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House Passes Bill to Replace Obamacare; Soon: Trump to Make Statement on Obamacare Vote; Pelosi Talks about Obamacare House Vote; Planned Parenthood Supporters Protest Obamacare Vote; Rep. Tom MacArthur Talks Health Care Vote. Aired 2:30-3p ET
Aired May 4, 2017 - 14:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:30:00] DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: But one thing we should point out, there's a little bit of disingenuousness on the part of the speaker and White House when they say how unstable these markets are. The markets had problems, but uncertainty that exists now exists in many ways because of the attitude of the administration towards them. When the president says the law is dead, Obamacare is dead, we're not going to move forward on these things, and going to use the administrative levers to stop it, why would an insurer not feel uncertain? If there was a commitment to fix the markets, the markets could have been fixed. Democrats should participate in that process. I haven't seen an inclination on the part of the White House to do that.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: You used to produce political TV ads for a living. Give me what you think, based on what just happened, is the typical attack ad against the Republican who voted for this bill. How is this going to be cast in front of voters in, say, a swing district?
AXELROD: That was what was so interesting to me about Nancy Pelosi's summation because she basically laid out a road map for Democratic candidates and Democratic ad makers for how they should approach this. Certainly, this issue of pre-existing conditions is going to be fronts and center. That was the most appealing part of the Obamacare, Affordable Care Act legislation. Americans whether they were Democrats, Independents or even Republicans believed that people with pre-existing conditions should get coverage and this clearly jeopardizes that for some Americans and that's not going to sit well with voters. Some of the cutbacks in benefits, mental health coverage, prescription drug coverage that could come as a result of this in some states. The focus, Republican leadership in Congress president have put a focus on the exchanges. There are millions of Americans who are getting money, who are getting coverage through the expansion of Medicaid. This is why four Republican governors have opposed this bill because they expanded Medicaid and it's important in their states. Many people taking up that coverage are people who are in the Trump base. And so that's going to be part of the advertising that goes into some of these districts. But I think in the short term what's clearly true the Republicans fear primaries from opponents from the Affordable Care Act than general elections. It's only in the swing districts with this comes heavily into play.
TAPPER: David Axelrod, thank you so much.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I want to bring in our senior White House correspondent, Jeff Zeleny.
Set the scene for us. We're about to see the president in the Rose Garden. Republicans voted, 217 against 213 Democrats, who opposed this legislation. The president is about to come out and make a statement and he'll have a lot of Republican lawmakers with him.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: He will, indeed, Wolf. This is really a victory lap in ever since of the world, because it is his first legislative victory. We absolutely have to say that, have to hand it to him. He had that big debate 42 days or so ago, so he is going to accept the win.
The interesting point is, what I'm learning from senior administration officials is how this sort of changes his approach going forward. They believe that the president needs to be more hands on with the legislation. S we'll see if that works going into the Senate. The relationship is so different, of course. There's no question this is the beginning, as David Axelrod was saying, of the midterm election campaign.
What I'll be looking for, are there any House Republicans from some swing districts who will not show up, who do not necessarily want to be photographed, sort of at this event with the president. We'll have to see about that here.
The White House does believe this is a sign the president's salesmanship can actually work. But, it would be historically inaccurate for us to say this was all part of a grand strategy and design. Just about 24, 36 hours ago in the halls of the White House they were frustrated, almost ready to move on here. This is a win but we're still about in the second or third inning, I would say, of this game -- Wolf?
BLITZER: Just to be precise, Jeff, you're already in New York. The president was supposed to be on his way there to meet with the prime minister of Australia. That trip has been delayed because of this vote and the president's desire to make a statement and meet some of these Republican members of Congress.
ZELENY: Indeed, he was supposed to be having a meeting with the prime minister of Australia just in a couple of hours or so. He placed a phone call to him earlier and said, look, I'll be held back in Washington because of this, so I'll see you this evening. Kind of unusual decision because this isn't like the president is signing a bill into a law or anything. He's simply taking a victory lap. But he'll be coming here, his first visit to his home town. That's what's so extraordinary, Wolf. He's gone 107 days without being in Manhattan, the longest point at any time in 70 years on this planet earth here. That's an interesting moment that this president tonight will come back to New York City, certainly, with a bounce in his step -- Wolf?
