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INSIDE POLITICS

CBO Scores Uninsured; CBO Analysis is Blasted; Breitbart Audio Post of Ryan; Blizzard Warning in Northeast; Tax Cuts for Wealthy. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired March 14, 2017 - 12:00   ET

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


[12:00:00] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Your day with us. It's a snow day in most of the northeast United States. A late winter storm makes for beautiful images and more than a little disruption.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. DAN MALLOY, CONNECTICUT: The storm will bring very heavy snow. And it's the kind of snow you want to stay ahead of. And I want to emphasize, this is on the heavier side. So be careful out there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Good advice from the governor there. Be careful out there.

Disruption of a very different sort here in Washington. A new report card on the new Republican health care plan says the government will save a fortune, but it will also add 24 million more Americans to the list of uninsured.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: The CBO has reported that the Republican bill pushes 24 million people out of health care -- off of health coverage. This is a remarkable figure. It speaks so eloquently to the cruelty of the bill that the speaker calls an act of mercy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Plus, silly you for taking the president literally. A November promise to a federal prosecutor meaningless in March. And now wiretapping doesn't necessarily mean wiretapping.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He doesn't really think that President Obama went up and tapped his phone personally. I think the president used the word wiretap in quotes to mean broadly surveillance and other activities during that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Got it? You got it? You got that? Back to that one in a moment. With us to share their reporting and their insights, Julie Pace of the

Associated Press, CNN's Jeff Zeleny, CNN's Nia-Malika Henderson, and Jackie Kucinich of "The Daily Beast."

A live look here. This is WCBB in Boston, Massachusetts, my hometown, driving around. I guess we lost that shot there. OK. Here we go. Other winter weather shots. Waiting for a news briefing there from the Mass. Department of Transportation. We'll show you some interesting snow pictures as we go, but it's winter. It snows in winter. I'm a Boston guy, so I don't think we should get too worked up about this, but we'll check in on the weather in just a moments. We have correspondents throughout the northeast. In a moment I say we'll get back on that, the track, the wallop, the impact on travel, quite significant.

First, though, the political storm over whether Republicans have the right plan to fix your health care. A new Congressional Budget Office analysis says the GOP plan would nearly double over the next decade the number of Americans without coverage. Here are the numbers. Forty- one million Americans lacked coverage when Obamacare was launched. That number now down to 28.5 million. But the CBO says the GOP plan, if passed, that number will jump again, dramatically, to 52 million in 2026. Democrats look at those numbers and they see a giant political opening.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: The only winners in this CBO report are health insurance executives and the wealthiest Americans, people who make over $250,000 a year. They get a huge tax break. Everyone else gets a cold shoulder from the Republicans in Congress and from President Trump.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: And so I guess the big question is, what is different today than yesterday? We get this report late yesterday afternoon. We knew yesterday at this hour, and throughout the day, Republicans were having a tough time getting the votes for this bill. First in the House, where they had a challenge. And then even if they passed the House, they've got a different challenge in the Senate, where it's 52- 48. What is different now that the Congressional Budget Office says -- and Republicans say, of course, there's not a mandate anymore, of course fewer people will have insurance. But that's a pretty big number.

JULIE PACE, ASSOCIATED PRESS: I think the difference is that Republicans now know the exact number that will be on the political ads running against them next year I mean if this bill goes forward, and that has a big psychological impact. The problem for Republicans with this CBO report is it squeezes them from the right and the left. If you have moderate Republicans who, you know, could be convinced to vote for this, this may scare them away. And if you have conservative Republicans who look at this bill and say, ideologically, it's opposed to everything I believe in, it's going to make it harder for them to both cast that vote and then know that they're going to be taking this political hit.

JACKIE KUCINICH, "THE DAILY BEAST": It's also given members of the Senate license to say, OK, guys, this isn't -- this isn't what we want to do. Let's slow down. Let's look at this again. And you're hearing that from across the Republican ideological spectrum. And it's not necessarily Tea Party. It's not necessarily moderate. You're hearing it from a lot of Republican senators who just want to take a step back.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: This health care --

KING: And let me just jump in for one second because this is one of the fascinating challenges of this. For you watching at home, there's a Washington process. Senators say slow down. And the leadership would say, no, we have to do this under reconciliation, meaning we have to speed up.

KUCINICH: Yes.

KING: That's a budget process, reconciliation. So you're going to hear a lot of talk. I know you care about at home, what's going to happen to my coverage, how much is it going to cost me? In Washington we have to talk about reconciliation and scores and the like.

I'm sorry I interrupted you.

