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Supreme Court Leaves Affordable Care Act in Place; Rep. Kevin McCarthy Slams Biden for Giving Putin a Pass Despite Trump Siding with Russian President in Helsinki. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired June 17, 2021 - 13:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: We strive for that here.

Just a quick CNN programming reminder, new details about exactly what happened on January 6th, Drew Griffin talks with those who were there. Assault on Democracy, the Roots of Trump's Insurrection, airs Sunday 9:00 P.M. Eastern right here on CNN.

Thanks for spending your time with us today. We'll see you back here tomorrow, we hope. Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right now.

ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Ana Cabrera in New York, thank you for being with me.

Challenge dismissed, the Supreme Court voting 7-2 to leave the Affordable Care Act intact and preserve insurance for the 31 million people who are currently covered under this law. So this is a huge blow to Republicans who have spent well over a decade now trying to overturn or repeal the Obama era law.

Let's bring in CNN's Ariane de Vogue. Ariane, just walk us through this decision.

ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN SUPREME COURT REPORTER: Right. Obamacare is going to remain in place, millions and millions of people will be able to keep their health insurance amidst this pandemic. As President Biden said this is a huge win for supporters of the law.

Here's what the court did, 7-2 decision written by Justice Breyer, and he basically said that the challengers here did not have the legal right to be in court. They didn't have the legal right to bring the challenge, that their harm was speculative.

Walk back a little bit to remember how we got here. Remember, it was Chief Justice John Roberts back in 2012, he upheld the law under the taxing power, then Congress moved to bring the tax down to zero, so critics went to court and they said, look, you've gotten rid of the legal underpinning of the law, the individual mandate is unconstitutional and the whole thing should fall. Breyer today, he rejected that. he dismissed the challenge, leaving the law in place.

Interestingly here, the dissenters, Alito and Gorsuch, they didn't agree and they said, noted that this is the third time that this law had been in front of the Supreme Court, and they said once again the court has come to the improbable rescue of the law. But today, a big victory for supporters of the Affordable Care Act.

CABRERA: And a victory for a lot of Americans who rely on the Affordable Care Act for their health care and for, you know, protecting the pre-existing conditions or if they're, you know, in their early 20s and need to be on health insurance of their parents and so forth.

Let's pivot to the other court ruling today that was key. This time though, the court ruled in favor of a Catholic foster care agency that had refused to work with same-sex couples. This was obviously a very contentious issue but a unanimous decision here, explain that.

DE VOGUE: Right. All of the justices here agreed that Philadelphia violated the First Amendment when it froze the contract of this Catholic foster care agency because the agency wouldn't consider same- sex couples as potential foster care parents.

So, basically, to walk you back a little bit to see how we got here, this agency, for years and years, had been providing, one of the agencies providing this service. And then the city found out relatively late that they weren't allowing same-sex couples to apply as parents, so the city said that violates our anti-discrimination law and it froze the contract.

And the agency came back and said, look, that's a violation of our religious liberty. And Chief Justice John Roberts writing for most of the justices said, that's right, that Philadelphia had no real good reason not to give this agency an exemption from that law. He noted that there were other exemptions in other areas, and that the couples could find agencies in Philadelphia willing to work with them.

Here, again, we had -- all of the justices agreed with the outcome, but the three conservatives on the far right side, Alito and Gorsuch and Thomas, they wanted the court to go much further and make it much more difficult for the government to pass laws that infringe on religious liberty. The justices didn't do that in this opinion, but all the justices today did give this win to the Catholic social service agency.

CABRERA: Right. Ariane de Vogue, thank you so much. And we will be speaking with HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra in just a few moments.

But I also want to pivot to another big story, the Supreme Court decision obviously a win for the Biden administration but the president is taking hits today from Republicans on his summit with Russia's Vladimir Putin. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy saying in a statement, the president should have used the summit to stand up for our national interests and send a message to the world that the United States will hold Russia accountable for its long list of transgressions. He goes on to say, unfortunately, President Biden gave Vladimir Putin a pass.

