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Obama Huddling with Top House Dems; Interview with Rep. Joseph Crowley and Rep. Steve Southerland; Democrats Hold Press Conference; Is 14th Amendment Shutdown Solution; Families of Fallen Upset Over Shutdown.

Aired October 9, 2013 - 11:30   ET



REP. JOHN BOEHNER, (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The conversation ought to start today.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We can't make ex- extortion routine as part of our democracy crazy. Democracy doesn't function this way.

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


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Well, guess what? What you're doing is also not how government works. Because it ain't working.

I want to bring in Democratic Representative Joseph Crowley of New York and Republican Representative Steve Southerland of Florida.

I like you like your musical interlude because that's about as nice as this interview will get.

Gentlemen, thank you very much for joining me.

Let me get to the meat of all of this.

Congressman Crowley, there is a meeting at 4:00. The White House has invited the Democratic caucus to come to the White House. You are the vice chair of that caucus. I want to know what that meeting is about. I figured it would be Republicans who would be invited to the White House. Is this about a schism in the Democratic Party over a possible short-term debt deal? I know some Democrats want a long-term debt deal. Does it have to do with that?

REP. JOSEPH CROWLEY, (D), NEW YORK: No, Ashleigh, there's no schism in our party at all. We want to get our government back up and operating. Let's be clear. The reason we're in this shutdown is because my Republican colleagues do not want millions of Americans to have health care. That hasn't changed. We will not re-litigate nor re-regulate that issue. There was an election last year and the American people decided they wanted to see us move forward. If it's about creating jobs or how many we will create or not create, I think Democrats are open to those negotiations.

BANFIELD: Let me ask you if, if I can, gentlemen. I know that some of your colleagues, Congressman Crowley, sent a letter, Bill Foster and Patrick Murphy, and asked that the congressional gem and spa be closed until the shutdown is over, making some kind of an allegation that perhaps Speaker Boehner doesn't want the congressional gym closed. Here is a quick comment from a Democratic Representative Earl Blumenauer from Oregon. Have a listen to what he has to say about it.


REP. EARL BLUMENAUER, (D), OREGON: Well, that's true. It doesn't cost very much. But it costs -- the electricity, the hot water, the towels. They're not provided by gym fairies. They're provided by taxpayers.


BANFIELD: So Congress Southerland, is there any truth to the fact that the speaker doesn't want the gym closed? And maybe the bigger question is this getting so incredibly petty?

REP. STEVE SOUTHERLAND, (R), FLORIDA: I think it is petty. And by the way, let the record show that I do not have a gym membership. So -- but I have not had a conversation with the speaker. I think he spoke loud and clear this morning that it is time for adults to come together, to have a conversation, to make sure that this government is open in providing the services that the American people deserve and expect. So I think that for people to raise issues over the gym and -- I think is somewhat petty. But I think the speaker spoke loud and clear. And I'm standing with him. And I think just as my friend Joe mentioned that he claimed that the Democrats are unified, I will tell you, the 35 months that I've been here I've never seen the Republican conference as unified on the principle that all of us were created equally.

BANFIELD: Really? I'm read different newspapers than you are.


SOUTHERLAND: I bet you. And I would agree on that. We probably read different papers.

BANFIELD: You're adorable. I happen to read them all. But thanks for the accusation. Let me lay a few out at you and challenge you right back.

Number one, Paul Ryan wrote in the "Wall Street Journal" in an op-ed today, "We need to pay our bills today and make sure we can pay our bills tomorrow. So let's negotiate an agreement to make modest reforms to the entitlement programmed and the tax code again." Again, laudable. But then came the other Republican member who is making a lot headlines. Ted Cruz's senior communication adviser tweeting in response to that: "There is one big word missing from this op-ed. It starts with an 'O' and ends with 'bamacare'." So my question is to Congressman Southerland, that sounds like a fissure in your party, that there is infighting in your party. What happened to Obamacare? I thought that's what this was all about.


