The politics of the ObamaCare overhaul

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report with Bret Baier," March 6, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


REP. KEVIN BRADY, R-TEXAS: We deliver on President Trump's promise to repeal and begin replacing with two big principles -- one, to restore state control of health care, get it out of Washington. And also restore the free market. It is Obamacare gone because we repeal all those taxes, those mandates, those subsidies.

REP. GREG WALDEN, R-OREGON: What we want to do is restore power to the states, put Medicaid on a budget, and get back to where you have a doctor- patient relationship in health care and in the individual insurance markets.

BRADY: That includes nearly doubling the size of the health savings accounts and make them more usable. That's good for the out-of-pocket costs. And I guarantee you House Republicans are going to deliver for the president.

WALDEN: We are going to get this done. We are proud of our product.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: The chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee and the Energy and Commerce Committee, they are the two chairmen that will go through this legislation in two different parts. The markup scheduled for Wednesday morning of this bill as they move forward with it. Democrats not seeing the details. They were released tonight. By the way, you can see the whole Bill on our web site, Here is the Senate minority leader.


SENATE MINORITY LEADER CHARLES SCHUMER, D-N.Y.: The problem is every draft, every leaked detail or outline or list of principles we've seen is tied together by one common thread. It will raise costs on average Americans and cut back on their benefits. Average Americans under the Republican plan will pay more and get less.


BAIER: And you heard the chairmen pushing back against that, saying it's just not true. Let's bring in our panel: Julie Pace, White House correspondent for the Associated Press; Mollie Hemingway, senior editor at The Federalist, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer.

OK, Julia, we are just seeing all these details. It is of the structure that we thought it would be but perhaps more detailed on the tax credits and exactly who's getting it and who's not.

JULIE PACE, ASSOCIATED PRESS: Right, exactly. And I think that was important for Republicans to lay out because that's such a central question going forward is how people who aren't able to afford insurance on their own are going to be able to offset these costs. You are seeing some obvious areas where Republicans, particularly in the Freedom Caucus wing, are going to be concerned. We've already seen people like Rand Paul come out and call this Obamacare-lite.

And I think one of the big things I'm going to be watching for going forward is how involved does President Trump get in working the phones with these Republicans who are going to be on the fence about this. This is his first major legislative priority as president, and he's going to have to I think really kind of work some of his own party to ensure he can get a Bill passed.

BAIER: Mollie, we know that Secretary Price, HHS secretary, has a long history of dealing with this as a congressman, as does Mick Mulvaney who is now the OMB director who we're told going to spearhead the whipping the Freedom Caucus, which he is a cofounder of, into line.

MOLLIE HEMINGWAY, THE FEDERALIST: That's certainly their hope, that he will be able to whip the Freedom Caucus in line. At the same time, I'm not sure that's going to be sufficient. It seems like this isn't so much repeal and replace as partially repeal and replace with a repackaged Obamacare.

And part of the problem is they are just sort of rewriting this legislation on the fly. They've only been working on this for a month. They just spent the last weekend concerned about how they accidentally didn't know 10 or 20 million Americans would lose coverage because of the way they were rewriting this entitlement. It hasn't been very transparent. They're going forward without CBO scores. You cannot blame these conservative members of Congress for having problems not just with the process but with the content. Although I'm sure they will be giving this a good, thorough look.

BAIER: Charles?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: In the end, the Republicans are going to have to -- essentially the conservatives, the ones who are more radical, are going to have to fall on their swords because there's no way they could have -- this is the signature event for the new administration. If they were to, in the end, eliminate the entitlement and put it down, I think it would destroy the presidency.

I think there's nothing that they could do right now. They are going to try to get a more serious, conservative entitlement, but if they were to ask the administration to give, in the end, to fall on their sort on this, I think it would be disastrous on the part of the conservatives. They are, right now, asking for the destruction of the entitlement. I think after what Obama did, there is an entitlement that is now accepted. But in the end there is no way that they are going to consolidate the -- they are going to consolidate a loss of the entitlement.

BAIER: What were you going to say?

HEMINGWAY: There's no question that this is an important thing that needs to happen before the rest of the legislative agenda goes through. At the same time, rewriting one-fifth of the economy and doing it in under two months time is completely ridiculous. Democrats had a year to do it and even they didn't do a good job with their packaging together of Obamacare. Anything that involves tax credits is too bulky, too big to not spend the amount of time needed to really come up with some good solutions.

BAIER: Here's Chairman Brady on the tax credits:


BRADY: We give them a tax credit immediately usable that ranges in price from $2,000 to $14,000 a year. It depends on their age and their family. And with that they can buy affordable plans that are approved and certified in the state that they're in. And these are plants that they need and can use, not the plans Washington has been dictating to them.


BAIER: So Julie, is it going to be simple that it's going to be either you have Obamacare or you get on our train?

PACE: I think that's the argument that Paul Ryan's office and some of his supporters in the House or trying to make, that basically this is your choice. We have been running as a party, as the party that will get rid of Obamacare for years now, and this is your opportunity. They are going to really try to build political pressure around these Republicans, particularly some of these guys, frankly, who come from districts where Donald Trump won overwhelmingly and say not only has our party been in line with this message, but the president, who is extremely popular with the constituents, has been pushing this message. Are you going to stand in the way of this and leave Obamacare hanging?

I don't think the choices are actually that black-and-white. You could go through, as Mollie was saying, a longer process and really work through some of these details. But I think you're going to see Ryan's office try to make that political argument and pressure some of these lawmakers to get on board.

BAIER: How much capital is going to be used on this? Because, remember, we have other things we have to herd the cats on, the debt ceiling, possible government shutdown looming, fiscal cliffs to come, and tax reform, let along everything else.

HEMINGWAY: You have previously had Republicans in Congress coalesce around a repeal bill that didn't involve a lot of this reconstructing Obamacare on its own corpse. And so you can repeal without having all of the replacement structure in place. But they can't just put out Obamacare again and expect that the same problems won't be inherent in the system. In the interview earlier they said some of the same problems that were there regarding preexisting conditions or this slacker mandate where you have 26-year-olds getting this insurance, they're still there. So it's still going to cause the same problems and funding problems.

BAIER: They have the votes?

KRAUTHAMMER: Yes, I think in the end they're going to have to have the votes. And also they're going to have to concede the fact that Obama created an entitlement and they are now going to transmute into something different. But the entitlement will stay. There's no way to ratchet it back. And the conservatives are going to have to swallow that in the end because otherwise it collapses.

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