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CBO Scores Senate Health Care Reform Bill; Some Republicans Criticize Health Bill; White House Claims Syria Preparing another Chemical Attack; Interview with Senate Minority Whip, Democratic Senator Dick Durbin. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired June 27, 2017 - 08:00   ET


[08:00:00] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's unacceptable.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These heinous actions by the Assad regime cannot be tolerated.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Trump administration says Syria's Assad is preparing for another chemical strike.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are warning President Bashar al-Assad of paying a heavy price if these weapons were to be used.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Tuesday, June 27th, 8:00 in the east. Alisyn is off. News machine Brianna Keilar is by my side.


CUOMO: You like that nickname?


CUOMO: It will stick. The Senate Republican health care bill is on the brink of defeat. Why? Because you have a growing number of GOP senators who are opposing the plan after a devastating CBO report and they are concerned that it's been pushed through too quickly and too quietly, and as a result the Republicans don't seem to have the votes to even get to a debate. Where will they go from here?

KEILAR: Meantime, the White House says Syria is preparing another chemical attack. It's issuing an ominous warning to the Assad regime that they will pay a heavy price if they do it again. How is the president going to respond? We have all of this covered.

I want to begin with CNN's Suzanne Malveaux live on Capitol Hill on the health care showdown. Suzanne?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Brianna. Right now as it stands, the Senate health care bill is on the verge of collapse. They do not have the votes to even bring this forward for a debate. This comes after really a devastating CBO score that was issued, one that was much worse than many Republicans expected, and making it much, much harder for those who were on the fence to get behind it.


MALVEAUX: The Senate health care bill teetering on the edge of collapse after a devastating non-partisan CBO report estimates that the Senate GOP bill would result in 22 million more Americans becoming uninsured by 2026, making a vote that much harder.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I think you put all this together and get to 50 is going to be very tough, and the CBO score doesn't help any. If you have problems with the bill before, you probably have more problems now.

MALVEAUX: A White House official conceding to CNN that Republicans are right on the threshold of losing the health care battle.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: The report makes clear Trumpcare plan would be a cancer on the American health care system.

MALVEAUX: Four GOP senators are currently planning to vote against even starting debate on the Senate floor, which would sink an effort to pass a bill this week.

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: I won't vote to proceed to it unless the bill changes. We have reached out to Senate leadership and said we will negotiate. We've had no phone calls.

MALVEAUX: Moderate senator Susan Collins explaining her decision in a tweet, noting, "I want to work with my GOP and Democratic colleagues to fix the flaws in ACA. CBO analysis shows the Senate bill won't do it."

SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI (R), ALASKA: These numbers that we're talking about, these are men and women. These are our families that are being impacted. So let's please get it right.

MALVEAUX: The number of GOP senators currently opposed to the legislation has grown to six with at least three others expressing concerns. Leadership can only afford to lose two votes to pass the bill.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: My state is a Medicaid expansion state, and so we have a lot of issues.

MALVEAUX: The CBO report also estimates that over the decade the Senate bill would reduce the national deficit by $321 billion largely by slashing Medicaid funding by $772 billion, leaving 15 million fewer Americans covered under Medicaid, hitting older and lower income enrollees the hardest while providing a $541 billion tax cut to the wealthy and insurers. The legislation would initially cause health care premiums to rise but would ultimately lead to a 30 percent reduction by 2020. SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He had several calls over

the weekend, hearing ideas and opinions about how to strengthen it. And he'll continue to support ways to make the bill stronger.

MALVEAUX: President Trump ramping out outreach to skeptical lawmakers while the White House blasts the nonpartisan CBO analysis, saying "The CBO has consistently proven it cannot accurately predict how health care will impact insurance coverage."


MALVEAUX: Vice President Mike Pence will host a dinner where he'll have four Republicans, three are undecided, one is opposed, Mike Lee, to see if he can change some minds. At the same time, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell attending a GOP lunch this afternoon still pressing forward to have a vote this week, but senior aides saying that he might reassess after that lunch. And I spoke to a Democratic senator this morning who says do not underestimate senator Mitch McConnell's ability for horse trading. Chris, Brianna?

CUOMO: All right, Suzanne, thank you very much.

