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Paul Ryan Weekly Press Conference; Rep. Frankel Pushes for Sexual Allegations Reforms on Hill. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired December 14, 2017 - 11:30   ET

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


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[11:33:27] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Any moment now, House Speaker Paul Ryan -- actually starting to speak right now. We should probably jump -- are we going to it?

Let's go in, House Speaker Paul Ryan. Let's go it.

REP. PAUL RYAN, (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: And if Congress acts by Christmas, people are going to see gains very soon. As the president announced yesterday, if tax reform passes, taxpayers will see more money in their paychecks beginning in February. Withholding tables will reflect that. The IRS is taking steps to prepare new withholding tables for 2018 based upon this legislation. This tax cut will mean less of a paycheck going to Washington, and more to the hard-working person who earned it. Again, that's the purpose of this bill. Bigger paychecks for the people working hard to provide for their families. This is real relief. In addition to the course that this relief gives people a simpler system and a fairer tax code. That is what this accomplishes.

Second, the Appropriations Committee has introduced a continuing resolution that addresses critical national priorities. The people's House here passed all 12 appropriation bills on time, and ahead of the fiscal year deadline. It remains our goal to see all 12 become law. For now, at a time when we face threats around the globe, it's vitally important that we fund our national defense. We want to make sure that the resources are in place to continue the important work to rebuild our military. As you all know this is one of our high priorities of this term, is to rebuild our military. This bill helps do that.

We're also acting to extend the Children's Health Insurance Program. You may recall last month, November 3rd, the House passed a fully funded extension to protect the nine million children covered under CHIP. That bill is HR-3922, the Championing Healthy Kids Act. Unfortunately, an overwhelming majority of House Democrats voted against the extension of CHIP funding. Care for children in need should go beyond party lines. I certainly hope both parties will come together to make sure that we extend CHIP funding now.

Questions?

Casey. [11:35:39] UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. Speaker, Congressman Blake

Farenthold won't run for re-election next year. Do you think he should step down?

RYAN: I had a couple conversations with Blake Farenthold yesterday. He's making the right decision to retire. There are new stories very disconcerting, unacceptable behavior alleged in the stories and made the right decision he will be leaving Congress. That reflects on the conversations we had.

Rachel?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Just to follow-up on Mr. Farenthold. After he settled his lawsuit he brought in, after there were continued complaints, this has been reported, an outside investigator to see if there was sexual harassment going on in the office. The Office of Compliance actually recommended and helped find him that outside investigator. I'm wondering do you know how much taxpayer money was used for that?

RYAN: This is the first I've heard that. I don't --

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you think it should be made public?

RYAN: I haven't heard of this before. He was under an ethics investigation right now. I would refer you to Susan Brooks about the nature of that investigation. What they do is they don't report on where they are, but he is under an Ethics Committee investigation as he should be.

Chad?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Thank you. For a long time, gone on for decades, members of Congress have slept in their offices. You have slept in your office for years, members, you know, show this as a sign of fiscal frugality.

RYAN: More of a convenience thing, but, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: In this climate of sexual harassment and people prowling around from their offices to the House gym and so on, should members of Congress be allowed to sleep in their offices considering this climate, is this a time and place and would you set the example, Mr. Speaker?

RYAN: I don't see the point. We sleep in our offices because we work until about midnight and we get up early in the morning. It actually is a convenience factor. We don't see our staffs. I never see my staff when I return back to my office. I go from the capitol to the office. It's not that we're seeing our staff in the evening when we're sleeping in our offices. It's a factor of convenience and that, to me, makes a lot of sense because I live in Wisconsin. I don't live here in Washington, D.C. If I'm not here voting and working, I'm at home with my family and constituents. So this is simply a convenience factor. I don't see how it's connected to anything else.

Let me go to Kristen.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you anticipate a budget deal before you leave this month?

