Return to Transcripts main page
AT THIS HOUR
Pelosi Speaks Out On Health Care Vote; Soon: House Votes On GOP Health Care Bill; In Moments: Trump Signs Controversial Executive Order. Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired May 4, 2017 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), MINORITY LEADER: Well, let me just say, they have this vote tattooed on them. This is a scar they will carry. So, it isn't -- it's their vote. It's not the Senate vote. It's their vote they are taking. So that is really a poor choice, cowardly, I might add.
Why would they vote for it if they don't think it's worthy of support because the Senate won't change it? From what I hear the Republican senators saying, they don't have any interest in passing this bill as is.
By the way, whatever happens down road, the members of the House Republican Caucus will be forever identified with the worst aspects of the bill they passed. Yes, sir.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wondering what lessons you may have learned that might have -- (inaudible)?
PELOSI: There's only one lesson that matters. You have to know how to count, count dollars and count votes. The Republicans were aware of the fact -- what did they get, 131 votes yesterday. You needed 218. They know they needed Democratic votes to pass the bill.
You also need to be sensitive to what the Senate may do to take up a bill. So, it is -- it's something I think they probably learned and some of them had an ease with, 101 of them voted against the bill to keep government open.
Now, that's part of their history, their history that 101 people would vote against the bill that's main purpose was to keep government open as it meets the needs of the American people.
I remind you that in 2013 some of the people in the administration, then Congressman Mulvaney, then Congressman Price, voted, voted to shut down government. Mulvaney was one of the ring leaders.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. You're looking at the top Democrat in the House. It's time to roll, that's what one Republican lawmaker told Phil Mattingly was the message coming from the Republican House speaker this morning.
After seven years of campaigning and promising, Republicans are set to vote on their own health care reform bill. Cutting into Obamacare and they're getting ready to do that right now on Capitol Hill. Right now on the House floor, debate is under way and votes could start happening any minute.
Make no mistake, this is a pivotal moment, especially since Republican efforts failed in such spectacular fashion just over a month ago. Here's what is in the latest version that really only picked up momentum yesterday afternoon, things have moved very quickly.
The bill would add $8 billion to help fund high-risk pools to help cover insurance costs for people with pre-existing conditions. Democrats, some analysts, even some Republicans say that's a drop in the bucket for what's needed, leaving many people with pre-existing conditions without the protections that they currently have under Obamacare.
The pre-existing condition portion a very popular part of Obamacare. And an important note here, members of Congress have no idea what this will cost or how many people this will affect because they are moving forward without, as we always take about, the CBO score, that nonpartisan group that's known to be the gold standard of analyzing new bills that are put forth in Congress.
Joining me now to discuss is Democratic congressman from Maryland, number two in the House, someone who knows a thing or two about counting votes, Congressman Steny Hoyer. Congressman, thanks so much for coming in.
REP. STENY HOYER (D), MARYLAND: Hi, Kate. Thanks you very much. Good to be with you.
BOLDUAN: We were just listening to your partner in crime, Nancy Pelosi, talking about the Republican health care bill, very critical of the health care bill. Let's talk about the votes. Kevin McCarthy says they have the votes. Do they?
HOYER: Well, I don't know whether they have the votes because I'm not counting Republican votes, per se. Clearly they've had extraordinary difficulty getting Republican votes, which is an indication of how tenuous this bill is.
There are an awful lot of Republicans that even if they get their arm twisted and they vote for it don't think this is a good bill. Think it puts pre-existing conditions at great risk.
The $8 billion, as the previous report indicated, is a drop in the bucket to make sure that those with pre-existing conditions can afford and, therefore, have access to health insurance.
So this bill is a rush to judgment. It's a rush to judgment. You're right, it picked up momentum very late yesterday mainly because from the political imperative, they think they've got to pass something that they've been promising their base for seven years.
But the reality is they're rushing to judgment because they think the facts are going to be against them. The facts are going to undermine their ability to pass this bill.
[11:05:05] We don't have a CBO score, which Paul Ryan in his book and in discussions regarding the health bill when it passed was that passing something without a CBO score is irresponsible and should not be done.
And in addition to that, to reading the bill, reading the amendment and knowing what the amendment does. This was done late last night. And, again, a rush to judgment on a very bad bill.
I agree with Leader Pelosi, Republicans will ruin the day when they voted for this bill, which will undermine health care for 24 million people who will be kicked off health care. We know that.
BOLDUAN: But Congressman, if we're being honest here, this is not the repeal of Obamacare that was promised and that you all feared so much. So, is this less bad than you thought it could be?
