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House Passes GOP Tax Overhaul, Senate Votes Soon. Aired 2- 2:30p ET

Aired December 19, 2017 - 14:00   ET

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


[14:00:00] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: They are about to get it right now.

And our special coverage continues with Brooke Baldwin right here on CNN.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: All right, Wolf. I'll take it. Thank you so much.

I'm Brooke Baldwin.

Let's continue carrying the torch here and taking those live pictures there of the House floor on Capitol Hill as huge, huge win for Republicans is just in sight here.

Quickly, on the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, the White House briefing will be beginning also in just a little, while in shaping up to be perhaps the biggest day of the Trump administration thus far.

The House is set to vote on this final version of the massive Republican tax bill. The same one that the president promised by Christmas. It will overhaul the nation's tax code as we know it. If all goes as planned, the Senate will then vote after the House. And the president is expected to get this bill and sign it by tomorrow.

Now, when he autographs this, he and his party will have achieved landmark tax reform, the kind not seen since 1986. And the president himself will end the year on a huge high note, finally getting the first major legislative victory of his administration yet.

Here's the "but", this 570-page tax law held by the president and his party has been panned by the people. A new CNN poll shows 55 percent of Americans oppose it.

So, let's start there and go back to Capitol Hill to our correspondent Sunlen Serfaty who's been watching all the latest movements here.

And so, talk about that magic number that the House needs for that win. And, you know, the expected time line of the day.

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. The time line is so important here. In the next 15 minutes or so, they will be voting on the floor on Democratic procedural vote. Then they'll move to the vote on the Republican tax bill. They need to hit 217.

There's no drama here. Republicans believe and know they have the votes to get this passed along party lines over in the House.

And we saw just in the last few minutes, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan taking something of a pre-vote victory lap on the floor. He spoke at length about taking a step back here to really put this moment that he's been fighting for in context that this hasn't been a tax overhaul has not been passed for the last 30 years -- certainly, a significant moment for him as speaker. He says, this is a day I've been looking forward to for quite some time. Today, we are giving them their money back.

So, the House will proceed to vote in about 15 minutes and we expect it will indeed pass, sends it over to the Senate where Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said that he intends to move to a final vote in the Senate. Later tonight, it could be very, very late.

But at the end of this day, Republicans up here on Capitol Hill, Brooke, feel very confident they will be sending a final bill to President Trump's desk for his final signature by tomorrow, Brooke.

BALDWIN: I like how you put that, a pre-vote victory lap. That is precisely what we saw from the House speaker there. And as we wait for these different numbers to fill in, and as you highlighted that magic number 217, Sunlen, there has been a lot of back and forth in terms of substance and policy within this bill.

Can you just give me a couple of the headlines on who this benefits the most?

SERFATY: Yes. So, a lot of back and forth, and I think even after the passage, if that's what it does and we believe that will, I think that's a discussion that many Republicans will continue having, what exactly is in this bill, how -- who is this benefiting the most.

First, a few of the top lines that we've reported over the last days and weeks, it repeals the Obamacare individual mandate. It sets the corporate tax rate at 21 percent. That's down from 35 percent and that remains permanent. It caps mortgage interest rate deductions at $750,000, and caps the state and local tax deductions at $10,000.

Now, on the tax brackets that we've been talking so much about, this actually, this proposal, this bill that they are voting on keeps seven personal incomes tax brackets. The lowest rate stays there as you see at 10 percent. But check out the differences, if you can see there, among the other brackets, it lowers the rates for most of all of them, especially that top individual rate. It's down from 39.6 percent to now 37 percent.

So, a lot of details with massive, massive tax overhaul. But again at the end of the day today, Republicans looking for a win.

BALDWIN: Sunlen, thank you so much. We'll stay in close contact with you and we'll keep your eyes on the screen here on the House floor as the vote is set to get under way just a couple of minutes. And then after the fact presumably, a massive victory lap over at the White House with that White House briefing. Before we get there, I have with me, CNN's political director David

Chalian, he is standing by. CNN national political reporter Maeve Reston joining us in just a minute, CNN White House correspondent Abby Phillip, and Jim Tankersley, tax and economics reporter for "The New York Times."

So, welcome, everyone.

[14:05:00] And, David Chalian, I mean, the big question -- I mean, the obvious question, this is a huge, huge deal for the president of the United States on the verge of really his first major legislative win. But first on Paul Ryan, I mean, I think I even heard him using phrases like recapturing our destiny and something he's been looking forward to, joking, since the third grade. What did you make of that speech there on the floor?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: That may be true about Paul Ryan actually. We know he's a bit of a tax nerd. So, this is something that goes to the very heart of sort of what Paul Ryan has been working on and espousing on his time on Capitol Hill.

