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Government Shutdown; Health Care Rollout Glitches; Interview with Former Senator Olympia Snowe; Active Military Paid, Veterans Out in the Cold

Aired October 1, 2013 - 11:00   ET


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN HOST: Hello, everyone. Welcome to the LEGAL VIEW. I'm Ashleigh Banfield. And it is Tuesday, October 1st. What a day it is.

And so it begins. And when I say it begins, I mean it is the shutdown. It is on, folks. Federal government is 11 hours and counting into a gradual partial hiatus, which may not sound disastrous to you, but how do you feel about America's largest employer laying off about a quarter of its workforce? That stings on the economy.

It is 800,000 federal workers who are today without a job. We're talking $200 million per day in lost wages in this economy.

They'll probably eventually get some kind of back pay, but that's not entirely guaranteed either.

Who are these officially nonessential federal workers that we're talking about? Ninety-four percent of the Environmental Protection Agency, along with half of the civilian workforce of the Pentagon.

Active duty military is on the job, and is getting paid in full, thank god, because that's one thing that all the parties in Washington did decide to agree on.

Sixty-eight percent of the Centers for Disease Control is, quote, "furloughed," and that's with flu season right around the corner.

Social security payments are going to be going out, but 29 percent of the Social Security workforce is also out today, not going to work.

Even Homeland Security is taking a hit. Fourteen percent of its employees are not doing their jobs for you today. That equates, are you ready, are you sitting down, more than 30,000 people alone.

So that's big picture, but when you're speaking about people not doing their jobs, Congress brought about the first government shutdown in almost 18 years by failing to agree on a bill that would keep the lights on for a mere six weeks.

All of this, people, is over a six-week period. That's it. All they had to do was figure out how to keep spending for the government for six weeks, but they couldn't do it.

CNN's Brianna Keilar joins me live from the White House. There are so many implications. They kicked the bill back to the House, fourth time going now, and President Obama planning to make another live statement.

What is the White House saying today?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're expecting, Ashleigh, to hear perhaps some of what we already heard President Obama say, that he's not going to be negotiating when it comes to Obamacare.

And also, think he'll be making a general case, trying to raise awareness about the shutdown, why it is bad for the economy and trying to explain to Americans, as you know, a very skeptical sort of split in the populous about Obamacare, trying to explain to Americans why Obamacare is necessary for so many of them.

Of course, we're -- when you talk with White House officials here, and they look at what has been going on the hill, Ashleigh, they don't really feel like House Republicans are being serious.

They say that Obamacare shouldn't be attached to the budget because it is not related. That's their argument here.

And they also say that not only do they not want to negotiate on the president's signature health care reform plan, but doing so when you're talking about really just trying to fund the government here in the course of different proposal, which have been a month and a half to two-and-a-half months, it is not really getting a whole lot when they have to then have the argument all over again here in the coming months.

BANFIELD: And then if that weren't a problem, I'm sure President Obama had planned to spend today touting the first day of open season enrollment to Obamacare, all those exchanges supposed to be opening up online, ready for business and there weren't just a few of us in this room in this building who got error messages.

I'm sure the White House is aware that the site is crashing for a lot of people.

KEILAR: Yes, we're still waiting to see how they're going to be dealing with that. President Obama meeting with Obamacare beneficiaries today. Perhaps he'll be touching upon this when he talks in the rose garden as well.

But there is actually, Ashleigh, not just anecdotal either, a dozen states where you have issues with the online enrollment process.

If you go to a website and it is crashing and they tell you something that not available, that's the message a lot of folks are getting or being told to come back later and sign up and there are wait times and errors on which is the main site.

We saw earlier issues, the Spanish language has been delayed further into the month. The website for small businesses enrolling has been delayed a month. There have been a number of things and we're talking about Obamacare. It is a political hot potato.

And Republicans have been seizing on this to say, you know what, this isn't even working the way it is supposed to be working. And they sort of point this as another way, in their opinions, that Obamacare is a failure and bad idea.

BANFIELD: OK. There has been a statement, though. There has been an official statement that was put out by the Housing and Human Services, right? They responded. They had to.

KEILAR: Oh, yeah. There is a statement that has come out from HHS spokesperson.

She said, "We built a dynamic system and are prepared to make adjustments as needed and improve the consumer experience.

"This new system will allow millions of Americans to access quality affordable health care coverage without underwriting."

She goes on to say, "Consumers who need help can contact the call center, use the live chat function or go to to find an in-person assistor in their community."

And, Ashleigh, what Republicans seize on is that President Obama, one of the things he talked about was, this is going to be a very easy process, you know.

