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Bipartisan Deal To Shore Up Obamacare "Stalled"; Puerto Rico's Governor Meets With Trump; Trump Praises FEMA's Work In Puerto Rico. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired October 19, 2017 - 12:30   ET



[12:30:05] SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER (R), TENESSEE: I talked to the President last night for the fourth time in ten days on the subject. And he encouraged me as he has from the beginning to proceed with this. He said he's perfectly willing to consider it. He doesn't want insurance companies to be bailed out in his words. Neither do we.



JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I mean, he clearly, the President, you know, has been consistent on saying if we can't get anything, we'll work with Democrats on this. So he has talked about a bipartisan bill a lot. I was in the pool spray yesterday when he was meet with the Senate Finance Committee. We ask him again about this and he said, you know, he's for some type of agreement, but doesn't want to bailout the insurance companies. That's what he can't around. But the reality is, it's not accurate.

KING: The bailout term is used by Republicans and you can decide this one at home, ladies and gentlemen, but it subsidy money that goes to insurance companies that helps them, encourages to them to stay in this marketplace in which they probably would not be if weren't getting these subsidies.

So call it what you will, but the center piece of this is bill is money, I'll call it money, to insurance company from the Federal Government. You can call it a subsidy, you can call it bailout, you can call it whatever you want, but its money. That is what the bill is. Is this proof that -- the last the president talks to.

He said he was for it the other day. Then went out to the White House knows a conservative blowback that this is fixing Obamacare. That we are not voting on something that fixed Obamacare. We have spent seven years saying we're going to repeal it. We're not going to vote it. So then the White House said no, we're against it. And now he's open to it?

SEUNG MIN KIM, POLITICO: It's intended to be --

KING: But, he you walk the halls on Capitol Hill? How do they deal with this? When from Republican, this would be a hard vote for a lot of conservatives to take because they would be fixing Obamacare. They would need to know the President was going to back them up. How would they know that?

KIM: They're dealing with it much like the way we do just kind of unaware. But you're right that the success of the Lamar, Patty Murray deal is very dependent on President Trump himself backing this up.

And right now, there is a growing well of support for this legislation in the Senate. You're going to have about a dozen cosponsors on each side. Everyone's going to kind of hold their hands and jump and support this bill. But you already have the house saying this is not going to be --

KING: But we have about 30 seconds until we hear from the President, the White House but with the speaker or majority leader bring this to the floor if they thought the President was then going to pull the rug out from under them again and blames them?

KIM: That's why it becomes a major bargaining chip in the year end negotiation for funding the governemtn because Democrats as we know always have leverages there. Governments (ph) has set this got taken care off.

KING: All right. Good timing. Let's get to the White House. This just in, the President talking to the governor of Puerto Rico.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: Great to have the governor of Puerto Rico with us. We have gotten to know each other extremely well over the last next couple of weeks. And I can tell you, you are a hard working governor.

It's a tough situation. So much has to be rebuilt. Even from before. The difference between Texas and Florida and various places is we're looking at designs of a new power plant, a big electrical plant and many different designs and concepts, which of course is very unusual. Because it was in pretty rough shape prior and now, it's in even rougher shape.

With that said, I think we've done a really great job and we've had tremendous cooperation from the governor and we are getting there and people are really seeing the effort that's been put into Puerto Rico. It's been a very, very difficult situation for many people. I will say that, and especially the island nature. If you look at getting food there, we did.

The distribution was difficult because the roads were blocked. And even the people of Puerto Rick couldn't get to their food in many cases because of the distribution centers and the roads were in really horrific shape because of the storm and sometimes, because of before the storm.

But with that being said, step by step, it's taken care of and I say we have a wonderful and the people of Puerto Rico have a wonderful representative with respect to themselves in the governor. This governor has worked as hard as anybody I've seen and getting done. So I want to just thank you for all your help. Thank you very much. GOV. RICARDO ROSSELLO, PUERTO RICO: Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you for setting this opportunity. You know, it's a catastrophic situation in Puerto Rico as you know. It is only time where two Category 4, Category 5 hurricanes have passed back-to-back in a jurisdiction in the United States.

But certainly, working in a united front, we are going to beat this. We know we're going to build better than before and today, it's an example, and Mr. President I don't think in the history of Puerto Rico, we've had the opportunity we have today to speak with members of your cabinet, decision maker, and not only talk about what we've done, but also the path forward, to establish a commitment to treat U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico, the U.S. citizen, proud U.S. citizen of Puerto Rico equally.

So while we have, there has within been lot done and I want to thank you personally, Mr. President. You answered call for the emergency declaration.

