Return to Transcripts main page


Government Shutdown Begins; Who's to Blame for Shutdown?; Showing Unity over Iran

Aired October 1, 2013 - 04:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm John Berman. It is Tuesday, October 1st. 4:00 a.m. in the east. Welcome to the wonderful world of the shutdown. Actually it's not wonderful at all. Frankly it is embarrassing and a lot of people are being hurt.

It was a late night in Washington with the House and Senate each voting an each passing their own plans to keep the government running. But the Republicans in the House refused to pass a version that did not, in some way, derail or delay the Affordable Care Act and, Senate Democrats refused to talk about it at all. And now the federal is closed for business for the first time in 17 years.

Keep an eye on the clock right there on the right part of your screen. Four hours now. We are four hours into the shutdown. The question is how much longer will this go on? Are we talking hours? Are we talking days? Even possibly weeks and how badly will it hurt?

Joe Johns, live for us in Washington this morning.

Joe, give us the grisly details here. What happened?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: You know, look, the House, the Senate and the White House could not agree on a spending proposal to keep the government operating because a faction of Republicans in the House want to undermine President Obama's health care law.

The back and forth on Capitol Hill went slightly past midnight, really about 1:00 a.m. The House approving a request to seek a negotiation with the Senate over the issue. The Senate now expected back in session around 9:30 Eastern Time today. Likely to table that request or kill it, which would put the government right back where we started -- the standoff between the president of the United States and the speaker of the House who is standing up for the rank and file in his caucus and they don't like Obamacare. Listen.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Unfortunately, Congress has not fulfilled its responsibility. It's failed to pass a budget and, as a result, much of our government must now shutdown until Congress funds it again.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: The House has made its position known very clearly. We believe that we should fund the government and we think there ought to be basic fairness for all Americans under Obamacare.

The Senate has continued to reject our offers but under the Constitution there is a way to resolve this process and that is to go to conference and talk through your differences.


BERMAN: So we are calling this a shutdown, Joe, but some federal workers will still report to work this morning, correct?

JOHNS: John, actually a lot of federal workers will report to work today. There are about 1.3 million so-called essential employees, 1.4 million active service military and others. Those military folks are going to get paid because the president signed the bill covering their pay just last night -- John.

BERMAN: You talked a little bit about the timetable here when they come back into session and start talking. What is the time frame for getting things solved here? Any chance they keep on working on this and hammer out a solution before the end of the day or are we talking something that takes several days here, Joe?

JOHNS: You know, anything, frankly, is possible. Last time, 17 years ago, it took a long time. This is a manufactured emergency. They have the ability to come together really to figure it out and in fact, they could reach a short-term solution that could get the government going just while they continue to negotiate. But as I said, last time this happened, it went on for quite a few days -- John.

BERMAN: And a potentially bigger fight looms with the debt ceiling, Joe, so we just have to look forward to.

Joe Johns, thanks for getting up with us.

JOHNS: My pleasure.

BERMAN: In D.C. today. See you a little bit.

JOHNS: Thanks, John. You bet.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: I don't think he's been to bed actually. I think he's been up --

JOHNS: I haven't.

SAMBOLIN: No, he hasn't. He's been up covering this all night. And the big question, too, also is how much is this going to cost, right?


SAMBOLIN: Yes. And a lot of people are wondering what this means for them.

BERMAN: bad things.

SAMBOLIN: Yes. Very bad things. There's only partial, some services will remain open as you just heard. You can count on getting your Social Security check on time. Also count on getting your mail. The post office is still operating. As our Medicare and Medicaid, not to mention Obamacare, right?

On the other hand, now is not the time to visit any national parks. They are officially closed. Also if you were looking to renew your passport, that could be a little tougher. Some offices will be closed but you should be able to accomplish that.

And for veterans some service like disabled claims could be delayed. That's 3.3 disabled American veterans are really kind of caught in the middle of all of this.

BERMAN: They are. And there are thousands and thousands of government workers who will not go to work today and will not get paid and they're real people, too.


BERMAN: So our hearts go out to them.

If there is one person who was at the epicenter of this political explosion, it is House Speaker John Boehner, but if he in the middle of it, it might be that he is caught in the middle of it largely by members of his own party.

