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Government Shutdown Approaches; Obamacare and Small Businesses; NSA Tracking U.S. Citizens; Severe Weather Hits Oregon

Aired September 30, 2013 - 05:00   ET


ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: A record-setting storm slamming the Northwest. Roads are flooded, trees are all knocked down and thousands are left in the dark.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Dozens of tourists jumping into the water when their boat suddenly erupts in flames. Crazy pictures. Really crazy story to tell you about.

Good morning, everyone. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm John Berman.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. It is Monday, September 30th. It is 5:00 a.m. in the East.

So let's begin with the shutdown plot. It is ticking even louder in Washington this morning.

BERMAN: Tick, tick, tick.

SAMBOLIN: Although I don't know that anybody is listening, with neither side seemingly willing to give an inch, which is 19 hours away from the government shutdown. The Republicans saying they want to defund the health care overhaul, also known as Obamacare, or at least delay it for a year. The Democrats saying no way is that going to happen. And all of those government services are hanging in the balance.

Senior White House correspondent Brianna Keilar has the very latest.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the old football strategy.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): House Republicans rallied on the steps of the Capitol, calling on the Senate to come back to work. Inside, a ghost town. Not long after the House GOP passed a bill in the early morning hours on Sunday.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Motion to reconsider is laid on the table.

KEILAR: It funds the government, but delays Obamacare for one year. Now, just hours to go before a deadline for a deal, the first government shutdown in 17 years seems all but certain. The blame game in full swing, with Republicans on preemptive damage control.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R) ,TEXAS: So far, Majority Leader Harry Reid has essentially told the House of Representatives and the American people go jump in the lake.

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: He is saying 100 percent of Obamacare or the highway. The president is the one saying, I will shut down the government if you don't give me everything I want on Obamacare.

KEILAR: They argued, they budged. Demanding the president's health care program be delayed after initially voting to defund it altogether.

But Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid won't put this latest House passed bill up for a vote and President Obama who met Sunday afternoon with his economic team at the White House has threatened to veto of any measure that delays or defunds Obamacare.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let me repeat it. That's not going to happen.

KEILAR: The Senate is expected to strip out the Obamacare delay today and send it right back to the House. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking toward midnight when a government shutdown would close national parks, furlough hundreds of thousands of federal workers, and stall new passport applications. There was one area of possible agreement, however. A repeal of attacks on medical devices included in the bill Republicans passed this weekend.

A top Democrat said he was open to the measure, but not with a shutdown looming.

SEN. RICHARD DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: I'm willing to look at that, but not with a gun to my head, not with the prospect of shutting down the government.

KEILAR: Brianna Keilar, CNN, the White House.


BERMAN: All right. The big question a lot of people are asking, what does this mean for me? What does this mean for you? Which is hours to go before the government runs out of money this is a little list what will be operating and not operating.

Mail will still be delivered. FBI and DEA and other law enforcement, they will still be working. As will the military. But get this. A lot of military personal will get IOUs instead of paychecks. Most federal courts will remain open.

Also this: don't forget to pay your taxes. Because the IRS is still collecting. That's awfully nice.

Do not try to go to a national park or federal museum. Many, most of them really will be closed. Passport applications will not be processed. And furloughs will hit nonessential government workers, thousands and thousands of them will be told to stay home.

And if you have applied for a government loan --


BERMAN: Yes, exactly. Funding your small business or home purchase, that will be put on hold. Thanks, Washington.

SAMBOLIN: I would love for you guys to tweet us, e-mail us and let us know how you feel about all of this.

So, does it disgust you? Does that come to mind when you think about that? Those we talked to across the country said over and over again, it is time to work out the differences and come to some sort of an agreement. Much of the concern centered around our men and women in uniform. Why? Because they will keep working but only get paid with a promise for cash later.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There is going to be bills that are going to be due. And those places like you can't just tell the electric department, hey, I got an IOU.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If I ran my house the way the government is running the country, I would be in bankrupt.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You made your point. Let's get on with the business of running the country and pass the budget, pass the debt limits, and let us keep improving the economy, but don't play games any more, please.


BERMAN: Our economy, our country, our business, the government is not running right now.

All right. Also at midnight tonight, just as the government may be shutting down, a new way to buy health insurance will be starting up. That's a big part of the discussion right now, a key part of Obamacare, the insurance exchanges, they launch October 1st. This is one of the major steps towards implementing the health care overall.

As Margaret Conley reports, for small business owners, there are still many questions over what they will have to do to comply with the law.


ZANE TANKEL, OWNER, APPLEBEE'S: That's a virtual reality walk through.

MARGARET CONLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Zane Tankel, the owner of all New York area Applebee's restaurants, sparked controversy last year when he threatened to stop hiring because of Affordable Care Act costs.

