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GOP Health Plan Collapses, Ryan & Trump Pull Bill; Interview with Rep. Morgan Griffith; GOP Health Plan Collapses, Ryan And Trump Pull Bill. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired March 24, 2017 - 17:00   ET


TAPPER: -- in THE SITUATION ROOM with more on this breaking news. Have a great weekend.

[17:00:06] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news, pulling the bill. President Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan pull the Republican health care bill after days of intense negotiation fails to secure enough votes to pass it. Who will take the blame?

Trump stakes. The president's attempt to raise the stakes for the GOP falls short. His warning that failing to pass the bill means Republicans will have to live with Obamacare was not enough to sway critics of the measure. Why couldn't he close the deal?

And Russia investigation. The Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee cancels a public hearing on Russian election meddling. Angry Democrats say he's trying to provide cover for President Trump and further eroding trust in the bipartisan investigation.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: We're following breaking news. Extraordinary political drama on Capitol Hill where the House Speaker, Paul Ryan, has pulled his health care bill after consulting with President Trump.

Frantic round-the-clock negotiations and direct pressure from the president failed to win enough support from Republican conservatives who say the bill didn't go far enough to repeal Obamacare.

Speaking just a little while ago, Ryan said Republicans came really close but came up short. He also said, and I'm quoting him now, "We will be living with Obamacare for the foreseeable future." The speaker says they are now, quote, "moving on from health care."

We're just getting reaction from President Trump, as well. He said the best thing for Republicans now is to, quote, "let Obamacare explode." He expressed confidence in Speaker Ryan and said he was disappointed and surprised by conservative Republicans who failed to support the health care bill.

We're covering all of that and much more this hour with our guests, our correspondents, expert analysts, all of whom are standing by live. Let's begin up on Capitol Hill. Our congressional correspondent, Sunlen Serfaty, has the very latest on the breaking news.

Sunlen, a major defeat for the president and the speaker of the House.

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. This was a huge blow, and both of them tonight really acknowledging their disappointment. We heard speaker of the House Paul Ryan blaming this on growing pains, President Trump blaming this on Democrats. But at the end of the day, this vote did not happen. They had to pull the bill, because they didn't have the support within their own party.


SERFATY (voice-over): President Trump and House Republican leaders tonight are grappling with a staggering health care defeat.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is postponed.

SERFATY: The GOP's long-promised plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act pulled from the House floor after leaders determined the proposal lacked enough support to pass.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We came really close today, but we came up short. I spoke to the president just a little while ago; and I told him that the best thing I think to do is to pull this bill, and he agreed with that decision.

SERFATY: It was a stunning turn of events, coming less than 24 hours after the president issued an ultimatum to House Republicans to move forward with the vote or he was ready to move on to other items on his agenda.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's not a question of, gee, I hope it does well. I would love it to do well. I want great health care for the people of this nation. But it can't do well. It's imploding and soon will explode. And it's not going to be pretty.

SERFATY: The decision to call off the vote came after House Speaker Paul Ryan left the capital to visit the White House and deliver the message in person to the president that Republicans did not have the votes to pass the plan. Sources tell CNN a key part of that closed- door conversation dealt with whether the president would take any responsibility for the decision to scrap the vote.

As that meeting played out behind the scenes, the White House press secretary was publicly making the case to reporters that the president had done all he could to deliver a legislative victory.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There's no question in my mind, at least, that the president and the team up here have left everything on the field.

At the end of the day, you know, I said this yesterday. You can't force people to vote. But I think we've given them every single reason to fulfill every pledge that they've made. SERFATY: Part of the administration's last-minute post included

dispatching Vice President Pence to meet with conservatives who are not entirely sold on the GOP measure.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can only speak for myself, and I am not going to vote for this bill, because I believe it's bad for America. It's one of the worst bills I've ever seen.

SERFATY: Even though the mood from the White House sounded less optimistic than recent days, Spicer still refused to throw in the towel.

SPICER: We've been able to cast a bunch of votes over the past couple years when you knew a president wouldn't sign it. You now have a president that's going to sign the bill if you pass it. And now is that time.

