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Obama To Meet Congressional Leaders Soon; Interview with Dick Durbin; Reid Dismisses CNN Question; Impact of Government Shutdown Felt Across the U.S.; Cancer Patients Shut Out Of Clinical Trials; FDA "Hard Hit" By Govt. Shutdown; "They're Not Doing A Damn Thing"; "We're The Ones Who Are Gonna Suffer"; Obama Meets with Congressional Leaders; Obamacare Debuts Online

Aired October 2, 2013 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much. Happening now, a SITUATION ROOM special report, government shutdown, two days, President Obama reaching out to congressional leaders in both parties inviting them for a meeting at the White House only minutes from now, will there be a breakthrough or not?

Plus, hundreds of patients including children with cancer who want to start clinical trials and can't. We're taking a closer look at the real impact of the shutdown. It's having an enormous impact already across the country.

And if you think things are bad now, guess what? It may be getting a whole lot worse from here. We have details on what could happen if the looming showdown over the national debt isn't resolve. I'm Wolf Blitzer.


You're looking at a live picture of the White House right now, where only minutes from now, Republicans and Democrats are about to come together for the first time since the crisis formally took place 41 hours ago.

President Obama is inviting Congressional leaders to meet with him face-to-face at the White House, to try and cut through some of the bitter gridlock over the government shutdown, as well as the looming showdown over the national debt.

Only moments ago, the president laid down his terms for negotiating with the Republicans in an interview with CNBC.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm prepared to negotiate on anything. But what I've also said is that it is not acceptable for one faction of one party in one chamber to say either we get what we want or we'll shut down the government, or even worse, we will not allow the U.S. Treasury to pay its bills and put the United States in default for the first time in history.

If we get in the habit where a few folks, an extremist wing of one party, whether it's Democrat or Republican, are allowed to extort concessions based on a threat of undermining the full faith and credit of the United States, then any president who comes after me, not just me, will find themselves unable to govern effectively. And that is not something that I'm going to allow to happen.


BLITZER: Strong words from the president.

Let's go to the White House right now, where correspondent Jim Acosta is standing by, watching all of this unfold.

We're only minutes away, as I point out, to this potentially critical meeting between the president, John Boehner, the other Democratic and Republican leaders in the House and Senate.

Set the scene for us.

What do we anticipate?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we asked White House Press Secretary Jay Carney about this earlier today, why the president would sit down with Congressional leaders when he and John Boehner are so dug in. And essentially, the White House is saying at this point, well, they want to get the discussions going. But they're not really going to really negotiate the budget until they get past this issue of the shutdown and past the issue of the debt ceiling. And you heard the president say that in that interview with CNBC that aired in the last hour, the president saying he is exasperated with Republicans. He feels like he has bent over backwards to deal with the GOP. And he reiterated during this interview that he is not going to negotiate over budget issues until this shutdown, until the debt ceiling is resolved.

And, Wolf, earlier today, he met with Wall Street CEOs here at the White House. Those Wall Street CEOs came out and offered their concerns about these two issues merging, the shutdown and the debt ceiling, a potential default on U.S. debts merging in the next couple weeks, when the debt ceiling hits on October 17th. The president said this time, though, unlike past crises, this time Wall Street needs to be worried.

Here's what he had to say.


OBAMA: I think this time is different. I think they should be concerned. And I had a chance to speak to some in the financial industry who came down for their typical trip. And I told them that it is not unusual for Democrats and Republicans to disagree. That's the way the founders designed our government. Democracy is messy.

But when you have a situation in which a faction is willing, potentially, to default on U.S. government obligations, then we are in trouble. And if they're willing to do it now, they'll be doing -- willing to do it later. (END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: Now to hammer that point home, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew will also be at this meeting with the president, the vice president and Congressional leaders, within this hour. And, Wolf, it is very interesting to note, I think, that the president gave this interview on CNBC, a business channel. That interview aired right after the markets closed.

So, clearly, this was something that, perhaps, was designed by the White House to pick, perhaps, not rattle the markets, but certainly warn them -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Good point.

Jim Acosta, thanks.

Don't go too far away.

As soon as we learn anything that's going on at that meeting, we'll, of course, go right back to you.

We first learned of the possibility of these talks at the White House between both sides right here in THE SITUATION ROOM about 24 hours ago, during my interview with the number two Democrat in the Senate, Dick Durbin.


