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Speaker Boehner Calls Out Obama Again In Press Conference; Tribe: Redskins "A Racial Slur"

Aired October 8, 2013 - 16:30   ET




REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), HOUSE SPEAKER: -- talked with the president of the United States this morning. I will say it was a pleasant conversation, although I have to say I was disappointed that the president refuses to negotiate.

When it comes to the issue of funding our government, the House has passed four bills. Four bills to fund our government and provide fairness to the American people under Obamacare. Each of those four bills was rejected by the United States Senate. Under the Constitution and our system of government, we asked that they sit down and have a conversation with us about funding the government, keeping it open, and providing fairness to the American people under Obamacare. They have refused to do it.

Now, over the last 30 years, dozens of times, there have been negotiations over funding our government. All of those negotiations over the last 30 years have resulted in significant policy changes. And I would remind you that the president of the United States and I sat down in the spring of 2011 to negotiate a funding bill for the government from March all the way through September. During that negotiation, there were all kinds of policy considerations. And if you recall, the opportunity scholarships for kids here in D.C. was, in fact, restored into law.

So the president's position that listen, we're not going to sit down and talk to you until you surrender is just not sustainable. It's not our system of government.

When it comes to the debt limit, I agree with the president. We should pay our bills. I didn't come here to shut down the government. I certainly didn't come here to default on our debt. But when it comes to the debt limit, again, over the last 40 years, 27 times the debt limit has been used to carry significant policy changes that would, in fact, reduce spending and put us on a saner fiscal path. President Reagan sat down with Tip O'Neill in the 1980s. President Bush in 1990 went out to Andrews Air Force base and got into a long debate and negotiation with Democrats here in Congress. Bill Clinton went through this three times in the 1990s. President Obama and I sat down in 2011 and had a serious negotiation.

And while the president today suggested that I walked away from the deal, I would have to remind him that I was in the Oval Office along with the majority leader, Eric Cantor, when we in fact had an agreement that two days later, the president walked away from.

But there was, in fact, another negotiation in 2011 that resulted in really the largest deficit reduction bill that we've seen here in the last 30 years. But in 2010, when Democrats controlled the Congress and President Obama was in the White House, what happened was a group of moderate Democrats in the House wouldn't agree to raise the debt limit without a negotiation. So there was a negotiation then amongst Democrats over raising the debt ceiling.

The long and short of it is there is going to be a negotiation here. We can't raise the debt ceiling without doing something about what's driving us to borrow more money and to live beyond our means. The idea that we should continue to spend money that we don't have and give the bill to our kids and our grandkids would be wrong.

This isn't about me and frankly, it's not about Republicans. This is about saving the future for our kids and our grandkids, and the only way this is going to happen is to in fact have a conversation. So, it's time to have that conversation. Not next week, not next month. The conversation ought to start today. And I'm hopeful that whether it's the president or a Democrat leader here in the Congress, we can begin that conversation.

QUESTION: Can you tell us please, what would you say to military families who have just been denied death benefits due to the shutdown?

BOEHNER: Last week, the Congress passed the Pay Our Military Benefits Act. We gave broad authority to the Department of Defense to pay all kinds of bills, including this. And frankly, I think it's disgraceful that they're withholding these benefits. But again tomorrow, the House is going to act specifically on this, and I hope the president will sign it.

QUESTION: Mr. Speaker, the president made it extremely clear that (INAUDIBLE). You are making it extremely clear that he has to negotiate. What happens, in all candor, if it is 11:59 on October 17th and we're not there?

BOEHNER: At times like this, the American people expect their leaders to sit down and have a conversation. I want that conversation to occur now.

QUESTION: The president said today that he would negotiate if there was a temporary deal (INAUDIBLE).

BOEHNER: What the president said today was if there's unconditional surrender by Republicans, he will sit down and talk to us. That's not the way our government works.

Thanks, everybody.

TAPPER: A little history lesson from Professor Boehner. Let's bring back our political panel for reaction. CNN contributor and Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen, senior writer for "The Washington Examiner," Phillip Klein, and national political correspondent for "The New York Times," Jonathan Martin.

In addition to that 2011 failed deal we were talking about before Boehner spoke, which he referred to again and President Obama referred to earlier, we also had this history lesson from Speaker Boehner talking about how it is not unusual for debt limit votes to be accompanied by legislation. Reagan and Tip O'Neill did it, Bush went out to Andrews Air Force base, discussed with Democrats. Bill Clinton did it three times with Newt Gingrich.