It's as easy as, say, going to one of those travel websites where you'd go to purchase an airline ticket. That's how easy this is going to be. And so they're seizing on this.

BANFIELD: I actually did it the other day, and it was very easy. I did it because I heard critic saying it was a mess. It was an interminable loop and it took me about three minutes to get a lot of information, but obviously I was one person that day, and today it is a lot more.

KEILAR: A lot, a lot.

BANFIELD: Brianna, thank you for that.

And, just as Brianna mentioned, a reminder, the president is going to be addressing the nation from the Rose Garden in the next hour, so of course, you're going to see it right here, live. CNN will bring it to you.

So the CNN Health Care Express is busy today because Sanjay Gupta is aboard with his team. They're going across the country to try to help you get up to speed on what this new healthcare story is all about, how you get involved, how you can actually sign up.

And, of course, today, a tough day because a lot of glitches actually showing up on health

Sanjay joins me live now from Greenville, South Carolina. Start there if you would, Sanjay, the glitches and the difficulties and actually just getting on the site.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, I mean, that is the big story right now, Ashleigh, as I'm sure you're hearing.

You know, about two -- 36 states that are sort of run by the federal government, and we're hearing about two-thirds of those are having some significant troubles, and sometime you're able to get on the site, but not be able to finish the application.

That's obviously not the sort of news that people who were running these sites wanted, but a lot of times the sites are saying it is because of high volume of traffic.

So it could be that a lot of people are, in fact, showing up, higher numbers than were initially expected.

Keep in mind, Ashleigh, this is October 1st. People can sign up through the end of March, so this is the first day. There's going to be lots of other opportunities to do this.

But, again, that's a little bit -- that's not quite the way that people wanted this to go, not being able to register or apply on many of these sites.

BANFIELD: OK, so Sanjay, once the crash issues are dealt with and people can navigate appropriately, I wanted to just -- I want to throw some polls up on the screen so that people can see how their fellow Americans are feeling about healthcare now.

Under the new healthcare law, you and your family will be, and only 17 percent of those who responded said better off. Forty percent said worse off, and 41 percent ambivalent. They figure nothing will really change.

And when they're asked if the new healthcare law will help you or other families, 53 percent said yes. And that -- they actually thought it meant more for other families than themselves, and then 37 percent thought that the new healthcare law would help no one in the United States.

So when you're out touring, are you getting a lost people who have absolutely no clue or a lot of people who are angry and want nothing to do with this?

GUPTA: There's a lot of people who really don't understand much about it, and, you know what, frankly, Ashleigh, that's not surprising.

I mean, for people out there who have health care insurance through their employer right now, they may not have been that focused on this discussion before, maybe still not that focused.

That 17 percent number, the first number you gave, I think that's a very interesting number. The number -- the percentage of people who think they could actually benefit from this.

It seems to coincide roughly with the number of people who are uninsured in America, about 45, 48 million people, so that kind of makes sense that, you know, 17 percent of people think they would benefit from this because they -- these might be the people who think they can now get health care insurance, at an affordable price, without discrimination based on pre-existing conditions that they couldn't get before.

So we're hearing all kinds of things, but we're hearing that people have been sign up, first of all, successfully. We're hearing people who have significant concerns.

But I think your last point is the most prevalent one. There's still a lot of confusion about what it means for people specifically and how to even sign up.

BANFIELD: All right, Sanjay, well, I know you have a lot of work ahead of you, not just in explaining to the people who you're going to be talking to, but also the travel.

I want to let our viewers, Sanjay, know that you're going to have a special edition of "Sanjay Gupta MD" this weekend, Saturday at 4:30 Eastern, Sunday night at 7:30 Eastern and then tomorrow Sanjay reporting from Lexington, Kentucky.

She was a U.S. senator, a Republican and she got tired of the bickering and she said, I'm out. I've had it.

Her name is Olympia Snowe. She's going to be live with me next to talk about why she had it and whether anyone is ever going to get it on Capitol Hill again.

Back after this.


BANFIELD: Almost seven Americans out of 10 say a partial government shutdown is a bad thing. Makes you wonder who the three were who think it is a good thing. It's just a statistic, no matter how you look at it.

But we did want to send Ted Rowlands to the streets of Chicago to hear some of the actual voices, people who stand behind that number, and they're ticked.

Ted, give me a feel for what people are saying to you and you'll have to leave the ones out who have expletives and I know there are many.

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, we haven't found the three percent either, those other three.

Basically, I'd say the overall theme, Ashleigh, is disgust. And you have the people who have been following this very closely, the lead up, They're disgusted. The people who have long tuned out Washington, they are absolutely disgusted.

