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Republicans Roll Out Obamacare Repeal; New Travel Ban; Trump Emphasizes U.S. Commitment to Japan & S. Korea. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired March 7, 2017 - 04:00   ET


[04:00:09] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: All right. It is finally here. Oh, yes, the Republican plan to replace Obamacare is public. But can Republicans overcome party division and find support they need to get this bill passed?

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: And the president's new travel ban rolling out with substantial changes from the first one. How does it impact national security and will it hold up in court?

Good morning, everybody. Thanks for getting an EARLY START with us. I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans. It's only Tuesday, March 7th. It is 4:00 a.m. in the East. Only Tuesday, but an awful lot of news on this Tuesday morning.

You know, after years of fervent promises to repeal and replace, the Republican plan to dismantle Obamacare is finally at the starting gate this morning. But just the starting gate, Republican leaders still face a tough job rallying support on their side. This might be branded as repeal, but this plan keeps several popular components of Obamacare.

It also would bring major changes in two key areas of the insurance mandate and Medicaid expansion, along with another provision already getting pushed back, allowing insurers to hike premiums for people who let their coverage lapse for any reason, Dave.

BRIGGS: President Trump signaling support for the effort, with a tweet with the POTUS account. "House just introduced the bill to repeal and replace Obamacare. Time to end this nightmare." Nothing from his personal account, by the way.

And White House adding, "Today marks an important step toward restoring health care choices and affordability back to the American people. President Trump looks forward to working with both chambers of Congress to repeal and replace Obamacare." The president and Republican leader have their work cut out for them with factions in both chambers already expressing some reservations.

Our coverage starts with Phil Mattingly on Capitol Hill.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Dave and Christine, this is the moment Republicans promised would come for years. Election cycle after cycle, the Obamacare repeal bill is officially here. It's public. It's no longer secret. And it includes a lot of provisions the Republicans say will make the insurance market much better for individuals, even those who benefitted from Obamacare itself.

Now, the core components of this actually aren't brand new. Republicans have stated that they would be in many of the plans before. The repeal of the individual and employer mandate. The moving forward of individuals on their parent's health insurance to the age of 26, also including the current ban on denying individuals with pre-existing conditions coverage.

All of those are key elements that at least two of them were in Obamacare itself, a popular element that they want to keep in there. Two major issues that are in this bill right now that Republicans themselves need to reconcile. How they provide subsidy for Americans? Now, the repealing the Obamacare subsidy over the course of three years, those will be replaced by refundable tax credits. These tax credits will go up from $2,000 to $4,000 based on age and they also be capped depending on your income level.

The other major issue here is Medicaid. A number of different states took that Medicaid expansion that was offered in Obamacare. Now, those states will be allowed to continue growing those roles until January 1st, 2020. That is compromised language trying to reach out to many red state senators that are concerned about what will happen to that program. Now, those states that did not expand, they will get money as well, so they are not punished by not taking them, which a lot of conservatives asked them not to do.

Now, what's the pathway forward? It's going to be difficult. Something Senate majority Leader Mitch McConnell made very clear on Monday.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: The House will be working this week as well to move forward with legislation, that under a new president who will actually sign it can finally help us pursue smarter health care solutions in place of this failed partisan experiment. We know the task before us is daunting, but, of course, it is just as necessary.

MATTINGLY: And, guys, it's not just the U.S. Senate that Republicans have to worry about. Even though they control the Senate and they control the House, it's the House Republican conference that they have to worry about. Still unclear whether or not House Speaker Paul Ryan will have the requisite number of votes to actually move this through. But we're going to start getting answers quickly.

House Republicans return tonight. House Republicans start moving, start marking up this legislation in the two committees that are responsible for it on Wednesday. After that, House Republicans say they want this on the House floor within the next couple weeks. So, things are going to start moving quickly. But what that means is

House Republican leaders need to get their members in line quickly. Still, a lot of concern whether or not conservatives would go along with certain aspects, whether or not moderates will go along with certain aspects. Those are answers that Speaker Paul Ryan needs and he needs them fast -- guys.


