Return to Transcripts main page


Stocks up in early Trading; Critical Day on Capitol Hill; George W. Bush's Health; House GOP Working on New Bill; House Leadership to Speak This Morning

Aired October 15, 2013 - 09:30   ET


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Opening bell on Wall Street just about to ring. We'll keep a close eye on stocks today. So far, futures are flat since investors aren't totally convinced that Washington can actually get a plan together to avoid default. CNN business anchor Christine Romans live in New York with more about this.

Good morning, Christine.


This is, you know, what have you done for me lately? That's exactly what this is. I mean you've got the Dow up 525 points over the past four days. Carol, they need to see real progress. They don't need to hear more about the process of what's going on in Washington. They really need to see the result.

And we're getting very close to this October 17th deadline here. They want to see something done over the next few days for sure, to make sure that we're not - we're not sending signals to the rest of the world that we don't have our act together. Oh, wait, well we've already been sending those signals around the world, but they want to - they want to show that we have - that we have some solidarity in Washington to get our problems solved.

So I think until you get your actual deal, Carol, it will be rough sledding here, really rough sledding. You could see some volatility as the market trades on different headlines one way or the other coming out of Washington, Carol.

COSTELLO: All right, Christine Romans, reporting live from New York this morning.

So let's see how that tentative deal is going. The Senate may be working toward a pact, but some House Republicans are saying, not so fast. And they're the ones who are critical to ending this stalemate. Here's how one of them, Congressman Jeff Denham of California, reacted to news of what some are calling tremendous progress over in the Senate.


REP. JEFF DENHAM (R), CALIFORNIA: Certainly I think it's good news to hear that there may be an agreement in the Senate. But, really, it's going to depend on those details. You know, I am somebody who very strongly believes that we've got to get this $17 trillion going to $18 trillion in debt under control. So I want to see a long term plan. So I think the American public wants to see it too. We haven't had a budget in five years now.


COSTELLO: And that is true. We haven't had a budget in five long years.

Athena Jones is on Capitol Hill to tell us more about negotiations today.

Good morning.


Well, right now, House Republicans are meeting with their caucus, discussing this Senate plan on the table. I'll tell you the basic outlines of that plan. It would reopen the government until mid- January, January 15th, but it would require a new budget deal be struck some time in December. So it might address some of Representative Denham's concerns on that front. It would also raise the debt ceiling until February 7th, which is about four months away. It's not as long as Democrats would want. But that's what's on the table.

This deal, I should tell you, only makes small changes to Obamacare. For instance, it would delay a fee on insurers. It would require income verification for folks who are getting federal subsidies through Obamacare to buy health insurance. And the big question here is whether that's going to be enough for House Republicans. There's certainly a large number of conservative House Republicans who are, number one, against raising the debt ceiling at all, and other who want to at least see some bigger changes to Obamacare in order to raise the debt ceiling or reopen the government. And so we have some indications, certainly, that they could offer their own bill or changes to the bill that comes from the Senate, once that passes the Senate. Of course, that deal isn't even finalized yet. Some things could still change.

So, Christine Romans just talked about how investors don't want to see process. Well, we're steeped in process here. That's what's going on here today.


COSTELLO: Yes, we're steeped in process. So give us - give us a little glass half full. Why should we feel hopeful today despite what you said about what's going on in the House right now?

JONES: Well, certainly we heard on the Senate floor yesterday from both leaders in the Senate, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, some of the most positive and optimistic language we've heard in days. And people are aware that this debt ceiling deadline is fast approaching. There's -- Thursday is the day. And a lot of movement needs to get underway before then in order to get something done in time. So, that's the glass half full.

At the same time, we've already seen Speaker Boehner resist pushes over the last couple of weeks to bring to the floor of the House any bill that doesn't have majority support from House Republicans. And it's not at all clear that this Senate plan would have that. And so the question becomes, if this passes the Senate, what will Speaker Boehner do? Will they send it back with some changes? Will he bring it to the floor for a vote knowing he'll need Democratic support?

Those are the big question marks. And we hope to get some answers, or at least some indication, of what the plan might be a little while from now after this meeting is over when we see Republican House leaders head over here to these microphones right next to me.


COSTELLO: I saw those microphones behind you. And, of course, when Speaker Boehner gets behind those microphones talking, we'll take that live. Thank you, Athena Jones, reporting live from Washington.

Still to come in the NEWSROOM, the only family with two living presidents, no stranger to health scares, but now we're learning President George W. Bush may have been in worse shape than we were all led to believe. We'll talk about that next.


COSTELLO: Former President George W. Bush may have narrowly avoided a serious health scare. Back in August, following his annual physical, one of our nation's most athletic presidents had a stent placed in his heart. Over the years, President Bush just told us he was OK, if just a few pounds heavier.


GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Feeling fine. Health's fine. Probably ate too many birthday cakes.


