Show: MTP DAILY Date: July 25, 2017 Guest: Yamiche Alcindor, Charlie Dent, Steny Hoyer, Richard Shelby, Bill Kristol, Maria Teresa Kumar, Hallie Jackson, Garrett Haake, Bill Kristol, Yamiche Alcindor, Maria Teresa Kumar
NICOLE WALLACE, MSNBC HOST: Everyone invited back for tomorrow. Our thanks to Heidi Przybyla, our panel today, Jonathan Harold (ph), Mike and Shelby (ph). That does it for us.
I`m Nicole Wallace. "MTP DAILY" starts right now with Chris Jansing in for Chuck. Hi, Chris.
CHRIS JANSING, MSNBC HOST: Hi, Nicole. Thank you so much.
And if it`s Tuesday, it is a breaking news jamboree.
(voice-over): Tonight, not dead yet. The Senate votes to reopen the debate over health care.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), KENTUCKY, SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: We have a duty to act.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We`re going to give you great health care.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JANSING: Can Republicans come up with a bill that can pass the Senate?
Plus, the president and Jeff Sessions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am very disappointed with the attorney general.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JANSING: As President Trump publicly humiliates his attorney general, should Sessions stay or should he go?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will see what happens. Time will tell. Time will tell.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JANSING: And a new order on Russia. How will the White House handle the new sanctions bill that limits the president`s power?
This is MTP DAILY and it starts right now.
(on camera): Good evening, I`m Chris Jansing in New York. Welcome to MTP DAILY.
You`re going to want to stick around for the hour. You`re in the eye of a breaking news storm right now. Take a look live at the Senate which just this afternoon has now begun what will be up to 20 hours of high drama as both parties debate repealing and replacing Obamacare ahead of a series of make or break votes on that issue.
It was just hours ago that Republicans cleared that major hurdle as Vice President Pence broke a dramatic 50-50 tie on the Senate`s procedural motion to officially begin that debate.
And if that`s not enough for you, well, they held the vote open just long enough for Senator John McCain to cast the decisive vote, as he made his emotional return to the Senate floor for the first time since being diagnosed with brain cancer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. McCain, aye.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: They don`t want anything done for the public good. All we managed to do is make popular a policy that wasn`t very popular when we started trying to get rid of it.
I voted for the motion to proceed to allow a debate to continue and amendments be offered. I will not vote for this bill as it is today. It`s a shell of a bill right now. We all know that. Whether or not we are of the same party, we are not the president`s subordinates, we are his equal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JANSING: And that`s the start of the breaking news tonight. Over in the House, lawmakers are now poised to send a big message on the -- to the White House on Russia as Congress votes to impose new sanctions in retaliation for Putin`s interference in our election.
We don`t know if President Trump is going to support this legislation. But if it passes with a veto-proof majority, he won`t have much choice.
Also at this hour, the political world is watching the White House to see if President Trump ousts Attorney General Jeff Sessions. A number of senators from both parties are rushing to the A.G.`s defense as the president intensifies his war against the Justice Department.
And did I mention that Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner were both interviewed by Congressional investigators today or that another White House communications official quit today after reports he was going to be fired.
The breaking news doesn`t stop there, if you can believe it. President Trump just wrapped up a press conference from the Rose Garden after meeting with the prime minister of Lebanon. While answering questions from reporters, he, once again, ripped into his attorney general.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am disappointed in the attorney general. He should not have recused himself almost immediately after he took office. And if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me prior to taking office, and I would have quite simply picked somebody else.
So, I think that`s a bad thing not for the president but for the presidency. I think it`s unfair to the presidency and that`s the way I feel.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JANSING: The president also praised the Senate`s move to begin debate on repealing Obamacare.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I`m very, very happy with the result. I believe now we will, over the next week or two, come up with a plan that`s going to be really, really wonderful for the American people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JANSING: That mystery plan is where we begin tonight. Action on Capitol Hill now turns to a series of dramatic votes in the Senate. The first is going to be on the so-called repeal and delay legislation they passed in 2015. That vote is expected to fail.
After that, they`re planning to vote on the Senate`s legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare with a few amendments. That vote is expected to fail, too.
So, that leaves them with basically a free-for-all amendment process that`s going to try to chip away at the law piece by piece.
[17:05:05] Let`s bring in a couple of my NBC News colleagues for the latest from Washington. Our chief White House correspondent, Hallie Jackson, is there at the White House. NBC`s Garrett Haake is on Capitol Hill.
So, Hallie, this is a president, frankly, that was desperate for a win. He took a lot of slack for not getting all the things done that he had promised in the first six months.
So, in spite of Sessions and all of that fighting, in spite of Manafort and Kushner being on Capitol Hill today, is he, is this White House looking at this as a good day today?