SOUTHERLAND: Let me answer your question. I listened to -- or read Paul's story this morning. And also saw him on a subsequent interview. And he said, look, that the health care bill is an entitlement. When he mentions all entitlements, that certainly is going to include health care going forward. And by the way, I know Senator Cruz. We are a bicameral form of government. I look to our Republican conference in the House of Representatives. And we are unified. So you would have to ask Senator Cruz questions about the Senate. But I can speak for the House of Representatives, we're very unified.

BANFIELD: I'm not going to let you off the hook, because you're smiling.

CROWLEY: I always smile.


CROWLEY: I'm told to always smile on camera.

BANFIELD: Let me ask you this question. From the Democratic standpoint, Joe Biden has been a bit AWOL. A lot of people say we haven't seen hide nor hair of him. And sources are saying that Harry Reid said, keep Biden out of it. He gives away too much. From the Democratic perspective, is that true, and isn't that really lousy to have that, if it is true, that opinion?

CROWLEY: Look, that's the first I heard of that. I think the vice president and the president are working very closely together. In fact, I'm sure the vice president will be there this afternoon when we meet at the White House. And really, what this is -- this is not about members of Congress. All the gimmicks, all these other issues, it really comes back to one issue. That is, once again, I said, this is all about shutting down the government to prevent millions of Americans getting health care. We can't change that story as much as people want to do that. And I think the vice president and president understand that as well.

BANFIELD: I don't think I got an answer to my question.

I'm so flat out of time. It's been a pleasure to talking to both of you.


CROWLEY: We talk a lot. We're talking to each other right now.


(CROSSTALK) BANFIELD: Shake hands. It's become a tradition.


BANFIELD: There we go. It looks great to see you like this. I wish you would behave like that in the House.

Thanks very much, gentlemen.


BANFIELD: So we are seeking a solution to the debt ceiling crisis. Unless you've been living under a rock, you would know that by now. But does it lie in a tricky little amendment in our U.S. Constitution named number 14? Some experts say it's as simple as breaking out your handbook. Or is it?


BANFIELD: I want to take you live now to some pictures the most people would really rather not see, but really should see. Dover Air Force Base, that's where the bodies of four us soldiers who are killed over the weekend in Afghanistan are going to be coming home. You've got five pictures there, but four of those bodies will be returning to Dover. This is what you call a dignified transfer. That's the word that the military uses, a dignified transfer. And it is particularly heightened today because the secretary of the defense himself is going to be there, Chuck Hagel. We've been reporting all along that this is more than likely because of the partial government shutdown. Because it has meant that the families of those fallen heroes are not getting the normal death benefits that they should be, including the money that it takes to get them to Dover so they can meet the remains of their loved ones.

CNN's Athena Jones is live at Dover Air Force Base.

This is so troubling. I'm not sure how many families of those four at least have been able to make it there on their own dime or if you've even been able to get the story. This is such an unpleasant story that I'm sure the government doesn't want us to have.



BANFIELD: Athena, I'm sorry -- I'm sorry. Harry Reid is speaking. This isn't something we expected. I'll return to you in a moment.

Let's check in on the head of the Senate. I'm sorry, we're just trying to get that tape in. But the Senate majority leader, harry Reid, is apparently taking to the mic very unexpected.

SEN. HARRY REID, (D-NV), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: And my Republican friends should take yes for an answer. We're ready to go to conference. We have simple, simple requests. Open the government, let us pay our bills, but not negotiate on anything you want to negotiate on.

We're going to hear from the Maryland delegation led by you know who and then we'll hear from the Virginia delegation led by, you'll find out.


Good morning, everybody.

SEN. BARBARA MIKULSKI, (D), MARYLAND: We want to re-open government. We want to make sure that America pays its bills. And we're ready to negotiate as we have been doing in the past. For those of us in Maryland, we want to re-open government so that the 130,000 federal employees who live and work in Maryland can go back to work to do their job. We want to re-open government so that we re-open small business, all of the small business throughout our state who near our military facilities that are now stressed and stretched because they don't have customers. We want to re-open government because we are the home to 80 major federal agencies headquartered in Maryland. Serving not only Maryland, but serving the nation and serving the world. We are the home to the headquarters for Social Security. We are the home for the headquarters for Medicare. We're the home for the headquarters for the national security agency. We're the headquarters for the FDA. We work together with Virginia. We have the space agency. In weren't Maryland, we have a federal prison. We want to re-open federal government so it serves the nation.