TANKEL: We won't build more restaurants. We won't hire more people.

CONLEY: A year later, from his newest restaurant in East Harlem.

TANKEL: This wall is all living.

CONLEY: Zane says he'll find a way to continue with business and his best people are his full time people.

TANKEL: Am I going to penalize my best people because the president has put into play something that penalizes me? No. I've got too much at stake.

CONLEY: These crucial decisions facing business owners like Zane have dire economic consequences.

Or as (ph) John Goodman from the National Center for Policy Analysis.

JOHN GOODMAN, NATIONAL CENTER FOR POLITICAL ANALYSIS: Small businesses are being forced to provide a very expensive package of health benefits for their employees. And the new law gives them no additional help, there is no subsidy.

CONLEY: Costs is the biggest single concern for companies according to human resources consultant Julie Stone.

(on camera): What kind of impact is that going to have on this country?

JULIE STONE, CONSULTANT, TOWERS WATSON: I think it has seismic proportions, long term for our country. It's going to change the fabric of who we are and how we go about our daily lives ultimately.

CONLEY (voice-over): For Zane, he is taking each phase of reform at a time.

TANKEL: I don't think it's going to be so terrible. I think that people are not going to opt at least for this first year for 10 percent of their gross income going to Obamacare.

CONLEY: Margaret Conley, CNN, New York.


SAMBOLIN: Our thanks to Margaret.

New reports of potential privacy abuses at the NSA. According to "The New York Times", the agency has been using its enormous of collection of phone and e-mail data to track the social connections of U.S. citizens, even determining their whereabouts and who they are traveling with. That report based on documents from NSA leaker Edward Snowden saying the agency has been conducting these operations since 2010.

BERMAN: Oklahoma and Kansas not waiting for Washington to begin slashing the federal food stamp programs. The two states are moving ahead with plans to require healthy adults with no dependents to work at least 20 hours in order to get benefits. That could leave thousands of people without subsidies for food if they cannot find a job. Right now, one out of every seven Americans receives food stamps. SAMBOLIN: Severe weekend weather is wrecking havoc in the Portland, Oregon area. Leaving thousands still without power this morning. Two storm fronts hit. One on Saturday, the other one right behind on Sunday, dropping heavy rain and blowing trees and debris right into the homes.


MARIE LEHNER, RESIDENT: I heard this noise and I come in, look. I went, oh, goodness.


SAMBOLIN: And now, the good news is she got out OK. But a falling tree crushed part of her roof and damaged her home. Some areas got nearly five inches of rain and reported wind gusts of 75 miles an hour.

BERMAN: Wow. Sounds crazy. A lot more weather out in the northwest.

Indra Petersons is watching the forecast for us.

Great to see you, Indra.


Yes, one time, it was nice in the Northeast. Meanwhile, we just talk about what's happening in the Pacific Northwest. Just take a look at the radar from starting on Saturday and rain literally did not stop pounding the area. In fact, we are still talking about rain in the area today.

Look at the records now -- Portland has beat the record for the month of September, coming in about 4.83 inches. The last record was 4.3. That was back in 1986.

And they are not alone. Seattle also broke the daily record on Saturday. They have not broken the record for the month just yet. But either way, we know how much rain everybody is dealing with and, of course, strong winds in addition to that.

So, what caused it? A big low out there in the Pacific Northwest with a couple of waves that kind of kicked through the area. With that, it pulled the moisture from the coastline and continued to give them rain. I wish I could say it's over with, but there are still more rain in the forecast today, but not as heavy over the weekend but either way now flooding concerns will be re high with even more rain about 2 to 4 inches still possible in through Washington today, about one to three inches in through Oregon.

The other side of this thing, we're going to be talking about temperatures. Notice how warm it is. Look at Denver, about 82. Look at Portland, about 59. We get warm air close to cold air, we are going to see strong winds and that, of course, is going to be another factor. It's going to continue as we go through the day. I mean, winds gusting to 35 to 35 miles an hour today and through Seattle. You see some of this higher in Portland, the same thing, about 36-mile-per- hour gusts. And that's currently.

So, looking at the pattern, a little bit different here. Once we go towards the East Coast, there is a front moving its way through but it's expected to dissipate. It's still beautiful weather still in the forecast for us. At least, it's nice here, but unbelievable amount of rain.

BERMAN: Serious problems in the Northwest. Indra, thanks so much. Great to see you this morning.


BERMAN: An unexpected plunge into the River Thames when a tour boat known as the London Duck burst into flames. The boat, you can see it there, caught on fire right outside the Houses of the Parliament. Twenty-eight passengers were forced to swim for their lives and others clinging to the sides of the boat.

This is not the first fire involving an amphibious craft, but this time, rescuers were on the scene and just minutes. And there were only injuries. Lucky for them.