This is -- you got to remember, let's go back over the last year, Brooke, you and I talked about a lot of polling that came out that showed that Republicans were telling us that they were really blaming the congressional leadership and the Republican majorities in the House and Senate for the in action this year. Not -- they weren't blaming President Trump.

BALDWIN: Right.

CHALIAN: And Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell were keenly aware of that as were their members. They also know that they are heading into an election year facing a ton of headwinds coming at them. And so, the one thing that they have gone to their members and said, if we don't go back to our core voters and say we have accomplished one of our major promises, they are going to have our heads.

And so, now, you are going to see Paul Ryan and the House majority, you got a taste of it there, tout this success at getting this done because they saw it as an existential threat to their majority. Now, they, of course, know that they are passing something that is largely unpopular with the American people, but they're taking a leap of faith that people are going to feel more money in their pockets and that at the end of the day, much like what has happened with Obamacare, people will feel better about these tax cuts down the road.

BALDWIN: I mean, let's drill down on some of the numbers, to the point you're just making, on our new CNN polling. Opposition to the bill has grown 10 points, Maeve, since early November, 55 percent now oppose it, that's 33 percent actually favoring these proposals to reform the nation's tax code. I mean, this is the day, David, you know, said it perfectly, they had to deliver on something, and this is the delivery to that base.

But what these poll numbers, is it worth the gamble? MAEVE RESTON, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: I mean, I think that

they felt -- Republican strategists felt like they had to have this victory or else the midterms are going to be done for them. And so, the fact that it is so unpopular, it is a huge gamble, but, you know, if they do a good job of selling it next year, if people are feeling like they have more money in their pocket as David said, you know, then we could see a very different sentiment about the tax bill. And, you know, people starting to feel like things are starting to roll in Washington.

But the midterm voters that they are going to have to target, a lot of them, you know, won't necessarily benefit very much from this bill at all. And so, that's going to be really interesting to watch next year. You know, especially in those districts where you have vulnerable Republicans and the Hillary Clinton won in 2016.

BALDWIN: Maybe this is the message to help some of those Republicans, Abby, I saw this tweet from "Bloomberg's" Sahil Kapur. Sahil tweeted, if this bill passes, Trump Republican Party will have repealed the Affordable Care Act, individual mandate, cut taxes by $1.5 trillion, opened up AWR judges, killed a lot of regulations. This is not a trivial agenda.

Abby?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I think that's pretty much right, like, you know, we got to the end of this year not exactly sure how taxes would go, because we've gotten so close on health care, and those other votes did not go through, so it was unclear whether they would finally be able to get something, because I think the judges issue is important to sort of movement on conservatives, a lot of Washington conservatives.

But this Trump White House understands what they need to do is deliver something that people can see in their homes and at their kitchen tables. And that's what tax reform has the opportunity for them to do. I think this White House is feeling pretty good right now, because they are closing out this year having done at least one big thing. They had hoped to get two. They got one. And they got the repeal of the individual mandate.

They are feeling pretty good. And you're going to hear in a couple of minutes a little bit of that from Sarah Huckabee Sanders. They are waiting until this vote happens before she comes out so that she can tout this really important moment for this White House.

BALDWIN: So, Abby made a great point, Jim, and I want to talk to you just about the meat and potatoes of this, how, you know, this is a way for folks to see how this translates around their own kitchen tables. You know, we saw the roll out at the White House and how effective that was PR strategy-wise when we saw all the families come forward and saying, you know, essentially, thanks, Mr. President, this is how it's going to help me and my family.

But, again, here's the "but", two thirds of the Americans, according to our new CNN numbers, see the bill as doing more to benefit the wealthy than the middle class and almost four in 10 Americans say in the bill becomes will you their own family will be worse off.

[14:10:03] Yet this is what Paul Ryan said earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: When we get this done, when people see their withholding improving and jobs occurring, and see bigger checks, a simpler tax code, that's what's going to produce the results. Results are going to make this popular.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: So, Jim, for all of the Americans watching and wondering how does this affect me, how much do I really benefit? And I mean not just next year, but longer term, who stands to benefit the most?

JIM TANKERSLEY, TAX & ECONOMICS REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, if you are watching this and you are American you are probably getting a tax cut next year from this. The simple truth in the first year is a tax cut for almost everybody. Not everybody, there are millions of families, particularly some middle class, upper middle class families who will see tax increases especially in high tax states.

