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Government Shutdown Continues; Republicans Meet With Obama; Interview with Rep. Steny Hoyer; Shutdown Showdown

Aired October 11, 2013 - 11:00   ET


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN HOST: Your turn, Senate Republicans. Just minutes from now, you're going to get your chance to either build on a remarkable meeting last night between House Republicans and the President or go ahead and just blow all that up.

Hello, everyone. I'm Ashleigh Banfield, and it is October the 11th. It's Friday. Welcome to LEGAL VIEW.

What is remarkable about the President's meeting with House GOP leaders is this -- and are you watching -- nobody, nobody ran right to a camera afterward to complain about nothing going on. Quite the opposite -- instead, back on Capitol Hill, the Republican chairman of the House Rules Committee said this, "We are all working together now."

And you can say "Kumbaya" while I read that again, "We are all working together now." It is remarkable.

To be really clear about all this there's still no agreement on anything. No paperworks. There is no solution to the partial government shutdown -- nothing in paper. There is nothing with regard to that looming default problem on paper at least anyway.

But and this is a big but, a short-term debt ceiling hike is on the table finally, and both sides are pledging to keep working towards getting the government opened back up.

I'm joined now by CNN's Brianna Keilar at the White House where GOP senators should start filing in at any moment, and then also Athena Jones is live on Capitol Hill.

Brianna, let me begin with you if I can. Sometimes there are rumblings before these very important meetings. There have been in the past.

Are we hearing anything from the Senate Republicans who are on their way to the White House to speak with the president? And even if we were, would it matter?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: At this point, I'll tell you we haven't. But let me set the scene.

Just a moment ago we had the Senate Republicans pull up in three buses. They actually went into the north portico, right over my right shoulder here. We saw one of them file in. One of my producers actually saw Ted Cruz going in, so we know he is inside there, Ashleigh, as he just sort of, I think, dinged President Obama while he was at the Value Voters Summit.

But the state of play at this point is that there is some progress, and I think both sides are cautiously optimism.

But we should also say there is no deal at this point. You have some agreement, it appears, on an extension of the debt ceiling, six-week extension, which is key, because the debt ceiling is much more, I would say, important to deal with than the shutdown.

But the shutdown is still outstanding at this point. President Obama says he wants to deal with the shutdown and then negotiate over the next six weeks.

Republicans, House Republicans are saying that they want to negotiate with the shutdown in effect. Obviously they want some leverage. So they need to figure out exactly what they want to get the shutdown -- or to end the shutdown at this point.

We're waiting to see what the senate Republicans say. I think the real issue is what are they going to say when they come out and what is -- you know, what kind of interaction did they have with President Obama.

BANFIELD: And then I think that issue, that secondary part of my question, Brianna, is, does it really matter at this point, or is this just to try to get everybody onboard, have a good faith showing?

Because, quite frankly, Senate Republicans don't have a majority and they're pretty much are having to go along with what the Senate Democrats are doing under Harry Reid.

KEILAR: Well, you know, they don't have to go along. I mean, we've seen that before. If they want to get in the way of something, while they might not have a majority, they can sort of thwart that 60-vote majority, which is key.

But I think the real issue is look at where they are on this. Its House Republicans who are farther away from the White House on this.

It's certainly not to say the Senate Republicans are irrelevant in any way, but they're actually a little closer to Democrats and the White House than the House Republicans.

So when you're looking at trying to broker a deal, where it needs to be done, it's between House Republicans and the White House.

Senate Republicans, you know, some of them also identify with the tea party. They have their concerns as well.

But you have more moderates who I think are more geared towards trying to find a solution, and they aren't as swayed by some of those senators on the right as you see happening in the House of Representatives, Ashleigh. BANFIELD: And then just generally speaking, after this, I hate to even call it a colossal meeting, but I will call it a colossal meeting because the market's even reacted in a colossal way to the notion that there's just talk, just that, just talk, nothing on paper, but talk.

What's the White House saying about it? The Republicans have come out and said very clearly that they thought this was productive. But what's the White House saying?

KEILAR: I think the White House feels that this was productive as well. And I think that's just because you have both sides kind of -- I guess not really dismissing the idea of this.

They feel like Republicans are genuinely working on something and trying to, I think, find some common ground, more so than they've seen in the past.