He's right. That is true. I'm not saying that we should be in a shutdown right now, but this is an accurate historical assessment, Hilary.

HILARY ROSEN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Except now I'm just legitimately confused. Because a month ago, this all started with Ted Cruz and 30 or 40 Tea Party House members saying we are going to shut down the government and not raise the debt ceiling unless they repeal Obamacare. And all of a sudden, the speaker is talking about runaway spending and other budgets.

Like, what is it exactly that they're doing? If his position now is could you just give us something, Mr. President --

TAPPE: Is that it, Phillip? Just give us something?

PHILLIP KLEIN, SENIOR WRITER, "THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER": I would agree that I think Boehner needs to be clearer about what the ask is. He talked about 2011. If you go back to 2011, when he had come out in the press conference, he would say our bottom line is that we want a dollar for dollar increase. For every dollar increase in the debt limit, we are going to have a dollar in spending cuts. And you could agree or disagree with whether that's a good policy, but that was a very clear statement of where he was coming from.

And what we just heard there was it was just kind of vague. We have to sit down and hash something out, but what really is his demand? That wasn't really clear.

TAPPER: Jonathan, what is he looking for?

JONATHAN MARTIN, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Looking for an escape hatch, right? Of course he is.

ROSEN: And doesn't it make you wonder if Speaker Boehner actually negotiated something with the president around some other part of the budget, that he would go back and have the exact same problem with Ted Cruz and those 30 or 40 House members anyway, because they didn't repeal Obamacare or didn't touch Obamacare?

MARTIN: Yes, there are going to be elements in the House and Senate in the Republican caucus that won't vote for anything. What Speaker Boehner is trying to get to the point where he can call a vote; ideally for him, one vote to reopen the government and to raise the debt ceiling limit because it's easier to call one vote than two. He wants to have something in there that can give him some cover.

TAPPER: And it can't just be repealing the medical device tax. Has to be something bigger.

MARTIN: Something more than that, but obviously he knows he's not going to get shutting down the entire health care program. So, what's something in the middle? That's what he's grasping for. The reason he's not talking about anything is because I don't think he knows what it looks like yet. But he knows that he has to get something. And the fact we're getting closer to October 27th - I'm sorry, the 17th, rather -- I think he recognizes he's got to have something and something fast.

KLEIN: I think the problem with the medical device tax, too, as an issue is that the reason why they picked the individual mandate is that, and this whole idea -


KLEIN: Delaying the individual mandate is it has a certain populist appeal, right? They delayed it for corporations but not for individuals. If they end up with the medical device tax, then it's just them ending up basically --


KLEIN: K Street.

TAPPER: And it's something like $4 billion or $5 billion a year.

MARTIN: It would raise the deficit, too, right?

TAPPER: We were talking about this a second ago, which is just that when this 2011 deal broke apart, and you can blame -- this is not false equivalents. You literally can blame either side. President Obama changed what he was asking for because Senate -- a group of bipartisan senators all of a sudden had a deal, quote unquote, "a deal," so he raised the amount of tax he wanted to, I think, $1.2 trillion as opposed to $800 billion. Then it wasn't clear Speaker Boehner had the votes anyway, and he didn't return President Obama's phone call for, like, a whole day. So, there are questions about how that was handled.

Does Speaker Boehner know how to negotiate for the caucus? Does he even have a handle on it when he goes -- the president basically, the Democrats will go along with almost anything he wants. Does Boehner have that? Does he know what he needs?

KLEIN: I think the bigger problem is that a lot of the lowest-hanging fruit was already sort of negotiated. I mean, they already negotiated on a lot of the discretionary spending. Medicaid is never going to be touched by Democrats. The Medicare cuts that Democrats would accept are more of the variety of the types of centralized cost controls that we saw in Obamacare, which Republicans don't want. They want to move toward more of a Ryan-type system --

TAPPER: Vouchers.

KLEIN: -- which Democrats would never accept. So I think that's the problem.

And I think another thing is that we saw in past budget agreements when Republicans wouldn't give way on the tax front and they wouldn't agree to increase taxes, what their concession to Democrats was cutting the defense budget. But I think that after the sequester and after the budgetary caps that were put into place even before the sequester, I think that there's not much more appetite among Republicans to give in to more defense cuts.

TAPPER: Hold that thought. We'll take a very quick break. When we come back, we will go to Capitol Hill to get some response to Speaker Boehner and President Obama's remarks. Back after this.


