MTP Daily, Transcript 5/24/2017

Guests:
Amy Walter, Steve McMahon, Michael Steele, Julian Barnes
Transcript:

Show: MTP DAILY
Date: May 24, 2017
Guest: Amy Walter, Steve McMahon, Michael Steele, Julian Barnes

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: I don`t need more on an hourly basis, some days.

NICOLE WALLACE, MSNBC HOST: Well, I`ll take it. I`ll take what you don`t
want. Kick it back to 4:00.

TODD: Oh, fair enough. Well, we`ve got a lot going here at 5:00. Thank
you, Nicole.

Well, if it`s Wednesday, the new CBO score is out on the Republican health
care repeal and replace plan and we`ve got the numbers.

It`s breaking lonking (ph) news here in Washington but it`s wonkish news
that will matter at the ballot box.

Good evening, I`m Chuck Todd here in Washington and welcome to MTP DAILY.

Russia is dominating beltway politics, that we know. But health care has
been dominating battleground politics outside of Washington.

Together, these two issues may be holding up everything right now for the
White House and for Republicans in Congress. And there`s very little
relief in sight on either issue.

On the issue of health care, moments ago, the Non-partisan Congressional
Budget Office, the umpire of sorts for legislation here in Washington,
published its updated analysis of the House health care bill that
Republicans passed earlier this month.

According to their estimates, 23 million would lose coverage over a span of
10 years. That`s not much different from prior estimates. It was about 24
million in the previous bill that ended up not being voted on.

This bill that did pass the House would cut the deficit, according to the
CBO, by $119 billion. That means the House does not have to revote on this
legislation, due to reconciliation rules by the way.

And the CBO says that some folks with pre-existing conditions in many
states could find themselves priced out of the market. The rapid response
from the RNC blasted the CBO`s credibility on health care. They slammed
the agency as way off with its Obamacare predictions, essentially trying to
say, hey, don`t take their numbers to the bank.

And just hours before that CBO score became public, interestingly enough,
Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had a strikingly dour assessment of
the Senate`s ability to get health care done. He told Reuters, quote, “I
don`t know how we get to 50, at the moment, but that`s the goal.” That`s
basically the law if you`re going to do anything.

Folks, McConnell`s not a guy who plays games with this stuff. If he says
he doesn`t know how he`s going to pass health care in the Senate, it`s
because he doesn`t know how he`s going to pass health care in the Senate.
He doesn`t have some sort of trick under his sleeve. He`s not about
raising or lowering the expectation bar. He`s not very good at that.

So, bottom line is that they`re not in a good place right now, the Senate
GOP. So, it comes as health care anxieties are dominating battleground
politics. The airwaves are being flooded with health care ads, from the
big skies of Montana which hold as special election tomorrow, to the
suburbs of Atlanta which hold that special House election next month.

Here`s a sampling.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Greg Gianforte says he`s thankful for the new health
care bill. The one that eliminates protections for pre-existing
conditions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We know Quist didn`t pay his own taxes, yet he wants to
raise our taxes to pay for a government takeover of health care.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As a doctor and a breast cancer survivor myself, what
Karen Handel did is unforgivable.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m currently fighting cancer. When I see ads
attacking Karen Handel, they make me sick.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: I don`t know about you, I just had flashbacks to 2014, 2010, 1994.
Anyway, you get the point. Health care ads are back in a big way.

But we`re going on dive into the latest on the Russia investigation a
little bit later in this hour. But we begin tonight with that breaking
news on the Congressional Budget Office scoring, which, of course, a
Washington term, the House health care bill.

Joining me now is someone who I like to talk to for all things budget and
understanding the wonkiness of Washington is Stan Collender.

Stan, help us speak the budget ease for this. OK. So, what do we learn
from this? We know the basics here. The previous score was 23 million –
24 million would lose insurance down to 23 million. The deficit number
essentially went up or down, however you want to (INAUDIBLE.)

The deficit is going to lower now with this new bill by $31 billion.

STAN COLLENDER, CONTRIBUTOR, “FORBES”: It will be higher.

TODD: Right, that`s good, higher. So, essentially, what the CBO is saying
is this McArthur Amendment on the essential health benefits got the
Republicans a million more people covered. They went from – down from 24
million to 23 million uncovered, for a price of $31 billion. Is it (ph)?

COLLENDER: Probably not. And don`t get me –

TODD: Am I reading this correctly?

COLLENDER: No, no, you are reading it correctly. But it`s not just that
the coverage would be – that fewer people would be covered, it`s that some
of the coverage would be less valuable. So, it`s not a complete apples-to-
apples type of thing. It`s 32 million – 31 million people less and others
would have less coverage even though they`d be paying more.

TODD: Now, Republicans would say, hey, the premium numbers are going to go
down. And the CBO says that premium numbers absolutely will go down. But
then, they also say if you have a pre-existing condition, you are likely to
get priced out of the market.

COLLENDER: Well, look, if someone who`s a cancer survivor, this is the
kind of thing that concerns me greatly. And it should concern everybody
because almost everybody`s got a pre-existing condition in one way or
another.

[17:05:01] TODD: If you were born, you were born with a pre-existing
condition. I mean, I`m meaning, like, everybody. I mean, everybody`s –

COLLENDER: Yes.

TODD: – at some point, a scientist can claim anything`s a pre-existing
condition via genes.

COLLENDER: Yes. No, no, absolutely. And it`s not just a question of
lying around doing nothing and being lazy and eating fried foods. You
know, my dad gave me, I inherited his genes and I`ve got his diabetes even
though I work out like a fiend and I eat well.

TODD: So, you have a pre-existing condition.

