea hasn't magically gotten better with age. It is still nothing more than a cut and run approach to health care that will leave millions of Americans out in the cold and raise costs on everyone, the young, the old, the sick, the healthy, working Americans and middle class families. Everyone will be hurt but the very, very wealthy.

Mr. President, every day that Republicans spend on trying to pass their now failed partisan Trumpcare bill, every day they spend cooking up new tricks to bully their members to get on a health care bill is another day wasted, another day that could have been spent working on real improvements to our health care system.

Democrats want to work with our colleagues on the Republican side. To stabilize the marketplaces and improve the cost and quality of care. And we want to do it via regular order, a process this body has used time and time again to produce consensus, bipartisan, historic legislation.