RYAN: I would like to see that happen. I don't know the answer to that question. When the Democrats pulled out of these talks, that cost us weeks. So we'll see where we can land. It would be my preference to get an agreement sooner rather than later.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: The appropriators seem to be very close to coming together on a supplemental --

RYAN: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: -- to provide aid to Puerto Rico and Texas.

(CROSSTALK)

RYAN: And Florida and Louisiana.

Say that again?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do we anticipate a vote on that or --

(CROSSTALK)

RYAN: I do. Our members very much want to see an agreement on a disaster supplemental before we leave, so that is something we're working toward.

Juan?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. There seems to be some discussion under way as to which chamber would go first on tax reform. Can you clarify what you believe will happen?

RYAN: I don't know the answer to that question. There is discussion about this. It's all about timing and managing absences in the Senate. So, we're basically being flexible for the majority leader. I've talked to Mitch a couple times about this. We're being flexible to honor their concerns about managing their schedule and some possible absences.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: How concerned are you about Senator McCain and his health and of Cochran?

RYAN: I'll refer you to Senator McConnell.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: I don't know if you have your postcard with you?

RYAN: Yes.

(LAUGHTER) You got one?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Is this --

(CROSSTALK)

RYAN: No, I have a memo on appropriations in my pocket.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Is this the postcard that taxpayers will use to file their taxes assuming the tax bill passes come April 15th? And then also, considering --

(CROSSTALK)

RYAN: April 15th is for last year.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: For the next year.

RYAN: Right.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: And then, considering the sweeping nature of the changes in the bill do you envision any portions of it delaying taking effect and any of them not taking effect in 2018?

[11:39:57] RYAN: You will see -- oh, sure. I mean, people who covered tax bills, Andy knows this stuff, you -- you'll see lots of dates in this tax bill. For instance, depreciation schedules will be effective September 27th -- sorry. Get a kick out of that. You'll see depreciation schedules go into effect September 27th, 2017, that's when the framework came out and we announced that the depreciation full expensing schedule. What we did not want to do is stop investments from occurring. There will be 2017 date, 2018 dates, later dates. That's how all tax laws work.

Last question.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. Speaker, were you aware of the so-called congressional hush funds used to settle these sexual harassments.

RYAN: No. It's not a fund. I didn't know about it. But we've all learned more since then and there's not like a fund of money set aside. It's when claims are made, claims get paid. Some of it is for anthrax. I remember I was out of my office for I don't know, something like a month, when we had the anthrax letters ta came to Congress. We were down at the GAO. We were out of Longworth. There were anthrax claims. There were asbestos claims, slip-and-fall claims. Lots of different kinds of claims that occur, and payments get made. We did not know the nature of this beforehand. One more. Yes?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Thanks, Mr. Speaker. Two questions if you don't mind.

(CROSSTALK) (LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: On -- on taxes --

(CROSSTALK)

RYAN: The dynamic questioning.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Yes. On tax, we know the polling has shown that it's not particularly popular and even among Republican voters there is skepticism, what do you think is the reason for that and do you think it will change. And secondly, I was wondering if you could look ahead briefly to next year, you've talked about entitlement reform. Conservatives feel they have an agreement from you that there will be some discussion of entitlement reform.

RYAN: Part of our agenda.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What are we going to see?

RYAN: First off, if you look at the polling that was done in Ronald Reagan's signature 1986 tax reform, something like a month before it passed, 18 percent of the people polled thought they were going to benefit from it. So this is the nature of the debate on things this big like tax reform. You've got pundits and spinsters and spinmeisters confusing the public and that's what I think is happening here with tax reform, like you see with any large piece of legislation. What comforts me greatly is the fact that the results are going to produce fantastic results that will improve the lives of hard-working taxpayers in things country. I'm convinced this is going to help repatriate capital, this is going to launch more investment and workers, convinced this will give bigger paychecks and doubling the standard deduction means nine out of ten -- I wish I had it with me -- can fill the taxes out on a form like the postcard. The results will be what sells this bill. Not the confusion before it passes.

