ObamaCare replacement timeline sparks debate

The 'Special Report' All-Star panel weighs in


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report with Bret Baier," December 6, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


PRESIDENT-ELECT DONALD TRUMP: We're going to talk about a lot of things to a lot of people. We have a lot of people coming up.

This is Masayoshi Son of Softbank from Japan, and he's just agreed to invest $50 billion in the United States and 50,000 jobs.

MASAYOSHI SON, SOFTBANK CEO: I said this is great. United States, U.S. will become great again.

MURIEL BOWSER, (D) WASHINGTON D.C. MAYOR: We had a wide-ranging conversation about things that are important to Washingtonians.

GOV. TERRY BRANSTAD, (R) IOWA: I'm really excited about the quality of people that he's attracting to the cabinet.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think he's doing great. I mean, if you're conservative, you have to be very happy today.


SHANNON BREAM, GUEST ANCHOR: Some of the voices there from Trump Tower today but the fact is there's a lot of resistance waiting for Mr. Trump on Capitol Hill, some from Republicans, some from Democrats.

Let's talk about it with our panel: Jonathan Swan, national political reporter for The Hill; Mercedes Schlapp, columnist for The Washington Times, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer.

I want to start with this conversation that they're having about Obamacare. The Freedom Caucus, of course the more conservative group of GOP folks on the Hill now, they're going to be led by Congressman Mark Meadows, they say they want to get things going. They're not for this three-year plan. They want to speed it up. Here's a little bit about what they're saying about that issue.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think health care will be better and cost less when Obamacare's gone, so why would we want to take three years to get rid of it?

REP. MARK MEADOWS, (R) NORTH CAROLINA: I think the American people are tired of us kicking the can down the road waiting for some future Congress to make a decision. The Freedom Caucus will be pushing for a shorter timeframe on that.


BREAM: Jonathan, some of the folks who voted for Mr. Trump say they want it done now and worried what sounds like a bit of compromise coming from him that may be a bridge too far for him.

JONATHAN SWAN, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, "THE HILL": This is, I think of all the issues, going to be the toughest for Donald Trump. And it's really simple. Most Republicans agree it needs to be repealed. Almost nobody agrees on what it's replaced with or on what timetable it gets replaced with. I've been talking to conservative leaders and outside groups who are saying they're worried that they're going to rush through something that's inadequate. There are people on the Hill who would rather just do exactly what Mark Meadows said and just repeal it and let whatever comes next.

And then there are some moderate Republicans, particularly in the northeast states, where there's actually a lot more people on some of these programs and they're working a bit better who are really worried about the benefits going away and all these voters being pulled off insurance.

BREAM: Yes, Mercedes, some of them say, like Mark Meadows, they want it done in two years, because that's not a congressional session. They don't want any of this bleeding over and they want to get it done.

SCHLAPP: And the reality is Congressman Meadows is right. Let's remember, he's a Trump supporter. But the mere fact if do you push it off to the two, three year, you lose the momentum to get it done. Obviously those first 100 days of Congress are critically important to be able to dismantle Obamacare. Most of it can be done through the reconciliation process, through the budget.

But at the same time we have to remember there is a complexity involved with, for example, Medicaid expansion. What's going to happen to the 6.5 million people? That's one of the complex issues that they are going to need to hash out if they move forward and dismantle this in less than two or three years. But I think you have to move quicker rather than wait.

BREAM: Charles, the Republican, the GOP leadership, the White House are going to need the Freedom Caucus to stick around with him because obviously the Democrats are not going to help with efforts to repeal the president's signature legislative measure.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: But this is going to be the signature Trump measure, the signature GOP measure. For eight years they've been campaigning and saying the one thing the Republicans have stood for, for the repeal and replacement of Obamacare.

The fact is as we learned with Obamacare itself, when you do something this large, you're actually changing, really uprooting one-sixth of the economy. You own it the minute anything happens. Whatever happens in health care, even if it's unrelated to what you did, you own it. You're responsible, as Obama learned to his chagrin and as the Democrats learned when they suffered through three elections where they were damaged as a result.

