MTP Daily, transcript 3/24/2017

Guests: Charlie Dent, Bill Cassidy, Dan Balz, Neera Tanden, Tom Davis, Robert Costa, Michael Steele, Baron Hill, Tom Davis, Dan Balz, Neera Tanden

Show: MTP DAILY Date: March 24, 2017 Guest: Charlie Dent, Bill Cassidy, Dan Balz, Neera Tanden, Tom Davis, Robert Costa, Michael Steele, Baron Hill, Tom Davis, Dan Balz, Neera Tanden

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST:  Good evening, I`m Chuck Todd here in a shell- shocked Washington.  And welcome to MTP DAILY and welcome to what was arguably been a disastrous Friday afternoon to close out a very bad week for Trump`s White House and the Republican Party.

The question now is, where does the president go from here?  Because he needs to find a win, fast and big.  And is Neil Gorsuch enough? 

Despite a series of increasingly aggressive ultimatums from President Trump including an ultimatum that would happen today, the White House-backed plan to repeal and replace health care is dead.  The House vote was pulled, possibly for good.

We just heard President Trump address the setback from the White House and he made sure to blame Democrats. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  We were very close.  And it was a very, very tight margin.  We had no Democrat support.  We had no votes from the Democrats.  They weren`t going to give us a single vote, so it`s a very difficult thing to do.

I`ve been saying for the last year and a half, that the best thing we can do, politically speaking, is let Obamacare explode.  It is exploding right now.  I think what will happen is Obamacare, unfortunately, will explode.  It`s going to have a very bad year.  And I think the losers are Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer because now they own Obamacare.  They own it. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD:  There you go.  You had to deflect, deflect, deflect there.  Understandable spin from the president.  He also said that when Democrats are ready to make a deal, he`ll come back to the table.  That`s an -- actually an interesting hidden invite there that actually is probably more meaningful than you folks may realize.

He also said, though, he`s moving on.  He wants to move on to tax reform and do that now.  Moments ago, House Speaker Paul Ryan held his own press conference where he blasted conservatives in his conference for derailing the vote.  The speaker also acknowledged bluntly that despite a Republican Congress and a Republican president in power, Obamacare will remain the law of the land. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), TEXAS, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE:  Moving from an opposition party to a governing party comes with growing pains.  And, well, we`re feeling those growing pains today. 

We came really close today but we came up short.  I spoke to the president just a little while ago, and I told him that the best thing I think to do is to pull this bill and he agreed with that decision.

I will not sugar coat this.  This is a disappointing day for us.  Doing big things is hard.  All of us, all of us, myself included, we will need time to reflect on how we got to this moment. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD:  House Democrats, led by their minority leader, Nancy Pelosi, held a press conference just after that, hailing the no vote as a victory for their caucus and the legacy of this law.

But this setback could send shockwaves through American politics.  The president`s signature campaign promise or one of them is dead, for now.  The wall, of course, is the signature promise.

His credibility, as a master negotiator, may have been tarnished for good.  And the future viability of his agenda is arguably now in question.  It`s a remarkable review from Trump`s White House and GOP leadership on an issue that was a central campaign promise for the party.

And it`s also an apparent rejection of the urgency that they tried to create in an attempt to get weary members on board right now. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RYAN:  This is the closest we will ever get to repealing and replace on Obamacare.  The time is here.  The time is now.  This is the moment.  And this is the closest this will ever happen. 

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  2017 would be a disaster for Obamacare.  That`s the year it was meant to explode because Obama won`t be here.  That was when it was supposed to be -- it will get even worse.  As bad as it is now, it`ll get even worse. 

SEAN SPICER, U.S. WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  This is the only vehicle that seeks to achieve what people on our side of the aisle have been talking about since 2010.  This is it. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The president wants to get rid of Obamacare.  He`s looked at the Republicans in the House and said, look, you`ve had seven years to work on this, now is the time. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD:  Well, that didn`t work.  Let`s get right to the field.  Kelly O`Donnell on Capitol Hill, Chris Jansing at the White House.

Kelly, let me start with you.  I`ll say this, I thought it`s remarkable, at least in public, that the only -- the only faction of the Republican Party getting any sort of public blame from either Speaker Ryan or the president, more so from Speaker Ryan, is the Freedom Caucus. 

KELLY O`DONNELL, CAPITOL HILL CORRESPONDENT, NBC NEWS:  And they have been a thorn in the side of leadership before.  We saw what happened with John Boehner.  We see that they are largely the most immobile of those members of the conference.

And, well, the speaker acknowledged that there were some who moved his way.  There doesn`t seem to be an issue for them withstanding the pressure from either their president now or their speaker.  That`s one thing you really get from that group of lawmakers who have principled reasons why they believe the way they do.

[17:05:10] But they don`t seem to have any kind of a lever that they can pull to make them move, even if they now end up with less than they might have had if this bill had advanced.  That`s one of the things that has always been attached to this most conservative group, that they end up with less by resisting their own party.

So, that`s going to be some more soul searching within this Republican conference going forward.

And when the president talked about Democrats quite a bit in his remarks, I was here with the lawmakers here from the Democratic side, and I said that they -- that the president was speaking a lot about them.  In one way, blaming them saying they own Obamacare.  Big laughs about that.  Saying that the president thought they owned Obamacare a few days ago as well. 

And so, this notion of could they work together?  Privately, Democrats say they will.  But right now, they are savoring their victory, their protection of a signature law for President Obama and something that so much is a part of the DNA of the Democratic party now -- Chuck. 

TODD:  Yes.  And we can`t -- you know, we forget here, this whole thing got started, in some ways, thanks to the town halls.  That, clearly, I think, had a much bigger impact, politically, on Congress than I think any of us are talking about today.