COLLENDER: I have a pre-existing condition.

TODD: At birth.

COLLENDER: But let`s keep in mind here that the Senate has already said
they`re not taking up the House bill.

TODD: Right.

COLLENDER: All right, so, well, I think this is probably going to be very
difficult for Republicans to explain. I think they`re extremely grateful
right now and taking a deep breath that they don`t have to take another
vote.

TODD: Now, explain why they would have to revote. And I apologize here to
viewers that get frustrated when we speak too much Washington. You know,
we`re CBO. We`re saying scoring. You know, these are not the way
Americans speak about their checkbooks. But why would they have had to
revote? What would have come back from the CBO that would have said
revote?

COLLENDER: In simple terms, without going into budget wonkishness. The
House and Senate are considering health care under special rules that would
essentially prevent a filibuster from being used. So, you need fewer
votes, under those circumstances. You only need 51 votes in the Senate to
get anything done. Fifty if Michael – Mike Pence is going to vote for
something.

TODD: Right.

COLLENDER: So, the revote would have occurred because the bill that passed
the House didn`t qualify under those rules. So, they were waiting for CBO
to say, yes, it`s OK. We bless it.

TODD: So, now, the ball truly is in the Senate Republicans` court.

COLLENDER: Right, right. And, in fact, they were probably helping. The
Senate was – the Senate Republicans were probably helping. Maybe the
House will take a revote. They won`t be able to pass it so we won`t have
to do anything on this.

TODD: Now, there has been a, sort of, one – there`s a reason why health
care went first, as far as Congress was concerned. Because – and we`ve
had – they wanted to get savings out of here in order to do tax reform.
They wanted to do health care under the 2017 budget and do tax reform under
the 2018 budget.

Their deficit number in savings here is 131 billion over 10 years. They
wanted more than that to apply to tax reform. What does this mean for tax
reform?

COLLENDER: Well, the very simple answer is – I`ve been telling clients
this since January. This doesn`t make it any easier. Tax reform, which is
always going to be difficult, now it becomes a little bit more expensive.
And becomes more difficult for them to find savings they need.

Unless they decide the hell with the deficit. Right? We`ll blow it up.
We`ll spike it. We don`t to have pay for things. That`s a possibility
under tax reform. Remember, in 1986, they started with an agreement
between House Democrats and Republicans. It`s going to be revenue neutral.
That is tax reform would not increase the deficit.

TODD: Right.

COLLENDER: Here, they don`t have that agreement. They were hoping this
would make their lives easier.

TODD: Now, among the criticisms that`s going to come on the CBO in – when
they score the budget, eventually, and because there`s a – we`ve already
seen the skirmishes and already there`s a back and forth between the White
House on their assumptions on economic growth. Their assumption on three
percent growth, did they use good math or did you – did they use funny
math?

COLLENDER: Well, funny math is probably giving it the benefit of the
doubt. The Congressional Budget Office and the Federal Reserve, along with
a bunch of Wall Street firms, say that three percent growth is extremely
unlikely. They`re estimating less than two percent growth.

So, where they can – where Mulvaney, where the White House came up with
three percent growth, it looks like it`s more wishful thinking and a little
bit of praying, rather than solid economics.

TODD: What is the best way – you`re – let`s say someone is watching out
here, going, I want – what is the – what is the most neutral economic
growth assessment you can find? Where do – where is the most reliable
indicators for projections like that?

COLLENDER: Well, first of all, the Congressional – in spite of what the
White House and the RNC were saying, the Congressional Budget Office has
actually done a pretty good job projecting the economy.

Now, remember, anything that`s 10 years from now is pure speculation by
anybody. But CBO has done a relatively good job. Remember, its only
purpose in life is to try to get the numbers right.

But if you – if you do a combination of the blue-chip indicators on Wall
Street, the Federal Reserve and the Congressional Budget Office, you start
to regress toward the mean here. And I would – I would take the Federal
Reserve over all – it would be almost in any day of the week no matter
whose administration it is.

TODD: So, we`re looking at – we`re looking at economic growth somewhere
between – lower than three but above two?

COLLENDER: I – it`s not clear it`s going to be above two. But keep in
mind what this does, Mulvaney – Mick Mulvaney, the OMB Director, yesterday
himself said, if we don`t get three percent growth, we don`t balance the
budget. In fact, we have a large, large deficit.

TODD: Is there – is there a realistic balance budget program that could
happen from anybody, if you don`t touch Social Security and Medicare?

COLLENDER: No.

TODD: Because it seemed to be lethal (ph) to me that they were claiming a
balanced budget and not touching Social Security and Medicare.

COLLENDER: Well, they were touching Social Security disability.

TODD: Right.

COLLENDER: Right, but they were hoping for rapid growth. I mean, it would
be great – it`s almost like what David Stockman was doing during the
Reagan administration where he was projecting rosy scenarios. And this is
rosy scenario on steroids.

TODD: All right. Stan Collender, the man who helps me try to figure out
how to, I guess, interpret budget speak. And I recommend everybody be sure
to find you. You`re the budget guy online. I believe that`s your Twitter.

[17:10:00] COLLENDER: At the budget guy. Thank you.

TODD: At the budget guy. Follow this guy on Twitter. It will make you
smarter. Stan, thank you very much.

And speaking of rosy scenarios and economic growth, joining me now is South
Carolina Republican Mark Sanford. He`s a member of the House Budget
Committee. And he inspired me on that last question.

But, Congressman, let me first start with what you heard from the
Congressional Budget Office on health care. The re-marked up bill by CBO
essentially says, for $31 billion more, you covered 1 million more people.
The uncovered estimate went from 24 million to 23 million but the deficit
savings went down $31 billion. Satisfactory to you?