HALLIE JACKSON, CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, NBC NEWS: Listen, I think that it is -- it is tough to separate, at this point, the issues of this Jeff Sessions` tweets and the discussion and the questions that the president is getting about Jeff Sessions and then the health care issue. Because all of it is, obviously, causing a ripple effect on Capitol Hill. It`s having repercussions no matter what.
Now, what you are seeing is the president publicly seize on this health care news. He did it very explicitly in the Rose Garden, notably coming out and the very first words out of his mouth were about health care, were about, frankly, John McCain and the debate now beginning on this potential plan to repeal and replace Obamacare.
That is what he wants to be talking about. That is what I think you could expect to see him mention in Ohio tonight when he is at that campaign-style rally. You saw him leave on Marine One from the south lawn here just a little bit ago.
That said, there continues to be the shadow of what will happen to Jeff Sessions. And the president did nothing to make that any clearer or to lift that shadow with his comments today, saying, simply, time will tell what happens to Jeff Sessions, and reiterating that he`s disappointed in him.
JANSING: So, now what`s next? That`s the big question, right, on Capitol Hill, --
JANSING: -- Garrett Haake. And so, I suppose you have a situation where you have this high drama, and I mean it was dramatic. Ron Johnson comes in at the last minute. He has this conversation with Mitch McConnell.
Then, you have, of course, John McCain and all of the attendant (ph) emotion that goes with that. But now, they`ve got to get down to the hard work of can they find something that they can actually get passed?
GARRETT HAAKE, CAPITOL HILL CORRESPONDENT, NBC NEWS: Right. There`s been a lot of interesting sign posts in this whole debate. Remember, there was this celebration in the Rose Garden when the House passed their bill. Today, we had the drama on this.
And now, we have, sort of, the letdown on the back side of this, as you laid out in the open.
The next two big parts of this that the Senate`s going to talk about are almost certain to fail. First, there`s going to be this vote on the 2015, sort of, clean and repeal and replace.
Remember, this was a -- we were talking about this just a week or so ago, and you had moderates senators say, that`s not going to fly. They couldn`t get to 50 votes on that.
And then, there`s what had been the better care reconciliation act, the fancy name for Mitch McConnell`s Senate bill to replace Obamacare.
Well, now, it turns out that the two big amendments attached to that, meant to make conservatives and moderates happy, this Ted Cruz amendment to allow for strip down health insurance plans to be sold. And a big amendment from Rob Portman`s office to try to please the moderates, get more money for Medicaid and things like that. Those don`t qualify for a reconciliation.
I hate to get too technical here, but the bottom line is they can`t pass those things with just 50 votes. And there`s no chance that either one of those proposals are going to get an ounce of Democratic support.
So, all the scenarios we had been talking to up until today are almost entirely destined to fail. That means the Senate`s got to cobble something together, what we`ve been calling the skinny repeal, and try to find the most popular parts of any of the repeal efforts that have been out there, and, sort of, slap them all together and see if they can get to 50 votes on it.
JANSING: Yes, this sounds like a bad diet plan. I mean, we don`t even know -- no, I mean, people don`t know what this means. The people in the Senate don`t know what it means and the American people don`t know what it means. Let alone, Hallie Jackson, that the president might know what it means.
So, let me go to my panel. Thank you, Hallie, Garrett.
Let`s bring in tonight`s supersized panel because we have a lot to talk about. "The New York Times" Yamiche Alcindor; Editor-at-Large at "The Weekly Standard" Bill Kristol; Hugh Hewitt, MSNBC Political Analyst and host of "Hugh Hewitt" Saturday mornings here on MSNBC; Maria Teresa Kumar is President of Voto Latino and an MSNBC Contributor.
So, Hugh Hewitt, if we don`t have a plan -- we don`t even know what they`re going to vote on and they don`t have a plan that has enough votes, what are they doing?
HUGH HEWITT, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think they`re going to get to the bare minimum that they can agree 50 votes on. That will include the repeal of the individual mandate. Probably the back signing of the Cadillac Tax, certainly the medical device tax will be repealed. And whether or not opioid assistance gets through, I believe that`s within the parliamentary rules, that seemed to be a way to bring back Lisa Murkowski to the fold of 51. I don`t think they`ll ever get Susan Collins.
JANSING: But then, do you lose some of the conservatives because of the cost?
HEWITT: I don`t know that you will. I think getting rid of the individual mandate and the special medical device tax which is (INAUDIBLE) of many people, I think that will bring in 51. I defer to other people.
But I believe something`s going to come out of the Senate. The only alarm bell, John McCain on the floor saying he needed that which Doug Ducey -- his governor, well-respected across Republican circles, what does Doug Ducey want to get John McCain`s vote? We`ll have to and see.