[14:35:26] BLITZER: I'm sure he'll be very happy as a result of this vote.
They have a long, long way to go before repealing and replacing Obamacare actually takes place. It' has to go to the Senate. That will be a difficult process.
TAPPER: A difficult process because Senate rules require the support of eight Democrats. But even there, with 52 Republicans, it's a narrow majority. And we know that, for instance, Senator McCaskill, of Alaska, Senator Collins, of Maine, object to the repealing of funding for Planned Parenthood and other similar organizations that's in the bill. That's going to have to be taken out to get their vote, unless they want a 50/50 vote with Mike Pence coming. But more importantly, we've already heard from Lindsey Graham and Rob Portman and Bob Corker and other Senators that they have concerns about the process and the legislation.
BLITZER: Nancy Pelosi is speaking. Let's listen in.
REP. NANCY PELOSI, (R-CA), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: -- at the dinner table and saying, how are we going to allocate resources so that our child with their preexisting condition can have health care, or how are we going to deal with the person with a disability into older age? This was about giving a tax break to the richest people in our country and corporate America at the expense of those people at that dinner table. Very sad. One of the biggest transfers of wealth in the history of our country.
But it's an opportunity. It's an opportunity because the public will now see what they gave their name to. They put their name next to your paying more for less. And we'll make sure that the public is aware of that. I just think they walk the plank. They were -- I don't know -- duped into walking the plank for a bill that will not become law. But I guess their desire to give a tax break for the rich just trumped everything.
With that, I'm pleased to yield to our distinguished (INAUDIBLE).
UNIDENTIFIED SENATOR: Thank you very much, Leader.
Let me congratulate you. You were the most significant leader in assuring the passage of the Affordable Care Act.
BLITZER: We're going to continue to monitor the Democrat's reaction. Obviously, they lost, the Republicans won in this initial step to repeal and replace Obamacare.
I want to bring in our senior congressional reporter, Manu Raju.
Manu, members, Republicans, are loading, getting ready to get on buses right now to head over to the White House to go into the Rose Garden with the president. What are you seeing?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, wolf. When they leave the capitol steps, first thing they'll see are the protesters behind me right now, as you can see. Dozens of protesters, progressive activists, Planned Parenthood supporters holding up signs, saying, "Don't take away my care," criticizing the Republicans saying, "I stand with Planned Parenthood." And the chant we're hearing from these activists are, "Shame on you, shame on you, shame on you." These are - we're still waiting for most of the Republicans to actually leave the capitol where they're going to head on to the buses right behind me here, escorted by police, and head over to just a short drive down Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House to join President Trump.
But, really, behind me shows the passion in the Democratic base right now, which is very energized, fired up, in which Democrats are warning will come out in force during the midterm elections next year.
But also a big test next month when -- later -- June 20th, when that Georgia sixth congressional race to fill the seats of the now Secretary Tom Price is up for grabs. The Democrats think the people who are concerned about this vote today can show up at the polls and give that victory to the Democratic candidate there, John Ossoff. Can the Democrats harness the power of the Democrats behind me, people who are concerned about what happened, and bring it to the polls? And can they do anything to stop it in the Senate where it will be tougher sledding to get the bill that passed the House today through the Senate, especially given a narrow Senate majority, and also those rules that will prevent them from doing some of the things that are in this House bill?
BLITZER: We'll see what happened. Narrow win, 217 to 213, in the House of Representatives.
Gloria, you're anxious to react to what we're seeing.
[14:40:00] GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I just think we're seeing symmetry here in a lot of ways. You have both parties playing to the base. You heard Nancy Pelosi say this is, you know, this is a tax break for the rich, which, obviously, it plays to the Democratic base. Jake and I were communicating with a Republican consultant, he said if we don't do this, if we don't repeal this it's the whole cycle. If we face voters without doing it we can --
TAPPER: Because base voters will not win out.
BORGER: It's about their base.