Anyway, Kelly O`Donnell, thanks very much.

Let me turn to the White House, Chris Jansing.  Chris, we heard him say Democrats, Democrats a lot in his talk.  On one hand, he`s trying to deflect blame and I get that.

But there was an invitation hidden in there.  And I guess I feel as if -- it sounded, to me, like the president at least learned one less son.  He can`t get anything done in Congress if he doesn`t figure out how to build a relationship with Congressional Democrats. 

CHRIS JANSING, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, NBC NEWS:  And I thought that was one of the most revealing things he said in that 10 minutes or so, Chuck, was that we learned a lot here.

I mean, I don`t think it was his vice president or his HHS secretary who have spent many years on the Hill, who needed that schooling.  I think this was a big lesson for him.

At the same time, he can`t say that this is not a massive defeat.  And he can`t say he didn`t leave it all on the field.  And that`s exactly what many members of the senior staff have been saying until this finally ended badly for them. 

TODD:  Well, wait a minute, Chris.  They really --

JANSING:   When he met or talked --

TODD:  Chris, let me -- they really think they left everything on the field?  Where was the speech --

JANSING:  They said he left everything --

TODD:  -- where was the speech --

JANSING:  -- on the field.  And where was --

TODD:  -- and where was the speech to America? 

JANSING:  -- where was the speech to America and where --

TODD:  Explain to me why.

JANSING:  -- was he when, on the beginning of this, on the front of this, Chuck, --

TODD:  Right.

JANSING:  -- they he said he was going to go out and he was going to, you know, go out and speak directly to the American people.  He ended up not going that.

But he did do 120 phone calls or person-to-person meetings with Republicans.

TODD:  Right.

JANSING:  He did send Mike Pence, Price to the Hill.  He did call in the Freedom Caucus. 

Look, if I heard one thing, over and over, over the course of these last four weeks or so, Chuck, from senior staff members that it was almost like off-handed, he`s a deal maker.  That`s what he does.

TODD:  Right.

JANSING:  There was a level of confidence early on in this that he was going to be able to use those skills to get it done.

And I think one of the key questions here as he tries to put the blame on Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer is, who is going to pay the price?  Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi did not say that, on day one, they were going to repeal Obamacare.

TODD:  Right.

JANSING:  Not only did the president say that, but it was on his Web site.  And he did -- he did make a show of making an effort, of inviting people here, of making all those phone calls.

So, the question is for the folks who voted to put the Republicans in the White House --

TODD:  Right.

JANSING:  -- in charge of both Houses of Congress, what do you say to them?  And the bottom line is, they couldn`t get it done.

And already, I`m sure you are, Chuck, I`m getting --

TODD:  Yes.

JANSING:  -- e-mails from Democrats who are already fund-raising off of this. 

TODD:  No.  And there`s no doubt.  But I think a lot of the base Republicans that really care about this issue are going to ask themselves, is 64 days really enough to try and say and give up on something?  And I think that that`s going to be an interesting question for, say, some of the leaders of the conservative grassroots (INAUDIBLE.) 

JANSING:  No, and I think, really quickly, you know, did they give themselves enough time?  That`s one of the big criticisms now.

TODD:  Right.

JANSING:  If he is going to move onto something that`s, arguably, more in his wheelhouse as a businessman, which is tax reform, another incredibly complicated subject, how quickly do they try to move through that? 

TODD:  Well, I think they think -- I think they think jamming is still the way to do things in Congress.  I don`t know after this one.  We shall see.

JANSING:  Yes.

TODD:  Chris Jansing, what a day. 

JANSING:  Thanks, Chuck. 

TODD:  But then, again, it ends in Y. 

Joining me now by phone is Republican Congressman Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania. 

And, Congressman Dent, I use you as an example all the time, right, in bridging the divide between Charlie Dent and Mark Meadows.  Explain to me why the divide between Charlie Dent and Mark Meadows was not bridged.

REP. CHARLIE DENT (R), PENNSYLVANIA (via telephone):  Well, hey, Chuck, thank you for having me on the program.  Look, we have a diverse set of opinions in our conference.  And we`ve always had a challenge getting some of our members to yes.  That was before President Trump and now it`s certainly the case with us today.

[17:10:08] I think, at the end of the day, you know, we have to assemble a bipartisan coalition and do something, anything significant in this country, whether it`s on health care, infrastructure or tax reform.

One of the -- I think one of the challenges that we saw with this health care debate -- and I was opposed to the bill.  I announced my opposition --

TODD:  Right.

DENT:  -- a few days back.  But the challenge is, you know, you -- we`re going to need at least --

TODD:  Oh. 

DENT:  (INAUDIBLE) -- in Washington, particularly through the Senate.  You need 60 votes.

TODD:  Right.

DENT:  Hopefully we`ll get more than that.

But, in the House, we`ll also need to assemble those bipartisan coalitions.

Then, on the big issue of this, coalitions must be built and developed and allies sought to go into this kind of a major change on health care or infrastructure.  I just don`t think we can throw the bill out there and think you`re going to be able to just pass this thing without the necessary legwork and hard work. 

TODD:  I`m curious about the hard sell the president put on you.  I`ve heard that, among other things that he said to you during trying to make a pitch is, he made a political argument.  Less of a policy argument by going, hey, failure is bad for the whole party.  And you don`t want to -- you don`t want to contribute to that.  What was your response to that argument? 

DENT:  Well, I -- my -- here is my response.  Look, yes, I met with the president twice this week.  The first time, you know, it was pretty good.  Second time, you know, he wasn`t pleased with my answer because I was obviously not for the bill.