Question is, how did it get this far? CNN's Brian Todd explains.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John and Zoraida, the group behind this strategy is led by a freshman Congressman from North Carolina, Mark Meadows. These congressmen contend this is all about serving their constituents back home but they've come in for some heavy criticism from traditional Republicans after starting all of this off with a letter in August to their leader.


TODD (voice-over): By most accounts, House Speaker John Boehner didn't want it to get this far, didn't want to use the prospect of a government shutdown to push for defunding the president's health care law. But according to a report, a small core of Republican representatives were the catalyst for the current showdown and forced Boehner's hand.

It started with a letter to Boehner in August from an obscure freshman Republican Congressman from North Carolina, Mark Meadows. The letter said, quote, "We urge you to affirmatively defund the implementation and enforcement of Obamacare in any relevant appropriations bill brought to the House, including any continuing appropriations bill."

Ryan Lizza who reported this for the "New Yorker," says the idea gained serious momentum.

RYAN LIZZA, NEW YORKER MAGAZINE: Some of the conservative groups got behind his effort including Freedom Works and some conservative senators, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Mike Lee. TODD: Soon, Lizza says, the letter was signed by 80 Republican representatives but some influential conservatives slammed the strategy. Pundit and strategist Karl Rove wrote in "Wall Street Journal," "It was an ill-conceived tactic that would alienate independents. Columnist Charles Krauthammer called this group, the "suicide caucus." One of the letter's signers, Texas Republican Blake Farenthold, responded.

REP. BLAKE FARENTHOLD (R), TEXAS: Listen, we've got to use what few leverage points we have in a divided government and the continuing resolution is one of them. You know, we can't move anything unless we've got some leverage.

TODD: Farenthold said the vast majority of people in his district don't want Obamacare. But if he's one of only 80 Republicans who signed on to this strategy early on, why did Boehner go for it?

LIZZA: He's got 233 members. So -- and it takes right now 217 to get a majority in the House of Representatives. So if he loses just a few members, he doesn't have his majority. So 80, even though it's not even a majority of the Republicans, it's enough for him to have to listen to them or he can't pass legislation.


TODD: Other factors here, according to Ryan Lizza, Boehner doesn't have earmarks to offer like his predecessors as speaker. And he says outside conservative groups which raise money for these hard line congressmen in their districts have also siphoned power and influence away from the Speaker's Office.

Now we couldn't get a response specifically to that or to the criticism from other Republicans of this strategy from Boehner's office -- John and Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: Thank you very much. That was Brian Todd reporting for us this morning.

And today is a major milestone for the health care overall as well. It is the first day that you can actually buy coverage from the insurance exchanges. That's the marketplace where you can shop for various health coverage options to take effect on January 1st.

Critics say many people may pay more for coverage than they're paying right now but Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius insists there will be options for every American and for every budget.


KATHLEEN SEBELIUS, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: Six out of 10 people will have the choice, if you they choose to make it. The choice of a policy for under $100. It's a debate. Do you want to have protection for basically every checkup, every visit, everything that you do? Families can make a budget choice.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SAMBOLIN: The administration hopes seven million Americans will have signed up for coverage using the exchanges by next March.

Isn't it ironic that that's what the argument is all about?


And yet that moves forward.

BERMAN: Exactly. No, that's exactly right. And a lot of people are making that point to the Republicans. Yell and scream and shut things down to Congress but this is starting today no matter what.

Move on to some other news now by nine minutes after the hour.

Two Marine Corps generals have been asked to step down in the wake of a deadly attack in Afghanistan. The Marine Corps commandant says Major Generals Charles Brighanist and Gregg A. Sturdevant were found to not have taken adequate security measures during a brazen insurgent assault last September. Two Marines died when 15 insurgents dressed in U.S. Army uniforms and heavily armed breached a fortified coalition base and destroyed more than a dozen coalition aircraft.

SAMBOLIN: It is nine minutes past the hour. Let's take a look at your forecast to this early, early Tuesday morning. Chad Myers is in with that.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: A very good early morning to you, early, early morning, or good evening, I guess, if you're watching in Hawaii.

