In an interview during the 7 a.m. ET hour of CNN's New Day, co-host Alisyn Camerota asked Oregon Democratic Senator Jeff Merkely if he will "write a thank-you letter Senator Tom Cotton for sounding like a Democrat" in response to the Arkansas Republican senator tweeting early Tuesday morning warning House Republicans that if major changes aren't made to their proposed Obamacare replacement, it will not pass in the Senate.
"What has become absolutely clear is that this bill is losing support on both sides of the spectrum and has no support from Democrats. It's a loss of health care and it's pretty much a disaster no matter which way you slice it," Merkely replied.
An hour earlier on the show, co-host Chris Cuomo said, "I was watching some of it last night. I did not hear better ideas coming out of the Democrats." Camerota did not echo his sentiments in her interview with Merkely.
Instead, she asked, "Obviously, the Republicans say that that's what you guys did. I understand that your time line was different than what you see happening now but as you know they always hold up and Nancy Pelosi said we have to pass it and then figure out what's in it but my question is today this morning what are Democrats doing? Are you trying to work to fix Obamacare or obstruct what they're doing now?" In response, Mekely slammed the GOP's plan for replacing what he touts as measure that has apparently benefited "rural health care clinics [to thrive] that before couldn't afford to have their doors open" and "real hospitals that because they were on the verge of closing and now are on sound financial footing."
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An hour before Cotton's tweets, the House Ways and Means Committee approved their portion of the Obamacare replacement after meeting for 18 consecutive hours. The bill is now under debate in other House committees, such as Energy and Commerce.
Here is the March 9th exchage:
7:10:15 AM – 7:16:55 AM
ALISYN CAMEROTA: Joining us now is Democratic Senator of Oregon, Jeff Merkely, who is a member of the Foreign Relations Committee and the Budget Committee. Are you about to write a thank-you letter to Senator Tom Cotton for sounding like a Democrat there?
SENATOR JEFF MERKELY: What has become absolutely clear is that this bill is losing support on both sides of the spectrum and has no support from Democrats. It's a loss of health care and it's pretty much a disaster no matter which way you slice it.
CAMEROTA: It's not exactly that it has no support. In fact, it's being fast-tracked at the moment through Congress. They pulled an all-nighter last night as you well know and the House Ways and Means Committee passed it so it is on track at the moment for what they had planned.
MERKELY: Yes. No support for Democrats but it's being opposed by Republicans on both ends of the spectrum. In the middle they're supporting it but the reason they're fast tracking it is is it has so many problems. When we were working on ObamaCare in the Health Committee, Health Education Labor Committee we spent five weeks in front of cameras. We had over 100 Republican amendments adopted and that was the beginning of an additional year of work with other committees in the Senate. It was an extended public process with tons of bipartisan involvement and this is being rammed through as a partisan act almost in the dark of night because the Republicans are so embarrassed about this bill.
CAMEROTA: Obviously, the Republicans say that that's what you guys did. I understand that your time line was different than what you see happening now but as you know they always hold up and Nancy Pelosi said we have to pass it and then figure out what's in it but my question is today this morning what are Democrats doing? Are you trying to work to fix ObamaCare or obstruct what they're doing now?
MERKELY: It hasn't come over to the Senate yet, but the plan when it comes to the Senate is to put it on the floor without any committee involvement. The Republican leadership in the Senate has no plan to have a bipartisan discussion or bipartisan examination of this bill. It may melt down before it ever gets to the Senate, but certainly the philosophy being put forward by the Republican leadership is one of partisan, we're going to ram this through. We're going to get those 51 votes and stand aside. No discussion and certainly at this point it's so -- there isn't a foundation here to see if we tweak this or tweak this it will be better. This is going to be destroying Medicaid expansion and in Oregon that's 400,000 people who have been able to gain access to affordable health care in the last few years and it's rural health care clinics that are thriving that before couldn't afford to have their doors open. It's real hospitals that because they were on the verge of closing and now are on sound financial footing. This is going to affect a red America as powerful as it's going to affect Blue America and that's why this bill, I don't think this bill is going to make it.
CAMEROTA: President Trump, from our CNN reporting, has a Plan B and what he has been saying to sources is that if it doesn't work, if the Republican repeal and replace plan doesn't go through congress then okay, let ObamaCare continue and he believes that it will sort of fall under its own weight and then he'll blame the Democrats. Let me play for you what he said a couple of weeks ago to the same tune.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Let it be a disaster because we can blame that on the Dems in our room and blame that on the Democrats and President Obama. Let it implode and then don't do anything. And they will come begging for us to do something.
CAMEOTA: What’s your response?
MERKELY: The President is living in a world of his own imagination because it's not a disaster across America. 20 million people added to health care. Our health care institutions are in better shape than they were previously. And if you’re sick or someone’s sick, you’re going to get care and not end up bankrupt is now a reality for millions of Americans, and a period of high stress. There's improvements like we’d like to see competitive exchanges, it’d be helpful to have a public option on these exchanges and take on the high cost of medicines that are really driving health care costs in this country. We should team with the president.
CAMEROTA: Let's take on the high costs of medicine. And the Obama administration of Trump Tower during the presidential campaign. What are you going to do to get to the bottom of this?
MERKELY: Well, the Intelligence Committee, led on the Democratic side by mark Warner, is doing everything it can to get to the bottom of this. Everything the Republicans have turned up is no foundation for this allegation. They're going to keep looking. They're asking for documents. They're asking for information. What is it the administration wants to show folks but the administration’s response hasn't been “Yes we have got the information.” And they have no information to present to congress that there's any reality to this allegation.
CAMEROTA: Do you feel this will be a fool’s errand? Or this will take up taxpayer dollars or time in Congress or do you think this is something that deserves your attention?
MERKELY: It deserves our attention because the President has raised a very serious accusation of criminal conduct by a former president so it certainly deserves our attention but if the administration can't supply any information to Congress of evidence it's going to be set aside and say okay we looked at it. There is no information here and so conclusion is reached that it was a fiction developed by the President and asserted. Perhaps he, you know, widely reported, he took it from Breitbart news, this is where a president seems to go for his information and that he got this one absolutely wrong and really quite frankly should apologize.