House GOP bill faces uphill battle in the Senate

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report with Bret Baier," May 5, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: The Senate is looking forward to getting it. Mitch McConnell knows how to do things, and I think we're going to have some really great health care for a long time.


CHRIS WALLACE, ANCHOR: President Trump last night celebrating House passage of repeal and replace and looking forward to another victory in the Senate. Let's bring our panel: Steve Hayes, editor in chief of The Weekly Standard; A.B. Stoddard of Real Clear Politics; Jason Riley, Wall Street Journal columnist, and Charles Hurt of The Washington Times.

Steve, let me start with you. President Trump celebrating victory in the House, but the Senate is going to be a different matter, tougher to get it through. How tough?

STEVE HAYES, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I think very tough. There's no question this is a big victory for Donald Trump and for Paul Ryan and for House Republicans, but it is a temporary victory. The Senate has indicated, we have already seen, that they will basically starting from scratch, starting over. This is a working group of 13 Republican senators going to be working to put this together.

They are going to have to come up with a bill that meets this 50-vote threshold by pleasing camps that are arguably even more polarized than Republicans in the House of Representatives. You have Bill Cassidy and Susan Collins on the one side, moderate side, who seem to have bought many of the arguments in the basic architecture and structure of ObamaCare. And then on the other side you've got people like Rand Paul and Tom Cotton, Mike Lee and others who want to rip ObamaCare root and branch. I think that is going to be a huge challenge knowing they can only lose those couple votes.

WALLACE: A.B., as one of our Capitol Hill resident watchers, I want to talk about this division, because on the one hand you've got somebody like Rand Paul who really doesn't like government regulations of the health care industry. On the other hand, you have another moderate I will talk about, Rob Portman, who has seen hundreds of thousands of voters in his state, residents in his state, but especially voters who have gained health care coverage under expanded Medicaid. How do you get something that they can both sign onto, and how long do you think it is going to take in the Senate?

A.B. STODDARD, REAL CLEAR POLITICS: I didn't know if you can get something they can both sign onto, and it will take a long time.

WALLACE: What is a long time?

STODDARD: It could take the rest of the year. That Medicaid expansion is very important to not only just Ohioans but states like Ohio where there is a growing, burgeoning opioid addiction crisis, and more people were able to be helped by the Medicaid expansion. So there are going to be states that are full of Trump voters that will be very hard to take the Medicaid expansion away from in 2020 which the current legislation does now.

What Steve was talking about, if I could absolutely see President Trump sitting down with Rob Portman and saying you have whatever you want. And he gets Susan Collins and they basically crafts a moderate Bill, they could get Senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, Senator Joe Donnelly maybe from Indiana, a couple of Democrats up in Trump state, but they lose enough of them to lose Rand Paul, Mike Lee, and Ted Cruz. Guess what happens, it goes back to the House and the Freedom Caucus will bail on it. I see a Senate deal. I don't see something that gets back to the House.

WALLACE: OK, let's talk about that. Let's assume they hit the sweet spot and they get something that Rand Paul and Rob Portman can sign on to. You've got to do something like that, Jason. You can only lose two Republicans. But let's assume for a second you get it. Now you've got to bring it back to the House. You've got to have an old-fashioned conference committee, Senate negotiators, House committee negotiators, and they have got to try to find some point of agreement. Is there one?

JASON RILEY, MANHATTAN INSTITUTE SENIOR FELLOW: I think they can all agree, if this goes down we wind up with ObamaCare, and they own it. And voters will punish them for that. That is something they have been promising for seven years or so, we're going to repeal ObamaCare, we're going to replace it. The House got the ball running, and they have to come through on that promise.

I think one way you help to bring them together is to convince them that this is more than just a health care bill. This is entitlement reform. The Medicare -- the Medicaid part of this, I should say, gets at entitlement reform. This will cut the increase in Medicaid. If you care about deficits, you should be for this. This also gets the ball rolling on tax reform. It eliminates almost all of the ObamaCare tax increases that happened with that package, which is hurting middle-class savers, which is hurting small businesses trying to grow. So this is more than just health care, and I think looking at it in that broader context, as well as the hardcore political reality of not doing anything here, I think could concentrate some minds.

WALLACE: Realistically, do you think, though, that if you are a senator from Ohio, and A.B. talked about thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of people in some of these states had gained coverage. I understand entitlement reform, but isn't that going to be a tough sell to them to say that they may lose their coverage because of this?

RILEY: It's a tough sell. I don't know that it will be a deal breaker, but it will definitely be a tough sell for someone like Rob Portman.

WALLACE: President Trump met with Australia's Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull last night, and the subject of health care reform came up. Take a look.


TRUMP: Right now ObamaCare is failing. We have a failing -- I shouldn't say this to a great gentleman and my friend from Australia because you have better health care than we do.


WALLACE: Well, that started quite a storm because liberal Democrats note the fact that Australia's health care system is government-run, single- payer, universal coverage like Canada, like Britain. The president, this afternoon, tweeted this. Let's put it on the screen. "Of course the Australians have better health care than we do. Everybody does. ObamaCare is dead, but our health care will soon be great." Charlie, Democrats say, like Bernie Sanders saying the president committed what is called a gaffe in Washington, he accidentally told the truth.

CHARLES HURT, WASHINGTON TIMES: Sure. And as often is the case President Trump is exactly right.

WALLACE: What do you mean he is right?

HURT: This, because the biggest news out of Republicans passing that bill is that they have ceded the fight against socialized medicine in America. We now have two parties, both agree that we should have socialized medicine in this country. To varying degrees, maybe, but nobody is making the fight anymore the way they did against ObamaCare that we shouldn't have the government running our health care.

WALLACE: Wait, wait. You are saying you believe the Republicans with the health care bill that the president is talking about and the House Freedom Caucus is talking about, that they caved?

HURT: Absolutely. From the beginning, Donald Trump is not a conservative. He has never been a conservative. That's not what he is. He is a dealmaker, and he wants to make a deal. And the thing I find so fascinating about this is that Republicans have come all this way around to agreeing with the Democratic vision of how to deal with health care, and Democrats aren't involved in any of it. Republicans have met them 75 percent of the way. Democrats haven't met them even 30 percent of the way. They are just sitting on their hands and refusing to do anything to fix their bill.


RILEY: I don't think the president is correct on this matter in terms of a better health care system. We don't know how you're measuring better. Is it life expectancy, is it cost, is it the number of people insured.

WALLACE: How about this basic question of whether this is socialized medicine, whether this is government-controlled medicine?

ROBERTS: Again, we cannot make the perfect the enemy of the good here. If we were starting from scratch and building a health care system, we wouldn't have the tax credits. We wouldn't have the Medicaid expansion stuff. We're not starting from scratch. We're starting from ObamaCare, and you have to take what you can get incrementally given the hand you are dealt. I don't agree with that, no.

WALLACE: Very briefly, it is tough to undo an entitlement.

HAYES: It is. This is one of the real lessons of this entire thing, and this goes to Jason's earlier point about Medicaid, we haven't had much of a discussion about who has been put on Medicaid. We have a lot of able- bodied working adults who have been put on Medicaid and are now entitled to this program sort of in perpetuity unless Republicans can roll it back.

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