You know, President Obama, I'm told by a White House official, looked at Paul Ryan's op-ed in "The Wall Street Journal," where he didn't even mention ObamaCare as a demand. That was something that went out on Tuesday night.

The president looked at that as a signal that things were shifting away from the tea party. So I think that they feel that that's been a continuation over the last few days and they're encouraged because of that.

But they also caution there's still a lot to be worked out. There is no deal at this point, Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: Stand by if you will, Brianna, and thank you for that.

Athena Jones is also live at -- on Capitol Hill right now. And here's the thing. Wherever I do an interview with you or Dana Bash and I go to Capitol Hill, I'm very careful not to wonk out too much because we can really get lost in the weeds of things.

But I have to wonk out with you a little bit here. What is the devil in the details? What is it that the House Republicans want in that six-week period that they're suggesting? What kind of wonk are we about to start hearing about today that will likely rub Democrats the wrong way?

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ashleigh, I don't want to get too wonky on this. What we know of this proposal is that it will be a six- week debt limit increase lasting until about November 22nd.

During that time, they want the Republicans and Democrats to sit down and talk about how to re-open the government. As you know, this plan does not include ending the shutdown. That's one of the big sticking points.

But during this six weeks, that's when these conferees would be pointed and these discussions would take place on how to re-open the government, how to deal with some of these bigger budgetary issues. But one thing you've been talking about with Brianna that's so interesting is that, even though talks are still ongoing, even though there isn't any sort of final deal, it's really the tone that's changed so markedly.

You didn't have, as you mentioned, House Republicans rushing to microphones to complain about this hour-and-a-half long meeting with the president. In fact, listen to what House Majority Leader Eric Cantor had to say after the meeting.


REPRESENTATIVE ERIC CANTOR (R), MAJORITY LEADER: We had a very useful meeting. It was clarifying, I think, for both sides as to where we are, and the take away from the meeting was our teams are going to be talking further tonight.

We'll have more discussion. We'll come back to have more discussion. The president said that he would go and consult with the administration folks and hopefully we can see a way forward after that.


JONES: And so that way forward is what everyone is working on today. And we will see what comes out of that meeting that Senate Republicans are going to be having with the president this hour.


BANFIELD: OK, Athena Jones, live on Capitol Hill, thank you. And you weren't as wonky as I expected but you made perfect sense,

Athena Jones for us, and Brianna Keilar for us, as well, thank you.

When all of this is behind us, we could all look back to last night's conversation between the president and House Republican leaders as a turning point. Anyway, I hope that's the case.

My next guest was there. He was there listening to it all. Louisiana Congressman Steve Scalise is the chair of the GOP study committee and a member of the tea party caucus, among others.

Congressman, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me. I'd love to get the fly-on-the-wall characterization of the meeting and not in bumper stickers. I really want to know what the wonk is that I was just talking with Athena Jones on Capitol Hill about.

What is it about that the Republican caucus in the House wants in order to get this six-week extension on the debt ceiling? And be specific.

REPRESENTATIVE STEVE SCALISE (R), LOUISIANA: Sure, and it's really basic. We want to start a conversation about how we negotiate our differences. Look, we've got divided government. We've got a Republican House and Democrat Senate and a Democrat White House, and a country that's divided.

But there are real serious issues that are not only dividing the country, but also holding the economy back. We want to address those problems to get the economy moving again and get control over Washington spending.

An all that can be done if you get people in a room -

BANFIELD: I get that.

SCALISE: -- and actually start negotiating those --

BANFIELD: And I love that talk. It's wonderful to hear that. But I daresay --

SCALISE: But it hadn't happened until last night. Keep in mind, we've been asking for that for weeks and weeks and it finally started, which is good.

BANFIELD: Congressman, though, my question to you was specifics, because you all were in there longer than 10 minutes, and that's a 10 minute conversation that you're talking about having a conversation.

Is it true that Paul Ryan had that moment that we've listen hearing about, where he stood up and said, Mr. President we're not going away. You're going to have to deal with us in one way or another?

And did you all come to some kind of a consensus where you said, I want A, B, and C when we sit down during those six weeks?

And I'll give you a suggestion. Did you say to the president, you are not going to get a clean c.r., you're not going to get a clean spending bill if we give you this debt ceiling breakthrough?

SCALISE: First of all, we did offer to increase the debt ceiling in exchange for starting negotiations. That shouldn't be something you negotiate over. That should be a given, but we're not there yet.

