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Interview With Rep. Jeff Miller of Florida; You Can Be An Internet Mogul, Too!; That's Shutdowntainment!

Aired October 9, 2013 - 16:30   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Tracy, obviously, Republicans have worse approval ratings, the worse approval ratings than President Obama. But everybody's numbers are going down. The Dick Durbins of the world are not immune to what is going on.

And if we do hit this debt ceiling, at the end of the day -- the stock market goes down 1,000 points or whatever -- President Obama is going to take the hit.

TRACY SEFL, SENIOR ADVISER, READY FOR HILLARY SUPERPAC: I believe he has already. It's been a collective hit, as you say.

So what happens next? Is there really a bottom for the Republican Party? It seems like they're rapidly going to find out. Historic lows for the party, a laughable single digit for Congress.

Overall, it's interesting to not just watch the trends, but to really try to imagine how low can these numbers possibly get.

TAPPER: I guess the question is, the one I asked Senator Durbin, which is, OK, the House Republican Party, the shutdown happened because of the House Republican Party. Now, you can argue about it's continuing because of piecemeal resolution, et cetera. But the shutdown happened because of them.

Does the Democratic Party, does President Obama, do they have an obligation for the sake of the country, and even for the sake of themselves, to try to help John Boehner out of this mess?

SEFL: It certainly seems to me that every single day, that is what Democrats are attempting to do --

TAPPER: Really?

SEFL: -- is to remind everyone who's listening how they are willing to get to that compromise, what they are willing to not do. Which is, of course, as the president has continued to say, be held hostage. The idea of ransom, all of the analogies that are so continually invoked here. There is that conversation happening. That's what the Democrats are saying every single day.

TAPPER: How do we get out of this, Ryan?

RYAN LIZZA, "THE NEW YORKER": Look, I think your question is a really good question. On the right, there are a lot of people who are talking about default is not such a big deal. On the left, there's also - there's an argument that if it comes to default, Obama is just going to have to let that happen because it's worse for Obama to negotiate. That's sort of a dangerous position to be in as well.

And at some point the president -- you know, the president is the president. He's the only person in our system that is the president of everyone. At some point, he's got to help to figure a way out of this, even though as you point out, the blame lies with the House Republicans for getting us into that.

But look. You govern Washington with the House of Representatives that you have, not the ones you wish to have.


TAPPER: Very Rumsfeld-ian. How do we get out of this, Kevin?

KEVIN MADDEN, CNN POLTICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, look, I think the way we're going to get out is is just by pumping this. This is the one thing Congress has actually been very good at, which is just giving themselves more time.

One of the big problems we have, and I think that's why the American public is so frustrated right now. And I think this is particularly tough for the president, which is that we're governing from crisis to crisis. What we're going to do is get a small Band-Aid approach here, and then we're just going to go on to the next crisis. I think in three weeks, maybe even three months, we'll be back again having this same debate over something new.

TAPPER: Another blue ribbon commission, perhaps? A bipartisan deficit commission whose advice --

MADDEN: A super-super committee instead of a blue ribbon committee.

TAPPER: Remember, the last one we had, the Simpson-Bowles, Republicans wouldn't even allow a vote on it, on the Senate floor. I mean, that's - these blue ribbon commissions - I don't even hear people talking about it.

MADDEN: And this is to Tracy's point, too. You know, the usual pressure points that we used to get, which is low ratings starting to make people feel like, hey, we've gone too far, to use one of the congressional aide's terms, we touched the stove and it was too hot. They're not as motivated by these bad ratings. I mean, I think they think that's built into the equation with the media coverage.


LIZZA: Republicans have a fortress in the House of Representatives, so they are immune.

TAPPER: We have to break right now. I'm sorry, Tracy. Tracy Self, Ryan Liza, Kevin Madden, thank you so much. We'll continue this.

Coming up on THE LEAD, many of put their lives on the line for this country, and now veterans are being rewarded with empty bank accounts and possible homelessness. They can thank Washington D.C. for that.

And if you think you've seen this government shutdown episode before, it's because you have. Only it was a lot funnier when Julia Louis- Dreyfus was laying people off.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

Continuing our national lead, we're now at the point in this shutdown that we're actually praying for the return of financial help for families who have lost loved ones serving our country. Well, at least the Senate chaplain is praying.