The impacts of this summit, of course, are yet to be seen but McCarthy ripping the president for saying he didn't stand up to Putin, seems a bit rich, doesn't it?


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: All I can do is ask the question. My people came to me, Dan Coats came to me and some others, they said they think it's Russia.


I have President Putin. He just said it's not Russia.

I will say this, I don't see any reason why it would be.

I have great confidence in my intelligence people but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.


CABRERA: Let's bring in former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. Mr. Secretary, thank you for being with us.

Do you agree with McCarthy's assessment, did President Biden give Vladimir Putin a pass?

CHUCK HAGEL, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY UNDER OBAMA: Well, I don't know what Mr. McCarthy is referring to, what he's referencing in those remarks because everything that I know, I've heard that's out in the public actually from both President Putin and President Biden, is that all those subjects were covered in the summit, just as President Biden said they would be covered, and they were covered. That's the whole point of a summit.

It was the whole point of President Biden wanting to do this summit, to clear the air, talk plainly, directly, so that both Putin and Biden would understand each other where they are, cooperate where we can. But where we can't, and where we've got problems, we need to resolve them.

You start from where you agree and you build out. But as far as him not bringing any of those issues up to Mr. McCarthy talking about, again, I don't know where Mr. McCarthy is getting his information.

CABRERA: And we did played the one clip there of President Trump. Let's just remind everybody about some of the other comments President Trump has made, either as a candidate or as president. He said Putin did a really great job outsmarting our country.

He suggested Russia can keep Crimea, gave Russia classified intel during an Oval Office meeting, continuously denied that Russia interfered in the 2016 election. He also congratulated Putin on his sham election in Russia. That list, of course, isn't complete. There's more, and yet Republicans were so careful to criticize President Trump's relationship and interactions with Putin.

So do you just think McCarthy's statement is simply partisan politics?

HAGEL: Well, it's either that or it's ignorance, or it's just silly. I mean, come on, anybody who's following the news and watching this knows better. But, unfortunately, my party has drifted into these incredible silly zones that are making it more difficult to govern our country and do what's right for our country in the interest of this country.

And we better get this turned around. We better get some new leadership in the Republican Party that understands the difference in a serious world, a

world that's very volatile and dangerous. And what President Biden is trying to do is stabilize that kind of a world, is bring our allies back together, strengthen alliances, strengthen our -- in our country, to deal with all of these issues.

So I don't know what Mr. McCarthy is thinking of. Like I said, I don't where he's getting his information, but it obviously appears to me that it's pretty partisan, and I'm sorry about that because foreign policy has never been partisan. National security defense intelligence has never been partisan. It's about America first, not Republicans, not Trump, not Biden, but the security in the interest, in the future of our country.

CABRERA: I hear you.

Here we have this just in, Russian President Vladimir Putin says Moscow is ready to hold further talks with the U.S., providing the U.S. is also willing to do so. What's your reaction to that?

HAGEL: Well, I think that's a good sign. Justice -- President Biden said, I don't know what the outcome will be but let's see, give it six months to a year, that's what President Biden said. So I think this is a very good sign.

You've got to engage. You can't just pick and send press releases out and pick apart everything that everybody's trying to do to resolve issues. Things don't get better. Problems get worse if you don't deal with them.

President Biden is an adult. He's a professional. He knows this business. He's a leader. He's got courage. And he's got character, character. And he knows how to deal with it. Let's take it on. Let's go directly to Mr. Putin or Mr. Xi in China or wherever it is and let's get it resolved. But we resolve it with bringing strength to the table. Your diplomatic efforts are only as powerful or as good as the strength behind them.

CABRERA: So, obviously, in style and substance, President Biden certainly contrasts with how his predecessor dealt with Putin, we've covered that plenty, but how does President Biden ensure the outcome is different? You talk about bringing strength behind the talks and behind the communication.


What does the next step look like to ensure things move forward in the way America would like to see?

Did he lose your audio there, can you hear me, Mr. Secretary?

HAGEL: I can hear you now.