REP. MARK SANFORD (R), SOUTH CAROLINA, HOUSE BUDGET COMMITTEE: Well, that
isn`t what I`ve heard.

Again, I haven`t had the time to look at what actually the CBO came out
with. What little I know of, based on just taking votes on the floor and
walking off, is that one of the other things that was done is that it says
it`s going to lower premiums. Giving states flexibility with regard to
different mandates would, in fact, lower premiums.

And I think that`s important to both sides of the equation. We had the
(INAUDIBLE) protect people with pre-existing conditions and needing to
address that. But you`ve also got the issue of how do you help people that
are in a small business, that are out there struggling, that have seen –

TODD: Right.

SANFORD: – premiums wildly escalate?

TODD: All right, but let me read directly from the report, Congressman.
They address this issue. Although premiums would decline on average in
states that chose to narrow the scope of their essential health benefits,
some people enrolled in nongroup insurance.

The special pool would experience substantial increase in what they would
spend on health care. People living in states modifying the essential
benefits who use services or benefits no longer included would experience
substantial increases in out-of-pocket spending on health care.

Now, look, this goes to the whole larger argument, I think, between the
ideologies in this country, right, which is, is this – should government
be a part of this or not? But how do you explain that constituent saying,
hey, I`m lowering your premiums but it`s going to cost you more to get
health care?

SANFORD: Well, I mean, that`s the tension and that`s the tug-of-war that`s
been taking place in this entire debate. And it`s really just been
enjoined. What it means is now, this bill will make its way, based on the
CBO score, from House the Senate. They`re going to begin a whole other
debate there.

If they actually complete that debate, it`s going to come back to the House
and conference forum will vote for it – for it or against it. But I think
there the bigger question of allowing states flexibility in what they may
or may not do, simply means the debate will be replicating yet again at the
state level, and states will decide whether or not they want to, again,
afford folks those choices or whether they don`t.

Many states would say, no. We`re not even going to give people the chance
to have that chance of higher premium. But we`ll see what happens to a
state like South Carolina, California or Texas.

TODD: Are you comfortable with that, though, that basically your pre-
existing condition, it depends on – it ends up being geographically based?
You know, so, maybe you get pretty good protection and pretty decent
premium options in state X but state Y does – is going to put you in a
risk pool.

And because you`ve – you`re – maybe because of your job, you`re stuck
working in state Y. You`d like to move to a state that gives you better
coverage but you`re not going to get it. Should that way – should that be
the way we run our health care system?

SANFORD: Well, that is the notion of federalism which I happen to believe
in. I believe in a quilt work of different approaches. That not the
federal government should decide all. That we ought to have different
decisions made by different states. And we actually have a competition of
different ideas.

I would also say it`s also important to look at this notion of health care
from the standpoint of what built in on the way of protection. So, Upton
Amendment added $8 billion. The Palmer Amendment added $15 billion. The
base bill added $115 billion. All of which were designed to protect
people. I think that these high-risk pools, while insurance premiums would
go up, the high-risk pools are there to cover people with those higher
premiums.

So, I think the debate, again, has a long way to go.

TODD: That`s fair.

Let`s talk about the budget. You were pretty critical of your former South
Carolina colleague, Mick Mulvaney and the scenarios that he came up with or
they put out in the budget that claimed a balanced budget in 10 years and
the three percent economic growth.

Now, you heard Stan Collender, probably at the tail end there, his
explanation of it. How unrealistic do you think this number is?

SANFORD: Completely unrealistic. So, I didn`t exactly hear what Stan
Collender had to say but I thought he was boo-hooing the idea that we could
get to three percent. And, if so, I completely concur.

What you can`t do is go out and pick rosy assumptions to make the numbers
fit when, in fact, they don`t. And, fundamentally, if you look at this
budget, that`s what it does which is a real disservice to every one of us.

[17:15:06] And Republicans and Democrats, we may have different priorities,
but at least let`s have a debate based on real numbers and then have the
food fight as to what our different priorities might be. If you base a
budget on assumptions that aren`t real, we then, in essence, end up with a
false – you know, baked-up debate that`s not real. That doesn`t serve
anybody real well.

TODD: Let me ask you this. Philosophically, you`re a deficit hawk and you
want lower taxes. What`s the point where if you thought a tax cut would
explode the deficit, what`s that line for you?

SANFORD: I don`t know. I mean, I`ll look at it. There is a line. I
mean, there is a thing called the laugher curve. I mean, there is a point
at which you begin to get to a point of diminishing returns, in terms of
tax cut versus revenue to the government. And we have a government that
has to be fed.

Again, I want it as small as possible. I want it as streamlined as
possible. I want it as efficient as possible. But once it is there, you
can`t say we`ll get our kids or our grand kids to pay for it. A deficit is
simply deferred tax.

And if we stack up deficits, what we`re really saying is we`ll get somebody
else to pay the tax. And I don`t think that that`s fair, based on the fact
that our founding fathers promised us life and liberty and pursuit of
happiness. And that`s awfully tough if we`re loaded up with debt.

TODD: Does it – does tax reform have to be deficit neutral for you to
vote for it?

SANFORD: I wouldn`t say deficit neutral. But I`d say close in that
direction. What you can`t do is come up with fake pay-fors and you can`t
come up with a budget – a list of budget assumptions that presume, you
know, the lifting of financial gravity.

TODD: All right. Congressman Mark Sanford, always a pleasure, sir.
Thanks for rushing to the camera. I know we asked you early up. I
appreciate it during this breaking news.

SANFORD: A pleasure.

