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GOP's Senate Bill Teeters Near Collapse; McConnell Gauges Support at GOP Senator's Lunch; Trump, Pence Try to Rally GOP Support. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired June 27, 2017 - 09:00   ET



B.J. STEPHENS, DONATED SHOES TO LOCAL BOYS AND GIRLS CLUB: Like, my goal for this was never to, like, get, like, recognition for it. But just, like, try to help inspire the youth.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: B.J., you deserve the recognition because you are doing the right thing. Thank you, young man.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: It's so important when you're a young person. You think back to that when you were younger and you remember how important it was that your shoes were the right shoes or that you were able to even just have fun at recess.

CUOMO: What do you sport today? What are your jammies that you wear? Not these, like sneakers.

KEILAR: Oh, some Nu Balance sneakers.

CUOMO: Nu Balance?

KEILAR: Yes, they feel great. They make me feel great.

CUOMO: I wear Nu Balance sneakers to avoid a narrow path. That's a line from "Tribe Called Quest." Time for CNN NEWSROOM. Who is that?

KEILAR: That's Poppy Harlow.


KEILAR: Good morning, Poppy.


CUOMO: Even better looking on television!

HARLOW: Go. Well, you know, I call it the miracle room, the makeup room. You should have seen me about an hour ago.

My daughter, by the way, sports Air Force 1s. I'm just saying. You know, she's one-year-old.

CUOMO: Oh, old school Nike.

HARLOW: There you go. All right, guys. Have a great day. Good morning, everyone. We got a --

CUOMO: I actually had them when they were out.

HARLOW: We have a lot to get to. Let's get right to it.

Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow. John Berman has the day off.

Seven years in the making and perhaps just hours from collapse. Right now on Capitol Hill, Senate Republican leaders are scrambling to save their bill to repeal ObamaCare. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell expected to gauge GOP support, or lack thereof, at a lunch today.

Even the White House, desperate for a big legislative victory, is now tamping down expectations. One official there acknowledging the growing likelihood of defeat, saying, quote, we are right on the threshold, in fact, this fight could be over well before it even officially starts.

Four Republican senators citing grave concerns after a scathing report from the Congressional Budget Office that says 22 million people -- 22 million more Americans -- would lose their coverage under this plan than the existing plan within a decade. The lawmakers say they'll vote against even beginning the debate on the floor. That is a move that would just kill the measure out right.

Let's go straight to Capitol Hill. It's where we find Suzanne Malveaux.

It was five against it yesterday. It's four today. But these four don't seem like they're going to budge.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It really doesn't seem like they're going to budge, Poppy. And what we're learning is that these numbers keep changing hour by hours.

At times, it's six opposed. Three have serious reservations. Four have specific demands. And then switches in the next hour.

But the bottom line here is they do not even have the votes to even start this debate. And what are they doing today? Well, we're looking at a number of things.

First of all, carrots and sticks. What is the GOP leadership and the White House doing to put them over that line?

The carrots. Well, this afternoon, there's a lunch among Republican senators. What kind of things can Majority Leader McConnell offer those Republicans? He is going to be assessing that this afternoon.

So far, aides saying that he is pushing forth for a vote this week, but he may re-assess that if he does not have those votes. Another carrot is this evening. We're going to see the Vice

President, Mike Pence, hosting a dinner at his home, at his official home, for four senators. Three who are undecided, one who is definitely against the bill as it exists today, Mike Lee. Can he turn those folks around?

And then finally, when you take a look at this, the sticks as well, pro-trump PACs that are going after senators. Senators, like Dean Heller of Nevada, who are facing those ads in a very kind of harsh, direct way, people who are vulnerable, if you will, in their re- election cycles.

So those are the kinds of tactics that they are using. There are some senators now who are simply asking for more time, that they don't have enough time to digest this. Senator Murkowski from just yesterday.


SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI (R), ALASKA: I don't have enough information. I don't have enough data in terms of the impact to my state to be able to vote in the affirmative, so I'm trying to get the information.

This is big stuff. And so making sure that we get it right is something that I have said is an imperative. I don't think it's asking too much to say, give us the time to fairly and critically analyze these numbers.


