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Military Pay Could Be Delayed in Shutdown; Obamacare Facts and Myths; Government Shutdown in the '90s.

Aired September 30, 2013 - 11:30   ET


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: And just over 12 and a half hours from the possible government shutdown and the military families are concerned.


JASMINE KATCHEN, MILITARY FAMILY MEMBER: There's going to be bills that are going to be due, and those places, you can't tell the electric department, hey, I got an IOU.


BANFIELD: Paychecks could be delayed and that is not all. Wait until you hear about benefits and disability payments for America's bravest.


BANFIELD: You know the way it is supposed to work, right? Is you go the war and come back a hero, or at the very least you come back and you continue to get paid, right? At the very least? How about those who are still at war? You figure that we would continue to pay them, right, too? Well, look at the countdown clock, because that is real for those people I just mentioned.

Here is Barbara Starr.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For America's 1.4 million troops and the families the shutdown means just one thing, paychecks could be delayed if a shutdown goes on for several days, and that means doing without because of Washington.

Vian Greentree's husband is overseas while she works and looks after two young children.

VIAN GREENTREE, MILITARY SPOUSE: We have spent a large amount of the time this morning speaking about what we would do if he doesn't get paid and how to react to that with our own finances. And I know it is a conversation that has been had through e-mail, texting and face time, Skype for military families all over the country.

STARR: Many live paycheck to paycheck. At Fort Campbell, Kentucky, continuing worry. KATCHEN: There's going to be bills that are going to be due, and those places, you can't tell the electric department, hey, I got an IOU.

STARR: Washington knows troops are unhappy and so the Republican- controlled House passed a measure to keep paying the troops in the shutdown. T the Senate has yet to act. And for America's veterans, the outlook is more dire because of the other crisis, raising the debt ceiling before the government runs out of money.

TOM TARANTINO, IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN VETERANS OF AMERICA: If it goes longer than a few weeks and Congress can't get the act together, this will hurt millions of veterans who count these benefits for part of their care and service.

STARR: More than three millions of Americans receive disability payments and if there is no money, payments could stop, new claims won't be processed, and current payments still might arrive late.

TARANTINO: It's what they need to pay rent, to pay food. It's not their total income but it is a significant part of it. And taking that out of the mix because the government can't get their act together is really dangerous for these men and women who need it the most.

STARR: Barbara Starr, CNN, Pentagon.


BANFIELD: And if you are starting to feel the outrage like the bile in the back of the throat, you are not the only person. In fact, Tom Tarantino, who you saw in Barbara Starr's piece is the chief policy officer of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and also an Iraq war veteran.

So, Tom, why is it that, A, these people aren't considered as essential as, say, the legislators who are doing this and the president who get to keep their checks. And also that a law passed back in 2009 that was supposed to protect their pay isn't doing that?

TOM TARANTINO, DIRECTOR, IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN VETERANS OF AMERICA & IRAQ VETERAN: Well, if you are in the military, you should be paid. And I hope that the Senate did act. All paychecks and benefits did go out today, so if the shutdown goes longer than the 15th, the military, while they will still accrue pay, won't get their paycheck. Benefits went out today for G.I. Bill, disability and for pensions. But the V.A. announced that if the shutdown is more than three weeks, they won't have enough cash on hand to pay the benefits, so this is a huge problem. You are absolutely right, while the health care system in the V.A. is protected because of that 2009 law, we are talking about benefits could get delayed next month and processing of new benefits could slow down this month, which is making an already terrible problem with disability backlog is going to get worse.

BANFIELD: So what about those serving right now overseas and worried about their husbands or wife back home and the babies and how they'll put food on the table. They work check to check a lot of these people. Do they get IOUs or what do they get issued?

TARANTINO: Well, they don't get issued anything. If the shutdown goes longer than the 15th, they just won't be paid. And once the government turns back on, so to speak, they'll get back pay for that time. I was in the military for 10 years and I was living paycheck to paycheck, and missing a pay period is a problem. But also, a lot of government services, things on military grocery stores, family services, day-care may also shut down. So the impact is much bigger than the paycheck. It's all of the services that these men and women count on for their daily lives as part of their compensation and benefits are going to be severely impacted. And the fact that this is happening because Congress can't do their job is really a shame. These are men and women who do their job whether they are going to be paid or not. Military members and their families complete their mission. It would be nice to have a Congress that did that as well.

BANFIELD: Well, it was hard to get an answer out of my two Congressional members who joined me at the top of the hour, whether they would be willing to forfeit their $174,000 a year check if the government shuts down. Maybe they wouldn't get paid either. Ultimately, they said they should be treated the same, but it was very difficult to get that yes answer.

Tom Tarantino, thanks for being with us.

TARANTINO: Thanks for having me.

BANFIELD: New health care insurance exchanges are set to open for business at midnight tonight no matter what happens with the government shutdown. Still, there are a lot of questions about the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, like businesses moving the employees from full-time to part-time. We will fact check this for you, because there are lots of facts and myths out there.


BANFIELD: We are giving you the facts on Obamacare, and the president's controversial health care reform law, and better known perhaps as the Affordable Care Act on Capitol Hill, and this is at the heart of the budget battle right now. The House passed a spending plan to undercut Obamacare and it faces almost certain failure in the Senate. 2:00 is the vote.

Let's bring in Tom Foreman who is breaking down the facts and the myths of Obamacare so you can figure out where you stand.

Tom, I'm so glad that you are here, because when there is a live guest on the air, I come armed with the claims they make, and how they can be debunked, because they can be.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And they can. And start with the big one. When President Obama was trying to pass health care reform, he said explicitly, you can keep your own doctor.

Let's listen to him talking about that for a moment.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: First of all, if you have health insurance, and you like your doctor and you like your plan, you can keep your doctor, and you can keep your plan. Nobody is talking about taking that away from you.


FOREMAN: Well, now the Department of Health and Human Services says, quote, "Depending on the plan that you choose in the marketplace, you may be able to keep your current doctor." Why saying that? Why the waffling? Because the companies are trying to make sure they are not stuck with some unimaginable cost as this whole thing is initiated, and that means that you may change plans and the doctor may change plans. It's all going to trickle down that way. So most of us will probably get to keep our doctors, but the president was far too definitive there, you will be able to keep your doctor? No. You might be able to keep your doctor -- Ashleigh?

BANFIELD: OK. That is number one. There's a big claim out there that the employers are manipulating the hours because of the rules and how many hours your employees work and whether you have to pay for their health care. What is the reality check on that?

FOREMAN: Yeah, well, in a sentence, that is the claim. They are saying that the businesses are moving the people into part-time jobs to avoid Obamacare.

Listen to what Senator Ted Cruz said about that.


SEN. TED CRUZ, (R), TEXAS: Among small businesses that will be impacted by the employer mandate, one half of small businesses say that they will either cut hours to reduce full-time employees, or replace full-time employees with part-time workers to avoid the mandate.


FOREMAN: So, Obamacare requires businesses that have at least 50 full-time employees to provide insurance, and one example of the company ducking is the threshold that's shown up in a lot of place is UPS. The problem is that UPS says it is not true. They are not doing that at all. They are not cutting back people's hours to try to get under the threshold. But there is not a clarity, because the Bureau of Labor Statistics says, over the last few years, full-time employment has decline and part-time and especially temporary work has risen. They don't know why. So while the Republicans can't statistically prove it is a result of the Obamacare, Democrats can't disprove it either, Ashleigh, so it is one of the things that they both lay claim to the proof, but the proof is squishy.

BANFIELD: So, listen, this is a 10,000-page bill. I don't know if you have 17 and a half more day days to stay on the air and do this on a regular basis --


-- but if you did, Tom Foreman, I would so appreciate it. Can you give me a couple more quick ones if you have them?

FOREMAN: Yes, here's a couple of good ones here. The White House claims six in 10 people will pay less than $100 a month in premiums. That is mathematically true, but the administration is not saying that lower premiums usually mean higher cost out of your pocket if you go to the doctor. So if you are sick, those savings could be costly. And Republicans are claiming that the individual mandate to buy insurance should be delayed like the business mandate to provide it. Look, politically, they every right to make this argument, but in terms of money, this is apples and oranges. The mandates for the businesses you are talking about is a small slice of this. The individual mandate is the bulk of the whole plan. They are saying, in effect, to the business, you can run the car without the air conditioner, but if you try to do it with the individuals, it is like trying to run the car without the engine. It is a big difference.

BANFIELD: Or the wheels.

All right, Tom, thank you. Doing the good work for us. Appreciate it. Fact checking is critical at this juncture.