BLITZER: Here's a question, Senator.

Why doesn't the president of the United States do that, call the speaker, call the Senate minority leader, call the Democratic leaders, bring them over to the White House, go to Camp David, and make sure that the U.S. government is not shut down?

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: I think that will probably happen.

BLITZER: And you say the president is going to make that call and invite them to all get together.

When do you think that's going to happen?

DURBIN: I think it will be soon. I mean I don't have any special insight into it, but I would imagine that it will be soon. And the president has made it clear, he is not going to negotiate on the debt ceiling. He wants this government open. They're not doing him a favor by opening the government. And they've got to get over the fact that he won the last election by five million votes.


BLITZER: We now know that meeting is about to happen at the White House. Of course, we'll have live coverage surrounding it.

Our chief Congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, is standing by up on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers are getting ready to head over to the White House right now. They may already be on their way -- Dana, what are you hearing behind the scenes?

What could happen?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I was just actually looking at a message from our Congressional producer, Ted Barrett, who said that he just saw Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, leave Capitol Hill to head over to the White House.

So you're exactly right, the wheels are in motion.

The question is whether or not the wheels are going to take this train anywhere, because from what I understand, behind the scenes, there is still pretty much nothing more than stalemate, Wolf.

I was told by a source close to Harry Reid that in a conversation -- a rare conversation, I might add -- that he had with Speaker John Boehner this morning, Boehner made clear in private what he has said in public, that he cannot pass -- or at least move to pass a bill that funds the entire government without at least some give on the part of Democrats on Obamacare.

I'm waiting to hear back from the speaker's aides to see what their perspective of that conversation is. But it just gives you a sense of how entrenched they are for real and not just what they're saying -- slinging barbs at each other, but also behind the scenes.

BLITZER: What's the latest on the piecemeal legislation that the GOP, the Republican lawmakers of the House, are pushing to fund various critically important parts of the government, but not fund the whole thing?

BASH: It's in the process of being passed. Bit by bit, the House Republicans have been putting these on the floor. They'll continue to do so all afternoon and into the early evening.

And it's a number of things, whether it is making sure that the National Park Service is funded, veterans, but also, NIH. The Republicans are making it very clear, they're not hiding the fact they are listening to what's going on in the media. They're listening to the complaints out there. And they're going to try to add some things to try to ease the pain of the most vocal and the most horrible.

One of those is NIH, because of the fact that they fund clinical trials, especially for children.

I asked Harry Reid about that and why he won't at least support that.


BASH: You all talked about children with cancer unable to go to clinical trials. The House is specifically going to pass a bill that funds at least the NIH.

Given what you said, will you at least pass that? And if not, aren't you playing the same political games that Republicans are?

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: Listen, Senator Durbin explained that very well. And he did it here. He did it on the floor earlier, as did Senator Schumer and Stets (ph).

What right do they have to pick and choose what part of government is going to be funded?

It's obvious what's going on here. You talk about reckless and irresponsible, wow!

What this is all about is Obamacare. They are obsessed, I don't know what other word I can use. I don't know what other word I can use. They are obsessed with this Obamacare thing. It's working now and it will continue to work and people will love it even more than they do now by far.

So they have no right to pick and choose.

BASH: But if you can help one child who has cancer, why wouldn't you do it?

REID: Listen (INAUDIBLE) what do --

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: Why pit one against the other?

REID: Why do they -- why -- why would we want to do that?

I have 1,100 people at Nellis Air Force Base that are sitting home. They have the -- they have a few problems of their own. This is -- to have someone of your intelligence suggest such a thing (INAUDIBLE) --

BASH: I'm just asking a question.

REID: -- is irresponsible.



BASH: Now, Wolf, he says they don't want to pick and choose, pit one against another. Of course, they did, at a -- in a bipartisan way. The House and the Senate passed a bill that the president signed into law making sure that men and women in the military are paid. So they're already picking and choosing.

But clearly, the Republicans are doing this for a very specific reason. They want to put Democrats in a box, force them to vote against some of these things, as they try to figure out where they're going big picture.

As you saw Democrats, though, they're not buying it. They're digging in.

BLITZER: We'll see what happens at that critically important meeting this hour at the White House.

Dana, thanks very much.

We're just getting this coming into CNN.