[17:05:07] SERFATY: Republican leaders started the day feeling good about the bill's chances.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Going great. We just keep continuing talking to the members and getting ready to move forward.

SERFATY (on camera): Are you still confident?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Always confident.

SERFATY: While the president refused to hint at what his next step would be if the vote didn't succeed.


TRUMP: We'll have to see.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think it's going to pass?

TRUMP: We'll see what happens.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you rush it, do you think?

TRUMP: We'll see what happens.

SERFATY: What ultimately happened is rank and file members of the president's own party never fully got on board, with leaders losing votes from the moderate members with changes to the proposal aimed at swaying conservatives. That included a late revision to eliminate the ten essential health benefits required to be part of insurance plans under Obamacare.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Suppose that was added to move in the direction of the Freedom Caucus, I'm in what is known as the Tuesday Group, and I do not think that that is a good amendment.


SERFATY: And President Trump and Speaker Ryan tonight making it crystal clear that they are not going to try again on repealing and replacing Obamacare any time soon. They both indicated in remarks tonight that they'll be moving on to other items on their agenda like tax reform, which you know, Wolf, is as complicated as what they just attempted.

BLITZER: Certainly is. Sunlen Serfaty up on Capitol Hill. Thank you.

Our chief political correspondent Dana Bash is also at the Capitol.

Dana, high political drama there today, ranging from relative optimism among the Republicans that they had a deal last night to collapse today.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And, look, at the end of the day, this is about the Republican leadership from here on Capitol Hill all the way to the White House. Their collective inability still, even though they have control of all of these levers of government, inability to get control and to get consensus, more importantly, within their own Republican Party.

And the fact that this is not just any old hum-drum piece of legislation, but such a critical one, one that they talked about over and over and over for year after year on the campaign trail, that is what stings the most. And the House speaker, when I asked about that today, didn't have a good answer. Take a listen.


BASH: Mr. Speaker, you all swept the House, won the majority with the promise to repeal Obamacare. The majority in the Senate with the promise to repeal Obamacare. The White House, with the promise to repeal Obamacare. How do you go home to your constituents and send all of your members home to their constituents saying, "You know what? It's not even 100 days into the administration. Sorry, folks, we just can't figure it out"?

RYAN: Dana, it's a really good question. I wish I had a better answer for you. I really believe that Obamacare is a law that is collapsing. It's hurting families; it's not working. It was designed in a fundamentally flawed way. We believe this bill is the best way to go, but we just didn't quite get the consensus to get there.


BASH: You know, a pretty candid non-answer, meaning he answered the question being honest that he doesn't know what they're going to tell their constituents. And it is something that they are going to have to figure out in rapid speed. Many members of Congress are going home for the weekend. They're going to be facing their constituents. And it is going to be something that they're going to have to live with and probably face political consequences.

Their hope, as Sunlen was talking about, is to do some other big things like tax reform. Maybe even immigration and other -- other issues that they also promised that they would do. And as the speaker said earlier, issues that they have broader consensus over.

But there has been no issue that has been as top of the mind, tip of the tongue of Republican candidates, those who ended up winning, toppling Democrat after Democrat here in the House, in the Senate, of course, to get the big prize at the White House, than "We promise to repeal Obamacare," and they are not going to do it. And that is the headline coming out of this -- unbelievable headline coming out of this Republican-led Congress today.

BLITZER: A huge failure for the Republicans on this day.

All right. Thank you very much, Dana Bash up on the Hill.

President Trump just spoke about the bill's failure. He was in the Oval Office. Let's go to our White House correspondent, Athena Jones. Athena, tell our viewers what he said.


Well, we can't understate how big of a disappointment it is to see this bill pulled yet again for a president who cast himself as a master deal maker. And for a White House that is looking to put wins on the board, this is certainly not a win. And you could hear the disappointment in the president's voice, speaking with reporters in the Oval Office. Let's play some of what he had to say.


TRUMP: Obamacare is exploding. With no Democrat support, we couldn't quite get there. We're just a very small number of votes short, in terms of getting our bill passed. A lot of people don't realize how good our bill was, because they were viewing phase one. But when you add phase two, which was mostly the signings (ph) of Secretary Price, who's behind me.

