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EARLY START

Republicans Not Backing Health Bill; White House Warns Syria; Travel Ban Surprise. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired June 27, 2017 - 04:00   ET

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


[04:00:10] ALISON KOSIK, CNN ANCHOR: Senate Republicans are backing away from their party's health care proposal after a harsh score from the Congressional Budget Office. Now, the White House is conceding it's on the threshold of losing the health care battle.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: The White House says Syria will pay a heavy price if it launches another chemical attack. What prompted this warning out of seemingly nowhere from the administration?

KOSIK: And the administration is preparing yet another rollout of its travel ban after the Supreme Court agreed to take up the issue next term. What changes will happen, and how soon?

Good morning, and welcome to EARLY START. I'm Alison Kosik, sitting in for Christine Romans, another day or two of vacation for her.

BRIGGS: Yes, good for her.

Good morning to you. I'm Dave Briggs. Tuesday, June 27th, it is 4:00 a.m. in the East.

New this morning on the health care battle. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell still pushing for a vote on Obamacare repeal-and- replace this week. That despite developments that leave the Senate health care bill hanging by a thread. Two senior GOP aides telling CNN McConnell wants that vote but plans to assess sentiment today at a Senate Republican lunch. They say he could change his plans depending on feedback from Senate Republican leaders.

KOSIK: The reason the GOP bill is barely hanging on -- an analysis by the congressional budget office showing that the so-called -- analysis of this bill, showing that 22 million more Americans would be uninsured by 2026. At this point, four Republican senators already say they're going to vote against this bill, even beginning the debate process to even get into the bill. And that's enough to kill it for sure.

Other senators, Ted Cruz and Mike Lee, they say they still have reservations, as well.

BRIGGS: Lee is among four senators set to meet with Vice President Pence tonight to talk about health care.

Our coverage begins with Phil Mattingly on Capitol Hill.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Dave and Alison, it's a top-line number that seems tailor-made to spook Republican senators who are sitting on the fence and that seems to be exactly what happened. Twenty-two million fewer uninsured Americans over a ten-year period, that's according to the Congressional Budget Office. The score really everybody was waiting for.

And the repercussions were immediate. Senator Susan Collins, moderate member from Maine, saying after the score was released that she would not vote to move forward on the Senate bill, kind of a procedural vote. That's a must-have if they actually want to get this done this week which still is Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's prerogative. That's what he wants to do. She now joins Rand Paul, Dean Heller, and other senators saying they're not willing to move this forward without major changes.

Well, three's a magic number. You only have 52 Republican senators. If three are not willing to move this forward, then you have a serious problem. That makes the behind-the-scenes all the more important. But the real quick is as Republicans try and get this done as soon as this week in the wake of such a bad score, will anybody come on board no matter what changes are made.

Take a listen to what Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski, another key, moderate, outstanding senator told my colleague, Dana Bash.

SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI (R), ALASKA: 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.

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 to much to say give us the time to fairly and critically analyze these numbers. 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.

MATTINGLY: And Senator Murkowski not the only ones raising concerns about the process.

But, guys, it's really the policy that matters most here. And on some positive note if you want to take one from the CBO score, the CBO included that the Senate bill would have $321 billion in deficit savings over the course of a ten-year period. That's more than $200 billion from what the House had. The House makes the baseline number. They basically have to match what the House had in deficit reduction in order to move this bill forward in the U.S. Senate.

That means Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has about $200 billion to work with, some money to hand out, perhaps more Medicaid spending for senators that are concerned for Medicaid-expansion states that aren't happy with the gradual phase out. Any number of different issues, opioid funding, those types of things, that's something that Mitch McConnell can actually work with.

The real question now as they still try and target a vote by the end of the week, can they actually get 50 votes? At least as of Monday night, as of Tuesday morning, they're not there yet, guys.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KOSIK: All right. Phil Mattingly, thanks very much.

The White House also conceding repeal and replace is in deep trouble. A West Wing official admitting last night, quote, "We're right on the threshold of losing health care." The official saying if the effort to replace Obamacare collapses in the Senate, the White House would simply move on to tax reform.

[04:05:04] BRIGGS: All this following a direct White House attack on the Congressional Budget Office right after he put out new analysis.

For the latest, let's bring CNN's Jim Acosta at the White House.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Alison and Dave, the White House is blasting a Congressional Budget Office report on the Senate version of the bill that would repeal and replace Obamacare. The White House savaged that report from the nonpartisan CBO, saying in a statement, quote: The CBO has consistently proven it cannot accurately predict how health care legislation will impact insurance coverage.

At a Rose Garden event with the prime minister of India, President Trump refused to answer questions on the CBO score. In fact, the president declined to answer any questions of reporters at all despite the fact that the White House set up the event in the Rose Garden as if it were an official White House press conference. But that's been part of the erosion of press access here at the White House in recent weeks, with Press Secretary Sean Spicer insisting on mostly off-camera briefings here at the White House -- Alison and Dave.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KOSIK: All right. Jim Acosta, thanks very much.