HOYER: I think it's bad. I don't want to say it's less bad, more bad. The repeal itself, the reason you're not seeing the repeal itself is because Republicans know that would be devastating to them politically.
They're pretending that they're repealing for those who they told they were going to repeal and they're pretending for those they think are good aspects to the Affordable Care Act that the American people don't want to lose. That it's not a repeal.
So they are trying to have it both ways and I think that this is a bad bill. Whether it's more bad, less bad, it's a bill that will hurt the American people.
BOLDUAN: Congressman, can you guys just really sit by on the sidelines and not participate in this process right now? I mean, don't -- forget about what Republicans did when Obamacare was passed. This is -- looking at what you guys can do, Democrats can do right now, this is still one-sixth of the economy. You yourself have acknowledged that Obamacare needs help.
HOYER: Well, we have acknowledged for the last six years that we should have participated in a process for the last six years of making the AFFORDABLE CARE ACT work better. We think it's working well. We think there are 20-plus million more people who have insurance today than had it then.
We have the lowest level of uninsured people that we've had in a very, very long time. So from that standpoint we believe the Affordable Care Act is working. We think it's been undermined from the very beginning of the Trump administration and, therefore, destabilized the market.
But the fact of the matter is, we're prepared to work with the Republicans on fixing the Affordable Care Act. Making it work better, making it, particularly in the small market where prices have gone up too far, we need to deal with that. So, there are things we can do with the Affordable Care Act, working in a bipartisan fashion. We're prepared, Kate, to do that, but that's not what's been happening here.
What's been happening here is the Republicans have been moving further and further to their hard-liners who want a repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Making it worse, less access to health care, more expensive for everybody else, including the LH tax, which increase cost for seniors who are not yet on Medicare.
So yes, we're willing to work with Republicans but they haven't been willing to work with us and their mantra has been repeal, repeal, repeal, not repair, repair, fix or make it better.
BOLDUAN: They're not repeal, repeal, repealing. That's not what this definitely looks like. Let's assume the vote passes today --
HOYER: I agree with you on that.
BOLDUAN: -- and heads over to the Senate. What is your message to your Democratic colleagues in the Senate, many of whom are facing some -- a tough re-election in states where Donald Trump won?
HOYER: Look, I think the Democrats in the Senate are going to be against this bill because they know it will have a very adverse consequences on their people and on the insurance capability and access and cost for almost every American.
So I think they're going to be against this bill. The issue is really whether Republican members of the Senate are going to reflect what they know to be the case, this is not a good bill, not good for the American people or they're going to vote based upon what they think is their political imperative.
We'll see but I don't think this bill is going to go anywhere in the Senate. I think the Senate will perhaps look at making changes in the bill and trying to send it back. If they do, I'm not sure the Republicans will be able to put together the votes.
BOLDUAN: First steps first, let's see what happens today. Congressman Steny Hoyer, thank you so much. Great to have you.
HOYER: Thanks, Kate.
BOLDUAN: Thank you.
All right, we are going to show you a live picture. There's another look. Steny Hoyer was in the capitol. Here's a live look outside the capitol where the House is getting ready to vote very soon on the Republican bill -- on the Republican health care reform bill.
We're also following breaking news. President Trump will be signing an executive order to essentially aiming at relaxing restrictions on political activity by religious organizations. We're going to bring you that live event when it begins. That could begin at any moment. [11:10:04] Let's bring in some very smart folks with me right now, Caitlin Huey-Burns is here, national political reporter for "Real Clear Politics," Abby Phillip is here, CNN political analyst and White House reporter with "The Washington Post," Jeff Zeleny is CNN's White House correspondent, and Tami Luhby is CNN money's senior writer who has done a whole lot of writing.
You've gotten a lot of ink on this version of the health care bill and the ones in the past. So Tami, there are a lot of -- there are a lot of political questions, but there a lot of policy questions in this.
In the most basic sense what this comes down to is a discussion over pre-existing conditions, the most popular part of Obamacare if you look at the polling and you trust the polling.
Republicans don't even agree with Republicans in the House on what this latest version does for people with pre-existing conditions. Where does this split land here?
TAMI LUHBY, CNN MONEY SENIOR WRITER: Obamacare had iron clad protections for those with pre-existing conditions. They had to be offered coverage. They couldn't be charged more. They had a lot of treatments that were covered.
But now under this -- under this new bill, states can have waivers to get out of some of those. They'll still require insurers provide coverage, but it could be very possible that insurers could charge people more based on pre-existing conditions if they let their coverage lapse.