[17:10:08] JANSING: Yes, obviously, the president is banking on the fact that the American people are sick of Obamacare and want to get rid of Obamacare. In fact, he said as much today. Let`s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Obamacare is a disaster. It`s failing in every front. It`s too expensive. It gives horrible coverage. It was gotten by a lie 28 times. It was a lie. You can keep your doctor. You can keep your plan. All lies. And the people are sick of it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JANSING: The fact of the matter is the Republican plan is far less popular than Obamacare. Take a look at the latest "The Washington Post" poll. Preference on health care reform, 50 percent Obamacare, 24 percent the Republican plan.
And folks dislike the House plan even in Trump counties. When you look at them, 12 percent say it`s a good idea; 41 percent say it`s a bad idea.
So, Bill Kristol, what was the political calculation here?
BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR-AT-LARGE, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, Mitch McConnell was determined to take a shot at it on the floor. I think it was a mistake. I think it would have been better to just let it die now. I think it`s going to die in three days. I do not think they will pass anything.
JANSING: Yamiche Alcindor, is he right? Is there something that you can see, some combination, the kinds of things that Hugh Hewitt was talking about that could bring this to the floor and get a vote that passes?
YAMICHE ALCINDOR, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: I think that what Hugh is talking about, this idea that Republicans realize that they have to do something about health care. I think that they can`t just let it die in three days and then move onto another topic.
Because most of the people sitting in Congress who are passing these -- that were passing these owe Obamacare for their seats, their conversations that they had, their commercials, all of the pitches that they made to their individual voters in their districts who were making the promise that they were going to do something about Obamacare.
So, I think Republicans -- all Republicans are feeling that pressure. And because of that, I think that they`re going to be able to broker some sort of deal.
Now, whether or not they`ll be able to pass it is really a -- is really a hard thing for me -- for me to wrap my head around. Mainly, because you have someone even like John McCain who came in, who had this, kind of, remarkable moment, where he walked in and cast his vote to say, let`s talk about this. Let`s debate this.
He quickly then pivoted to this really rousing speech about the fact that they cannot just be passing health care in a partisan way. That they can`t -- that they need to work together. They really need to be thinking about people`s lives when they pass -- when they pass this bill.
So, and he said, very frankly, I am not going to vote for the bill in its form now. So, that presents the issue with the Republicans. They were able to now have this debate. But you have someone as important as John McCain saying, you know what? I`m not ready to back this bill.
KRISTOL: Chris, can I just say --
JANSING: And yet, even when you have that situation where you have these people who decided, finally, that they were going to vote at least to bring the debate to the floor, I was -- while this was developing, I was talking to a number of Democrats on the air. And they admitted, there`s a little bit of nervousness.
So, let me ask you, Maria, I mean, is your sense that Democrats are worried that the Republicans are going to come up with something and be able to come up with the bills to pass -- bill to -- with votes to pass it. And it`s going to be a bill that they don`t like?
MARIA TERESA KUMAR, PRESIDENT, VOTO LATINO: Well, they`ve had eight years to come up with a bill and they don`t have one at this point. I think that the -- what -- really, what was happening today, the fact that John McCain came and cast a ballot was he is trying to send a message to Americans that Congress still works. That they are still a party that is -- that has to have even a small win that can actually demonstrate that they are able to function.
But I`m fully with Bill. I just think that they are going to have a really hard time. A lot of Republicans, when they go back to their districts come in August, they`re going to see the same town halls. They`re going to see the same people that thought they didn`t like health care, and realize, wait, the reason that I do no longer have to file for bankruptcy because of my medical bills is because I now have a safety net.
JANSING: Bill, do you sense that Republicans, a lot of Republicans, still feel like, we need to do this because we made this promise or is there a sense that there are a lot of Americans who are falling away? I know when we have done interviews, there are people who said that they were originally -- and one of the reasons they voted for Trump is they wanted to get rid of Obamacare.
Now, they`re not really sure. They`re not -- they can`t even really remember why they wanted to get rid of Obamacare, frankly. I mean, do you think that there is a widespread price to be paid if Republicans don`t just come up with a bill, but pass a bill?
KRISTOL: No. I think there`s more of a price to pay if they pass a bad bill. And, certainly, even if they pass something through the Senate, they have to go to conference with the House. It`s not like this goes away and it`s off their back. It prolongs the agony.
Look, I think what senator -- listen to what Senator McCain said. He didn`t just say, let`s have -- he said, let`s not pass something on a partisan basis. Jam it through when we don`t even know what the implications are, when we don`t have a CBO score, et cetera. Let`s go back to regular order.
It`s not as if the Congress is over next week. They can go back to conference and they can do thing -- medical device tax, the Democrats were against that. Modifying the mandate, the Democrats have been critical of that.
You could imagine a small -- if you`re going to do a small bill anyway, do it in a bipartisan way. You get much more political cover. You get credit for trying to work with Democrats.
The idea that you`re going to put all of the Republican Party`s chips on the table to pass some pathetic, small bill that helps some medical device manufacturers, that`s ridiculous, I think.