BARRY BLACK, SENATE CHAPLAIN: Lord, when our federal shutdown delays payments of death benefits to the families of children dying on faraway battlefields, it's time for our lawmakers to say enough is enough. Cover our shame with the robe of your righteousness. Forgive us --



It's not quite a robe of righteousness, but there does appear to be a solution today. The Pentagon is entering into a business contract with the military charity Fisher House, who will pay the financial aid owed to the military families until the government is reopened and can be reimbursed fully by the Department of Defense. The House voted unanimously a short time ago to restore these benefits.

Meanwhile, Veterans Affairs secretary Eric Shinseki testified today in front of the House Veterans Affairs Committee on how the shutdown is hurting the men and women he serves.


ERIC SHINSEKI, VETERANS AFFAIRS SECRETARY: If the shutdown does not end in the coming weeks, VA will not be able to ensure delivery of 1 November checks to more than 5.18 million beneficiaries. And that accounts for about $6.25 billion in payments that people are expecting.


TAPPER: Let's bring in Republican congressman Jeff Miller. He chaired today's hearing. Congressman Miller, thanks for being here. The VA Affairs secretary is saying that they're now losing the ground they gained on that horrific backlog on veterans' claims because of this partial government shutdown. Over 5 million checks might not go in November?

REP. JEFF MILLER (R-FL), CHAIR OF VETERANS AFFAIRS COMMITTEE: Well, you got two different questions there. One is the disability claim backlog that's out there. I disagree with the secretary on the amount of progress that's been made. He wants to talk about the fact that the backlog is going down at VA, but he won't talk about how there is an increase in individuals that are now claiming that they -- that their ratings were incorrect. So, they're appealing to the Veterans Board of Appeals.

TAPPER: You obviously care about veterans. You chair this committee because you care about veterans.

Speaker of the House John Boehner in March said he opposed linking the defunding of Obamacare to the government spending bill because it would lead to a government shutdown. Responsible members of the House Republican leadership opposed doing this because they knew it would lead to a government shut shutdown, because there was no way there were the votes for it in the Senate, and President Obama was not going to gut his signature legislation.

Why would you go along with this, knowing that it would hurt veterans and their families this way?

MILLER: Well, Jake, there's a couple things to talk about. Number one, almost 85 percent of the Department of Veterans Affairs is forward-funded for a two-year period instead of a one-year period. And nobody wanted to get to where he had a government shutdown. Obviously we knew -- and I'd been saying in August they we did not have the votes in the Senate in order to defund Obamacare. But certainly an opportunity to start a negotiation or a discussion with the president and Senator Reid over in the Senate, I think, was very important. But they don't want to negotiate, so they decided they would see the government shut down.

TAPPER: Sir, with all due respect, the original government funding bill defunded Obamacare. Then there were all sorts of provisions and follow-up bills to gut it by taking out the individual mandate. These were nonstarters; these were not negotiable items. This was not something about - that could be negotiated. This was legislation that was passed by the House, passed by the Senate, signed into law by President Obama, found constitutional by the Supreme Court.

And, again, I know you car about these veterans. This was entirely predictable.

MILLER: So, just because you say it's not negotiable, that becomes the fact?

TAPPER: No, because -- no, sir, because the Senate and President Obama say we're not -- I'm not -- there aren't enough votes. The math says it's not negotiable. You don't have the votes in the Senate or in the White House -- the support in the White House --

MILLER: You know, Jake, we negotiate all the time, and for you to perpetuate the rumor that it's not negotiable, you're buying into what the White House has been trying to say all along.

TAPPER: Oh, I'm sorry. Did I miss some sort of wonderful negotiation that's gone in the last week in which there's been some sort of achievement?

MILLER: Oh no, there's been no negotiation. You know why? Because the president has chosen not to do it.

And look, this is a much -- but you want to go back and talk about Obamacare. It's a much larger issue. We're talking about debt deficits and spending that our children and grandchildren for many years to come are going to have to pay. The president --

TAPPER: I'm not disagreeing with you on any of that. I'm not disagreeing with you on any of that, and I think that Obamacare has problems, and we've covered that in my show, and we'll continue to cover that in the show. I just asked Senator Durbin about it.

My point is this strategy was entirely predictable. Let me read you a letter from --

MILLER: No, let me ask you.