And also, on that same effort, starting tomorrow, our own Sanjay Gupta is going to hit the road on the "CNN Express" to cover the country to see how the Obamacare sign-up works and how the problems crop up. Open enrollment season, you roll your eyes at that time of year when your company says it is time to do your paperwork, and now it's right across the country. Sanjay will answer all your questions and make sure you understand what is really going on with your health care.

So this is the never-ending saga. Amanda Knox, a court reconvenes in Italy and she is once again being tried in the death of her roommate, but this time, Knox is a no-show.


BANFIELD: A major chapter in the Amanda Knox saga kicked off today. Her retrial in Florence, Italy, but Knox is nowhere near there. She's staying in Seattle this time instead. She was convicted of murdering her roommate, Meredith Kercher, back in 2009. But that was overturned for lack of evidence. Italy's Supreme Court decided last year to retry the case saying that the jury didn't consider all of the evidence.

A number of Kenya's cabinet members and defense officials were warned about the possibility that the terror group al Shabaab was planning an attack on the mall in Nairobi. The warnings came a year before this month's deadly attack, according to a police and intelligence set of sources. We also have learned that the attackers tortured some of the hostages. Military doctors say that the militants severed hands, cut off noses, and in some cases hanged those hostages. This is not the first time we have come close to a shutdown. As a matter of fact, nearly 20 years ago, the government did close down. In fact, it did. Quick reminder of what happened then and whether it's a harbinger of what's about to happen next. Wolf Blitzer is coming up.


BANFIELD: Welcome back.

Little known fact, 17 years ago, I arrived in this country, one of those huddled masses emigrating. Two things happened, O.J. Simpson was acquitted right away and then the government shut down. I thought, that happens here? It turns out it does. It's happened before and it could happen again.

Wolf Blitzer joins me now to talk about this.

Wolf, didn't we learn pretty good lessons the last time from 1995? When I say we, those who is took it on the chin were the Republicans, who ended up being swept off the Hill in very large numbers. Is that something they're worried about this time around?

WOLF BLITZER, HOST, THE SITUATION ROOM: I'm sure they're worried about the potential fallout. I was CNN's White House correspondent at the time. I remember the two government shutdowns very brief, only a few days in '95 and a couple weeks in '96. So what happened the fallout was going into those two government shutdowns, president Bill Clinton was behind Bob Dole potentially, his Republican challenger in all sorts of polls. But as a result of the two shutdowns, he went over Bob Dole, the Republican presidential nominee and Clinton went on to get re-elected. The Republicans suffered in that election in 1996. As far as controlling the House of Representatives, Newt Gingrich still managed to hold on to his majority but they lost seats, but they still went on to hold it the majority, a smaller majority. It hurt Newt Gingrich eventually with his own Republican base. And as we all know, a few years later, he gave up his house seat and was no longer the speaker. Those were some of the lessons a lot of people are learning from the earlier experience.

You have a lot of lawmakers in Congress who didn't live through that experience of '95, '96, and they hate Obamacare so much, they're willing to let the chips fall where they may even though some top Republican political strategists like Karl Rove writing a few days ago in the "Wall Street Journal" says this could be a political safety for the Republicans if they link these two issues.

BANFIELD: Dana Bash is just reporting she's running to some staffers who are essential and are headed to deliver furlough notices. It's already in motion it appears. Is there anything at this point, is there anything, anything 12 hours and three minutes that could stop all this from happening?

BLITZER: Having lived through so many of these minute by minute crunching experiences in Washington, the answer is yes, something could happen at the last minute. Let's say the Senate sends back a clean resolution as they say keeping the government funded for a little bit longer, a few months or whatever, even a few weeks or maybe even a week. Then maybe negotiations, the Senate, the House will do something to allow it to go forward. My instinct says there probably will be some sort of government partial shutdown after midnight. How long it lasts is anyone's guess. There's always hope. Let's see.

BANFIELD: Like a snowball's chance in the devil's den. Having emigrated from Canada, I know the temperatures.

Wolf, I know you have a long day ahead of you. Thanks so much for watching. Our coverage of this possible government shutdown continues.

Wolf will have our coverage later on in NEWSROOM and on "THE SITUATION ROOM".

Right now, Suzanne Malveaux and Michael Holmes will take it from here. Thanks for being with us.


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: In just a matter of hours, we could have a government shutdown, the first in almost 18 years. If that happens, national parks will close. Federal museums, including the Smithsonian in Washington will shut down. Hundreds of thousands of federal workers will be off the job. That is just for starters.