TODD: All right. We are now joined by Republican Senator James Lankford
of Oklahoma who`s a member of the Intelligence Committee and Appropriations
Committee.

A little quick change of topics here, Senator. I know we were going to
talk a little more on international stuff and the Russia investigation.
But the CBO score, what you`ve seen, 23 million people would be left
without insurance over a 10-year period. The deficit reduction, a little
over $100 billion. Where are you on this?

SEN. JAMES LANKFORD (R), OKLAHOMA, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Yes, I`m going
through it like everybody else is, trying to get a chance to read it,
literally in between meetings trying to read through it.

The number of people that wouldn`t get coverage doesn`t bother me as much,
only in that it`s a guess from CBO. They base their guess on it if people
aren`t mandated to buy coverage by the federal government, they won`t buy
coverage.

I don`t agree with that premise. I do think if you get the prices down,
most people want to have insurance. They want to have access to it. There
are different policies they can`t buy right now and different options that
are not there.

So, I think there are other options that they just can`t assume yet because
they don`t know on the economics model of it. We do look close at the
spending numbers. Those are the bigger issue for us.

TODD: Well, I was going to ask you, overall, this deficit reduction
number, it`s $119 billion. I think there was a time when many of your
colleagues thought the number – that if did you a repeal and replace of
health care, that you would get a deficit reduction number closer to $500
billion perhaps or that would give you more wiggle room on tax reform. Is
this a disappointing number to you?

LANKFORD: I`m still going to go through that, Chuck. So, I don`t know
completely on where that`s going to fit. There`s still quite a bit that
has to be done, as you`ve seen from the report itself. That CBO estimates
the cost of premiums will go up the first two years.

We`re still looking, as the Senate, to say what can be done to actually
bring the cost down. In estimates in the third year, for many states,
including states like mine, the costs would drop pretty dramatically after
that. And so, we`re going to try to figure out what`s the best way to do
it.

Obviously, this is not a finished product. This is another look by CBO.
We`ve got another look from CBO when we rewrite ours. And then we`ll have
actuaries that will step in. So, this is part of the process. This is not
a finished product. This is part of the journey. You do it. You have it
scored. You do it. You have it scored. And you keep going.

TODD: All right. You noted that, yes, premiums would go down. But CBO
says, yes but. And they`re but on the premiums going down is if you are in
a state that cuts back on essential health benefits, then your out-of-
pocket costs are going to go up. And if you have a pre-existing condition,
your premiums may skyrocket even if you`re in a risk pool.

What is your philosophy, at least, on how to deal with that issue?

LANKFORD: I would say that`s a big part of our conversation in the Senate
is trying to take care of those folks that have pre-existing conditions
because we don`t want to do that. Obviously, CBO is guessing on their
premiums would skyrocket because there is no model that`s given from the
House proposal.

So, as they try to guess through the process, they`re going to do a
guestimate without information on it. We`ve got to actually look at real
information and try to help resolve that for people with pre-existing
conditions.

I would also say that as we walk through this, remember that we`ve got 9
million people that are currently – by the end of the year, there are 9
million people that are on these individual markets from the Obamacare,
what are exchanges. And my state`s not an exchange. It`s a monopoly.

[17:20:07] So – but there`s 9 million people. There are 6.5 million
people that are paying the fee. That literally don`t have insurance, that
are paying the extra tax, but they don`t have health care. Those folks
want to get health care but they can`t afford it. So, you`re also dealing
with that reality.

We`ve got to be able to fix that for both. For folks that want insurance
but can`t buy it because it`s too expensive. And for those folks that
can`t get it because they don`t have enough income to be able to get it.

TODD: And, finally, quickly, on tax reform. It`s, sort of, a similar
question I asked Mark Sanford. Does tax reform have to be deficit neutral
for you to support it? Are you comfortable with the deficit going up for a
higher tax cut?

LANKFORD: Yes. Well, I`ve got to be able to see the way they score. As
you know, you track all these models all the time. I`ve got to see the way
that it`s scored, dynamic, if it`s static. What that means in the dynamic
model.

Is it a realistic model or not? It doesn`t have to be exactly deficit
neutral if it`s a realistic model that we can actually work through with to
be able to figure out how to get tax activity and economic activity.
There`s both the movement of money in the country that`s very important and
the amount of money that people make and keep.

TODD: Senator James Lankford, I`m going to leave it there. I appreciate
you working with us on this breaking news and thanks for having me on.

I`m now going to move to Senate Democrats are choosing to respond to the
CBO score in a group press conference. Here you go.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK (live): – Republicans in Washington and
the president should read this report cover to cover. Throw their bill in
the trash can and begin working with America – with Democrats on a real
plan to lower costs for the American people.

There`s a lot to unpack in the report. I`ll just focus on a few
provisions. First, costs. CBO report makes clear, your premiums are
heading up for the next several years if the Trumpcare passes. 20 percent
increases in 2018. 5 percent following year.

Now, Republicans are crowing about premiums going down in the outer years.
That`s because the coverage is so bad, of course the premiums go down. But
you get almost no coverage. Cheaper insurance isn`t going to help anyone
if it doesn`t actually cover you when you`re ill.

If you`re an older American, Trumpcare is going to force you to pinch your
pennies just to be able to afford health care at all. The CBO report says
that seniors could see their premiums go up by as much as 800 percent under
this bill.

Pre-existing conditions. The CBO report states, a direct quote, this is
from the – Tom Price selected CBO director. People who are less healthy
would ultimately be unable to purchase comprehensive non-group health
insurance at premiums comparable to those under current law if they could
purchase it at all.

So, the so-called fix, which some of the moderates in the House bought
into, doesn`t make pre-existing conditions any easier or any better.