MILLER: Why doesn't Senator Durbin urge Senator Reid to pass the bill that the House has already passed that fully funds -- not just in a partial clean C.R., but fully funds military construction and Veterans Affairs. Take veterans off the table. We're not the ones that are using them as political pawns. There have been four bills that have been sent over to the Senate; 127 days Harry Reid has sat on the funding bill for veterans. Fully funding them.

TAPPER: I take your point. I have asked Democrats that question. I'm not going to respond on their behalf.

MILLER: And what did they say?

TAPPER: Their answer is -- the answer of the Democrats about why they won't pass these piecemeal -- are you talking about the piecemeal?

MILLER: No, no, no, no no.

TAPPER: You're talking about the larger veterans' bill.

MILLER: Again, that's where people are getting confused. They're saying we should not fund the government piecemeal.

The fact is, Jake, if we use regular order, it is done piecemeal through 12 different appropriations bills. And we have already sent the veterans funding bill, the DoD bill over to the Senate. And they have chosen not to take them up.

TAPPER: You'll have to take your questions for Senator Durbin to Senator Durbin. I have not asked him that specific question, so I would be a bad spokesman for him.

I do want to read a letter to you - it wasn't written to you; it was written to me -- and get your response. It's from a friend of mine. She is a veteran. Her husband was killed fighting in Afghanistan. She is worried about her disability payments, she's worried about her survivor benefits, she's worried about her G.I. Bill. She's mad at everyone in Congress right now. She's mad at President Obama, too.

She says she fought for this country. She was okay with the fact -- not okay with it, but she understood her husband dying to fight for this country. She does not understand why Congress and the president cannot get together and solve this problem so she doesn't have to worry about her paycheck. Can you give her an answer?

MILLER: I sure can. And again, it's going to sound political when I say this, but only four people in the House of Representatives voted against the veterans funding bill back in June, 127 days ago. We could solve the issue that she is most concerned about if Harry Reid would just bring that particular bill up for a vote on the floor.

TAPPER: All right. Senator - I'm sorry! Congress. I gave you a promotion there. Congressman Jeff Miller, thank you so much. We really appreciate you coming in.

MILLER: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: Coming up, sure, you've heard multimillion-dollar dot-com success stories before, but my next guest, Reddit co-founder, Alexis Ohanian, will show you how to start your own online empire.

And later, in Hollywood, a government shutdown is fodder for fresh plot lines. Stay with us.


TAPPER: While you were playing hackie sack in the quad, they were curiously coding in their dorm rooms becoming ultimately dot com millionaires. We'll show you how it's done. Stay with us.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Now it's time for our "Money Lead." He started a web site with his college roommate and by his mid 20s he'd changed the face of the internet and became a millionaire. Yes, I know you've heard stories like that before and admit you probably wouldn't mind getting in on the action.

So good news, Reddit co-founder, Alexis Ohanian has drawn up a veritable blueprint for internet start up success. In his new book "Without Their Permission, How the 21st Century Will Be Made, Not Managed." And Alexis Ohanian joins me now. Thanks for being here. We really appreciate. First, explain the title "Without Their Permission."

ALEXIS OHANIAN, REDDIT CO-FOUNDER: You know, there's something we use in the internet economy. We talk about it as permissionless innovation and this is really the magic of the internet. It means if you have a great idea, whether it's a business like Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, or an art project or a film or philanthropy, you don't need anyone's permission to get started. All the resources are need are the laptop and an internet connection.

TAPPER: We can talk about the ways that the internet has radically changed society, but I want to know what is going to blow our minds, what in 20 years are we going to look back at 2013 and say we couldn't even do that back then, but now this is a part of our life like the way we use Reddit or Twitter or Facebook today.

OHANIAN: There are still so many instances where the relationship we have with the internet is kind of forced. It's a device that we turn on. I think 10 or 15 years down the road it is going to be a lot more seamless. What that is going to mean is, you know, certainly for the generation of people, and I extol this in the book and talk about it at every one of my 75 university stops in the tour, is that if you can write the code, if you are a programmer, you have that skill, this century is yours for the taking. As market -- software is -- so I think the internet and software will become and bigger and bigger part of our lives.

