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Interview With Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal; 22 Million to Lose Health Care Coverage Under Republican Plan; Supreme Court Allows Part of Trump Travel Ban; Interview with Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired June 26, 2017 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, we're learning more about the price tag, the impact on premiums, and the politics of trying to get the bill passed.
Claiming victory. After months of legal setbacks for his travel ban, President Trump celebrates a partial win, with the U.S. Supreme Court allowing parts of his executive order to take effect. What does this mean going forward with a final verdict still looming?
Blaming Obama. President Trump now seems willing to admit Russia meddled in the U.S. presidential election if he can use it as a weapon against his predecessor. We will look at the confounding claims in the president's newest Twitter rant.
And stay out of politics. Ivanka Trump portrays herself as above the political fray, an odd argument for a senior adviser to the president of the United States. Why is the first daughter trying to play down her role as a power player?
We want to welcome our viewers across the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: Breaking news tonight: As Senate Republican leaders struggle to win support for their health care bill, a new nonpartisan estimate is now out on how the legislation would help or hurt Americans.
The Congressional Budget Office says 22 million more Americans would be uninsured by 2026, compared to the number covered under Obamacare. Democrats are pouncing on that, while many Republicans are embracing another number. The CBO says the GOP bill would reduce the federal deficit by $321 billion over the next decade.
Also this hour, the U.S. Supreme Court allows parts of the president's travel ban to go into effect, at least temporarily. It's a partial victory for the president after multiple lower court rulings blocking the ban, a centerpiece of his agenda. The high court agreed to hear oral arguments of the president's executive order coming up this fall.
In the meantime, the justices are allowing the travel ban on citizens from six Muslim majority nations to go into effect with some important exclusions. Those who have a -- quote -- "bona fide" relationship with a person or entity in the United States still will be allowed to travel to and from this country. The president's Supreme Court pick, Justice Neil Gorsuch, by the way, joined conservatives Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito in saying they would have gone further and allowed all of the travel ban to take effect immediately.
This hour, I will discuss these breaking stories with Senator Richard Blumenthal. He's a Democrat on the Judiciary Committee. And our correspondents and specialists, they are also standing by.
First, let's go to our congressional affiliate, Phil Mattingly, with a breakdown of the Senate Republican health care bill.
Phil, we now have the CBO score. Tell our viewers what it suggests.
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, an all-important number or numbers, Wolf, especially for those Republican senators who have been either sitting on a fence or saying that they weren't yet ready to support this bill.
On the top line, according to the CBO, 22 million fewer Americans would have insurance over the course of a 10-year period. That obviously is not a good top-line number, something Republicans that I'm talking to say is higher than they expected. And here's why.
There are changes in the Senate bill compared to the House bill, particularly on the tax credit side, the slower phase-out, the more gradual phase-out of the Medicaid expansion, that they thought would help boost the coverage number from the House bill, which was at 23 million. So, not a huge change there.
You also have to look at the reduction in spending for Medicaid. There are dramatic reforms to the Medicaid program, the types of reforms conservatives have been pushing for, for a long time, that would cap the federal funding based on enrollees. That would lead to $772 billion less spending for that program over the course of a 10- year period. That is something Democrats are also seizing on.
They're very protective of the Medicaid program. There is a definite positive bit of news in this program or in this report for Senate leaders and that is on deficit reduction, $321 billion in reduction over the course of a 10-year period. Now, here's why that matters. Obviously, Republicans want to reduce the deficit. On the top line, that's a positive number.
But it is also a positive number, Wolf, when you talk about what Republican leaders are trying to do right now. Based on the Senate budget rules, they essentially need to match House reduction on spending over the course of a 10-year period, which sets out to be about $133 billion. That means they have nearly $200 billion to work with and still meet that target.
Why that matters? Moderate senators who are looking for more money for things like Medicaid, more things like opioid rehabilitation funding, all those types of issues, now they have a pot of money to actually go and try and accomplish those goals, try and get senators back on board.
But I will tell you, one of the senators that made very clear the top- line coverage number was very important is Senator Susan Collins. My colleague M.J. Lee caught up with her off the Senate floor and she said pretty bluntly she wanted to review the report, but obviously the top-line number, Wolf -- quote -- "It's not positive."
BLITZER: Yes, I'm sure she believes that very, very strongly.