Here's a step that's not in the CBO report. The Senate health care bill gives the wealthiest Americans a quarter million-dollar tax cut, according to new analysis by the Tax Policy Center. It finds that the bill reduces tax revenue by $700 billion over the next ten years.

And most of the benefit goes to the top 1 percent of households. They'll receive a tax cut of $45,000 a year. The savings are even higher for the top 0.1 percent, nearly $250,000 a year. That's because the bill discards two Medicare taxes that disproportionately affect the wealthy. One on incomes above $200,000 and another on investments.

It's why Republicans have been criticized for shifting money from the poor to the rich. Repealing these taxes while making drastic cuts to things like Medicaid. Medicaid covers more than 70 million low-income Americans. And of the 22 million the CBO estimates will lose coverage, 15 million of those are under Medicaid.

BRIGGS: Late last night, the White House issued a warning aimed at Syria. In a statement, the White House says there are potential preparations for another chemical weapons attack by the Syrian regime. That would lead to the, quote, mass murder of civilians. It also warned President Bashar al Assad that there will be a heavy price to pay if such an attack is carried out.

So, what prompted this warning seemingly out of nowhere?

For the latest, let's bring in international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson, monitoring developments from Abu Dhabi.

Good morning to you, Nic.

Did this come from the Pentagon, from what we understand at this point?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: From what we know at the moment, this was a statement from the White House. It hasn't been backed up by any evidence so far. But in a situation like this, one would be surprised if the White House or the Pentagon were to be -- would want to publish photographs or evidence that they may have that they believe Assad is preparing a chemical weapons strike. They would lose in part the element of surprise.

Perhaps surprising in part because President Trump has said in the past that he would not -- he would not give warnings, he would just act. That's been the narrative until now.

So far, nothing from the Pentagon. We're obviously waiting to hear what they have to say about this.

Nikki Haley, ambassador of the United Nations, of course, being clear that it would be Assad responsible, but not just him, as well his backers, Russia and Iran, as well.

To that point, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson talking yesterday by phone with his opposite number in Moscow, Sergey Lavrov. Not clear if the issue of chemical weapons preparation was in the conversation. But we have heard from the Russian -- from Vladimir Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, this morning saying Russia strongly condemns the use of chemical weapons. So, they appear to be putting some distance between themselves and whatever the Assad regime is doing.

But this would be a major step if Assad was to use chemical weapons again and could lead to another strike, as we saw -- 59 cruise missiles back at the end of April.

BRIGGS: That would be certainly ups the ante for that potential Putin/Trump meeting at the G20.

Nic Robertson, thank you, sir. KOSIK: OK. We had other big news yesterday.

BRIGGS: We did.

KOSIK: Not just the health care bill.

BRIGGS: We got that.

KOSIK: The president's travel ban will go before the Supreme Court next term. What happens in the meantime? We're going to break it down, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[04:13:24] BRIGGS: Welcome back.

Key elements of the president's travel ban could take effect in just a few days. Taking an unexpected approach, the U.S. Supreme Court is allowing some people from six Muslim majority countries to be kept out of the U.S. by the ban, allowing others in. Until the justices consider this case next term.

KOSIK: President Trump hailing the ruling on Twitter last night, calling it, quote, a great day for America's future security and safety, courtesy of the U.S. Supreme Court. He said: I will keep fighting for the American people and win.

BRIGGS: The Department of Homeland Security hoping to learn from its mistakes and promising a better rollout than the chaos passengers witnessed at the airports back in January. So, for now, the bottom line, if you have a clear connection to the U.S., personal or business, you can come in. If you don't, keep out.

KOSIK: OK. So, where and how will that determination be made?

CNN justice correspondent Jessica Schneider has more from the Supreme Court.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Dave and Alison, an unexpected decision from the Supreme Court. They will allow parts of President Trump's travel ban to go forward -- in particular, those foreign nationals from those six Muslim-majority countries who do not have a clear connection or bona fide relationship with any person or entity here in the United States, those people can be banned from the country. However, the court saying that any other foreign national from those six countries who does, in fact, have a connection here, whether it's a family member, whether it's being admitted to a university, or whether it's having secured a job here, those people must be admitted in.

And as a result of this somewhat split decision, there have been different outcomes, different reactions.

[04:15:02] Both sides of this claiming somewhat partial victories. In fact, President Trump came out with a statement shortly after the decision, calling this a clear victory for our national security. But, you know, lawyers for the plaintiffs, as well as organizations like civil liberties unions, they are saying that this is just one part of a win, in their much bigger fight.

Of course, this is not the end of the discussion. Even though parts of this travel ban can go into effect, the Supreme Court still will be hearing arguments as to the constitutionality of this travel ban, also about whether it might comply or not comply with immigration law. So, the Supreme Court has let these arguments go forward. They will be hearing arguments next term in October, and at that point, they could address the bigger issues here. They could also touch on whether or not President Trump's statements may factor into the constitutionality of this all.

