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Health Bill Collapses, GOP Turns To Repeal Only; Trump's Changing Language On Health Care; Confirmation Hearing For Vatican Ambassador Nominee Today; Top Jobs in Trump's Administration Mostly Vacant; 3 Senators Say "No" To Repeal-Only; Trump: "Very Disappointed" With Health Bill's Failure; Trump: My Plan Now Is To Let ObamaCare Fail; Senate Republicans Meeting Now On Failed Bill. Aired 12:30-1p ET
Aired July 18, 2017 - 12:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[12:30:51] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Live picture here from Capitol Hill as we have more on today's big breaking political news. The collapse of the Senate Republican ObamaCare replacement plan. At that podium any minute now, Republican senators who are meeting for lunch will come out and try to explain to us how they plan to move forward on health care.
There so much bigger question for the Republican Party, too. Six months after taking control of the White House and both Chambers of Congress, can the GOP rise to the challenge of governing?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our both houses and we have the president, so we can do things --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You can do things (INAUDIBLE).
TRUMP: It's been long time since that happened.
REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: The president just came here and knocked the ball out of the park. He knocked the cover of the ball and explained to our members how it's important to unify, how it's important to work together, how we are advancing our principles and doing what we told the American people we would do. This is our chance and this is our moment.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MAJORITY LEADER: The American people said we elected a Republican president and a Republican House and Republican Senate, we want to see some result.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: I want to see some results. I don't think anybody can dispute that. We hit the six-month mark on Friday. ObamaCare will be the law of the land on Friday.
Tax reform is nowhere in the legislative process. They've had some committee hearings but there's a lot of different disagreements between the White House approach and Speaker Ryan's approach.
Infrastructure is another big another presidential priority. Maybe not so much for other members of the Republican Party, but certainly for President Trump, it is nowhere.
There's big questions about whether he'll get the money for his wall if he go back to that. The Trump agenda and the Republican agenda, not always the same thing but neither one of them big picture items moving forward in any way now as we watch this. Wait for more on what comes next with health care.
Why? Why? I mean, it should not be -- I guess -- let me put it this way. Yes, governing is hard. Yes, these health care choices aren't extraordinarily difficult but it should not a surprise to anybody involved that Susan Collins of Maine and Ted Cruz of Texas think differently on health care. And if you're going to pass legislation, you going to have get them in a room and figure it out.
MJ LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: Yes, you know, Republicans spent eight years raling against President Obama being incredibly critical of him. But it turns out, you know, at least, on the health care front he was actually the Republican Party's saving grace.
Now that there was not a Democratic president in the White House, now that they do have a Republican president, they are now squarely facing sort of the challenges of -- and the realities of having to govern on an issue as complicated as health care. You know, I was struck last week talking to Senator Ted Cruz when he basically acknowledged after coming out in support of the bill saying, yes, I acknowledge, this is not a full repeal bill, and let me tell you, there is not the appetite.
They are not the votes in my conference to do a full repeal.
That is a long way away from what we have been hearing from the Republican Party over the last, you know, seven or eight years, that they do not like this bill and that they, you know, once we have the power, they will get rid of it.
KING: That was Ted Cruz, surprised a lot of people by being part of the negotiations. The longtime outsider being an inside player acknowledging, I'm not getting everything. The Reagan approach if you will. If you can get 80% of what you're looking for, that's progress.
A lot of the questions have been about why they didn't figure this out? Why did they waste the transition period, for example? Why wasn't the Trump transition working on these negotiations then to your point about using the bully pulpit?
Why wasn't he traveling to these key states, and key districts saying, I'm going to ask Michael to cast a tough vote. If you're not going to like his vote, blame me, not him. Why didn't that happen?
MATT WISER, THE BOSTON GLOBE: And I think it gets to Trump. There is just a lack of leadership in leading the party in a specific direction and that you articulate and that you hammer (INAUDIBLE) day after day. So you have these weeks that are dedicated to something but you don't have sort of a key message, and a way to push that with press conferences. He had one solo press conference in his entire time.