There's a little bit of historical symmetry here. Obamacare passed by one vote, party line. What happened today? This passed by one vote, party line. History repeating itself, just with different parties in charge. Health care is and will remain a partisan issue. And both sides are doing what they feel they have to do for their base. Only the Democrats are believing right now they can use this to get the majority back. And Republicans are saying, you would have gotten the majority back if you had defeated us today. But because we won today, we have a better shot of keeping our majority here. It's just too two different ways of looking at the world. You know, the country is divided on this issue completely. And it was just as it was when Obamacare passed, the same way. TAPPER: And a couple points. One is, obviously, we don't go what's
going to actually become law.
TAPPER: And it's unusual to see a Rose Garden celebration for a bill passing one body of the Congress instead of both. So, you know, we don't know what is -- let's assume for the sake of argument, because every pundit prediction in the last two years has been wrong, let's assume this becomes law. I think the real question is, what's the reaction? What happens? What are the facts? Does it actually stop the -- what Paul Ryan calls the death spiral of Obamacare, which is overstating the case? Does it actually help insurance companies provide options for people? Does the competition allow individuals to better afford health care? Does eliminating the essential health benefits allow more options for voters, et cetera? If it ends up working, then who knows? But if it doesn't, and it ends up being the dire prediction we're hearing from Nancy Pelosi and David Axelrod, then obviously, it will --
BORGER: What you need is certainty in the marketplace. This is what the insurers are complaining about is the uncertainty in the marketplace. If you have a plan in the marketplace and you give it a chance to see how it works out, maybe it will. Maybe it will work. But that doesn't answer the question about state funding for Medicaid for example, which will be, you know, a big unknown here. What will it do to those people who depend on their health benefits under Medicaid?
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: What we do know from the Obamacare experience, whether you like it or don't like it, when it was first implemented, it caused disruption. Whether the end point is something you like or don't like, it causes disruptions. That's the risk for Republicans in the short term if it passes. Let's see if the president can get it through the Senate and get those guys together. If it passes, to your point, what happens, if it passes in 2017 and there's disruption in 2018, that's the election year, that's the problem for Republicans, even by 2019 or 2020, they can point to it and say, see, we were right. It's what happens in the short term, when everything is changing.
BORGER: That's why Steve Israel was so interesting when you guys interviewed him --
KING: He lived it.
BORGER: Let's see what the date is on when it takes effect, before the midterms or after.
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Does it get more popular? 17 percent approval rating in the polls. At this point, Obamacare was 35 percent or something like that when it passed. Nowhere to go but up in terms of Trumpcare. That will be about the messaging. Who is going to win that?
BLITZER: I'll be curious to see how many Republican lawmakers make the bus trip from Capitol Hill over to the White House for the Rose Garden event. The White House says the president will speak at the Rose Garden about 3:30 p.m. eastern, about 45 minutes from now. We'll have live coverage of that.
In the meantime, I want to bring in CNN political commentators, Jack Kingston and Jen Psaki.
Jack, let me start with you.
What do you anticipate the president will say? Because, as you know, there's still a long, long way to go before a repealing and replacing Obamacare takes place?
JACK KINGSTON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Wolf, as you know, Donald Trump is a salesman, and he's going to thank his troops, say, great job, let's build on this and get the Senate to do it, you've delivered on a campaign promise, which is very significant. I think one thing that he's not going to do is overpromise the way President Obama did. President Obama, basically his whole message was the nanny state is going to bring down your premium, average $2,500 per family, and you get to keep your doctor, and the rollout is going to be perfect because government always works for you. Republicans aren't doing that. What they're saying is, we're going to take away the big- government interference in the doctor/patient relationship and let the market forces work, things are going to sort out. I think that's where Democrats, as usual, are misreading this whole thing. We're not saying we're replacing your nanny with our nanny. We're saying, the nanny state doesn't work. We're going to return market mechanisms and let individuals make important doctor/patient relationship decisions.
[14:45:22] BLITZER: Let me get Jen's reaction.
You spent eight years working for President Obama, including the first term when Obamacare got enacted. Go ahead.
JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: First, I think that's a very antiseptic view of health care in America. That's one of the problems that Republicans will have moving forward, or I should say, anyone who voted for this bill. The fact is that 20 million more people have health care because of Obamacare. The rate of uninsured is at the lowest in history. Were there fixes that needed to happen? Absolutely. But what this bill is going to do, at this stage, which I think we all agree it will dramatically change, is take away health care from millions of Americans. It's very different in terms of how it will be sold, and its opportunity for more public support. People are going to realize they're not going to have access to the services and the doctors that they were used to having before. That's going to be a problem down the line.