[17:15:09] JANSING: Yes, and there is this big picture of, where does it go for here? If they can`t do it on things that you just mentioned, Bill, like the medical device tax, where we know that there is agreement on both sides of the aisle. It just reaffirms for Americans, you know, that nothing can get done in Washington.
To that point, and Yamiche brought it up, here is a little bit more of Senator McCain and I thought his very impactful statement on the floor of the Senate today. Let`s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: Let`s leave the history of who shot first to the historians. I suspect they`ll find we all conspired in our decline, either by deliberate actions or neglect. We`ve all played some role in it. Certainly, I have.
Sometimes, I`d let my passion rule my reason. Sometimes, I`ve made it harder to find common ground because of something harsh I said to a colleague. Sometimes, I wanted to win more for the sake of winning than to achieve a contested policy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JANSING: Hugh Hewitt, you could hear a pin drop in that room. Clearly, people were listening. But did they hear what he had to say, do you think?
HEWITT: Well, I don`t think they`re going to agree with a lot of what the senator said. He enjoys enormous respect in the body and I think he`s a great American and everyone paused to say, what a lion of the Senate coming back from a very terrible diagnosis and fighting on. He wants to run the National Defense Authorization Act on the floor next week.
But I have to disagree with my friend, Bill Kristol. Getting rid of the individual mandate would be a huge win for people who believe in the rule of law. That was the centerpiece of the con -- of the Supreme Court case many years ago which the chief justice has taken such grief over.
Getting rid of incredibly job-killing taxes like the Medical Device Tax or the Cadillac Tax, also very important.
So, a -- what they call the skinny bill, I call the piecemeal approach. I believe it would get through the House, and then they could go to the Medicaid reform.
I will personally be disappointed if they don`t devolve Medicaid, because that`s the pathway to better health care for Americans. Putting the control over Medicaid in the hands of state and local authorities, not the federal bureaucracy.
But I`ll take a win. A win that gets rid of the individual mandate, that`s a win for freedom.
JANSING: OK, let`s pause here. We`re covering a very busy day in Washington.
Still to come, another showdown underway in D.C. President Trump continues to humiliate his attorney general. Should Jeff Sessions stay or should he go? That`s next.
JANSING: It`s a busy evening in both chambers on the Hill. You`re looking live at the House which has just overwhelmingly passed a 419 to three margin, a bill to impose new sanctions on Russia, Iran and North Korea.
The White House has not definitively said if the president will sign this legislation, but the bill is expected to pass the Senate. And if it passes with this kind of support, the president won`t have the votes to sustain his veto.
And, right now, the Senate is debating health care. The president has been publicly calling out Republicans, demanding an Obamacare repeal and replace.
[17:20:04] We`re following all the breaking news out of Washington, including the president`s clash with Attorney General Jeff Sessions, in 60 seconds.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will see what happens. Time will tell. Time will tell.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JANSING: Welcome back to MTP DAILY.
We are heading toward a showdown, putting the president of the United States against his attorney general, Jeff Sessions.
But members of his own party in the Senate are rallying behind their former colleague, all hailing Sessions` integrity, praising his decision to recuse himself.
To quote the president, "Time will tell how long the attorney general stays in his job." But time will also tell how long until Republicans in the U.S. Senate stand up to the president in more than just statements and sound bites.
Joining me now by phone, Steve Schmidt. He was senior strategist on the McCain-Palin presidential campaign in 2008 and is an MSNBC Contributor.
So, is this the way you see this, Steve? Is this a showdown and we are just waiting for the explosion?
STEPHEN SCHMIDT, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR (via telephone): It certainly looks that way. Look, what`s clear is that the president objects very, very strongly to this investigation. And he keeps moving closer to what ultimately ends in a constitutional crisis.
It`s a serious situation. He clearly doesn`t understand that there are constraints on the actions of even the president of the United States in this country of laws.
And the assault now on the -- on the attorney general that he`s launching, he doesn`t seem to understand that what it would do is it would put the deputy attorney general into the attorney general position.
And it`s highly likely that even this Republican Congress would refuse to confirm anybody to take Sessions` place.
JANSING: You don`t see -- well, I mean, he could do it, though, right? He could wait until the Senate goes out of session, then he could put somebody in there.
But it sounds like -- when you say constitutional crisis, Steve, like you think the only reason he would do this is ultimately to get rid of Mueller. That`s all that this is about.
SCHMIDT: This is -- this is all part of the chain of events that started with the firing of Jim Comey which is, you know, one of the dumbest political decisions, legal decisions that, you know, anyone in politics in the modern era has ever -- you know, has ever participated in.
And the firing of Comey guaranteed that there would be the appointment of a -- of a special counsel. And now, that special counsel has, really, a license to investigate wherever he sees fit to get to the facts. And that may involve looking at the finances of the Trump Organization. And it seems, from the public comments, that there`s great sensitivity to that.