JACKIE KUCINICH, THE DAILY BEAST: There's no discipline. There's no discipline and that is part of the problem. Like initially, remember, a couple weeks ago, every time anyone asked about Russia in the briefing room, they were told, go talk to the lawyers. You've seen that vary now.
The press secretary is answering question which is great. I'm not saying don't answer questions. But you don't have the kind of discipline we've seen in other administrations be it sticking to the weeks or staying on message.
[12:35:15] MICHAEL SHEAR, THE NEW YORK TIMES: But I think it's deeper than just the message, right? You have a Republican Party in Congress and a Republican now in the White House who both fundamentally one office. Many of them in Congress and the president one office not appealing to people on the basis of, I'm going to come to Washington and forge compromise and sort of really -- they appealed to people's base like passions about things. And we're told to come to Washington and blow the place up and stick to their principles. And that's not a kind of mandate for them to compromise when you get here.
KING: I agree completely. I was to think one of the issues here is that Donald Trump is not an ideological Republican. He's a dealmaker, he is more of a transactional Republican. He's right up center but his not -- and a lot of Republicans on Capitol Hill think he doesn't understand that to do the Medicaid stuff you wanted to do while you going to lose Susan Collins.
To not lead, to leave some of the regulations in place sort to say, I want people to be able to keep the preexisting protections and keep on your parents health care until 26. That he didn't understand when he promised those in his campaign, how it complicated the Republican negotiations. In other word, they think he made a mistake when he said this would be easy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: You're going to have such great health care at a tiny fraction of the cost, and it's going to be so easy.
We have come up with a solution that's really, really, I think, very good. Now, I have to tell you, it's an unbelievably complex subject. Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated.
I know that we're all going to make a deal on health care. That's such an easy one. So I have no doubt that that's going to happen very quickly. I think it will, actually.
I think it's going to happen because we've all been promising Democrat, Republican. We've all been promising that to the American people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Let see where this goes. But you see now festering, what we saw throughout the Obama administration, the Republican civil war, an ideological tug-of-war for, you know, the leadership of the party on policy issues and on philosophical ways. Rich Lowry writing in the National Review, "If the current fight isn't completely over, it's certainly closer to closer to the end than the end of the beginning. We may now, we witnessing one of the greatest political whiffs of our time.
That's one of many if you look at whether it's conservative talk radio, some of the conservative media sites. Some people saying Mitch McConnell has to go. There's a lot of frustration at President Trump. I thought they were going to govern?
KUCINICH: You know, there's also been a failure to reach out. This amazing dealmaker, as he fashioned himself during the campaign. Not only has he not been able to forge any deals with Democrats, which, you know, that they've got incentive not to deal with the president, but he hasn't helped himself as all.
He can't forge deals with his own party. And I think that's been a surprise to the White House staff as well as to the president.
VISER: And part of that is I think his leadership style. As a businessman he would sort of articulate something broad and then get out of the way and let people do that. That doesn't work so well in Washington, you know, where you need to be involved and engaged, and moving people on the Hill. But to the political point is, the mid- term's coming up, the Republicans now are going to be squeezed on both sides.
I mean, Democrats are very mobilized now, and the Republican base is going to be angry if there's not something done on health care.
KING: To that point, this is from late June, but this NBC Wall Street Journal poll. What are your absolute priorities? (INAUDIBLE) absolute priorities and the question for Republican voters. ObamaCare 76%, the Supreme Court 82%, fewer regulations 64, tough on ISIS 81%.
So, repealing ObamaCare ranks up, they're very high for Republican voters. Mid-term elections are about base intensity. I bet in that lunch, I bet it's going run all along today because one of the questions for Republicans is not only what do we do about health care but what do we tell our voters?
LEE: Yes, and I think John, your point earlier about the president basically lacking ideological convictions when it comes to health care is so, so key. This is why we have seen him sort of all over the place, frankly, on the issue of health care. Whether it's saying, you know, I'm going to have a plan that offers insurance coverage for everybody. That's not what Republicans have been saying.
You know, seeing that the House bill that have passed, letting that sink in and then saying actually that bill sounds kind of mean to me. He's been sort of all over the place and not really on message in the way that the Republican Party has been. And I think that is going to make this a lot more difficult for the Republicans in Congress to navigate because they do not have a president who is sort of leading the way and guiding them on exactly what he would like to see on this bill.