TAPPER: Speaker John Boehner call out the president for the second time today for not being willing to negotiate. Joining us now for some analysis is our chief congressional correspondent, Dana Bash on Capitol Hill. Dana, Speaker Boehner didn't really make much news in his remarks, but both sides seem pretty dug in.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That is the news, which I guess for it to be news, there has to be something new, which we don't have today. Absolutely, what the speaker said today was -- I think, as I'm thinking about it, I was there with him watching him, I think what is new is the level of frustration that you're seeing.

John Boehner is a pretty cool customer and generally, if he is openly frustrated or angry, it is by design, like the other day when he threw his newspaper down. Now it seems really genuine that he is just kind of had it. He's at wit's end.

TAPPER: But who is he frustrated with? Dana, because he seems to be frustrated with President Obama, obviously, but also this is a strategy with the government shutdown that as you have reported a million times, as he said on the record in front of cameras, he did not want. He thought there should be a clean government spending bill, not tied to defunding Obamacare and that's not what ended up doing. Is he frustrated with his inability to control his caucus?

BASH: Well, sure. I mean, that is something that has been ongoing and it is just exploded with this whole idea of the government shutdown, but I think what he is most frustrated with and the thing that is the most potentially cataclysmic is the deadlock that they're in over the debt ceiling. And that is where the speaker is absolutely convinced that he cannot take -- make a vote on a clean debt ceiling bill because that would be catastrophic to him and also catastrophic to the country, he believes.

You know, one thing that he did point out, Jake, which I think is true, maybe important for us to also underscore, and that a lot of the negotiations and sort of to and fro over the debt ceiling wasn't just Republicans versus Democrats. There were conservative Democrats who were very reluctant to vote for a debt ceiling increase without telling their constituents that they were doing something to address the debt. Now, there are fewer conservative Democrats because they were beaten by Republicans, but it is not just a partisan issue. It is definitely something that Democrats have been concerned about, too.

TAPPER: All right, Dana Bash on Capitol Hill, thank you. Let's go back to our panel now. Hillary Rosen, I want to read something from a former senator, a Democrat from Nevada, Richard Brian, who told "The Hill" newspaper quote, "President Obama hasn't necessarily helped the case, giving all of these Obamacare waivers I think has tended to weaken his position. Critics say what's wrong with one more waiver? He's given everybody in the world a waiver."

I recognize we're not really talking about Obamacare anymore, now we're talking about the government being alive and the fiscal health of the nation and whether or not we are all going to be poor in two weeks because the stock market has crashed. That said, I haven't heard a good explanation and I certainly didn't hear one from Sebelius last night on Jon Stewart about why all these businesses and unions got waivers, but the individual mandate for folks the like of us is still in effect.

HILARY ROSEN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, first let's define what a waiver is. I know that Sebelius would have done this last night if she didn't run out of time, which is essentially, the value in getting health care is that you need health care. The waiver to businesses was merely for employers that weren't already offering it.

The individuals those employers weren't offering to have the option to go in and get their own health care. So really, the most important thing for everybody is to be able to sign up, and that I think, for them to delay sign-ups and to risk this going on for another year, I think it would destroy the whole system and the Republicans know that. That's why they're pushing for it because they are hoping that a delay will kill the deal.

TAPPER: We only have about 45 seconds left. I'd like to get final thoughts from each of you?

PHILIP KLEIN, SENIOR WRITER, "THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER": Yes, look, the real issue is that delaying the employer mandate actually has the effect of potentially pushing more people into the exchanges. And the Obama administration is desperate to get enough people into the exchanges, particularly young and healthy people, whereas if you delay the individual mandate, the result is it takes away one of -- the stick, essentially, to try to force people into the exchanges.

JONATHAN MARTIN, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, "NEW YORK TIMES": If you talk to folks on the establishment GOP side, this is why they are so frustrated because once President Obama this summer gave businesses a one-year delay on their mandate, a lot of folks on "The Hill" saw an opportunity to drive home this one-year delay for the individual mandate. Instead of pursuing that course, though, they took the Ted Cruz course, which was defund the entire thing and so you start talking about one-year delay for individuals, it came down to fund the government or defund the entire thing.

TAPPER: Here we are, Jonathan Martin, Philip Klein, Hilary Rosen, thank you so much.

Coming up in the "Sports Lead," hale to the NFL franchise from Washington, D.C., the fight to get rid of the name Redskins gets new life after President Obama weighs in. Stay with us.