And now, you have the -- literally, the entirety of the -- of the White House senior staff and the people closest to the president all lawyered up, all with contradictory stories on a -- on a -- on a -- larger issue, this question of Russia that we know that in every instance where they had opportunity to be transparent, they prevaricated to the American people about it.
JANSING: So, Steve, hey, look, you`re a communications guy. You understand what it is to get messaging out there. What do you make of the -- have you ever seen anything like -- with the public shaming of the attorney general by the president of the United States. It started with his comments to "The New York Times," complaining that he shouldn`t have recused himself. It continued in a series of tweets over the course of weeks.
Then "The Wall Street Journal" comments today. His comments, standing in the Rose Garden. What -- I mean, have you ever in your -- did you ever imagine, even from this president, you would see him going after, in such a public and humiliating way, a person who not only was one of his early supporters, but then today he seemed to be dismissive of the fact that it made any difference that he supported him in the first place.
[17:25:05] SCHMIDT: Now, first, at a -- at a practical level, you`d have to be psychotic to go serve in this administration as a cabinet secretary, as a member of the White House senior staff, when you see President Trump practice his conception of loyalty.
Two, I think broadly, this is covered internationally. It makes the United States of America look like a banana republic.
And, three, when we think about the collapse of trust in institutions in this country, the loss of faith in our institutions by the American people, you have the president who is creating this chaos which further drives down trusts in our systems, in our institutions. It`s terrible and it`s so beneath the dignity of both offices. The office of president of the United States and the office of attorney general of the United States.
JANSING: Steve Schmidt, appreciate you taking the time to talk to us. Thank you.
SCHMIDT: My pleasure. Thank you.
JANSING: And we`re going to turn to the other big vote happening on the Hill today. The House just wrapped up its vote on Russian sanctions. The latest on that just ahead.
JANSING: Still ahead on MTP DAILY, the House votes overwhelmingly to impose new sanctions on Russia, but will the White House sign off on them?
Keep it here.
CHRIS JANSING, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: And we are back wondering will Attorney General Sessions cave to the president`s pressure. I`m joined again by our panel; Yamiche Alcindor, Bill Kristol, Hugh Hewitt, Maria Teresa Kumar.
I`m looking at a list of what is now 10 senators who have come out and supported the verbally or in written statements of Jeff Sessions.
Leader McConnell, I think he did the right thing to recuse himself. He has done a fine job. Senator Graham, I never once doubted his integrity. Rob Portman says he is an honorable person. I could go on and on and on. To the 10, Yamiche Alcindor, what`s going to happen here?
YAMICHE ALCINDOR, NATIONAL REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: It seems as though the president is really prepping himself for either pushing for Jeff Sessions to resign or firing him outright. I think today`s statements were really I want to say remarkable in that the president really spared no words.
There was no, you know -- there was no media bashing saying that the media is making this a big deal, that I really appreciate him, that I stand by him. While his press shop and communications staff have really said that President Trump stands by Jeff Sessions, in reality, the president who has always been his best messenger and has always been the person who has the final word on many things, he is saying that he doesn`t know what`s going to come of Jeff Sessions.
That I think tells Jeff Sessions that look, your time is limited. I would not be surprised to see Jeff Sessions out of that job within this week or within this month because President Trump is making it very clear that he`s unhappy with him. And now he`s publicly talking about it.
At first, he started by talking to my colleagues about Jeff Sessions and now it seems as though he`s really ready to tell everybody that he`s not happy with Jeff Sessions. Just to add really quickly, you also talked about the idea that Jeff Sessions endorsed him early, not because out of loyalty, but because Alabama was going to support him very, very much.
So there is this idea that the president is also looking at Jeff Sessions and trying to discredit the fact that Jeff Sessions was the first senator who came out to support him. In other words, he is saying Jeff Sessions isn`t loyal, and as a result, I don`t need to be loyal to him.
JANSING: That`s exactly right. Well, so while you have this split obviously between some key members of the senate on both sides of the aisle, you have them trying to move forward on health care.
Joining me now is Republican Congressman Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania, who by the way voted against the final vote in the house on their health care bill back in May. It`s good to see you. You just got out of a meeting I understand with Paul Ryan. What can you tell us about that?
REP. CHARLIE DENT (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Oh, I go into a lot of meetings. All I can say is we`re just trying to plan, you know, a path forward. You know, we have to deal with the appropriations bills, budgets, debt ceilings, tax reform.
JANSING: Did you talk about fast forward on health care?
DENT: No. I can tell you what`s happening on health care right now. The senate is taking up their bill. There are going to be a few amendments to offer, one by Portman, one by Cruz, and I believe the senate bill will be offered as an amendment to the house bill.
I don`t think any of those three will pass. I think their intent is to free wheel it and hope that something passes the senate so that they can force this all issue to a conference committee.
JANSING: I wonder if you think they made a mess of this because you have said and you even said this on air, that you think that the problem with -- one of the problems with Obamacare was that it got pushed through, as you put it I think to one of my colleagues, it got muscled through by the Democrats.
