ObamaCare replacement woes spark debate

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report with Bret Baier," March 14, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


MICK MULVANEY, OMB DIRECTOR: First I want to say good morning from Washington where, as you can see according to the Congressional Budget Office it is sunny and 75.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The CBO when it tried to project people and coverage was over 50 percent wrong the last time.

REP. JIM JORDAN, R-OHIO: There is reason every major conservative organization in the country is opposed to this legislation.

REP. MO BROOKS, R-ALA.: The fact that the Republican welfare plan is not as bad as Obamacare does not mean that it's good. It is not good.

SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE PAUL RYAN, R-WIS.: I think if you read this entire report, I am pretty encouraged by it, and it actually exceeded by expectations.

SENATE MINORITY LEADER CHARLES SCHUMER, D-N.Y.: The bill is in trouble. It's in trouble in the House. It's even in more trouble in the Senate. And we Democrats are unified.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Just some sights and sounds after the CBO report came out last night. You heard the speaker on this show last night and you heard reaction today all over the board.

Let's start there with one mega-panel, an all-star panel: editor in chief of Lifezette, Laura Ingraham; Juan Williams -- hey, Juan -- columnist with The Hill, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. OK, Laura, obviously there are a lot of people coming out saying what is wrong with this bill, what is wrong with the CBO report. Where are we here?

LAURA INGRAHAM, LIFEZETTE.COM: I think right now Schumer, sadly for a lot of us conservatives, has the upper hand on the branding of this as, look, we are unified, you just heard him say that, and the Republicans are all over the place. And that is the case.

On the other side, in the split between the Republicans, the Freedom Caucus and the fiscal conservatives have called this bill Obamacare-lite. Obviously Obamacare is a lightning rod for Republican voters and conservatives especially. And I think that it is stuck. I've been exploring on the air now for two weeks with my radio audience. I had Vice President Pence on today. He's making the rounds in conservative media. And it's not popular. And I think Donald Trump wants this to be popular, and I don't blame him. And I think he is saying that the threads are slowly coming unraveled.

BAIER: Is there a sense that he is somehow stepping away from defending it?

INGRAHAM: I think he has given orders to fix this if possible. But the fact that he doesn't want his name on this I think from the very beginning, he is a brand guy. If the brand is going down, he doesn't want to be tagged with it. And that's why you saw the shift over this is going to be Ryan's game to fix or start over, scrap Obamacare, and do a concurrent piece of legislation that makes all these great arguments that all the Republicans agree on. And then take the fight to the Democrats and defend the collusion among health care companies, lack of competition across state lines, all those good things, make the Democrats defend them right now instead of saying we're going to do it in some mythical phase three, which Tom Cotton called it. So I think it's in big trouble unless they can somehow figure a way to amend it and make these conservatives happy.

BAIER: Here's the Senator Cornyn from Texas.


SEN. JOHN CORNYN, R-TEXAS: They are sitting on their hands and taking great glee, great joy out of seeing this marketplace of their creation melting down and people being left high and dry. We are the rescue team that's come on the scene in order to try to salvage a mess that they created when they passed Obamacare on purely party lines.


BAIER: Of course he is talking about Democrats there, Juan. You know, you watch Democrats and the politics of this place. When you see somebody having trouble, you just step aside. But they could very well come forward with their own solutions about how to fix Obamacare and not tear the thing apart, but they are not.

JUAN WILLIAMS, THE HILL: No. Correct. And I think in fact most Americans would like to see some repair and meaningful repair that would improve Obamacare. But at the moment, the politics of Washington are such that Republicans having stood aside when Obamacare was passed, now Democrats are saying they will stand aside and that Republicans have the day. I think President Obama has urged them to do just that.

The critical juncture now comes with the vote in the budget committee of the House later this week, and the reason I say it's so critical is you have at least three members of the Freedom Caucus who have come out in opposition to the Republican bill. If you get just one more vote, and they're all members of the budget committee, if you get one more vote, it could stall right there later this week in the budget committee as a result of Republican opposition. Democrats aren't even party to that argument.

And I find it ironic in that Diane Black is now the chair of the committee, but she replaced Tom Price who is now head of HHS and who is one of the people on Capitol Hill today. Vice President Pence was not only on Laura's show but up there trying to get Republican behind the bill. He's now talking to Democrats. He's talking about Republicans. And so you look at the budget committee and you at a committee, of course, the father of the budget committee these days is still Paul Ryan, and Price replaced Ryan, Black replaced Price. And here comes a moment where you could see all of this long term, seven years of promise, we will repeal Obamacare, go down in a vote in the budget committee.

BAIER: They have so much behind this engine. The train stacks up behind this, tax reform, infrastructure, other things. This binary choice that they tried to sell the beginning, is it not taking, Charles?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: It will all depend on what the conservatives in the Freedom Caucus decide. They are the ones who can take it down. If they do, the injury to the Republicans and to the Trump presidency is going to be incalculable. In the end they have to get it through the House.