So, we'll keep an eye to this as we move forward to the next term -- Alison and Dave.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BRIGGS: Certainly a different statement from the White House yesterday.

Thank you, Jessica.

Another major case the Supreme Court will consider next term is whether a Denver baker broke the law by refusing to sell a wedding cake to a gay couple because of his religious beliefs. Lower courts ruled the cake shop owner violated Colorado's public accommodations law which prohibits refusing service to customers based on characteristics like race, marital status, or sexual orientation. The owner claims compelling him to make cakes for same-sex couples violates his First Amendment right to free speech.

KOSIK: For the second time in two months, an historical marker about civil rights icon Emmett Till has been vandalized on the Mississippi freedom trail. The damaged sign is outside the grocery store where the black teen was accused of whistling at a white woman back in 1955. The sign was scratched last month. And this past weekend, vandals ripped panels containing words and images telling Till's story off the marker. Emmett Till's kidnapping and murder helped to galvanize the civil rights movement.

The self-declared capital of ISIS is crumbling. Next, a CNN exclusive. Inside Raqqah. We're going to show you what life is like inside the city and how locals are trying to force remaining fighters out.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[04:21:42] BRIGGS: Now to an exclusive. Video secretly taken inside Raqqa, ISIS' self-facto capital in Syria. The self-proclaimed caliphate looks to be on the verge of collapse with ISIS terrorists besieged by U.S.-led coalition strikes.

This is a rare glimpse at a way of life inside the Syrian city ISIS has controlled for years.

CNN international correspondent Nick Paton Walsh has more of the CNN exclusive.

Nick, good morning to you, sir.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPOINDENT: Extraordinary image. We've seen occasional glimpses of life inside Raqqa now over two years under the control of ISIS. But we haven't really had the ability for this activist cameraman whose footage we obtained it to move, it seems, so freely. He's seen on the streets filming ISIS fighters. Some talking in Russian about how they've lost some radios and how they're worried about air strikes. Others searching for people, another man trying on different types of trousers in a market.

But it's part, I think, it's fair to say, of the crumbling grip ISIS seemed to have on their city. They've lined the streets with sandbags. They've covered them with canopies to keep frying coalition drones away from them. They have car bombs on many of the street corners waiting for that eventual assault by Syrian and Kurdish American-backed forces.

Here's also, though, what one resistance activist said they were seeing amongst the local population, attacking it seems or leaving threats for those who inform for ISIS.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WALSH (voice-over): We can only get to them, he says, by leaving messages on their door like, we know who you are. This soon stops them. And some of our friends started writing the word free on the walls of ISIS buildings.

Then locals started. The elderly writing it on walls, and children on chalkboards, making ISIS wonder who are these people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALSH: Now that internal dissent it seems will grow. There does appear to be what hear in nervousness among select population, too, about who the U.S.-backed forces surrounding that city necessarily are, how safe they'll be when they enter the city. But that is a secondary thought. Frankly, the U.S. policy focused entirely on kicking ISIS out of what is their self-declared capital of their caliphate.

And they now appear, those U.S.-backed forces, to be more or less able to have encircled the city in its entirety, having moved from the south, that battle picking up now.

BRIGGS: Extraordinary footage there. Nick Paton Walsh live for us in Iraq -- thank you.

KOSIK: Really is amazing to see inside Raqqa. This is an area that we talk about all the time. BRIGGS: Right.

KOSIK: And we rarely get pictures.

BRIGGS: ISIS on their heels clearly. Another good sign there.

KOSIK: Yes.

All right. A growing number of Republican senators say they're not going to be backing their own party's health care plan. What can the majority leader do to gain their support after a troubling score from the Congressional Budget Office?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[04:28:43] BRIGGS: The White House is conceding it's on the thresholds of losing the health care battle. The score from the Congressional Budget Office has some Republicans jumping ship. Now a number of GOP senators not only against the bill, they didn't even want to begin debate.

KOSIK: The U.S. says it has concerns another chemical attack could happen in Syria. The warning from the White House and why it says it won't just blame the Syrians.

BRIGGS: And both sides claiming a win after the Supreme Court agrees to take up the travel ban in the fall. What it means until then for travelers from six Muslim majority nations. The Trump administration certainly needed some sort of win on this travel ban. They hailed this as a 9-0 decision --

KOSIK: Split down the middle, compromise.

BRIGGS: Some sort of win for him.

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Dave Briggs.

KOSIK: Good morning. I'm Alison Kosik. It's 30 minutes past the hour.

And new this morning on the health care battle, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is still pushing for a vote on Obamacare repeal and replace this week despite developments that leave the Senate health care bill hanging by a thread.

Two senior aides telling CNN McConnell wants that vote, but he plans to assess what the sentiment is today at a Senate Republican lunch. That's happening around 12:30. They say he could change his plans depending on feedback from Senate Republican leaders.