What does the CBO report, the score tell us about the potential impact on premiums?
MATTINGLY: This is also a really key component. If you talk to conservatives both in the House and in the Senate, premiums were their primary focus.
For individuals who are in the individual market, driving down premiums, premiums they have seen increase over the course of the last couple of years because of the Affordable Care Act, is an important piece of this. Now, according to the CBO, over the course of the next two years, premiums will actually go up.
But by 2020, because of the way the Senate GOP bill kind of attacks the mandatory regulations that are supposed to be in all insurance plans, premiums are going to start to drop, by 2020, down 30 percent on average for individuals, by 2026, down 20 percent on average for individuals. That's positive news that conservatives will say it shows exactly what they're trying to do.
If you start to reduce some of the mandates like essential health benefits that the Affordable Care Act requires, premium numbers will start to drop.
But deductibles will be very high, according to the CBO. And there is a real concern that lower-income Americans and also Americans just under the age of eligibility for Medicare will face increased premiums, essentially price themselves out of the market. That is a real concern there. That is a concern that Republicans were trying to address in how they shifted the structure of their tax credit.
The idea, according to the CBO, is that that did not exactly accomplish the goals that they were seeking out. But at least on the top line, on the premium numbers, this is something you are going to hear repeatedly from Republican officials. This is something they were focused on. They believe they have accomplished this goal. Obviously, there is a lot more to it than just that top-line number, but that is something to pay attention to going forward, because, for the conservatives, many of whom have been wary, Wolf, as you know quite well, of getting on board with this bill, premiums are the ball game.
Premiums are what they care about. And if they can show that this bill will reduce premiums on average, that is positive news for Republicans. BLITZER: And very quickly, on Medicaid cuts, the House bill that
narrowly passed, the CBO estimated it would cut, what, about by $800 billion over a decade. The Senate legislation, the CBO now says, you just reported, about $770 billion -- there it is -- $772 billion cut over the next 10 years.
I ask the question because the president, as you know, promised during the campaign that he would not cut Medicaid at all.
MATTINGLY: Yes, look, Republicans are going to say this is a reduction on spending on the current baseline and therefore it is not a cut. But it is a change in how much money would be spent over the course of the next decade.
And it is also worth noting that the most dramatic reductions in spending based on the current Republican bill in the U.S. Senate would come in 2026 and after, as they change how the growth rate of spending is pegged. They change it to just baseline inflation, as opposed to medical inflation, as it currently stands.
So the number would -- the actual top-line number of reductions in spending would grow over the course of years. This is going to be something they are going to have to defend, particularly when you can play clip after clip after clip of the now president, then candidate saying Medicaid wouldn't be cut.
Democrats say this is absolutely a cut. Get ready to hear a lot more of that in the days ahead. As I can still tell you, Wolf, Republican leaders still targeting a vote this week in the U.S. Senate if they can reach that magic number of 50.
BLITZER: And if they can't reach the magic number of 50, will there still be a vote?
MATTINGLY: It's an open question. If you talk to Republican aides, they say, look, this is the time. The vote happens this week no matter what. You had Senator Mitch McConnell tell his conference the vote is happening this week, now is the time.
I have had several Senate aides, Wolf, tell me this doesn't get better over time. The rationale being, look, we know where our conservatives stand. We know where Medicaid expansion senator stands. Just because you have another week or two weeks to go through this, their baselines aren't going to change.
They either compromise now or they move forward. We will see if that threat actually has teeth. But that is the threat that is currently on the table. One thing to keep in mind, Wolf, when senators go home at the end of this week for a weeklong recess, there's absolutely plans to protest, to be everywhere they are to try and drive and up the pressure to oppose this bill.
That is pressure that I can tell you Senate leaders would rather their members not face. That is why they want to have a vote this week.
BLITZER: All right, Phil Mattingly up on Capitol Hill, we will see if that vote takes place.
Also tonight, we are told the Trump administration is feeling vindicated after the U.S. Supreme Court allowed parts of the president's embattled travel ban take effect. But the president declined to discuss to talk about that during a public statement with the Indian prime minister tonight.
Let's go straight to our White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.
Jim, are you surprised the president didn't bring this up?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Not surprising, Wolf.