The jury in the Michael Jackson wrongful death trial has informed everyone -- informed the court, I should say -- that it has reached a verdict. The decision on whether the concert promoter AEG Live is liable in Jackson's death expected to be read about 90 minutes or so from now. Stand by. As soon as we learn of the verdict later, we'll share it with you.

Coming up in our THE SITUATION ROOM special report, we're going live to the White House, where that meeting between President Obama and Congressional leaders is about to get underway.

Plus, children with cancer who want to start clinical trials now potentially can't. We're taking a closer look at the real impact this shutdown is having all across the United States.


BLITZER: Day two of the federal government shutdown and the impact is being felt across the United States, with federal offices, national parks and a whole lot more closed for business.

But perhaps the biggest impact is right here in Washington, the heart of the federal government.

CNN's Brian Todd, Erin McPike and John Zarrella are all working the story for us, along with CNN's Rene Marsh, who begins our coverage.


RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Rene Marsh at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, where 75 percent of their staff has been furloughed. That means hundreds of patients, some including children with cancer, who want to sign up for clinical trials here, can't right now. And in many cases, those clinical trials are a last resort. Now, there will be some exceptions made in certain emergency situations. And the current patients here undergoing clinical trials will continue to get treatment.

Now, on Capitol Hill today, House Republicans, they're favoring and they're pushing a measure that would fund NIH completely despite the shutdown. However, senators, they have already said they reject the idea of funding the government by using a piecemeal approach.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Brian Todd at FDA headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland where an official told us they've been hit especially hard by the government shutdown, especially in the realm of food safety inspections. Several hundred FDA food inspectors have been furloughed. That means that the risk of foodborne illness and a possible outbreak increases with every day of the government shutdown.

What are the products that are most vulnerable? I asked Caroline Smith Dewaal of the Center for Science in the Public Interest.


CAROLINE SMITH DEWAAL, CENTER FOR SCIENCE IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST: Based on outbreak data, we're especially concerned about produce items, things like leafy greens, cantaloupe, seafood, 80 percent of which is imported to the U.S. Eggs are also regulated by FDA as are processed food items like peanut butter, which caused a major outbreak and killed nine people.


TODD: Not every FDA food inspector is on furlough. Hundreds remain on the job, and FDA officials say here they are doing everything to prevent any kind of an outbreak. But still, concern exist that food producers, farms, factories, may make mistakes or cut corners.

ERIN MCPIKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Erin McPike at the World War II Memorial, which did reopen this morning. National Park Service spokeswoman, Carol Johnson, told me today that they reopened it as a first amendment issue for veterans of World War II who are coming to Washington, D.C. on honor flight from different states. I spoke to one of those veterans this morning, Dale Kuhn, who actually fought in the Korean War.


DALE KUHN, KOREAN WAR VETERAN: I'm always touched, and the tears come. But then on the other hand, I served my country. I signed the contract with the government that I would do certain things. What are they doing? They're not doing a damn thing.


MCPIKE: Politicians on both sides of the aisle came to the memorial this morning to greet veterans from their states as they arrived, and it was bipartisan. But, I did speak to a White House aide this morning who was irritated that House Republicans from all over the country came this morning demanding that the memorial be reopened fully to the public, because they were saying House Republicans want the memorial reopened, they can simply support a clean spending bill.

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm John Zarrella in Brooksville, Florida. This is a head start center provides for 135 children from low-income families. The three- to five-year-olds get meals, education, and health care. The facilities funding ran out Tuesday. Supplemental funding runs out Friday. After that, the doors shut here and at 16 centers run by mid-Florida community services in two other counties.


HEIDI RAND, MID FLORIDA COMMUNITY SERVICES: That means 924 children in three counties here in Florida will not get to attend head start, and that means 215 staff members will not have a job after Friday. ASHLEY RODRIGUEZ, PARENT: If they don't make this budget and get it together, we're the ones who are going to suffer, and our children are going to be the ones who are going to -- you know, be without food, be without education.


ZARRELLA: Quite a few head start centers around the state had later end dates for their federal dollars or other revenue sources. They're still open, for now.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: John Zarrella reporting.

Coming up, a possible sign of progress on ending the government shutdown. Congressional leaders, they are about to meet with President Obama at the White House a few minutes from now. We're standing by for details. We'll go there live.