And it is not necessarily on -- down party lines. People are just absolutely disgusted with Congress and think it's absolutely pathetic that they let it get to this point.

Take a listen.


ROWLANDS: What message would you send to Congress?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Get started. Get back to work. I'm going to work. You can't work? Are you getting paid now? You stop working, you still get paid? I don't.


ROWLANDS: That's just one woman we talked to, several actually that had that basic theme, and that is that, you know, I'm going to work every day, and then I hear that you people can't get along enough to just keep the government moving.

And there's not a lot of empathy on streets of Chicago and around the country outside the Beltway for what is going on and what's not going on in D.C.

BANFIELD: All right, not surprising in the least.

All right, Ted Rowlands for us, live in Chicago, thank you for that.

If you think that Congress is its own worst enemy, if you long for the days when Republicans and Democrats would actually work out their differences, or even when each party could work out its own differences among themselves, my next guest would agree with you, whole heartedly.

Olympia Snowe was a Republican senator from Maine for 18 years. That is until March of 2012 when she announced that she had had enough, saying, and I'm going to quote your words, former senator, here, "the greatest deliberative body in history is not living up to its billing. The Senate of today routinely jettisons regular order, legislates by political brinkmanship, and habitually eschews full debate."

And it appears that Senator Snowe's feelings haven't really softened since. Senator Snowe, thank you for joining us. You're now a senior fellow at the bipartisan policy center. Wouldn't it be nice if that was a bipartisan body that you left? What is the problem and is it equally shameful for Democrats and Republicans?

FRM. SEN. OLYMPIA SNOWE, (R) MAINE: Well, most certainly. Both need to be working together to solve the problems of this great nation, and that simply isn't happening, and that's what contributed to my departure from the Senate.

I believe in its potential, as I've said, and I love the institution, and I'm now fighting on the outside precisely because of the problems that exist today and characterized by this current shutdown. It's regrettable, and, you know, just hearing the earlier report about what people are saying on the street, that's precisely what I'm encountering with my speeches across the country to various audiences and including college campuses. People are just absolutely apoplectic and disgusted about what is transpiring.

BANFIELD: So, senator, this is a midterm year and those people on the street who Ted Rowlands was interviewing, many of them have the same response, get rid of the bums, get rid of them all, bring in a whole new fresh crop of congressmen and senators.

My question to you, does it run deeper than that? Is this a reflection of where the country stands, or is this a reflection of some entrenchment on Capitol Hill that really does need sweeping out?

SNOWE: Well, you know, interestingly enough, Ashleigh, I don't think the public is as divided as the political class would have you believe. I think there are a lot of special interests out there that want to continue to incite the divisions and the polarization.

What needs to happen, we have to have more competitive seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. The gerrymandering has made homogenous districts, that's unacceptable. And then secondly, to have more open primaries where independents can participate in the primaries so you have more competitive primaries and less ideological, which now is what is happening on Capitol Hill is they're all feeding to their political base, third party interests and every other group on the outside that fuels those interests of their own financial gain. That's the problem.

BANFIELD: You have gone right to the area I wanted to ask you. I'm going to ask you to search your soul on this one and be as honest as you can. There has been a lot of criticism about the Tea Party and how it has been threatening those primary processes and then hijacking the Republican party. Do you think that this is the problem, at least within your party, that the Republicans of yore are no longer a shadow of their former selves because the Tea Party has co-opted and threatened and pushed its very, very tough agenda?

SNOWE: There is no question that that's a problem within the Republican party. Obviously it moved to the extremes. I wouldn't characterize everybody within the Tea Party movement, but certainly there are broad elements within the party now that are driving it, their own agenda, for their own advantage, irrespective of, you know what implications it has for the Republican party.

Certainly this is isn't a party I recognize and the party that I joined when I, you know, first enrolled. And that's regrettable. And this is not helping the Republican party currently. That's for sure. And I think that clearly that there is going to have to be a rebuilding within the party and to recognize that this imperils the future of the party as it stands today.

But I would urge people to get involved right now in citizen activism and engagement. Weigh in with your lawmakers, use social media, use e- mails, get on -- use your online technology and communicate how disgusted and fed up you are with this process and this shutdown, and to tell them to go back to work and to solve the problems for this country. I mean, that is how it should be.

BANFIELD: Senator Snowe, maybe you'll consider coming back and then actually having that message from within your body. Thank you so much. It is good to talk to you and I hope you're enjoying your new, I guess, stressless life. Good to see you.

SNOWE: Thank you.