Think about that for a minute. Under Trumpcare, if you have a pre-existing
condition or your sick, your insurance costs could go up so high you can`t
afford it at all.

The non-partisan scorekeepers have spoken loudly and clearly. Trumpcare
means higher costs and less care for the American people. For the good of
the country, Republicans in the Senate should reject this path and work
with Democrats to fix our health care system instead of pulling the plug on
it.

Senator Murray.

SEN. MURRAY: Well, thank you, Senator Schumer. You know, I`ve had to say
this far too often recently, but people are really –

TODD: You`ve just heard there from the Senate Democratic leader, Senator
Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. Obviously, they want to brand this
Trumpcare. Sounds familiar.

Let me bring in tonight`s panel. Amy Walter, the National Editor for the
“Cook Political Report.” Steve McMahon, Democratic Strategist and co-
founder of Purple Strategies. And Michael Steele is an MSNBC Political
Analyst and former a RNC chair.

OK. Amy, everything old is new again.

AMY WALTER, NATIONAL EDITOR, “COOK POLITICAL REPORT”: Right.

TODD: Health care is back –

WALTER: Yes.

TODD: – and back and back and back. What did we learn today?

WALTER: Well, I think what we`re learning today, as we just saw with the
Democrats there on the Senate floor, as well as even the Republican Senator
Lankford, is that there is a whole new debate that`s going to go on in the
Senate, all right? The bill that`s going to go in the Senate is going to
have its own set of criteria. It`s going to get its own CBO score.

But the challenge right now for Republicans is that the bill that`s sitting
there right now, the ACHA, is getting defined as one where people are going
to have to pay more for pre-existing conditions. Older people are going to
have to pay more. And those ads are going on right now and the ads that
you showed in the individual districts. But they`re going on, too, in pro-
Democratic groups are running lots and lots of these ads to brand the bill,
in general, bad for consumers.

And this is what is going to be tough for Republicans as this goes through.
It`s in this legislative purgatory right now. That doesn`t mean that just
because you`re going to have a new bill, it gets redefined.

TODD: Right.

WALTER: It is getting defined right now. And the challenge for
Republicans is how do you undefine it when (INAUDIBLE)?

[17:25:04] TODD: And Senate Republicans throw out this bill and say, no,
no, we`re starting from scratch. Lankford basically was trying to say
that. But you`re right.

Steve, first.

STEVE MCMAHON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Remember, Colin Powell and the
Pottery Barn Rule, right? You break it, you own it. The Republicans are
now being defined as the party who have broken health care. And I didn`t
think I would see it happen this year. But you see Democrats in Republican
districts and districts that are plus 20 Republican running pro-Obamacare
ads. And so, it`s a new day in politics. It`s a new day in Washington.

WALTER: Well, Steve, they`re not running pro-Obamacare.

MCMAHON: Well, they`re –

WALTER: They`re running a Republican – they`re still not embracing
Obamacare.

MCMAHON: It`s the same thing. I mean, they`re saying, let`s not go where
the Republicans want to go. Let`s keep what we have.

TODD: Go ahead.

MICHAEL STEELE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I was going to say, that may be
true to a certain extent. But, you know, this whole idea that we own it
completely, at this point, is not set in stone. So, let`s not lock that
door yet, sir.

The reality for Republicans, to Amy`s point though, I think does present
itself with an opportunity in the Senate. And I think you`re going to
hear, and you`ve already heard from Lankford and you`ll hear from McConnell
and others, that we`re going to take a different approach in the House.

And this will give them the room they need to undo the very thing that
you`re talking about, with respect to the House bill and the onerous
aspects of it, to, sort of, soften the blow on those with pre-existing
conditions. To soften the blow on a – in a number of areas by, sort of,
expanding the marketplace a little bit, if you will. That embraces a
little more Obamacare than the House does.

MCMAHON: Yes. But then, Michael, it goes back to the House. Will the
House Republicans who voted for this bill vote for anything that comes out
of Senate? I agree with you. That`s what the Senate would like to do.
They would actually like to –

STEELE: At that point –

MCMAHON: – probably sit down with some Democrats and do this together.
But it`s got to go back to the House, at some point, and they won`t vote
for it. And there won`t be –

STEELE: – at that point, they likely will. You know why? Because they
have to go back in their districts and run.

TODD: That I agree with.

STEELE: You come in with your ads, they want to be prepared.

MCMAHON: That`s true though (ph).

TODD: But it`s interesting to me. Essentially, the voters are essentially
going to say, Amy, oh, we don`t like Obamacare because it costs too much.
It costs me too much. And now, they`re going to say, we don`t like
Trumpcare because that didn`t cover enough.

Like, that`s the fundamental problem here is that, you know, the fickle
voters here, they want great coverage for a low price. And both parties
try to somehow overpromise on this.

WALTER: Of course they overpromise. Of course they overpromise. Of
course.

TODD: And this is what`s been biting – it bit the Democrats. I mean, I
know it`s obvious but this is what is biting them both. They`ve been
dishonest about the idea that somehow you can lower prices and you can
increase coverage.

WALTER: Well, there are two issues here. One is there are very few people
as just an overall percent of the population that are going to go through
exchanges or be getting health care through this, right?

TODD: That`s a political argument over, like, five percent of the
population.

WALTER: Most people who were – are have – forming opinions about this
health care are not getting covered by this health care. They are getting
covered by employer or Medicare. It`s not going to impact their day-to-day
lives.

The second piece to your overpromises part goes to, this is challenge when
the two parties decide they`re only going to pass major, major legislation
with one party, right? They`re going to shove it through on a partisan
vote. You`re never going to make everybody happy regardless. But when you
shove it through in a partisan way, then you have to overpromise and then
it becomes tribal and then we get to the place we are now.

