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Elizabeth Warren Says GOP Health Plan Helps 'The Millionaires And Billionaires'

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

What a day it was yesterday on Capitol Hill. House Republicans delayed a vote on their plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Here's Speaker of the House Paul Ryan.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PAUL RYAN: For seven and a half years, we have been promising the American people that we will repeal and replace this broken law because it's collapsing, and it's failing families. And tomorrow we're proceeding.

MARTIN: So tomorrow is today. And the House is expected to vote on the new bill, the American Health Care Act. Before Republicans pushed the vote back, I went up to Capitol Hill to sit down with one Democrat who vehemently opposes it.

Good morning, good morning.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Senator, Rachel Martin.

MARTIN: How are you?

ELIZABETH WARREN: I am well.

MARTIN: That is the voice of Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren. We sat down in her office at the Capitol to talk about the limited options Democrats have in Congress right now and how far her party can get by saying no.

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price has talked about this bill as an initial step - that this is the first step of a three-pronged approach and that he would welcome further collaboration with Democrats to develop specific legislation down the road.

WARREN: Right.

MARTIN: Is that something you could see participating in?

WARREN: Can we just start out with the fact that Tom Price is the guy who put together the budget recently that proposed a trillion dollars in cuts to Medicaid and nearly half a trillion dollars in cuts to Medicare? That was just before he was appointed to this position and confirmed by the Republicans in the Senate.

Look, bottom line here is when the Republicans want to start by saying here's our idea for health care - let's drive up costs for a lot of middle-class families. Let's rip health insurance away from 24 million people. And let's make a central feature doing a tax cut for millionaires and billionaires. It's pretty hard to work off that plan.

Now, if the Republicans came back after they jam it through and said - gee, we'd like to close up the tax break, or we'd like to expand health insurance to those 24 million people we just took it away from, or we'd like to lower costs for middle-class families, then...

MARTIN: And they may.

WARREN: ...Of course, you know. But we're looking at the plan they've put forward. And the plan they've put forward helps basically the millionaires and billionaires and kicks dirt in everybody else's face.

MARTIN: Do you run the risk as the minority party right now in Washington - when you oppose this president and the Republican-led Congress on all these major issues, do you run the risk of becoming the obstructionists that Democrats railed against Republicans for being during the Obama years?

WARREN: This is not about obstruction to try to cause somebody to fail. This is about trying to defend health insurance for millions of people who will have no alternatives. This is about trying to make sure that one bad diagnosis or one accident doesn't leave them hurled over a financial cliff. This is about what we fight for.

MARTIN: Something else Senate Democrats want to fight for is the empty seat on the Supreme Court. Confirmation hearings for nominee Neil Gorsuch are over. Democrats promise to oppose his nomination, including a filibuster if necessary. Senator Warren explains why she thinks that is the only option.

WARREN: We need to have a judge who's kind of acceptable to both sides. That's the reason there's a 60-vote rule in effect on Supreme Court nominees. I don't think Neil Gorsuch meets that standard.

Here's someone - read his record. In every opportunity to choose between corporate interests, big corporations and the little guy - employees, women, consumers - he always chooses the big corporations. And I think that puts him way outside the mainstream of what we need. And as a Supreme Court, remember what's carved over the top, equal justice for all.

MARTIN: So that means you - just to be clear, you would support a filibuster...

WARREN: Oh, absolutely.

MARTIN: You tweeted the following earlier this week - (reading) the FBI director testified @realDonaldTrump's campaign is under investigation for collusion with Russia. Lifetime court appointments can wait.

WARREN: Yeah.

MARTIN: Can I just get you to unpack what that means?

WARREN: Sure.

MARTIN: And how would the investigation impact whether or not Neil Gorsuch should be the nominee or the next justice?

WARREN: So once that investigation is completed - look, one of two things is most likely. Either there's nothing there - that's fine. We all back off, say that's OK. That's how it is. Or there have been serious connections here and violations of federal law. If that is the case, that will likely be appealed all the way to the United States Supreme Court.

And if Judge Gorsuch is confirmed in the next couple of months, he would be - could be the swing vote in deciding whether or not that law gets enforced. Judge Gorsuch should not be put in that position.

MARTIN: But he's...

WARREN: The United States Supreme Court should not be put in that position. And the American people should not be put in that position. It should not be a Trump nominee who should resolve that.

MARTIN: I mean, this is an investigation that could go on a very long time.

WARREN: Well, what I'd like to see - I think what we need now, and I think other events from this week have made clear - we need a special prosecutor. We need an independent investigation. We need a nonpartisan investigation.

This should be something that should not be about Republicans versus Democrats. All of the American people should care about getting to the bottom of the question of the ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. We need to do that. We need to get it resolved in the next few months.

And in the meantime, we can just tap the brakes here on what we're doing with the United States Supreme Court. If nothing comes of the investigation, then let's go ahead and consider a Supreme Court nominee. But doing this in the middle and tying these two to each other I think is a real problem for the American people.

MARTIN: So do you no longer have faith in the investigation that's happening at the House level, a House...

WARREN: I have zero faith in the investigation that's happening at the House level. When someone who's involved in that investigation then goes over to brief Donald Trump, who is part of the subject of this investigation...

MARTIN: Referring there to Devin Nunes...

WARREN: That's right.

MARTIN: ...The chairman of the committee.

WARREN: Nunes doing this - come on - then you've blown the whole thing up, made it perfectly clear that it's all about politics. We need a special prosecutor here.

MARTIN: Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, thanks so much for your time.

WARREN: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF TEEN DAZE'S "CHERRY BLOSSOMS (FT. DUSTIN WONG)") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.