And they don't have to cover all these services that they do under Obamacare so people might not get some expensive treatments covered. They'll have to pay a lot more out of pocket.
BOLDUAN: Jeff, where is your gut right now on where things -- let's assume the vote -- they put this on the floor and they take votes, right? The White House will take a victory lap on this.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: They will take an early victory lap but they don't know exactly what they're taking a victory lap on and that is what is very dangerous --
BOLDUAN: That sounds dangerous to me.
ZELENY: It is because as you mentioned earlier, the CBO score, the Congressional Budget Office, will score this potentially as early as next week and say how many people will lose coverage or not be covered because of this.
So what the White House is doing is urging Republicans to go along to pass the idea of health care reform. We have no idea what the final, actual bill will look like. I have my eye on a couple members of the Senate this afternoon to see what they're saying initially.
Are Republicans going to give this the benefit of the doubt? So far they've not. Every Republican senator I've talked to said, we don't like this bill. So this is the --
BOLDUAN: When I talked to Lindsey Graham he said, I don't even know what's in it. They're not paying --
ZELENY: They are violating their own agreement to read the bill, score the bill. But look, they're going to score an early victory here and we'll see this go down. This is probably the first inning of this conversation, a long conversation, about health care.
BOLDUAN: Caitlin, what are you watching for as we -- before it gets to the Senate, when Jeff is watching people, what are you watching for in the House? Again, you cannot call a vote until the last vote is cast. We know that -- one time you call a vote, that's the one time you'll be wrong.
CAITLIN HUEY-BURNS, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, "REALCLEARPOLITICS": Exactly. You've watched the House floor, as we all have in these moments where you can see the arm-twisting going on in real time when it comes down to it. It's going to be close. No members, as we know, wants to be the last person that casts the deciding vote.
A couple of things I'm looking at. During this whole process we've been focused on the most conservative members, but I've been keeping my eye on the 23 House members from Clinton districts. How are they navigating this political climate given that everybody is up for re- election next year?
Republicans feel like they're going to go home for a recess next week, right? They feel like they returned back with nothing to prove. While there are a lot of substantive concerns about this bill, they also need to show they have the possibility, the capability of governing somewhat.
So this bill, while it's really important to focus on the actual policy, how it affects people, for Republicans in Congress, this is really been about the strategy. We need to get something done to show that we're capable of doing something, which is also awe precarious situation to be in.
BOLDUAN: But again it is -- the pressures are real, no question, but it is an artificial deadline that has been set. No one is saying, you have to get it done, you have to get it done now, other than we promised it for seven years.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. It's a very accelerated timeline. The time they've train between conception and this potential vote is a couple weeks compared to the nearly 18 months it took Democrats to pass the Affordable Care Act. They're moving extraordinarily quickly, part to her point is the climate Republicans face which is slightly different from Democrats.
This week we had two insurers in states, in Iowa and Virginia, pulling out of their marketplaces, leaving a lot of people in those marketplaces either with no options or very few. Those kinds of headlines are very terrifying for Republicans because they believe that they will get blamed if they do nothing, if they sort of sit on their hands.
In addition to that, they have a president who is so eager to move on, that he has a lot of impatience with this situation. And has already warned them he will blame them for the intractability of Congress. The president does not believe that voters will hold him accountable for Congress' inability to get this.
BOLDUAN: You can be sure Democrats like Steny Hoyer and Nancy Pelosi will try to put the blame on him every step of the way. OK, guys, standby with me.
We're keeping an eye on -- you're looking at always riveting live pictures from the House floor as the debate is under way as they're heading towards a vote on this Republican health care reform bill as we are talking about. We're keeping our eye there.
We're also keeping our eye at the Rose Garden at the White House where President Trump will be taking part in a National Prayer Day event and he'll sign an executive order on religious freedom and free speech. He's got himself caught up in some controversy about this one. We'll be talking about this. Standby.
BOLDUAN: All right, let's get back over to Capitol Hill. We're keeping our eye on the House floor as the House is getting ready to vote on the Republican health care bill.
[11:20:04]It really picked up momentum in a very real way late last night. Let's get over to Capitol Hill. Our Dana Bash is there. Dana, you've been talking to a lot of members, but you also caught up with one key member, Congressman Mark Meadows of the House Freedom Caucus. Take it away.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Thank you so much, Kate. Congressman, let's just be blunt. You are part of the reason why this thing died 40-plus days ago. You were a part of the reason why it's now been revived. Given where we are now, just an hour or so away, do you feel confident this is going to pass?