But in the first year, it is a tax cut. It's not a huge cut for a lot of folks, but it's a substantial one. And now, what happens over time in the bill is that those tax cuts fade for a lot of people, particularly in the middle class and for lower income people. By the end, if the bill stays as written, by the end of the 10 years, the bill calls for all of the tax cuts go away.

And so, then you might actually see, actually you would see, tax hikes on basically everybody. So, in the first year, Republicans are betting that those benefits will be so great that people aren't worried about what comes down the line. And what we have seen in polling and you are seeing as well is people having a lot more concerns, perhaps looking farther into the future.

BALDWIN: The -- I'm trying to pull up this tweet. "The L.A. Times" editorial board, this is just part of what they just wrote, the Republican Party's rush, haphazard approach to tax reform feels like a long weekend of binge drinking. It may be fun for them while it lasts, but it sure to be followed by a head-splitting fiscal hangover.

Just one group's opinions. Obviously, Republicans are thrilled about what we're all about to witness presumably. Please, let me just ask all of you to stand by. Any moment now, voting is expected to begin on the House floor for this Republican tax bill. We will take that live.

Stay with me. I'm Brooke Baldwin. You are watching CNN's special live coverage.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: We're back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Live pictures of the House floor, voting set to begin voting after

this procedural vote there to begin voting on this Republican tax plan. It is expected to pass, right? So, this is the House and it goes onto the Senate.

But keep in mind, as we're all watching these, all these numbers flash up on the screen, ultimately we are watching for is 217 -- 217 is good enough for the House to pass this thing.

I've got my panel back with me.

And, David Chalian, can you just take us onto the floor of the House and walk us through what exactly is happening and what to watch for.

CHALIAN: As you said, we are going through a procedural vote now, and then we'll be on to the real vote.

[14:15:00] And here's what is key. You already heard from Paul Ryan, that sort of the messaging around this. They're going to have the vote to tout. We'll hear from Sarah Huckabee Sanders. And if the Senate is able to finish its business tonight and this gets on the desk of the president tomorrow, the key here is going to be President Trump, how he marks this moment in time, visually from a message point of view before people are fully immersed into the holiday break.

He really is going to try, as you saw him start doing yesterday in his speech, to try to end this year with some better spin on the ball here. You read that list, Brooke, I thought it was a good list of all those Republican accomplishments that the "Bloomberg" reporter had tweeted.

BALDWIN: Yes.

CHALIAN: I would also add to that, people in America are feeling much better in about the economy then they have in years. Obviously, the president is touting on the regular basis, the stock market numbers. And yet, and yet --

BALDWIN: His approval rate is so low.

CHALIAN: His approval rate is hanging so far low. So, his behavior in office is preventing him from reaping the rewards of all the good list of accomplishments, the good news on the economy, usually that helps a president, that is not helping him right now because he's getting in his own way.

BALDWIN: Jim, what do you make of that? I mean, normally, you have these two data points, right? You have economy that's doing well, very well, and then you have a president who typically does very well. They are inextricably linked. And in this case, with the new numbers on the president's approval rating all down to 35 percent, again, you know, one of our numbers here CNN, and yet, you know, you've seen the boom on Wall Street and beyond, how do you reconcile that?

TANKERSLEY: Well, we have done some polling with Survey Monkey actually throughout the year. And what we found is that the president's approval rate is highly correlated with economic optimism. In fact, it's the number one correlation in all of the poll, which tells us two things. One, that the president is helping to lift people's assessment of the economy among people who like him, but also that his rating would probably be a lot lower if people weren't so optimistic about the economy right now.

So, if, in a weird way, that interplay is really helping the president on one side of this equation. On the other side, I think we are seeing with people who don't think this bill is going to help them, the tax bill, some of that is just proxy how they feel about Trump. And if they continue to not like the president, they may be less inclined to credit his tax bill, his signature tax bill for any improvements they see in their own paychecks.

BALDWIN: Once this bill wraps and presumably passes, as David says, it could get to the Senate tonight, and then bada bing, bada boom, thing lands on the president's desk tomorrow for is autograph, which is a huge, huge deal for this White House.

Abby, to you, we will then see Sarah Sanders behind that podium with the mega victory lap. What do you expect from her?

PHILLIP: Well, this is White House that's really keenly focused on keeping promises. I think you're going to hear a lot about that today and tomorrow, and for the rest of this week.