TODD:  Right.

DENT:  But the bottom line is, my answer is, you know, we need a bipartisan coalition here to pass health care reform.  That we -- you know, we`ve got to do a lot of work.  You know, that the bill, itself, I was very clear about it.  That they were -- they took on social policy changes, like Planned Parenthood.  I said, that shouldn`t be in the bill.

The Medicaid issue.  How to be better developed.  Republican governors, you know, needed to be included in this discussion.  You know, John Kasich, Senator in Michigan, and Sandoval and Hutchinson, sent a letter and advanced a proposal.  It really didn`t get the kind of consideration it should have.  So, we didn`t build the allies that we needed to take this on.

And, I think, hopefully going on, into the next issue, --

TODD:  Right.

DENT:  -- that will change. 

TODD:  Do you want this dropped for now?  Are you -- are you now in the, it`s time to -- it`s time to be a repair Obamacare Republican rather than a replace Obamacare Republican? 

DENT:  Well, that`s an --

TODD:  Oh.

DENT:  You know, there are Democrats who love Obamacare, but they recognize that it needs to be repaired.  There are Republicans who detest Obamacare, but they recognize that parts of this law must be maintained.  We should start the conversation there.

Parts of the law may need to be repealed, parts replaced, parts repaired, overhauled reform, parts retained.

And let`s -- and let`s not throw in, you know, unnecessary issue that makes this health care reform more challenging.

TODD:  Right.

DENT:  So, that was the -- that was the argument I`ve been trying to make all along through this thing. 

TODD:  All right.  Congressman Charlie Dent, I`m going to let you go.  I know you`re on a train trying to get home.

DENT:  Yes.

TODD:  I have a feeling I`ll be talking to you --

DENT:  Thank you, Chuck.

TODD:  -- a little later this weekend.

Joining me now by phone is Republican Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana.  And he was an early -- Senator, you and Senator Susan Collins, you went out there early before anybody with the potential replacement vehicle at the time that -- and it didn`t get the attention of House leadership.  It didn`t get the attention of the president.

Make your case now as to why you should, your bill, your and Senator Collins` bill should get more attention. 

SEN. BILL CASSIDY (R), LOUISIANA (via telephone):  Hey, Chuck, because he can seek the problem of Obamacare.  It took power from the patient.  It took power from state capitol.  It put it in Washington, D.C. and Washington told the states what to do.

What the Cassidy-Collins` plan does is returns it to the state to let them decide the future of their plan.  If we had taken Cassidy-Collins, this would already be off our plate and it would be back at the state capitols for them to decide, with guidelines and guideposts that the federal government would say, you need to do it within these bounds.

On the other hand, it wouldn`t be this, kind of, big policy debate up in D.C. because the policy debate would be in the -- in the state capitol.  That`s where the American people want it.  That`s where it should be.

TODD:  How do you restart this health care conversation?  Do you need to, sort of, change the politics of it?  Do you -- is repeal and replace, because of what happened today in the House, is that now, sort of, the words have no meaning anymore?  And so, now, you have to sort of -- you know what I mean, you have to, like, say, OK, let`s repair the system. 

CASSIDY:  First, let`s just be honest.  When the Democrats are yelling and screaming and isn`t this great that this went down, what the consequence of this going down is that people are still going to be seeing escalating costs of their insurance premiums.  A fellow in Baton Rouge, I have it posted on my Facebook page, him and his wife, 60 and 61, face $39,000 a year.  That was their quote for their policy.  That is unaffordable.

[17:15:03] Now, if folks are cheering that there is no alternative to Obamacare, they are cheering that people continue to pay that.

By the way, that tells you it continues to be an issue.  Because we`ve got to address the Obamacare drivers that are escalating premiums for everybody and still leaving 20-something million some people uninsured. 

TODD:  Is this a moment now that you think Senate Democrats, now that it doesn`t look like you could -- it`s a wholesale, rip it from the roots.  Do you think, now, you can have a conversation with some Senate Democrats?  And then, suddenly, maybe there is a -- I had Charlie Dent on who, of course, a Republican -- a moderate Republican from Pennsylvania.  He was indicating that maybe now the air is cleared and there is a way to have a bipartisan conversation.

CASSIDY:  I sure hope so.  I have spoken to Democratic colleagues about the Cassidy-Collins plan which is written to be bipartisan.  It is written to invite others to come along because we return power to states.  So, that the blue states -- a blue state can do a blue sort of thing.  God bless it.

On the other hand, I`ve been told point-blank that Schumer, right now, doesn`t want the deal.  That he just wants the whole thing off.  If that`s the attitude, if politics continue to trump helping people get affordable health insurance, --

TODD:  Right.

CASSIDY:  -- that`s not good. 

TODD:  Well, it definitely seems like everybody needs a time out for at least a few weeks, so we`ll see where things go from there.

Senator Cassidy, thanks for taking some time.  I know everybody is rushing out today.  Appreciate it. 

CASSIDY:  Thank you, Chuck. 

TODD:  All right.  Let me get to tonight`s panel.  Dan Balz, Chief Correspondent for "The Washington Post," Neera Tanden, President and CEO at the Center for American Progress, and somebody we may have helped design Obamacare, and former Congressman Tom Davis, Republican from Virginia, a former chairman of the NRCC, who knows what it`s like to try to do things with one party with bad luck.

Anyway, welcome all.  Dan, you`re the chief.  You wrote, I thought, just, sort of, the perfect summation of where things were going last night.  Preview your -- what is -- what the heck does all this mean column that we`re going to read on Sunday morning, at this point? 