CABRERA: Okay, I think we had a moment there where you lost audio and you didn't hear my next question. But, you know, to pick up on what you were saying about bringing, you know, something to the table that's more than just conversations, how does the current administration ensure a different outcome than what has transpired, you know, behind past administrations, not just, you know, the last one, but even other previous administrations, including the Obama administration? How do you move forward and get President Putin to respond in a different way?

HAGEL: Well, first, like I said, you have to engage. But engagement just for engagement's sake isn't good enough. You've got to have a strategy behind it. What is it that you want to accomplish? How do you want to accomplish it? President Biden has said state craft, diplomacy. Yes, we get all the other factors that are critical as well, trade, economics, our security, our intelligence, our defense, all those are part of it, but you have to have a plan, a program.

And that strategy has to involve the interest of the other side. What's Russia's interest? What's China's interest? What do they get out of the deal? It can't be one sided. And there's where you start to work the problem. You start to try to resolve it.

We've got a lot of issues. Some we're not going to get resolved in a year or two. But the big ones, the ones that he laid out, President Biden laid out to President Putin yesterday, which don't touch, don't touch. And I don't like to use the term red line because red line has gotten past presidents in a lot of trouble, but you've got to lay your priorities out from your perspective.

Now, what are your priorities, Mr. Putin? Do you want us to attack your companies, cyber and government? I don't think so. So it's a give and take but you've got to have a strategy behind it. You've got to have your entire government behind it. It's not just leading with the military, we shouldn't lead with the military. We've done that for 20 years and it's been a mistake. The military can't solve every problem, can't reinvent new governments. So that's where you come at it.

CABRERA: Former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, I really appreciate you taking the time, thank you for being with us.

And HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra is joining us in just moments on this major Supreme Court ruling today, keeping ACA, Obamacare intact.

Plus, as Republicans push the big lie, and they twist the truth about the insurrection, elections officials across the country are facing death threats, hundreds of threats. One of those officials speaks to us next. And it looks like COVID on steroids, a former COVID adviser for the Biden administration delivering that warning on a dangerous variant. What Dr. Fauci, though, says you can do about it.



CABRERA: Now, back to today's big ruling from the Supreme Court, leaving the Affordable Care Act in place. Let's bring Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra. Mr. Secretary, first, thanks for being with us. Your reaction to this decision.

XAVIER BECERRA, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: It's great to know that the Affordable Care Act is the law of the land. Now there's no question about it. This is the third time we've been before the Supreme Court.

I do want to thank the team at the California Department of Justice. We initiated along with some 20-plus other states this case to defend the Affordable Care Act. And it's a great victory, not just for those who believed in the Affordable Care Act but for the 131 million or so Americans who have a pre-existing condition who can have peace of mind today, to the 31 million Americans who have insurance as a result of the Affordable Care Act, they can have peace of mind. It's great news.

CABRERA: This was a 7-2 decision from a conservative court. We had, you know, Amy Coney Barrett, you had Brett Kavanaugh, you had Clarence Thomas and, of course, Chief Justice Roberts, all siding with the majority here. Are you surprised by that?

BECERRA: You know, these days perhaps common sense surprises people, but it was pretty clear that the case that was being made by them in the state of Texas, as we speak, and Texas is the state that initiated the case, there was no basis for it. They had no standing, no grounds to sue because they were not being harmed. In fact, Americans who live in Texas are benefiting from the Affordable Care Act. And so it was great to see that seven out of nine justices just went with common sense.

CABRERA: It is the third time the ACA has been challenged, gone to Supreme Court, and survived, as you pointed out. What do you say to people who are there, you know, are out there worried that there will be, yet another challenge, that their coverage is just constantly in jeopardy of being nullified?

BECERRA: Someone is always going to step to the plate. This country is about building, not dismantling. And the Affordable Care Act has helped us build a better health care system in America. And we're going to continue to improve on that. And, fortunately, with President Biden, I think it's very clear, he ran on building on the Affordable Care Act. And now with this Supreme Court decision, guess what, I've got a really important mandate to do exactly as the president requested.

CABRERA: But how can you be sure it's a done deal? Because the court didn't rule on the merits, they dismissed it as more of a technicality. Does it give you pause to think that this is all over?