ROMANS: All right, Phil Mattingly. Thanks, Phil.

Republicans start the public sales pitch toward repeal, the repeal bill this morning, with an 11:00 a.m. news conference by the chairmen of the committees that drafted this measure. Speaker Paul Ryan OUTFRONT defending the plan, saying it will drive down costs and give Americans access to affordable health insurance. But key Republicans are holding out, including the former chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, Jim Jordan, who cited the taxes the bill keeps in place through a year-long transition period.

[04:05:05] Jordan telling CNN, quote, "I don't see any significant changes here. It's significantly the same thing to me. So, it sort of doesn't change my position. We put on President Obama's desk a bill that got rid of all the taxes and a Republican Congress is going to put a Republican president's desk a bill that keeps taxes in place?"

The Democratic side, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi who helped pass Obamacare eight years ago also slamming the bill.

BRIGGS: We got that, Christine. She says, quote, "Republicans will force tens of millions of families to pay more for worse coverage. Republicans have decided that affordable health care should be the privilege of the wealthy. Not the right of every family in America."

ROMANS: All right. Some big changes to Medicaid under the GOP health care bill, something really to watch here. The plan which currently covers 70 million people was expanded. Medicaid was expanded under Obamacare. In fact, 16 states led by Republicans chose to expand Medicaid under Obamacare and they've been pressuring GOP leaders not to repeal the extended federal funding outright.

This new proposal, though, rolls back the expansion gradually, remaining untouched until 2019. But the following year, Republicans plan eliminate enhanced federal match for Medicaid expansion. States will get a fixed amount of money per enrollee under the new plan, putting states rather than the federal government on the hook for most of the costs -- something that concerns some governors.

But since states don't have the money to make up that difference in some cases, they would like to reduce illegibility, curtail benefits or cut provider payments. Those are the options if they can't make the numbers work. All this could hurt not only poor adults, but low income children, women, senior citizens and disabled. That is the analysis from CNN Money this morning. BRIGGS: It will be interesting to hear from Republican governors

later on today because they're going to need them to sell this. And what do they think about the Medicaid expansion? Will they have the money to keep people coverage?

ROMANS: That's absolutely right.

BRIGGS: The debate begins.

ROMANS: The repeal bill also includes a plan to strip all funding for Planned Parenthood, something Republicans have vowed to do for years over concern the women's group provides abortion services. Planned Parenthood says it does not use any federal money for abortion services. Late Monday, we learned that Planned Parenthood immediately rejected the deal offered by Donald Trump. He would back continued federal funding if the organization stop providing abortions. Planned Parenthood's president calling abortion, quote, "a necessary service as vital to the group's mission as birth control or cancer screenings."

BRIGGS: So, if you want to know how Republicans are selling this, there's an 11:00 a.m. press conference by two of the authors of the bill, Kevin Brady and Greg Walden. But they wrote in "The Wall Street Journal" this morning how they are attempting to sell this bill. They laid it all out. You decide. Check it out on "Wall Street Journal" if you're buying their argument.

Meanwhile, on any other day, President Trump signing a new revised travel ban. That would be our top story, clearly further down. Opponents are vowing another long legal battle against this version of the ban, but there are key changes this time. Among them, the new version drops Iraq. So, the ban now blocks people from six countries, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen from obtaining visas for at least 90 days and suspends admissions of refugees into the U.S. for 120 days.

Also, travelers can be granted waivers to come to the United States with that decision made on a case by case basis. The new version also removes language prioritizing the admission of religious minorities and exempts citizens of the six banned countries who are green card holders or have valid visas.

ROMANS: Also, in an effort to avoid the chaos of the first rollout, the revised ban will be phased in, March 16th. Homeland Security John Kelly says other countries are also being looked at for extreme vetting.


