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U.S. Federal Government Shutdown Continues; Debt Ceiling Looms; Obamacare Web Site Still Has Glitches; Rumors of Progress in Shutdown, Debt Ceiling Negotiations; Fresh Lead in Madeleine McCann Case; Woman Rescued in Texas Floods; Classical Concert in Arizona's "Tent City"; Runner With Muscular Dystrophy Completes Marathon in Chicago

Aired October 14, 2013 - 15:30   ET


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Got some optimistic, uplifting news for you out of Washington, out of Capitol Hill today, as we know work is being done. Negotiations are happening, as we have learned.

This is actually the reason why the White House explains they -- they have postponed this meeting that would have been happening right now between the congressional leadership, these four -- four members on both sides of the aisle, the president, and the vice president, because there's work happening, there's talking happening, specifically on the Senate side.

And we witnessed just this fascinating moment about an hour-and-a-half ago on the floor of the U.S. Senate, because we know that talking specifically has been happening between these two Senate leaders, your Democrat, Harry Reid, your Republican, Mitch McConnell.

And so they both agreed. A lot of bad blood between these time-out guys, but they both agreed that a deal could be done this week.



SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: Constructive good-faith negotiations continue between the Republican leader and me.

I'm very optimistic that we will reach an agreement that's reasonable in nature this week to reopen the government, pay the nation's bills and begin long-term negotiations to put our country on sound fiscal footing.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: We had the opportunity over the last couple of days to have some very constructive exchanges of views about how to move forward.

Those discussions continue, and I share his optimism that we're going to get a result that will be acceptable to both sides.


BALDWIN: Wolf Blitzer, let me bring you in, host of "THE SITUATION ROOM." You've covered -- you were a White House correspondent for years and years. I'm just -- I'm curious because you've covered Washington for so long, and we'll get to this new ABC News/"Washington Post" poll in just a hot second, but first, what do you make of that moment between these two men on the Senate floor a little while ago?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR, "THE SITUATION ROOM": I think it's encouraging when you have Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell, both saying that they're not only optimistic, in Harry Reid's case, very optimistic, adding the word "very."

I think it's pretty encouraging. They must seem to be pretty close. If they can work out a deal, something that's acceptable to Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell, it would pass overwhelmingly, 70, 75 votes out of a hundred, let's say, in the Senate.

That would put enormous pressure to send that legislation over to the House and force the speaker, John Boehner, to put it up for a yea or nay vote on the floor of the House of Representatives, where I assume it would get support, maybe not a majority of all the Republicans would support it, but a large number of them would support it, way more than enough needed if you get all 200 or so Democrats on board, and presumably, you'll get at least 195 of them on board.

So I think that would be very encouraging. The question is, I assume the president would go along with what Harry Reid is going to sign off on.

I don't think Harry Reid is necessarily going to sign off on something that the president would veto, so maybe this thing could be resolved in the coming days.

BALDWIN: Maybe, and as it does, though, and we talk so much about potential influence, there's these negotiations happening right now in Washington, and one intangible influencer is public opinion.

And we have been looking at a heck of a lot of polls, and, Wolf, you've looked at this. It's the "Washington Post"/ABC news poll, and it sort of re-enforces what other polls indicate, but even more so when it comes to Republicans, specifically really taking a beating on this.

BLITZER: They are. Everyone, first of all, is taking a beating, but Republicans are taking a greater beating than the Democrats, certainly greater than the president.

They're all looking bad and Americans are frustrated with the way the government is acting. They're frustrated about everything here in Washington right now.

That's reversible. It can change, assuming they get a deal and assuming that out of this deal they can use this crisis to create some goodwill and maybe take a look at some of the long-term problems the country faces, entitlement reform or tax reform, major issues they really couldn't achieve in the grand bargain a few years ago when John Boehner and the president were pretty close to a deal but it collapsed in the end.

Maybe they can work out some sort of deal or out of this current crisis right now, take advantage of the current crisis in effect to go forward and to score some major points for the American public.