MCMAHON: John Kasich was on one of the programs on MSNBC earlier and he
was saying, you can never do major legislation if you want it to stick with
a straight party line vote because it`s never going to be accepted by the
other side.

Republicans ran against Obamacare for seven years very successfully. They
now are going to repeal it, maybe. Replace it with something that people
aren`t going to like very much.

And when – and when essential health benefits go away and the Trump voters
who put him in the presidency begin to figure out what this means for them,
I don`t think it`s going to be a very good day for Donald Trump, his White
House, the Republicans in the Senate or even the Republicans in the House
in gerrymander districts because, you know, people are going to figure this
out.

STEELE: I think you`re banking too much on health care. I think, by the
time we get into the fall and to the next year, one of two things will
happen. You`re either going to have a bill that the House or Senate are
going to sign off on and the president`s going to sign and the chips will
fall where they may. Or the Senate will punt on this thing and it will be
nothing. It`ll be status quo and –

(CROSSTALK)

TODD: But, Michael – but, Michael –

STEELE: You`re stuck – you`re stuck either way. You`re either going to
get, you know, gored by your own ox, by your own hand or you`re going to
get gored by somebody else.

TODD: You know, it`s interesting, you`re, like, oh – wait. The 2009
version of you, OK, watching the Democrat –

STEELE: Right.

TODD: And do you know how many Democrats said essentially the same thing.
Oh, it`s too early to assume health care is going to be, like, the be all
end all. It`s too – just wait until the bill passes. Just wait until
people start seeing it.

STEELE: No, I`m saying it`s going to be –

TODD: That may have worked for the Democrats four years ago.

STEELE: – it`s going to be one of two things. We`re either going to be
in the space where the – what you`re saying is right, we own it. OK?
We`ve got the whole lock, stock and barrel, because the House and Senate
signed off on it and the president signed off. Or the Senate punts
completely. That`s all I`m saying.

TODD: Amy, if a guy named Rob Quist is a –

[17:30:00] WALTER: Right.

TODD: – gets sworn in as a member of Congress –

WALTER: Yes.

TODD: – in 48 hours.

WALTER: Health care had a big role.

TODD: Will health care die the next day in the senate?

WALTER: I don`t know if it will be as consequential as the Dave Brat win.

TODD: Yeah.

WALTER: . in Virginia where immigration died. But that should really scare
a lot of Republicans. The difference though is that they`ve already voted
for it. And they`ve been promising for eight years that they were going to
pass it.

So they are in a terrible gnawing situation. It is either really unpopular
even in places where Republican should win or they don`t pass anything and
then they look completely inept even though they have all three branches.

TODD: Unpopular, incompetent, you`ll take unpopular every time, won`t you?

STEVE MCMAHON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Yes.

MICHAEL STEELE, FORMER RNC CHAIR, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yeah.

(CROSSTALK)

STEELE: That`s my point.

MCMAHON: Mitch McConnell was saying as earliest as recently as today that
he doesn`t see a path to 50 votes for health care reform in the United
States senate. I don`t think that path got any smoother or any easier
today. And here`s what`s also going to start to happen.

People who go to their doctors just for the regular routine care and didn`t
have a co-pay, are going to start having co-pays when this thing starts to
unravel more. And that`s going to affect people in ways that Republicans
don`t understand. You know, it`s interesting, nobody has ever taken an
entitlement or benefit like this away from someone in American after
they`ve gotten it. This is not going to be.

STEELE: And they still won`t.

TODD: Well, I`m with Michael. I have a feeling. Status quo is where this
headed.

STEELE: Exactly.

TODD: You guys just stick around. Quite a first 31 minutes in this one.
Still ahead, President Trump is set to meet with NATO leaders as another
terror attack leads the headlines and obviously impacts what they talk
about. How is the Manchester bombing changing those discussions in
Brussels? We`ll update next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TODD: Welcome back. First round of national polls out today post all of the
Russia mess special counsel, et cetera. While this is admittedly a very
volatile time to poll and the numbers always could change, don`t be
surprised if you see a lot of dead canaries near the White House right
about now. Could it be found that by a margin of 54-43, Americans believe
that President Trump is abusing the powers of his office?

President`s job approval rating in that same poll is just 37 percent. For
Quinnipiac, improvement was 36 percent the last time they polled two weeks
ago, 55 percent disapproving. This poll found Mr. Trump under water with
every single demographic group you could slice except the white men, white
voters without a college degree and most of all Republicans who still
approve of the president by a wide margin.

So why did President Trump fire FBI Director James Comey? Well, 55 percent
in this poll said it was to disrupt the FBI`s investigation and possible
Trump campaign ties to Russia. Just 36 percent said they thought it was
because the president had lost confidence in the FBI director. Meanwhile,
there is a Monmouth University poll out today.

They found that only 32 percent of Americans approve of the health care
plan that the house Republicans passed, while 55 percent disapprove of it.
Do you think those numbers could get better? Perhaps, but they could also
get worse. We may know a lot more about that wave Democrats are hoping for
after tomorrow`s special election results in Montana and next month`s
congressional vote in suburban Atlanta.

Up next, how the Manchester terror attack is shooting the conversation at
the president`s first meeting of NATO.

(START VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What took place is horrible.
Unthinkable. We will win 100 percent.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TODD: Welcome back to “MTP Daily.” Right now, President Trump is in
Brussels for a summit with NATO allies. The White House plans to prioritize
defense of anti-terror spending while meeting with fellow NATO leaders. The
attack Monday night in Manchester, England will also be a major topic of
discussion as NATO figures out its post cold war role.