They told us before this news conference with Prime Minister Modi of India that he was not going to take questions. Of course, that didn't stop a few of us, including this reporter, from attempting to ask the question about that Congressional Budget Office score that Phil was just talking about, 22 million people going without insurance as a result of this Senate bill.
The president did not take that question, nor did he take a number of other questions on that subject. He also did not comment on the travel ban, despite the fact that they're feeling rather jubilant over here at the White House that the Supreme Court is at least allowing part of that travel ban to go into effect.
And the president indicated that in a statement to reporters, to the public earlier today. We can put it up on screen. This is what it says.
It says: "It allows the travel suspension for the six terror-prone countries and the refugee suspension to become largely effective. As president, I cannot allow people into our country who want to do us harm."
So, the president there sounding very, very happy about the fact that the Supreme Court is allowing part of this travel ban to happen. But, Wolf, one of the, I guess, ramifications, you might say, of the fact that the president did not take any questions at this event in the Rose Garden is the fact that we did not get a chance to ask the prime minister of India what he thinks about this travel ban. After all, there are more than 100 million Muslims living in India, Wolf.
BLITZER: The president also today, Jim, tweeted about what he sees as a win in the Russia investigation. I want you to explain to our viewers what he's driving at.
ACOSTA: Well, this is the latest attempt of the president to sort of change the narrative of the Russia investigation.
Now he's blaming President Obama for not doing enough on this. And there are some Democrats and key Democrats who do agree with that point. Congressman Adam Schiff, who is the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, he was saying that on one of the Sunday talk shows over the weekend.
But the president in these tweets earlier today was essentially saying that the president was colluding with the Russians -- former President Obama colluding with the Russians by not initiating a much more robust investigation, something that the Obama officials still working for the president are pushing back on.
But this is one of the tweets. We can put this up on screen, Wolf. This is what it says here.
It says: "The real story is that President Obama did nothing after being informed in August about Russian meddling. With four months looking at Russia under a magnifying glass, they have zero tapes of Trump people colluding. There is no collusion and no obstruction. I should be given an apology."
So, the president there saying that somebody -- somebody should be saying sorry to him about this Russia investigation.
But, Wolf, one thing we want to point out, in that tweet, he says that President Obama did nothing after learning about Russian meddling. That is simply not the case. The president, former President Obama did actually confront Russian President Vladimir Putin at a G20 summit in China last year. So, that is just a factually inaccurate comment from the president in that tweet earlier today, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Jim Acosta, at the White House for us, Jim, thanks very much.
Let's get some more on all of this with Senator Richard Blumenthal. He's a Democrat on both the Judiciary and Armed Services Committees.
Senator, thanks for joining us.
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: Thank you, Wolf. Great to be with you.
BLITZER: So, on Sunday here on CNN, the health and human services secretary, Dr. Tom Price, said that under the GOP health care bill -- and I'm quoting now -- "We would not have individuals lose coverage that they want for themselves and for their family" -- close quote.
The CBO, the Congressional Budget Office, now estimates that 22 million fewer Americans would have health insurance by 2026 than they would under Obamacare. The CBO says 15 million would lose health care insurance in the first year alone.
How do you square what Secretary Price is saying with those numbers?
BLUMENTHAL: There is no way to square that statement with the truth.
In fact, these CBO numbers are a searing indictment of that apparently false statement. The Republicans have gone from total secrecy to total chaos, and now they have no way to square reality with what their promises have been. One out of every $4 going into Medicaid now will go to tax cuts for
the richest Americans by 2026. And so the way to view this plan is not as a health care measure, but as a massive tax cut for the wealthiest. In fact, one of the witnesses in the emergency field hearings I have held in Connecticut said this is not a health care program, it's a wealth care program.
And I think that the Republicans are going to have to look at themselves in the mirror, look at their consciences, but also look at their constituents, if, as we hope, this vote is delayed.
BLITZER: The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, wants a vote by Thursday before the July 4 recess.
He just put out a statement, Senator. Let me read part of it to you. "Americans need relief from the failed Obamacare law. The Senate will soon take action on the bill that the Congressional Budget Office just confirmed will reduce the growth in premiums under Obamacare, reduce taxes on the middle class, and reduce the deficit. The American people need better care now and this legislation includes the necessary tools to provide it" -- close quote.
I want your response.