MALVEAUX: Senator Susan Collins this morning tweeting this, saying, I want to work with my GOP and Dem colleagues to fix the flaws in ACA, the Affordable Care Act. CBO analysis shows Senate bill won't do it. I will vote no on MTP, motion to proceed.

And, Poppy, what is happening here is that Mitch McConnell, looking for some ways to horse-trade here in that $200 billion place that they can actually use to give more for, say, opioid assistance or hospital funding, that type of thing. We will see this afternoon if there's any progress -- Poppy.

[09:05:00] HARLOW: And that's something McConnell's been good at achieving in the past, but can he pull it off this time? Suzanne Malveaux on the Hill. Thank you.

As you just heard, President Trump and Vice President Pence, both personally courting lawmakers today, trying to reach that all- important 50 votes in the Senate. Of course, Vice President Pence would be the tie breaker.

Let's go to the White House for the latest on that. That's where we find our Joe Johns. Good morning.


Well, it's pretty clear from the people Suzanne mentioned there that the President and the Vice President are going to have to take at least two different tacts to try to help get this bill over the finish line, not dislike what happened in the House of Representatives where it was very close.

Number one, they have to keep conservatives onboard, those conservatives who have not said they're opposed to the bill. And then they have to bring along some of the conservatives as well, who have said, at least so far, they're opposed.

That sounds like the strategy now with this dinner that's expected to occur today over at the Naval Observatory with the Vice President and those four senators, including Mike Lee, the one Republican who said he's opposed.

The President of the United States also involved in this effort. He's made a number of calls, particularly over the weekend, talking to senators to try to help get it over the finish line. The President also tweeting within the last 24 hours about the health care bill, but essentially slamming the Congressional Budget Office, which put out its most recent score.

So we have all of that going on here at the White House. The White House fully aware of the math and the fact that they can only lose two Republican senators if they want to get this thing to conference. Back to you.

HARLOW: Indeed. Joe Johns at the White House. Keep us posted. Thank you.

Let's discuss it all. Errol Louis is here, CNN political commentator and political anchor, Spectrum News. Jackie Kucinich joins us, CNN political analyst and Washington bureau chief of "The Daily Beast." And A.B. Stoddard, associate editor and columnist for "RealClearPolitics." Thank you all for being here.

I don't think Mitch McConnell is very sleeping much these days, A.B. And this CBO score, 22 million more Americans uninsured in a decade than currently would be under this plan, makes his job that much harder.

As our Dana Bash rightly put it, you don't even have enough votes to begin the debate on this one, enough yeses to begin the debate on this one yet. You say if McConnell loses Rand Paul and Dean Heller, which he has, at least as we look at things now, that's too many. So is this thing too far gone already?

A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR AND COLUMNIST, REALCLEARPOLITICS: It definitely looks too far-gone from here, right? We don't know what's going on behind closed doors. We never underestimate the power of Mitch McConnell to turn things around at the 11th hour.

He did give himself space in these negotiations before the final draft was even issued to sort of make changes later to bring people onboard. And the CBO findings about deficit savings definitely gave him some space to throw some more money around.

So if I wake up tomorrow and see that a couple of senators have been assuaged and they have more millions for opioid treatment or something like that and they can go home and vote yes, that's not going to be, you know, beyond explanation because of the way that McConnell sort of maneuvered and set this up to sort of change at the last minute and try to bring people onboard.

But it's true. If look at the number of defectors now, you just don't see how they can get it over the finish line. And, you know, dinner with Pence is not going to change things. It would actually be goodies, like I'm talking about, where people can go home and say the bill was bad but I got it better.

HARLOW: So, Errol, our Jim Acosta, speaking to a White House official last night, who said, quote, we're right on the threshold of losing health care. And they also acknowledged that if they can't get the votes here this week, they're going to just move on. The White House just will move on to tax reform.

Is this McConnell's only shot at this? Meaning, if he can't get it done this week, they have to walk from it.

