The politics of health care reform

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


SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE PAUL RYAN: I think we are making very good progress. Don't have -- we're going to go when we have the votes. We think it's a really good step in the right direction. We're having very productive conversations with our members. I would argue that this is a bill that a moderate would more likely want to support.

REP. CHARLIE DENT: Too many Americans are going to be without coverage, and the underlying amendment does not deal with that. In fact, I would argue that the underlying amendment, the amendment that's being proposed actually takes us in the wrong direction and further weakens protections for people with preexisting conditions.

REP. JIM JORDAN: This bill doesn't fully repeal Obamacare, and that's a problem, but it at least gives the states the option, who get that waiver, to get rid of those regulations. We think this is the best bill that can get out of the House of Representatives, or we wouldn't be supporting it.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: The last there, Jim Jordan from the Freedom Caucuses as they are coming on board with this health care bill.

We have some new Fox News polls. President Trump's handling of health care, all people: approve, 35 percent; disapprove, 56 percent. And you can see how it changes with Republican voters, conservative voters there.

And then which is a higher priority? Fixing the health care system or reforming the tax system? There's an interesting result: 71 percent to 26 percent about health care.

Let's bring in our panel: Steve Hayes, senior writer for The Weekly Standard; A.B. Stoddard, associate editor at Real Clear Politics; and Mercedes Schlapp, columnist for The Washington Times.

A.B., where are we at this hour, because it seems to change by the minute, on health care?

A.B. STODDARD, REAL CLEAR POLITICS: Right. I mean, look, let's give the administration and the Republican leadership credit for really trying hard and not walking away from the table, as the president first threatened to. I think it's incredible that they brought around a bunch of Freedom Caucus members, this is Obamacare Lite, and it is not a repeal. It provides flexibility to the states. But...

BAIER: Just explain that. A waiver so the states can opt out?

STODDARD: States would have to come back and say, "We think that, if we don't require our packages to cover maternity and all these services" -- essential benefits is the language everyone keeps hearing -- "that our customers will get a better bill, and it will be better for our constituents and it will lower their premiums." And they have to make that case on an individual basis.

But the moderates who are balking at this are worried about is that, in the end, people who are sick or have pre-existing conditions will end up paying a lot more. And they will pay for that politically, and they will own it finally. The whole fear of Republicans owning Obamacare.

So at this hour, they don't have the votes. They could. They would need to sway, interestingly, this time, with the conservatives on board, they need to sway more moderate voters. But again, the moderates aren't ready, just like on March 24th, to take a vote in the House to see it fail in the Senate.

BAIER: Because we've seen that before. There was a BTU vote that Vice President Gore was pushing back in the Clinton administration. Democrats voted for it, and then the Senate never took it up, and then they lost their seats because of that vote.

MERCEDES SCHLAPP, THE WASHINGTON TIMES: Well, I have to tell you, just speaking to a number of Republicans, Republicans in the House, they're incredibly nervous with this bill. I mean, it makes no one happy. It is the health care reform bill that makes no one happy.

And the centrists are concerned, the centrist Republicans are concerned that the bill is going far to the right, despite the fact that you have a centrist congressman, MacArthur, and Meadows, the conservative, who have been working on this amendment. And I just don't see it.

At this point, we have 21 Republicans that are basically a "no." You know that if you have 22, you can't afford to lose 22 Republicans. And then you have about fifty-something Republicans who are basically -- they're unsure whether they're going to move forward on this bill.

I think it's still in trouble. And then get -- let's even see if we can get it through the House. When you get to the Senate, there's going to be a lot more obstacles there in terms of conservatives even supporting something like that.

BAIER: But staying in the House, I mean, they haven't gone to the rules committee yet, but if they do, they could conceivably do a vote on Saturday.

STEVE HAYES, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: They could. And you keep hearing that there are people in the White House, Reince Priebus among them, who are pushing to push this up.

BAIER: The 100th day, by the way.

HAYES: The 100th day, they want an additional accomplishment in the first 100 days. This would certainly be it if they could get this through the House.

I mean, the question, I think, is will the moderates ultimately come around? I don't think -- I mean, they're complaining that the bill has gone too far to the right. I mean, the moderates, many of the moderates were making that complaint with the original version of this. And I don't the tweak has been that significant, as Jim Jordan suggested.

But it's been enough to get some House Freedom Caucus members on board.

The other question is will you see the media covering these moderates as obstinate and intransigent and angry the way that they always do the Freedom Caucus.

BAIER: Meanwhile, Democrats are just sitting back, as the other backdrop is the funding of the government, and they're working on, what, a short- term punt for another week or two?

STODDARD: Yes. I think it's -- the writing is on the wall. They're going to have a clean bill, and they're going to buy themselves another week. They've got to get -- they've got to make sure that next week they have a clean bill, and they buy themselves time until September 30, basically. The White House is against the shutdown. The Republican leadership can't afford a shutdown, and no matter what Democrats do, they need to just get something out the door.

BAIER: When we say clean bill, we mean it's not changing the current funding in the government, so the actual budget changes that the Trump administration wants wouldn't be factored in.

SCHLAPP: What you're also seeing is that President Trump is, for example, allowing for these Obamacare subsidies, not being overly critical about that, and so you're seeing they don't want these riders in there.

But I think when you're going back to health care with the Democrats, they're basically saying, "Look, we will oppose the short-term funding if you all move on Obamacare." And that's why you saw Speaker Ryan being very careful today in now saying, "We're moving forward on a vote."

I don't think a vote is going to happen on health care on Saturday. I think they've got to get through the spending bill fight first, and then maybe possibly see if they could collect the votes or whip the votes on the health care bill.

BAIER: Quickly.

HAYES: Yes. And there's also tax reform. I mean, this is also tax reform rolling out this week. You have these series of fights. I think the Trump administration really wants to have additional things to, to point to for the future to be able to say, "We've done this legislatively. We're making progress on our legislative priorities, not just that President Trump has done the things that you can do as president." They want to show some progress, and I think they're eager to do that.

BAIER: Panel, thank you. We'll watch it all here on Fox News Channel.

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