COSTELLO: He looks pretty good, huh? Sources, though, say Bush had a major blockage in his coronary artery this year, 95 percent, and it almost completely shut off the flow of blood to one of his heart's chambers. CNN's Erin McPike has more for you.


ERIN MCPIKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): George W. Bush has long been considered one of our country's most athletic presidents, both in office and after the presidency. But the 67-year-old former president's recent heart problems may be more serious than previously thought. "The National Journal" is reporting that a major blockage in a coronary artery, discovered during his annual physical in August, had almost completely shut off blood flow to one of his heart's chambers. A close friend to the former president tells CNN the blockage was in the ballpark of 95 percent. Over Memorial Day weekend, Bush led these Wounded Warriors on an annual long-distance bike ride at his ranch in Crawford, Texas. Bush notably gave up drinking alcohol on his 40th birthday. He was even listed in the superior category of fitness for men his age after an annual physical exam late into his presidency. His only hiccup was gaining four pounds because he said he had --

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Probably ate too many birthday cakes.

MCPIKE: But those infamous eating habits may have caused the blockage to the artery doctors found during this August exam. Bush had surgery next morning to insert a stent to unblock the artery.

DR. WARREN LEVY, CARDIOLOGIST: Certainly President Bush was at significant risk having a 95 percent blockage in one of his coronary arteries. That doesn't mean he was going to have a heart attack, but certainly he was at significant risk of a heart attack and something did need to be done.

MCPIKE: A close Bush family friend tells CNN that the former president is very grateful that the blockage was found and fixed when it was. Bush recently joked about his health in an interview with ABC News.

BUSH: Other than the fact that I nearly bled to death when I nicked my -- excuse me, when I nicked myself shaving, because I'm taking blood thinner, I'm doing pretty good.

MCPIKE: Erin McPike, CNN, Washington.


COSTELLO: President Bush's father, George H.W. Bush, has had his own medical scare this year. He's currently confined to a wheelchair.

He led fellow soldiers through one of the most brutal firefights of the Afghan War and refused to leave anyone behind.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was completely under control of the whole situation. He knew exactly what had to be done and when.


COSTELLO: All new at 10:00, a now retired Army captain about to become the sixth living recipient ever of the Medal of Honor.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were outnumbered, out gunned and we had taken casualties.


COSTELLO: William Swenson on the battle that earned him the award and how he says it went all wrong. That's ahead in the next hour of NEWSROOM.


COSTELLO: OK. So we've been watching this shot that you're going to soon see right outside the Capitol. All the microphones are set up. They're waiting for perhaps House Speaker John Boehner to come out and talk because House lawmakers have been behind closed door this meeting, talking about that potential deal that Senators Reid and McConnell came up with in the Senate. Will they accept it? Won't they? Will they present a new plan to you today? We just don't know, but we're expecting to hear from them soon. Athena Jones is covering all of this for us.

What are you hearing, Athena?

JONES (via telephone): Hi, Carol.

Well, we're hearing from my colleagues Dana Bash and Deirdre Walsh, that the House Republicans are planning on presenting their own bill today. This bill would also reopen the government until January 15th and would raise the debt ceiling until February 7th, which is along the same lines as the Senate bill, but it would also make a few more changes to Obamacare. It would include, for instance, this income verification, to make sure that those who are getting federal subsidies to buy insurance under Obamacare show that their -- what their income is.

It would also, though, include a two-year suspension of this tax on medical devices. This is part of a tax that helps fund Obamacare. And there has been some bipartisan support for either delaying or repealing the tax. So that's one of the elements that could be in this bill and that's just what we're hearing. More is coming. We'll soon hear from House Republican leaders after they end this meeting where we can hopefully get some more details on what their plans are today. So, that's the latest from here, Carol.

COSTELLO: So we've heard that President Obama is very interested and kind of likes the Senate deal, but I don't think the Senate deal includes this two-year suspension on medical devices, or does it, because I know that was Senator Susan Collins' idea? So would the president be for that?

JONES: Well, that was not included -- that was not included in what we heard coming out of (INAUDIBLE) yesterday talking about this deal. The Senate GOP is meeting again today at 11:00 to kind of hammer this out. This is not yet finalized. Some of the details could change.

We also do know, though, from Senate Republicans who met with the president last week, that he indicated that this medical device tax issue is a, quote, legitimate concern. That's what the president was quoted as saying. It's not a core part of Obamacare. And so while we have heard the indications from the White House that the president doesn't want to see any changes to the law, there have also been some indications that something like this that doesn't gut the law, doesn't make any big steps to dismantle it, is something that may be able to win some approval. But it's still a question mark, Carol, certainly seeing what the final (INAUDIBLE) of this House bill will be, and kind of finalizing the Senate bill, and then seeing whether they can reconcile those two.