ERROL LOUIS, POLITICAL ANCHOR, SPECTRUM NEWS NY1: Well, if he can't get it done this week, it would be because of an important factor, that we haven't talked about, is involved, which is that everybody watching. Everybody in the country. Everybody who is going to flood the phone banks of all of the members of Congress, whether you're for or against this, and really weigh in.

I mean, when Lisa Murkowski says, I'm looking for more information, she's not waiting for another report from the local economist at the state university. She's waiting to see who's calling her office. She's waiting to see who's sort of making their preferences known. That's really what they're going to be talking about at this closed- door luncheon.

So, yes, if Mitch McConnell can't get it done now, he knows that. I mean, in the speed and the secrecy with which he's done all of this, he knows that.

The more people find out about this, the less likely it is that he is going to have all of the votes that he needs. So he's going to try and move fast and if he can't get it done this time, it's unlikely that it will change later on in the year.

HARLOW: The CBO number, Jackie, is what's getting the attention. There's also some pretty damning analysis out of the Tax Policy Center which came out and said, looking at the Senate plan, it's the top 0.1 percent of wealthy Americans, those that make $5 million or more a year, that are going to get a $250,000 tax break a decade from now.


[09:10:03] HARLOW: And if you look at the CBO analysis, those that are making less, around $26,000, they are actually going to be paying more into their health care than they were before. How do Republicans fight the notion, the argument, that some will make that this is a transfer of wealth from the rich to the poor? How do they fight that? KUCINICH: It's a really tough fight, particularly when these senators

who are in these marginal seats are waking up to headlines in their hometown papers talking about, in Alaska, how the governor might lose his flexibility dealing with Medicaid.

In Maine, there's a story on the front page of the "Portland Press Herald" that talks about Maine seniors having these cuts. That's who's calling the offices.

And in Cincinnati, where Rob Portman is from, there's a story about how hospitals are afraid of what this bill does.

So it's not only the people that are being cared for, it's the caretakers that are worried about this.

HARLOW: So you do have the American Medical Association, A.B., and AARP who just slammed this in their statements last night, right? AMA came out and said, so the first principle of doctors is do no harm and this bill does that, to paraphrase.

But you have one of the biggest insurers in this country, Anthem, coming out yesterday and saying this, based on our review, we believe the Senate discussion draft will markedly improve the stability of the individual market. And the CBO found that as well. It says, this will stabilize the individual market. Is that a saving grace?

STODDARD: Well, that's a macro argument if you're talking about those seniors Jackie is referring to in rural parts of these different states that are more purple.

You know, center right, not far right, where senators are listening to constituents talking about how, you know, my premiums might go down, but these packages are going to offer me less, which means I'm going to still pay more. And that's more for the vulnerable, more for the elderly, more for the sick.

And that is really a hard argument to make about market stabilization coming from people at Anthem when you're talking to constituents who say, I know what you're doing. You're going to lower premiums by taking away essential benefits and you're going to take away things I had before. They're going to run me out of the market because I'm not going to be able to afford the coverage that I need, the specific thing is usually mandated into the coverage.

So that's the difficult argument. We're not really hearing a lot of get government out of health care arguments from conservatives these days. It's really a fight over how much a hit to Medicaid is going to affect these vulnerable constituents.

HARLOW: Here is what a pro-trump PAC is running, an ad against Nevada Senator Dean Heller who is in a vulnerable seat, to say the least. This is what they're running against him right now. Listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator Heller has made his opposition clear. That is unacceptable to us and millions of Americans suffering under ObamaCare.

Heller is now standing with Pelosi. Unacceptable. If you're opposed to this bill, we are opposed to you.


HARLOW: All right. So Jackie? Errol? I mean, is it effective? Does it make sense for Republicans to go after Republicans, someone in such a vulnerable seat?

LOUIS: Dean Heller, I think, probably had a pass going into the whole debate. He's the most vulnerable.

HARLOW: Out there.

LOUIS: He is up for re-election next year. They need to have him for all of their Supreme Court hopes and their tax reform cuts and everything else that they want to do. So, no, this is an outside PAC that is not in line, I think, with the legislative leadership strategy here.

KUCINICH: I'm sure the Democratic Senatorial Committee who attacks Republicans is really happy that this PAC is spending the money for them.