BLITZER: Is it a problem, Jack, that the members of the House of Representatives voted without actually knowing the impact, how many people would be affected, how much it's going to cost, would it increase the national debt, the deficit, because the Congressional Budget Office could not take a look at this revised version in time and score it?
KINGSTON: You know, I think if I was Jen, I would criticize it. If I was a Republican member, I would say, you know what, nothing in this was radically new or different. It's going to -- the process is going to continue. We are going to know more about the CBO impact, which, of course, was enormously wrong in terms of the Obamacare impact on who it would insure, who it won't. The new people who are insured are largely because of Medicaid expansion.
And I might point out, there's nothing remarkable about free stuff. If the federal government wants to pay for my kids' automobile insurance, that would save me a lot of money, I'd be very appreciative of it. The reality that we keep forgetting is that the federal government is going broke and it can't cover everything for everybody.
But one thing that's missing in this debate is that 93 percent of the people are covered under an employer plan or Medicaid or Medicare or children's health care, the SCHIP plan. We're only debating 7 percent of the people. That's what we're focusing on here today. And to take care of pre-existing illnesses for those people, that's not an impossible thing to accomplish.
BLITZER: Still millions of people.
All right. I want both of you to stand by.
Dana Bash is on Capitol Hill. She's got another key player in all of this.
Dana, who do you have?
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. I have Congressman Tom McArthur.
Thank you for joining me.
Congressman, you were instrumental in breaking the log jam. You are a moderate Republican. You worked with the conservative Mark Meadows and came up with the initial amendment that led to the vote today. Do you feel, even now, with the changes to that, that you made the right decision, you feel good?
REP. TOM MACARTHUR, (R), NEW JERSEY: No doubt about it. We have an individual insurance market that is in the process of collapsing. And the people, the millions of people that depend on that will be left high and dry if we don't do something. And so I think what we've done today will help to protect that market, protect people that are vulnerable, and ultimately bring costs down. That's what the objective is.
BASH: You are not only a Republican from a fairly swing area in New Jersey, a little bit comfortable on the Republican side, but, still, you were going to have a target on your back, big time. Because not only are you a moderate Republican, but your name is on the amendment that made this happen. Are you ready for the onslaught of Democratic attacks on you for all the reasons why they believe that you are hurting people in your district?
MACARTHUR: Well, I've been going through that for quite a while.
BASH: Now it's a whole different thing that it passed.
MACARTHUR: Look, I can't allow political considerations to determine what I think is right to do. There's been a lot of misinformation about this bill. I'm doing just the opposite of what they claim. I'm trying to protect people that are vulnerable.
I have lived through that personally. I know what it's like to struggle with medical bills. I lost my oldest daughter. We had tons of medical bills. I watched my father, my whole life, paying off medical bills for my mother, who died when I was four, because he had no insurance. That has been what's motivated me. And if I have a target on my back, so be it.
This isn't about politics, it's about people. And despite all the noise and all the millions of dollars spent confusing people, the reality is they're going to lose they're insurance if we don't save this crumbling system. And that's what this is about for me.
BASH: You're basically saying this was worth potentially losing your seat for?
[14:50:10] MACARTHUR: I did not come here to decorate a chair. That's not why I ran for office. I came here to solve problems. This may be one of the problems of our generation right now. How do we, as a society, make sure that people can have health care without the government taking it all over? That's not a good solution either. How do we do that? How do we help insurance markets and health care providers make sure that our people are cared for? That's what's at stake here.
BASH: Before I toss back, I just have to ask you, you mentioned your daughter, Gracie, who passed away when she was 11. Is that what motivated you to get, you know, so deep into the weeds and working on trying to figure out a way to break the log jam?
MACARTHUR: That's part of it. Sorry.
BASH: I understand. Thank you, sir. Thank you.
Back to you.
BLITZER: All right. Dana, thank you.