Miami and Ft. Lauderdale thunderstorms throughout the afternoon. Tampa thunderstorms as well. Got to be hard to find a lot of your port delays. The northeast is going to be pretty good, could be some early morning fog in Atlanta and showers in Portland and Seattle. Other than that, airports looking pretty good, especially throughout the afternoon.

High pressure in control in the east. Sunny. It's got to feel more like, I guess, a fall morning and then a nice really early summer kind of day. Temperatures going to be nice. Not a lot of humidity in the air and sunshine everywhere.

And remember, just because the temperatures are cool today, 80 for a high in New York, doesn't mean that the U.V. is gone. The U.V. is still going to be 8, 9 and 10 in some spots out there, 83 for Kansas City, 77 in Denver, 90 in Dallas, and a pleasant 71 as you finally wake up I hope in Los Angeles.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Thank you, Chad.

Coming up, diplomatic drama. The White House's relationship with Iran could literally reach new heights as one close ally issues a grave warning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) LAUREN RUSHAR, BRIDE: Why not? Are you kidding?

BEN YOUNGKIN, GROOM: Mystery in the university. I have no idea.

RUSHAR: Yes, this is awesome.


BERMAN: And one couple treating their guests to a wedding to remember. High speed, high stakes, high drama. That's coming up.


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

The United Nations is demanding immediate access to Syrian neighborhoods not only to destroy the Assad regime's chemical weapons stockpile but to also bring desperately needed humanitarian aid to the Syrian people.

An international weapons team arrived in Damascus today as the president of the U.N. Security Council demanded assurances from the Syrian government that it won't meddle with aid deliveries that need to cross battle lines or the borders of neighboring nations.

BERMAN: In the murder retrial of Amanda Knox, an Italian judge has approved the defense's request to order new DNA tests on the knife that was allegedly use to kill Knox's roommate Meredith Kercher. Knox and her boyfriend have already served four years in jail for the 2007 murder but their convictions were overturned on appeal. Neither of them are in court for this retrial.

SAMBOLIN: And shop owners at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi accusing Kenyan security forces of looting their stores in the aftermath of last week's deadly terror attack. Many of them are returning to the mall for the very first time only to find jewelry cases smashed, cash registers empty and inventories completely wiped out. Kenya's poorly paid security officers also face looting accusations in August when a devastating fire broke out at Nairobi's main airport.

BERMAN: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is making the request that aviation authorities look into the possibility of resuming direct flights between Iran and the United States. It's been more than three decades since the Islamic Revolution halted those flights and Rouhani's request could be an effort to possibly build on the growing new relationship -- budding relationship, very early stage relationship between the U.S. and Iran. Also -- it also included a phone call last week between President Rouhani and President Obama.

Not everyone, however, is happy with the seeming thawing relationship between the U.S. and Iran, especially not the leader of Israel.

Our Jim Sciutto explains.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Obama met with the American ally most skeptical of any nuclear deal with Iran. A point Israel's Prime Minister Netanyahu made clear.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: Iran is committed to Israel's destruction so for Israel, the ultimate test of a future agreement with Iran is whether or not the Iran dismantles its military and nuclear program.

SCIUTTO: To those doubts the president answered that he's going into talks about Iran's nuclear program, quote, "clear eyed and with all options on the table."

OBAMA: As president of the United States I have said before and I will repeat that we take no options off the table, including military options.

SCIUTTO: A new CNN/ORC poll shows the president has the American public's backing. Three-quarters of Americans say they support direct diplomatic talks between the U.S. and Iran.

In the day since the Iranian and American presidents exchanged their historic phone call, however, the administration's consistent message has been that further progress will depend on concrete steps by Iran. A point Secretary Kerry made on CBS' "60 Minutes."

JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: What we need are actions that prove that we and our allies, our friends in the region, can never be threatened by this program.

SCIUTTO: Still Israel is warning that Iran's nuclear program is more advanced than the administration believes, including a recent assertion by a senior Israeli minister that Iran is just six months away from a breakout nuclear capability, a charge the Iranian foreign minister dismissed on ABC's "This Week."

MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF, ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF IRAN FOREIGN MINISTER: Netanyahu and his colleagues have been saying since 1991, and you can refer to your records, that Iran is six months away from nuclear weapons and we are how many years? Twenty-two years after that? And they are still saying we are six months away from nuclear weapons.