BLUMENTHAL: The only way that this bill reduces premiums is by reducing coverage, reducing benefits, in other words, reducing what Americans receive for the dollars that they will spend.
In fact, it will drastically decimate coverage by enabling states to waive out of the requirements for essential health benefits. There will be annual caps and limits on what's covered. There will be a return to discrimination based on preexisting conditions.
There will be defunding of Planned Parenthood. And so the assault on women's health care will resume. And by 2026, the figure for the number of Americans uninsured will be 49 million Americans. And that will mean a shifting of burden, in fact, to the states.
I will predict we will see a massive outcry from many of the state officials, governors and others, who will see, for example, in Connecticut a billion dollars more, but, overall, as you pointed out, nearly $800 billion in Medicaid reduction. And those premium reductions and those deficit reductions are at the expense of health care.
That is why all the health care providers, all the docs, all the hospitals say first do no harm.
BLITZER: What do you say to Republicans who argue this health care bill does not include a so-called cut in Medicaid spending, it only includes a reduction in the rate of growth of Medicaid spending? Because the president promised there would be no cuts in Medicaid at all.
BLUMENTHAL: It includes cuts in Medicaid spending that are vital to American health care.
For example, two-thirds of seniors in nursing homes right now, and I visited one of them just last Friday, will be deprived of support when they go into those nursing homes. We're talking there about middle- class Americans who exhaust their savings. The opioid abusers, people with substance abuse disorders who now are receiving treatment will be deprived of it.
The effect on ordinary Americans will be absolutely devastating, cruel and costly, and I mean costly in the long run, because if illnesses or conditions or diseases are not treated before they become more serious, they indeed become more costly in emergency rooms, which have to care for them, and all kinds of other places.
BLITZER: Yes, we see how important, significantly important Medicaid is.
The CBO, the Congressional Budget Office, Senator, says people who lose essential health benefits will see substantial increases in premiums or out-of-pocket spending. If some states waive essential health benefits, and others don't, could Americans see very different coverage depending on where they live in the United States?
BLUMENTHAL: That's a really important point, Wolf, because the effects are not only on Medicaid. They're also on the private insurance market.
And when premiums go up or down, the point for many Americans in many states will be they see loopholes that swallow the rules. They see waivers that deprive them of benefits for preexisting conditions, coverage, for example, for the 6-year-old in my state whose story came before me in our emergency health hearing.
Conner, who is 6 years old, suffered from muscular dystrophy. He was born with it. It's a preexisting condition. His parents have to spend 50-plus-thousand dollars a year. They will receive nothing if it's deemed to be a preexisting condition in my state.
So, this kind of loophole waiver, technicality in many states will deprive average Americans of real coverage.
BLITZER: Senator, let's turn to the U.S. Supreme Court decision today on the presidents' travel ban. We are going to have to wait for a final verdict until the fall.
But there is clearly a victory of sorts for the Trump administration. At least parts of the travel ban are allowed to go into effect for the time being.
BLUMENTHAL: Having read the opinions of both the majority and the dissent, I think there is less victory than meets the eye. The reason is that this travel ban is lifted, it's blocked for every one of the individuals who went to court to block it and every other individual who has the same situation.
Namely, they have a bona fide relationship with a person or an entity, meaning a relative, a brother or sister, possibly a close friend, or a university, an employer. So, people who are in that situation, after two years of vetting, almost all individuals will have that situation, will be able to come to this country.
Now, remember, here's the most telling part of the analysis. Ruth Bader Ginsburg was fine with this out come. The dissenters were the three most conservative members of the court. They were the ones who said they thought that this was not a victory for the administration.
And, so, I think that kind of indication of where support or dissent came from is very important. Plus, the administration kind of received a slap from the court when it said that, coming back in October, you better have your act together.
This temporary ban was only for 180 days -- 120 days, so you could review the existing vetting process. You will be way beyond 120 days in October.
BLITZER: Senator Blumenthal, thanks for joining us.
BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.
BLITZER: We're going to have much more on all the breaking news right after this quick break.
BLITZER: We're following breaking news on the new nonpartisan estimate of the Senate Republican health care bill.
It comes as the president scores at least a partial win on another major element of his agenda, the U.S. Supreme Court, allowing parts of his controversial travel ban to take effect, as the justices agree to hear challenges to the ban in the fall.
Let's bring in our analysts and specialists.