KUCINICH: And the Republican counterparts are not happy about this. Republican strategists, you know, across D.C. and everywhere else are looking at this, saying, look at the end game. What's the point of pressuring this person on this issue from the Republican side? It's kind of shortsighted.

HARLOW: It seems to play into the, you know, narrative of some Democrats we've had on this show who just say, look, don't look to us. Look to Republicans to get on the same page first before you come to us.

Guys, thank you. We appreciate it. We have a lot ahead this hour.

Less than three months after that devastating deadly chemical attack in Syria, the White House, this morning, says the Syrian regime may be preparing for yet another one, and the administration drawing what seems to be a red line to Assad.

Also, one hour from now, House Republican leaders speak out after the CBO deliver that major blow to the Senate's health care bill. We're on it.


POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: The White House issuing a stern warning to Syria over what it says are, quote, "potential preparations for another chemical weapons attack." Saying that if such an attack occurs, Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad would face a, quote, "heavy price." What exactly does the White House mean by that? We're not sure. The statement, though, comes just a few months after President Trump launched a missile strike on a Syrian airbase in response to an attack on civilians that killed dozens including children.

Syria's six years civil war has left 400,000 Syrians dead and displaced some 6.3 million more and forced another 5 million to flee.

Let's go straight to our CNN military analyst, Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona as well as our senior international correspondent, Fred Pleitgen. And Fred, let me begin with you. This statement was unusual from the White House saying that Assad's regime would face a heavy price. Is it ostensibly a red line?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It certainly sounds like -- very much like a red line. It was interesting and this was issued by the White House and not in conjunction with the Pentagon. In fact, we have no information from the Pentagon as to why the White House actually issued this statement or where this information comes from.

But if you look more closely at the statement, they do say that preparations have allegedly been detected, that could be similar to the ones ahead of the attack that happened in early April. Of course, that was the one that we were just seeing the pictures of.

That has those devastating consequences on those many civilians out who were there in that area. Of course, that the U.S. and the Trump administration flatly blamed on the Assad regime leading to those Tomahawk strikes.

Now, ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley went a step further and also said that there would be grave consequences, but also that Russia and Iran would share the blame as well if, indeed, there was another chemical attack.

Now, it's unclear what exactly the consequences would be, or what exactly the Trump administration is saying it will do. However, they are saying there will be grave consequences, which leaves many to believe that it would be more than just a Tomahawk strike like we've seen in the past.

I've been out and scanning social media and also government media in Russia, Iran and Syria. There is nothing on any Syrian media, which I think is really interesting. The Russians are coming out and condemned the statement saying that threats against what they call the legitimate leadership of the Syrian Arab Republic, as they say, are not acceptable.

However, the Russians also say that they are against the use of any chemical weapons and of course, there is criticism from Iran as well especially from that, after that statement from Nikki Haley. Certainly an interesting one. We're keeping our eyes on. It's really unclear where exactly all this comes from, though.

HARLOW: Fred Pleitgen, thank you for the reporting. Stay with us. I do want to go to the Pentagon because Barbara Starr is just joining us now as well. Barbara, you were in a briefing getting more information. What are you hearing?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Poppy, we do now have a very significant update from the Pentagon. The Pentagon spokesman, Captain Jeff Davis, concluding an off-camera briefing a short time ago.

What he has told reporters here this morning is they've been looking at intelligence over the last few days at this air base that they had struck back in April that they believe that chemical attack was organized and perpetrated from.

And they began to see some activity there regarding the chemical weapons stored at that airbase, but in the last 24 hours, that intelligence, that information became more compelling, and became suggestive, according to the pentagon, that the Syrians were planning an attack.

The intelligence is focusing on one particular aircraft shelter at that base, an aircraft that is there and chemical weapons substances that are there. Now, he wouldn't go so far as to say whether the chemical weapons have been or were being loaded on to that aircraft.

But, again, saying that the intelligence had become more compelling over the last 24 hours, and saying that this is what led to the very ominous statement from the White House last night, which now as Fred is reporting has gotten reaction all the way to Moscow.