And you add phase three, which I think we would have gotten, it became a great bill. Premiums would have gone down, and it would have been very stable, would have been very strong. But that's OK.

But we are very, very close and, again, I think what will happen is Obamacare, unfortunately, will explode. It's going to have a very bad year. Last year, you had over 100 percent increases in various places. In Arizona, I understand it's going up very rapidly again, like it did last year. Last year was 116 percent. Many places 50, 60, 70 percent. I guess it averaged whatever the average was, very, very high. And this year should be much worse for Obamacare.

So, what would be really good, with no Democrat support, if the Democrats when it explodes, which it will soon, if they got together with us and got a real health care bill, I'd be totally open to it; and I think that's going to happen. I think the losers are Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, because now they own Obamacare. They own it; 100 percent own it.

(END VIDEO CLIP) JONES: So, there you heard the president say a lot of things, placing the blame squarely on Democrats. I don't think that they would agree that they have lost anything here. The Democrats on Capitol Hill have shown themselves to be pretty gleeful about this outcome.

You also heard him remaking this argument that did not succeed in persuading enough Republican voters, which is this idea that this plan to repeal and replace was part -- was three phases; this was the first phase. That did not do enough to win over voters who -- Republicans who did not think that this first phase went far enough to dismantle Obamacare.

The big question is what is next. We've heard the president talk about how he wants to do tax reform next. But what will all of this mean for the way the president and the White House work with Congress? We've heard him talk about how he wants to do tax return next.

What will all of this mean for the way the president and the White House work with Congress? We heard him talk about how much he's learned, learned about loyalty, what they've learned about the vote getting processed and arcane rules in the House and the Senate. It will be interesting to see how he applies that new knowledge to the next big fight, tax reform, which is sure to be complicated.

Also, the big question is, are his deal-making skills in question now? This is someone who promised on the campaign trail that there would be so much winning that you're going to get sick of winning. That is a line we heard him frequently tell his supporters. This is not a win. In fact, it is a huge loss, a big loss in a loss column for the White House here.

So, the president's ability to be the closer, that's not even something that the White House press secretary really stood behind today. So, a lot of questions going forward about how the White House will react, will move forward, pass this bill and what they'll do next.

Back to you.

BLITZER: All right, Athena thank you very much. Athena Jones at the White House. Let's bring in our political experts.

And Gloria Borger, let's step back a little bit and take a look at the big picture. This is a huge, huge setback, not only for the speaker and the Republican leadership of the House, but for the president of the United States. They fully expected, I think, at least 24, 48 hours ago, a win.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I think it's a disaster for them, to use one of Donald Trump's favorite words. There's no getting around it. And if you take a step back, even -- even beyond today and you -- you know, you look at the first 60 days, is it?


BORGER: Sixty-four days, health care was No. 1 on the agenda, repeal and replace. That didn't happen.

You have the travel ban, which is tied up in the courts.

You have Mexico is going to pay for the wall. Mexico says it's not going to pay for the wall.

You've got a cloud over the White House ethically. You know, Comey just goes to -- to Congress and says -- confirms a counterintelligence investigation. We don't know what he's looking into specifically.

So, I think that, you know, when you -- when this is a president, as Athena was saying, who wants to win, that hasn't been happening for him.

And for me, honestly, Wolf, to hear him say in that mini-presser that the best thing that could happen is what happened today had me scratching my head because, as David Chalian used the perfect word for it in the last hour, he said that is so cynical, because what the president was saying is, "OK, let Obamacare collapse and, you know what? I'm not going to get blamed for it." So, it seems to me that he didn't care about losing as much as Paul Ryan did and a lot of Republicans in the House did.

BLITZER: And David Chalian, he also spoke about "arcane rules" up there in the House of Representatives. Listen to this.



TRUMP: This is something that certainly was an interesting period of time. We all learned a lot. We learned a lot about loyalty. We learned a lot about the vote getting processed. We learned a lot about some very arcane rules in, obviously, both the Senate and in the House. So, it's been -- certainly, for me it's been a very interesting experience.