Gloria, how significant is this Supreme Court decision, at least temporarily allowing part of the travel ban to be implemented?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, I think it's significant for the president because he can claim a victory, a partial victory.
I mean, what the Supreme Court said is that they are going to consider this in the next term. But, for now, the president does have a partial victory, because certain, certain people will be prohibited from coming into this country unless they have a specific reason or a person they want to visit, et cetera, et cetera. There will be lawsuits as a result of this, I can guarantee you.
Also, if I were the president and I took a look at the way Neil Gorsuch came down on this case, I would say I appointed the right guy, because he's on my side. He would have let the travel ban stand. And so I think if you're Donald Trump today, you're pretty happy with this result.
BLITZER: Phil Mudd, the president the president says he was very moved by that Bashar al-Assad chemical attack on Syrians, civilians, children and remember how the U.S. responded.
But people fleeing Syria and five other Muslim majority countries, including Libya and Sudan, some others, they will not be allowed into the United States, refugees, unless they have a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States. So, how do you square that?
PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: I'm not sure you can.
The president made the right move in Syria. Look, when a leader of a country uses chemical weapons against his own people, especially a country that can't really threaten the United States, it's a no-cost move by the president. We have got to respond.
About a month ago, Wolf -- let me go personal -- at my residence, I hosted refugees from Iraq, from Africa, from Afghanistan. They didn't come from Syria, but they came from countries where the United States is in a wartime environment, regardless of whether Congress has declared war. They have lost friends and families.
Regardless of whether the president sees a photo, where the United States is engaged in war and there is a loss of life among people who have lost family members as a result of U.S. action, I think you have to step back and say, is it appropriate for us to just say, you can't come into this country unless there's a technical sort of reason for you to be here?
My answer is, I don't think so. If the U.S. in this new era of war, it's not World War II, it's not Vietnam. It's sort of this uncertain war in the war of terrorism. If you have lost family members or associated with people who lost family members, should you be allowed to come here? I think the answer has to be we have got to consider it. The answer may be yes.
BLITZER: You know, Jeffrey Toobin is with us.
Jeffrey, in the revised 2.0 travel ban, the president, at least for a temporary period, didn't even want anyone from the six Muslim majority countries allowed into the United States, even if they have what the Supreme Court called a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.
So, clearly, the president did not get everything he wanted. He wanted a complete ban, a temporary ban on anyone coming from those countries. JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: The president was right, or
had the right to ban those -- to ban everyone from those countries, the three more conservative justices, Justices Alito, Thomas and Gorsuch.
And the full court after arguments may yet agree to ban everyone -- that the president has the right to ban everyone. But at least for the moment, the six justices said that the people with some contacts, people with job offers, people with admissions letters to students, that they have the right to come to at least -- to apply to come to the country.
And, you know, that compromise, it may last and it may not, but Donald trump is in a lot better legal position today than he was yesterday. And I think that is important to acknowledge.
BLITZER: Ryan Lizza, how do you see this decision?
RYAN LIZZA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it's not what Trump said it was in his tweets, when he said it was a 9-0 unanimous decision in favor of the travel ban. That was his suggestion today. It was 9-0 to say, yes, we're going to look at this.
But as Jeffrey points out, the three conservative justices basically, as sort of expected, they are very deferential to the president when it comes to national security, very deferential to him when it comes to immigration policy. And they, not necessarily weren't saying they agreed with the order, but saying he had the right to do this.
There are a number of issues that we don't know. What are the justices going to say about the Establishment Clause challenge to this? Do they see this as some kind of new religious test?
And what will Trump do? Will Trump -- this ban is going to expire before the Supreme Court actually gets to it. Will he decide to look at -- reading some of the tea leaves, refine the order, issue a new one that may be legally more bulletproof? That's still an option that the White House has.
BLITZER: Go ahead.
TOOBIN: Ryan makes an important point that I think is worth keeping in mind, is that this -- this order was styled as a temporary 90-, 120-day order, which expires.
It is possible that the Supreme Court, which often likes to duck difficult issues, may simply say that the issue is moot by October and they await a new executive order and have those legal challenges start all over again in the district courts, the circuit courts. So, don't discount that possibility, that the Supreme Court just punts on this whole issue in October and waits for a new executive order, which doesn't have a time limit. And then wait for legal challenges to that to materialize.