If they were to do that, as you know, Brooke, public opinion, attitudes would change across, and maybe the right track-wrong track, approval/disapproval, those numbers would become more positive for elected officials in Washington.

BALDWIN: Just specifically looking at the poll, barely one-in-five Americans, 21 percent, approve of the way Republicans in Congress are handling negotiations over the budget while nearly three-quarters disapprove.

And it goes on, Republicans suffering from a continued weakness among fellow partisans with 49 percent, and self-identified Republicans approving and 47 percent disapproving of the job their elected parties are doing in congress.

We could be having this conversation depending on the timeline of the deal and the debt ceiling and the federal government being up and running again.

I mean, a lot of these numbers could go right back to where they are if this is sort of ground hog day in three months, right?

BLITZER: Right. I mean, it depends on how long they agree to reopen the government for, and it depends on how long they agree to raise the debt ceiling for, whether a few months or more than a few months or whatever the agreement, the eventual agreement turns out to be. We could have this fight all over again.

If, on the other hand, during the next few months, let's say they agree to three to six months or even nine months, some sort of deal for the debt ceiling for the reopening of the federal government.

If during this time the House and Senate budget committee conferees, as they're called in Washington, they can get together and start discussing some major issues, I think things might look a little better.

I'm by nature an optimistic person, so I always look at the bright side, but you know what, I have been disappointed many times over my career. Hopefully I won't be disappointed this time.

I think they'll reach an agreement by Thursday. Then again, I didn't think the government would have a partial shutdown either, so who knows?

BALDWIN: The optimist working for decades in Washington, I love it.

BLITZER: I'm still optimistic.

BALDWIN: Wolf Blitzer, thank you so much.

We'll be watching you as always. "THE SITUATION ROOM" airs at 5:00 Eastern here on CNN.

And it was once the centerpiece of the Republicans against raising the fight on debt ceiling, that being Obamacare.

It rolled out just about two weeks ago, and our senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen, I tell you, she has been having problems trying to get in, log in, sign up.

She even -- God bless her husband -- set the alarm for 3:00 a.m. on Saturday to get up, to see if she could get in.

We'll tell you if it worked, next.


BALDWIN: A scathing review of the new Web site that allows people to sign up for Obamacare, but this wasn't from a Republican.

This was from a former staffer, Robert Gibbs. It has been two weeks since this Web site was unveiled and there are still problems.

Senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen, you have been trying to get in. You tried to get in at 3:00 in the morning over the weekend.

But first, Robert Gibbs, what did he say?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: He said the episode has been excruciatingly embarrassing, and he said, quote, "I hope they fire some people that were in charge."

I guess in some ways not surprising given how many people including me have had trying to log in.

Let's take a listen.


COHEN: I put in my user name and password and it didn't recognize it.

Error messages, page not found, system down, it's been a tough nearly two weeks for Obamacare.

There were error messages or that little annoying kind of like twirly thing.

BALDWIN: I hate the twirly thing.

COHEN: Hate it, right?

I've been trying since day one to get an account and log in on I failed again.

We couldn't make this page work.

And again.

It wouldn't log me in.

And again.

It's not working.

When I've called the 1-800 number for help, the reps tell me volume is high and to try again during off peak hours.

So I tried again at 10:30 at night, 7:00 in the morning and still it didn't work.

So finally I set my alarm clock for 3:00 p.m. Sunday morning. But guess what, the system was down for maintenance.

I'm not the only one having trouble. On Facebook, people took to the page to vent by the thousands.

And on CNN's iReport.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've tried hundreds -- literally, hundreds of times since October the 1st.

COHEN: Independent analysts tell CNN the problems go way beyond high volume and minor glitches. They say the site fails to follow even basic protocols in its coding.

There is always the old-fashioned option of enrolling over the phone and using snail mail.

And you do have time. To be insured by January 1st, you just have to complete the process by December 15th.


BALDWIN: But, let's have a happy, lighter note, I guess. There is some light at the end of the tunnel for some folks, right?