And so the president still hasn't agreed to that, but he at least said he's considering it.

The other thing on the funding of government, we passed 18 different bills to fund all the parts of government, so clearly we want to get the government back open again and we've got differences with the president on some of those spending issues.

We've got to start talking about them to resolve them. We need --

BANFIELD: OK, did you talk about it being with the spending bill? Was that a topic that you discussed in the White House, the spending bill?

And if you're going to get your deal on the debt ceiling, you're going to give us a few strings attached on the spending bill? Did you talk about that?

SCALISE: We talked about the debt ceiling and the funding of government, a c.r. and how we get through this.

You know, clearly, we're not at a point where we have an agreement yet. The president would like --

BANFIELD: What issues did you give him?

SCALISE: Nobody gets everything that they want in a negotiation, but you need a start.

BANFIELD: What issues did you give them?

SCALISE: Obviously, we talked about some of the areas where we have disagreements, and we said we need to start working through those issues and get a solution, start coming to an agreement.

And we asked the president to start that conversation. He didn't employee to --

BANFIELD: I'm not getting anywhere. I'm not getting anywhere. I'm sitting out here in America wondering why you guys can't get anywhere, and it's because we get platitudes.

SCALISE: But if you and I have differences and I'm starting to lay on the table what I would like to do to solve those differences and you're not saying anything, it's kind of hard to work them out.

At some point the president is going to have to agree to actually enter that negotiation with us so we can solve them.

All people, you know, husbands and wives have differences, but they sit at a table and they work them out.

But that has to start. You have to have the beginning where both sides are going to agree they're going to negotiate. We've said we want to negotiate for weeks.

BANFIELD: I hear you.

SCALISE: For a while, the president said he wouldn't. Yesterday, he finally said, OK, I'll sit down. We need to have a lot more of these talks.

BANFIELD: He said he wouldn't negotiate until the government was open and a lot of times Republicans fail to mention that second part of the sentence, which I think is critical.

You both fight each other with bumper stickers.

SCALISE: If I said I'll fail to negotiate unless I get everything I want, is that something that's a reasonable negotiation? Of course not.

Both sides have to agree what our differences are and how we resolve them.

BANFIELD: I want to show you how this is playing in Peoria where I'm sitting, because right now when we ask -- and actually it wasn't us. It was NCB/"Wall Street Journal,"

We asked whom do you blame for the shutdown? Fifty-three percent say it's the Republicans fault. Thirty-one percent say it's President Obama's fault.

And I think maybe even the more telling question was, would you vote to defeat and replace every member of congress if you could? And 60 percent said yes. Sixty percent want you all off the Hill, you and every other colleague, be it Republican or Democratic.

So what I'm trying to say to you, sir, is I don't think your platitudes are working. You're fighting for the hearts and minds of America, but you're using these platitudes, you're speaking specifics, and you're twisting each other's words. It's not working. Don't you see that.

SCALISE: Well, of course, you can ask any kind of poll question and get any kind of answer that you want, but at the end of the day people want solutions.

People know the economy was struggling before the government shutdown. Millions of families were out of work and trying to get jobs and they weren't able to get it because of the policies coming out of Washington.

Look at all the disasters related to the president's health care law kickoff. If this thing was so perfect, why is the president exempting over 1,200 groups? Why is the president exempting members of Congress?

We should all want fairness. We should all be able to agree on that. There is not an agreement. The president has not agreed to fairness as it relates to getting these problems solved.

Look, the government is shut down because we sent bills over to the Senate to get it open. We want to get it open again. But clearly there are differences.

It's not any one group's fault. But ultimately you've got to solve the problems. The economy was struggling before all of this started.

I think the American people are frustrated because they don't see the problems getting worked out. And it starts with two people sitting at a table and actually negotiating --

BANFIELD: Good luck. It should start today if you all are serious about what you discussed in the White House --

SCALISE: It should have started weeks ago, but I'm glad we're finally there.

BANFIELD: Oh, I'm with you there, sir. And there's plenty of blame to go around. Thank you, Congressman Steve Scalise. Good to see you. Get to work. Work hard. Earn your money.

SCALISE: Let's do it. Let's get it done.

BANFIELD: Because I know you're getting paid.