[18:30:38] BLITZER: You know, it's interesting, Gloria. In the statement that the president released following the Supreme Court decision, he said, "Today's unanimous Supreme Court decision is a clear victory for our national security. It allows the travel suspension" -- he used the word "suspension," not "ban" -- "for the six terror-prone countries and the refugee suspension to become largely effective."
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Largely effective.
BLITZER: He says it was a ban, but now he's calling it a suspension.
BORGER: Well, he's changed his language, obviously, purposefully. And he called it a suspension and not a ban, which is another purposeful change of language. And I think what the president is turning this partial victory into a complete victory, and he's saying, "Look, they've -- they've upheld what I wanted to do," which is not what they did. But it's certainly better than where he was yesterday. And...
TOOBIN: I'm sorry, Gloria.
BORGER: No, no.
TOOBIN: But -- but I do think, you know, fair is fair. All nine justices did allow...
TOOBIN: ... some part of this travel ban, whatever you -- travel...
TOOBIN: ... suspension, to go into effect. That's unanimous. So, you know, I think he is within his rights to call this...
TOOBIN: ... a partial unanimous victory.
BORGER: Exactly. It's not the way he envisioned it, right, from the -- from the get-go, but the way the court is allowing it, I think he'll take.
LIZZA: Just one final point, and Phil can probably speak to this, as well. This is a decision about whether he has the legal authority to do these things. This says, obviously, nothing about whether it's justified from a policy perspective.
And I still personally don't think that the administration or anyone in the counterterrorism community has made a case that this is actually anything that makes us safer. Phil, correct me if I'm wrong.
MUDD: You want to have a conversation about whether this has a national security imperative? I mean, look at countries I would worry about -- Afghanistan and Pakistan, for example, or Saudi Arabia; not included here.
I would go back to more profound questions. That is, if you go back to the Vietnam War, would you say back in 1973, 1974, our question is whether you can have a direct link to an American family or is your question is when you participate in a conflict overseas, America has some responsibility to absorb refugees? I think we're way too down in the weeds.
BORGER: Right. But we had the election. And this is -- and this is what Donald Trump campaigned on, and this is what people voted for.
BLITZER: Elections matter. Is that what you're saying?
LIZZA: They have consequences.
BLITZER: All right. Stand by, everybody. Just ahead, the bottom line for Republicans, now that the CBO has crunched the numbers on the Senate healthcare bill, will the report sway any members of the president's party who are threatening to sink the legislation?
And the terrifying moments as passengers felt the plane shake for nearly two hours and heard the pilot encourage them to pray. What went wrong? We're getting new information. Could it happen again?
[18:38:3] BLITZER: More now on the breaking news. The numbers just out from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, estimating that the Senate Republican healthcare bill will result in 22 million more uninsured Americans over the next decade.
Let's go to our chief political correspondent, Dana Bash. She's up on Capitol Hill.
Dana, the White House just reacted to this CBO score, as it's called. What are you finding out?
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, their reaction is very similar to some of the Republicans that we've been talking to here on Capitol Hill. And let me read it to you.
The White House statement says, "The CBO has consistently proven it cannot accurately predict how healthcare legislation will impact insurance coverage. This history of inaccurasly [SIC]" -- inaccuracy, rather -- "as demonstrated by its flawed report on coverage premiums and predicted deficit arising out of Obamacare, reminds us that its analysis must not be trusted blindly."
So, basically, what the White House is trying to say is what, again, many Republicans we talk to have been coming in and out of votes here in the Senate have been saying, which is that those who are supportive of the Senate Obamacare repeal bill are trying to tell their Republican colleagues who are skeptical and even more so after seeing the CBO report, that they shouldn't necessarily believe the analysis that's before them; and that's certainly the message, obviously, coming out of the White House. BLITZER: Dana, you've been up on Capitol Hill all day. What's the
reaction been to this Congressional Budget Office estimate?
BLITZER: Well, you know, despite the fact that, as I said, some supporters of this bill are trying to say don't believe these numbers, the reality is that they are believable to a lot of those who are skeptical, because it's really the only thing that they have to rely on, is this kind of nonpartisan report. Even though, of course, nobody can predict the future.