[17:15:06] BLITZER: Clearly, it's been a learning experience for the president about those "arcane rules" in the House and Senate.

CHALIAN: Mr. Trump, welcome to Washington. This is how it works. I'm sure this has been a learning process for him. I have no doubt. There's no way he understood the intricacies of certain things last year on the campaign trail about how this would have to move through the Congress if, indeed, it were to move through the Congress.

But what -- it is an odd juxtaposition from what Gloria is saying to say that this is the best possible outcome for Obamacare, Democrats are going to come running to me to fix it together is quite different than what his spokesman is saying, that he left everything on the field. That's just -- they're not telling the same story.

And I think the relationship between Donald Trump and Paul Ryan and the House Republicans more broadly now is going to be an altered relationship after this failure. And how Donald Trump responds to that with the next bill and the next bill to accomplish his agenda is going to be very telling for where we are going forward.

BLITZER: Who owns this defeat?


BLITZER: I know. But...

KUCINICH: What a question.

BLITZER: Is it more the president, who couldn't convince those reluctant Republicans to support it; the speaker who couldn't convince them? Because there were Republicans who opposed it from the conservative wing; also from the more centrist, moderate wing.

KUCINICH: I think that depends on who you speak to, because throughout the week, there was this undercurrent of blame going on. House Republican leaders calling Donald Trump the closer. Donald Trump talking about how hard Paul Ryan was working, and yet he couldn't get it done.

So, I think that right now, they're trying to stay away from the blame game and saying that it's the Democrats' fault, which that dog won't hunt. But it does seem -- I can imagine when you look at some of the conservative news outlets like Breitbart, they have a story right now about how Paul Ryan should be replaced. So, you are going to see that from -- not Trump himself, but some of the people around the Trump administration. I wouldn't be surprised if the blame starts being exchanged.

BLITZER: The Republicans, Mark Preston, they've had six or seven years to think about Obamacare. They all ran: "We're going to repeal and replace." They won the election on November 8, the House, the Senate, the presidency, the White House. And look at the result now, just a few months into this new administration. What a huge embarrassment.

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICS EXECUTIVE EDITOR: Huge embarrassment, and it was interesting to see that Paul Ryan owned it when he said exactly what you said, "Look, we've been talking about this for seven years. We're now -- need to learn to be a ruling party."

You know, Republicans, many of these Republicans, Wolf, as we all know on Capitol Hill, they don't know what it's like to own the House and the Senate and the White House at the same time. They don't understand what winning means. And what compromise means to get to the end of the means.

So, in many ways I think that while this is a very bad blow for President Trump. I mean, it's not the way you want to start your presidency. There's something to be said about getting your mistakes out of the way early and then trying to move on to try to get other things done.

Now, the big question is going to be do they move on to tax reform? Do they go to infrastructure spending and what have you? You know, there are pitfalls and advantages to each of them. And I think that the Trump White House has to take this weekend, step back and decide really what their priorities are going to be. Quite frankly, what is going to be successful for them.

BLITZER: All right, everybody stand by. We're standing by also to speak with a member of the House Freedom Caucus, get his reaction. A lot more on the breaking news right after this.


[17:23:02] BLITZER: We're following the breaking news this afternoon, very dramatic failure of the Republican effort to repeal and replace Obamacare. The bill was pulled from a vote on the House floor just a little while ago, because Republicans didn't have enough votes to pass it.

Joining us now Republican congressman Morgan Griffith of Virginia. He's a member of the House Freedom Caucus. He was going to vote for the bill. Congressman, thanks for joining us.

REP. MORGAN GRIFFITH (R), VIRGINIA: Glad to be with you.

BLITZER: So, the Republicans, they control both Houses of Congress. They control the executive branch, the White House, the presidency. What does this defeat -- and it's a significant defeat -- say about the ability of Republicans right now to govern on such a critically important issue?

GRIFFITH: Well, surely, we can govern today as a stumble, obviously, but the bottom line is that the legislative process is supposed to be a rough-and-tumble process. We're not just going to put a bill on the table and say, here it is, you can pass it now and read it later, we'll find out what's in the bill after we've passed it. We're not doing that.