In addition to what you will hear from Sarah Sanders, I think we can probably expect to see the president today having a major unveiling of this new policy that he's been able to put on the table, because, you know, the White House believes that their supporters are less focused on the nitty-gritty, less focused on the ups and downs, and more focused on whether Trump is doing what he said he was going to do in the campaign and whether he can drive that home. You've seen a lot in the last week about that on a number of issues, not just on taxes, but on national security issues, on immigration. This White House wants to be able to say if they go into January 1 this is a president who keeps his promises.

Now, you know, I think Jim and others have mentioned a little bit of this, but I think that when it comes down to the approval rating of this tax bill, it will be interesting to see how that fares long-term. It is possible that people are reacting to what they heard about the bill in the back and forth, horse trading, and that there is a possibility that once they see a little bit more money in their paychecks, they'll be happy with it.

But it's also possible that it's not as much as was promised. You're going to hear the president say they're going to get a very big Christmas present. If in January, people are seeing a small Christmas present, it's unclear how that's going to affect how they feel about this bill. Maybe they will feel like they were big promises made and what was delivered to them was smaller than that.

BALDWIN: So it's interesting, I think you are totally right, it will be from Sarah Sanders and from the administration, you know, see we promised this tax cut for you, and we are delivering, and oh, by the way that individual mandate Obamacare, you know, bye-bye, that's gone, as all part of this.

And so, my question, Maeve, to you in terms of how this translates, fast forward to the midterms in 2018, how will that translate for those Republicans?

[14:20:03] Specifically in the Rust Belt states, will that be enough to help them along?

RESTON: Well, I think that that is a huge question that we can't answer right now, because as you know, so much could change between now and then. You know, anything from the Russia investigation, if that captures people's interest more, make them more concerned about sort of stability in the White House, you know, how the economy is doing next year, right before the election, that will have so much to do with how they vote.

And really the question, you know, that Democrats are trying to sell to people is you want a check on Trump's power. So, you know, let us move in and take control of either one chamber or the other. Trump is making you weary, you know, his tweets, his behavior. That's what they are selling to people.

And will a tax cut be enough to balance that out? We don't know yet.

BALDWIN: That's the question. That's the question. I got you.

Just again, quickly, just play by play what we are looking at now, we're still waiting for the official tax vote to begin. They have this procedural vote. They are still in the middle of that, I believe.

Check me, talking to my control room, five votes that they're waiting for the procedural vote to wrap. And then we will move on. OK. I'm being told that they are voting on it now. Shall we dip in for a moment and listen? Let's listen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Members will record their votes by electronic device. This is a five minute vote.

BALDWIN: There they go. They are now officially voting on this massive tax bill that the Republicans are planning on having this be a huge win here. That number 217 that is the number of yea votes they need for this massive tax vote to pass. And we're going to stay with this live pictures from the House floor.

And, David Chalian, just over to you, we have some sound. Let me play this, and we'll talk on the other side, because, of course, all the focus is on the House right now, but then moves onto the Senate, as you pointed out, later this evening.

And so, we have some sound just in from the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on selling this bill. Here he was.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: -- regular working people, as you've heard all my colleagues say the facts are not irrelevant. And so, we're just beginning to make the argument to the American people. And they are going to see, as Senator Blunt pointed out that, in fact, they do get more on average.

And I think the argument is still out there to be won. Look at all the indicators of optimism. Look at the, although I don't want to over-emphasize quarterly growth rates, but I think two quarterly growth rates of 3 percent are pretty significant.

Look at the stock market and look at the optimism. I think the American people are going to be able to -- are going to begin to feel that the country is moving again after eight years of relative stagnation. Thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: OK. So that was Senate majority leader there, and you heard key words, stock market, optimism.

We got another voice, Mark Preston.

Let me just bring you into this conversation here as we're watching this House vote on this tax bill. You know, we hear language like this. We hear language from -- we saw Paul Ryan a bit ago on recapturing our destiny. This is about promises kept. This is about follow-through.

What's your assessment as we are just about a minute into this?

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, a couple of things. One, I think what you said at the very end, promises kept and about follow-through. If you go back over the past, you know, 11 months of the Trump presidency, there hasn't been any successes, there hasn't been any follow through. There's been a lot of mistakes made by the administration and on Capitol Hill as well, not having all their ducks lined up.

But as we talk about this tax cut right now, and Republicans will talk about spurring economic growth, and in the long run that will offset the additional money that it's going to add to the deficit. The fact is we're heading into 2018 right now, and this is the kind of vote I believe that is going to energize the liberal left. It's not necessarily going to energize the Republicans.