So sparks really flew during a Values Voter Summit today. Have a look.


SENATOR TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: Ma'am, thank you for being here. I wish you would participate in the democratic process through speaking respectfully.


BANFIELD: Amen, Ted Cruz. Whenever there's a heckler, that's the constitution. You get a First Amendment right.

So when Ted Cruz speaks, lots of people listen. And you know what? Lots of people cheer, too.

We're going to have a live report from there, coming up right after the break.


BANFIELD: You know, it's that time of year, the Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C. Social conservatives, physical conservatives, conservatives in office, and all the conservatives who put them there, they all get together to talk about faith and government and what they would do if only they had enough or even a little more power.

CNN's Mark Preston is there live. He is covering it. This was a raucous morning, I think is a fair way to characterize it, Mark Preston, and as we were watching the Ted Cruz speech, there were so many excitable cheers, but there were also a lot of people who perhaps didn't respect the decorum and instead heckled. I want to play one example of how Ted Cruz, senator from Texas, responded to that. Let's listen.


SEN. TED CRUZ, R-TEXAS: It seems that President Obama's paid political operatives are out in force today.


CRUZ: I'm curious, is anybody left at the Organizing for American headquarters?


CRUZ: I'm actually glad that the president's whole political staff is here instead of actually doing mischief in the country. (APPLAUSE)


BANFIELD: I think the person I felt the most sorry for was the camera man who had to keep swinging back like it was a tennis match.

Mark Preston, give me the headlines from what happened this morning, because Ted Cruz is an integral part of what this country is going through right now.

MARK PRESTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He is. You know, Ashleigh, if you were to choose winners and losers in just a couple of hours that we've seen this conference launch this morning, it would be Ted Cruz. He was in his element. He was speaking to about 2,000 social conservative activists who have come across the country, who have come here to Washington, who have come here to rail against big government.

Ted Cruz on the stage, as you said, multiple times he was interrupted but he used that as fuel to keep him going, to excited the crowd. In many ways, Ted Cruz is very much in his element when he has people challenge him, and in fact, Ashleigh, he we want on to say that he would take on 100 of President Obama's most rabid supported in a town hall setting and put that out to any television network to put that on.

Ted Cruz in his element right now, but as you heard just a short time ago, Ted Cruz is now at the White House. It will be interesting to see what the interaction is between the senator and President Obama, Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: All right. Mark Preston. They always say this is one of the baby steps on the way to the presidency in 2016, and obviously there's a lot of talk about Ted Cruz in 2016. Mark Preston keep an eye on things for us. I know it goes on all day. There's some really big names that are coming up as well.

Mark Preston just alluded to this notion that Ted Cruz was called the de facto leader of the GOP, and it was a very important person who said so, it was Tony Perkins, the head of the Family Research Council. And guess what? He's coming up next.


BANFIELD: So clearly there are a lot of very important meetings going on today, as there have been all week on Capitol Hill. The worry up till now was that there were no meetings, but one of the critical meetings that was going on today at the House Democratic Caucus. They finished up that meeting.

One person who was in that meeting is Congressman Steny Hoyer, the Democrat from Maryland, who's also the minority whip, and he joins me live to talk about it.

Congressman Hoyer, thank you so much for taking the time. First of all, what came out of your meeting and I would like specifics if you can. What did you discuss specifically about this breakthrough that we may be close to?

REP. STENY HOYER, (D) MARYLAND: Well, we don't have very many specifics of a breakthrough and we don't know that there is a breakthrough, but I think the Democratic caucus is united on at least two things and much more. One is, that we need to open the government or not. We can talk, negotiate, we can do anything with the government open that we can do with the government closed. Secondly, America needs to be in a position of paying its bills. We need to extend the debt limit so that America's credit is kept whole. And we have very, very strong unity on that question, and we believe the president is right in saying that those two need to be done and they need to be done now.

BANFIELD: So I hear you on that and I don't think I'm have one guest -- no, I'm sure I've had not one guest say we think it's a good idea that the government stay closed. Everybody's on that page, it's just how you get there.

And with respect to that, can I -- I just want to ask you this question. Because the Republican Caucus yesterday, or at least the members that went to the White House were prepared to offer the overture on the debt ceiling, to move that six weeks, to raise the debt ceiling for six weeks, are you as a Democratic Caucus prepared to give on the next continuing resolution, the next funding bill to open the government? Are you prepared to deal with strings attached?

