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Will the CBO estimate make the GOP’s health bill harder to sell?

March 13, 2017 at 6:20 PM EDT
The Congressional Budget Office numbers are out on the Republican health bill. What’s the political impact? Judy Woodruff talks with Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report and Tamara Keith of NPR about the difficulties of selling the American Health Care Act, plus the lack of evidence to back up President Trump’s tweet allegation of being wiretapped by President Obama.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Now: With news continuing to swirl around health care reform and wiretapping claims, it’s time for Politics Monday with Tamara Keith of NPR and Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report.

Welcome to both of you.

And before we talk about health care, I have to ask you, Amy, about what former Vice President Al Gore said, trying to be optimistic about the ability of the news media to, in his words, get the truth out of there in the face of a lot of, frankly, nontruths floating around.

AMY WALTER, The Cook Political Report: Right.

Well, and we have created a world now, us as Americans, where we like to surround ourselves with news and information that already confirms our own bias. It is very uncomfortable for us to go outside of that circle, and we do it not just in the channels that we choose, but in the ways in which we choose to get it.

Who are we following on Facebook? Who are we following on Twitter? Usually, people who agree with us. And so we call something fake news because it challenge us our assumptions, rather than going to what we should be doing is saying, I should constantly be challenging my assumptions.

So, it’s not the news media. It’s partly the news media, but it’s really the consumer as well, breaking out of those bubbles.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Tam, you see that challenge. You’re out there covering the news every day.

TAMARA KEITH, National Public Radio: Yes.

Well, and the actual fake news is often the news that confirms our biases, that we want to believe that it’s too good — as a news consumer, it’s too good to check.

But, as a member of the news media, you put one foot in front of the other, and you just keep going and, you know, reporting the numbers, the CBO numbers, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers, and also talking about their methodology.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Exactly. And that’s what we want to do right now.

We did just get, in the last few hours, this report, analysis, Amy, from the Congressional Budget Office. Some good news interest for Democrats, a little bit of good news for the administration.

AMY WALTER: Well, if you’re the administration, the first thing you look at, you say, well, it reduces the deficit, and that is good news.

But at the core, Judy, this is the challenge for the Republican Party fundamentally, which is, the president of the United States, who is a Republican, went out on the campaign trail and even when he was president-elect and said things like, everybody’s going to be covered, we’re going to have insurance for everybody. He said that over and over again.

And the people in Congress and those even surrounding him, his HHS secretary, the head of the Budget Office, believe that the issue is not how many people are covered, but whether they have access to that coverage.

And so you have a populist president who promised that everything was going to be OK, we’re not going to touch Medicaid, we’re not going to touch entitlements, you are going to be able to get everything, but it is going to be cheaper and better, and a free market Republican leadership who says, no, we never promised those things, we think that the market can take care of it.

So, those two things are going to continue to collide, regardless of what the CBO report says, and then we will see it in a bill.

JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you see the political impact of this, Tam?

TAMARA KEITH: Well, certainly leading into it, the Trump administration and some in Congress were sort of trying to work the refs, trying to discredit the report before it ever came out.

But these numbers are stark, you know, 14 million people almost immediately who will not have insurance who have it now. The number goes up significantly as time goes on. And, you know, if you look at the breakdown, the people who this report would indicate are the most likely to face higher costs are older people and poorer people.

And many of those people are the very people who supported Donald Trump, people who show up to his rallies.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And it seems like this is going to, in the short run anyway, make it a little bit harder for them to make the case.

AMY WALTER: For them to sell it, right, and, more importantly, for the president to be able to sell it, because he’s the one who talked about, everybody is going to be able to keep their health care.

And the headline number out of this, of course, are the millions of people who will not.

JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, the other thing I want to ask you all about is what we heard, that infamous or famous tweet, Tam, from President Trump two Saturday mornings ago …

TAMARA KEITH: Oh, yes.

JUDY WOODRUFF: … when he accused President Obama of wiretapping him in Trump Tower in a series of tweets that morning.

We really haven’t stopped talking about it since then. The White House has not yet come forward — or the administration has not come forward with any evidence to back it up, despite a request by the Hill.

And we just now have seen — and you were telling us about it — a statement by the Justice Department saying they’re asking for more time to respond to this request.

TAMARA KEITH: Right.

So, the Justice Department got in touch with the chairman and the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, which had asked them to produce evidence that President Trump had been wiretapped. And they’re asking for more time.

The administration, you know, we have been asking Sean Spicer, the press secretary, where did the president get this from, what is his source? And he said, well, there have been lots of reports out there. But he won’t say whether that was the president’s source.

In a new turn today, he said that, well, when the president said wiretapping, he put it in quotes, and because it was in quotes, maybe he was talking more broadly about surveillance, even though there were other tweets where the president said his phones were tapped, and that wasn’t in quotes.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And I guess Sean Spicer’s comment was, he may not have meant it literally. So…

TAMARA KEITH: Oh, we’re back to literally.

JUDY WOODRUFF: We’re back to literally.

AMY WALTER: Yes.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Amy, where does this go from here? We’re waiting to see if there is any evidence. But, meanwhile, this is a very serious charge that the current president levels against the previous.

AMY WALTER: Yes. Yes.

And I want to go back to where you started this conversation, Judy, about the public and their frustration with the media, this idea about fake news, and who they trust and who they don’t.

And as I watch the story unfold, I think I can understand where a lot of Americans get frustrated with this story. The president tweeted something out that clearly is completely unfounded, in the same way he tweeted out this statistic that there are three million to five million Americans who voted illegally, that the president wasn’t born in this country.

And the news media’s job is to report that this is unfounded, we haven’t seen any evidence of this. But, every day, the question is presented to Sean Spicer or Kellyanne Conway, when it looks like in a way that the media’s trying to get a gotcha. Let’s make them have to say that he was wrong. Let’s put them in an uncomfortable position.

And I think what Americans are looking for is, we get it, he said something that’s unfounded, but it looks like the media is trying to prove a point, rather than trying to look out for the other issues that are out there, spend more time focusing on health care and those other issues.

I understand undermining the president, the former president, is a big issue.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But without pushing forward, Tam, you’re left with a sort of ragged uncertainty. If you stop talking about it, stop asking about it, then, basically, you’re leaving it unresolved.

TAMARA KEITH: And, at the moment, it is still very much unresolved.

AMY WALTER: But do you have to do it every single day?

I agree it is unresolved, and that question has to be answered. But I don’t think we’re going to — we’re not going to get an answer.

TAMARA KEITH: But — and more to the point, we keep trying to ask the president, too. And he hasn’t yet answered either.

JUDY WOODRUFF: He’s not going to …

AMY WALTER: And he’s never going to admit — we know this. If it’s not true, he will not admit that it’s not true.

JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, we may discuss this again.

AMY WALTER: We will.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Amy Walter, Tamara Keith, thank you both.

AMY WALTER: You’re welcome.

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