Does the Democrats' pitch for universal health care have a chance?

Politics

JUDY WOODRUFF: We turn now to politics, and an intense day of closed-door negotiating in Congress about DACA, the program to protect young people who were brought to this country as children without legal documentation.

Joining us to talk about those developments and more from the Capitol is reporter Yamiche Alcindor of The New York Times.

Yamiche, thank you for being with us.

You have been reporting on this. You had a story this morning in The Times saying there's been a remarkable lack of progress on this. Where does it stand right now?

YAMICHE ALCINDOR, The New York Times: Well, lawmakers have really tied themselves up in knots trying to figure out how to proceed.

The Republicans that I have talked to have even said that this issue is now on the back burner and that they are worried that Congress is losing focus as it tries to deal with tax reform and health care.

But a meeting just wrapped up in Speaker Paul Ryan's office, just a few feet away from where I'm standing now. And lawmakers tell me in the quick interviews I was able to do in the last 30 minutes that the meeting went great, that there was some progress made.

But, really, at the end of the day, it is going to come down to Democrats wanting to not fund the wall and Republicans wanting to have some sort of border security measure to pass the DREAM Act. And, of course, the DREAM Act has been this legislation that has been in Congress for now 16 years trying to get passed.

And so far, Republicans and Democrats have not been able to get it together.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Yamiche, there was a question about whether there was a sense of emergency among Republicans, especially on this issue, but in general. What how do you read that?

YAMICHE ALCINDOR: I feel like there's two things.

On one side, you have Republicans who really do feel as though the dreamers are a special set of immigrants. They feel as though these are people through no fault of their own were brought to this country. They are scared to see them all deported. But on the other side — and I would say that's the more vocal side and the side that Speaker Paul Ryan is more scared of — that those Republicans are saying that there needs to be a host of other things that need to happen.

I interviewed the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee yesterday, and he told me that he wants to deal with criminal aliens. He wants to deal with gangs. He wants to deal with agricultural workers' visas.

He has a whole host of other things he wants to deal with before DACA and he said DACA is at the end of that last. So, I think, in some ways, Republicans are split on this issue, the majority of them wanting to do something, but like I wrote in my story, I think that this is really an issue that has stumbled in Congress so far.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Yamiche, I want to ask you about something completely different.

And that is Republican Senator Tim Scott, who is the one African-American Republican in the Senate, went to a one-on-one meeting today at the White House with President Trump. The White House put out a statement, said they had a good conversation about the administration's relations with African-Americans in this country.

You have been talking to Senator Scott. What did you learn from him?

YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Senator Scott essentially told me and a couple of other reporters that he lectured President Trump on the history, the long history of racism in this country.

Senator Scott said that he wasn't ready to say that his moral authority that he had said was compromised is now restored. The senator essentially said that he went there to tell the president that he was very angry about the fact that he seemed to equivocate white supremacist groups with protesters.

So I think that the overall meeting, while the senator told me there wasn't any tension in that meeting, I think there was, of course, tension in that meeting, and that Senator Scott essentially for 40 minutes talked to the president about how he needs to do better when it comes to race relations.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Yamiche Alcindor with The New York Times, I know you're going to continue to follow that. It was striking that the White House put out a photograph of the meeting, the president listening to Senator Scott.

Thank you, Yamiche.

YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Yes.

JUDY WOODRUFF: We will see you again soon. Thank you.

And for more on the politics swirling on both end of Pennsylvania Avenue — there's always a lot — we turn to Karine Jean-Pierre. She's a senior adviser to MoveOn.org, a contributing editor to Bustle. That's an online women's magazine. And she's a veteran of the Obama administration. And Matt Schlapp, he's the chairman of the American Conservative Union and the former White House political director under President George W. Bush.

And we should note for the record that Matt's wife, Mercedes Schlapp, is now a senior communications adviser to President Trump.

Matt, this is something the White House announced today, and we want to put it out on the table.

I'm going to…

MATT SCHLAPP, American Conservative Union: Yes. And I get home and make dinner, so, yes.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDY WOODRUFF: One of you is gainfully employed.

MATT SCHLAPP: Right.

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, MoveOn.org: Yes.

JUDY WOODRUFF: I want to start.

I was talking to Yamiche Alcindor about DACA. But I want to turn to you now, Karine, and ask you about health care. And Senator Bernie Sanders has been talking for some months about this. Today, he formally rolled out his proposal to have Medicare for all. He has, what, 16 or so Democratic co-sponsors.

What does this look like? How do you read this move by these Democrats and him?

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: I think it's a great way forward.

We have a third of the Democratic Caucus essentially in the Senate who have signed on. A lot of them are rumored to be running for 2020. I think this is a great sign for the party forward and also for American people. Health care is a right, not a privilege. And all Americans should have health care from the moment that they're born until they die.

And I think, you know, people have been asking me, oh, well is this a political play? It's not going to work.

No, I am glad. I am glad that Democrats are standing for what's morally right, the right thing to do. And it's about — it's about the country, not about the party.

But it does send a strong, unifying message, I believe.

JUDY WOODRUFF: What are the chances, Matt, that Republicans and Democrats can work together in any form or fashion on health care, including this one?

MATT SCHLAPP: This is the problem. It is the right side of the table sees government too large, too intervening, too involved in these markets.

And here you have the Democrats. This is quite shocking. After Obamacare passed not that many years ago, and they didn't want to have nationalized, centralized health care, they specifically went to set up these state exchanges. This is, in essence, an indictment of Obamacare.