This isn't just about federal employees. This is also about local business. And it's also impacting the world. Let me just talk about two agencies in Maryland. Let's talk about the Food and Drug Administration headquartered in Maryland. 8,500 employees work there. It is a comeback neighborhood because of the presence of FDA working with NIH coming up with the -- working on the clinical trials for biotech products and medical devices. But it also stands century on counterfeit drugs. This is how it's serving the nation and the world. The FDA has furloughed, 45 percent of the people are furloughed. We don't have people on the job monitoring counterfeit drug imports on our border and coming from China. 40 percent of all the drugs taken in the United States are manufactured overseas of the right now we've had to cancel inspections in China and India. Why is that so important? Just a few years ago, faulty products coming in from blood thinners from China sickened 800 people and killing 81. My drug inspectors want to be on the job ensuring the safety of the supply chain that when you take a drug, that that drug is safe to take and you won't die because your regulators are not on the job. Open up the FDA serving the nation and serving the world. This is what we want to be able to do.


MIKULSKI: And then over there in Woodlawn is the Social Security Administration and the Medicare Administration. Though we are headquartered there, serving the nation, serving the world. There are 8,000 federal employees at those agencies that have been furloughed. That means the processing the disability checks, the processing of eligibility for Social Security, making sure Medicare is done. And also the very unit that goes after waste and fraud in Medicare has been furloughed. Now, when you have your Social Security funded, it's not only in Woodlawn, Maryland, every Social Security -- there's Social Security offices in every place around the United States of America. Open up the Social Security Administration. Keep the lights burning so that people who have earned benefits can apply and get the right answers and making sure that those who go after fraud in the Medicare program, fraud in the Social Security program are standing sentry to make sure that only those who get it, should get it. That's what Social Security administration is. And right down the street --

BANFIELD: We were dipping into the step of the Capitol Hill where the Democratic Senate leaders are beginning a conference. I thought the House is doing the same thing. It's the Senate news conference. And this is happening over and over and over, from the top leadership on down.

I want to take you back to Dover, if it I can, for a moment. Where I had to very rudely interrupt Athena Jones. Why I want to get you back there, there are four people that we need to honor.

Athena, just give me a moment to read the names.

We have five pictures on the screen, but four of those members, they're remains are set to be brought back to Dover today. Cody Patterson, Patrick Hawkins, Jennifer Moreno, and Joseph Peters, all four of those. We have to say what are believed to be their remains. They have not yet been officially identified. That will happen once they hit U.S. soil.

Athena Jones you're on sight there. Were they able to get the family members there today? Any of them?

JONES: Well, there will be family members here. I will tell you that they're not paying to these families because of the shutdown. Those clue $100,000 that go to these families within three days of losing a family member, as well as travel expenses and burial expenses. I can tell you that a group that serves veterans, the fibber house, has stepped in to help pay for some of these families to be able to come here and be here today. Fibber House says they'll be paid back once this is all sorted out. The issue here is that the Pentagon says that the law that was passed just before the shutdown began to pay our military act that made sure that troops were going to get paid, that does not give them the authorization to pay out these death benefits. This is something that has caused a rare moment of bipartisan agreement on Capitol Hill. You've got folks on both sides of the aisle who are outraged at this saying this is now the way to honor people who have sworn an oath to America to protect and defend America, to abandon these families at this moment.

So the House later on today, at 2:00 p.m., will plan to vote on a bill that will fix this. It's hard to say what will happen to the bill, whether it will be taken up by the Senate. And we've asked the White House whether the Senate will sign it. Haven't heard back on that. But I can tell you that while Senators like John McCain says that we should all be ashamed of ourselves. Members of Congress should be ashamed and embarrassed of themselves. You've heard similar words from Senator Harry Reid, but he also said that Republicans should just reopen the government. So they are saying they can reopen the government, end this shutdown, solve this problem all at once -- Ashleigh?