DAN BALZ, CHIEF CORRESPONDENT, "THE WASHINGTON POST":  I`m still working that through in my own mind.  I think that this is a huge defeat, both for the president and, in many ways, more for Speaker Ryan.

I think the question going forward is what is that relationship going to be like when the president said he learned things from this, what did he really learn?  I don`t know.  I`m not convinced that he`s going to go in a bipartisan direction.

But I think it`s very possible that he will say, look, I`m going to go on my agenda, not somebody else`s agenda.  I think the problem for him is that he has not had developed policies on these things.

He was not able to sell this bill to the recalcitrant and Republicans on the basis of policy issues.  It was simply a, kind of, in the end, it was we have to pass it because we have to pass it. 

But even before that, it was, we`ve got a problem here and you guys need to solve it.  And I want to get it solved. 

TODD:  You know, it was interesting, Neera, in your -- in those final days, when House Democrats were struggling and they had to, like, write executive orders to try to get the last vote that you could, because you weren`t going to get Republican support, President Obama did have sway with his members.

And I think there was some thought -- Republican leadership in the House thought they would.  Look at just this week.  I`m going to put together a match of all the House Republicans who were banking on Trump to close the deal. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RYAN:  The reason I feel so good about this is because the president has become a great closer.

REP. GREG WALDEN (R), OREGON:  He`s the closer.  He knows how to put this together.  He`s got great negotiating skills.  And we`re coming together with it. 

SPICER:  He is the closer. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Do you embrace that label here as it relates to health care? 

SPICER:  Absolutely. 

MICK MULVANEY, U.S. WHITE HOUSE BUDGET DIRECTOR:  I think we had a hundred members in Congress to the White House yesterday.  The president`s a tremendous salesperson, a tremendous closer.  I wouldn`t count him out. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD:  Neera, about him.

NEERA TANDEN, PRESIDENT AND CEO, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS:  Absolutely.  I mean, I think the reality here is that the president is called on to finish the job, get this bill done and he didn`t do it.

And he campaigned on being a dealmaker.  He campaigned on being able to solve problems.  Solve health care on the first day.  Not the 64th day, the first day.  And his -- this is his failure.

And I think the reality here is, when you`re trying to pass a bill, I worked on the first health care bill in the Affordable Care Act, you need a president that knows the policy, who can defend the policy, who can argue the policy in and out.

And I think the problem here is the president was -- President Trump was not able to do that.  And the reality is this is going to hurt his entire agenda, because there`s going to be a lot of people who question his ability to get any deal done ever again.

  TODD:  By the way, Neera, you guys were naive in 2009 when you thought you were going to get health care by the end of - if,  remember, September -- Labor Day.  The whole thing was going to be signed.  There was going to be a big Labor Day 2009 signing.

TANDEN:  OK, Labor Day --

TODD:  Yes.

TANDEN:  -- is a little -- is a little bit longer than three weeks there, Chuck Todd. 

TODD:  No, no, no, no.  There`s no doubt about it.  The point is --

(CROSSTALK)

TODD:  -- all you do is look at history, Tom Davis.

FORMER REP. TOM DAVIS (R), VIRGINIA, FORMER CHAIR, NRCC:  Right.

TODD:  Look at history.  Democrats had bigger majorities.  They had a president who was more popular. 

DAVIS:  He had 60 percent --

TODD:  That`s right.

DAVIS:  -- approval versus 30s.

TANDEN:  Yes.

TODD:  And it still took him a year and a half to get this bill passed.

TANDEN:  Yes.

TODD:  That`s how hard it is.

What -- there were a lot of mistakes made.  What were two or three of the biggest mistakes here that President Trump and Ryan made? 

[17:20:02] DAVIS:  Well, first of all, they didn`t get any interest groups on board.  When you take a look at this thing, the Hospital Association, the doctors, seniors, I mean, they could have made some outreach to these groups.

TODD:  Any time.

DAVIS:  -- to get -- yes.  They did not make that effort.

Secondly, that CBO score, I think, was very bad in the end because nobody really knows what this does.  But the CBO may or may not be right, I think you can argue.  But their judge is the empire.

TODD:  On coverage numbers, OK, fine, say it`s even half.  It`s still a bad number.  But the deficit number wasn`t that great.  It wasn`t going to be a huge wind fall. 

DAVIS:  No, it was an asterisk.

TODD:  Yes.

DAVIS:  And that -- and that was the problem.  They didn`t get any of that and they had to work those -- and then, they lost the messaging more.  Nobody knows what`s in this bill.  This bill is never going to become law or even pass.  This is just the anti to send it over to the Senate and then the Senate fixes and it comes back.

TODD:  You know, --

DAVIS:  This is an easier vote in that sense that it doesn`t become law, but they lost the messaging war. 

TODD:  Yes.  Cap and trade was an easy vote   --

(CROSSTALK)

DAVIS:  But that -- but that was more intense and regionalized. 

BALZ:  And also, in my -- excuse me.  When I tell you (ph) about what this would take to get done.  There is a transition document that went to the Trump inner circle on in week of the election that laid out a legislative agenda.

TODD:  Right.

BALZ:  It talked about having this process done by February 24th.  That was the goal as part of a bigger legislative strategy to take them through the first 200 days.  They had -- they had outsized ambitions about what could be done and no idea of what it was going to take to do it. 

TANDEN:  I agree.  I think the issue here was, really, you had two people who had very different conceptions (ph).  Donald Trump wanted to do this very quickly.  It seems like Paul Ryan wanted to do it and Donald Trump only wanted to do it quickly.  So, they agreed to this process that was worse for both of them.

At the end of the day, it is impossible to pass a bill that affects one- sixth of the economy in three weeks.