TAPPER: Reddit, and you'll disagree perhaps, but it has at least a reputation for appealing to, shall we say, a slightly geeky demographic. A lot of young men who call themselves Redditors, maybe that's not fair, but I'm sure you would agree that you would like Reddit to have a greater reach. How can you do that?

OHANIAN: We just broke 80 million unique visitors a month. So that is larger than the country in France in terms of population. So the user base is massive. I was actually really heartened. A recent Pew study actually put Hispanics, about 11 percent of Reddit usage across other social media channels.

So we have what is already a rather diverse community of 80 million- plus, but the thing that is going to keep pushing this forward and get us to the scale of Twitter, which is about three or four times Reddit size is simply getting people onto these sub-Reddits, getting people to realize that if they live in Brooklyn, there's an amazing Brooklyn sub-Reddit. If they're Nets fans, there's a great Nets sub-Reddit. If they go to the University of George, there's a great sub-Reddit for that too.

TAPPER: We only have 15 seconds and I want to ask you about the Boston bomber hunt and how Reddit users wrongly identified several people as possible suspects. I'm going to have to ask you to write it up and we'll put it on the blog. As we know the internet is just as good substitute for television.

So thank you so much for coming. We really appreciate it. The book is "Without Their Permission, How the 21st Century Will Be Made Not Managed." Alex Ohanian, thank you so much and good luck with your book.

OHANIAN: Thank you.

TAPPER: Next how Hollywood has handled government shutdowns of the past. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) TAPPER: Hundreds of thousands of people worried about their paychecks, what could be funnier than that? Well, leave it to Hollywood to find laughs in the shutdown. That's next.


TAPPER: Now to the "Pop Culture Lead." Washington, D.C. calls it a partial government shutdown, but Hollywood calls it something else, total comedy gold, shutdown-tainment. We've seen this political theatre not just on C-Span but on primetime TV.


REPRESENTATIVE JOHN BOEHNER (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: Harry Reid and the president are putting our country on a pretty dangerous path.

SENATOR HARRY REID (D), MAJORITY LEADER: The government is closed, and it's closed because they have helped close it.

TAPPER (voice-over): If you're starting to feel like you've seen this show before, that's probably because you have.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Effective tomorrow morning, the entire government will be shut down until further notice.

TAPPER: I'm not just talking about the 1995-'96 shutdown. There's nothing funny our exciting about real-life government shutdowns, but they can make for big laughs and big drama on TV.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're in shutdown mode. I have to have a skeleton staff.

TAPPER: In HBO's hit show "Veep," Julia Louis-Dreyfus stars as a bumbling vice president. Despite her best efforts, the government shuts down and she must sort out who qualified as, quote, "essential" thus avoiding being furloughed.

On "Veep" national parks gets shut down, too, but instead of World War II veterans storming the gates of their own monument. In the fictional "Veep" a furloughed park ranger leads to someone being eaten by a bear.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm to blamed because some goober got eaten up by a bear?

PAUL FAHRI, MEDIA REPORTER, "WASHINGTON POST": The political tension is who's up and who's down.

TAPPER: Paul Farhi is a media reporter for "The Washington Post."

FAHRI: It makes for comedy and drama, but in a real shutdown, the effect is on hundreds of thousands of people and how they're affected by the loss of government services.

TAPPER: While the real-life president is engaged in a war of wills with Congress. BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: You don't negotiate by putting a gun to the other person's head.

TAPPER: You can always look to "The West Wing" for inspiration.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not going to negotiate with someone who puts a gun to my head. We had a deal.

TAPPER: Of course, it only took that TV president two one-hour episodes to end the West Wing shutdown showdown, unless the kettle call the pot black, let's not forget Hollywood has shutdowns of their own. The 100-day writers' strike crippled the entire entertainment industry in 2007 and 2008. Maybe that time on the picket lines helped inspire NBC writers for "Parks & Recreation".

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The entire government will be shut down until further notice.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm sorry I just started hearing large circus music in my head. What did you say?

TAPPER: But looks like the shutdown circus will be in town here for a while too. Maybe the Senate chaplain had the right idea.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have mercy upon us, o God, and save us from the madness.


TAPPER: That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. Join me tonight live at 11:00 p.m., 8:00 p.m. Pacific for a CNN special "Shutdown Showdown." We'll speak with Maine Independent Senator Angus King. For now I turn you over to Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM."