Why the health care battle may not be over

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report with Bret Baier," March 28, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


SENATE MINORITY LEADER CHUCK SCHUMER, D-N.Y.: So, I would say to the Speaker, to leader McConnell and to the president, drop repeal, drop it today, and drop it for good.

HOUSE SPEAKER PAUL RYAN, R-WIS.: We're going to keep talking to each other until we get it right. I'm not going to put a timeline on it because this is too important.

SENATE MAJORITY LEADER MITCH MCCONNELL, R-KY.: Our Democratic friends now have the law that they wrote in place and we'll see how that works out.

WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY SEAN SPICER: And if we can find a way forward, we'll do it. I'm not saying we've picked a strategy and we're going to go with this group or that group. Several people reached out and expressed an interest and the president's view is that he's willing to listen to them and hear what their ideas are.


SHANNON BREAM, FOX NEWS: The health care battle may not be over. Let's talk about it with our panel: Charles Hurt, opinion editor for The Washington Times; Anna Palmer, senior Washington correspondent for Politico; Tom Rogen, columnist for National Review and Opportunity Lives, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer.

All right, Charles. They're still talking. We were waiting for the GOP leadership presser. They were like 45, 50 minutes late, which is unlike them, but apparently within the GOP conference, they were having some heated discussions. The speaker comes out and says, we may be moving again on healthcare.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Look, I don't think there's a reason why that had to be pronounced dead. The president had an ultimatum. He decided he would stick to it. He decided that as a result he would not be involved. That's fine.

But it's still, I think, an open question whether the Republicans in the House and in the Senate can negotiate among themselves. They were not that far apart.

And then, I've been advocating this other alternative where you abandon the restrictions that are imposed by the reconciliation process, meaning you stuff the bill with all the kinds of stuff you were going to add later, stuff that would appeal to the Freedom Caucus. And you put that in the bill and you toss it over to Senate. And if Senate Democrats want to filibuster, fine.

So, I think there are several options. I don't think they are that far apart. I think it's perfectly reasonable that they could negotiate a deal among themselves. And I do think that in the fall, when Obamacare's problems are going to really come to the surface again, spiking premiums and deductibles, and it gets worse every year, there might be - there will be less nostalgia for Obamacare than you have found in the current debate.

BREAM: Well - and, Tom, that's what we got from the president. And one of his most recent tweets said, you know, listen, it's going to happen, Democrats are going to have to come and work with us because it's going to fall apart, maybe that for some people has been the strategy all along.

TOM ROGAN, COLUMNIST FOR NATIONAL REVIEW AND OPPORTUNITY LIVES: I think the president has a point there because, as Charles says, those premiums are going to go up and every subjective analysis shows that trend line and the issue becomes in a political sense when those trends go up again in a tangible way for voters.

It will be a sort of political rising Phoenix for Trump to give him a second chance at this because again the people, at the electoral level, who are going to be calling into those congressional offices might shift quite a lot when those - that up-curve shows its head again.

BREAM: I want to - we have a lot to talk about with healthcare, but I want to switch over to another topic because we have some late breaking sound that just came in and this is about that Devin Nunes, the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, whether he can effectively lead an investigation into Russia, its interference in our elections last fall.

We've had plenty of people on the left asking for him to step down, saying it's time to go. Now, we have a Republican. This is Walter Jones, a Republican from North Carolina who's saying, listen, I think it's time for him to step away from this. He's asking for a special commission, something like the 9/11 commission. We have a new sound in just from him.


REP. WALTER JONES, R-N.C.: The time has come for Speaker of the House Paul Ryan to consider talking about the possibility of sorting an independent commission to deal with this issue. Once a committee in the Congress, House or Senate, becomes tainted, then it loses its integrity. And the American people want the truth and whether there was relationships or not relationships. And to take the politics out of - with an independent commission, you take the politics out of it.


BREAM: Trey Gowdy, also on the committee, says we have an independent commission. It's called the FBI. They are investigating this. But do you think it would be wise for Republicans now to consider saying, all right, we're going to take all the PR battle out of this and we go with something unprecedented essentially.

ANNA PALMER, SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, POLITICO: Listen, it's certainly a distraction right now in terms of what they're trying to get accomplished, trying to figure out what actually did happen.

But I will say Walter Jones, I think everybody knows up on Capitol Hill, it's not surprising that he's breaking with leadership, with Speaker Paul Ryan is probably an understatement in terms of the fact that he kind of goes his own way.

You have the speaker who is standing by Devin Nunes on this. I think as long as he remains steadfastly, other Republicans on the committee, moderates and conservatives like Trey Gowdy back him, so I don't expect him to step down any time soon.

BREAM: All right. Anna, I want to walk-through latest scandal that we're walking through today - Charlie Hurt, you're chuckling over there about Walter Jones.

The letters back and forth with Sally Yates, who was the acting attorney general who, obviously, was asked to be relieved from that position when she didn't want to go to court to legally uphold or to fight the president's travel ban, the initial - first version of it.

But today, there are letters back and forth that have been published between her attorneys, the committee, the Justice Department, the White House about not whether or not she would be able to testify on the Hill.

Essentially, the White House says, it is completely false to suggest that we blocked her in any way. In fact, we didn't. And the paper trail shows that. But the hearing with her got canceled. And others are saying, that is Devin Nunes protecting the White House. Your take.

CHARLES HURT, THE WASHINGTON TIMES: There's, obviously, a lot of working parts there. And I'm not exactly sure exactly what Devin Nunes - what his plan is for all of that.

But my read of that letter is that it sounded like pretty smart legal advice. It was the DOJ advising her that, wait a minute, you can't just volunteer to go to speak to Congress about your advice to the president. The president has certain prerogatives and he's allowed to invoke those prerogatives and keep them. And so, that seems to me like maybe that was a little bit overblown.

But on the larger question about whether she should testify or not, I don't know that - obviously, the White House says that they have no problem with it. But I don't know that it's completely unreasonable, given the fact that she refused to do her job for the president, for the federal government as a lawyer for the federal government.

I don't know that it's all that unreasonable for them to say, yes, no, actually we don't want you to testify. Because no matter what Walter Jones said there, you're not going to take politics out of this investigation. It's going to stay - it's going to be politicized no matter what. And it's hard to begrudge the White House trying to win the politics in the fight.

BREAM: Yes. And advising her that it was essentially potentially under a presidential privilege and it was up to the president and the White House would have to decide. And they say, we told you can move forward essentially by their silence. Because what her attorney says, if we don't hear from you, then we can move forward with her testimony.

A senior administration official told us, The Washington Post story on this, them blocking her was entirely false. And today, it was addressed in the White House briefing. Here is what Sean Spicer said.


SPICER: If they choose to move forward, great! We have no problem with her testifying, plain and simple. The report in The Washington Post is 100 percent false.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's coming from Sean Spicer's mouth. The opposite is probably happening. When you put all of this together, what you see is behavior that is consistent with a cover-up, and that's why we should have an independent commission look at this.


BREAM: Charles?

KRAUTHAMMER: I would say we have a difference of opinion here. When the guy says that any word coming out of the spokesman's mouth is the opposite of the truth. I think you've got the divisions in the House.

Look, I think it's perfectly reasonable, as Charlie said, for the administration if it wanted to invoke executive privilege, and I think that is sort of indisputable. It's also indisputable that there does not appear to have been any effort to actually stop her testimony.

But the one thing that always intrudes in this is that Nunes acts in very odd ways because he then cancels a hearing, which essentially shuts her up at least temporarily. This is a guy who wandered over to the White House to meet with his source, again a pretty odd procedure.

The guy is head of intel committee in delicate situation where everybody is watching him. I would think in those circumstances you would try to do stuff that is not going to attract tons of attention as to its weirdness. And that I think is the root of the problem here. I don't think he's corrupt. I think he's just on his own in a way that is sort of hard to understand and hard for his allies to explain.

BREAM: Well, and he I think is acting like someone who expects he will be vindicated at some point. We're still waiting on NSA documents. But you're going to start the hashtag, like that Devin Nunes is weird or something. I could see, you're going to get it trending. The weirdness, I don't know.

KRAUTHAMMER: But I say that as a layman.

BREAM: Not an expert in weirdness. You have a doctorate degree, but not in weirdness.

OK. Because we don't have enough to fight about on the Hill, they're getting ready to fight even more about the Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch. Here's a little back-and-forth today.


MCCONNELL: No Supreme Court has even been stopped with a partisan filibuster. That is, obviously, what the Democratic leader has announced they will do. And I repeat we're going to get Judge Gorsuch confirmed.

SCHUMER: This is the man who held - broke 230 years of precedent and held Judge Garland up for a year-and-a-half and now is complaining. Doesn't really wash.


BREAM: All right, Tom. Here they come. Republicans are saying if they force to do the nuclear option, it's on them. Democrats are saying, a bit of this is payback for Merrick Garland.

ROGAN: What's very interesting here is - I think what you're seeing is a deliberate effort by Schumer to brocade (ph) the donor database that still is burned after the election because in political terms it's extremely bad strategy. It distracts away from the issues that Charles was talking about with Nunes, the seeming failure of the president in terms of his first legislative agenda at least for a while and because nominee Garland has such a -

BREAM: Gorsuch.

ROGAN: Gorsuch has such a wide-ranging respect across the political spectrum. We've seen this from Democrats as well. It sends that message out to the electorate of petty politics. And it does so at a time where the Democrats really have other areas where they perhaps want to weaponize. But money talks.

BREAM: Anna, do you think this is the hell, they're willing to die. Because if the nuclear options, if we go down to 51, it's going to be a lot more painful for the left. Within a year or two, Justice Ginsburg or somebody decides to step down and now Republicans only need a majority to replace her.

PALMER: It's a dangerous game ticking right now that we're seeing playing out in public. Usually, these kind of negotiations happen behind-the- scenes between the two leaders.

But I would say, I think as far as Democrats, I think what they are doing is - they're feeling really strong right now. They're coming off of this healthcare bill, failing in terms of Trump. There's no kind of foreseeable future for a win for the president right now when he really needs one, and so this is something they're going to try to make as much hey of as possible. It really energizes their liberal base.

BREAM: Well, Charlie, we had Patrick Leahy, the senator who was the former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee saying, maybe I'm not going to filibuster. I'll probably vote no and maybe I'll vote no, but maybe not filibuster. Does that get covered with some other Democrats, especially in tough 2018 reelection states?

HURT: Absolutely. And I think that what we're hearing right now is Schumer is, as Tom said, is playing to the donor base and the base Democratic voters as long as he talks of big game. And then when push comes to shove, you get defectors like Pat Leahy or Mark Warner from Virginia, who is not up in 2018 in a Trump state. You have people that are sort of already signaling that they're kind of squishy about doing this. It gives them the way out and he can just - you let that go and then it goes on a -

KRAUTHAMMER: Let me just say if Schumer wants to trigger the nuclear option, I would quote Clint Eastwood with those immortal words, make my day, because it would be a disaster for the Democrats. The next nominee is not going to be central casting. It's going to be a much harder-edged conservative and it will be easy as hell for the Republicans to get him through or her through, requiring only 51.

BREAM: And that may make some hesitate this time around, think twice. All right. Make my day. You always make my day, Charles.

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