Let's discuss what this horse trading could mean to you.

[08:05:00] We have reporter and editor at large for CNN Politics Cillizza, CNN political analyst John Avlon, and Julie Rovner, chief Washington correspondent for Kaiser Health News.

John Avlon, the speaker of the House just did us a favor, Paul Ryan. In an interview this morning he clarified a selling proposition for the GOP here. What we know, basically, he's saying, that if you don't force somebody to buy Obamacare, then they won't. And that's the difference. We're deciding something that people will want, not simply that they'll have to do. That's the sell on why they must repeal. That is what is motivating McConnell now in the Senate, Ryan, then, in the House, to get this done.

JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. So that's the rhetoric of freedom and a libertarian rationale. Of course it's also a fundamental repudiation of his one-time running mate's own policy plan, Mitt Romney, who innovated single payer as a conservative procedure out of Heritage Foundation originally. But let's put that aside.

Let's look at the actual impact, because unfortunately some of those folks, and you can argue that the packages being offered are too expensive, particularly for young people. But the absence of any mandate at all, the absence of any coverage means when those folks end up having a critical situation, going to the emergency room, that's socialized health care. The other impact, because the government is going to take care of that one way or the other, taxpayers are going to take care of it.

The second thing is this. What we know this plan is it dramatically increases costs for lower income Americans. And that's not just a political problem. It's, to your point, a human problem. Someone who is 64 years old making $56,000 a year is all of a sudden expected to pay $20,000 a year just to have health care coverage, that's a fundamental real-life problem for folks in mainstream America.

KEILAR: And Julie, you are very steeped in the details of this and every other proposal that we've seen come out. When you look at the numbers, Republicans will say, look, we reduced premiums, though. They start going down in 2020. When you dissect this bill, are you seeing a real attack on cost, and what is the offset to that?

JULIE ROVNER, CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, KAISER HEALTH NEWS: No, not really. What we're seeing is a shifting cost. The CBO was very clear. Premiums will go down because the insurance that those premiums will buy will cover fewer things. If you're a healthy young person you're likely to do OK. but if you need any care you're going to pay more out of pocket, and the CBO said very much that, yes, premiums might go down but you're going to end up paying more for your health care assuming that you need and use health care.

CUOMO: And just to be clear, the young people and those in the individual market who are struggling out there, your premiums may go down here. Not right away, and not that much. Even the estimates are 10, 15 percent. So they're not throwing giant numbers at you.

Chris Cillizza, a big reason that the numbers are going in the wrong direction, that theyr'e going up, comes down to drug prices. And yet you don't see any political energy attacking what should be low- hanging fruit. Why?

CHRIS CILLIZZA, EDITOR AT LARGE, CNN POLITICS: Partisanship. I know -- I hate to give you such a pat answer, Chris, because --

CUOMO: I know. That was terrible.

CILLIZZA: Thank you. But it's -- I mean, I believe it also happens to be true. We are at a point where whatever Republicans propose, Democrats are almost certainly going to be against, and we saw over the last eight years whatever Democrats proposed Republicans are almost certainly going to be against. And the reason why is because of politics, because for all the negative attention that Mitch McConnell's pledge early in the Obama presidency, my goal is to make him a one-term president, all that stuff, for all the negative attention that got, the Republican Party was reeling after the 2008 election, reeling. They had no message. Just had been absolutely walloped, Obama with 365 electoral votes. What they found was that their voters didn't necessarily want new proposals, compromise, agreement. They wanted hardcore opposition to an agenda that they disagreed with.

CUOMO: Right.

CILLIZZA: And it worked. I think you're going to see Democrats do much of the same here and say, look, I'm not convinced we need a positive message. We need to say, we are fighting against what Democrats -- what Republicans and Donald Trump are doing.

CUOMO: Right. CILLIZZA: That doesn't -- it's a reason -- we talked about this

before, it' a reason why people feel so disaffected and so disassociated from politics in Washington.

AVLON: So you're -- Chris, you're absolutely right about the echo chamber of politics effect and how that impacts the vote 100 percent. But I think getting to the point of what about reducing costs? What about the drug prices? And this is something, as you know, that Donald Trump campaigned on, right? Beyond the bunting of I'm going to replace Obamacare with something, quote/unquote, "terrific," it was that he was going to be a dealmaker, reduce drug prices at the table. Certainly that kind of presidential leadership we haven't seen on this bill.