And as a result of that, there were a lot of questions coming from members of the Republican conference on both the left and the right of that conference. Everybody is conservative, but within the spectrum.

And the bottom line is that the votes were not there. That does not mean that we cannot govern. It means that we're using the process the founders set up the way it was was supposed to be set up. All members have a vote and we have to bring it together over consensus. We're going to take a break over the weekend. And hopefully we can come back and try and do something on Obamacare. The whole system is collapsing and we've got to do something I believe for the American people because we cannot let this thing get worse and it's already going to get worse no matter what we do.

We were trying to find a fix for it. It's not easy because while we had a number of plans, we didn't have agreement amongst all of us as to what the right plan was. And so, we're going to work on that and see what we can do to move forward.

BLITZER: Who do you blame, Congressman, for the defeat? Would you blame the speaker, the Republican leadership in the House? Would you blame the president who maybe could have done more?

GRIFFITH: I don't know that you can assess blame as such. This is the way the process was set up. You're going to have polls and times things don't work as smoothly as you want. They're not supposed to be smooth. We're not in a dictatorship. We're in a republic based on democratic principles, which means there's all kinds of competing ideas.

[17:25:18] And we know Obamacare is a failure. What we have to do is figure out how to go forward with American health insurance and make sure that we can do something that's good for the American families out there, because they're suffering with high deductibles, high copays and high costs that make it hard for them to afford that insurance. They may have a piece of paper that says they're insured. But that doesn't mean they have the ability to go use that insurance in any meaningful way unless they have a catastrophic injury.

BLITZER: You're a member of the House Freedom Caucus. It's a group type of rigid conservative ideology, except you weren't going with the House Freedom Caucus by and large, you were supporting this legislation. Here's the question. Is that rigid ideology hurting your party's ability to enact its agenda to get compromise, if you will, something that can pass?

GRIFFITH: No, I don't think it is. I mean, we didn't come here to be robots and do whatever the leadership said on any particular measure. I agreed with leadership on this one; I may not agree with him on something else. And we had members from the center and the right who were opposed to the bill, for different reasons.

So it's one of these things where we'll have to take a deep breath. We'll come back to it. But I don't believe it's the House Freedom Caucus being very conservative that's causing the problem. It's a matter of we have to bring everybody in the room and try to figure out how we move forward to replace Obamacare. Everybody was for repealing it. The question was what do we put in its place. And it is complicated and it is difficult as we learned today and we'll move forward.

BLITZER: Hillary Clinton just tweeted this, and I'll put it up on the screen. "Today was a victory for all Americans," a short tweet from the former Democratic presidential nominee. Your quick reaction?

GRIFFITH: Well, that's just not true. The truth of the matter is my constituents are suffering under Obamacare. They have a hard time paying their copays, they have a hard time paying their deductibles. They're spending more money on their insurance than they were promise the under Obamacare. It would go down $2,500. The president made that promise in my district at an event a number of years ago.

It wasn't accurate so we're trying to figure out what we can do to bring down costs of health insurance and make sure the American people get an insurance policy that actually means something as opposed to, well, you have a piece of paper but you really are going to spend a lot of out of pocket money before you ever get to use that insurance.

BLITZER: Congressman Morgan Griffith of Virginia, thanks very much for joining us.

GRIFFITH: Thank you. Have a geed evening.

BLITZER: We're going to get reaction from Democrats. Senator Chris cools is standing by. Much more on the breaking news. The Republican last minute decision to pull the health care bill, not even allow it to come up for a vote on the House floor.


[17:32:15] WOLF BLITZER, CNN THE SITUATION ROOM HOST: We're following the breaking news. The republican health care bill pulled by President Trump and the House Speaker Paul Ryan after they failed to secure enough republican votes for it to pass. Let's get more with Democratic Senator Chris Coons of Delaware. He's a member of the Foreign Relations Committee.

Senator, I'd like your reaction to the news that the republicans actually pulled the Obamacare repeal and replace bill just before their scheduled vote. Go ahead and give me your immediate quick reaction. There's other issues I want to discuss.