[12:35:07] You declared Puerto Rico a disaster area very quickly. At a verbal request that we made because we didn't electricity at that moment. You gave us the waiver for A and B for FEMA and strong (ph) communication with all of your members now.

We've recognize that a lot them has been done. But a lot has still -- has to be done. So we're hopeful that with these meetings that we're going to have, we're going to talk about the immediate needs for Puerto Rico. What we need to go to get other (ph) life sustaining phase. What we need to do to stabilize Puerto Rico and of course what we need to do to build Puerto Rico stronger and better than before.

I am confidence that with your commitment, with your support, Mr. President, with your team support. We will be able to come out of this in the long haul together with Puerto Rico, give the citizens of Puerto Rico the adequate resources. Treat us the same as citizens in Texas and Florida and elsewhere. We will come out of this stronger and make it innovating, Mr. President.

I know you're a proponent of public private partnerships and I think there is an opportunity here to leverage growth in the energy sector and to be innovative. Not only rebuild what we had in the past, but also with the aid of the federal government and with the private sector, rebuild a much modern, much stronger platform and not only have Puerto Rico have energy, but actually be a model of sustainable energy and growth towards the future.

Those are our aspirations. I think we can talk about that in the education sector, in the health care sector, and those are all of our aspirations. We are confident within this group, we will start addressing those poignant, short-term leads, but also talking about the long road ahead. Working together with your administration and again, I want to thank you. On behalf of the people of Puerto Rico for your leadership, for your team's leadership and for having a commitment to stay with the people of Puerto Rico.

The U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico here for the long haul. To not just put things back together again, but to rebuild them as it should be.

TRUMP: Well, thank you governor. One of the things we have done is delivered to the island, massive numbers of generators for electricity because with the power plants down and in such bad shape, we really had to find some way to get, especially for the hospitals and certain other areas.

And we have, I don't know if it's record number, but it's got to be pretty close. Record numbers of generators, so that we have electric in the most important locations. And step by step, bringing it back, but you can't really bring electric back until you rebuild the power plant and that's obviously a different level of subject.

With that, I will say that I have given my blessing to Congress and Congress has working with you and your representatives on coming up with a plan and the payment plan and how it's all going to be funded because you are talking about some substantial numbers and I guess you knew that.

But I know you were talking about rebuilding your electric plant long before the hurricane, you've been wanting to do that for a long time. So maybe this is a reason that we can do it and we'll help you and we'll all do it together.

But I will say this. The people of Puerto Rico are amazing, just incredible people. The spirit they have. The strength they have. What they've gone through. Many were isolated in areas where there were no roads, there were no bridges. The bridges were wiped out. It really was incredible to watch the spirit that they have and they did it with grace. They did it with a smile in many cases. It was really something beautiful to watch. Just please extend all of our warmest regards and we're with you.

ROSSELLO: Thank you so much.

TRUMP: Thank you very much.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, last week (INAUDIBLE) suggested that was a limit in Federal emergency involvement to response to Puerto Rico hurricanes. How long are you willing to commit federal resources, do not just recovery but the rebuilding of Puerto Rico and what view in Governor Rossello goes up force of widespread corruption among local officials in distribution of emergency and why (INAUDIBLE) the FBI?

TRUMP: Well, I'm working very closely with the government on that. Because there has been corruption on the island and we can't have that. You know, we're sending a lot of supplies. We're sending tremendous amounts of food and water and everything.

And I know your folks are working on that very hard, but we just can't have it. When it comes to Texas as an example and Florida, you know how smooth that's been. Like a well oiled machine. They are really going well and the people are working very hard.

And in Puerto Rico, they're working hard, too, but we have gotten some of those reports from, on a local basis and I think the governor will be able to do something about that. I hope you're going to be able to do something about that.

ROSSELLO: Of course, if you want I can brief you a little bit on what we're doing. We've gotten some reports that food was getting either from FEMA or from a private sector or nonprofits, to the different municipalities and they weren't being distributed appropriately.

[12:40:12] So we did three things. Number one, we got the National Guard, have to go over to all of the municipalities and help with logistics. In case it was just a matter of not knowing how to execute. And number two, we had auditors for our treasury department goals so that we can have accountability on what food goes in and out so the people of Puerto Rico.

Number three, very importantly we had our Department of Justice go in this investigating whether there has been mismanagement of foods because it is unacceptable and as I stated the first day --

TRUMP: By the way, not by the federal, this is local we're talking about. Just so we understand. I think Brock I here and Tom is here. I think they've done an incredible job, but we're not talking on a local basis. I think John that was your question also.



