This is a rush transcript from "Special Report with Bret Baier," February 22, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We are going take this budget, which is, in all fairness, I've only been here for weeks so I can't take too much of the blame for what's happened, but it is absolutely out of control, and we're going to do things that are going to be tremendous over the years. We have to take care of our military. Health care is moving along nicely. It's being put into final forms.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: President Trump talking about the budget and the upcoming rollout of an ObamaCare replacement. Also you have tax reform that is said to be readying at least in the next couple weeks for a rollout of its own. Where are we as we wait for a new executive order on travel and immigration?
Let's bring in our panel: Mercedes Schlapp, columnist for the Washington Times; A.B. Stoddard, associate editor at Real Clear Politics, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. Mercedes, you hear the president there. I think a lot of people get focused on the day-to-day, but you have some big things that are happening soon. One is the Obamacare replacement, which is expected at the beginning of March, and two is the tax reform rollout that at some point is going to be coordinated probably also within the month of March.
MERCEDES SCHLAPP, THE WASHINGTON TIMES: And Congress, the Republican leadership has been trying to move forward on Obamacare first. They are trying to figure out the component of what they're going to do with the Obamacare taxes. Concerned if they take it out, leave it in, because that impacts, in their mind, tax reform. So it's something that I think we are all anticipating, we're all waiting to see if the Republicans can find that common ground on Obamacare. Will it be repair or will it be replace, which is I think the bigger question that we're looking at.
And then when it comes to tax reform, it's something that I think so many Republicans in the mainstream are saying we've got to do this, we've got to do this now because they're going to lose political capital if they don't.
BAIER: Can we just talk about tax reform for a second. Is there enough momentum on tax reform to get a big win here for the Trump administration?
A.B. STODDARD, REAL CLEAR POLITICS: No, not right now. What is going on right now is the battle between House leadership. As you know Speaker Ryan is pushing a border adjusted taxpayer. He cannot get the White House to back this up publicly. Trump has had a couple different things, and the last thing was negative. That doesn't mean he's not going to change his mind and go out there and sell it like a tiger, but it's not on the table right now. That's worth $1 trillion, and that helps pay for cuts, lowering the corporate rate, everything.
So he presents it to the Senate leadership last week. Senate Republicans go out and say no way. You've got high-profile ones like Senator Cornyn, Senator Cotton, Senator Purdue, Senator Mike Lee, all expressing their skepticism with it, saying it's a new tax. You've got Freedom Caucus members on the House saying we're not going with a new tax.
So basically the people behind team Ryan and team Kevin Brady, chairman of the ways and means committee, say if you don't get behind the VAT, the border adjusted tax, there will be no tax reform. So they don't say it publicly but their staffs do. So right now there is not momentum for a big one on tax reform.
As you know, Chairman Dave Camp who once ran the ways and means committee came up with a tax reform bill at his own conference when it didn't even have to really go to battle because President Obama would've found a way to veto it or rip it up. Their own conference couldn't rally around it. So it has many enemies. It has very few friends. It has too many constituencies that knife each other out, and there's no momentum right now.
BAIER: It does always seem, Charles, that we are one election away from dealing with the big ticket items that the country has to deal with. If there's anybody who can get it across the finish line you would think the art of the deal guy might be able to.
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: That's the great irony here. You are always one election away if you get divided government. So here we have united government, or at least the same party controlling everything, with a lot of momentum. The beginning of every new presidency they are always given the benefit of the doubt.
And the great irony is that Congress has become so dependent on following the lead of a president in general, allowing its powers to be usurped one presidency after another. This is not the problems of one party. But it's simply, now that it's in control it can't get its act together. And unless you get strong presidential leadership, president saying next week in this quasi state of the union address saying this is what I want on tax reform and leading on it, that would be the decisive event. And in the absence of that it's showing how weak Congress has become and how it has become habituated to looking to the White House for leadership. It's not getting it. It's not going anywhere.