SEN. CHRIS COONS, D-DELAWARE: Well, Wolf, I think this is good news for the 14 million Americans and tens of thousands of Delawareans who would have lost access to health care almost immediately. I think this republican repeal and replace plan for the Affordable Care Act, collapsed under its own weight because it wasn't thoroughly worked out. They can't force through in just a few weeks what should take years of thorough legislating preparation and hearings to get done, which is a responsible replacement that would fix and repair the Affordable Care Act.

Wolf, what we heard today from President Trump was he's beginning to realize that governing is hard. He, unfortunately, blamed democrats rather than taking any responsibility for the failure of this signature legislative initiative. And it's frankly important for us to focus on the fact that after seven years of repealing the Affordable Care Act in the house, but taking no responsibility for it -- failing to move forward in the senate -- republicans now should abandon their efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, reach across the aisle, and work with us to repair the Affordable Care Act. To mend it, not end it, and to make it something that really can contribute to affordable quality health care for all Americans.

BLITZER: You also heard the president say, politically, this is going to be a disaster for the democrats because Obamacare will be the law of the land. He says this health care law will collapse on its own and democrats will get all the blame for this. Go ahead and react to what he said.

COONS: Well, first, the CBO report that just came out a few weeks ago, says that the Affordable Care Act isn't collapsing under its own weight. So, I don't think factually that's correct. Although, there are things the Trump administration may well do to try and accelerate problems and challenges with the Affordable Care Act --

BLITZER: Like what?

COONS: -- to force it to be more difficult. Well, there's rulings that the secretary of Health And Human Services can make that would deny some of the reimbursement standards for insurance that would remove some of the impacts of the mandate. They've already been trying to make changes to the Affordable Care Act that will make it harder for it to survive. But it actually enjoys broader popular support today than at any point in recent years, and it had a fairly strong enrollment period.

[17:34:55] But, Wolf, I've never said that the Affordable Care Act was perfect. In the last couple of years, I've tried on several occasions to work across the aisle to introduce legislation that could help make it more affordable for small business owners, to reduce some of the reporting burdens. I think, now, we should take a moment, pause, and turn towards each other as parties and try and move past the republican-only effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act and find a real bipartisan path towards trying to improve it and make it sustainable.

BLITZER: So, give me an example of some specific changes to the current law that you would like to see.

COONS: Well, I introduced a bill last year, but was unable to get republican co-sponsors that would have expanded the small business tax credit. I've heard many compelling stories here in Delaware, Wolf, of Delawareans whose lives were literally saved by the Affordable Care Act, by the access to health care that they got. But I've also heard disturbing stories from small business owners who weren't able to afford it and ultimately gave up on providing health care to the employees of their medium businesses, their businesses with about 100 employees or so. And I think there's ways we could make that more affordable so that small business owners were supported in their effort to provide a quality affordable health care to their employees. That's just one example of many.

BLITZER: Well, let's see if there can be some democratic and republican cooperation in this area. We shall see. Senator Coons, thanks as usual.

COONS: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Coming up, a major blow for the speaker of the house. So, what comes next for Paul Ryan?


PAUL RYAN, SPEAKER OF THE UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: I will not sugar coat this. This is a disappointing day for us. Doing big things is hard. All of us -- all of us, myself included, we will need time to reflect on how we got to this moment, what we could have done to do it better.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [17:41:17] BLITZER: We're following a major breaking story. House

republican leaders called off this afternoon's vote on their plan to repeal and replace Obamacare. Simply did not have enough votes to pass because of a split within the Republican Party, a very serious split. It's a split even President Trump could not overcome, although, he promised over and over again, he could push through a plan to replace Obamacare with something much better.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The problem is everybody thinks that you people, as Republicans, hate the concept of taking care of people that are really, really sick and are going to die. That's not single payer, by the way. That's called heart. We've got to take care of people that can't take care of themselves.

If we don't repeal and replace Obamacare, we will destroy American health care forever.

Everybody has got to be covered. This is an un-republican thing for me to say because a lot of times they say, "No, no, they'll lower 25 percent, they can't afford private." But --

SCOTT PELLEY, CBS ANCHOR: Universal health care.

TRUMP: I am going to take care of everybody.


BLITZER: Comments from the president as a candidate over the past year and a half. Let's bring in our political experts once again. Mark Preston, you're also working your sources. You're getting some new information.

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, Wolf. Now, I spoke to a Trump ally a short time ago, somebody who's well-versed in Washington and understands how the legislative process works. This person says to me that the blame really needs to be spread around. The president himself needs to accept responsibility for this failure. Going a step further, said that the aides that led Donald Trump down this road really need to be held accountable. Specifically, why wasn't certain things done, such as bringing moderates and bringing more conservative members -- the Freedom Caucus types as well as the Tuesday Group types -- into the same room together to try to hammer out a compromise?

When it comes to Paul Ryan, this person recited a line that we used to hear from the former House Speaker John Boehner, and that's if a leader goes out for a walk without followers, all that person is, is a man out for a walk. "And that's what Paul Ryan is right now," is what this person said.

And going forward, the advice that this person would give President Trump -- and very well, may give President Trump -- is that he needs to get back out and do another big campaign-style rally in order to try to get that mojo back and to move on. So, not a very good day in -- for the White House, as this person says, "They are in a very bad spot moving forward."

BLITZER: And, Gloria, speaking of John Boehner, the former speaker, last month that I have it right here.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL SPECIALIST: Put it somewhere drinking a glass of Merlot.

BLITZER: Yes, last -- he said repealing and replacing Obamacare, he said, was not going to happen. He said that flatly, he said, "Because in the 25 years that I served in the United States Congress, republicans never, ever one time agreed on what a health care proposal should look like." He lost his speakership, as a lot of us remember, because of opposition from the House Freedom Caucus, among others. Now, Paul Ryan is facing similar problems.

BORGER: And Donald Trump is facing similar problems. When I was watching those clips, I was struck by the fact that Donald Trump hadn't met the Freedom Caucus yet on math. And the same problem that plagued John Boehner is the problem that plagued Donald Trump this time. And the Freedom Caucus, by the way, is not going to be any nicer to him when it comes to tax reform or infrastructure. He's going to have the same problems with this group. And I think that when we heard him say today, "Oh, yes, some of those guys are my friends," he also talked about bipartisanship. And I think that was directed right at them, which -- and the point was "If I can't work with you on certain things, guess what? I'm going to start having to go around you."

[17:44:54] DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: He also talked about loyalty, which was also directed directly at them. There's no doubt about that. They are emboldened now. But that is why I thought -- in Paul Ryan's press conference, one of the things he said that was so clearly aimed at the Freedom Caucus, to get at this conundrum that, you know, bedevilled John Boehner, which was, we are now, you know, learning how to be a governing party with all the facets, and are we willing to give up something to get something done? The Freedom Caucus' answer to that today was "No, we're not. We're not willing to do that." But there's -- you can't govern without being willing to do that at some point.


CHALIAN: That's right.

KUCINICH: Since they've been elected, Obama has been president. Since they started taking over, Obama has been president. They didn't get a small victory in terms of getting rid of John Boehner and getting Paul Ryan in there, and yet, they've been bomb throwers this entire time, and it's worked for them in the missions that they've gone after. But at the end of the day --

CHALIAN: It's their reason for being.

KUCINICH: Right. Exactly. So, what happens to them now?

BORGER: Well -- and I will tell you that Donald Trump is going to remember who they are and what they did to him. And I think, you know, I think we should take him seriously --

KUCINICH: He's going to have to interact with them now.

BORGER: He will have to. But I think we should take him seriously when he gives you a big hint that "I might have to go around you next time."

BLITZER: But, you know, he wrote the book the "Art of the Deal", he couldn't close this deal. In part, Mark Preston, because the legislation was not very popular, Quinnipiac University Poll out this week, opinion on republican plan to replace Obamacare; approve: 17 percent, disapprove: 56 percent. That helps explain the demise of this legislation.

PRESTON: Well, and what republican, Wolf, did we see embrace this legislation and say, "Wow, this is really the end-all. This is so much better than Obamacare as we see it right now." We would hear Paul Ryan say it, but he didn't really ever seem to have the heart in it that you would expect to try to overhaul such a major piece of legislation, something that is so important to the economy.