ROSSELLO: Yes and, you know, we are following up on that. As I stated the first day, if there is a public official that is purposely mishandling the food that should go to the people of Puerto Rico, there is going to be some help today.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And Mr. President, the time you're willing to commit federal resources did they --

TRUMP: Well, I can say that for anywhere. I can say that for any place we go. You know at some point, FEMA has to leave. First responders have to leave and people have to take over. Puerto Rico is a more difficult circumstance as you can understand John.

But at a certain point, we have to leave the various locations that we're in. We were in Louisiana and they have done a fantastic job. They were sort of grazed, but Lake Charles and the various areas were hit pretty hard, but it was a grazing hit. We worked there. And they've taken over and been fantastic and Texas and Florida, it's been incredible to watch.

So it been incredible to watch how quickly things are coming together, but at a certain time, FEMA and first responders and by the way, the military, we have close to 18,000 people in Puerto Rico right now. We moved a hospital ship, I believe it's the largest in the world, it's there now.

And, you know, don't want to use it as much as -- if you can have the local hospital that's better in many ways. But we have tremendous assets in Puerto Rico. Now, at some point, no matter where it is, whether it's Texas, or whether it's Florida, you know, it ends.

But I can say in the case of Texas and the case of Florida and the case of Louisiana, some areas also got grazed. They have been incredible in the response and incredible in how fast it's coming back. And in many cases, areas that were devastated were already back.

In this instance, it's a more difficult situation, but I think the governor understands that FEMA, the military, first responders cannot be there forever and no matter where you go, they cannot be there forever.

ROSSELLO: If I may, just briefly add for that that is the importance of the short-term and long-term packages that will be in Congress, right. We're going to need some resources. Of course, FEMA is there for the initial response. There is some rebuilding to go through, so what's why, you know, we're thankful to the President for supporting these petitions to Congress so that we can get the resources, liquidity to kick start the economy and of course, the long-term rebuilding process.

And this is very important, you know, the President has been clear on stating that you know, no U.S. citizen will be left behind and we'll be working and this is the way we work towards making better America and a better Puerto Rico.


TRUMP: You have areas in Puerto Rico where we literally had to and still have to, but it's getting less and less, deliver food and supplies by helicopter. Because the roads have been wiped out and the bridges have been wiped out. There no way to get there except by helicopter.

And those are difficult situations and we, you know, we're working with the governor and with the folks on getting it taken care of, but we are literally delivering supplies dropped by helicopter and with that being said, I have to also say our military and our first responders and Brock Long and FEMA and a Tom, the job they've done has been incredible.

But we are delivering very essential supplies by helicopter because there's no way to get to the area of the island. And the folks have done an incredible job. Brock, would you like to say something?

BROCK LONG, FEMA ADMINISTRATOR: So every day we continue right now, and the focus is on restoring central services. You know we stabilized a lot of the emergency power needs at the hospitals and we're starting to focus and work with the governor today on rebuilding power grids going forward as well as water treatment, waste water, roadway systems, so we're going to continue to support the governor.

We're looking at trying to specifically restore the essential power or the essential functions to six major municipalities within Puerto Rico that service about 80 percent of the population starting there and then working our way out. [12:45:07] So, the traditional recovery is going to require solution far greater than what FEMA, you know, typically puts down, but that's why we're here today working with the Governor Rossello and the President and all of the cabinet members to figure out what the best way forward is for the longer term solutions.

TRUMP: There's never been a situation where power and energy have been so devastated. Never. You know, you don't have a power plant. Because power plants, you don't fix them up and we're not just putting a pole up in the street. Like in Texas where you'd put up the poles and in Florida, actually you had lot of underground wire which was great.

It'd be wonderful if you could have underground wire. It makes it a lot better in these storms. But, you know, there's never been a situation where the energy and the power has been totally destroyed. And part of the problem is that it was pretty well destroyed before the storm.

And we're working together to get that back up, but also to make it long-term, because I think (INAUDIBLE). They were working on long- terming it prior to the storm. So now, they're really working on it.

ROSSELLO: And that's part of the litigation strategy. I mean again, I can't stress enough how important it is that we keep this on the long haul, for the long haul, that we work together. So that we can make sure that we don't just put things back.

Again, as they were, but we make them better than before. And I think that's the, it is critical -- it is better for all the U.S. citizens that this happens. I think in Puerto Rico again, looking at the long- term, recognizing that we're still at the energy phase. This could allow Puerto Rico to be a showcase in terms of energy, production and other, but way of mitigating and innovating.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Between one and ten. How would you grade the White House response so far?