KING: I think that lack of trust will spill over now not only to the next chapter of health care whatever that is but tax reform and other issues we look forward.
Ahead, whose to blame for so many government vacancies six months into the Trump administration.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[12:43:29] CALLISTA GINGRICH, VATICAN AMABASSADOR NOMINEE: I am honored to appear before you today as President Trump's nominee to serve as the United States ambassador to the Holy See.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Familiar face there. Callista Gingrich, the wife of the former House Speaker Newt Gingrich on Capitol Hill today for her confirmation hearing. She is the president's choice to be ambassador to the Vatican, ambassador to the Holy See. So, that's progress, right. There's been a lot of talk about the administration filling top jobs.
So let's take a look as we approach the six-month mark. The president is still well behind other presidents and running slow. Two-hundred and ten nominations for jobs that requires Senate confirmation, 49 Senate confirmations so far as we approach the six-month mark. How does that compare? Let's bring this up and see.
This is the Obama administration. Look that numbers are much greater than the Trump administration. You see the confirmations, Obama here, Trump, way down here not just a Democratic administration. George W. Bush, nominations up here, confirmations here. A little behind Obama but well ahead of President Trump.
When you look at this, this president has been slow to nominate people. And, yes, once he nominates them, Democrats are using their stalling tactics to slow it down.
Here's another way to look at it. We'll bring in all the recent presidents here. Trump, Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, you see the numbers. Trump is behind all of those other presidents in pace of the nominations.
Well behind all of those other presidents in the confirmations. Some of this has been look withdrawn or failed. Average days for confirmation? You can look right here. Yes the president does have a point at 45 days that takes the confirmation.
[12:45:05] The president does have a point, the Democrats are using their stalling tactics once he sends a name up to Capitol Hill. But that's only part of the problem.
That's only part of the problem. He's, yes, Democrats are using every tactic they have. But why has the administration been so slow to name people to basic jobs in the government and very important jobs in the government?
SHEAR: Look, I think you've got to give the president and the White House a little bit of credit here in that just from my inbox you've seen the pace of the nominations pick up. A lot of that, a lot of what --
KING: A lot of couple of weeks. That's right.
SHEAR: Right. A lot of what you see in that chart is the result of kind of terrible record and terrible delays in producing nominees at the beginning of the administration the first few months. We all saw that and the transition was chaotic. And the first couple months was terrible.
That said, the fact is they're behind, and the Democrats have pounced and have decided that they're going to take every opportunity to make sure that every nominee that the president does send up takes a very long time. Why should they do that? Because the truth is that the longer that the Trump administration doesn't have its people in all of these different agencies, at this sort of high-level political positions, the longer it takes to implement the Trump agenda, right?
That's what stalls as a result of not having his people there is that, the people who are in the career, the career civil service folks, they're chugging along with President Obama's, you know, the last eight years. I mean, I've talked to people in the government, and in these little agencies that have, you know, spent eight years doing it one way and until somebody's in place to tell them to do it a different way, they're just chugging along.
KING: Because the assistant secretary, the deputy assistant secretary, the assistance of the deputy secretary may not sound like fancy titles at all, and a lot of conservatives don't want this job fill. They think there's too much waste in government, too many people in government. But those are the people who go to career people saying, no, no. There's a new sheriff in town, we need to do things differently.
KUCINICH: Well, the other problem is a lot of the Republican establishment didn't really like Trump going in. Their horse with a different guy, they spoke out against Trump. They didn't think he was going to win. And because of that, you have internal opposition at the White House to some of these folks that spoke up publicly against the president.
So, it's harder to fill a position where in -- I would say in a normal Republican administration. You'd have people who already waiting. They, you know, done their time. They maybe were in the Bush administration, and they would come into that spot naturally.
And some of these positions, particularly when you talk about national security realm, there isn't the natural fit that we would have seen, you know, in some other --
KING: And harder to block the people who have established government resumes, too. You can call out the other party for their politics when they have somebody (INAUDIBLE) established roots.