JOHN KELLY, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: I don't believe the list will be expanded, but there are countries out there that we will ask like Iraq has done by the evolvement of their prime minister to cooperate with us better, to get us the information we need. There's probably 13 or 14 other countries. Not all of the Muslim countries, not all of them in the Middle East.


ROMANS: The president signed this executive order away from the view of reporters and cameras after more than three weeks of delays. The first version, of course, blocked by federal courts.

BRIGGS: Strange. No public appearances for the president yesterday. We will see him a couple of times today and hear from Sean Spicer 1:30.

Meanwhile, the FBI director said to be fuming at the suggestion of wiretapping from President Trump. What is the White House saying in response?


[04:13:40] BRIGGS: The White House scrambling to calm the chaos triggered by the president's claim that Trump Tower was wiretapped by President Obama.

A source telling CNN FBI Director James Comey was, quote, "incredulous" over the weekend after Mr. Trump tweeted the allegation. Comey feeling he had to push back because the accusation could make the FBI look bad. The director is frustrated with the Department of Justice for not responding to the request to knock down the story.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer not exactly offering up a ringing endorsement of the embattled FBI boss.


REPORTER: What's the president's view of James Comey right now? Does he have the full faith and confidence to stay on as FBI director?

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, I'm not -- I don't think -- we only heard unsubstantiated anonymous sources make those claims. I don't think Director Comey has actually commented on anything that he has allegedly said. So, I'm not going to comment on what people say he might have said. I think the director is more than capable of speaking for himself.


ROMANS: Meanwhile, former CIA Director Michael Hayden is blasting the president and pro-Trump media outlets like Breitbart. He says both are advancing an illegitimate world view.


MICHAEL HAYDEN, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: The president of the United States put his reputation, the reputation of his predecessor and the reputation of this nation at risk to get at least a draw out of the next 24 hour news.


[04:15:01] ROMANS: President Trump did not address his wiretap claims on Monday. It was the first weekday since he took office that he had no on camera events.

BRIGGS: Confirmation hearings for deputy attorney general nominees typically don't get attention. But a lot of people will be at 10:00 a.m. Eastern when the Senate Judiciary Committee takes up the nomination of Rod Rosenstein. Rosenstein is Maryland's top federal prosecutor and was tapped for deputy attorney general by President Trump in January.

Why does this matter so much? Because his boss, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recused himself from the investigations involving the administration and Russia. Rosenstein is in line to oversee those investigations if he's confirmed. Sessions is now digging in on the claims his answers about Russian contacts to the Senate Judiciary Committee were, quote, "correct". He says he did not mention two meetings with the Russian ambassador because the question did not ask about them and he was not at those meetings as a member of the Trump campaign.

ROMANS: All right. HUD Secretary Ben Carson trying to clarify his remarks likening slaves to immigrants who choose to come to America. He was speaking at the staff on Monday. He was praising the work ethic of immigrants before comparing them to slaves, of course, who were forced to come to this country in bondage.



DR. BEN CARSON, SECRETARY, DEPT. OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT: This is what America is about, a land of dreams and opportunities. There were other immigrants who came here in the bottom of slave ships worked even longer, even harder for less. But they, too, had a dream.


ROMANS: But they didn't have a choice.

After making that remark, Dr. Carson had a chance to explain what he meant in the radio interview. Instead, he doubled down on this controversial comment.


CARSON: Whether you are legal or illegal, you come from the outside to inside. You're an immigrant. Slaves came here as involuntary immigrants, but they still had the strength to hold on.


ROMANS: With the backlash growing, Dr. Carson eventually released this statement. "The slave narrative and the immigrant narrative are two entirely different experiences. Immigrants made the choice to come to America. In contrast, slaves were forced here against their will and lost all of their opportunities. The two experiences should never been intertwined nor forgotten."

BRIGGS: That took too long to walk it back.