TRUMP: I'd say it was a ten. I'd say it was probably the most difficult when you talk about relief, when you talk b about search. When you talk about all of the different levels, and even when you talk about lives save. You look at the number. I mean this was -- I think it was worse than Katrina.

In many my ways, worse than anything people have ever seen. They got hit by a Category 4. Grazed. But grazed about, you know, a big portion of the island, but it was grazed. The rest hit Florida as you know. But that was bad. But then they got hit dead center.

If you look at those maps, by a Category 5. Nobody's ever heard of a 5 hitting land. Usually by that time, it's dissipating. It hit right through and kept to a 5. It right through the middle of the island. Right through the middle of Puerto Rico. There's never been anything like that. I give ourselves a ten.

I think that locally, I really think locally there. I think locally they have and this gentleman, great leadership. I have to tell you, it's a tough job, but we have provided so much so fast. We were actually there before the storm hit. You know we were there before the first one, before the category 4 hit.

Brock and the military and a lot of people were there before the storm. We had the coast guard waiting for the storm just outside the storm and following the storm in. Many lives saved. The Coast Guard in Texas saved 16,000 lives. The Coast Guard is incredible. Incredible the job they've done.

But all of the armed forces, what they've done has been Army, Navy, the Marines, the Air Force, all of the goods dropped in. Helicopters that weren't even meant for this purpose, all of a sudden, they're delivering food and services. I would give a ten.

I would say locally, and I understand locally. And I understand locally. A person loses his or her or their house. And then they can't go to work. If you lose your house, you know, it's hard to go and be a policeman for the day. You're trying to have your family you know, live, frankly. This is what happened, so many people.

You read that they had no truck drivers in Puerto Rico. Well, they have a lot truck drivers in Puerto Rico, but many of them lost their houses. So they had to be with their families. So we would have the military driving trucks. They're not supposed to be driving trucks. It's not their eptitude. Some of them didn't really know how to drive truck but they learn very quickly. They're smart.

But we had the military driving trucks. Because it's not the people fault, they lost their house. They were devastated. And I think we did a fantastic job. And we're being given credit. You know, it's very nice that the gentleman who worked for Bill Clinton, when he was president, gave us an A plus and that included Puerto Rico. Gave us an A plus and I thought that was really very nice. And I think, I really believe he's correct. We have done a really great job.

[12:50:01] Texas again, really very far along. Florida, very far along and Puerto Rico is a different kind of a situation because it needs so much infrastructure, but over period of time that will happen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think Puerto Rico (INAUDIBLE), if that make easier?

TRUMP: Well, we're not talking about that now. You'll get me into trouble with that question, right? We'll hold that one. How about we hold that one Mike (ph) for a later time, right?


ROSSELLO: In Spanish or?



TRUMP: And then you can interpret.

ROSSELLO: That's right. We'll do.


ROSSELLO: I'll say it brief version in English.

TRUMP: I like it better in Spanish. Beautiful.

ROSSELLO: I like it, too. So you know my job as a governor is to state what the facts are, number one, and to establish robust expectations for the people of Puerto Rico, and for the U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico.

The facts are, that every petition that we've made to the President of the United States until this moment, it has been answered. It has been answered. The reality is that we still need to do a lot more for the people of Puerto Rico and that's why we're meeting here.

This is not over, not over by a long shot and again, it is the President's commitment to work with the U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico, to treat us equally on this event. To make sure that those 250,000 that have lost their homes get equal treatment that we can start restoring the more than 42 roads that have been destroyed in Puerto Rico. That we can lift up our energy grid and that is something that needs to start happening now.

And I petition the corps of engineers, I petition FEMA and our power authority to work together so that we can be aggressive and we can get results for the people of Puerto Rico in restoring energy as soon as possible while keeping an eye on having the opportunity to have a better system for Puerto Rico.

This is you know, Mr. President, in the United States has been characterized for taking extraordinary measures at extraordinary times. These are extraordinary times in Puerto Rico. Therefore, these are extraordinary times in the United States.


TRUMP: I think we'll be successful tonight. It will be possibly sometime in the morning may be sooner. I think we have the votes for the budget, which will be Phase one of our massive tax cuts. And reform. But I think we'll be successful tonight with respect to the budget. I think you probably know you can count the votes maybe better than most people, but I think, I think we have the votes.

And frankly, I think we have the votes for the tax cuts which will follow fairly shortly there after. So we'll see what happens. But I will tell you, our country needs tax cuts. I mean, these are examples when you look at what we just went through with Texas and Florida and Louisiana and Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands.