VISER: You also have some recruitment issues. I mean, to this Trump team, I talked to people who had been offered jobs and decided not to take them because of the chaos that exists. The number of lawyers that people have to hire, you know, when they're in this White House.
And so, I think there is an issue, too of taking a job not, you know, which is different from a judgeship or something a lifelong appointment, where you're not beholden to this particular administration.
KING: It's a great line. It's -- so jump in a great line from Carl Hulse, Carl in the New Times Today. "Republicans calculated that the current rate it will 11 years and four months to fill all possible Trump administration jobs in average of three and a half days spent considering each nominee." Eleven years and four months. I think even if you serve two terms you don't get to that that.
LEE: I mean, it's important to note that these jobs are always important for any administration. They are particularly important when an administration is struggling to have legislative victories. Everything is solved in congress right now. So, it's not a surprise.
You know, you were talking about the Trump agenda and the administration's ability to execute the Trump agenda. It's not an accident that someone like Tom Price was one of the first people to be stated at the HHS. There are many actions actually that Price can take (INAUDIBLE) of a bill coming out of congress that teal deals with health care.
KING: And when we come back, we'll go back up to Capitol Hill. Republican senators and their big launch this week and we talked to you at the top of the show about the collapse of the Senate ObamaCare replacement plan. Now, their plan B or plan C or maybe that is it plan D? That's in trouble, too.
[12:51:52] KING: Welcome back. We're standing by for the take from the president. He's at a lunch at the White House where he has made some important news about the Republican health care debate. We'll get to that in just a moment as we take feeds as we'll hear from the president and I'm going to preempt him a little bit here.
In this tape, he says how disappointed he is that the Senate Republican ObamaCare after it's collapse, but he goes on to say that we're not going to own it. Meaning, the Republicans are not going to own this failure. I'm not going to own it.
We'll hear that directly from the president in just a moment. But this is the president of the United States, the Republicans also control the Senate and the House. Can he magically not own things that happen in -- I understand it was a Democrat passed law, ObamaCare. But they run the government now. Are they not responsible for people who will lose their health insurance or having trouble in the existing ObamaCare market?
KUCINICH: It's hard for me to see how they blame Democrats for this one. Also, we were just talking during the break --
KING: Listen. Let's listen.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President -- are you angry at the Republicans who did not pass this health care bill?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
TRUMP: Very disappointed. I don't think I said no but it's, I'm certainly disappointed for seven years I've been hearing repeal and replace from Congress, and I've been hearing it loud and strong. And then when we finally get a chance to repeal and replace they don't take advantage of it.
So, that's disappointing. So I very -- I would say I'm disappointed in what took place. It will go on and we'll win. We're going to win on taxes. We're going to win on infrastructure and lots of other things that we're doing.
We've won and are winning the war as you know on the border. We're very much decimating ISIS. You can see that. You see that better than anybody sees it, the soldiers that are with us today.
We've had a lot of victories but we haven't had a victory in health care. We're disappointed. I am very disappointed, because, again, even as a civilian for seven years I've been hearing about health care. And I've been hearing about repeal and replace and ObamaCare is a total disaster.
Some states had over 200% increase. A 200% increase in their premiums. And they're deductibles are through the roof. It's an absolute disaster.
And I think you'll also agree that I've been saying for a long time, let ObamaCare fail, and then everybody's going to have to come together and fix it. And come up with a new plan and a plan that's really good for the people with much lower premiums, much lower costs, and much better protection.
I've been saying that. Mike, I think you'll agree for a long time. Let ObamaCare fail, it will be a lot easier.
And I think we're probably in that position where we'll just let ObamaCare fail. We're not going to own it. I'm not going to own it. I can tell you the Republicans are not going to own it.
We'll let ObamaCare fail and then the Democrats are going come to us. And they're going to say, how do we fix it? How do we fix it or how do we come up with a new plan?
So, we'll see what happens. There's some other things going on right now as we speak. But I am disappointed because for so many years I've been hearing repeal and replace. I'm sitting in the Oval Office right next door, pen in hand, waiting to sign something, and I'll be waiting.