BANFIELD: At the half hour, we'll hear from somebody else who has been in the thick of it. Former labor secretary under Bill Clinton Robert Reich. He's standing by. He's going to speak with us about what his vision is, and what he thinks is the problem on Capitol Hill. We'll have that shortly.

We're tracking other big news this morning as well, including a really unbelievable and frightening road rage incident: a man and his family in an SUV followed and surrounded by dozens of bikers and let me just tell you, there is a baby in that car.

Plus, in the middle of this shutdown fiasco, President Obama uses the stroke of a pen to protect military members around the world. This was something we can all agree on, and apparently Congress all agreed on too. Thank God. We'll take you live to the Pentagon next.


BANFIELD: Leading up to this government shutdown, we were talking yesterday about the outrage over troops who are serving overseas who aren't going to receive their paychecks. Their families who live check to check who won't be getting anything but maybe an IOU.

Thank goodness that is not the case today. At least there is one thing Congress can agree on and that was a lousy idea, and they changed that, and the president put pen to paper and signed that. And then spoke about it from the White House. Have a listen.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Those of you in uniform will remain on your normal duty status. The threats to our national security have not changed, and we need you to be ready for any contingency.

Ongoing military operations like our efforts in Afghanistan will continue. If you're serving in harm's way, we're going to make sure you have what you need to succeed in your missions. Congress has passed and I'm signing into law legislation to make sure you get your paychecks on time.


BANFIELD: And if you need a little lift in all this negative reporting about your congressman and senators, they were unanimous in that. About that.

So good news, yes, for active duty. Not so much for the veterans. CNN's Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr joins me now. What is the story for vets and the needs that the vets across the country have. BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: First of all, Ashleigh, I just want to say I think it is jaw-dropping that so many people in the military that the President of the United States had to go on TV and reassure them that they would be paid. When has that ever happened in the time of war in this country?

It is the veterans who already served, however, who may really be feeling the brunt of it. There are 3.3 million veterans who receive disability checks. Elderly, ill, injured, war wounded, and what the VA says is if this goes on through the month, if this goes on two, three weeks, they're going to run out of money and they will not be able to issue those disability checks to the veterans, of course, who need it the most.

They also say that the processing of new disability claims, veterans back from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, that may slow down. It was already a long wait to get your disability claim check. Now it may be even longer. The check may not even come.

And here at the Pentagon this morning, more impact, of course, about 400,000 civilian workers getting these furlough notices, being told this morning to be out of the Pentagon by noon today. They are furloughed until further notice and they will not get paid at all unless Congress passes legislation for retroactive pay for them. So a lot of complications here. A lot of impact on people and families, Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: Not even an IOU for some of them. That's just infuriating. Barbara Starr, thank you for that.

A couple of other big stories we have been following for you, an arrest has been made in a story you've been seeing all morning long here on CNN, some video that is really quite gripping. It's a terrifying case of road rage in New York, a gang of bikers going after a man in an SUV, all of it caught on video.

A man accidentally hit a biker on Manhattan's West Side Highway and actually broke his leg. The driver pulled over. The bikers surrounded his SUV, hitting it, and spiking the tires. Here's the deal. In the SUV were his wife and 2-year-old daughter.

As he pulled away, he accidentally hit three more bikers. Police say he was eventually cornered, the windows in the SUV were shattered, he was pulled out and beaten and bloodied. Now, one biker is facing several charges including reckless driving and endangerment. Again, just unbelievable when you see, look at them, they set upon that vehicle and the vehicle can't move, it is stuck in New York traffic.

Officials in Colorado now confirm that five hikers were killed when tons of these rocks you're looking at wiped out a hiking trail below one of state's most photographed mountains. The only survivor in this tragedy was a 13-year-old girl, she was rescued yesterday. Witnesses say some of the boulders were as large as vehicles.

A shameful act by a New York woman, Audrey Gause, was indicted yesterday on charges of scamming nearly half a million dollars from One Fund Boston. That's the nonprofit organization benefiting victims of the Boston marathon bombing. She was awarded $480,000 after claiming that she had suffered a traumatic brain injury from the bombings. Police got a tip that she wasn't even in Boston at the time of the bombing.

Drugmaker Merck announced today it is cutting 8,500 more jobs worldwide. These new cuts are in addition to the 7,500 cuts that the company already announced and that amounts to about 20 percent of Merck's workforce. None of the job cuts has taken effect yet. Merck says it hopes to save about $2.5 billion annually by 2015.

Some big news with Obamacare, glitches in the system that people are using to sign up today. That story coming up in just a moment. Glitches on day one. Not good.

Plus the economic fallout of the government shutdown. Not just the people losing their jobs, it is the ripple effect and former Labor Secretary Robert Reich will join me next on that.