You know, the republicans, Wolf, I think got tripped over three words: repeal and replace. They took a campaign slogan and they tried to legislate it. And quite frankly, that barely ever works. And in this case, it didn't work. Instead of saying, "We're going to go win and we're going to take Obamacare, and we're going to try to fix it where it needs to be fixed." They wanted to abolish it. They wanted to wipe it off the books, and to do so was really too difficult for this president, so early in his term.

BLITZER: A huge setback for the president, the speaker, and the republicans up on Capitol Hill. Everyone stand by.

Coming up, more on today's very dramatic breaking story. Republicans simply giving up right now in their attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare. So, what happens next?


[17:52:00] BLITZER: We're following a major breaking story. House republican leaders called off this afternoon's vote on their plan to repeal and replace Obamacare, a major failure. We're talking about that and more with our political experts.

Gloria, you know, we went back a week after he won the election in November, the president-elect, then, gave Lesley Stahl of 60 Minutes, an interview and had this exchange on repealing and replacing Obamacare.


LESLEY STAHL, CBS 60 MINUTES CORRESPONDENT: Let me ask you about Obamacare, which you say you're going to repeal and replace. When you replace it, are you going to make sure that people with preconditions are still covered?

TRUMP: Yes, because it happens to be one of the strongest assets.

STAHL: You're going to keep that?

TRUMP: Also, with the children living with their parents for an extended period. We're going to --

STAHL: You're going to keep that.

TRUMP: Very much try and keep that. Adds cost, but it's very much something we're going to try and keep.

STAHL: And there's going to be a period if you repeal it and before you replace it when millions of people could lose -- no?

TRUMP: No, we're going to do it simultaneously. It'll be just fine. We're not going to have, like, a two-day period and we're not going to have a two-year period where there's nothing. It will be repealed and replaced. And we'll know. And it'll be great healthcare for much less money. So, it'll be better healthcare, much better, for less money. Not a bad combination.


BLITZER: But he couldn't do it, at least not yet.

BORGER: No, he couldn't do it. And look, he came up against the reality of the Congress. And the republicans in the Congress have been voting 50 times to repeal Obamacare, but they never had to do the "What do you replace it with," part. Seriously, right? And now that they were in charge, they had to figure out how to do that because they got caught into the political argument, as Mark was saying before, repeal and replace. And republicans have never agreed what to do about healthcare, and so, they were back where they were before President Obama. "What do we do? How do we take things away from people that they now have?" That is a very difficult political move to make, and they just couldn't do it.

BLITZER: Did the president, David Chalian, leave it all on the field as the White House says he did everything he possibly could?

CHALIAN: He certainly was involved. There's no doubt about that. I don't -- it did not seem to me that he left everything on the field. I mean, I think we saw what leaving everything on the field means to Donald Trump in the campaign. When he was hit hardest or at his lowest moment, how he just turned it up an extra three rallies and traveled nonstop -- that to me, leaving it all on the field. He did some stuff, there's no doubt. He campaign for it. He made calls. He brought more members to the Congress through the White House than maybe we saw during the Obama years in many -- in many legislative battles. But I feel like we've seen Donald Trump leave it on the field before, and this didn't seem quite like that.

BLITZER: Jackie?

[17:54:55] KUCINICH: Well, this -- he is, by far, not the first person who ran for president who got the job, who realized he couldn't make good immediately on some of the promises that he made. And this is a great example of that because doing is different than promising. But to your point, it's also how he did it. He didn't wine and dine them to the extent that you have to make them feel important. You saw that happen with Obama.

BLITZER: Everybody, stand by because there's more on the breaking news. After years of assailing the Affordable Care Act, the republican effort to kill it ends in failure.


RYAN: Obamacare is the law of the land. It's going to remain the law of the land until it's replaced. We did not have quite the votes to replace this law. And so, yes, we're going to be living with Obamacare for the foreseeable future.



BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news: No vote. Speaker Paul Ryan withdraws the republican health care bill rather than see the legislation go up --