[08:10:05] CILLIZZA: And just to add to John's point very quickly. More broadly than prescription drugs, Donald Trump's sell on everything literally was, I'm a better negotiator and the smarter than anyone who's currently in office who has ever been in office. I will make deals they can't. Now, he did help, I think, at the margins in passing the bill through the House. They're trying in the Senate, but that was the fundamental buy-in of this entire presidency.

CUOMO: Right.

CILLIZZA: I'm smart. Other people are stupid. I make good deals, other people make bad deals.

CUOMO: Sorry.

KEILAR: I want to ask, a quick response out of you --

AVLON: No, no, just on the other point about cost, because this is the big point that you raised, right? And it's that Rand Paul is walking a lonely fight to focus on third-party payer problem, right, which is why costs keep going up. But for example, Lasik surgery goes down. That kind of argument you would think Republicans have an opportunity to advance, to deal philosophically in their view with reducing costs, but they don't. And they don't for a variety of reasons that I think are important and probably about special interest driven agendas.

KEILAR: Julie, you're looking at this, and I know you have for years, and politics seem to be, of course, the first thing that -- the first obstacle in the gauntlet that this bill needs to overcome. But politics aside, if you were just looking at this from a consumer point of view, what needs to be done compared to what is in this bill to help on cost, to help on coverage?

ROVNER: Consumers have been very clear. They are paying too much for their health care. Paying too much for drugs, paying too much for what they're required to pay in their insurance policies. Democrats and Republicans recognize that this is a problem, and yet this bill in particular doesn't do anything to address that. And in fact it would raise costs for most consumers. So there are ideas are on the table, bipartisan ideas. It's just hard to see how or when Congress is going to get to them. CUOMO: So wait, hold on, Julie, let's game it out a little bit,

right, because we have got a great, smart audience activated, all of them are somehow invested in this process. So they'll say that's not true, Julie. We are reducing costs here, reducing costs here in several different ways. They're going to lower premiums, lower deductibles, and they're going to increase choice. They don't say how, but just checking those boxes is very impressive to people who are struggling in the individual market right now because it shows intentionality. What is your response to that intentionality?

ROVNER: Yes, premiums could come down, but deductibles will go up. The Congressional Budget Office was clear about that.

CUOMO: And they say the CBO can't be trusted. They got the ACA totally wrong, which is an unfair appraisal, but what about that?

ROVNER: The CBO didn't get the numbers totally wrong, they just got wrong where the coverage would come from. They were actually fairly close in predicting the coverage. But it's, you know, every analyst including a lot of Republican analysts who looked at this bill, the Senate bill, see that it does not address the problem that people are complaining about, which is that they are paying too much for health care. It doesn't help if you make your premiums lower if you then have to pay more out of pocket with higher deductible and higher co- pays. They're still paying too much. That's still the fundamental problem. Congress is arguing about who is going to pay when the real issue is how much is everybody going to pay?

KEILAR: That's a very good point, because -- and that's really the issue so many people are concerned about is when you're sitting down, you're working out your budget for the month and you figure how much is going into your health care pile, this bill looking -- especially for people so crucial to the Republican party, senior citizens, for instance, many of them on a fixed income. This is going to gouge them. It's almost -- they cannot get past the cost when you actually look at the models for someone who may be in mid-60s making 26 grand a year.

AVLON: Yes. And that's around 125 percent of the poverty line. But even if you get up to main street incomes like $50,000, $56,000, a year, which is you know, median income in the United States, the chunk of money that's anticipated to go to insurance if you're older in that middle income bracket is prohibitive. And I think that's the point.

Insurance is supposed to be something that is a meaningful but modest chunk of your income, right? It's something that you got to invest in, but it's not supposed to be a third of your income. And if you're seeing multiple increases in premiums for people who are vulnerable not only economically but in terms of age, that's not a good recipe for the country let alone politically.

KEILAR: John Avlon, Chris Cillizza, and Julie Rovner, thank you so much for breaking all of this down with us. We do appreciate it.