And could there be another Clinton on the way? Chelsea Clinton says 2014 is, quote, "the year of the baby." We'll tell you what we know. Stay with us. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Let's quickly get to some other top stories here in the SITUATION ROOM. First, we want to warn our viewers out there the images in this first story you may find disturbing. Eight people are dead, 14 injured in a horrific highway crash just east of Knoxville, Tennessee. State officials say a tour bus carrying a church group blew a tire, causing it to cross the median into oncoming traffic.

The bus then hit an SUV and a tractor-trailer, which immediately caught on fire before overturning on the highway.

The best-selling author, Tom Clancy, the man behind "The Hunt for Red October" and "Patriot Games" has died. A cause of death is not yet known. Clancy was known for writing spy thrillers. Seventeen of those thrillers appeared on "The New York Times" best-seller's list and many became major motion pictures. Tom Clancy was 66 years old.

Bill and Hillary Clinton potentially may be, who knows, they soon could be grandparents. Listen to this. In an interview with "Glamour" magazine, daughter, Chelsea Clinton, said she and her husband are making 2014, and I'm quoting her now, the year of the baby. Chelsea says her mom asks about grandchildren every day.

So, next year maybe, maybe could be a busy year for the entire family with Hillary Clinton potentially also gearing up for a 2016 presidential run.

Police in Poland are searching for a vandal who cut the arm off a statue depicting the former president, Ronald Reagan. The bronze statue shows Reagan next to the Polish-born pope, John Paul II, that was inspired by a famous associate of press photo of the two men in 1987. And let me take a moment to pat my colleagues here on CNN on the back for a job extremely well done. Last night, CNN won three Emmys at the Annual News and Documentary Emmy Awards. For starters --


BLITZER: CNN projects that Barack Obama will be re-elected president of the United States. He will remain in the White House for another four years because we project he will carry the state of Ohio. By carrying Ohio, he wins re-election.


BLITZER: Our election night coverage won the Emmy for outstanding live coverage of a current news story. Long form, here it is. Right there. Very proud of this Emmy. Also, this --


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: You said sometimes people with different skin color, it's difficult for them to be friends, I think. What did you mean?

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Well, like, people don't want to play with them.

COOPER: So, who doesn't want to play with who?

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: The different skin color people.

COOPER: So, sometimes people with White skin color, they don't want to play with people with darker skin color? Why?

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Because they don't wanna.

COOPER: And why do you think they don't want to?


BLITZER: Wow. That was from Anderson Cooper's special "Kids on Race." The hidden picture was amazing and it won for outstanding news discussion and analysis.

And then there's this.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We're with rebel sources as they push into vital terrain in the fight for Syria's commercial capital towards a key police station. They mass in number and surge forward.


BLITZER: The outstanding writing Emmy went to our own Nick Paton Walsh for his outstanding reporting in Afghanistan and Syria. Let me congratulate everyone for winning these Emmys. Job well done. Just ahead, we're standing by for the White House meeting between President Obama and Congressional leaders, Democrats and republicans. It's set to begin in only a few minutes. Will they be able to end this impasse that shut down the federal government?

Plus, shocking poll numbers on raising the debt ceiling. And how many people aren't, yes, aren't afraid of a government default?


BLITZER: President Obama is scheduled to meet right now over at the White House with congressional leaders, Democrats and Republicans, as the country now approaches the third day of a government shutdown. It's their first face-to-face conversation since the crisis began.

Let's bring in our panel. CNN's chief political analyst Gloria Borger, our chief national correspondent John King and former Treasury Department chief of staff Mark Patterson.

Guys, thanks very much.

Gloria, the president once again just reiterated, we heard him say it one more time, as he goes into this meeting with congressional leadership, he's willing to negotiate down the road but as far as the current impasse on the government shutdown and raising the nation's debt ceiling, he's not willing to negotiate.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: So they've got this huge speed bump, right? And they can't get over the speed bump. And today Harry Reid said it and you heard the president say it on this interview on CNBC. They're willing to talk about reductions in entitlement spending, without talking raising taxes, that could get some of the president's Democrats pretty upset, Wolf.

But they are not going to negotiate on this question of Obama care. I was speaking with somebody in the administration today. They say it's done, it's started, we're not taking anything away from people. It's over. And we can't offer you anything on it. Sorry.

BLITZER: Here's another clip from the interview that the president gave CNBC. Listen to this.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Am I exasperated? Absolutely I'm exasperated. Because this is entirely unnecessary. We have a situation right now where if John Boehner, the speaker of the House, puts a bill on the floor to reopen the government at current funding levels so that we can then negotiate on a real budget that allows us to stop governing from crisis to crisis, it would pass.