ZELENY: Which is one of the reasons it's -- it's so difficult. But speaking of home, this is a local story. If you look at the front page of every newspaper --

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes.

ZELENY: Pretty much every newspaper in the country, the headline is, 24 million Americans or 14 million Americans in 2018. So that's why this is much more different. Totally different than any other Washington fight that they're having.

But the reality here is, the White House was bracing for this. Speaker Ryan was bracing for this, but they can't completely trash the CBO report because that, you know, it saves $337 billion, which is one of the arguments for why it's good, by taking away that mandate. So they're really sort of in a box here.

[12:05:12] So Sean Spicer's briefing today, this afternoon at the White House, will be interesting to see how they decide to embrace CBO or not because there are differences in the administration and Paul Ryan already coming out on this.

KING: Absolutely. And to Jeff's point, if you pick up "The New York Times," "The Washington Post," "The Wall Street Journal," the papers read in this town for the most part, health care on the front page.

But, look, these are places where Donald Trump did quite well in the election. Youngstown, Ohio, "The Vindicator," "CBO says 14 million people will lost coverage under GOP health bill." Macomb County, Michigan, "The Macomb Daily," again, Donald Trump carried Macomb County, "analysts say millions to lose coverage under GOP bill." "The Arizona Republic," a red state for Donald Trump in November, "CBO says millions could lose coverage."

HENDERSON: Yes.

KING: So these headlines, they add to the political debate because, guess what, this is personal to people out there.

HENDERSON: Yes.

KING: They don't care about scores and reconciliation.

HENDERSON: Right.

KING: They care about their wallet and their health care.

HENDERSON: Right, what does it mean for then? And, you know, I mean, the interesting thing about this bill is there's still a question of whether or not this document matches with the populist movement of -- that -- that -- that Donald Trump ran on. I mean he promised no cuts to entitlements. He essentially ran and used rhetoric that was familiar to liberals, which is what Republicans were so skeptical about.

So when people in these particularly small towns, when they hear about the cuts that are going to be made to Medicaid, when they hear the rhetoric, I think, from Democrats, particularly this idea of war on seniors, those are the voters that voted for Donald Trump. And they thought they were -- that he was going to make their lives better.

So now I think it's going to be up to him to figure out, how do you frame this? It's very difficult, I think, to do that. They're trying to frame it in the language of sort of free enterprise and competition. That's kind of meaningless to people who have got to figure out how to pay their bills and (INAUDIBLE) health care.

KING: And there are several stages of that, because now they're debating a bill and so now it's theory that the Congressional Budget Office projects it will do this to you.

HENDERSON: Yes.

KING: Then they pass it in the House, and then it will change some in the Senate. There will be a whole set -- another set of projections, assuming it changes. Then, if something passes, then we find out, like in Obamacare maybe, if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. Didn't turn out that way.

HENDERSON: Right. Right.

KING: But to your point about what the president promised, this is what he told "The Washington Post" -- he said this many times in the campaign. This is what he told "The Washington Post" five days before he was inaugurated president of the United States. "We're going to have insurance for everybody. There was a philosophy in some circles that if you can't pray it, you don't get it. That's not going to happen with us. People covered under the law, quote, can expect to have great health care. It will be in much simplified form, much less expensive and better."

HENDERSON: Yes.

KING: This bill does not deliver on that promise.

HENDERSON: Nope.

PACE: It definitely does not deliver on that promise. And the president said that line repeatedly, even after the election. He's continued to make this case that what he would eventually sign would give everyone a chance to have coverage. And he is going to have to make a decision, I think, if this starts to look, and it does, like this current form is not going to be able to pass in the Senate, where does Donald Trump come down on this? There is an interesting element to this in that Trump is not an ideologue. So he is actually a president who has the potential to work both sides of this debate. He doesn't have to join onto the Paul Ryan bill, but whether he wants to put in the muscle to do that --

KING: Right, but -- but he would have to -- but to do that, he would have to get Democrats to help him.

PACE: Absolutely.

KING: And the Democrats are in no mood to help him.

PACE: Democrats are definitely not moving in that direction.

KING: Not in this (INAUDIBLE). We'll talk much more about this in the rest of the hour, but I want to bring into this, it's related to this. Breitbart news today, the alt-right conservative website, whose former CEO is at the right hand of President Trump, another senior editor from Breitbart is at the right hand of Steve Bannon, who is now at the right hand of President Trump. This is an old story. CNN and other news organizations reported it the

day it happen. Right after the "Access Hollywood" tape came out, Paul Ryan had a call with House members and said, hey, hey, I can't support Donald Trump. We cannot support Donald Trump when he says reckless things like this. We need to worry about ourselves. Breitbart news today, months later, publishes some audio.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER (voice-over): His comments are not anywhere in keeping with our party's principles and values. I am not going to defend Donald Trump. Not now, not in the future. You guys know, I had real concerns with our nominee. I hope you appreciate that I'm doing what I think is best for you, the members, not what's best for me. And so I want to do what's best for our members, and I think that this is the right thing to do. I'm going to focus my time on campaigning for House Republicans.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Why did Breitbart news, right now -- right now, at this very sensitive moment in the health care debate --

KUCINICH: Yes.