And we do have our other top story. The White House is putting Syria on notice. It's issued an ominous statement warning the Bashar al Assad regime prepare for an -- that it is preparing for another chemical weapons attack, vowing that Assad is going to pay a heavy price if he does it again.

[08:15:04] Let's go to Barbara Starr. She is live at the Pentagon with the latest on this developing story -- Barbara.


It was a late-night statement from the White House that still today has not gotten any further follow-on explanation. Getting attention from Washington to Damascus to Moscow.

Let's get right into it. The statement last night saying in part, the United States has identified potential preparations for another chemical weapons attack by the Assad regime that would likely result in the mass murder of civilians, including innocent children, going on to say that there would be a heavy price to pay if this attack were to happen.

So, what is clear is that though the Trump White House is putting Bashar al Assad and indeed the Russians and Iranians who back him on notice that if there is another chemical weapons attack, a heavy price? What could that mean? Could that mean a U.S. military response?

We don't know. The Pentagon not talking about all this, but it appears this is somewhat of a new red line from a president who said he would not signal adversaries what he planned to do. Maybe he's learning that at this point, it may be worth it to signal Assad, warn him, warn the Kremlin, not to do it again -- Chris.

CUOMO: It's very interesting. Does going out early with this threat, I guess you call it, will this maybe reduce the chance of any attack at all, or just increasing the amount of time Syria has to prepare for whatever U.S. response may come?

Barbara Starr, thank very much.

All right. So, the health care battle, we're spending a lot of time on it, because it matters a lot. And there's been a very compressed time frame here at the urging of the man who was just on your screen, the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Are they going to get a vote? If they do, which way will it go? If they do not, what happens next? That's when the Democrats are going to come into play.

We got the Senate majority leader coming up. He's going to talk to us from the Democratic perspective.


[08:20:41] CUOMO: So, as of right now, Republicans don't have the votes to either begin debating their health care bill in the Senate. There's a motion to debate and there aren't enough Republicans saying they're even move to debate, let alone vote the right way, according to what the Senate majority wants them to do.

So, what does this mean for the Democrats and for you?

Joining us now is the Senate minority whip, Democratic Senator Dick Durbin.

It's good to have you with us.


CUOMO: What do you believe the political reality to be about whether or not there will be enough votes for a debate or a vote as soon as Mitch McConnell wants it?

DURBIN: The Congressional Budget Office is a non-partisan agency that analyzes our legislation, and tells us the impact. And yesterday, they said that the Republican repeal bill before the Senate this week would be disastrous -- 22 million Americans would lose their health insurance. Those who are older Americans of lower paying jobs would see a dramatic increase in their premiums.

Currently, about $150 a month would go up to $500 a month, which would be virtually impossible for these low-income seniors to pay. So, it is a devastating proposal, and many Republicans today are really worried about going on record to support it.

CUOMO: What does that mean in terms of a vote?

DURBIN: Well, it's going to be very close. Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, cannot afford to lose three Republican senators. Already we have three, four, five who are expressing grave doubts publicly. Privately, I think the list is longer.

CUOMO: You don't think that his reputation as a dealmaker will allow him to find a way to get his own into the tent? To get something done that is so fundamental to their political reality? The promise to repeal?

DURBIN: Chris, if you've been around Capitol Hill more than 15 minutes you know at the end, there's going to be some heavy bargaining. There's money on the table that Senator McConnell is going to offer to his members, to fight the opioid crisis, for example, try to win over a few more of this promise and that promise. It's the way Washington does business in a very close situation like this one.

I don't underestimate the power of Senate McConnell with these incentives to bring some Republicans around, but still they're facing that number -- 22 million Americans losing their health insurance. It's a devastating statistic.

CUOMO: All right. And now, here's the problem on the flip side. OK? You have a problem with the ACA.

You have unstable markets. You have a lot of people, too many. Not too many when you compare it to 22 million more or 55-plus million Americans without health care, but enough people that you've created critical momentum within the political dynamic here who have spiking premiums and the deductibles that are too high and it's been like that for a while.

What are you going to do about it?

DURBIN: Well, keep in mind putting this perspective. We're talking about 5 percent or 6 percent of the health insurance market of America, but it's an important group of people.

CUOMO: Sure.