Of course, you remember that accident in Philadelphia a couple of years ago. The duck boat operator.

SAMBOLIN: It looks like the folks in the corner there are trying to figure out should we or shouldn't we? What should we do?

BERMAN: Swim forward, hold on to the sides.

SAMBOLIN: Absolutely.

BERMAN: Anyway, they are all good, that's the important thing.

Coming up, investigating Syria's chemical weapons stockpile. A team on its way to Damascus to start cataloging just what the Assad regime has on hand. We will have the latest for you coming up.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START. Thirteen minutes past the hour.

A key meeting today in Washington could help set the future of U.S. relationships in the Middle East. Israel leader Benjamin Netanyahu will be at the White House. Well, he and President Obama are expected to not only discuss the peace process, but also the budding new diplomatic efforts between the U.S. and Iran. Netanyahu has been skeptical of Iran's charm offensive, claiming it's an attempt to stall international inspections of its nuclear program.

BERMAN: This morning, an international weapons team is preparing to make its way to Syria to begin one of the biggest and most hazardous missions in history -- disarming that nation's stockpile of chemical weapons. This will not be easy, folks.

Jomana Karadsheh is live in Abu Dhabi for us.

And, Jomana, what's on the agenda for this visit? This is a really tough job, isn't it?

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. It's a very challenging and tough task. This is going to be for the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the OPCW, that begins its mission in Syria to eliminate that country's chemical stockpiles. That mission starts tomorrow with the arrival of an advanced team, 20 political and technical experts are expected in Damascus tomorrow. They will represent the logistics and set the ground for these inspections and the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons.

As you mentioned, John, a very, very tough task ahead for a number of reasons. First, the deadlines they are up against. They are -- Syria is expected to destroy all of the chemical production and mixing plants in a month's time by November 1st. And by the first half of next year, all of the country's chemical stockpiles must be destroyed by then.

So, a very tough task. Even harder because of the environment in Syria. This is an active combat zone. It is a very violent war zone. It's going to be a logistical challenge for this team to try and move around, we are told by the organization that there are about 50 chemical sites that need to be inspected in Syria and some of them in rebel-held territory and some in contested areas. So, reaching these sites, securing these teams is a very big challenge.

One OPCW official telling CNN that they might have to amend the way they do things for Syria. Rather than destroying the chemical weapons stockpiles, what they might do is what they call a quick and dirty operation where these weapons are rendered unusable rather than destroying them.

BERMAN: It's really unprecedented situation, trying to go in during a hot civil war to dismantle these weapons.

Now, there's a separate team, a team of U.N. investigators, they have been back in Syria a week. They are leaving today. What have they been up to?

KARADSHEH: Well, John, that is the team that has been investigating alleged chemical weapons attacks that have taken place in Syria. This year, the U.N. says that a number of alleged attacks were brought to the body's attention but seven of those, they said, warranted inspection and investigation. So, the team has been in there looking at these and investigating these chemical attacks, three of which we are told by the U.N. allegedly took place following that deadly large- scale attack in the suburbs of Damascus on the 21st of August.

The team that has been there has been collecting physical samples. They have been speaking to physicians and alleged victims. And as you mentioned, they are leaving the country today and they are expected to file a comprehensive report by the end of October. This is not expected to assign blame put they want to establish the fact whether these chemical attacks did happen indeed.

BERMAN: A busy, busy crucial week inside of Syria. Jomana Karadsheh for us in Abu Dhabi, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Other news now. Amanda Knox opted out of a return trip to Italy. Her retrial in the 2007 slaying of her roommate gets under way today without the star defendant. The Seattle native served four years for the killing before being acquitted in 2011. But earlier this year that ruling was overturned by Italy's highest court. If convicted again, there is a chance Knox could be ordered back to Italy, although a lot of legal experts in the United States think it is unlikely.

SAMBOLIN: Let's switch gears, shall we? So, we have seen a lot of wedding proposals on the show, right? So, let's just say this was a team effort. The team, the cheerleadering squad in Van Horn High school in Independence, Missouri. The recipient: the coach, Crystal Esplada (ph).

Her boyfriend asked the principal and the athletic director to help him ask her to marry him. They obliged. As you can see, she was on the field during half time of a football game, to receive the bouquet of flowers and a big thanks for leading the squad to success at a state championship.

And when she turned around, the cheerleaders had reformed to ask her the big question! She said yes and said the proposal was absolutely perfect!

BERMAN: You know, I hope in true cheerleading form, her answer wasn't just yes. I hope she said, "Bring it on."


BERMAN: Anyone get it? Get it? Bring it on?

SAMBOLIN: Yes, we get it.

BERMAN: The best cheerleading movie of all time.

