How much trouble is health care reform in?

The 'Special Report' All-Star panel weighs in


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report with Bret Baier," June 27, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: This will be great if we get it done, and if we don't get it done, it's just going to be something that we are not going to like. And that's OK and I understand that very well. But I think we have a chance to do something very, very important for the public, very, very important for the people of our country that we love.


BILL HEMMER, FOX NEWS: So that from just a few hours ago at the White House, President Trump responding to the action by the Senate Republicans. Moments ago he sent out two more messages, this by way of Twitter. "With ZERO Democrats," "ZERO" in all caps, "to help in a failed expensive and dangerous Obamacare as the Dems legacy, the Republican senators are working hard." Here's another one. "I just finished a great meeting with Republican senators concerning health care. They really want to get it right, unlike O-care."

I want to bring in the panel: editor in chief of Lifezette, Laura Ingraham is here tonight; Mara Liasson, national political correspondent of National Public Radio, at the White House today also, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. Good evening to all three of you. Nice to be back with you. The last time we were sitting here was in February arguing a travel ban. Tonight we can argue the health care and the fate of it tonight. How much trouble is it really, really in, or do we know yet?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, when Mitch McConnell is unable to deliver on time, you know this is difficult, because he is sort of the wizard of Capitol Hill. He is an incredible technician, and he wasn't able to pull it together in time.

The one thing he has going for him other than his own skills is the fact that in that CBO report, which generally had a negative effect in terms of public opinion, they projected I think a $320 billion surplus, money for the treasury coming out of this bill, which means that Mitch McConnell can deal from that lump of money, some of it, maybe the majority of it, to buy off -- let's be sort of very realistic about this -- to buy off the senators who are holding out.

For example if there is somebody who thinks we should be doing more for opioid, you could throw in --

HEMMER: Rob Portman in Ohio.

KRAUTHAMMER: If you've got a ton of money, so he's got chips that he can deal, and having it go over the Fourth of July weekend is probably a net negative because there will be a lot of public reaction against it, but it does give him extra time to call in the senators one at a time and be old- fashioned about this and say what do you want to? How much will it be? And does not buy your vote, to put it crudely.

HEMMER: We saw a lot of that seven years ago with Obamacare. Mara, you just came from the White House.

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Well, look, this is exactly --

HEMMER: We had Senator Barrasso on a short time ago. What is your sense about the position the president takes in trying to push them over the line as he did in the House in early May?

LIASSON: I think he is leaving a lot of the heavy lifting and the negotiating and the haggling, the bazaar is open, to Mitch McConnell. And the reason that I am not as optimistic as Charles, Mitch McConnell meant to do that this week. This was the week he was going to give those people more opioid money, and he couldn't.

And the problem is that the president has focused almost exclusively on the Obamacare exchanges, the individual marketplace. That's only eight percent of Americans get their health care that way. The bigger chunk of this bill, the true kind of biggest change that is making Republican so nervous is the Medicaid retrenchment, transforming Medicaid from an open-ended entitlement to a block grant. Mitch McConnell does not have a magic wand to solve that problem. And that is why people like Susan Collins and Dean Heller are not going to vote for it.

HEMMER: Let me characterize, in the words of Mitch McConnell, what he had to say after meeting with the president. He came out just about 5:31, an hour ago. He said this.


SENATE MAJORITY LEADER MITCH MCCONNELL, R-KY. It will be dealt with in one of two ways. Either Republicans will agree and change the status quo or the markets will continue to collapse and we will have to sit down with Senator Schumer. And my suspicion is that any negotiation with the Democrats would include none of the reforms that we would like to make on the market side and the Medicaid side.


HEMMER: So you can pick one, or option two, Laura.