[18:40:15] And I just talked, to just give you one example, Senator Lindsey Graham, who just came off the Senate floor after talking to a lot of his colleagues, about what the reaction is. Listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: From a political point of view, if you had a problem with the bill, the CBO score didn't help you at all.
BASH: Is this going to pass, bottom line?
GRAHAM: It won't get 49 votes. It's going to get 50, or 30 or 35. I don't know. If I were a betting man, I think it's going to be a heavy lift between the Cruz, Rand Paul world, and Susan Collins and Heller. It's going to be tough to get to 50, but time will tell.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: So, what he was just describing there, Wolf, is what the Republican leadership is trying to balance as it goes into what they still plan will be the beginning of debate later this week, which is trying to get the moderates to overcome their concerns about the fact that people, according to this report, are going to lose coverage; 22 million people are going to lose coverage.
That is not going to help people like Susan Collins, moderate of Maine, like Dean Heller, moderate of Nevada, overcome their concerns. It is pretty clear that that is the case.
And on the conservative side of the Republican spectrum, still to this minute, you have people like Ted Cruz and Mike Lee and others who are working with, they say, working with the leadership to try to reduce the regulations that are still in place from Obamacare, even beyond and especially beyond what they have tried to do in this bill.
So, it's that kind of delicate balance that the Republican leadership is going to continue to try to do. But at the end of the day -- I talked to an administration source who made very clear that they still do not see the light at the end of the tunnel. They cannot lose more than two Republicans, and at this point, they're just not there yet -- Wolf.
BLITZER: We'll see if there is a vote, even if they don't have the 50 that they need to ensure passage. BASH: Exactly.
BLITZER: That will be very, very interesting. Dana, thanks very much.
We're continuing to follow major developments here. We'll take a quick break. We'll be right back.
[18:47:00] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Let's go right back out to Dana Bash. She's up on Capitol Hill with one of the potential key votes in the entire health care legislation.
Dana, you're there with Lisa Murkowski.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, that's right, Wolf, I am.
Senator Murkowski, thank you so much for stopping. Appreciate it.
Bottom line, now that you've seen the CBO report, what does it mean for you in terms of the potential for you to vote for or against this health care bill?
SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI (R), ALASKA: Well, I've seen the headline --
MURKOWSKI: -- of the CBO report, 22 million would come off the insured rolls. I think that's a significant concern for all of us.
So, I've got my homework. I am going to add this to the time that I spent this weekend reading the full bill. But to be able to study the CBO report is important.
Right now, I've got a lot of discrepancy between the numbers that we see from the state versus what we got from CMS. I'm trying to get some serious answers to some really very serious questions.
BASH: And the White House just put out a press release saying that CBO can't be trusted because their analysis and predictions about what Obamacare would do turned out not to be the case.
Do you agree with that? Or -- I mean, how much -- how much weight are you putting in the CBO analysis that does show 22 million people would lose health insurance?
MURKOWSKI: It's not just the CBO analysis. Again, Alaska is such an outlier in so many areas. The CBO analysis is the nationals.
I want to make sure that I understand what this really means for the people that I work for back home. So, I'm going to get the numbers. And if I can't get the numbers, it's really tough for me to make a fair and a balanced evaluation as to this bill.
So, I'm going to dig for them. I'm going to try to get the numbers. I'm going to insist on getting the numbers. Let's put it that way.
BASH: So, at the end of the day, you talk about the state of Alaska which is -- which is obviously unique. There are a lot of constituents that you have who have come to, you know, rely on this kind of coverage. What is going into your decision making on how to vote for this or what you would like from the leadership in order to get your vote?
MURKOWSKI: Really, my views have not changed in terms of the things that I'm focusing on. I want to make sure that those that have the benefits that come through Medicaid and now Medicaid expansion are able to see that, a level of continuation of care. I want to make sure that a state that pays the highest cost for our premiums so far and above any state out there, that there is some level of a balance in equity.
Right now, making sure that, that the tax credits are something that work in a high-cost, low-population state like mine. So, it's making sure that access is continued. And you all know I have been a supporter of funding for Planned Parenthood.
[18:50:01] In my state, that's access for women. So, making sure that access is continued, that costs come down and those that have received the benefits that we have -- we have clearly seen in Alaska and around the country, with Medicaid expansion are -- those benefits are continued.