But here you have the situation where Republicans have decided they`re going to do a debate, they`re going to debate, at least try to talk about two bills that we know don`t have support, that don`t have the support of the American people if you believe the polls.
They`re going to open up this free for all debate on who knows what those amendments are going to be. What do you make of the way that they`re handling this?
DENT: Well, like I said, you`re correct, I did say that in 2009, 2010. The Democrats muscled through Obamacare on a partisan basis, we as Republicans shouldn`t make that same mistake this year. So the senate plan is --
JANSING: But are you?
DENT: Well, yes. That seems to be the plan. They`re going to try to muscle something through on a partisan basis. Whatever the senate passes, I suspect the house won`t be able to take it up in that form. They`re going to force us into a conference committee. Whether anything can ever be agreed upon or not remains to be seen. Call me skeptical right now.
JANSING: All right. So where do you think the president stands in all this? Is it clear to you what he wants to happen or does he just want a win of any kind?
DENT: The president, I think the president he just wants a bill on his desk. I don`t think he is particularly concerned about policy details one way or the other. That seems to be his position. He`ll take whatever he gets.
I think largely the health care issue has been outsourced from executive branch to congress, and that`s where we are right now. So, I said put me down as skeptical that anything will get to the president`s desk through the process that we are considering at the moment.
JANSING: We will be watching very closely. Congressman Dent, thanks so much for talking with us. Appreciate it.
DENT: Thank you for having me. Good to be with you.
JANSING: Today was the crucial step for senate Republicans in their push to repeal Obamacare, certainly a lot of hard work to get to the motion to proceed, but President Trump didn`t always see it that way. Remember this? Take a listen. His take on health care over time.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I`ve been saying this for a long time. My first day in office, I`m going to ask congress to put a bill on my desk getting rid of this disastrous law and replacing it with reforms that expand choice, freedom, affordability. You`re going to have such great health care at a tiny fraction of the cost, and it`s going to be so easy.
Health care is always difficult because you have to weave a very, very narrow path, like a quarter of an inch wide, right down the middle. And if you go a little bit too far right, you lose three people on the left. And if you go a little too far left, you lose five people on the right. It is a very, very complex and difficult task.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JANSING: Joining me now is house minority whip and Maryland Democrat, Steny Hoyer. Now the president seems to appreciate the fact of how complex the whole idea of repeal and replacing Obamacare is. Having said that, how are you feeling right now?
Are you concerned at all as someone who has been very vocal in your support of Obamacare and the need to stop some of these big changes that the Republicans have been calling for, that they won`t be able to get a bill through. How confident are you?
REP. STENY HOYER (D), MARYLAND: Well, I`m confident that if they get a bill through, that needle they`re going to thread that the president refers to is not going to be a pretty one for them and a lot of Americans are going to be very, very upset. The reason they`ve had so much trouble is the American public are not with them. The American public are substantially for the Affordable Care Act now, which is a change from eight months ago.
They`ve looked at what the Affordable Care Act gives them, what they would lose under the Republican proposals, and they decided they want to stick with the Affordable Care Act. And 75 percent of them say, look, fix the Affordable Care Act. So what they`re doing in the senate now, I think they are going to be putting the senators --
JANSING: I want to stop you there because I think it is a critical point that you just made, Congressman, because I heard that as well from Democrats as I have been out around the country. They know that there are problems with it.
Many of them have faced those problems. What specifically would you say right now would be the priorities that need to be fixed in Obamacare that maybe you could use to get some Republicans on board?
HOYER: We need to stabilize the market clearly, whether that gets Republicans on board or not. Republicans are worried about the small market. They`re correct to be worried about the small market, the individual market. It is too expensive for most people.
We`ve got to deal with that. They have some things like health savings accounts and competition across state lines. We don`t think those would work particularly well, but we could talk to the Republicans about that.
But the fact is what we need to keep are the essentials in the Affordable Care Act that make it accessible to people, make it accessible to people with pre-existing conditions, make it affordable for people of limited incomes, and keep them healthy.
Those we can`t bend on or compromise on, but that doesn`t mean we can`t sit down and talk and compromise just as we have done by the way on the Russian sanction bill, the Iran-North Korea sanction bill just passed --
JANSING: Do you think the president will sign it?
HOYER: It passed 419-4. If he doesn`t sign it, we`ll override his veto. It passed 98-2 in the senate. He is going to look at those numbers. I think some people on his staff probably are going to advise him, Mr. President, we lost this fight, sign the bill, move on. But he is not very predictable as we`ve all seen. So I don`t know whether he`ll sign it or not.
JANSING: Let me talk to you about one of those things. That`s what has been a very public shaming of Jeff Sessions. There are a lot of people who are concerned that he could fire him because it is clear that he`s been trying to pressure him to step down. What would be the reaction should he try to fire Jeff Sessions and do you believe that any move like that is nothing more than a move to get rid of Mueller?
