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LEGAL VIEW WITH ASHLEIGH BANFIELD
Congress in Showdown Over Obamacare and Government Funding; House Passes Bill Defunding Obamacare
Aired September 20, 2013 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: A showdown that threatens a government shutdown, Republicans fighting Republicans over Obamacare, and all parties ready to duke it out on the House floor, on the U.S. Capitol, live, and we've got you ringside seats. We're going to take you there.
And speaking of parties and houses, a former pro football player was out of town when several hundred kids just showed up at his house, broke in and trashed the place.
If their tirade and tweets don't shock you, wait until you hear what their parents are now doing about it, or maybe not doing about it.
And even after several porn stars have tested positive for HIV, California lawmakers are rejecting legislation that would force the actors to wear condoms at work. It is a battle with much bigger implications than you might think.
Hello, everyone. Welcome to LEGAL VIEW. I'm Ashleigh Banfield. It is Friday, September the 20th.
And if you thought this was going to be an easy Friday, buckle up, because we're watching the House of Representatives do what it said it was going to do so that the Senate can do what it plans to do, so that maybe, just maybe, they both can do what they have to do, and that is keep our government running past October 1st.
And any time now, the House will vote on a short-term spending bill that would keep the lights on and keep the bills paid, but it would also defund Obamacare entirely.
My colleagues, Wolf Blitzer and Gloria Borger, join me live from our Washington, D.C. bureau as we await this vote.
Wolf, I've got to ask you, if the drama is so much in the vote that's about to happen or in the domino effect that will happen after the vote.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR, "THE SITUATION ROOM": The drama is not in the vote at all. The Speaker of the House, John Boehner, has enough Republican support to get the 217 votes that they need for a majority. Normally it's 218, but there's a vacancy or two.
So let's say he gets the 217, which he almost certainly will get, that's not going to be all that dramatic. What the drama will be, what happens next.
It goes to the Senate and similar -- exact legislation keeping the government funded for a few months, but also defunding Obamacare will not go anywhere in the Senate, and so the drama is what do you do next.
They have until September 30th, because the government runs out of money starting October 1st, the start of the new fiscal year.
So what happens after the Senate passes a very different continuing resolution to keep the government funded and they have to work it out between the House and the Senate, who blinks then.
That's where the drama will be.
BANFIELD: OK, so as I understand it, what happens today is that this continuing resolution gets bound with the concurrent resolution, with the defunding of Obamacare, they punt over to the Senate which strips it all apart anyway, and sends it right back.
So Gloria Borger, would you want to be the House speaker, John Boehner, right about now, where he really needs to get down to brass tacks, when that bill ends up back in his lap?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, yeah, I think they are already planning or trying to figure out what they're going to do, and I don't think they really know the answer to that right now, Ashleigh.
Look, this is a fight for the control of the Republican Party. What you have here is a Republican Party that's very capable of keeping its congressional majority, because lots of these districts are Gerrymandered to the extent where they're conservative or liberal so they can maintain a majority, but can they ever become a presidential majority.
That's what Karl Rove was writing about yesterday in the "Wall Street Journal." If you want to be a congressional -- presidential majority in this country, you have to be able to attract independent voters.
The problem they have right now is that, while independent voters don't much love Obamacare, they don't want to shut the government down. So --
BANFIELD: It's the lesser of the evils.
BANFIELD: I just want to let everybody know, Gloria, that while you were speaking, there was a picture up to your right with what looked like a vote.
It's actually just some preliminary numbers.
BORGER: Right. Procedural. BANFIELD: This is the motion -- procedural. We're not at the vote yet, so I don't want anyone looking at those numbers and thinking we're there. We're not there yet. We've got a few more moments to go.
I think the vote is going to take about five minutes or so. So it will be fairly quick, and we won't let anyone miss it.
So what I want to do, if you will both, Wolf and Gloria, allow me to, I just want to play for our audience who just might have missed some of this incredible debate that was just going on, one hour leading up to this program, so that we can set the stage and the mood for what all of these congressmen are actually going through right now.
Have a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPRESENTATIVE ERIC CANTOR (R), MAJORITY LEADER: Let's defund this law now and protect the American people from the economic calamity that we know Obamacare will create.
Americans back home are fighting for their families, and we in Congress were sent to Washington by our constituents to fight for them. They have put faith in their leaders to do what's right.
REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI (D), CALIFORNIA: This place is a mess. Let's get our House in order. We are legislators. We have come here to do a job for the American people and that job means we have to make the government run for the good of the people.
We are not here to expand government, but we're not here to eliminate government. If the idea is to limit government, let's work together to do that.
But what is brought to the floor today is without a doubt, without a doubt, a measure designed to shut down government.
REPRESENTATIVE HAL ROGERS (R), APPROPRIATIONS CHAIRMAN: I'd like to remind my colleagues, Madam Speaker, both in the House and the other body, that a government shutdown is a political game in which everyone loses.
It shirks one of our most basic duties as members of Congress, and it puts our national security at stake.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BANFIELD: So I want to put up a couple of polls that I think speak very directly to what that argument is all about, and it's what Americans think, the people who are watching this right now, what they think about who will be to blame if in fact the government ends up shut down.
Thirty-three percent of those polled think it will be Obama's fault. Fifty-one percent think it will be the GOP's fault, which speaks to what you said, Gloria, who's going to take the blame for this. Is this going to be the speaker trying to keep his job with what he did today, siding with the conservative wing of his party, or is this going to be the speaker down the road having to make that real tough decision and ultimately potentially sinking a lot of Republicans with numbers like that?
Wolf, is there not a third option? Is there not a third option where the speaker could actually put together some other kind of plan that actually ties, say, a delay in Obamacare perhaps for a year tied to the debt ceiling, is that not something they're bandying about?
BLITZER: He could do that, and he may do that. There's a lot of speculation he would do that, but the president has already said as far as the debt ceiling is concerned, he's not negotiating anything. He's not even willing to talk to them about raising the debt ceiling.
He says that debt ceiling, which has to be raised according to the Treasury Department by mid-October, is something that he's not willing to negotiate over. They just have to do it. Let's see if he holds firm to that so-called "line in the sand" that he's drawn.
It's interesting, though, remember what Boehner said yesterday at the end of his news conference. It was very telling to me.
He knows the legislation that is about to pass in the House is not going to pass in the Senate. The Senate's not going to defund Obamacare. Then it will come back to the House.
And he said at the end of that news conference yesterday, he said, I'm not going to speculate on what the Senate's going to do or not do, and where the votes are, but then he said this.
He said we'll have plenty of time next weekend, not this coming weekend, tomorrow, but next weekend, he said to discuss that, so he's already looking to that 11th hour, the 11th minute, all of that time which is next weekend when they've got to make some tough decisions.
Congress will stay here and he's going to have his work cut out for him so this next week, they are going to be eyeball to eyeball on what to do next.
Next weekend, even Boehner is saying, will be critical in determining whether or not the government shuts down.
BORGER: You know, I spoke with a House Republican leader last night who is of course really frustrated with Senate Republicans, right now they're real unpopular. He called Ted Cruz, to me, a demagogue.
But what he said to me is, look, say the Senate rejects it as we expect. It comes back, then Republicans will divide, OK, and there will be some Republicans who would be willing to join with Democrats to keep the government open, and some maybe, you know, 30 or 40 or so of what I call the "hell, no caucus" who won't.
But he was sort of optimistic that they could work something out on the government shutdown. I think the bigger question is going to be raising the debt ceiling because, as Wolf points out, the president says there's no give in that.
BANFIELD: Yeah. All the while, Americans watch this and think I've been through this dog and pony show four times before. There always seems to be some magical wiggle room. There's a lot of drama leading up to it.
And, as we look, I just want to again refer to the left-hand side of the screen, and that is the procedural preliminary vote going on.
It is not the vote. But we're watching it live and we expect it to happen at any moment.
Wolf and Gloria, if you will indulge me, I want to get in a quick break because I don't want to miss the vote when it happens after the break.
So stay with us. Because, while it may not be the most dramatic part of this argument, it's a big part of this argument.
What your congressmen and women are doing right now on Capitol Hill, is it helping you, or is this just a big pain in the butt.
Coming back in a moment.
BANFIELD: All right. Live to Capitol Hill now, where the vote is about to get under way for the continuing resolution that is tied to the defunding of Obamacare.
Let's listen in live.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The gentlewoman from New York (inaudible)?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Recorded vote.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A recorded vote is requested. Those favoring recorded vote will rise.
A sufficient number having risen, a recorded vote is ordered. Members will record their votes by electronic device. This is a five-minute vote.
BANFIELD: All right, I want to bring in Wolf Blitzer and Gloria Borger as we watch this vote. This will be, like I said, a fairly quick vote, five minutes.
In the interim, though, what you said originally, Wolf, was that the drama's not necessarily here, although it feels that way, because these are harsh words, right?
These are people who have to stand up and say this is what I want, even though I know darned well it has nowhere to go in the Senate, and it has nowhere to go if it ever reaches the president's desk. This is a statement they're making, isn't it? BLITZER: Right. It's going to be very lopsided. It's going to be almost all of the Republicans. I'll be curious to see if two or three or four Republicans vote against it. I doubt it.
We'll see how many Republicans vote against what the speaker John Boehner is putting forward, letting the government continue to be fully funded, but at the same time, defunding the implementation of Obamacare, which is supposed to start in major areas on October 1st.
Let's see how many Republicans deviate from that vote. Probably there won't be many, more than a handful in that.
Let's see how many Democrats decide to cross over and vote with the Republicans. There probably will be a few, not many.
Once again, it will be almost strictly along partisan lines, I suspect, but let's see. I'm curious to see how the actual voting comes out.
You can see already right now, 154 Republicans voting yea, two Republicans so far voting no, 125 Democrats voting nay against this Boehner -- bill. Only one Democrat joining with the Republicans at least so far. So it looks like it's going to be strictly along party lines. That should not be a surprise.
BANFIELD: Strictly along party lines could lead to what some have said is an overwhelming victory but what about, Gloria, those Republicans who will not go along party lines? Do they exist?
BORGER: Yes, there may be a few. You heard Rogers before saying shutting down the government's not a good idea. But you know, here's the play and the story in Republican politics right now. This is kind of the back story to all of this, which is Republicans aren't so much afraid of Democrats as they are of being primaried, and having Republicans run to their right.
So what's going on is that a lot of these Republicans went home over the summer, they got pounded in ads run by outside groups, grassroots movement that's spawned by people like Senator Ted Cruz saying why aren't you voting to kill Obamacare. So they come back this fall and they say to their speaker we need to have this vote because otherwise, we're going to get challenged in our own districts by people who are to the right of us, and there are some in the Republican caucus who are leading that, so it's very personal among Republicans here right now, because they're afraid of people within their own party moving further and further to the right so they feel like they have to take this vote, which is why they felt so abandoned and so furious at Senator Ted Cruz when he said oh, by the way, there's nothing we can do about it in the Senate. They're like you're the reason we're having this vote.
BANFIELD: You know what, to that point, can I just run that -- I don't have it on tape, unfortunately, but I think it's worth reading what one of the critics of Senator Ted Cruz had to say about him and his guts, and it requires a little context, it talked about Wendy Davis, the Texas legislator, who stood up for I don't know, 20 hours or so filibustering and got her way, and this is what was said.
"It is disappointing to see that Wendy Davis has more balls than Ted Cruz."
I just want to reiterate this is the senior GOP leadership aide to CNN, not my words. Those are fighting words from within the party but ultimately speaking, I think you will have a lot of people who say thank God for Ted Cruz for standing up, even though he didn't have the power to do much else, but at least he stood up and said it.
BORGER: Well, but there are Republicans saying why are you threatening me, I have a Republican seat, what are you trying to do here, and there is that point going back to what we have been talking about which is, is this a congressional party, the Republican party, or is it a presidential party. Because if you want to become a presidential party, you have to attract independent voters, and independent voters may not love Obamacare, but they don't want to shut the government down. And you know, that's the debate going on inside the party right now.
BANFIELD: Let me jump in for a second. I want to get Wolf to take a look at those numbers along with me. They're moving targets right now, but I think you can pretty clearly see it looks like the Republicans already have the majority. Am I wrong?
BLITZER: No, you're not -- 225 or 226, they already have. They needed 217. As fully expected, the legislation to keep the government working but defunding Obamacare has passed almost strictly along party lines. There are two Democrats who voted at least so far with the Republicans, and I can't make out how many Republicans are voting against or siding with the Democrats. What's that top number under nay over there?
BLITZER: You have one Republican siding with the Democrats --
(BEGIN LIVE FEED)
(END LIVE FEED)
BLITZER: I can tell you just as we can easily predict what would happen in the House and the Senate, the Republicans will not have enough support to pass the same legislation. There will be plenty of support to keep the government working but not enough support to Defund Obamacare, and then what happens as the Speaker John Boehner says next weekend when presumably the last minute, maybe even the last second, negotiations take place leading up to midnight in order to prevent the government shutdown.
BANFIELD: I'm sorry, Wolf, we were trying to get that moment where the gavel comes up and the order is given but it's hard to see exactly in the milling about when that's going to happen. I wanted to be able to listen to that live for a moment. BLITZER: There it is.
(BEGIN LIVE FEED)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: On this vote, the yeas are 230 and the nays are 189. The joint resolution is passed, without objection a motion to reconsider is laid on the table.
(END LIVE FEED)
BANFIELD: Okay. Lest anyone who is just tuning in right now should think that what you're reading on the bottom of your screen and what you just heard was that it's over and Obamacare is being defunded, that is not -- that is not what's happening.
In fact, here is what's happening, just to recap at 20 past the hour. A vote was just taken on a continuing resolution bill which keeps the government operating past October 1st. Good. And then also, defunds Obamacare. That was the concurrent resolution that was bobby-pinned to that continuing resolution.
Now, that's not where it ends. Goes over to the Senate and by all intents and purposes, just about everybody knows it has no possibility for traction there. Ultimately then, right back to the House you're looking at right now.
Gloria Borger, pick it up there. Are we just going to see the same thing all over again, the decision John Boehner has to end up in, the rock and a hard place where he needs to discuss with his caucus either we're going for it and we're just going to hold firm and shut that government down, and get this thing passed the way we want it without Obamacare funding, or we're going to back down and keep the government running because the Americans are going to kill us for this?
BORGER: Or -- look, there are so many Republicans who believe you shouldn't shut the government down. There are lessons that they learned from the mid '90s. They believe that this would not be well received by the American public. As much as the American public might not love government, they also don't want to shut down the government.
I think the larger question here and in talking to one senior House Republican last night, he said look, this may play out over the next few weeks, because what happens with the debt limit, Republicans are clearly going to have a one-year delay in Obamacare, okay. Do they try and get that, do they tie that to raising the debt ceiling? What happens with keeping the government running? I think these are all very fluid issues right now that after this vote and after the vote in the Senate, you're going to have to start having some real collaboration and real negotiation here.
BANFIELD: Hold for a second. Hold for a second, if you will. There's a couple live moving parts I want to get our viewers up to speed on. What you're looking at now is what is an impromptu rally, so to speak, planned but the timing has been moving about.
You can see the hash tag on the front, #senatemustact. This is the House Republican leadership about to implore the Senate to act to what they just did and talk about exactly what they have just done. I expect that the House Majority Leader Eric Cantor will likely be speaking as well as House Speaker John Boehner. But this is something, Wolf, that we were expecting to happen. Can they really get the Senate to quote, act, Senate must act?
BLITZER: The Senate will act but they won't pass the same legislation that just passed in the House of Representatives. The Senate will pass some sort of resolution, continuing resolution, that will keep the government funded, but it won't defund Obamacare, so you've got the Republicans in the majority in the House, the Democrats in the majority in the Senate, and then what happens next, anyone's guess.
There may be a government shutdown, and if there is a government shutdown, there will be political fallout but much more important than the political fallout will be the real world economic fallout for millions and millions of Americans who will suffer as a result of the government shutting down so many vital social services, other services, important work that the government does. A lot of government employees are going to be furloughed, they are not going to get paid.
So it's going to have painful ramifications, and there are plenty of economists who worry it could have serious, big picture economic ramifications in terms of weakening the overall economy. That means less tax revenue going into the IRS, less money going in, raising the deficits. There are all sorts of ramifications from a government shutdown, as those of us who lived through it in '95 and '96 well remember, and a lot of the Republicans who lived through that period, they remember it very, very well and they remember the political price they wound up paying as a result of that. They lost seats in the midterm elections in the House of Representatives in part because of that, those two government shutdowns, and it's just something that they worry about.
Right now, a lot of the younger members right now, they don't remember what happened in '95, '96. Many of them were not in Washington, they were not in the Congress, so they don't have a first-hand recollection of what happened. John Boehner remembers and that's why he was so upset about this, but he's come around under enormous pressure from that conservative base.
BANFIELD: Yeah, and Gloria, as we're just looking at this and waiting for this news conference to begin, can you give me the context, there aren't a lot of smiling faces. Is this about the branding and the messaging, and trying to turn those polls around? Because clearly, there can be a message that's not the entire message coming out of this news conference.
BORGER: But look, you know, in many ways, and I know that John Boehner was dragged into this vote kicking and screaming, this is not what he would have chosen, but in many ways, if you're a House Republican and you're worried about getting primaried by somebody more conservative than you are, and you know what you're doing is not going to pass in the Senate anyway, this is kind of a freebie vote for you in an odd way, because you can say look, I voted to defund Obamacare, I took a stand, I was willing to go out there on a limb and defund Obamacare because I know how much you're worried about it and I know how much you don't like it, right. So they can take this vote knowing full well the Senate's going to stop it, right. The big question is after the Senate does what it's going to do, what do they do?
BANFIELD: How many smiles are we going to see on the House floor.
BORGER: And do they tie this to the debt limit and do they say let's delay the president's health care plan and what do Democrats do about that? So then again, the story gets a little richer and a little more complex.
BANFIELD: Which is exactly why I'm asking you about the messaging and the branding today at this very moment. The headlines they want to see on the cover of "The Washington Post" and "The Wall Street Journal" and "The New York Times" and "USA Today ." What do they want out of this news conference?
BORGER: Republicans are against Obamacare because by the way, the public is worried about Obamacare, and their constituents all summer long have told them at town hall meetings they're worried about Obamacare. So the branding, to use your word, the message they want to get out is we took the vote, now it's up to the Senate, okay. We did it. We heard you. We did what you wanted us to do. Even though as I believe it's an easier vote. We did what you wanted us to do. Okay, now we're shifting it over to the big boys in the Senate, let's see if they have the guts.
BANFIELD: Are the big boys and girls in the Senate going to have a podium with House, okay, money where your mouth is, next week?
BORGER: I don't know. Because the Democrats control the Senate so it would be a different message, which is we voted to keep the government running. We think that's important.
BANFIELD: Sure. I want to fit in a quick break before this news conference gets underway, because as Gloria said, this is a freebie vote, a great chance for all of those members to say to their constituents and the rest of the country that seems to want to blame this party, you know what, can we just get the break and listen into the House speaker and leadership? Let's listen in before we go to break.
(BEGIN LIVE FEED)
REP. CATHY MCMORRIS RODGERS, R-WASH., CHAIR, HOUSE REPUBLICAN CONFERENCE: Good morning, and thank you, everyone, for joining us following this important vote.
Today, the House has acted. The House has acted to keep the government open, to control spending, and to protect people from an unworkable law that is making it harder on them.
My colleagues have all voted in favor of this law because it's going to help moms and dads and families and young people and seniors all across this country. And that's who this is all about.
When I was home in August, like so many of my colleagues, I heard the stories from individuals and families who are concerned, who are panicked over the implementation of this law and the impact that it's having on their lives.
So that's why the House has acted. And today, we urge the Senate to take action. We urge our colleagues in the Senate, our allies on the outside, and the American people to push the Senate to have this important debate on the floor of the Senate. Because if we are going to take action on behalf of the American people, we need the Senate to have this debate on the floor of the Senate.
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY, R-CALIF., HOUSE MAJORITY WHIP: When we started this health care debate, the president led with a very big promise to the American people: If you like the health care that you can have -- that you currently have, you can keep it. Today, the headline reads, for 20,000 Americans who work at Home Depot, that will no longer be the case, or provided even if part-time. Obamacare does not allow that.
That's why today when we acted, it wasn't just a group of Republicans, but it was a bipartisan vote. Let me state that again because I want to make sure you write it correctly.
It was a bipartisan vote because we're Americans first.