KING: Decide to roll these hand grenade into the room?

KUCINICH: It's almost like they want to give him an out because they've also said that they don't like this bill.

HENDERSON: Yes.

KUCINICH: They've also -- they've also railed against it. They've called it Ryancare. And trying to keep it as far away from the president as possible.

HENDERSON: Yes.

ZELENY: That sound is throwing him under the bus right there, and he's already pretty close to it. But, look, the timing is fascinating on this. What we still don't know yet is how the president reacts to all this.

KUCINICH: Yes.

PACE: Yes.

KING: Right.

ZELENY: He has said that he is open to negotiation on this. And by all accounts over the last, you know, couple months or so, he and Paul Ryan, he and Speaker Ryan have had many conversations. They talk on the phone all the time, we're told. So he is more -- President Trump is more establishment than we've ever seen him. That does not sit well with some Breitbart people here.

[12:10:08] HENDERSON: Right.

ZELENY: So it's the president's next move on this, and I think it will be fascinating to see what that will be.

HENDERSON: Yes, and --

KING: All right, everybody sit tight for one second. We'll continue the politics conversation in a minute.

But we're also keeping an eye on this massive winter storm making its way across the northeast. About 18 million people at the moment under a blizzard warning, Maryland, Virginia, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, all under states of emergency as we speak this hour. More than 6,000 flights have been cancelled today all across the country because of the impact here. Public schools are closed in Philadelphia, Boston, New York City. And the snow is continuing to fall in much of the northeast.

Let's check in with some of our correspondents out there in the cold snow. Miguel Marquez in Hartford, Connecticut, where a statewide travel ban is in place. Ryan Nobles up in Westboro, Massachusetts. First, Miguel Marquez, sorry, we're indoors, my apologies. (INAUDIBLE)

trust me, I'd rather -- much rather be out -- I'd much rather be outside with you, and I actually mean that. These other people like to be inside. Tell us about it.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This -- it is about as miserable as it can get here right now, John. You came to us at just the right point. You can -- look at this wind just whipping off the freeways here. This should be a busy freeway intersection in downtown Hartford, 91 and 84. There's almost no vehicles on it.

They are moving a lot of snow here. They obviously get big snows in Connecticut, so they're not unaware of this stuff. So they are moving a lot of snow here. But they're expecting up to 24 inches. Those wind gusts up to 60 miles per hour in some places. And we're starting to feel some of that.

The worst of this should go through about 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time. So we have another couple of hours it sounds like unless this thing sticks around and keeps going. It is very difficult to move out here, and it is very painful to be out here in this snow, in part because it's very heavy. It's like a lot of water and almost ice like this snow, so they're concerned about roofs in the area. They're concerned about electrical wires and trees. Going forward, they're going to have a lot of engineers out checking on that.

They're also concerned about the tides and the full moon happening at the same time. So far, the winds seem to be blowing the tide out. So hopefully things go well, but they are in the middle of it here in Hartford.

John.

KING: Miguel Marquez, we will keep in touch throughout the day.

I don't mean to make light of the travel and the harshness that's outside, I'm just a New Englander, I'd love to be outside.

Miguel, take care. We'll check in with you in a little bit.

Ryan Nobles, let's move up into Patriot nation, Red Sox nation in Massachusetts.

So what's the latest there?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, this is like old home for you, right?

KING: Amen.

NOBLES: I feel like you as a child standing out here in Westboro, Massachusetts. Just another day in New England. It is -- it's pretty, but as Miguel said, it's very difficult to be out here. The wind pounding in your face. And these snow pellets are not soft, they're hard. And smack at you like little pebbles. And take a look here at the Massachusetts Turnpike, I-90. There are a few cars periodically -- we get a nice beep there -- on this road, but officials here in Massachusetts really strenuously suggesting to people that they stay home today. All the schools are closed. A lot of businesses are. There's no real reason to be out and about today unless you're a television news reporter like me.

But let me give you an example of this. You've got a big line of tractor trailers here. Now, these are guys whose, you know, bottom line, their livelihood depends on getting somewhere by a certain time. And we talked to one of these drivers who's actually on his way to Richmond, Virginia, and he told us he's going to wait this out because it's just too dangerous right now, and that's what we're seeing from a lot of people all across Massachusetts right now.