HOYER: I think clearly that would be a move to get rid of Mueller and to protect himself for something he says is fake charges. If they`re fake charges, you know, why don`t you simply let everybody investigate the charges and find out they`re fake, nothing happened, there was nothing there. It is like not releasing his tax returns. Why doesn`t he release his tax returns?
Well, everybody concludes because there`s something he wants to hide. If he fires the attorney general, first of all, it`s another demonstration of how badly he treats people. This is somebody who was very loyal to him.
I think the first and one of the few United States senators that supported him from very early on in his campaign and who shares apparently many of his views, but because he recused himself properly, the ethical thing to do, the president is mad at him.
The attorney general did the right thing. And if he`s fired by the president, it will clearly be another indication of an attempt to cover up whatever happened vis-a-vis Russia.
JANSING: Congressman Steny Hoyer, thank you for coming over to the camera. We do appreciate it.
HOYER: Thanks a lot, Chris.
JANSING: We are back with Attorney General Jeff Sessions`s former Alabama colleague in the senate. Senator Richard Shelby will join us ahead.
JANSING: Welcome back. Joining me now is Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama. He served for two decades alongside another senator from Alabama, Jeff Sessions, of course before he became attorney general.
Senator, it is good to see you. I want to ask you about health care, but let`s start with what everybody is talking about, that is the president in the Rose Garden today continuing what has been almost a long series of newspaper interviews, tweets, humiliating essentially his attorney general, somebody who was very loyal to him, the first person in the senate to support him.
You put out a statement, you came to his defense today, talked about him as a man of integrity, loyalty, extraordinary character. The president today questioned even whether or not Jeff Sessions had played any role in his support, whether he owed him any loyalty because he said it really didn`t seem to be a big deal in terms of his support making a difference in him being elected president.
What do you make of the president`s public shaming of your colleague, former colleague, Jeff Sessions?
SEN. RICHARD SHELBY (R), ALABAMA: Well, I tell you, I`ve known Jeff Sessions day in, day out, worked with him for 20 years, and I think I know him and a lot of us in the senate that know him and respect him know him, too. He`s a man of courage, he`s a man of purpose, and he`s a man of substance.
I don`t know everything that`s going on between the president and the attorney general, but Jeff Sessions got a lot of respect here in the senate, he has got a lot of respect in my state, and I do know that he was -- while I was in the senate, he was the first one to endorse the president, was loyal to him, and I hope things work out.
JANSING: He is not willing to step down. He said he loves his job. He wants to continue to love his job. You know him well. Do do you see a circumstance under which a tweet or a comment is going to get him to step down?
SHELBY: I don`t know any of that. All I can tell you is this could have been handled in a different way. I hope -- we don`t need this. It is not good for the president, it`s not good for politics in general, and it is certainly not good for the Justice Department.
JANSING: Would you draw a line in the sand and say to the president to his face you should do this, you need to leave Jeff Sessions alone, he is a good man?
SHELBY: Well, I`m not going to draw a line in the sand with any president. You know, I respect the office of the president and so forth, but I do have a lot of respect for Jeff Sessions. He is my friend, but more than that, he is a man of courage, integrity, and purpose.
JANSING: You tweeted this afternoon it is vital we keep our promise to repeal Obamacare and replace this failing law. Are you OK with voting for a bill that might mean coverage for fewer Americans or do you even have a sense right now of what bill you guys might eventually vote on?
SHELBY: Well, nobody knows exactly what the final product is going to be because we haven`t even debated the bill in the senate, this is step one. But I was initially and still am for outright repeal and then work with the Democrats to replace it with some.
There`s going to be winners and losers, but I think we ought to look after the most vulnerable in this country, and ought to cut down all of the barriers to competition and free market. Part of health care`s problem, there`s not real competition in the marketplace.
JANSING: Does that eventually mean, the CBO seems to think so, that fewer Americans will be covered, a lot fewer?
SHELBY: Well, the CBO has been wrong on a lot of things. I hope they`re not wrong on this. But ultimately we have to figure what we can pay for, look after the most vulnerable, and knock out the barriers to free competition.
JANSING: Senator Shelby, appreciate your time. Thank you so much.
SHELBY: Thank you.
JANSING: You guys have a lot going on now. We do appreciate it. We`ll be right back.
SHELBY: Thank you.
JANSING: Welcome back. It`s time for "The Lid." Let`s bring back our panel. Yamiche Alcindor, Bill Kristol, Hugh Hewitt, Maria Teresa Kumar. We got a bunch of members on the hill when we started talking about Jeff Sessions. I want to go back to it.
Bill Kristol, I thought it was maybe the understatement of at least the day. You don`t want the say the year anymore because things happen so fast. But you got the new communications director Scaramucci saying about Trump and Sessions. Obviously there`s an issue in the relationship.