COHEN: Including me. I got in this morning. Tried to log in, I failed, tried to log in, I failed. I said, OK, I'm going to try again to create a brand new account.

BALDWIN: I admire your determination.

COHEN: I tried and failed, tried and failed. The third time I created a new account with a new username and I was able to get in. That is terrific.

I was talking to a federal official, and he said over the weekend they were able to do three sessions of scheduled maintenance where you couldn't log in, that part of the Web site was shut down, and they were able to do a lot of work.

He said they have been hearing more positive things today and that they hope to announce some new metrics, is the word he used, tomorrow, that will show some of the progress they have made.

Maybe we'll be getting some interesting numbers tomorrow.

BALDWIN: In the meantime, you really set your alarm for 3:00 a.m.?

COHEN: I really did set that for 3:00 a.m. You set it to vibrate, put it under your pillow and your spouse never knows.

BALDWIN: Coming up here next, amid all the shutdown news, two men in charge of America's nuclear arsenal have just been fired.

We'll tell you why and the impact on our national security. Jake Tapper, host of "THE LEAD," joins me live next.


BALDWIN: Nearly seven years after her disappearance, a new face is being put forth in the case of Madeleine McCann.

Here he is, a man resembling these two computer sketches was seen carrying a blond child, 3-to-4-years old, right around the time Madeleine went missing from her hotel room in Portugal.

That's what we're hearing from Scotland Yard that is now re-examining the case that critics say Portuguese authorities botched.

Madeleine was 3-years-old when she vanished as her parents were dining at a restaurant about a two-minute walk away. They were initially the target of accusations, but were later cleared.


GERRY MCCANN, MADELEINE MCCANN'S FATHER: We wouldn't accept Madeleine as dead until we see evidence, clear evidence, that that is the case.


BALDWIN: British police say the man they're looking for may have a valid reason for having the child, but they need to find out who exactly he is, and they plan to release sketches of others wanted for questioning.

These new details are part of the special BBC Crime Watch airing tonight in the U.K. that reconstructs events the night little Madeleine went missing.

Here's something alarming. Two men in charge of America's nuclear arsenal have been fired or removed, relieved of duty for misbehavior, the Air Force booting a general in charge of land-based nuclear missiles.

This just days after the Navy fired a three-star admiral who oversees all nuclear-armed missiles, bombers, and submarines.

Want to bring in Jake Tapper, anchor of "THE LEAD."

Jake, you're all over this on your show. I know both men remain under investigation, but what are the accusations here? JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR, "THE LEAD": Well, they're separate and distinct.

There's Major General Michael Carey, and he has been accused of inappropriate behavior, misbehavior on a business trip, and one source tells us that it involved alcohol.

The other gentleman, Vice Admiral Tim Giardina, he's been formally relieved of his duties, as you point out, that is somewhat different, amidst allegations involving with counterfeit gambling chips.

So this really has to do, I guess it's some reassurance, perhaps, not with any security breach, not with any misbehavior involving their duties in charge of the nation's nuclear arsenal, but involved in their behavior in their personal lives or on business trips, and they're being investigated right now.

BALDWIN: OK, Jake Tapper, we'll look for you on "THE LEAD" at the top of the hour. Thank you, sir.

And before I let you go, a real life drama caught on camera. Look at this in the middle of your screen.

This is a woman hanging on for dear life after somehow becoming trapped on this bridge. Stick around and we'll tell you exactly how her story ends.

Plus, the rain stopped the show at one of the country's largest music festivals, and now authorities are warning more flooding is on the way.


BALDWIN: All right. I want to take you to Washington in just a minute, but in case you're just tuning in, some movement today when it comes to a possible deal.

So there is actual talking and actual negotiating happening here on Capitol Hill today between two men that -- really two men that much has been reported on in terms of bad blood between these two guys.

But it appears both leaders of the Senate on both political sides, you have Harry Reid, you have Mitch McConnell, they have been talking, multiple times here, so it sounds like they're trying to hammer out some sort of a deal.

In fact, we've learned there was supposed to be a meeting at the White House about 50 minutes ago. That was postponed per the White House press office because simply that work is happening on Capitol Hill and they want it to continue, because the issue is the Senate.

It's in the hands of the Senate right now. They have to come forth with some sort of deal and then the hope, in order for this thing, remember, it still has to go to the House, it has to be hopefully getting some serious bipartisan support so Speaker Boehner can take it to the House and it passes the House as well. So, to Dana Bash we go, our chief congressional correspondent, who has been reporting on bits and pieces of this deal.

As we have been talking about these talks that have been taking place, you're getting new information. What are you hearing?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is from several Democratic sources that these are the outlines of the deal that Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid are talking about.

First of all, it would be to fund the government until January 15th but budget negotiators would be required to come up with a deal for funding the government through the rest of the fiscal year by December 13th.

So the government would be reopened immediately, but it go through January 15th. That would give them almost a month wiggle room to finalize the details of the plan so we're not in the crisis that we are now.

On the debt ceiling, I'm told that it would go until February 15th so the debt ceiling would be raised until February 15th so that the U.S. would not default.

Then it gets a little murky on the issue of Obamacare, which, of course, is what started this whole conflict. I'm told by Democratic sources now, not Republican, but Democratic sources, that the issue of income verification for those who are receiving federal subsidies to get Obamacare is still on the table.

Democrats are still talking about that or actually are now talking about that with Republicans. So that would be new. If that would be part of a deal, it would be Democrats giving in to Republicans on something that they can go back to their constituencies and say they have a win on.

The last thing we talked about earlier in the hour is some kind of repeal of any kind of tax that is put in place to help pay for Obamacare. I'm told by Democratic sources that that is now off the table, but they're not completely shutting the door on it because negotiations are still going on.

The last thing I want to tell you is that Senate Republicans are going to meet at 5:45, so about an hour and 45 minutes from now, to discuss the latest on this.

So it sounds like they are very close to a deal, if they're gathering all of the Republican senators in order to discuss it. That is a very good sign that this is almost locked in place.

BALDWIN: Talk about a fast-moving story. Dana Bash, thank you very much. I know Jake will have everything starting at the top of the hour. My thanks to you on Capitol Hill.

Meantime, coming up next, I want to show you this incredible video and tell the story of this woman hanging on to this bridge after somehow becoming trapped.

We'll explain how she got up there and what happened, next.


BALDWIN: Some of the hottest stories in a flash, roll it.

All right, this south Florida woman, she is lucky to be alive after becoming trapped in this drawbridge more than 20 feet in the air

Firefighters in Fort Lauderdale say the woman was just walking across when the bridge started to open. Yikes.

She had to grip the railroad tracks until crews were able to hoist a ladder to help her down.

Authorities are thankful the woman is safe but they're none too thrilled about her decision to trespass on a bridge where pedestrians are now allowed.

Texas, you are getting more rain today, one day after the downpour that led to the cancellation of the last day of "Austin City Limits," huge music festival there.

Some areas got a foot of rain and several people had to be rescued from their cars, including one pregnant woman.


HOLLY WHITMORE, CAR STRANDED IN WATER: I tried to get out of my car, my door wouldn't open so my window rolled down and he came over to help me, and I just crawled out my window and walked out.


BALDWIN: Sadly, the worst isn't over. Authorities say the Colorado River could be at or above flood stage tomorrow night.

And an incredible finish for one marathon runner early this morning in Chicago.




BALDWIN: Thirty-seven-year-old runner Michael Melamed crossed the finish line more than 16 hours after starting the race. He has muscular dystrophy and was met by an enthusiastic crowd. This was his third race.

And I love this one, nothing like a little Mozart in "Tent City" to soothe the soul and relax the mind.

A prize-winning musician from Arizona State University and a retired pianist from London decided to bring a little classical music to the masses.

This performance took place inside Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's infamous, military-style "Tent City" jail.

That will do it for me. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

"THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper starts now.