On entitlement reform, I've long said there are two things you got to do to get this debt under control. Reform the entitlement programs, which are on autopilot, and grow the economy. We had three reconciliation packages prepared for this Congress. The first, which the House passed op health care, didn't pass the Senate. The second one, which we're in right now, was about getting the economy growing and doing tax reform. We're on the cusp of delivering that. The third one, the one next year, is back to very important entitlement reforms. And one of the important entitlement reforms we see that is necessary is get us out of this poverty trap where we're trapping people in poverty, dis-incentivizing work.

You know, we've been talking about tax rate always over the place. The corporations pay this, the small businesses -- you know who pays the highest tax rate in America? A single mom with two kids getting 24 grand in benefits that will lose 80 cents on the dollar if she gets a job. That is a problem. We are trapping people in lives of dependency and poverty. They're making rational decisions. Let's change our laws so we push and pull people out of poverty into the workforce.

The great thing about tax reform coming right now is we're going to be able to create the kind of economy that produces good family supporting jobs, higher wages, that will be there for people who are stuck in poverty and welfare to go to. And so next year, is going to be the year where we work on people. Next year is the year where we work on get people where they need to get in life, a better job, an actual career, closing the skills gap. You know, if you take a look at the economy -- I'm riffing here, but this is something I feel strongly about. There's three things we're trying to do right now to get this economy humming to reach its potential. Fix the regulatory problem. We have been just slamming businesses over the last eight years with the Obama regulatory state that is a massive hidden cost of doing business. A huge hidden tax. We're making great progress on that. Reform the tax code so we can get faster economic growth, more jobs, higher wages, bigger paychecks. We're in the middle of doing that. People -- this is going to be the new economic challenge for America, people. Baby boomers are retiring. I did my part, but, you know, we need to have higher birth rates in this country, meaning baby boomers are retiring and fewer people following them in the work force. We have something like a 90 percent increase in the retirement population in America, but only a 19 percent increase in the working population in America. So what do we have to do? Be smarter, more efficient, more technology. Still going to need more people. And when we have tens of millions of people right here in this country falling short of their potential, not working, not looking for a job, or not in school getting a skill to get a job, that's a problem. So that's why we need to tackle these things. Next year we want to take on criminal justice reform. We want to take on skills, you know, getting people the skills they need to get the jobs they want, career and technical career education and welfare reform. Those are the entitlement reforms we're talking about.

[11:46:18] The last point, I'll say is, Obamacare is collapsing and failing, so we won't be able to ignore that problem. We're going to have to revisit the problem of a health care marketplace that is collapsing and that is something we're going to have to get on to.

So, thank you very much. Appreciate it.

BOLDUAN: House Speaker Paul Ryan speaking about a lot, taxes, timing and sexual harassment allegations on the Hill. Let's get to all of it. Start here. Joining me right now, Democratic Congresswoman Lois Frankel, of Florida. She chairs the Democratic Women's Working Group.

Congresswoman, thanks so much for joining me.

You've been -- you've taken a leading role amongst Democrats in trying to tackle and push for reforms with regard to this wave of sexual harassment allegations and that conversation on Capitol Hill and beyond. Let's start there. I don't know if you had a chance to hear House Speaker Paul Ryan, but he was asked to react and give his take on the fact that Republican Congressman Blake Farenthold has announced amid a slew of allegations against him he will not be seeking re- election and House Speaker Paul Ryan's response he's making the right decision to retire. Your take? REP. LOIS FRANKEL, (D), FLORIDA: First, Kate, thanks for having me.

You know, I -- I've been focused on a process that will be fair, that will allow victims of sexual harassment and abuse to come forward, to have a fair process, where they can be heard, where members will be accountable.

As to Mr. Farenthold, from what I have read all I can say is I think it's gross, it's embarrassing, it's beneath the dignity of a member if what he said, he did say, and I'll add, someone should wash his mouth out with detergent. That might be part of the punishment.