DURBIN: Many of them are currently getting subsidies to pay their premiums -- about half of them. But those who are facing what you just described. Can we fix this problem? You bet we can. And I think the day after this Republican appeal plan goes down, we can start an honest, bipartisan negotiation that says we're not going to repeal. We are definitely going to work on a bipartisan basis to repair it.

I know the Republican senators are ready for that to happen.

CUOMO: Senator, drug prices are statistically the biggest reason that prices go up. But once in a while, something gets proposed, but there is no real political momentum, it seems to get after big pharma. I know it seems, well, don't go after a whole industry, but explain to me, why not? Why would you not go after the obvious and big cause of rising prices in health care?

DURBIN: We definitely should. The Affordable Care Act --

CUOMO: But why haven't you?

DURBIN: Well, because -- let me just be very honest about it, pharma is powerful on Capitol Hill, one of the most powerful lobbies. Having said that, the American people are fed up with these drug prices. Notice all the pro-pharma ads that are coming out from the industry talking about how wonderful they are.

Let's be honest. We need them to be profitable, we need them to continue research, but some of the prices they're charging are out of control and they're breaking the bank in terms of the cost of health care.

CUOMO: But why isn't that the headline, for the Democrats or Republicans? You know, because, look, it's sticking out there as this big, ugly number. It's like 70 percent you'll see estimates, that that's how much drug prices are going to go up, fighting on all of these other fronts but ignoring the biggest number.

And it seems to speak to a lack of political conviction, frankly.

DURBIN: Well, many of us are not afraid to bring it up. In fact, we have voted on several different occasions, but we need to make sure that we move forward with something that really works. For example, more transparency on these price increases.

I think we ought to also address the issue of direct to consumer advertising. Sorry to say that to a television network like CNN, but the amount of spent on ads to incentivize people to ask their doctors for extremely expensive prescriptions is outrageous, and they're doing it.

And doctors are writing the scripts. And that's why the costs are going up. Not that the patient needs it. The patient finally figured out how to spell Xarelto and say I definitely need that, doctor. And patients just write the scripts.

CUOMO: That's an aspect -- that's an aspect, but this is about --

DURBIN: It's a big aspect.

CUOMO: -- what they charge for the drugs and deals that they cut with what kind of reimbursement rates they get and what the pricing models are, and you know all of this. All of you know it, it just hasn't been addressed and eventually people are going to start to say, why?

DURBIN: It has not been and should be addressed. When we sit down to rewrite the Affordable Care Act, we ought to give Medicare the option to negotiate for prices. We ought to move toward a model where people -- there's more disclosure on these price increases so pharma feels a little shame when they do outrageous things.

This is clearly a driver and I support the reforms you've been talking about.

CUOMO: I'm just saying, you got a lot of political tribalism right now and you guys are all fighting for convictions of electorate. And let me tell you -- when you don't go after the biggest, you know, the biggest factor in the room, it's lard hard to get the people behind you.

Let me ask you about something else -- the president has laid out, the ambassador to the U.N. has laid out, the White House has laid out, a specific threat to the Syrian leader Bashar al Assad. You go after your people again with chemical weapons, you're going to pay a big price.

What would you be willing to vote for as that price? Would you back military action against Syria?

DURBIN: Well, I certainly supported President Trump when he had the attack on the Syrians for using chemical weapons. I supported the same thing when it came to President Obama.

But let's be honest. It's been 16 years since we discussed the authorization for use of military force. Congress has a constitutional responsibility to step up now and define our role in Syria. We know that we're going after ISIS. I support that completely.

But if we're going further against the Syrians for using chemical weapons, shooting down planes and the like, Congress needs to engage in a fulsome debate and really to define for the president and the American people what the extent of our involvement would be.

I supported responses in the past and will support those in the future when it comes to the issue of chemical weapons.

CUOMO: The world has changed yet the authorization for the use of military force is from 2001. It would be a very interesting and necessary debate to see.

Senator, thank you for making the case here on NEW DAY, as always.

DURBIN: Thanks, Chris.

CUOMO: Brianna?

KEILAR: The Supreme Court is giving President Trump some bragging rights on his travel ban, but is his partial win a good compromise? We will debate. You will decide, next.