It's not working. It's not covering everyone, as they said it would. And they have a new plan. The new plan is an old plan, which is a plan from the 1960s, which is the federal government will pay all the bills and the taxpayers will pick up all those bills. And I think that makes it very hard for the two sides to come together.

JUDY WOODRUFF: There is a sentiment, though — the polls are showing that there is increasing, not only support for Obamacare, but I noticed Bernie Sanders quoted in his poll today that even, I think he said, 45 percent of Republicans like the idea of expanding Medicare.

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: Yes, it is actually very popular, unlike the Republicans' version of their health care, which they tried about two, three times that was incredibly unpopular.

But here's the thing. This is — I don't think it is a statement against Obamacare. Obamacare actually covered 30 million people. It actually is working, according to the Congressional Budget Office, which is an independent office, which is led by Paul Ryan's person of that office.

So, I disagree. I think we need to start taking it to the next step. I think this is what single payer is all about, Medicare-for-all is all about. It's taking it to the next step.

MATT SCHLAPP: The problem is, Obamacare didn't work, which is why Bernie Sanders is saying he wants to try to cover everyone in a new way.

And the fact is, is that Obamacare has left millions of people not covered. And I think if you look at the numbers, for four successive elections — I will give you Obama's reelect, which you guys did a great job on — but for four successive elections, this was the number one issue.

And Republicans had the better argument politically. We got our congressional majorities over fighting Obamacare. It's a false hope to expect that Obamacare is now popular and will take the Democrats to political winning. It just won't happen.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But, just quickly, do the Republicans have the votes to repeal Obamacare?

MATT SCHLAPP: Well, we have seen that they failed. And, by the way, I have been pretty honest with that. Failure to live up to their promise to repeal and replace is disastrous for them politically.

But don't assume that that means that this nation wants centralized health care for all. That's a big mistake.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Right.

Matt, I want to turn you to talk about, both of you to talk about tax reform. The administration, the White House saying this is something that they are going to focus on this fall.

What are the prospects? We're hearing from the treasury secretary today saying that this is going to be revenue-neutral, we're not going to have — it's not going to change how much money the government takes in, even if we cut tax taxes for certain middle-income people.

MATT SCHLAPP: They have said so many things at so many different points. They are going to come out with a new set of principles, they say, on the 25th of this month.

And I think we have a chance still to get a tax bill done. I don't think it will be fully paid for. I actually don't. I actually think it will aggravate the deficit.

But most Republicans and most conservatives, which dominate the Republican Party, are not so concerned about its effect on the deficit, as they are the — it's the effect of a tax cut on the economy.

They want to grow this economy and create job and economic opportunities for Americans. That's the benchmark that conservatives care about.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Why wouldn't that be appealing to Democrats?

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: Well, I think from what we're hearing really primarily, which is what Democrats — even Democrats are meeting with Donald Trump tonight — which is that it is not actually a tax reform.

It's a tax cut to the wealthy millionaires and billionaires and corporations. And I think that's what we do not want. That's what Democrats will not stand for. And I think that is — that is what we're hearing.

(CROSSTALK)

MATT SCHLAPP: The hard part in that is, is that you have to actually cut the taxes of the people who pay taxes.

And if you want to increase economic and job prospects for Americans, you have got to encourage people to create jobs. Unfortunately, the people who create jobs are people that run small businesses, own small business, are in important positions in corporations.

So, you kind of can't have it both ways. Do we want to help the American people economically or not?

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: Yes, but you can't do it on the backs of middle-class Americans.

(CROSSTALK)

MATT SCHLAPP: I totally agree. They should have a tax cut, too.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But what are the prospects, to both of you, for any kind of serious tax reform this fall?

MATT SCHLAPP: I think I would say it has got a 75, 80 percent chance of passing this fall. But there's hurdles.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But you're saying it would take — it's going to take down the deficit — it's going to raise the deficit and take down revenue.

MATT SCHLAPP: Judy, the fact is, it will — my belief is these tax provisions will not be permanent. They will be temporary in nature. They will not be revenue-neutral.

And I do think we have a chance to pick up some Democratic votes on both the House and Senate, not the eight to go through the regular order. I think it still goes through reconciliation.

I think we will get some Democrats, because #resistance on taxes for Democrats from red states is not a good strategy.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Prospects?

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: Well, the Democrats from red states are saying they are not going to allow the tax cuts that we're talking about just for the wealthy.

So, we will see. I think we need to see a lot more of what is going to be coming forth. There is going to be a meeting tonight, a dinner tonight. Let's see what comes out of that.

MATT SCHLAPP: Yes. They have a seat at the table. Let's see if they can work it out.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Fascinating that the president is spending more time with Democrats, last week cut the deal with Democrats over…

MATT SCHLAPP: I'm OK with it.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Over the debt limit.

MATT SCHLAPP: Guess what? He's everyone's president.

Let's see if he can cut a deal. Let's see if he can find common ground. This is what presidents should do.

JUDY WOODRUFF: They're just about to sit down as we sit there. We will find out what they said.

(CROSSTALK)

MATT SCHLAPP: Maybe there will be some tweets from the dinner.

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, gosh. Some pictures, I'm sure, definitely.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDY WOODRUFF: Karine Jean-Pierre, Matt Schlapp, thank you both.

MATT SCHLAPP: Thank you, Judy.

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: Thanks, Judy.

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