This was introduced three weeks ago.  They had no testimony.  Price never testified.

TODD:  Yes, there was nothing.

TANDEN:  They just voted it out of committee.  It`s in -- it`s -- honestly, it`s an insane process. 

TODD:  Tommy, it reminds me of something else here that`s interesting.  So, you had, in first attempts, Jimmy Carter came in as an outsider and didn`t listen to Tip O`Neal.

DAVIS:  Right.

TODD:  And he had problems with Congress the whole time.  And there`s a great anecdote on day one in Tip O`Neal`s book that`s been going around.

Bill Clinton came in as an outsider and though, I`m going to roll Pat Monahan, right?  There were some of those things and got -- he found out.

Barack Obama said, I`m going to put Rahm Emanuel in charge.  I`m going get a member of Congress because I don`t want to create the same problems with my own party in Congress, realizing he had it.

Now, that may have caused him problems with independents that he went along too much with Congress.  But there`s a lesson there, isn`t there?

DAVIS:  There is.  And, you know, he`s surrounded by outsiders.  He some very capable people but they have no governmental experience on this.

But the other problem is the Republican conference itself.  It`s been fractured before.  They drove Boehner out through the speakership.

TODD:  What`s Boehner doing right now?

DAVIS:  Making money. 

TODD:  Laughing or crying or both? 

DAVIS:  He`s having a -- he`s having a great life.

But, Chuck, the problem is they`ve got to be able to get together as a caucus and show they`re not just an opposition party, that they can govern.  If they don`t do that, I`m telling you, they`re going to go to the midterms with a collapsed base.  And midterms are all about who shows up. 

TODD:  What is the freedom -- it is interesting to me, because Ryan did put the blame on the Freedom Caucus.  He essentially did.  They had some votes but not enough. 

DAVIS:  Well, Chuck, let me start with that.  First of all, they`re the ones from the safe Republican districts.  They`re the ones who could`ve voted with this without probably any political damage.

It`s these members in these marginal districts, if you will.

TODD:  They were walking the plank.

DAVIS:  That were walking the plank.  They are the ones likely to lose if this goes south.  And they were the ones supplying the votes. 

BALZ:  Well, I mean, I think the problem is, it`s almost as if none of them paid attention to the election.

You know, Donald Trump trampled on the Republican Party and the Republican coalition.  He was the one who won the election.  It wasn`t that House Republicans carried him across the finish line.  He won this election. 

TODD:  This wasn`t Mike Pence`s Republican victory. 

BALZ:  Correct. 

TODD:  Even though -- but they did health care in the -- in the way of Mike Pence would have done it, not in the way --

BALZ:  Well, that`s a different issue. 

TODD:  Yes. 

BALZ:  That`s a different issue.  But it was as if the members of the Freedom Caucus said, this is business as usual.  It doesn`t matter what really happened.  We`re going to continue to operate the way we have operated the last several years. 

TANDEN:  I mean, a lot of people -- a lot of the Obama-Trump voters, people who voted for Obama, voted for Trump because they thought he was a different kind of Republican.

And the thing is he`s now -- in these first couple of months, he has shown that he`s an ideological Republican in a way that, I think, really hurts him. 

TODD:  And his great strength was the lack of ideology. 

TANDEN:  Yes and deal making.  Don`t forget the deal making. 

TODD:  With some of these -- with some of these voters.

Anyway, you guys stick around.  We have a lot more to talk about after this quick break.  So, stick around.

[17:25:43]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RYAN:  I don`t know what else to say other than Obamacare is the law of the land.  It`s going to remain the law of the land until it`s replaced.  We did not have quite the votes to replace this law.

And so, yes, we`re going to be living with Obamacare for the foreseeable future.  I don`t know how long it`s going to take us to replace this law. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD:  Joining me now by phone is somebody that has already interviewed by President Trump, Robert Costa of "The Washington Post."

And, Robert, I -- what`s -- what was, I think, somewhat remarkable in the Trump era, since he`s taken over the Republican Party, is that the closest thing to message discipline that you can get with Trump is what Ryan and Trump did today.  He did his presser.  Trump did his mini-presser.

And they were sort of, kind of on the same page, even though the blind quotes from inside the White House and inside Congress show that this party is not on the same page.  Where is the president really at? 

ROBERT COSTA, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST" (via telephone):  The president told me, over the course of our conversation, that he was disappointed he couldn`t get Democratic votes.  He was disappointed with Freedom Caucus.  And he`s willing to just, kind of, sit back and let the law move forward.  He doesn`t have a plan B.  He`s not trying to bring a floor to the House any time soon.

He thinks the Democrats are going to want to work with him on some kind of bipartisan deal.  And I said -- I said to him, maybe is that more of your style to just kind of wait and cut a deal with Democrats?  You`re not an ideological kind of president.  And he said, well, some people may say that.

So, he seems to be kind of open to the idea of not having some kind of right-wing health care replacement down the line. 

TODD:  Right.  I find it fascinating that the blind quotes are noting, in the White House and certainly White House officials that are, you know, making it clear, hey, it wasn`t his idea to start with health care.  This was told to him that he had no choice.

And, look, there was a mathematical argument for why you start with health care because it would make tax reform easier because you`d have a different baseline.  And so, that your deficit number didn`t get out of whack if you did tax reform. But that is not going to happen. Is this a case where the president leaned too much on Pence and Priebus? Is that what he thinks now?

COSTA: I pushed him on some of that. I said, do you blame Paul Ryan for this? A lot of your aides and friends have frustrations with the speaker. And he said three times, I don`t blame Paul, I don`t blame Paul, I don`t blame Paul. If you don`t blame him, are you gonna work with him on health care moving forward? If not health care, what about taxes and infrastructure, your whole agenda? He said, yeah, I`m going to do it, I`m going to work with him.