There were more arrests related to that attack by the way in Manchester
today including the father and younger brother of the suspected suicide
bomber who were arrested in Libya. ISIS initially claimed responsibility
for the attack. But officials say they have proven links between the
suspects and Al Qaeda.

Salman Abedi, a 22-year-old British national of Libyan descent was known to
British and U.S. intelligence officials. Officials are concerned now of a
follow-up attack saying it is very possible. Speaking earlier today,
President Trump was defiant, calling on allies to continue the fight
against terrorist groups.

(START VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We are fighting very hard, doing very well under our generals and
making tremendous progress. But when you see something like happened two
days ago, you realized how important it is to win this fight. And we will
win this fight.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: So what kind of reception is the president going to get with NATO
allies? Joining me now from Brussels is Julian Barnes. He covers NATO and
terrorism for the “Wall Street Journal” and is the Brussels bureau chief
for the journal. Mr. Barnes, welcome. Let me get right to a question
because we have a bit of a satellite delay. How has Manchester in that
attack changed the conversation already with this NATO meeting?

JULIAN BARNES, WALL STREET JOURNAL BRUSSELS BUREAU CHIEF: Well, it is
definitely putting the focus on terrorism. That was one of the two focuses
they had. They were going to talk about counter- terrorism but the attack
in Manchester makes it much more immediate.

Like there is something to talk about. It also points out problems. This
for a lot of European countries is a police matter, not a military matter.
Mr. Trump may hear a little bit about that as he talks to leaders and hears
their thoughts tomorrow.

TODD: There is a bit of a split among NATO nations. On that point, I would
like you to get into that. Which countries do see it as a national, sort of
a global issue or nationals security or European issue, NATO issue? And
which of the major allies do see it as a police issue?

BARNES: Well, look, there`s a broad agreement on what NATO is doing on
counter-terrorism. That`s training local forces, working with partner
nations that are fighting terrorism directly. What NATO is doing in
Afghanistan essentially, a training mission. Now, whether there`s room for
the alliance to do more, that`s where the debate is.

Right now the United States hasn`t asked for a combat role. Countries like
Germany are dead set against NATO taking on air strikes against Islamic
state or reengaging in combat operations in Afghanistan. Other countries
like France see terrorism in Europe as a police matter.

But there are countries like Turkey and the United States who say, look,
we`ve got to have better intelligence sharing, better cooperation, because
the threats that are hitting Europe, hitting Turkey, hitting the United
States are emanating from the Middle East. And there`s more that can be
done even if NATO is not doing strikes against Al Qaeda or Islamic state.

TODD: I want to talk about the atmospherics at this meeting. Just getting
this on the president`s first overseas schedule was a big deal to NATO
members and a bit of a back and forth with this White House. Who is trying
to reassure whom more? NATO allies with the president or the president with
NATO allies? On any given day, I`m confused.

BARNES: It`s actually a good question and that`s exactly right. Who is
saying we`re with you more? You know, NATO allies want to hear Donald Trump
say he believes in NATO, he stands behind Article 5 which says an attack on
one is an attack on all. And Donald Trump wants to have NATO say, hey, we
heard your call, we`re increasing defense spending.

You know, both sides are going to get that tomorrow most likely. President
Trump is going to say what allies want to hear. And allies are going to
endorse Trump`s call for more spending. Maybe not just in the way the White
House would hope, but they`re approving measures that should overtime boost
European spending.

TODD: I got to ask a final question on Russia. There is a role that NATO
has been playing to try to push back against Russia incursions into eastern
Europe. How much of that is that going to come up tomorrow and where is the
president on this?

BARNES: Well, look, that`s going to be very important to a lot of allies;
Estonia, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia. They`re all going to mention it in
their remarks. They`re all going to focus on what NATO is doing. And, you
know, those countries really support what the U.S. is doing in terms of
contributing to the NATO force there to deter Russia.

But, look, the administration has something to say there, too. Just today,
they announced, or last night, 4.8 billion in European defense spending to
boost those forces which are trying to deter Russia. So if Trump wants to,
he can highlight that. Of course, we don`t know exactly what he will say
when he is sitting around the dinner table.

TODD: Well, and that is the joy that is of covering this president
sometimes. You just never know what he might say. Julian Barnes, the
Brussels bureau chief of the Wall Street Journal, thanks for being on, sir,
appreciate it. So, is it better right now if you`re a Republican to talk
about Russia or health care? We`ll have that debate after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TODD: Tonight, I`m obsessed with potica. No, I did not say pizza.

(START VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you give him to eat? Is it potico?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: Well, never mind what the pope was joking about, but it was the pope
joking with first lady, Melania Trump, today about a sweet treat that might
be served these days on the White House China at home. Four reporters
initially thought the pope said pizza. But it turns out he said potica,
which is something we didn`t know about.

We can always count on the pope to teach us something new. So what exactly
is potica? We of course get the answer. It is a pastry from the first
lady`s homeland of Slovenia. It sometimes called a nut roll in this
hemisphere.

The traditional recipe calls for about a pound of ground walnuts, look at
that, we even have the roll of that, in sugar, butter, mixed with filling.
Whip in a few cream, that all goes on top of the blanket of dough before it
is rolled up and baked.

Are you hungry yet? We are a little bit. I just got one question these
days. I`m guessing it is not so gluten-free. We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TODD: Time for “The Lid.” Panel is back; Amy Walter, Steve McMahon, Michael
Steele. So my question to each of you guys was, okay, I had Senator James
Lankford on. We talked about a little bit of NATO, little bit of terrorism,
little bit of Russia. We ended up talking about health care. My question to
you, Michael Steele, as a Republican, right now in this environment, would
you rather be talking about health care or the investigation into Russia?