TAPPER: Some native americans say it's as offensive as the "n" word is to African-Americans. Now the president weighs in on the debate other the Redskins name, putting new pressure perhaps on the NFL. We'll talk to the man leading charge to change the name next.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. We're going to take a moment for the Sports Lead here. The Washington Redskins were on a bye week, but still showed the best defense, sometimes is a good offense this time against President Obama. The Redskins' lawyer responded to the president after he said this in an interview with the Associated Press over the weekend.

Quote, "I've got to say if I were the owner of that team and I knew that there was a name of my team even if it had a storied history that was offending a sizeable group of people, I would think about changing it," unquote. Lanny Davis, former special counsel to President Clinton who describes himself as an Obama supported responded on the team's behalf by saying the name is meant as an honor, not disparagement.

NFL owners are here in D.C. today for their fall meetings, but the league reportedly passed on a sit-down with a Native American group that is leading the charge to change the name. The two sides are scheduled to meet in late November.

Joining me now is Ray Halbritter of the Oneida Indian Nation representative and a vocal leader against the Redskins' name. Mr. Halbritter, thanks so much for being here. First, your reaction to President Obama's words about possibly changing the name, if he were the owner.

RAY HALBRITTER, ONEIDA INDIAN NATION: Well, we were certainly gratified with the president's comments that if he were the owner of the team, he would consider changing its name. I think it certainly adds momentum to this issue and is the first sitting president to take on that issue. I think it's certainly something that is significant and historic.

We are also gratified to your senior congressman, Tom Cole, as well. Republican Congressman, as well, who also voiced his opposition to the team name as well.

TAPPER: Redskins owner Dan Snyder was once quoted as saying quote, "We will never change the name, it's that simple. Never -- you can use caps." And according to "The Washington Post," Roger Goodell is under no pressure to press for a name change. Do you think this is ever going to happen? HALBRITTER: Well, history is littered with people who have vowed never to change something. Slavery, immigration, women's rights so, we think one thing that's really great about this country is when many people speak out, change can happen.

TAPPER: Lanny Davis pointed out other professional teams with Native American logos and mascots. Why the main focus on the Redskins and not teams like the Atlanta Braves or the Cleveland Indians, the Kansas City Chiefs, the Chicago Blackhawks?

HALBRITTER: Well, let's be clear. The name, the R word is defined in the dictionary, as an offensive term. It's a racial epithet. It's a racial slur. I think there is a broader discussion to be had about using mascots generally and the damage it does to people and their self-identity. But certainly there's no gray area on this issue.

TAPPER: A study by a Smithsonian Institution senior linguist close to a decade ago suggested that in his view, his scholarship, the term redskin was first used by Native Americans to distinguish themselves from whites who were encroaching upon their land. Does that matter to you at all if that is how the term originated?

HALBRITTER: As we learned yesterday, there's not only broad, diverse opposition, but there is many studies and scientific evidence that use of racial slurs like this creates damage in the community, including young children. And this is all about the kids. This was so inspiring to us when the Cooperstown kids and Cooperstown Baseball Hall of Fame -- is located in Cooperstown -- decided on their own initiative to change the R word of their team to another name. And that gave us such inspiration.

TAPPER: But does it matter at all the name originally may have not have been an epithet? That, in fact, it may have been used by Native Americans?

HALBRITTER: Regardless of what the origin is, it's creating damage right now. No matter what poll you take, no matter what you do, the damage is being created. Scientifically, that's evidence that there is damage to the image -- to especially young children. That's why this issue is so important, not only to us, but all of America, all of our community.

TAPPER: Lastly, sir, some sports writers, including "Sports Illustrated's" Peter King, "USA Today's" Christine Brennan -- they have said they are just going to stop using the nickname Redskins. Is that is a good start for you?

HALBRITTER: Well, I think it's the right thing to do. Sometimes we need to do the right thing, and sometimes it's not always easy. But it's very respectful. We need -- we want to see this country unified. We want the NFL to succeed. We are proud sponsors of the NFL. But we want it to not only be America's pastime but express America's ideals as well. And this name does not do that.

It's divisive. Its origin is hated, use is hated, it was the name our people -- that was used against our people when we were forced off our lands at gunpoint. It was a name that used when our children were forced out of our homes and into boarding schools.

So, it has a sordid history. And it's time for a change, and we hope that -- and what's great is when enough people do recognize that, change will come.

TAPPER: All right, Ray Halbritter from the Oneida Indian Nation, thank you so much for your time.

HALBRITTER: Thank you for the opportunity.

TAPPER: That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. I'll be back at 11:00 p.m. Eastern tonight, 8:00 p.m. Pacific with a CNN special "Shutdown Showdown." For now, I turn you over to Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM."