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House Votes to Defund Obamacare; Easing Drug Sentencing Laws.

Aired September 20, 2013 - 11:30   ET


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY, (R), HOUSE MAJORITY WHIP: 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.


It's a privilege to sit in this office and I will tell you this. As the founders crafted this country, they crafted two bodies, two bodies to work. The House has now done their work. We call upon the Senate to do theirs as well.

It's a privilege to sit in this office. And I will tell you this. As the founders crafted this country, they crafted two bodies, two bodies to work. The House has done -- has now done their work. We call upon the Senate to do theirs, as well.


CANTOR: You know, the House has been fighting to stop Obamacare since 2009, and we have said over and over again, this law is going to increase the cost for the working middle-class families of this country. And we're now seeing it. We've said from the beginning that this law will harm economy, and we're seeing our economy turn from a full-time job economy into a part-time job economy. That's why we are doing our job, and now it is up to Senate Democrats to show some responsibility and follow the House's lead.


Now, many say Republicans have promised to leave no stone unturned fighting this bill, and all of us here support that effort.


Now we're calling on Senate Democrats to do the same thing. And I want to know where Senator Pryor stands on protecting the middle class.


CANTOR: From the consequences of this horrific bill. Earlier this summer, a non-profit group in Fort Smith, Arkansas, that provides care for seniors, announced that they were cutting hours for hundreds of staff members to 20 hours -- 28 hours a week.

How about Kay Hagan in North Carolina?


Does she understand the consequences that Obamacare is having in her state?


CANTOR: CurlyC's (ph), a grocery store, the president, Mac McClam (ph) has said it's not feasible or sustainable to extend coverage for all of the 1,100 employees that he has. He, too, may have to cut hours for much of his workforce.

What about Mary Landrieu of Louisiana?


Obamacare is also hurting her hard-working taxpayers in that state. In July, Lawrence Katz (ph), owner of Dot's Diner (ph), told the senator in a committee hearing that he may have to lay off as many as 16 workers -- and these are working middle class Americans, just trying to make ends meet.


CANTOR: And, finally, what about Mark Begich of Alaska?


CANTOR: Through Obamacare, Americans across the country could be hit with a rate shock. In Alaska, it's predicted the premiums could rise between 30 percent and 80 percent. What is Senator Begich going to do about this? Will he vote to keep Obamacare in place?

We're into the fight, and we want the Senate to join us.



REP. JOHN BOEHNER, (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: While we had a victory today for the American people, frankly, we also had a victory for common sense.


BOEHNER: Senator Baucus said it right several months ago when he said this law is a train wreck, and it is a train wreck. All the president said that if we pass this law, health care costs will go down. Well, now we find out that health care costs are going up for most Americans. The president said if you like the health insurance policy that you have, you can keep it. We found out that's not quite accurate, either. In the coming months, millions of Americans are going to find out it's just not quite true.

Listen, this is hurting our constituents, it's hurting the American people, and at a time when the economy is barely eking along, wages aren't increasing, new jobs aren't available and what are we doing? We're putting more cost and more inconvenience on the American people. It's time for us to say no. It's time to stop this before it causes any more damage to American families and American businesses. We have businesses all over the country who are not hiring because of the impact of this law. You've got other businesses that are reducing the hours for their employees because of this law.

And so our message to the United States Senate is real simple. The American people don't want the government shut down and they don't want Obamacare.





BOEHNER: The House has listened to the American people. Now it's time for the United States Senate to listen to them as well.

Thank you.




BANFIELD: You know, for a minute there, I thought I was actually back covering the Canadian House of Commons, where the British House of Commons -- I never heard so many yeas and nays at one time.

I want to bring back Wolf Blitzer and Gloria Borger.

That was a very powerful statement the speaker of the House just made, Wolf. Americans don't want to see the government shut down and they don't want Obamacare. Wolf Blitzer, which one do they want less?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST, THE SITUATION ROOM: The Senate, I thought the most interesting thing was what Eric Cantor did. He cited four Democratic Senators, who are up for re-election, who are many of them in conservative states, Prior of Arkansas, Hagan of North Carolina, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Begich of Alaska. What he was trying to do is say you know what, you four Democratic Senators who are up for re-election, you better be worried right now because if you vote with Harry Reid and the Democrats against what the House of representatives has just passed, you could be potentially in big, big trouble. So the pressure is clearly going to mount. And Eric Cantor, the majority leader in the House of Representatives, clearly signaled that. Let's see what happens in the Senate in the coming days.

It was also interesting when they -- when he spoke about the bipartisan, when the Republican spoke about the bipartisan nature of this vote.

BANFIELD: Yes. I got the vote on that Wolf?


BANFIELD: Two Democrats voted with the GOP and one GOP voted with the Dems.

BLITZER: Right. It was basically strictly along party lines. Not very many -- it wasn't exactly an aspect of bipartisanship.

But Gloria's right, when it comes up for a vote next weekend, let's say, after the Senate presumably goes ahead and strips the defunding of Obamacare, what's going to happen? Will there be enough Republicans in the House of Representatives who will vote for a continuing resolution to keep the government funded and not mandate that Obamacare continue to be defunded as it has been in the House of Representatives today. That's going to be a tough vote for a lot of these Republicans. Democrats will want -- obviously, what we saw today, strip out any defunding of Obamacare, but the action's going to be in the Senate the next few days, then will go back to the House of representatives. Who knows? When it's said and done, they may pass a stopgap measure to keep the government operating but at the same time, there is a chance, maybe even a good chance, there will be a government shutdown.

BANFIELD: That's the exact question I wanted answered. I'm not sure we're going to get the answer until that very moment.

Gloria, if you can quickly before break, which one do the Americans want less, Obamacare or shutting down the government? Isn't that the question they ultimately have to face when they take the vote?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. Right. The question is which Americans want what because Independent voters -- if you want to win the presidency, Independent voters are nervous about Obamacare but they definitely by larger numbers don't want to shut the government down. That's why you heard John Boehner and all of those Republicans, the key message was, "We don't want to shut the government down, and we don't like Obamacare. If the Democrats vote against us, they're the ones voting to shut the government down." So you see just your poll up there. The public is worried about Obamacare. And I would argue, by the way, that's because they haven't done a really good job in the administration of telling and educating the American public about what it will do for you and I bet you are going to see more of that.

BANFIELD: I just want to give a caveat to those numbers.

Can we throw the numbers back up there again?

I think a lot of people would look at that and say, wow, 60 percent nearly opposing. This sounds like a no-brainer. There are a lot of people in that number that oppose it because they don't think it's enough. They want even more of what Obamacare has to offer. That's important to note in those numbers. Gloria and Wolf, it is so good you were with me because I have trouble making sense of what these guys do on a regular basis when they're playing games like this with all our money.

Thank you to both of you.

We will continue on this story. And we are also going to tell you about drugs in your pocket. It all comes down to how much drugs are in your pocket if you're going to spend time behind bars. Brand new. I will explain.


BANFIELD: Attorney General Eric Holder is expanding a new policy that's aimed at reducing those harsh penalties for low level federal drug offenders. Why should you care about that? Well, you should care a lot, because it's your hard-earned tax dollars that are footing a very big bill for keeping that kind of person locked up. I want you to take a look at some of the stats. The taxpayers are forking over nearly $40 billion, with a "B," per year on prison costs in this country. If you want to break it down, just one inmate costs over $31,000 per year. Would that inmate even earn that much if he was on the outside? Some states like New York and Connecticut pay as much as $60,000 for just one inmate in a year. That's a lot of money. The cost to keep an inmate at a minimum security prison, just a minimum security prison, nearly $7,000 a year.

That last figure is really important, because it's at the heart of Eric Holder's brand new policy. That policy, all about the mandatory minimum sentencing laws for drug possession. Those who are nonviolent. They came into play back in the '80s and the prison population just exploded right across the country. We're bursting at the seams, folks. No other way to say it.

Here to talk more about this is CNN's legal analyst, Danny Cevallos; and Joey Jackson, HLN legal analyst.

A lot of people got freaked out when they heard about we're going to let drug dealers go free just because maybe they don't have a whole lot of drugs in their pocket. Kind of all about the amount, but isn't it really all about the money, Joey?

JOEY JACKSON, HLN LEGAL ANALYST: Always all about the money. But very importantly, though, these are not -- we're not talking about drug dealers with guns. We're not talking about gang affiliations. We're talking about those drug dealers or users who have minimum quantities on them. So that's the first thing. I think there's two real imperatives. The first of course is the financial imperative, because the figures that you just stated are staggering. How can you sustain that? You match that up against the burgeoning prison population and you're talking 40 percent overcrowding, Ashleigh, you have to do something about it.

BANFIELD: Is it true as well that a lot of these offenders that are costing us, look, one of those states, $60,000 a year, might have been for marijuana possession? And I don't mean to minimize. A lot of people say that's a terrible crime. But $60,000 a year worth of terrible crime for a moderate amount of marijuana in someone's pocket?

DANNY CEVALLOS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It is, it's a tremendous burden on the states and the federal government, but you have to look back at the history of these laws. They were passed with the idea of this is the say no to drugs era of Reagan, where these mandatory minimums came up, and the idea was we wanted to deter this kind of drug dealing and I don't know that it's worked but we've certainly filled up the prisons. Here's the problem. There are a couple potential problems with this position. Number one, it's not really Eric Holder's responsibility. It is Congress. They enacted these mandatory minimums and if there is a problem ultimately only they can fix it.

BANFIELD: So he's getting around it, because he's instructing all his federal prosecutors, and correct me if I'm wrong, he instructed all the prosecutors across the country to go back to the paperwork and just cross out the amount, because it's the amounts that trigger those mandatory sentences.


CEVALLOS: That's the problem. The fix is being made with duct tape. That's not really -- we shouldn't imbue the prosecutors with that sort of plenary authority to make decisions.

BANFIELD: Will it work?

CEVALLOS: If it works, but the ultimate problem is ultimately they're circumventing the mandatory minimum laws and the real fix must come from Congress, not from the DOJ.

JACKSON: What they're doing, it relates to the charge. So the prosecution has discretion to charge, and to the extent that they charge less than they could, simple possession as opposed to possession with intent, they get around it and you don't need Congress.

BANFIELD: Is it because you don't like prosecutors?


JACKSON: I love prosecutors.


JACKSON: Are you listening, prosecutors? I love you.


BANFIELD: Danny Cevallos and Joey Jackson.

Stay with us. Take a look at what's coming up.


ANNOUNCER: CNN tonight, at 8:00 on "A.C. 360," a new resident of a small North Dakota town wants to make it all white. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not hate. It's the First Amendment.


ANNOUNCER: But see how some long-time locals are fighting back.

And on "Piers Morgan Live" at 9:00, who's really to blame in the death of Michael Jackson, as the defense rests in the wrongful death trial? What does it mean for the doctor already behind bars for his death? Piers gets Conrad Murray's side of the argument.

It's all on CNN tonight starting with "Erin Burnett OutFront" at 7:00, "A.C. 360" at 8:00, and "Piers Morgan Live" at 9:00, tonight on CNN.



BANFIELD: Did you know that over half the kids in this country are growing up without fathers at home? Half. The census data shows that that number is nearly 70 percent when it comes to African-American kids in the city of Baltimore. That is where we find this week's "CNN Hero" who knows what this is all about and is helping to fix that problem.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I sold drugs on and off throughout my life. The tattoos, when I first got them, was war paint. I didn't think the about my son. I did not think about my family. They did not exist.

JOE JONES, CNN HERO: I have not met one man who didn't want to be a good dad. They just don't know how. What male has helped to shape who you are?

We have young men who didn't have fathers in their own lives and the cycle of father absence repeated. We want them to change that for their children.

I'm Joe Jones. I work to help fathers and families become responsible for themselves, their children and their communities.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was 9 years old when my dad left the House. I began using dressing when I was 13. I spent time in jail consistently and had a son I wasn't responsible for.

JONES: There's no reason why you can't get out of the hole regardless of the circumstances.

There aren't many spaces in our community where men can go that are safe.

On your marks, get your baby, go.


And constructive and healthy.

We were coming on the street because you have to penetrate the community.

Responsible fatherhood. That's why we built the center.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can make mistakes, but you can cover those mistakes. He's allowed me to find and restore my community.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We currently have six classes left for you to take.

You're almost done.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's one of the greatest things that you can offer anyone.


JONES: When you see someone and they've got that pride, that light in their eye is relit. The potential is unlimited showing their little boys and girls what it means to be a dad.


BANFIELD: You can find out more about Joe Jones and all the others of our CNN heroes. Go to

Back in a moment.


BANFIELD: In Chicago, the murder capital of the United States, a shooting that should be a wake-up call to this nation. There is a 3- year-old boy who was shot through the ear. He's in serious but stable condition this morning. And all of this after a mass shooting last night at a park on the city's Southside. 12 other people, along with that toddler, were shot. No suspects arrested yet. So the gunmen still out there. Police do believe that this shooting was gang related.

Some other news we're following, the Tylenol bottle cap will now have a warning saying is contains acetaminophen. Always read the label. There is a group, the Pro Publica investigation, its website saying the makers of the drug had fought for years to keep that warning off the containers, and in the last ten years, over 1500 Americans have died from liver damage linked to acetaminophen overdoses.

Rescue efforts continue in Mexico for tens of thousands of people battered by deadly storms. Officials say at least 97 people have been killed by two hurricanes. One of them hitting the pacific coast and the other one on the other side of the corrupt, on the gulf coast. Thousands of tourists are stranded in the resort city of Acapulco. Some villagers are accusing the government of paying no attention to them at all.

And a dangerous situation in Houston at a line for the new iPhone. Apple fans were lined up outside an AT&T store waiting for it to open but ended up being robbed at gunpoint. KHOU, our affiliate, says two men with guns got out of a car and demanded the customers hand over wallets, phones, tablets, and then they got away. Good news. There is surveillance video apparently. They haven't released to us yet. Fortunately, no one was hurt. Stay tuned to this space to see if that surveillance video yields anything we can use for arrests.

That's all the time I have for you today. Thank you so much for watching "Legal View." I'm Ashleigh Banfield. Have yourself a terrific weekend.

And stay tuned for AROUND THE WORLD, which gets under way right after the break.


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: This is CNN. I'm Suzanne Malveaux.

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Michael Holmes. We are AROUND THE WORLD, starting in Washington, D.C., right now.

MALVEAUX: It is the budget fight in Congress with the very real possibility that without a resolution, the U.S. government will run out of money in just ten days.

HOLMES: And we heard this before. Just a few minutes ago, members of the House, which is controlled, of course, by the Republicans, well, they passed their funding plan. The House bill as it is written keeps the government running but takes away all the funding for the president's health care law, called Obamacare by many.