BOLDUAN: Congresswoman, the question to Paul Ryan today was, Farenthold says he's not going to seek re-election, should he resign, should he leave before then? And the House speaker did not answer that question. Does that distinction make a difference to you?

FRANKEL: I think this is the perfect case that should be immediately sent to the Ethics Committee. And I think Mr. Farenthold will get a lot of pressure back at home. There's really no way I can force him or any member to resign, but we have to have a fair process here so that victims can come forward and we -- and they can -- members can be accountable if the allegations are true.

BOLDUAN: Yes. His case has been taken back up in front of the Ethics Committee. He's just announced this morning he will not be seeking re-election and that is the reaction from House Speaker Paul Ryan.

But you are also calling, Congresswoman, on Congress to investigate the allegations into President Trump, the sexual misconduct allegations in President Trump. Republican Senator Ron Johnson, he dismissed that idea this morning in an interview with CNN. Also saying this. Listen please.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR, NEW DAY: So, no, you do not endorse any investigation of the allegations against President Trump, even though more women have come forward?

SEN. RON JOHNSON, (R), WISCONSIN: If it's something during his presidency, absolutely, we have to provide oversight. Prior to that, the voters spoke.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Something happened during the presidency, yes. Prior to that, no. You say?

FRANKEL: I totally disagree. First of all, this is a #metoo moment where victims from all walks of life and industries are coming forward and, to me, human decency starts at the top. We have asked the Oversight Committee, which has a wide jurisdiction, to take a look and allow these women to be heard and, of course, allow the president to put up a defense. It's inconsistent with the history of the Oversight Committee to say no, it's something in the past. How about Whitewater? That was an investigation against President Clinton when he was president. I think it's a politically expedient dismissal. But we are going to move forward. And 70 percent of the public, according to a new poll, wants this investigation to occur. I think we would be sending a wrong message to say, just because you are president, you are off the hook.

[11:50:28] BOLDUAN: Despite what any poll says, there is a Republican majority in the House and Senate, and no indication they will be moving towards that any time soon.

I want to ask you about something that has happened within the Democratic Party. CNN learned, in a closed-door meeting, Congresswoman, the meeting was about sexual harassment reforms. Democratic Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur said to the room the following, "Too many members are dressed inappropriately. It's an invitation to be harassed." Were you in that meeting?

FRANKEL: I must have missed that meeting, but that's an inappropriate comment. She ought to rethink that statement.

BOLDUAN: She put out a statement saying she didn't mean to suggest that victims were ever responsible. But your reaction to it, nonetheless?

FRANKEL: I think she made a mistake, but I know her, and she is a good and straight forward lady. That's something that I don't agree with.

BOLDUAN: Congresswoman Lois Frankel, you are taking a leading edge on this.

Thanks so much for you time. We will see how your work goes. I appreciate it. Thank you.

Let's discuss this and broaden it out to the other news Paul Ryan made before I went to the congresswoman.

Alice Stewart is here, CNN political commentator and director for Ted Cruz's presidential campaign. Karine Jean-Pierre is contributing editor from bussle.com, and she was also part of the Obama administration. Caitlin Huey-Burns is a national political reporter with "Real Clear Politics." And CNN special correspondent, Jamie Gangel, is here.

Let's jump, if we can. I want to talk about the other news. This perked up when Paul Ryan was asked about the timing on the tax bill. Everyone knows it's moving forward. It sounds inside baseball. His answer seemed to indicate something strange. I believe I'm correct when I say I think the Senate was supposed to go first. Paul Ryan said he is in talks with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell because they need to be flexible to honor concerns about managing their schedule and possible absences of Senators. One of the Senators is Senator John McCain.

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Senator John McCain we know has been in Walter Reed this week undergoing treatment that is the result of side effects we are told from chemotherapy and radiation. While his office said he wants to be back at work as soon as possible, I don't think we know yet how he is doing and whether he is going to be back for the vote. This sounded to me as if Speaker Ryan was saying we are going to be flexible about this. I think they wanted to have the vote on Monday, but maybe they are going to push it to Tuesday because John McCain wants to be there.