You look at, you know, we need growth. We need people who are going to be pouring into our country. And we have that now. We're starting to have that. We're starting to have that even on the prospect of tax cuts. We have companies you saw last week, Car Company, massive improvements and expansions and some cases, brand-new plants. They're coming in.

Foxconn is building as, you know, they make the Apple iPhones and more. They're going to build a fantastic plant. I think it's going to be in state of Wisconsin. And hopefully, it's going to be there. We've been showing that land. It's a beautiful piece of land, I hope they like it. But that'll be one of the biggest in the country.

[12:55:06] I think Apple is going to be building some very, very big plants. People are starting to say hey, this is where we want to be. And you see the stock market we hit an all-time high yesterday. And I think we've hit it about 49 times, Mike (ph).

So we're really, we're really doing well, but we can -- we can do something very, very spectacular if we're given the tax cuts. We're one of the highest tax nations in the world. You look at our taxes compared to other competitive nations or competitor nations because I think nothing is competitive with this, but I'm a little biased, but that's the way it is.

But you look at how high we pay and how much we pay and our companies, they leave because the taxes are so high. If we get this done, it will be historic. It will be bigger than any plan ever, you know, approved or ever. It will be the biggest tax cuts in the history f of our country.

And I can tell you, we have tremendous support for this. So the budget is going probably fairly late tonight. It will be working late tonight. Could be one of those morning calls that you'll be watching your television at 3:00 in the morning and it could be sooner than that. I think we'll have the votes.

And right after the budget, we start with the vote on as you know on the tax cuts and I think we're in very good shape.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, who's going to pay for the infrastructure recovery in Puerto Rico?

TRUMP: In Puerto Rico, we're going to be working systems. We're going to be dealing with Congress. We're going to be coming before, meaning far before any existing debt that's on the island because as you know, the island has massive debt. Just their, as we talk about the electrical facilities, I think they have 9 billion in debt.

Well, any debt that's put in will be coming before that debt. We want to make sure we put in debt and that debt is absolutely protected.

In addition to that, we're provided tremendous relief and services right now and we'll continue to provide that for a period of time and then a new group will come in and the new group will be more building oriented. When things are perfect. So, but we have to come before the existing debt.

They have I guess by some counts, $120 billion if you add everything, probably about 120 billion. Circling any money that's put in, by people whether it's public or private, they're going to want to come in first position and that's very important. And I think the governor understands that. I would imagine pretty much everyone understands that in Puerto Rico.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So there'll be bailout for both holders?

TRUMP: We're helping right now. We're helping a lot. This is costing a lot of money, having FEMA, having the military, having the first responders. We're doing that because of we have an obligation to Puerto Rico, to humanity. We have an obligation to ourselves.

We want to continue to do a great job on that. And we're doing it. Now, but at some point, your going to have to, there's going to have to be reconstruction. And again, the biggest thing is the power plants. But there's going to have to be. You know it's bad when you have to say power plants are almost coming before bridges, but you have power plants that are need. You have bridges that are needed and roadways that are needed. That's something that you don't see when you go into areas hit by hurricanes or disaster of almost any kind.



TRUMP: Well, it's you know, it's a very, very good question, actually. As you know, we have most, much of the electric is done by generators that have been brought to the island and massive numbers as I said before. The plant itself is going to take a while. We have to build a brand-new plant. Or we have to do essentially a renovation that's so large it's going to be like a new plant one or the other. We're looking at both now.

But there's never been a case where power plants were gone. So this isn't just like you know, as I said, I don't want to just fix the poles. You can't just fix the poles. There's never been a case where power plants were gone. So, it's going to be a period of time before electric is restored.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Between one and ten, how you grade the White House?

ROSSELLO: As I said, the President has answered all of our petitions and what this is still ongoing, so we expect this that will continue. We're being you know, very diligent getting all of the data and what we want to do and I want sort want to circle this.

This is a storm centric approach to what happens. There was a massive devastation and catastrophe in Puerto Rico. And our response should be to that. And that's why, you know, the responder effort was there. That's why the stabilization effort was there. That's why we set very aggressive milestones to restore energy in Puerto Rico, to have about 30 percent of the energy by the end of the month, by the middle of next month, about 50 percent and so on.

[13:00:00] Because we want make sure that people have that knowledge of where we're going to go. That they can stay in Puerto Rico and they can be part of the rebuilding process. What keeps -- what's going to keep the people there, what's going to keep this going is knowing that we have the backing of the White House --