STEELE: Russia all day long.

TODD: Politically, why is that?

STEELE: Politically because it speaks to a sweet spot with your base and
the aspect of health care is still too unsettled within the party as a
whole. You have factions within the GOP itself. It cannot pull out a solid
front. So while they work that out, let`s talk about the thing that we
should be concerned about, what Russia is doing, how they`re doing it, all
of that, absolutely. And also, you got this thing.

TODD: You`re not going to undermine the president here? Did you feel like.

STEELE: I feel like – I feel like.

MCMAHON: Throwing him under the bus?

STEELE: No, you`re not throwing him under the bus, but I really think you
get past that with this investigation.

TODD: Easier to get past Russia than health care?

STEELE: Yeah.

MCMAHON: But you have something to say. I mean, ultimately what Republicans
are doing in both instances is defending the indefensible. They say we want
to get to the bottom of Russia but not if it hurts this president. They`re
protecting this president and this administration at all cost and at their
own political peril. I don`t think it is a very good.

TODD: Amy, let`s talk about tax cuts. Amy, you know where I`m going here
which is the Beltway is consumed with Russia.

WALTER: Yeah.

TODD: Is America consumed with health care?

WALTER: If I were – I`ll put it on the other hand. If I were a Democrat,
where would I be spending my ad dollars right now, on Russia or on health
care? I would be spending it on health care, which they are.

TODD: Which they are.

WALTER: Right? You noticed that – granted that all these special elections
are in Republican-held districts, but even in a swing district or even in,
you know, a less difficult environment for Democrats, I still would be
running about health care. Policy we`re going to talk a lot, I`m sure about
the budget. Just the overall running and functioning of the government.

The Russia stuff, I think, it plays for the base. Michael is right. It can
gin up on both sides. If you`re running to get those, disaffected sort of
the middle of the road, not paying attention every day voters, I would go
with health care.

MCMAHON: I think what Republicans are discovering, if they haven`t, they
will soon, the word Obamacare is unpopular with a lot of voters. But every
single feature that`s in Obamacare that you try to unravel is very popular
with the voters. And it`s the individual elements of this that people are
objecting to. The Republicans taking away. And if they can`t figure that
out.

STEELE: Which is why you don`t talk about it.

TODD: Mitch McConnell would sit there and say, tax reform. He would say –
he would say don`t give me that choice. We`re going to talk about what we
do. We`re going to talk about tax reform. Can they successfully, A, pivot
to that and pass something meaningful enough that Americans would forgive
them?

STEELE: On tax reform?

TODD: Yeah.

STEELE: I think they can. The difference for me between tax reform and
health care is that you can compartment allies tax reform. I can do tax
cuts, I can do repatriation of funds. I can do a whole lot of individual
pieces. I don`t have to do one big bill like you have to do with health
care.

So it`s easy to do it in bite size chunks that appeal to certain aspects of
our economy, whether it`s the business community, middle class, whatever.
And redirect the conversation into a space that is really up the
president`s alley, which is where the president wants to be anyway. So
let`s help him get there and have that conversation.

WALTER: That`s what the most remarkable to me. I thought when this
administration began, that we are going to see every day or at least every
week something like we saw with the carrier decision. The president going.

TODD: That`s what I thought.

WALTER: . talking every minute about, I don`t care if it`s 25 jobs, that he
would be out every day talking about that.

TODD: He was going to be the mayor, hey, look at this job.

(CROSSTALK)

STEELE: Exactly right.

WALTER: Because that really is ultimately – look, this is where
Republicans want to make the case, and they are making the case that this
is going to be about choice and cost, right? That`s where they want to go
to on health care. If they succeed, it will be that a year from now,
people`s costs are lower. We don`t know how they`re going to get there, but
that`s how they win on that fight.

But overall where voters are going to be paying the most attention is to
their pocketbook and how they are feeling about the economy. And that the
president getting caught up in the all this legislative morass about the
CBO score and all that doesn`t get to what he was doing at the beginning.

TODD: All right. I think the debate has been settled. They want talk about
potica.

(LAUGHTER)

TODD: Amy, Steve, Michael, thank you all. After the break, a historic day
in the Hawkeye State.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TODD: Finally tonight, in case you missed it, and I`m guessing many of you
did, it`s the end of an era in Iowa. The end of a very long era. The
Hawkeye State is trading one history making governor for another. Terry
Branstad, the longest serving governor in American history has officially
resigned. And former lieutenant governor, Kim Reynolds, is now the
governor.

She`s the first woman to hold the office in Hawkeye State history which she
called humbling and exciting. The governor`s staff tracked his days of
service and today was day number 8,169. If you want to do that by our
calculations, that means he has been governor of Iowa off and on for 22
years, four months, two weeks, and three days. Now, Branstad`s title is
ambassador.

He got sworn in today as the U.S. ambassador to China. Governor Reynolds
will hold the office through 2018 when she is expected to attempt to run
for a full term. But nothing is guaranteed. She is expected to face both a
primary fight and probably a tough challenge in a general. She may get
primary challenge from the mayor of Cedar Rapids.

One thing it seems the new governor can count on, Branstad`s backing at a
press conference yesterday. Her predecessor pledged 100 percent of his
support for her. And friends are good to have even in politics. Even if
they`re on the other side of the world. But as for that Branstad, mark, who
is going to pass 22 years as a sitting governor in this country ever again?

That`s all for tonight. We`ll be back tomorrow with more “MTP Daily.” “For
the Record” with Greta though starts right now.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
BE UPDATED.
END

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