LAURA INGRAHAM, LIFEZETTE.COM: That is all well and good. And you hear a lot about Mitch McConnell is the brilliant tactician, expert, and all that. And he has been in many regards. But this is a complete embarrassment for the Republicans. This is poorly coordinated. Basically de minimis communications on the part of Republicans. In almost every state you see the people revolting against what has happened on health care. They were supposed to deliver this. The fact that the White House comes out and they say we are having great conversations, come on. We've got Mitch McConnell the brilliant tactician trying to shift blame in The New York Times. A few minutes ago a story came out that says they want to deal with Pence because the Trump people can't really deliver. Mitch McConnell should deliver. This is his caucus.

HEMMER: He still has time. To be fair the calendar could extend to early August.

INGRAHAM: You go over the Fourth of July holiday, that's Independence Day. Republicans promised independence from the Obamacare mandate. They promised repeal of Obamacare. And the dirty truth is this is not repeal of Obamacare. Regulations haven't been lifted. We can do their own cornhusker kickback. That's what the Republican Party is? They are going to do the horse trading? There is a reason that big pharmacy stocks, insurance stocks, and hospital stocks have gone up over the last two weeks, because very little is changing when it comes to bringing down the cost of health care in this legislation. I think it's a pig in a poke and I think it is a loser for the Republicans.

HEMMER: Do you think Republicans should be as bearish as Laura is tonight?

KRAUTHAMMER: Their problem is not -- forgive me. This is not a failure of communication as in "Cool Hand Luke." This is a failure of expectations. The country does not want to see the entitlements that were handed out by Obamacare retracted. That's the issue. It's not communication. It's not the lack of coordination between the House and Senate. It's the fact that Medicare was inflated. It was supposed to be for women and poor children and the disabled. It was inflated by Obama to include able-bodied workers up to 400 percent of the poverty line. So this is completely out of its original intent.

The fight now, and the reason a lot of moderate Republicans are scared is because under this bill it goes from 400 percent down to 350 percent. This is a marginal retrenchment of what makes you eligible for Medicaid. And people are used to what was. They don't want to give it back. That's the reason that Obamacare repeal is in trouble. The country is not where it was seven years ago. It's the reason that the left usually wins, because when you hand out goodies since the New Deal, it is extremely hard to bring them back. That's the core issue here.

HEMMER: Essentially in trouble? Or impossible?

LIASSON: Look, what Laura is saying is really important. The base of the Republican Party expects Obamacare to be repealed. They have been voting for this in Congress for seven years, and they said just give us the House, give us the Senate. All we need is the White House. And they got it. And if they don't deliver on this, this is the political bind they're in because their voters expect them to do this. And there are many Republicans who think if they can't get this done, they are not going to get tax reform and they're not going to get any of the other things that they want to do.

INGRAHAM: Can they govern or not? I disagree that we've had great communications on Obamacare. A year ago Obamacare was a lot less popular than it is today. We elected President Trump. We have the Republicans in the House and Senate. And we don't have a communication strategy nationwide? Even with the differences that Republicans have in how to deal with it, that indicates if we do the following, the cost of health care is going to come down. We are going to bring transparency to pricing. We are going to have hospitals having to post what a colonoscopy costs here versus what one costs there. We're going to bring the prices down like it occurred for Lasik eye surgery to every common surgery in the United States, that's what's going to happen.

I think if a really good strong communication strategy on a free-market approach to health care was done, I think you'd have a much better look at the public approval polls for both the Republicans and for Obamacare. I think that was absent here. I think it's part White House failure. I think its part Congressional Republican failure. There is a lot of wonky think tank guys in Capitol Hill, but they don't speak in practical terms that most people can understand. That's a failure, and the Democrats of course are exploiting it.

HEMMER: Senator Ron Johnson, Republican from Wisconsin, longtime businessman, is making that very case. Go for innovation and that will bring price down.

LIASSON: It happens. It's happened in technology. It's happened with procedures that are not regulated like regular procedures are regulator. And again, I will go back to pharma stocks, insurance stocks, and hospital stocks are all going up. They all had their hand in the writing of this legislation.

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