And so there`s not the animus, at least on the phone with me today, that a lot of people in Trump`s orbit have towards the speaker, but Trump did say something pretty intriguing. He told me there`s so much anger and hate inside of the house GOP. He seemed kind of shocked by how much of the factional politics within the house really made this a stumbling block.

TODD: That`s interesting. Does he -- does he, at this point, is he secretly relieved that the health care is dead?

COSTA: He really thinks it`s dead. Until Obamacare, in his mind, explodes. That`s the word he kept using over and over again. And he started to lay out his message. He`s going to keep blaming the democrats, even though this was a republican failure.

TODD: Right.

COSTA: . to pass the replacement.

TODD: We shall see. Bob Costa, always a pleasure, sir. Thank you. Go back to your reporting. And we will be right back with a lot more.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(START VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL RYAN, SPEAKER OF THE U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: The conference at this point, the conference, we were on the cusp of fulfilling a promise that we made. We are on the cusp of achieving an ambition that we all have for seven years and we came a little short. We were close but not quite there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: Joining me now is Michael Steel, former press secretary to John Boehner. Michael, you were there, you have been there for various fights when your former boss was trying to figure out how he was going to get to 217. Could he find, in most cases, you usually did have a handful of democrats that would bail essentially the leadership out if necessary, if it was on a must-pass bill. Is there anything Paul Ryan could have done differently looking at what happened today with the Freedom Caucus?

MICHAEL STEEL, FORMER PRESS SECRETARY TO JOHN BOEHNER: No, I think this is -- what you`re seeing is a transition from a party and opposition to a party with the responsibility to govern. Every republican speaker has been bedeviled by this transient group of members that just never can quite seem to get to yes on anything. And I think that there was some expectation, some hope, that given President Trump`s deep appeal to the base of the Republican Party, that he would be able to convince some of this, some of this caucus to come around. And so far, it seems he hasn`t been able to.

TODD: Look, I think one of the things that I thought they were attempting to do, that they hoped would work, was create a sense of urgency. You had to do it now. That this needed to be done now. And that is why you have to sort of compromise here. But I wonder if because of some criticisms over time haven`t been come fully true, whether that rang hallow. Let me play the best of the Obama care attacks.

(START VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Obamacare is nothing more than the largest tax increase in the history of the world.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let`s repeal this failure before it literally kills women, kills children, kills senior citizens.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Obamacare is really, I think, the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery. And it is, in a way, it is slavery.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Obamacare is the single biggest job killer in this country.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Everything about Obamacare was a lie. It was a filthy lie.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: Obviously, that is the most hyperbolic language that was used among various folks. But that`s my point here. Was it a negative so oversold and when it didn`t -- when some of those -- when those things didn`t happen, that made the idea of selling, well, you have to do it now. It`s collapsing, it`s collapsing. That maybe even members didn`t believe that there was urgency.

STEEL: I think there`s definitely urgency given the fact that every republican who has run for office for the past three cycles has promised to repeal and replace this awful law. The lies that were used to sell it were rated lie of the year by PolitiFact. The costs have gone up every single year. The coverage is often more hypothetical than real. If you have coverage but don`t access to a caregiver, you`re not really being covered. So I think that there is no doubt that there are real victims of this law and a real desire to replace it.

TODD: But I guess what I`m trying to get at is if you oversell the attack on the law and those things don`t come true, we had job gains since Obamacare passed, not job, you know, we didn`t see jobs go away. And I know the spin becomes, oh, but it was slower job growth. You know, the problem is, over time, if it`s sort of like, you know, the sky is falling, the sky is falling. It comes across as chicken little. And I think this death spiral stuff, I guess what I`m asking, is that people didn`t buy it.

STEEL: I think there is no doubt that we have had some talented speakers who have made somewhat hyperbolic claims about the law over time, but the cold facts remain pretty darn compelling that it is not working the way it was promised.

TODD: Let me ask you this, what do you do know? Is it worth -- I  remember your boss saying in 2012, right after the election, he goes, I`ll read it again, you probably remember it very well because it was used against him. It`s pretty clear that the president was re-elected, Obamacare is the law of the land, I think there are parts of the health care law that are gonna be very difficult to implement. Essentially he`s saying, we`re going to have to repair this thing, but he was willing to say it was the law of the land and he had to retreat from that comment later on, I know. What do you do now?

STEEL: Well, I think, on health care specifically, the president seemed to indicate that he wants to look to opportunities to work with democrats in the future on this issue. I hope that will be possible. And it sounds as though we`re going to be looking more seriously, more quickly, at the other items on the agenda, tax reform, excuse me, infrastructure spending, et cetera.

TODD: Should that have gone first in hindsight?

STEEL: No, I think that the party was more unified, at least rhetorically on the need to repeal and replace Obamacare than they are on the substance of tax reform. It was a clearest, most definitive promise and most often repeated promise that every republican elected official made to voters.

TODD: I take it, Michael, now that you`re not in congress, you`re not one of those that says oh, yeah, tax reform would be easier.

(LAUGHTER)

STEEL: Tax reform is gonna be very, very difficult and I would remind everyone that it`s also supposed to be done under the reconciliation process. So it`s also designed, at this point, at least, to be a partisan exercise, which means you have exactly the same problem in terms of these recalcitrant members in the house.

TODD: And that sounds like that`s the lesson that President Trump is taking away from this. Anyway, Michael Steel, as always, sir, I appreciate it. Thank you for joining me.

STEEL: Good to be with you.