So the White House showing its cards a little bit to the Syrians saying, we know what you're doing. Don't do it, or you will pay a heavy price. What we don't know is if the U.S. would be prepared to conduct a pre-emptive strike based on the intelligence it has, or clearly hoping this warning will be enough to make the Syrians back off -- Poppy.

HARLOW: Barbara, thank you for the update and that's critical reporting indeed. Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona, Barbara's talking about the April 4th attack in Syria that killed 89 people including children in Northwestern Syria.

The Trump administration ordered a strike afterward on that airbase and now as Barbara is reporting they're seeing new, especially in the last 24 hours, activity having to do with chemical weapons at that airbase. What do you make of it?

LT. COLONEL RICK FRANCONA (RETIRED), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, I'm kind of confused as to why Assad believes he needs to use chemical weapons. If you look at the military situation for the Syrian government, they're actually doing quite well.

You know, the Russians have given them a lot of air support and they're moving towards their objectives in the east. They are having a lot of success on the ground. They're cooperating for the most part with the Kurds, moving through that area near Raqqa. Why use a chemical weapon when he knows that will possibly bring a strike from the United States? The British have also condemned it and even the Russians have said the use of chemical weapons would be unacceptable.

So I don't see his calculus to even want to use chemical weapons. He doesn't need to.

HARLOW: Barbara, just remind us again of Assad's response after the last U.S. attack, after that April 4th chemical weapons attack?

STARR: Well, look, this is a Syrian leader who's utterly dismissive of what anybody thinks about him, the United States or anyone. You know, since that attack, I think it's fair to say that Russian support and Iranian support for Assad has only hardened, and he to some extent, I feel, feels sheltered by that support.

And that one of the things that is so concerning to the United States, and to the U.S. military. You see that the Russians well dug in, in their support for Assad. Nothing appears to be backing off that and you are seeing growth of the influence of Iranian-backed militias especially in Southern Syria. All of those are factors that the Trump administration would have to take into account.

HARLOW: And that would explain Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations tweeting that the U.S. will blame Russia and Iran for any further attacks done by the Assad regime as well.

Barbara Starr, thanks for the great new reporting. Thank you, Fred Pleitgen and Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona for the analysis.

Back to health care, Senate Republicans passed the 50 votes got a lot harder in the last 24 hours. A new budget score said 22 million more Americans would lose health coverage under this plan than the existing plan in a decade. We'll break those down and talk how they affect you in just a moment.

But first a big headline for Google hit with a record $2.7 billion fine by European Antitrust regulators. Why? Cristina Alesci is here with more. This is a big deal. What is Google saying and why the fine?

CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN MONEY BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Google is refuting this fine, right. It's saying it's not engaged in unfair activity, unfair competition which is what the Europeans are alleging Google is doing by essentially steering consumers to its own shopping platform and putting rival services further down on the page or places where it's unlikely that consumers will pick.

But, look, Poppy, this is part of a much bigger story about the European Union really going hard at U.S. tech giants, trying to curb their power.

HARLOW: Like Apple.

ALESCI: Exactly. Look at these fines over the years. You're talking about -- well, that, in Apple's case, was back taxes. About $15 billion the E.U. wants Apple to pay in back taxes, $122 million for Facebook and this was several years ago, back in 2009, but $1.2 billion for Intel, for rebates similar unfair competition charges against Intel.

Now Google's stock dropped on the news yesterday about 1.2 percent, but look at this chart over the year. It's crazy. Google is up 23 percent. You know, yes, a little bit of a dip yesterday, but unlikely to have major impact and outside impact on the overall rise in the year.

HARLOW: And what about the market today? I mean, obviously they are looking at health care.

ALESCI: Yes, markets flat, looking at health care. Seeing if, you know, the Republicans have enough firepower to get their legislative agenda done. This is obviously a pre-cursor to tax reform. If Republicans can't get health care done, the question is can they get tax reform?

HARLOW: Maybe a little more bipartisan buy in on that one.

ALESCI: They may.

HARLOW: So we'll see. Thank you very much. We appreciate it as always. We are going to take a quick break. We'll be right back.