John.

KING: Caution makes a lot of sense.

Ryan Nobles, take care. Don't let too much of that snow stick. You know, the Red Sox open at home this year, Fenway Park, April. You might have to shovel it out for them. All right, Ryan, take care.

NOBLES: All right, I'll do it.

KING: Up next, a deeper dig into the health care analysis, that new health care analysis, and whether the plan comes anywhere close to what the president promised in last year's campaign.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:17:59] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're not going to have one size fits all. Instead, we're going to be working to unleash the power of the private marketplace to let insurers come in and compete for your business. And you'll see rates go down, down, down, and you'll see plans go up, up, up. You'll have a lot of choices. You'll have plans that nobody's even thinking of today.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: That was the president of the United States yesterday speaking about health care reform, just before the new Congressional Budget Office estimate came out. Let's take a look. Does the Congressional Budget Office estimate match up with the test just outlined by the president there? Here's the political hard part for Republicans. If Obamacare were kept in place, the Congressional Budget Office says 28 million people would lack insurance a decade from now. Under the Republican plan, if it's passed and signed into law, they say that number will nearly double to 52 million Americans who don't have health insurance. Politically, that's a tough sell for the Republicans.

Premiums, it depends on how you look at it. In the short term, the Republican plan would increase premiums, this new analysis suggests, including in 2018, next year, the midterm election year. That's bad for Republicans, but they say take the long view. Over the next decade, your premiums would actually drop according to this new analysis. That's good news for Republicans.

This is part of the big sales pitch to conservatives. Republicans say the government will be spending less, especially on those subsidies under Obamacare, and the federal deficit will drop by nearly $340 billion under his Republican plan, a major selling point to fiscal conservatives.

Now, I want to take a look at this in particular. What about this particular group of voters, older voters. If you're a 64-year-old on a limited, modest income, under Obamacare, your premiums are only $1,700. Under this new Republican plan, they're going to go up to more than $14,000 for older Americans who don't have much income.

Why did I pick this number here? Because those are the voters who were Donald Trump's die-hard, his biggest group of support were older voters. So by the time 2020 rolls around, is this group, so good to Donald Trump in 2016, are they going to be mad about this in 2060 -- 2020, excuse me? One of the political questions to go forward as the debate goes, the House Speaker Paul Ryan says, I looked at this study, I thought it was going to be worse.

[12:20:03] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: Actually, I think if you read this entire report, I'm pretty encouraged by it. And it actually exceeded my expectations. Of course the CBO is going to say, if you're not going to force people to buy something they don't want to buy, they won't buy it. But at the same time they're saying, our reforms will kick in and lower premiums and make health care therefore more accessible.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: More accessible. This is the argument we're going to have, Republicans -- and they've said this for years, ideologically, philosophically consistent, free market, government's not going to make you -- they're not mandated. You're going to have options out there. But if you choose not to get health insurance, that's where that number goes way up.

PACE: And that's a fine argument to make, but the problem is, you do need to have a certain number of people in the marketplace. And so the Democratic position was to -- was to require them to do so. Republicans are arguing that the sheer cost and accessibility will draw people in. But there's a lot of skepticism around that, particularly for younger, healthy people, which have been actually a hard group to get into the Obamacare system even with the mandate.

KING: Right.

PACE: So without that pressure on how will you compel those people to buy a plan, that is a huge unanswered question. And without answering that question, lot of these other factors that Ryan is talking about are just much less certain.

KUCINICH: And access doesn't mean affordable.

HENDERSON: Right.

KUCINICH: That's the other thing. I mean people might drop off because they can't afford what they're going to have to pay under this new plan. And that's a big problem --

HENDERSON: Yes.

KUCINICH: For Republicans, that these people are ending up using the emergency room again --

HENDERSON: Right.

KUCINICH: As their main source of health care.

HENDERSON: Yes, and this idea that health insurance companies are going to compete to take care of poor people who are very sick, who might have heart disease or diabetes, it's very expensive. And I think, you know, people have experiences with the health care industry already, and insurance, and having their doctors be on the phone arguing for, you know, for care and not getting that care. So this idea that, you know, that all of a sudden everything's going to be great and health the insurance markets are all going to be wonderful, I think that's a really hard sell for the GOP to make.

ZELENY: Right, and this, I think, is where the president comes in. He has shown a willingness to reach out directly to individual businesses. Is he going to be willing to reach out to insurance company CEOs and say --

HENDERSON: Yes.