SCIUTTO (on camera): Vice President Joe Biden also making the administration's case. Speaking at the J. Street Organization, he said, quote, "He served seven presidents and none of them more supportive of Israel than Obama." On Tuesday, though, Prime Minister Netanyahu will speak at the U.N. General Assembly and if you remember his speech there last year, complete with a diagram of Iran's march towards a bomb, you can expect similar tough talk regardless of the administration's push.

Jim Sciutto, CNN, Washington.


SAMBOLIN: Our thank to Jim.

And the judge in the murder trial of James Holmes wants prosecutors to trim down a list of 4,000 potential witnesses. Holmes' defense team says it wants that list by October 17th. The prosecution says maybe early December. The judge wants a quicker resolution with the trail expected to start in February. Holmes, as you know, is accused of gunning down 12 people, wounding 58 at a Colorado movie theater last summer.

BERMAN: The second phase of the civil trial involving the 2010 BP oil spill is under way. Among the major questions, how much oil actually did spill into the Gulf of Mexico? The Justice Department says 176 million gallons spilled. BP says it was only 103 million gallons. How quickly the oil flowed and why it took almost three months to plug the well are also in question. BP faces fines up to $18 billion.

SAMBOLIN: How about we switch gears and give you a much lighter story?

BERMAN: Do it.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, I'm going to do it. Here's a question. When you think, here comes the bride, what comes to mind?

BERMAN: Here comes the bride.

SAMBOLIN: Right? OK. So probably not this, though.


BERMAN: Yes, that is Lauren Bushar and Ben Youngkin who's zip lining down the aisle. It took place at a resort in Asheville, North Carolina. The pair deciding that was the perfect venue for them to tie the knot.


BUSHAR: Why not? Are you kidding me?

YOUNGKIN: Mystery in the universe? I have no idea.

BUSHAR: Yes. Because it's awesome and we wanted to have -- we wanted to make it the most fun for our guests and fun for ourselves and something different.

YOUNGKIN: Yes. It's perfect. It's perfect.


BERMAN: It's a long aisle. When they're walking down the aisle, that's a long aisle.

SAMBOLIN: OK. So two things here.


SAMBOLIN: One is, thank goodness that it didn't snap, the zip line.

BERMAN: Yes, because that would have been bad.

SAMBOLIN: Yes. And take a look at the underneath her dress because it's really funny.

BERMAN: Well, I don't usually --

SAMBOLIN: Can she turn around --


BERMAN: I don't usually look there. But what's going on?

SAMBOLIN: But in this case --

BERMAN: Tell me what's going on. I don't want to get in trouble here.

SAMBOLIN: You can look. Well, her shoes are kind of crazy and she had -- she had visuals for folks who were waiting underneath as well. She is wearing some interesting bottoms.


BLITZER: I'll have to take your word for it because I don't want to get in trouble this early in the morning.

SAMBOLIN: All right. So after the zip line they opted for a very traditional ceremony. The couple said all they wanted was for their guests to have a really unique experience. Mission accomplished. And this is not likely to be a ceremony that anyone would soon forget.

BERMAN: I hope one of the guests do the zip line. That would really fun, too.

SAMBOLIN: That will be fun, right?

BERMAN: Everyone like --


SAMBOLIN: Why not?

BERMAN: Go for it.

SAMBOLIN: That's a great idea.

BERMAN: That sounds kind of awesome.

SAMBOLIN: There you go.

BERMAN: Congratulations to them, by the way. But it's not going to get better, thanks to the government.

Coming up, we are following the big story of the morning. The U.S. government shuts down after Congress fails to pass a spending plan. There was a giant fight. No solution. Not just Democrats versus Republicans, though. There were members inside the Republican Party fighting against each other. We'll explain, coming up next.


SAMBOLIN: You like the music?

BERMAN: It's fantastic.

SAMBOLIN: Well, welcome back to EARLY START. It is time now for "Prime-Time Pop." I assume that's our music. It is the best from CNN's prime-time interviews.

BERMAN: And the big story that everyone is talking about, of course, the government shutdown. One aspect of it is the infighting among Republicans.

Erin Burnett spoke with Utah Congressman Jason Chaffetz on why he voted three times to tie federal funding to Obamacare, knowing it could lead to a shutdown.