TODD: My next guest is former Indiana democratic congressman, Baron Hill, who voted for Obamacare in 2010, 2009, actually 2010, probably both times. And he pushed and ended up voting for the Democratic Party push for cap and trade legislation that only the house voted on and the senate never did, which was a situation that house republicans were fearing they would be facing today, voting for something that the senate never would do.

And Congressman Hill, you ended up losing re-election in 2010. So take me through the mind of the Charlie Dents of the world, and folks that were in that moderate republican wing sitting in swing districts the way you were in 2010 when you were walking the plank, as you actually said yourself.

BARON HILL, FORMER INDIANA DEMOCRATIC CONGRESSMAN: It was challenging, to say the least, Chuck. I know the economy was tanking. And there were many of us who felt like while health care was important, that we be aught to be focused on the economy and not taking on a maximum bill like the health care bill. So it was tough.

TODD: And yet you did vote for some of these things. And when you look at cap and trade, was the mistake at the time, if you knew that the senate was never going to take it up, would you have been willing to cast that vote?

HILL: No. I wouldn`t have. We were assured by house leadership that the senate was going to pass it. That was one of the reasons why I decided to go ahead and vote for it. So that was a strategic mistake on leadership`s part. And it resulted in some problems politically for people like myself and others.

TODD: Can you imagine, look, you served in congress at a time, and you represented the swing district in the country for a good decade, I think now that belongs to New Hampshire`s first district these days, but at the time it was a back and forth, and you always, in order to survive, you had to reach across the aisle, right? You had to be bipartisan if you are going to survive an Indiana`s ninth back in the day.

HILL: Yeah.

TODD: . whether it was you representing it or a republican representing it. Is that even possible in this version of congress that we have these days?

HILL: Yes, it is possible, but very, very hard to do. I remember when I was in congress, I was carrying a bill to increase fuel efficiency standards, which was somewhat controversial. And I reached out to Lee Terry from Nebraska, a republican, and asked him to go on the bill with me. You know, we worked together. He got a bunch of republicans on the bill and I got a bunch of democrats on the bill.

We actually passed it out of the house. And that version eventually became law. But what you have to do in these kind of political environments, Chuck, is bite your lip and not throw bombs at the opposition, reach out to them and treat them with respect, even when sometimes you don`t feel like they deserve that respect.

TODD: Yeah.

HILL: But if you`ll do that and step up to the plate, you can get things done. That`s the only way to conduct yourself. But it`s not happening right now.

TODD: All right. But, you know, for instance, I don`t think the base of the Democratic Party is that interested in seeing any democrat work with the other side.

HILL: Well, they should be. I mean, the American people don`t care about all this politics. All they care about is getting results and making sure that members of congress are doing the right things for the American people. It`s one of the reasons why the institution, quite frankly, doesn`t have a whole lot of respect right now. And it is very unfortunate because I happen to love the institution of congress and this whole concept called democracy.

TODD: Well, former Congressman Baron Hill, I appreciate you coming on and sharing your experiences there. And that last thought, I think there are quite a few people in Washington that miss the good old days of when it did seem as if congress, still ugly, but it did work. Anyway.

HILL: I agree.

TODD: Congressman, thank you, sir.

HILL: You`re welcome.

TODD: All right, we got a lot more to get to, but I`m going to sneak in a break and we`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(START VIDEO CLIP)

MITCH MCCONNELL, SENIOR U.S. SENATOR FROM KENTUCKY: This debate was supposed to produce a bill that reform health care in America. Instead, we`re left with party line votes in the middle of the night, a couple of sweetheart deals to get it over the finish line, and a truly outraged public.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: Well, don`t adjust your television sets, that was actually from 2009, not today. Tonight, I`m obsessed with the republican push for the American Health Care Act using the exact tactics they excoriated democrats for using with the Affordable Care Act seven years ago. In fact, let`s take a quick look, here`s then Speaker Nancy Pelosi. She was slammed by conservatives who said rammed the bill through the house too quickly. Pelosi was also slammed for saying this.

(START VIDEO CLIP)

NANCY PELOSI, MINORITY LEADER OF THE U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it away from the fog of the controversy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: Well, compare that to President Trump`s top house ally Chris Collins last night.

(START VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS COLLINS, U.S. REPRESENTATIVE FOR NEW YORK`S 27TH CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT: In my district, right now there`s a lot of misunderstanding about what it is we`re doing. And once we get it done and then we can have the chance to really explain it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: In other words, you got to pass it before you know what`s in it. Another thing republicans rallied against democrats for, here`s then House Minority Leader John Boehner on the house floor before the Obamacare vote.

(START VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN BOEHNER, FORMER SPEAKER OF THE U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: Look at how this bill was written. Can you say it was done openly? With transparency and accountability? Without back room deals and struck behind closed doors hidden from the people! Hell no you can`t! Have you read the bill? Have you read the reconciliation bill? Have you read the manager`s amendment? Hell no you haven`t!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: That was in 2009, not in 2010. This time around, the Huffington Post reports several republican lawmakers did not read the latest version of the republican health care bill. And republicans, well, there you go, they did this without committee. The republicans slammed democrats for offering sweeteners to get Obamacare passed like the notorious Cornhusker Kickback to placate conservative Nebraska Senator Bill Nelson. Well, republican leaders had to weigh a buffalo buyout.

A special add-on to woo over republicans in upstate New York. Back then, republicans claimed the unpopular Obamacare provisions were passed in the middle of the night. Present day, they are being hit for using identical tactics. Those tactics worked to get a bill made into law some seven years ago. It does not look like it worked for republicans today. Coming up, we`ll bring back the panel to figure out, where do we go next?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TODD: Time for "The Lid." On Monday, (inaudible) and I had four big questions for Trump`s week, and now we got our answers. Question one, did the FBI Director Comey repudiate President Trump`s wiretapping charge? The answer was yes. He said he had no information that support Trump`s charge. Question two, how far does Comey go on Russia? Answer, very far. He confirmed an investigation in the links between Trump campaign associates and the Russian government.