REP. MARK MEADOWS (R-NC), FREEDOM CAUCUS CHAIRMAN: Well, I think it passes by a very narrow margin. Obviously, the debate has been going on, but you know, to put the emphasis on me would really diminish the other players that have been here. Specifically the president of the United States getting actively involved.
The vice president getting actively involved. Really people like Tom MacArthur and Fred Upton coming together with solutions to make sure that my district, which is different from their district, is protected.
Not only from pre-existing conditions but, obviously, making sure that we drive health insurance premiums down. But I'm optimistic we'll take a good step forward, send it to the Senate and make it better there.
BASH: OK, so let's dig into substance. You mentioned pre-existing conditions. First and foremost, there's a report in "The Wall Street Journal" that in the fine print it would allow employers to -- to basically drop people who have pre-existing conditions. It would no longer require employers to cover people with pre-existing conditions. Is that the case?
MEADOWS: Well, it's not the case. When you look at the Affordable Care Act Section 2705 is what they call guarantee issue. When we look although that -- whether it's on the individual market or the employer market, you know, there's a whole lot of flexibility for the 176 million people that are covered under employer health care. It's very easy to look at the details of this --
BASH: But the details matter.
MEADOWS: They do. I've read this bill six times so I understand the details. But what I'm saying is based on the details, employers will have greater flexibility to drive down costs. But as we start to see that, that pre-existing condition and being able to exempt out for group policies, that's not going to be able to happen --
BASH: How can you be sure?
MEADOWS: Because the legislation doesn't allow it to do that. "The Wall Street Journal" are trying to dissect this and suggest something that actually is not in legislation. Ignores other parts of the legislation, specifically Section 2705 of the Affordable Care Act that we're not repealing.
So, everyone has guaranteed issue at this particular point. It's a matter of who pays for it, how it gets paid for. That's what we tried to address to make sure that we keep premiums down for any of those that have pre-existing conditions.
BASH: But questions about this, doesn't this speak to the rapid speed, warp speed with which you're moving to get this through without getting a score, without taking a breath to really understand the implications and the consequences of what you're going to vote on?
MEADOWS: No, Dana, you know, you cover this extremely well. When we look at this, there has been a score. Now, we've made some modifications, obviously, with amendments. We've had some individual analysis that looks at those amendments on what it would do to make sure we're insuring more people.
We believe the new CBO score will be a lot more attractive in terms of the number of people covered. When we start to see this, we have some who are suggesting we're moving it way too fast.
There's a whole lot of other people say you've had seven years to work on this and we're moving way too slow. So it's interesting just on the perspective that we are looking at, but I can tell you here, I've spent the last four, five weeks working with different senators because I know that we're going to change it over in the Senate -- BASH: So you're already talking to the Senate?
MEADOWS: Yes. I've talked to probably 14 or 15 different senators --
BASH: Across the spectrum, moderates too?
MEADOWS: Across the spectrum. That's the interesting aspect, is I do believe that we can make it better by using some of their ideas to improve it. Senator Thune has a great idea in terms of the tax credits. To actually make sure that those in their 50s and 60s are not worse off. It's something that I can support and support him in that.
So, I think that you'll see, this is what legislation is all about, making it better for the American people. I think at the end of the day, what the president signs will be infinitely better than --
BASH: Could you have gone home, real quick, without voting for this given the political dynamite that this is?
MEADOWS: Well, I normally drive back and forth, so, yes, I could have gone home but it may not have been as pleasant of a drive.
BASH: Thank you, Congressman. Appreciate it. Kate, back to you.
BOLDUAN: Great stuff. Thank you so much, Dana. Thank you, Congressman Meadows, an important voice in this health care debate. We're watching this very, very closely.
Mark Meadows making the case that they have a CBO score, they had last time around. He thinks when the new one comes out it will actually make this thing more attractive. We won't know until after they vote, though.
[11:25:00]We're keeping an eye on the Rose Garden as well. A lot going on in Washington. Donald Trump, President Trump, set to sign a controversial executive order on religious liberty on this National Day of Prayer. He'll be taking to the podium any moment now. We'll bring that important event to you live. Stick with us. We'll be right back.
BOLDUAN: Any moment now President Trump will be heading to the -- heading to the Rose Garden. He'll be signing a controversial executive order on religious liberty. In short, the executive order aims to make it easier for religious organizations like churches to engage in political activity.
It stops short, though, of allowing groups to deny services based on religious grounds. This is an important moment. This is a promise the president made on the campaign trail of something he would do.
Let's go to Jim Acosta live in the Rose Garden as we ready for this to get underway. Jim, what are we expecting? JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Kate. I should mention right now as we get some hash tones as there are some opening prayer --