BOLDUAN: Do you get an indication that they say it's the side effects of his treatment. Do you get an indication that -- it's a horrible diagnosis, but that things are getting worse?

GANGEL: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, who knows much more than I do, talked about this morning that the side effects of this can be terrible. On the other hand, in the last couple of weeks, sources of mine told me that Senate colleagues feel he has been declining. He has been frail. One story they said that was interesting is they have their Republican lunch. He always debates and speaks something. In recent memory he has been speaking at the lunches. That may be energy. I'm not jumping to any conclusion, but they said they feel he is very frail.

BOLDUAN: Put that silliness aside, let's hope he gets better and can return to work. He wants to be, first and foremost, as quickly as possible.

Caitlin, give me your take. Timing, they are moving ahead regardless. Let's assume that John McCain is of good health and good enough to come vote. They need to face off with the numbers they are facing. 26 percent approve of the bill. Why is that?

CAITLIN HUEY-BURNS, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, REAL CLEAR POLITICS: The challenge has been multidimensional. First, they need to pass a tax bill, they say, to be able to show voters ahead of the mid-terms that we are doing something with the Congressional majorities and this has been an important policy point for them. That aside, the selling of the bill if and when it does pass will be monumental in and of itself. They wanted the president to be a spokesperson for the bill. He has done that more so than for the health care legislation. Speaker Ryan was saying that this may be a matter of people seeing the actual effects that it takes next year. They will have to do a lot of P.R. work on this bill. It could be that people perceive it the same way they did Obamacare. It was very unpopular.

BOLDUAN: Yes.

[11:55:31] HUEY-BURNS: And that foreshadows the similarities that we see between now and 2010, and especially when it becomes to the congressional elections.

BOLDUAN: You point to it.

And it seems that that is the strategy, Alice, when you look at the poll numbers. They are kind of like poll numbers be damned. Republicans think that Americans are going to like it once the bill is in place. It is very ala Obamacare strategy 2010. Do you think this is smart or is this a gamble? ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: If what they are saying is

true, it's a wise move. I think the speaker made it quite clear and the president did yesterday, the results of this tax plan will sell it much more than the confusion surrounding it on the front end. He made it clear and the president said the IRS is working to implement it right away. If people across this country do see more money in their paycheck by the next few months, the approval will be 100 percent. The good thing that Speaker Ryan was saying is there was Republican compromise between the House and Senate.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Not bipartisan.

STEWART: With regard to reducing the individual tax rate down to 37 and corporate tax to 21. Trump fought really hard for 20 percent. They compromised on 21 percent. Also the mortgage interest tax rate at $750,000. That was a great compromise between both sides. What we are seeing is they are working together and hoping that they are able to implement this quickly to alleviate the fears by people that are skeptical right now.

BOLDUAN: And, Karine, this is very similar playbook to how Obamacare played out. What is going to happen?

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, BUSSLE.COM: I mean, we like to hear that because the difference is this is clear that's why the polling is so low on this. What people are understanding is this is taking away from the poor and the middle class and giving it to the large corporations, to the 1 percent. That's very, very clear. You have groups even, medical groups and also the National Association of Realtors who is have opposed every iteration of this piece of legislation. If you look at the Quinnipiac poll that showed 26 percent of people disapprove of this, you also have 43 percent of voters saying that they are not going to vote for elected officials who vote for this. Politically, this is bad.

(CROSSTALK)

JEAN-PIERRE: The policy is bad.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Forget the policy. We only care about politics. I like the poll that is good for us and don't like those that are not good.

We have to leave it there. I'm so sorry.

Thank you very much for joining us.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: I really appreciate it, guys.

Coming up, we will have much more on the tax issue, and the new report in the "Washington Post" outlining how many hoops President Trump's security staff seem to have to jump through to, quote, unquote, "avoid upsetting him," with the, quote, unquote, "R" word, Russia.

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