The only thing that's stopping it is that John Boehner right now has not been willing to say no to a faction of the Republican Party that are willing to burn the House down because of an obsession over my health care initiative. BLITZER: When he says, John, that it would pass, if it were -- what they call a clean bill, would it pass?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, if those Republican House members, the moderate House members, decided they were free of the leadership and yes, if they voted what they actually believed, yes. When the leadership says give us a little bit more time -- remember there was this attempted revolt the other day and the leadership said, give us a few more days. So a bunch of members voted no when they would have voted yes.

In their hearts most Republicans want this over. So the president's analysis there is hard to dispute. He's pretty well on. But Mark knows this from his days. The president is not negotiating today but at least you're getting everybody into the same room so you could start discussions. I suspect today's meeting will be testy and terribly productive but you have to have that meeting to get to the next meeting.

BLITZER: Because it's important that they're at least talking right now. I'm surprised, by the way, that it's taking so long to bring the leadership over to the White House. I would have thought they would do that in the hours leading up to the shutdown or at least in day one. Now it's day two, it's maybe better late than never.

But look at this, Mark, and you just used to work in the Treasury Department for Timothy Geithner, you're his chief of staff, a new CNN/ORC poll, if the debt ceiling comes up October 17th, as you know, is not raised it would be a good thing, 38 percent think it would be a good thing if today's -- if Congress did not raise the debt ceiling. A bad thing 56 percent.

You think it would be a horrible, horrible thing. Talk to those 38 percent who think, you know what, the government spends enough money, you don't have to raise the debt ceiling.

MARK PATTERSON, FORMER TREASURY DEPARTMENT CHIEF OF STAFF: I was going to say those numbers aren't so bad, Wolf, because they've been much worse in previous years. So I think the public has actually learned more about the debt limit and what the consequences are.

BLITZER: Why is it so horrible if the Congress fails to raise the debt ceiling?

PATTERSON: Well, because most economists believe -- look, we've always been smart enough as a country never to go there but what most economists believe is that you'd have a whole bunch of symptoms that would be very similar to the ones we had in the financial crisis that we've just been through. And it could potentially lead us right back into recession. And they would all start with the Treasury interest rate going up, interest rates going across the board, consumer confidence sinking, business confidence sinking, and so forth.

BLITZER: Is it conceivable to you -- you worked with Congress from the Treasury Department -- that Congress would not do this? PATTERSON: Unfortunately, I do think it's a possibility. I hate to say that because failing to do this would be unthinkable. It's never happened in our history. Congress does have this responsibility. It's a pretty solemn one. It is in the Constitution. They have, under Article 1, responsibility for borrowing. And if they allow the debt limb to cause a default crisis I think that would be really a potentially catastrophic thing.

BORGER: You know, and this is where they might -- and I don't want to be Pollyanna here because, you know, god knows that doesn't work in Washington these days, but they all understand the consequences here of not acting. And the public, if you were to be thrown into another recession, if people weren't going to get their home mortgages, if interest rates were going to go up, they'd have one place to look, and that would be Washington and that would be everybody.

And this would affect the president's legacy and would affect every member of Congress no matter how conservative your district is or how liberal your district is, you would get the blame. And that's why I think there may be some hope here.

KING: I was just talking to a reliably Republican voter who happens to be an essential federal government employee. So she's working. And she said, you know, my savings from the financial crisis are just back to where they were pre-financial crisis. If they do this to me, I will never vote Republican again. That's what she said.

BLITZER: Here's the - some other numbers from our new poll. If the debt ceiling is not raised and we asked Democrats, independents, Republicans -- Democrats, you know, thought it would be at -- 77 percent of Democrats thought it would be bad, 49 percent of independents, 40 percent of Republicans, and sort of mirror image as far as good is concerned.

So there's a clear political split here.

KING: If you look at those numbers, that is red and blue America. And it's also a fact that the president has a sales problem. I'm not blaming the president but as Mark says we've never gone there so maybe the leaders don't talk about it enough, explain the economics of it. This is not about running deficits, it's about the government borrowing to pay its bills for things it's already done.

But if you look at those numbers there, number one, that a majority of Republicans think it would be a good thing, that's why these Republicans in the House are unafraid at the moment. They're going home to districts where their voters are saying, go for it. But if you look at the middle of the electorate, the independents, most Republicans have been very pleased politically that the president over the course of his second term has been losing support among independents.