BANFIELD: Athena Jones, thank you.

As you were speaking, I was able to get the name of the fifth fallen hero. His name is Jeremiah Collins. He will be joining the others as all five of their remains make it back home to American soil to be repatriated. Who knows if they will have to pay for the burial themselves?

We're back after this.


BANFIELD: So short of fairy dust, how on earth do you get the money to blow your bills if you blow past the debt ceiling? If you pull out a copy of the Constitution, there's a strange suggestion in there that might just work. Or would it?

That's why I brought in Jeff Toobin and Candy Crowley.

Jeff Toobin, the legal aspect of the 14th Amendment, what is it and could it be used by the president?

JEFF TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Most of us learned in high school, under Article I Congress appropriates money. That the basic rule of --

BANFIELD: That's article I?

TOOBIN: -- how the American Constitution works.

BANFIELD: And then the Constitution was amended?

TOOBIN: Correct. In the 14th Amendment, there is a provision that says, "The public debt of the United States shall not be questioned." Now, no one knows precisely what that means, but there is one school of thought developing, and it's just a theory now, that the president, under the 14th Amendment, could simply pay the debts of the budget --

BANFIELD: Just sign an executive order?

TOOBIN: Sign the executive order, pay money that Congress has not authorized under his power under the 14th Amendment. The president yesterday and the administration previously has thrown cold water on this idea. I don't think it's going to happen. It's very unclear whether it would even be legal. It would certainly create whole new set of uncertainties but it is theoretically possible.

BANFIELD: I've seen some legal scholars weighing in, saying, no, it can be litigated. It could work.

However, Candy Crowley, on the other end of the spectrum, there's the political reality of this.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And the political reality -- and I agree with Jeff -- is unlikely to happen. But everything is unlikely to happen until it does. The president clearly doesn't want to give Congress any way out. That's why they set the 17th deadline. They are saying, here's the only way we can get through this.

The political reality for the president is the more we see this go on, the more we see the numbers eroding. I was surprised when I saw the first polls and when people were asked, who do they hold at fault, there was only a nine-point gap between Republicans and Democrats. That was small. We're seeing it close a little bit more.

BANFIELD: Yesterday, we talked about that. We had one poll with an 11-point spread and this week a poll that had a six-point spread. A huge erosion.

CANDY CROWLEY: We've talked about this, too, and that is that at some point if no one budges an inch, there has to be a point when someone, whether it's the president or speaker of the House comes out and goes, the other guy is completely wrong but I am not willing to do this and therefore, here's what I'm going to do.

BANFIELD: Jeffrey Toobin, I only have 15 seconds left, but I want to ask you about the magical trillion dollar coin that legally, again, can be minted and solve the problem. But?

TOOBIN: Again, the president could do that in theory unilaterally. First, there's the ridiculousness of this problem. The idea of a trillion dollar coin solving the problem would open the country and the president to ridicule. Perhaps it would save a financial meltdown but the president, as Candy says, doesn't want to give Congress any sort of leeway that would let them off the hook and not resolve it in the right way.

BANFIELD: I like how you said the ridiculousness of it, like the ridiculousness of defaulting on our debt.



TOOBIN: Right, yes.

BANFIELD: Candy and Jeff, thank you both. I know you'll be busy throughout the day.

Thank you, everyone. We're out of time. I wish I had another hour. But AROUND THE WORLD is next and it starts after this break. Have a good one.


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome. I'm Suzanne Malveaux.

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Michael Holmes. Thanks for your company today.

Right now, the partial government shutdown is pushing hard on people who are dealing with the most heartbreaking experience that you can imagine.

MALVEAUX: We're talking about the military men and women who lose their lives in combat. As a consequence of the shutdown that lawmakers say they did not intend, this is what is going on. When much of the government is not working, like now, those families, they don't get the financial assistance that they normally would during this very upsetting and emotional time.