We're continuing to watch the reaction to this historic moment in the House of Representatives. The Republicans have passed the repeal and replace Obamacare legislation, 217-213.
I want to go to Brooke Baldwin.
Brooke, you're there with David Chalian.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Yeah, Wolf, we've been watching all this. Let me bring our CNN political director right in here, as live pictures there of the White House.
We were talking earlier in my office watching all of this. Jeff Zeleny called it a victory lap. You were saying this is the happiest we will have seen President Trump since he became president.
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: I've got to believe so. I don't think we can overstate what a big short-term immediate win this is for the president. It is -- you have to remember, the entire administration has been clogged, if you will, in terms of getting a legislative agenda through because of health care, because it failed six weeks ago. This completely does two things. It unclogs that, taxes, talk about infrastructure, the other big legislative priorities that he has. But also, you say the poll numbers last month, Brooke. We talked about it. People were starting to decline in their belief that he was keeping his promises. People were start to decline in their belief that he could get things done. This is huge moment of confidence --
CHALIAN: -- of doing something, of action. And that is no small thing.
BLITZER: Not just a promise from the president, but it's been seven, eight years of Republicans. And if was interesting to listen to Dana with the member of Congress, who is, like, I'm not here to decorate a chair. I'm here to follow through on my promise to my constituents without the fear of the buzz saw come 2018.
CHALIAN: That's right. Kevin McCarthy said it, also the House majority leader, Paul Ryan, was tweeting about it. Every they're saying is we're following through on a promise. This was a huge organizing principle for the Republican Party for the last eight years. This was the driving force through four election cycles. To finally have this moment of going to their voters and saying, we told you we were going to do this, and we did it. They thought, absent they, they thought it would be more politically perilous for them to not have that moment than to pass a bill that maybe is not the most popular bill with the American public.
BALDWIN: You know there are people tuning in and thinking, why did it work this time? Right? We've -- this is like deja vu -- thinking how can we finally get this through. We talk about the issue surrounding pre-existing conditions, the 11th-hour promise of $8 billion over the course of five years. We talked to all kinds of people saying that won't cut it, according to critics. Was what did it, so they can say, see, we listened to you and made this change?
CHALIAN: Let's start with the most recent one. The two members of the House that we saw go talk to President Trump. You saw the final vote, 217. They needed 216. Vote 216 and 217 could very well be Congressman Long and Congressman Upton, who went to meet with President Trump. They went in as no votes. They came out as yes votes. And that's the margin of victory they had. They needed those two votes to be over the hurdle. No small feat there. And the president deserves credit for that.
But to answer your broader question, because what really happened here, what really changed from six weeks ago when it failed to now is that the conservatives in the House Freedom Caucus were able to put a bigger imprint on this bill. They were able to move the bill in their direction. Remember, what caused the bill to be pulled last time, why Paul Ryan couldn't get it done, was a divide in his own party, too substantial a divide. With getting the House Freedom Caucus on board, by allowing states to opt out of some of the Obamacare regulations and guidelines, doing that allowed a momentum among conservatives in the House, among conservative outside groups that had been hammering Paul Ryan for the previous iteration, and that's what turned the tide here to a victory.
BALDWIN: OK. David Chalian, thank you.
BALDWIN: Wolf, the story is, in the Senate will be entirely different.
Back to you
[14:55:14] BLITZER: Yeah. We'll see what happens in the Senate. It will be a huge uphill struggle. In the House of Representatives, for the Republicans, if you don't succeed, try, try again.
BALDWIN: Try again.
BLITZER: They clearly succeeded on this day, 217-213.
Take a look at the live pictures we're getting in from the White House right now. You see members of Congress arriving and others. They're going to be walking into the Rose Garden. The president, in about half an hour, the president will go into the Rose Garden himself, make a statement. We'll see who else makes statements. We'll see if they take questions. I suspect they won't be taking questions from reporters. We'll see what the reaction is there. A very, very happy president of the United States.
We'll have extensive live coverage right after this.
[14:59:51] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer, in Washington.
We're following breaking news. Very soon, a White House celebration over what just happened in the House of Representatives. Republicans took a very important step in living up to their party's biggest promise, the one they have repeated for seven years, the one they failed to pass just six weeks ago.