[12:55:08] And eventually we're going to get something done and it's going to be very good, but ObamaCare's a big failure and it has to be changed. We have to go to a plan that works. We have to go to a much less expensive plan in terms of premiums. And something will happen and it'll be very good. May not be as quick as we'd hoped but it's going to happen. OK?
TRUMP: Well, they were not disloyal. They had their own reasons. I was very surprised when the two folks came out last night because we thought they were in fairly good shape, but they did. And, you know, everybody has their own reason.
But if you really think about it, if you look at it and we have 52 people. We had no Democrat support which is really, you know, something that should be said. We should have had Democrats vote. It is a great plan for a lot of people. We had no Democrat support.
We have 52 people, we had four nos. Now we might have had another one somewhere in there. But essentially the vote would have been pretty close to, if you look at it, 48-4. That's a pretty impressive vote by any standard.
And yet you have a vote of 48-4 or something like that and you need more. It's pretty tough. So the way I look at it is, in '18 we're going to have to get more people elected. We have to go out and we have to get more people elected that are Republican. And we have to probably pull in those people, those few people that voted against it.
I don't know, they're going to have to explain to why they did and I'm sure they have very fine reasons. But we have to get more Republicans elected because we have to get it done. We got it passed in the House. We would have gotten it very much and you can't use his head as a stand, right? We don't want that to happen. You're messing with the wrong guy here.
So we want -- I think we're going to do very well, actually in '18. I would be not surprised if something were done long before that. But in any event, because the margin is so small, the majority margin is so small we're going to have to go out and get more Republicans elected in '18. And I'll be working very hard for that to happen, OK?
It would be nice to have Democrat support but really they're obstructionists. They have no ideas. They have no thought process. All they want to do is obstruct government and obstruct, period.
And in this case, think of it, so many good things we didn't get one vote and their plan has failed. And by the way, ObamaCare isn't failing, it's failed. It's gone.
So I think something's going to happen. We'll find out. Stay tuned. Thank you all very much.
TRUMP: Thank you.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And so there with the president of the United States, President Trump, speaking about his failed health care bill. A crushing setback for the president of the United States and for the Republicans failure to repeal and replace ObamaCare, the Affordable Care Act in the U.S. Senate.
Now they're going back to another strategy. They're various strategies, the president is putting forward those right now.
I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. We want to welcome viewers here in the United States and around the world. Our congressional correspondent Phil Mattingly is standing by up on Capitol Hill.
So, Phil, what's next for the repeal and replacement of ObamaCare because it looks like a huge, huge failure for the Republicans right now?
PHIL METTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And the latest news, Wolf, is there's another huge, huge failure with a third no vote. The new plan, the 3.0 version of how to repeal, move on from the Affordable Care Act now appears to be dead. Both Lisa Murkowski, senator from Alaska just a few minutes ago telling reporters she would oppose moving on -- even voting to move on to consider the bill.
She would join Susan Collins from Maine who is a firm no against the procedural motion. And also likely Shelley Moore Capito, who said she would only vote to proceed to the bill if there was a clear replacement option in the legislative process going forward.
Now we'll track back a little bit to last night, how do we get to this point? Well, repeal and replace imploded.
Last night, two new senators coming out making very clear Senator McConnell didn't have the votes to move forward on what have been a draft plan up o this point. McConnell changing the strategy deciding to tell his members, look in the last Congress you all voted for a repeal-only bill. The vast majority of conference minus Susan Collins did.
We're going to have a vote on that. That has now been short-circuited by those three no votes that have already come out publicly.
Wolf, the reality here is this secondary plan, this repeal-only effort was kind of the Hail Mary essentially put this up. It was the only option they have left.
And at this point, that appears to have collapsed. What the path forward? Well, at least in terms of the U.S. Senate it doesn't appear they have one, Wolf.
BLITZER: I just want to be precise. If they had succeeded in getting a vote to simply repeal, forget about the replacement part for now, simply the repeal, it was really only a partial repealment of the Affordable Care Act, ObamaCare, because a lot of it would have stayed in place, because you need 60 votes to repeal certain regulations as opposed to other aspects of the affordable care act. Explain that to our viewers.
MATTINGLY: Yes. That's exactly right Wolf and it's worth noting. Again, most senators voted on this --