If you want to be completely cynical about it and in the end try to bring the Democrats back in, you pass it through the House. You bring it to the Senate, and instead of obeying the rules of reconciliation, you put everything you want into it, into a bill in the Senate. And then you dare the Democrats to filibuster.

And if they succeed in doing that, then the Republicans say we tried. We promised. We tried to get everything and that would rescue this health care system. And then what happens is you get the collapse of Obamacare. And again, if you are playing a very cynical game, you blame it on the Democrats.

What Ryan has done, he's trying to obey the rules, doing it through reconciliation, do it in three steps, which is the reason why the Democrats have the upper hand. But in the end, it must get through the House, that in and of itself would be the worst outcome for it to die the House at the hands of Republicans.

BAIER: And just to be clear, reconciliation is the vehicle by which they can pass something with just 51 votes in the Senate, not 60 as is usually required.

Laura, I want to turn topics to the wiretapping claims, where we are on the House and Senate investigations. The House Intel Committee asked for evidence from the Justice Department. Here is the White House, Sean Spicer today on all of this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How confident is President Trump that any evidence will arise to support his claim?

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think he's extremely confident. I think there is significant reporting about surveillance techniques that have existed throughout the 2016 election. I will leave it to them to issue the report, but I think he feels very confident that what will ultimately come of this will vindicate him.


BAIER: Laura?

INGRAHAM: I think they are going to have to resolve this. And I think that the Democrats want this to go on as long as possible because it allows them to continue, again, getting back to brand, brand Donald Trump as, whatever, paranoid, or he is going to tweet anything and see what the reaction is.

But I think we do have to remember part of what Spicer said there is true. There was a lot of reporting on the surveillance done of Trump associates, former associates, and how those conversations were recorded, whether the dragnet was too wide, who had access to the information of the American who initially was supposed to be masked in those surveillance operations. It would be interesting to know if there were other people swept up into those. So Donald Trump has the ability, I think, to unmask a lot of it on his own. He could do that.

BAIER: but if they want it to stop, why doesn't he?

INGRAHAM: I have no idea. But I think it is a distraction for the conservative agenda. And I would hope that this gets wrapped up soon.

BAIER: Juan?

WILLIAMS: Well, speaking directly to Laura on this, I think the president has the power. If he wants to say there was a FISA order, he could do it, right? So I don't think he has it is my guess, because it is politically damaging to the president even among his own supporters that so much time has passed without any substantiation for what is a very serious charge.

On the Hill today people were saying if President Obama did this, this is beyond Watergate. You are not saying -- you are using the office of the presidency to wiretap your political opponents in order to claim the presidency for your chosen candidate. That is extreme. That's like a mystery novel gone awry.

BAIER: and if it falls short of that and there were some level of surveillance or some FISA request or something, the bank shot, as Laura mentions drags in Trump campaign officials, it still doesn't qualify.

WILLIAMS: We know Flynn was dragged in, for example. But --

BAIER: I mean to Trump tower.

WILLIAMS: I don't know where Flynn was heard talking to the Russian ambassador. But that's not what President Trump has charged.

BAIER: That's what I'm saying is there won't be any resolution to that.

I want to turn finally to Saudi Arabia. They meet today, the deputy crown prince, with the president at the White House. And an interview here with a member of the royal family, interesting development here.


FAISAL BIN KHALID AL SAUD, SAUDI DEPUTY CROWN PRINCE ADVISER: We are more than ready to cooperate with the United States on countering ISIS in Syria, in Iraq, across the region, not just financially but the Saudi government offered in the Obama administration's time to send troops into Syria to fight ISIS. That was not met with enthusiasm by the Obama administration. I think that offer remains on the table.


BAIER: Finances and troops turned down by the Obama administration, welcomed now by President Trump, we are told.

KRAUTHAMMER: That sounds like something we have not heard about. And I think the reason is the Saudis -- this is not about ISIS. That was not the major issue. The major issue for the Saudis, the existential issue, the overriding issue is Iran and the way for eight years America had appeased it, fattened its economy, given life to Hezbollah, which apparently Hezbollah, which is a client of Iran, had run out of money but now it is flush with money.

BAIER: Let me interrupt you. They were fighting the Houthis in Yemen on their border, and the Obama administration didn't like everything the Saudis were doing.

KRAUTHAMMER: The Obama administration naively thought it could strike and Nixon to China deal with Iran, and it has created a superpower and a monster. This idea of Saudi troops in Iraq, why is that? They want to have them in a reconquered Mosul because they want Saudis and Sunnis on the ground and not Shiite militias, which is what's going to happen under Iranian control. This is all about Iran. The Saudis are trying to recover, and their one hope is the Trump administration.

BAIER: We will definitely follow this story, one mega-panel covering a lot there.

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