BALDWIN: How so?

PRESTON: Because what they're going to say, we've already seen some people that are pulled out of the House chamber in the half hour or so, screaming down there, because what we are going to see from the liberal left is that Republicans in power are going to continue to try to do these types of things that they are against.

So, it's a lot easier to try to get your grassroots activists charged up to oppose something as opposed to getting them charged up to say, hey, great job in getting that done. So, this vote, while it's taking place in 2017 is going to have great, great influence on what happens in 2018.

BALDWIN: That is exactly what I was asking Maeve Reston about, but I realize a lot can happen between, what are we, December 19th, you know, and next November.

David Chalian, to you, just on Democrats -- what's the Democrats' move once this passes?

CHALIAN: There is it the vice president there, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Yes.

CHALIAN: He's going to preside and be part of the messaging operation from the administration today even if he's tie breaking vote isn't need in the Senate. Well, looks like you are over the margin there, Brooke, 224 yea votes. So, the bill looks like it has enough votes that it's passed.

BALDWIN: Let's listen. Let's listen in, David. OK. A little bit of nothing. There was applause. You are right, 226. All they needed was 217. So, there you go, David Chalian.

CHALIAN: They'll be plenty of opportunity to get applause, I have no doubt. I think the speaker is up there.

BALDWIN: Is that the vice president at the top there? No, I don't think. Go ahead.

CHALIAN: But to question about the Democrats, you're going to hear the Democrats make the argument that so far has been the winning argument with the American people that they see this as a tax bill that favors the wealthy over the middle class. So they'll make a class argument.

I will -- I am very curious to find out and I asked a lot of Democrats this right now, I wonder if next fall, this bill is going to be something in their ads or something they're going to be more focused on health care, Trump, investigations, and all things Donald Trump more than this bill. It's hard down the road, necessarily, to run against a tax cut. It's a little easier to run against tax hikes.

BALDWIN: Do we know -- we've all been pouring through these numbers. And 73 percent of Americans all part of the CNN polling want President Trump to release his taxes publicly, right? This is all germane, once again because people are wondering, well, how this is going to translate for the Trump family? How does President Trump benefit from this? Because we hear over White House this is good for middle class America.

But, you know, as you heard from Jim lay out, yes, it's a bit of a tax cut, maybe people will be hoping it's a bit more in January, and be surprised maybe not as big a chunk of change. But after, you know, that first year, it continues to get smaller and smaller. And so, still, that thirst for tax returns, I guess, reign supreme.

CHALIAN: It is a thirst that the president has ignored and will continue to ignore. So, even though three quarters of Americans would like to see him release tax reforms, he obviously got elected president, bucking that tradition as a candidate and I doubt he's going to feel any public pressure from the overwhelming majority of Americans who would like him to do so, to actually do so. So, all we have to go on is one of his tax returns we have seen a little bit of to say that he's not right when he says that he is going to get hurt from this bill.

And indeed the American people also in our polls say, as you were suggesting, that they think he's going to be a lot better off because of this tax bill personally, his family, then he will be worse off.

BALDWIN: OK. What are we waiting for, David Chalian? I'm just picking on you since -- you know, are we waiting for the final gavel?

CHALIAN: We are waiting for the vote to come to an actual close. Clock has run out. It looks like speaker Ryan is getting instructions from the parliamentarian there and that he may be prepared to bring -- there it is.

BALDWIN: There it goes. There was the gavel. Let's listen.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Have all voted? Anyone want to change their vote?

On this vote, the yeas are 227, and the nays are 203. The conference report is adopted. Without objection, the motion to reconsider is laid upon the table.

(APPLAUSE)

RYAN: To finish the business is on the vote, now, the gentleman from Florida, Mr. Dunn (ph), to suspend the rules and pass HR 4323 as amended. And once the ayes and nays are ordered, the clerk to report the title of the bill.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: HR 4323, the bill to promote veteran and STEM education, computer science and scientific research and further purposes.

RYAN: The question is will the house suspend the rules?

BALDWIN: OK. So, you heard it the gavel thrown and the House speaker saying specifically 227. So, 227, they needed just ten less to pass. They got it. You heard soma applause and I think a little bit of booing from the House floor as this Republican tax plan has officially passed the House.

And, Maeve Reston, over to you, heads on to the Senate, and then, you know, I asked Abby, but I'll ask you the same question, because we also know that the White House press briefing --