HOYER: Ashleigh, what do we get? This thing of dealing, do we get a debt-free nation? Do we get a -- a nation that's solvent? Is that what we get? That's what they want. You said at the outset, both sides say the same thing. Isn't it ironic that the speaker and the majority leader of the House of Representatives won't put a bill on the floor which has at least rhetorically unanimous support. We're not the government shut down. We're not keeping us from raising the debt limit. I understand what your question is --

BANFIELD: My question was, sir, what are you prepared to give? Because you're going to have to give something.

I mean look it, if the Republicans just says all right, we'll give in, regardless of whether you agree or disagree with their motives here, if they're going to give in and move ahead so that we don't bump up against the debt ceiling six days from now, the issue of the opening the government is still on the table, and that funding bill -- will you as a group of Democrats in the House, will you agree to some strings attached, i.e., a dirty CR, a non-clean CR, however you want to say it? Will you agree to something in that spending bill, attached, in order to get the government open?

HOYER: Ashleigh, again, I know you want me to say yes, we'll agree to this or that. I have no idea what they're going to ask for. And very frankly, they don't either. But what they've asked for is to sit down and talk. Very frankly, they've refused to do that for five months.

Now let me tell you --your listeners, it's difficult - I say -- the House passed a budget, the Senate passed a budget. Those have all the issues involved that we've been discussing, that Paul Ryan and John Boehner and others have been discussing. All of those issues would be on the table. We agreed to go to conference and discuss all of those issues - no pre-conditions, everything on the table, we'll consider the equities of everything. We'll go back and forth and come to an agreement hopefully that a democracy has to come to an agreement in order to make it law.

We're open to that. We want to do that. What we say is, though, don't shut down the government, make millions of people suffer in the process. Don't put a gun to our head, and don't say because you don't want, you want a solvent nation. You want a nation that pays its debts.

Don't play games with that. Don't threaten us with that. You're not threatening us, you're threatening the country. Democrats don't get something, the president doesn't get something because we assure that the nation can pay its bills. America gets something. We're all for America. That's why you hear us saying that, but we're not acting that way.

On our side, we have 200 Democrats, 201 and one's out - we have 200 Democrats that will vote to open government. We have about 190, maybe --


BANFIELD: I know where we are now. You don't have to describe once again. We've been telling our viewers all week long where we are now and that there isn't a vote. That's not what I'm asking. What I'm asking, if there's been a concession on the other side, could you at least stomach --


HOYER? What's the concession on the other - Ashleigh, what's the concession on the other side?


BANFIELD: The concession was that they want to put -- go to the rules committee, draft a bill to actually push the debt ceiling up for six weeks so that we don't careen and --

HOYER: It's not a concession to us.


BANFIELD: So is your answer no?

HOYER: No, it's not. That's not a concession to us, Ashleigh. They say they want that. Fine. Put it on the floor. What concession is that to us? A solvent nation and a government that's operating on behalf of the people. They don't want that so they're going to concede that to us. I don't think that's the state of play at all.

Very frankly, do that. I'm one of those, by the way, as you probably know, that is for reaching a big deal. I was for and was going to support until the president and John Boehner knew that we were going to support the agreement that he and the president reached. Unfortunately, he couldn't sell that to his caucus just like he couldn't sell his own deal to his caucus.

So this business of - they're not conceding anything to us. They say they want a government open. They want a debt limit raised. But somehow we have to give them something for that. We are prepared to talk about everything and put it on the table.

BANFIELD: All right. Congressman Steny Hoyer, I wish I had more time.

HOYER: I know that's not the answer you wanted.

BANFIELD: No, you know what I want? I want an hour on the air with you so I can go over all of these nuggets that we're hearing rumors about pieces and bits of Obamacare that might be on the table again. I don't have the time unfortunately, but you are adorable to share your time.


HOYER: Nothing about Obamacare is on the table. Nothing about the Affordable Care Act is on the table.

BANFIELD: Now I need a two-hour show. Okay, Steny Hoyer, thank you for your time, sir, it's good to talk to you.

HOYER: You bet.

BANFIELD: Always appreciate it.

Coming up just ahead. As CNN grilled the point man for the rollout of the Obamacare website about the problems, the big systematic problems and the high cost. You'll get answers in just a moment.