When you hear even somebody like an Alabama Republican senator who said what he just said about the president and his concerns about the way all of this has been handled, you have more and more senators coming out and talking about this. Do you think there`s anything that will stop this president from getting rid of Jeff Sessions one way or another?
BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR AT LARGE, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Yes, I`m not sure he has the nerve to. If he does, Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein becomes the attorney general. The senate will not confirm some political ally of Trump. So Trump, if he thinks about it for a second will be worst off.
I think it`s very important that Sessions stay in the job. He took an oath to the constitution, not to Donald Trump. You asked Senator Shelby on something how Sessions put up with this humiliating of him by Trump, fair question. But really, it`s not fair in the sense that Sessions is entirely the victim here. He`s done nothing wrong.
He followed the ethics guidance of the Justice Department in recusing himself, period, that`s it. He`s not accused of any inappropriate behavior as attorney general. Couple of questions about the campaign and this Russia contacts, but I think those are honestly pretty minimum. I think Sessions has behaved honorably. We should not make it like he said, she said. Trump is the one who has behaved in a way that is disgraceful, not Sessions.
JANSING: I agree. He`s trying to humiliate him into resigning. Obviously, it`s not working. Hugh Hewitt, you have even Rush Limbaugh. Rush Limbaugh says the president essentially has gone too far. Is he worried at all about losing conservative media?
HUGH HEWITT, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST WITH THE SALEM RADIO NETWORK, NBC NEWS POLITICAL ANAYLST: I think he has to. Anthony Scaramucci actually made that statement on a radio show this morning. He said three things that that were very interesting, Chris.
One, he said he advised the president not to fire Robert Mueller. Advice that I share and I think pretty much everyone I`ve talked to share with the president should not try to fire Muller.
Number two, that the president probably wanted Jeff Sessions to go. However, because he wants an Eric Holder or President Obama or a Bobby Kennedy, Jack Kennedy relationship, I`m quoting Scaramucci again, you can`t have that when the attorney general is recused on the major issue of the administration.
But Bill is absolutely right. The attorney general testified in his confirmation hearings that he would submit the question of recusal to the ethics officers at the Department of Justice and Jeff Sessions is an honorable man. That ethics official said he had to recuse himself. So this was easily foreseeable. The president might have withdrawn it at that time.
I think the only way Jeff Sessions leaves is if the president fires him, as is his right to do. I disagree with Bill. I think there are people like former Fourth Circuit Judge Mike Luttig or Michael Mukasey, the former AG, who would get through the senate and with whom the president might establish a close relationship not hampered by the recusal. But the president ought to have seen this coming because Jeff Sessions said as much in his confirmation hearings.
JANSING: Yes, I should have given you credit because there were a lot of fascinating things in that interview that you did with Scaramucci and you mentioned the one that really caught my ear when you start to make comparisons to relationship like you have between JFK and Bobby Kennedy. Maria Teresa Kumar, I mean, he clearly is somebody who wants his daughter, he wants his son-in-law, people that he feels have nothing but his interest at heart.
He wants (INAUDIBLE) who are there with him. But isn`t that what has gotten him into some of these pickles in the first place when you have congressional committee calling in your son-in-law, calling in your son, asking them questions. This Russia probe isn`t going to go away.
Most people, we should say to be fair, think that there was actually a good set of questions asked of Jared Kushner. He comported himself very well inside those two day in a row hearings. But he wants more people who are family like around him. Is that the answer here?
MARIA TERESA KUMAR, PRESIDENT AND CEO, VOTO LATINO: That`s exactly what we`re seeing even with the appointment of Scaramucci. He wants people that have him back 110 percent. But that is not the position of the top job of law enforcement with the AG. Jeff Sessions, we have a litany of differences, but the fact that he recused himself said I`m going to have to demonstrate.
The Justice Department is not supposed to be a dotted line to the administration. The challenge that Trump is facing is that he wants to run our government like a family business. It is not. It`s a sacred institution of checks and balances. The more that Jeff Sessions does not resign and basically makes the president make the hard choice of firing him, actually demonstrates that institutions are working.
JANSING: Yamiche, I will let you have the last one in the last 30 seconds. Do you see any circumstance under which the attorney general decides he`s going to step down?
ALCINDOR: I don`t see that mainly because I think he wants to do this job because he`s been passing real legislation, real policies that have real effects. He`s taking on sanctuary cities. He`s changing mandatory sentencing. He`s thinking about the asset (INAUDIBLE) in the way that police officers on what they can do to people. I think he likes this job and he`s really been thinking about it for a long time.
JANSING: By the way, many of the things that he is doing are things the president said he wanted done when he ran for election. Thanks to our panel. Yamiche, Hugh, Bill, Maria Teresa Kumar. Thank you. More "MTP Daily" after this.
JANSING: That`s all for tonight. We`ll be back tomorrow with more "MTP Daily." "The Beat with Ari Melber" starts right now. Good evening, Ari.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END