You see that divide right there. The middle of the electorate is uncertain on this. And so as the president makes his case against the Republicans, he needs to explain the consequences to the American people. BORGER: But what they want to see you do, and Mark, you know this better than I do, is when you raise the debt ceiling, and you say, OK, we've got to pay the credit card bills, they also say tighten your bell at the same time. And so that's why you see the president talking about, OK, we're going to tighten our belt when we -- when we talk about the debt ceiling, that's an argument people can accept. And they did last time around.


BLITZER: But the Republicans don't believe there will be pressure on the president to tighten the country's belt if they simply go ahead and raise the debt ceiling. They're using this as leverage even though you probably believe John Boehner totally agrees with you it would be a disaster for the economy, could throw the economy into another recession if the debt ceiling is not raised.

PATTERSON: Yes. I think what's so frustrating about this is -- getting back to John's point, is that this could be fixed tomorrow. I think the votes are there in the House to raise the debt ceiling tomorrow. And so it's really a matter of a choice that needs to be made by Republican leaders and they have to wait and listen to the other members and who are listening to their constituents.


BLITZER: But I hear you say they may not -- they may not do that.

PATTERSON: They may not. But they can and they have done it before. The bill to provide aid for Hurricane Sandy passed with almost all Democratic votes, hardly any Republican votes, but the speaker made a decision, you know what, we've got to do this.

BLITZER: There was a deal, remember, the sequester, the forced budget cuts came with the 2011 debt ceiling crisis.

BORGER: And super committee --

KING: So Republicans do believe the president will negotiate. Now they may again try to separate it. We're not negotiating over the bill, we're going to negotiate a separate deal, and that's all and fine. But that's one of the big questions out of this meeting today.

BLITZER: You know, this meeting that's under way at the White House, Gloria, right, Jack Lew, the Treasury secretary, is there, and the president specifically wanted him there to explain the ramifications of not raising the debt ceiling.

BORGER: Right, so -- so they can take this back to their troops and say this is what the secretary of the Treasury has said.

Look, I think that if they start negotiating on bigger issues like entitlement spending in regards to the debt ceiling, the American public could support that and they ended up supporting it in 2011. But if the health care plan still becomes an issue on the debt ceiling, it's like an apple attached to an orange and that would be a much more difficult sell and a difficult if not impossible negotiation.

BLITZER: I'd like to be a fly on the wall in that meeting that's going on at the White House right now. But maybe they'll come out and speak to us, maybe the president will, maybe the leadership will, and we'll get a little inkling of what actually has been going on inside.

Guys, thanks very much for coming in.

Coming up, how to resolve the government shutdown. Paul Begala and Bill Kristol, they are here. They will debate. They disagree as you probably know.

We want to know what you think, as well. Share your thoughts with us on Twitter. Don't forget to use the #sitroom.


BLITZER: Much more of our special report on the government shutdown coming up including my interview with Republican Congressman Peter King. Tweet me your questions for him. Don't forget to use the #sitroom.


BLITZER: We're now in day two of the government shutdown sparked by House Republican efforts to gut Obamacare. Both sides have dug in at least for now.

So here's the question, how can it be resolved? Let's debate what's going on. Joining us CNN political commentator Paul Begala, and Bill Kristol, the editor of the "Weekly Standard."

They're meeting inside the White House right now. Paul, I'll start with you. The president, the Democratic and Republican leadership including the Speaker John Boehner. How do they realistically, no talking points, realistically resolve this?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: They don't. That's the wrong group in the meeting. I mean, I'm glad they're meeting. I suppose it's always a good for democracy, I do think this president doesn't meet often enough with congressional leaders. It's a fair criticism of our president, but that's not the meeting that is going to resolve this.

The meeting that's going to resolve this is when John Boehner turns to the lemming caucus, the Tea Party caucus, and his party and he says what Bob Dole said during the last government shutdown -- enough. Bob Dole was the grown-up in the room. He said enough, we're not going to hurt the party, we're not going to hurt the country anymore, and the shutdown ended.

And John Boehner at some point is going to have to put on his big-boy pants and stand up to Speaker Ted Cruz and the rest of the wacko birds, as John McCain calls them, and put an end to this. That's where it's going to come from. It's not going to come from Barack Obama or Nancy Pelosi. BLITZER: Bill Kristol, go ahead.

BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Well, Paul is reliving the glory days of the shutdown that Bill Clinton outmaneuvered Newt Gingrich and Bob Dole on. But Barack Obama is not Bill Clinton. If Bill Clinton were president, I'd be worried. I would think he'd be -- he'd be reasonable, he would say, of course I'll sign a bill that funds NIH. I'll do that but that doesn't fund the rest of the government and he'd put more pressure on the Republicans to think of other things -- ways to cause trouble for them.

Barack Obama is standing there, I'm sorry, it's my way or the highway. It's so unreasonable of House Republicans to seek to delay the individual mandate for a year after the president has delayed the employer mandate for a year and to remove the congressional exemption. That's gutting Obamacare? Really?

That's not gutting -- I'd like to gut Obamacare. Those are -- now maybe the president doesn't want to accept them. That he should negotiate. He could negotiate with John Boehner. Bill Clinton, thank god for Republicans that Bill Clinton is not in the White House and that Barack Obama is.

BLITZER: Go ahead, Paul.

BEGALA: Bill did not like President Clinton quite so much when he was president of the United States.

KRISTOL: I didn't like him but I -- I respected him. And it's not --

BEGALA: Yes, I know you respect President Obama.

KRISTOL: In terms of news, in terms of news, let me just say, so Paul can beat me up, the House Republicans are going to pass in the next hour or two three bills that will fund the NIH, the National Institutes of Health, essential services of the D.C. government, and I think the national parks and I think a veterans bill tomorrow.

They've not got this on the regular calendars so they can pass with a simple majority. Thirty-eight Democrats in the House voted for those bills yesterday. I do not believe that Senator Reid can hold Senate Democrats against those bills. His current stance and the president's stance is they should vote against funding NIH tomorrow. Really?

BEGALA: Well, it's just -- it's so cynical because, I mean, as Bill knows, the Republicans have cut the funding for NIH by $1.5 billion. Maybe $1.7 billion. I can't recall the exact number. But $1.5 billion cut out of the National Institutes of Health. And now all of a sudden they're pretending like they care about it. This is all cherry-picking and it's all really cynical.

You know, they ought to just fund the government. They should negotiate. There are probably tweaks and improvements you can make to Obamacare. There are things Democrats actually believe in that we've not been able to get like gun safety and prekindergarten and a minimum wage. This is what legislating is. But you don't legislate with a looming government shutdown, with a current government shutdown and a looming default on our debt. That's no way to run a super power.

KRISTOL: Well, it isn't but that is the way, in fact, Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich legislated. That's how the '97 budget deal happened. It was attached to a debt ceiling increase. And I think the best hope here, you asked -- beginning on how are we going to get out of it, we're going to get out of it because this is going to -- the government is not going to open up in the next couple of days. We'll then slide into a debt ceiling negotiation, which needs to begin soon.

I'm glad the president has begun talking to congressional leaders. And we'll have a serious negotiation. And I think in a way if you expand the field of negotiation it gets easier. It's not just about these two riders to Obamacare. There are lots to things to discuss. The Democrats can get some things, the Republicans can get some things, they're going to increase the debt limit. A few people on the Republicans won't like, a few people on the Democratic side won't like it.

But that's the grown-up thing to do and look, at the end of the day, there's only one president and he needs to know leadership here. And I don't think he is, honestly.

BLITZER: He is, Paul, as you know, a second-term reelected president of the United States. He doesn't have to worry about another election down the road. So he has the strength, the ability to make some sort of concessions maybe than a first-term Democratic president might not be able to make.

BEGALA: Yes, and he has. When he came to the Congress, he asked for $1.2 trillion in discretionary spending. OK. The current continuing resolution that the Democrats support cuts that almost to the levels of Paul Ryan wants. The Democrats have conceded on the funding, and I talked to very senior House Democrat a couple of days ago who told me, and I quote, the Tea Party Republicans are too stupid to take yes for an answer. They have won on spending.

The truth is we need to spend more, not less. We need to rebuild our infrastructure. We need to do a whole lot more. And instead we're going to do less, and the Republicans can't even take the win.

BLITZER: All right.

BEGALA: They're so crazed with hatred for our president.

BLITZER: Go ahead and wrap it up, Bill.