SAMBOLIN: You know what? I would like to do, I'd like to see her face. I'd like to see the actual proposal. Would you like to see that?

BERMAN: I would. All that matters is she said yes, though, because they went to a lot of effort.

SAMBOLIN: Bring it on.

BERMAN: Bring it on, right?


BERMAN: Are you with me?

SAMBOLIN: Not really but I'll pretend.

BERMAN: Coming up, we would rather have them in a cheerleading movie but instead they're in Congress. We're just hours away from a government shutdown. What could that mean for your wallet? Not good news, folks. "Money Time" is next.


BERMAN: Techno? Is that like little --

SAMBOLIN: I like the techno. It's a little kooky and crazy. So, it's appropriate.

Look, you tweeted, did you tweet out for folks to rhyme this morning?

BERMAN: Yes, send us a morning rhyme, an EARLY START morning rhyme.

SAMBOLIN: All right. So, Mary sent out. She said, hickory dickory dock, the house ran up the clock and now we have to stop.

That is the intro to Christine Romans this morning.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Oh, gee. We're on the eve of the first government shutdown in 17 years. Doesn't it feel fine? No, it doesn't.

There are no signs Washington is going to get it back together and ironically, maybe the markets end up deciding what politicians can seem to work out in their own. Why? Because the markets are sending a real signal to Washington futures are sharply lower in stocks right now.

Shutdown bad news for an already fragile recovery and shaky investor confidence. Remember that Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke recently threw Wall Street off by holding off, cutting the massive $85 billion a month support system for the bond market?

Bernanke didn't hold off because the economy in great shape, he held off because the jobs picture is still, you know, tepid at best, right?


ROMANS: You say tepid?

BERMAN: You say tomato, I say tomato.

ROMANS: Let's call the whole thing off.

Any way. Here you have the Fed still supporting the market like this and Washington working in the opposite direction. A government shutdown, the idea that U.S. could default in matter of weeks.

If the debt ceiling isn't reached, you've got a wall of worry they say in Wall Street. And certainly for the markets, markets don't like uncertainty. Watch carefully your 401(k) will get hit this morning because your policymakers, your legislators are not doing their job.

This is the last day of the third quarter. We've got a very important job report that comes Friday. Maybe it comes Friday, we may not see those numbers if the government shuts down.


ROMANS: Nearly all of the Bureau of Labor Statistics employees will be furloughed. The consensus if it is release, September saw 180,000 jobs created. Jobless rate remains unchanged at 7.3 percent.

But who knows? Because according to the commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there's a chance they may not release their report or on maybe they would report it during the shutdown but only if the White House Budget Office, which is kind of running the show right now --


ROMANS: But it is sad and stupid. This is no way to run a country. This is no way to run a business. It's crazy. If the lack of critical economic data isn't enough, it seems like a lot of Washington nonsense.

I want you to know this does matter to you. So, this is what you're going to notice immediately. National parks and zoos and museums closed, no visits to the Statue of Liberty, Independence Hall, Washington Monument, many federal offices and programs go dark. Non- essential workers would be sent home with no pay.

We're told it should take four hours to close that down on Tuesday. People likely go and some people will go in on Tuesday and then start to shut things down and take about four hours.

So, what will remain open? Federal ports have enough money to operate for 10 more days. Passport offices, there's been a lot of confusion about this. I want to be really clear. They will be open this time around. Why will they be open, passport offices? Because they are funded by fees.

So, if it's a passport office that is in a federal office building, you could see some delays. Don't go and get a passport there or passport renewed there. Go to post office or one of the other location that is not a federal building.

Air traffic control and border protection, Department of Defense, essential defense functions stay open. Power grid, that's open. Banking functions. Also, Social Security, Medicare, jobless checks and food stamps all go out. Those are mandatory spending.

And the postal service also stays open. Very key there.

A lot of questions about -- I got to tell you, there's a lot of questions about passport situation. I would go right now if you need to -- I would go today!

BERMAN: And maybe you want to leave the country, you know?

ROMANS: I would go today. Anything you need to rely on the government for, I would try to do that today.

SAMBOLIN: Can you imagine how packed it's going to be?

ROMANS: I know.


BERMAN: What about members of Congress? Do they get paid?

ROMANS: Yes, they do. Of course, they do.

BERMAN: Really?

ROMANS: Somehow they are essential and they are mandatory spending. Of course they do.

And now, military pay -- a lot of people in the military have been tweeting me -- they are furious because they could get an IOU maybe from the Defense Department.

SAMBOLIN: That is horrible. That is just a tragedy.

ROMANS: The whole thing is ridiculous! That's not editorializing.


ROMANS: It's true. It's ridiculous.

BERMAN: Christine Romans, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

SAMBOLIN: We'll be right back.