BASH: You mentioned Planned Parenthood. That was something I was going to ask you about. This bill just cuts federal funding for Planned Parenthood for one year.
What does that do for you?
MURKOWSKI: That concerns me. That concerns me.
BASH: Will you vote for something that does that, that cuts it at all?
MURKOWSKI: You know, what I have said very clearly is that I don't think that the issue of Medicaid reimbursement for Planned Parenthood should be an issue in this bill and I still feel very, very strongly about that and if we have to get to a point to offer amendments, I would move to strike that.
BASH: At this point in time, given what you -- you said you studied the bill this weekend. I know you're going to study the CBO report. If you have to vote today, how would you vote?
MURKOWSKI: Today, I don't have enough information. I don't have enough data in terms of the impact to my state to be able to vote in the affirmative. So, I'm trying to get the information.
I think that in fairness to Alaskans, they deserve that information. This is -- this is big stuff. And so, making sure that we get it right is something that I have said is an imperative.
I don't think it's asking too much to say give us the time to fairly and critically analyze these numbers. And if you have -- if you're saying, well, CBO numbers don't matter, then let's look at the numbers that you think do matter. But it really does -- it does make a difference --
MURKOWSKI: -- as a cost (ph) and these -- these numbers that we're talking about, these are men and women. These are our families that are being impacted. So, let's please get it right.
BASH: Senator, thank you so much for your time. I appreciate it.
MURKOWSKI: All right. Thanks.
BASH: Wolf, back to you.
BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much.
Thanks to Senator Murkowski as well.
Everybody, stand by. More on the breaking news coming up.
Also, we have other new details coming in on the impact of the Republican health care bill. What will the impact be for millions of Americans?
Plus, a flight so terrifying, the pilot asked the passengers to pray.
[18:56:55] BLITZER: New details tonight of a terrifying flight. A crippled plane shaking so violently that passengers say the pilot asked them to start to pray.
Our aviation correspondent Rene Marsh has the very latest for us. Rene, it's a night no one on board will ever forget.
RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.
Well, tonight, CNN has learned it was engine failure that caused the passenger plane to shake uncontrollably. A blade in one of the engines broke off leaving the aircraft with only one functioning engine while it was still airborne. Tonight, the budget airline, the engine's manufacturers, as well as safety investigators are trying to determine exactly how this happened.
MARSH (voice-over): Heart-stopping vibrations on board an Airbus 330 for nearly two hours as it flew over the Indian Ocean.
PILOT: Our survival depends on your cooperating.
MARSH: Two times the pilot asked them to pray, terrifying for passengers who thought they were going to die.
UNIDENTIFIED BOY: I was just very nervous. I thought the whole plane was just going to go plummeting down.
MARSH: There were 359 passengers on board. They heard a loud bang and the plane begun to shake continuously. The pilot announced engine trouble and then turned the AirAsia X flight around.
SAMAD MONFARD, PASSENGER: The captain said one of the blades on the left engine was missing.
MARSH: This image from "Aviation Herald" reportedly shows one of the plane's engines. One blade is broken off.
PETER GOELZ, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: They will be able to tell through metallurgical study whether it was a fatigue, whether there were some other problems. They will look at the other blades in that engine and see whether there are any other signs of a problem.
MARSH: The aircraft's maintenance history is also expected to be a focus for investigators.
GOELZ: They will go back over the history of this engine from the moment it was put on the wing of this plane, and they will investigate all of the components that could have failed.
MARSH: The flight that took off from Perth, Australia, early Sunday morning local time, bound for Kuala Lumpur, returned safely to Australia. The airline has now launched an investigation into cause.
In a statement, the airline said, quote: We would like to stress that AirAsia group has always strictly followed the maintenance program prescribed by our manufacturers.
The Airbus 330 is one of the most commonly used aircraft for long-haul air travel. Investigators are now trying to determine if this was an isolated incident or part of a larger problem with these Rolls Royce engines.
MARSH: Well, it's important to point out, this aircraft is designed to fly with only one engine. Now, the airline has not said anything beyond their statement assuring the public that safety is their priority.
But one passenger told CNN he received $20 as compensation for all of this -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, once the pilot says to start to pray, and then the plane is shaking like that for two hours, I can only imagine how scared all those folks must be.
Rene Marsh, thanks very much for that report.
That's it for me. Thanks for watching. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.