KRISTOL: I think Republicans will take a win in the debt negotiation and this is just a step on that road. And I think two days ago, the absolute consensus everywhere, oh my god, what a disaster the Republicans -- the country's stock market went down thousands of points, the whole country will be rising up. Instead, this is not playing so badly for Republicans. I wouldn't necessarily recommending getting here, but I do think that the speaker has played this very well in the last two days and I think we're going to get into a debt ceiling negotiation and the Republicans will come out of this fine.

BLITZER: Let's see what happens when they come out of this meeting, though, at the White House first. Maybe, maybe, who knows, may they've reached some sort of agreement. That would be great news if in fact they have. But we'll see.

All right, guys, thanks very much. A good solid debate.

Coming up, Republican -- a Republican congressman, I'm talking about Peter King. He calls the government shutdown a disaster. I'll stand by to speak with him live in the next hour.

Plus launches but with a few issues. We're taking a closer look at the glitch-filled debut of Obamacare online.

But first the actor Rainn Wilson, known for his role as Dwight on "The Office" is using his fame to help educate girls around the world. Here is how he's doing that in our "Impact Your World" segment.


RAINN WILSON, ACTOR: Hi, there. I'm Rainn Wilson. And together we can make an impact on educating women and girls all around the globe.

Phyllis, my sister, like my dead great-great-grandmother who died of stupidity.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have years, Dwight.

WILSON: When I started getting well known as an actor on "The Office," I got inundated by requests to be a spokesperson or do various things for various charities. And I had an opportunity to explore what was most important to me in my heart and what I felt could make the greatest impact in the world.

The Mona Foundation supports educational initiatives all around the world, about 20 different initiatives in about 15 different countries including here in the United States. They target women and girls. And that's how you transform a community. They're the most at-risk population through most of the developing world. Targeting them to empower them and educate them is really the most crucial thing.

Also, they find grassroots educational program that are already working, but are underfunded, and come in to bring the support to help those organizations grow and thrive and flourish, and move forward.

Join the movement, "Impact Your World" at


BLITZER: Here's Jeanne Moos on Obamacare.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At the launch of Obamacare, it received a definitive diagnosis of --


DIANE SAWYER, ABC NEWS: Some technical glitches.


MOOS: And the symptoms of glitchy were grave, but not terminal.

ELIZABETH HASSELBECK, "FOX AND FRIENDS": Error messages, Web site crashes.

STEVE DOOCY, "FOX AND FRIENDS": An hour per page to load.


FOREMAN: The whole screen just froze up.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That little annoying kind of like twirly thing.

MOOS: Across the land, those hunched over their computers searching for Affordable Health Care uttered two little syllables.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Uh-oh, got a message that said, "Healthcare insurance marketplace is busy, please wait."

MOOS (on camera): But we know who's really responsible for crashing the system.

(Voice-over): It's those pesky press people testing it out.

MARIA SCHIAVOCAMPO, ANCHOR, MSNBC: I kept getting an error message.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So I pretended like I was really doing it.

SCHIAVOCAMPO: Now I'm on hold. It's my second time calling.

MOOS: Health and Human Services says that in the first 24 hours, 4.7 million people visited We could almost swear almost 4.6 million of them were reporters and producers.

SCHIAVOCAMPO: We started about 35 minutes ago, so at this point I'm going to hang up and call it a day.

MOOS: Some might call that a failure, but not the Obama administration.

SEBELIUS: A few glitches, but sort of a great problem to have.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It cannot handle the volume of traffic.

STEPHEN COLBERT, "THE COLBERT REPORT": Too many people signing up is always the sure sign that nobody wants it. SCHIAVOCAMPO: The Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid compared Obamacare to Google, quoting one of the Google's cofounders.

SEN. HARRY REID (D), MAJORITY LEADER: He told me, when they first came online oh, did they have problems. They had problems because too many people wanted to use Google.

SCHIAVOCAMPO: And if the computer doesn't work, you can always resort to the phone.

COLBERT: I mean, look at these numbers. Why is there even a hashtag button down here? Are we supposed -- are we suppose to tweet our health problems now?

MOOS: OK. So Obamacare didn't exactly launch with a bang.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But within minutes -- thud.

FOREMAN: It's been more like a sputter.

MOOS: Hey, at least people have questions they want answered.

DAVID LETTERMAN, "THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN": Questions people have about Obamacare, number 10, will Obama examine me? No, no.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN.

SCHIAVOCAMPO: This is where my patience would be exhausted.

MOOS: New York.