ROMANS: He did walk it back however. He did walk it back.

BRIGGS: They had a dream. Freedom. Rights.

ROMANS: All right. The same day --

BRIGGS: Carry on.

ROMANS: Carry on.

The same day Iraq was pulled from the president's travel ban, Iraqi forces made big gains helping to drive ISIS from a key stronghold. We are live on the ground in Iraq, next.


[04:22:10] BRIGGS: Iraqi forces taking control of Mosul's main government buildings in the overnight raid. Soldiers seized the judicial complex and supreme court building along with the museum. This gives Iraqi forces better access to fight ISIS militants near the old city. The advance comes on the same day Iraq was removed from President Trump's new travel ban.

CNN senior international correspondent Ben Wedeman is live in Irbil, Iraq, with more.

Good morning to you, Ben.


Well, we just learned that the Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is in Mosul visiting the troops, meetings with the commanders in the area. And this comes after a day of very dramatic advances by Iraqi forces in Western Mosul.

We've seen them go almost to the very edges of the old city of Mosul. That's where it's believed many of ISIS fighters are holed out. They have taken at this point within the last 24 hours this government complex, which as you mentioned includes the central bank and the museum of Mosul, which just two years ago, in February 2015, ISIS madmen went in there and vandalized the statues, looted everything that was of value.

Now, at this point, it appears that Iraqi forces control three quarters of Mosul since that offensive began on 17th of November last year. We are hearing that there had been extensive civilian casualties in the western part of the city as a result of the fighting and the result of the intense bombardment by air, by land, by Iraqi forces backed up by the U.S.-led coalition.

Now, regarding the travel ban, it seems that all is well that ends well. The Iraqis are very happy to be off that list of banned countries. I was checking the newspapers in Baghdad this morning. Not one mentioned on the front page Iraq exclusion from the executive order -- Dave.

BRIGGS: Certainly other priorities there. Ben, thank you.

ROMANS: All right. Twenty-four minutes past the hour.

Dialogue about North Korea under way at the highest levels following that country's latest round of missile launches. President Trump speaking with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the acting president of South Korea. This as we learn North Korean leader Kim Jong-un personally supervised this missile test and may have wanted to target American troops.

CNN's international correspondent Will Ripley has more from Tokyo.


WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Dave and Christine, I'm at the Japanese defense ministry and I want you to look at this behind me, because this really underscores the danger this region faces from North Korean missiles. These are Patriot missile interceptors. There are two of them here put in place to protect the more than 20 million people living in the Tokyo metropolitan area from the threat from Pyongyang and its unpredictable leader Kim Jong-un.

[04:25:09] He ordered a ballistic missile test and there were four missiles launched towards Japan, three of them landing within 200 nautical miles of the Japanese coast. And as advanced as these systems are, I am told they are not foolproof, that if multiple missiles are launched at once, this system could be overwhelmed. They may not be able to stop for example a nuclear-tipped missile from raining down on a highly populated area.

That is why the Japanese prime minister said this is really a new threat they have not seen before as North Korea's technical capacity continues to increase. We know that President Trump spoke on the phone with the Japanese prime minister, reassuring him that Japan has the United States' 100 percent support. There was a similar conversation that happened between President Trump and the acting president of South Korea.

Also in South Korea, the first components of another missile defense system, the THAAD missile system, has started to roll into the country. Those will be put in place. The U.S. says to help defend the more than 10 million people in Seoul. Nearly 30,000 U.S. troops there.

However, Beijing and Moscow very upset about this. They view the insulation of that technology as a provocative act. From the U.S. perspective, this is crucial to protect highly populated areas from a growing North Korea threat -- Dave and Christine.


ROMANS: All right. Excellent work from Will Ripley there for us in Tokyo this morning. Years after Democrats managed to push through Obamacare, Republicans

will need to muster their own votes to repeal it. Can they do it? What's their replacement? How does it effect you? That's next.