BECERRA: Well, in baseball three strikes and you're out.


I would think all those opponents of the Affordable Care Act, they have not only struck out three times before the Supreme Court but they've tried more than 70 times in Congress to dismantle it and they failed.

And so I think there's enough proof there that this thing is going to stand for quite some time and Americans can have that peace of mind knowing that they can start talking about a better insurance plan, not about whether they're going to have insurance in the first place.

CABRERA: The latest polling does show the majority of Americans support this, or view this ACA as favorable. You helped draft the ACA as a congressman, and so I wonder how, maybe, you think Congress should build on this law, or strengthen it going forward because there still are, you know, a lot of people who are unsatisfied by health care as it is today.

BECERRA: Ana, one of the first thing we can do is have Congress permanently extend the tax credits that the American rescue plan that the president proposed put in place. Today, millions of families are finding that they can stay on their insurance and won't fall over this cliff because all of a sudden they lose some of that subsidy support that they got to be able to afford their insurance. If we extend that permanently, millions of Americans will continue to have their coverage.

But beyond that, we can see states now buy into what's called Medicaid expansion. The Medicaid program was expanded for states where the federal government really chips in the lion's share of the cost to keep those modest income Americans receiving health care through Medicaid.

And the two-thirds of the states in the country have signed on, there are a few who haven't. We're going to try to continue to build to see if others will. And before you know it, we'll get to that point as President Biden says when we treat health care as a right, not just a privilege for a few wealthier healthy few.

CABRERA: Well, the fact of the matter is though, health care costs are going up for everyone, people who have insurance, people who are on the ACA, and people who don't have insurance or any form of coverage at all. A lot of people are paying higher premiums, even after the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. How do you fix that?

BECERRA: Well, you actually now fight to defend the law. We had -- for the last few years, we've had an administration that's actually tried to dismantle it and actually done things, while I was in office, trying to not support it.

And the fact that there are over a million Americans who in the last few months have signed up for the Affordable Care Act simply because we let them know it was out there and showed them that they could actually get on a plan or coverage where they were playing maybe no more than $10 a month in premiums, all of those things could have been done under the previous administration, but they spent a lot of the time and money trying to dismantle it.

So it's a matter of just supporting what's good out there and doing the things that can help build it, and so the great thing is, that we're now about building it, not just protecting it.

CABRERA: Let's talk about the bigger message that was sent through this ruling today by this Supreme Court, the vast majority ruling together in a 7-2 decision. What does that tell you, given your experience, as a former A.G., in California, what do you see about their desire to work cohesively and send this message that they aren't partisan?

BECERRA: So, as I said, I think the greatest message here is that the Supreme Court listens to common sense. And as political as this world has become, and sometimes it feels like the Supreme Court is becoming very political as well, here, I think, they gave us a clear signal. Look, we understand when things are working and show us that there's some constitutional foundation for undoing something that's worked for tens of millions of Americans.

And so, Ana, I think the message here is that we can get along, we can work together. And even a Supreme Court, which is often very divided, can work together. At the same time, I think there's a clear message, the history books will show that not just was the American public on the right side of history, but the supreme Court was as well.

CABRERA: I guess what I'm getting, quickly, if you will, at is Democrats have expressed concern over the makeup of the Supreme Court. Did they invalidate those concerns today?

BECERRA: Look, you always want to make sure that the Supreme Court, as the final arbiter in this country of the most important issues of the day, will fall on the right side for the right reasons and principally because it is looking at the document that we consider sacred, the Constitution, and really putting it to life.

At the end of the day, it's important that the Supreme Court signal to all of us that it understands it's got a tremendously heavy burden to prove that.

And I won't cast judgment on -- one way or the other. I'll simply say that I am glad that by 7-2 decisively the Supreme Court has said the Affordable Care Act is the law of the land.

CABRERA: Secretary Becerra, thank you very much for joining us.

BECERRA: Thank you.

CABRERA: We'll be right back.


CABRERA: Welcome back. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas says the DHS review of the January 6th attack on the Capitol is ongoing.


But we know this, the big lie fueled the riot at the Capitol.