ZELENY: Be more competitive in these rural areas.

One thing that has been stunning to me over this --

KING: Got to pass the bill first.

ZELENY: Well, exactly. That's right.

PACE: Yes.

HENDERSON: Right.

ZELENY: But one thing that's been so interesting over the course of this long health care debate, insurance company CEOs have largely remained in the shadows and there haven't been people running after them in the streets with pitch forks and other things now sort of like the bankers and other things back in the -- the fiscal crisis. I think if he uses the power of his bully pulpit to call out insurance companies to get more competition, that's one thing. But you're right, you have to pass the bill first, which is harder than signing one of those executive orders. KING: And I just showed the premium increase for older voters. They

are the most politically active. They're the most reliable come Election Day. They supported Donald Trump in majorities, his largest group of supporters in the electorate. Listen to his budget director right here ask this morning, you -- the president -- is the president -- or does the plan essentially pull the rug out from some of his most loyal voters?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICK MULVANEY, WHITE HOUSE BUDGET DIRECTOR: We're not pulling the rug out from anybody. You've heard us say that again and again and again. The bill is specifically tailored to do that. And everybody else who's had an insurance card under Obamacare and looked at that deductible when they got sick and said, you know what, I just can't afford to go to the doctor, I can look you in the eye and say, things are going to be better when this bill passes and becomes law.

CHRIS CUOMO, ANCHOR, CNN'S "NEW DAY": Even for those elderly that the CBO score has them hitting at about $14,000 deductibles?

MULVANEY: Even for those -- but -- because, again, they've got programs now that they can't get to the doctor with. Again, you're talking about coverage. I'm talking about care. That's the fundamental disconnect here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENDERSON: You know, I mean I think there is a larger question of whether or not Mick Mulvaney and Tom Price are the right salesman for this, and Paul Ryan. I think sometimes Mick Mulvaney comes off as sort of a little glib, a little jokey at times, certainly on our air this morning. Tom Price comes off as a little bit of a CEO. He's a surgeon. He doesn't necessarily have the bedside manner of a primary care doctor. And then Paul Ryan, sure, he's going to take off his jackets and have the charts and the graphs there, but I think they've got to work on this. I mean there's not a lot of empathy. There's just like, trust me, this is going to be great. And, again, this is coming from a White House who has had a problem in terms of being truthful with any number of things.

KING: Is part of that their skill set, or lack thereof, or is part of that, they're trying to do an inside Washington game right now --

HENDERSON: Right.

KING: Which, again, we're talking about, you know, getting votes, twisting arms, reconciliation, budget scores, not, you know, John and Jane Doe out there, this is what it's going to do to you or that your employer may stop providing you health care. It's a very different debate in this town in the language than it is out in America.

ZELENY: I think that's totally -- absolutely true. And they've not done the hard work of bringing on all these outside groups.

HENDERSON: Right. ZELENY: The doctors' groups, AARP, other things. You know, really, if you look at all of them, almost all of these major groups are opposed to this. So what is the White House going to do to, you know, sway them, convince them? This CBO report makes it incredibly difficult.

KING: Another tough part of the sales pitch is that Democrats are hitting on the fact that this bill gives tax cuts, tax benefits to a lot of wealthy people. Again, listen to the budget director saying, so what.

[12:25:09] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICK MULVANEY, WHITE HOUSE BUDGET DIRECTOR: We promised at the very outset that we were going to repeal all of the taxes. Who cares if somebody else benefits? Why do you have to have a system that punishes somebody in order to help somebody else? We think we've created a system that saves money and allows more people to get affordable health care. Why would it be bad if folks benefit from a small tax reduction at the same time?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: That gets back to Nia's point about the salesmanship --

KUCINICH: Yes.

HENDERSON: Yes.

PACE: Absolutely. And --

KING: What to say and maybe what not to say.

PACE: And it gets back to the people who voted for Donald Trump, who are by and large working class voters who responded to the financial crisis and a lot of the benefits for wealthy Americans by turning toward Trump.

KING: Right.

KUCINICH: And who believes the system is rigged.

HENDERSON: Yes. Exactly.

PACE: And who believes the system is rigged.

KING: Right. This is a child alert, if you have a child in the room, put your hand over your ears right now. This is in a Bloomberg article quoting this, a Trump supporter who doesn't like these tax cuts. Quote, "it pisses me off, but my wife pisses me too, and we're still married." That was Dan in Wisconsin. I don't want to say Dan's last name in case his wife -- his wife doesn't know about that quote yet.

Up next, the White House is walking back a key talking point of the president's wiretap claim. Part of their defense, air quotes. We'll explain.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)