You got to get it right. The idea the Freedom Caucus is saying we have to have a timetable and have to do it less than three years, but they haven't come up with a plan that's a positive one that explains how it gets done. There are 20 million people who depend on this. If you all of a sudden cut them off, you're going to have an anger that will be four times the size of the anger against the Obamacare and Obama, himself, when he canceled five million policies at the end of 2013. They have to get it right or it will be a complete mess and they will suffer the backlash that Obama did for his eight years.

And that's why I think it makes no sense to start with a timetable. You start with the details of the replacement and that will dictate the timetable.

BREAM: There's also some back and forth, Jonathan, I wonder if you heard much about this on the Hill today, about tax reform. It's something the GOP leadership wants to get done. This weekend of course there were a lot of tweets from the president-elect talking about if you leave this country and try to bring your products back, a 35 percent tariff. The House majority leader, of course, Kevin McCarthy saying I think tax reform gets to what we're trying to do, which is create American jobs. Let's not mess with that tariff idea right now.

SWAN: Yes. I've been amazed. I've been having conversations with Republicans on the Hill who I thought were purist sort of Reaganite free traders. They are quietly saying to me, I don't know about, you know, he's making some good points and I kind of like what he's saying about bringing American jobs back. So I'm having some really interesting conversations. I think it's actually a lot softer, the ideological commitment to free trade, than we thought. I really do. And I think this is a real test for the Republican Congress.

SCHLAPP: I don't know if I agree with you, Jonathan, actually, because I think the tariff question really is something that so many Republicans just disagree with. And that is why I think you have seen McCarthy come out so strongly and say, we're going to move this on tax reform. We don't need the tariff. They're trying to stay away from that word because of the fact that you find the business community, they don't want to see that. They're free traders, and so many Republicans fall into, and many conservative leaders fall into that realm. So that I think is going to be one of the challenges and fights that you're going to see between a Donald Trump administration and Congress.

BREAM: OK, so I want to make sure we talk about one of the fights that's coming between Donald Trump and the Democrats, not just Republicans, because that's going to be a big one. He's been talking of course about all of his nominees and people he wants to put out there. A number of Democrat senators saying now they're going to get the Garland treatment, meaning the way that the Republicans held up on moving on the president's Supreme Court nominee Judge Merrick Garland, that's going to happen to Trump nominees. Here's something that incoming Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer had to say on that point.


SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER, (D) NEW YORK: When our Republican colleagues say let's do this quickly without filibuster, they don't come here with clear, clean hands. After what they did to Merrick Garland, and held him up for a full year, let's try to get a mainstream nominee, but let's not jump to conclusions because what the Republicans did. Past is sometimes prologue.


BREAM: Yes, and Senator Feinstein, Charles, said what goes around comes around.

KRAUTHAMMER: Revenge is not a good strategy for the Republicans -- for the Democrats. The one thing they don't want to be tagged with immediately is obstructionism. That worked against Republicans in the Senate for eight years as a political hatchet. If the Democrats want to invite that, this is going to look like naked partisanship and obstruction for its own sake.

Remember, when Obama came into office, the Congress approved eight of his cabinet members on day one. If these guys are going to stand around and do procedural stuff that you just show on television is going to look ridiculous. It's going to be obvious obstructionism with no reason. I can understand the drawn-out hearing of somebody you think is extreme or unqualified. But if they want to do it as a way to get revenge for Garland, be my guest. They will suffer from that for eight years.

BREAM: Yes, Mercedes, it sounds like one of their main targets is one of their own colleagues. Republican Jeff Sessions obviously tapped to be the attorney general.

SCHLAPP: Let's remember, it was the Democrats, it was Harry Reid introduced the nuclear option, and that in and of itself just opens it up for Republicans to move forward on just pushing forward these cabinet members, pushing forward possibly the Supreme Court nomination, although that requires 60 votes. But the Democrats can flex their muscles all they want. It's the Republicans and Mitch McConnell who has clear control in terms of procedures and in terms of moving forward. They just want to be able to show the dirty laundry of any of these cabinet nominees.

BREAM: They can drag it out and drag them through the mud in the process. Hopefully when it comes to the vote, if Republicans stick together, that's that.

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