Question three was, does the health care effort survivor die? Well, we think we know the time of death. It was sometime around 3:45, I think. And lastly, number four, is Gorsuch`s confirmation on track? Well, he did, a big yes on that. And that`s President Trump`s best news of the week. Panel is back. Balz, Tanden, Davis. Tom, president have had a lot of bad weeks, this is a pretty bad one.

TOM DAVIS, FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE FROM VIRGINIA: He`s got plenty of time to recover, it`s still early in the process. I think one thing that republicans need to understand is they voted on this bill. This bill is never going to become law. It`s going to change markedly in the senate. And if you look back in 2010, a lot of democrats voted against the health care bill, the Obamacare lost anyway. This is a party branding exercise to a great extent.

TODD: So you mean -- so what does that mean here? That republicans are all going to take a hit?

DAVIS: I think they all take a hit absolutely. But I think the other thing is what does the base do? Does the base just say well, we leave it and we go on the next issue or do they come back and try to revive this.

TODD: If the base takes any ques (ph) from Breitbart, Dan Balz, they have an exclusive story about discussion about GOP replacement to Paul Ryan as speaker of the house intensifies the White House and congress. I don`t know if there`s any hidden meaning there, but some of the base may decide, at least the Trump base, decide to retain (ph) Paul.

DAN BALZ, JOURNALIST AND POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT AT THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, they may, and I think there has been tension between Paul Ryan and Donald Trump dating back in the middle of the campaign or early in the campaign. And I don`t think that`s gonna change. And I think the question is what does this episode do to make that worse over time? I think that`s an important element and is going to affect what Donald Trump is able to do as president of the United States.

TODD: You know, one thing that has gone, I think under notice today, and it will get more notice over the weekend, is the fact that the town halls have impact.

NEERA TANDEN, FORMER CLINTON AND OBAMA ADVISOR: Huge impact.

TODD: Obviously, your side organized.

TANDEN: Uh-um.

TODD: . especially in the last month.

TANDEN: Yeah.

TODD: It had an impact. When you get success, it begets success.

TANDEN: Uh-um.

TODD: Where do you guys go next?

TANDEN: I think the reality is that the singular thing to help the Affordable Care Act was this assault on it. You see its popularity is higher than its ever been. It`s 10, 12 points higher than Trump`s popularity. There was great mobilization because once it was under threat, people were flooding these town halls, people who have never been in politics before.

And I think the issue here is you cannot have a radical right agenda and expect democrats to just go back. It`s actually his -- this agenda, this conservative agenda is mobilizing the opposition and I hope republicans will actually put aside that radical agenda, but it seems like they don`t actually have the DNA to work with the democrats.

TODD: You know, Tom, the other thing I`m wondering is what is the impact on President Trump with his own base? Look, today, he said something remarkable, claiming that he never said he was going do this on day one. Let`s go to the video tape.

(START VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: It will be repeal and replace. It will be essentially simultaneously. It will be various segments, you understand, but will most likely be on the same day or the same week, but probably the same day, could be the same hour.

You all heard my speeches, I never said repeal it and replace it within 64 days, it`s going to take a long time. But I want to have a great health care bill and plan, and we will, it will happen, and it won`t be in the very distant future. I really believe there will be some democratic support that will happen and it will be an even better bill.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: Tom, I go back to you, does he take a hit for over-promising and under-delivering? This is his first big one.

DAVIS: No, I agree with that. And I think he does. I think the bigger problem for republicans is if that base starts to collapse, the midterm is going to be a disaster. We know President Trump`s numbers are not that great for an incoming president this early in the cycle. But they can hold the house if they hold their base because the way these districts are drawn, the way the senate lines are drawn. But if the base gets dis- spirited at that point, then I think they have real problems.

TANDEN: He said he was going to come to Washington and change everything. He can change things. He was a deal maker. He was the person, all the politicians couldn`t solve your problems, I will. That`s what he said every day. And the fact that he has had this abysmal failure within the first few months, it`s simply devastating, not just to Republican Party but to his brand.

TODD: It`s really hard to drain any swamp.

(LAUGHTER)

TODD: Let alone this one.

BALZ: Well, I agree with Tom that it is early and, you know, 64 days is not enough time to decide whether this is going to be a successful presidency or not. But I think that given this on top of all of the other things.

TODD: Russia.

BALZ: . they have not, well, there`s the Russia thing, but the things they have tried to do, you know, he had great fun signing a lot of executive orders. This is tough. What does he do differently? How does he restructure the White House if necessary?

TODD: All right. I`m going to leave it there. Dan, Neera, Congressman Davis, what a day, appreciate you being here with me for it. We have one more thing about this health care battle that you actually may have missed. So keep it here and you`ll see it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TODD: Now in case you missed it, health care reform is complicated. Even before today, President Trump really wanted to move on to just about any other issue. Take a look.

(START VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I want to cut the hell out of taxes, but, but, before I can do that, I would have loved to have put it first, I`ll be honest, got to get the health care done.

We`re going to be doing some trade deals as soon as we get the health care finished. Oh, I`m looking forward to these trade deals.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: He didn`t really hide his contempt for these health care negotiations at this point. If you think it`s coming back soon, think again. That`s all for tonight. We`ll be back tomorrow with more "MTP Daily." "For the Record with Greta" starts right now. Greta.

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