BAIER: All right, I want to talk about the regulation rollback, what's expected, the details later tonight, we were told any minute. This deals with the transgender issue, the bathroom issue, if you will. Here he is, the White House press secretary today asked about this question.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you give us an update on the administration's plan with regard to transgender bathrooms?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He said at one point Caitlyn Jenner could use whichever bathroom she wanted to Trump Tower. So why is this now a priority for the administration 40 days into office?
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It's not a priority. I think there's a case -- hold on. Let me answer the question. It's not a priority. There is a case pending in the Supreme Court in which we have to decide whether or not to continue to issue guidance to the court.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: There is that case, Mercedes, that is heading to the Supreme Court, and the administration obviously is changing its perspective from where the Obama administration was on this issue and needs to let the court know.
SCHLAPP: The guidelines are simply guidelines. It's not enforcing the law in any way. They are presenting their position and this has to be something that local and state deal with this issue, not at the federal level.
It's interesting when you look at the poll numbers, about two-thirds of Americans oppose the Obama guidelines on the transgender bathroom. It was an issue that you had 13 states suing the federal government because of this directive. It's emotional. It's one of these, again, divisive issue that we are seeing, and I think with the Supreme Court it makes it more complicated when you have, it could be again another split. If Judge Gorsuch is not confirmed or we are still stuck in the nomination battle, it makes it very complicated. You could have just a split court on this issue.
BAIER: A very small percentage of actually people affected, obviously, but it is a very emotional issue.
KRAUTHAMMER: You really have to ask yourself, how did this become sort of the civil rights issue of our day? It is a tiny percentage of the population. It's an issue on which I think everybody is somewhat ambivalent. Do you define gender by biology, undeniable biology, or by individual identification? It's a difficult issue. And why the federal government under Obama felt it had to wade in and dictate to the country on this is beyond me. Let it be a local issue. Let people decide. There are places in the country where I'm sure they feel one way or the other. But I think the best thing to do is get out of the business. It's yet one more example of the administrative state out of control in the sense of not knowing any boundaries. There is no reason to be involved in this.
BAIER: As we get more details, we'll obviously bring them to you here.
Finally, A.B., we have the new executive order on the travel ban the immigration executive order. This is what we know so far about the new one. In a nod to the courts the new order will drop the indefinite suspension of Syrian refugees. Instead the order will likely call for a temporary suspension of all refugees from any country until those countries can put in place a background security test that can pass U.S. standards. The new measure will implement the same 50 percent cut in refugee admissions this year, limiting admissions to 50,000. In another nod to the courts, the new version is expected to contain language specifically exempting legal permanent residents and other visa holders from the ban. It's basically a cleanup on aisle two on the first executive order.
STODDARD: Right, which is smart. And even though Sean Spicer keeps talking about how they are going to prevail, obviously this is a smarter call which is to rewrite the order.
BAIER: Do you think they are going to pull off the other order from the court challenge?
STODDARD: I don't because they official haven't, but I don't know why they -- it's almost like President Trump really wants to do both. The thing is, it was smarter to do this. It's the better course. They can make it airtight legally. They should. I don't know what happened today. The cleanup on aisle two is taking longer because it's supposed to come out this week and tomorrow is Thursday and now they're pushing into next week. But the best strategy for them is to be really, really disciplined about this, do their homework, do the prep. Get everyone ready to implement, everyone be on board, and have it legally airtight so that this just ends and the travel ban is in place for the 90 days and that's the end of it.
KRAUTHAMMER: The cleanup is delayed because it was a huge mess on aisle two.
SCHLAPP: They have run out of paper towels.
KRAUTHAMMER: You needed wading boots to get through it. The fact is Trump ought to pull an Obama and say if you have a visa, keep the visa. We will honor the visa, so none of this idiocy that happened in the first rollout happens. I don't think they need to suspend anything. They probably will out of pride. They don't want to be shown to a made a mistake. But you just fix the vetting and forget about the suspension of entry.
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