COSTELLO: Yes just to make people aware of what this medical device tax is, it's an excise tax on medical device. Both Republicans and Democrats say this tax hurts small businesses. But the rub here those taxes that are generated from the tax on these medical devices help pay for Obamacare.

JONES: Well, right. And so, there has to be some sort of offset. And there's been discussion of that as well. This is an example of how all kinds of details are slowly trickling out and we'll have to wait a little while for a clearer picture of all that will be in this plan on the House side, just as we're waiting for final word. We know a lot about what the Senate, what was being described on the Senate side as of yesterday.

But we'll have to wait for final word after this 11:00 meeting that Senator Mitch McConnell is having with Republicans in his caucus to try to sell this compromised plan he's been working on with Majority Leader Harry Reid.

So these are the details that we're hearing trickling out and we'll have to see how it all comes together in the end.

COSTELLO: Ok. So the flags are set up. The microphones are up. We're awaiting House Speaker John Boehner. Of course, Eric Cantor will probably be close beside him, along with the majority whip.

So when they appear behind the podium, we'll take you back live to Washington.

Athena Jones. thank you so much.

We're going to take a quick break we'll be back with more in the NEWSROOM.


COSTELLO: Just a quick recap for you. House leaders have been meeting for about 50 minutes. And they've come up with their own deal to add on to the senate deal to, in their words, make the Senate deal more fair to the American people, to re-open the government and of course, talk about the -- talk about the debt default, you know, later on next year, in 2014.

So they all agree to kicking the can down the road right. They'll have talks over the budget, over the debt ceiling in 2014 and they'll re-open the government. In the meantime. But there are some things attached to that that maybe the President won't agree upon.

Let's go to the White House and Jim Acosta and ask him about this. One of the things that I'm wondering about Jim is in this --


COSTELLO: -- is in this GOP plan this House GOP plan is this medical device tax. They want to eliminate that. Would the President be agreeable to that?

ACOSTA: Right. You know, that is a very good question, Carol. For weeks and weeks and weeks, the President and White House Press Secretary Jay Carney have said that they're not going to allow a debt ceiling increase to come across the President's desk and be signed or a continuing resolution that would reopen the government that makes major changes to Obamacare that tinkers with Obamacare. This obviously would be tinkering with Obamacare. The question becomes does the White House view this as something that really does major damage to the law?

Now, White House officials have grumbled that well if you take this tax out, that partially pays for the plan. And so you'd have to find some sort of offset that would help resolve some of the -- some of the deficiencies that would be created in the funding of Obamacare if you take this tax out.

So that is a question. And it just needs to be resolved by the White House saying one way or the other. Now, one thing I did hear from the White House officials when I was talking to them yesterday, is that their main goal at this point is to get a clean debt ceiling increase. They feel like that is very important for a couple of reasons. One, because they said no president, no future president should have to deal with a Congress with a potential default hanging over his or her shoulder, that that is just not fair to this president or to future presidents.

Republicans and even some Democrats say, well now you know there have always been negotiations around the debt ceiling. What's the difference here? The President wants to establish a new precedent for the presidency. So there is that but there seems to be some wiggle room when it comes to a continuing resolution.

So could you craft a plan where you have two bills? One for the debt ceiling, one for a continuing resolution. You have some of these things attached to the continuing resolution and therefore the debt ceiling is kept clean and pure. And that can get, you know, at this point it really is sort of how they craft this thing in these last two days as the clock is ticking down that is really going to be interesting to watch.

But the President has said before, no conditions, no ransom. The question is whether or not this qualifies as ransom -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Yes I'm just reading over this Republican House plan. And this was obtained by Dana Bash. It's complicated. So maybe you can help us understand better Jim. Ok. So let's see.

The House GOP proposal would modify the emerging Senate agreement prohibits special treatment for House members senators, the President, the Vice President and members of the President's cabinet under the Presidents health care law requiring all to be placed in Obamacare without taxpayer provided subsidies.

ACOSTA: Right.


ACOSTA: Well you know that gets to -- you know that gets to, you know, what I think is sort of a misunderstanding about the law itself. Obamacare, you know, provides access to health insurance for people who don't have insurance. And so, there's a little bit of a political jab here. What's been said among conservatives is that if Obamacare is so great, why don't members of Congress take it, why doesn't the President take it, why doesn't the vice president take it? But they already have health insurance through the federal government.

And so there's a little bit of a political jab in there at the President, at the White House at Democrats. The question is whether or not that really spoils the deal. My sense is if that is something that if it were to get out of the House and get bounce over the senate the senate would pull that out. Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid is just not going to accept something like that, I would think and send it off to the President to be signed. So that is something I would think that -- that this White House is just not going to stand in and that Democrats are not going to stand at this point.

COSTELLO: Ok. So something else that's in this GOP deal. It says the House GOP plan eliminates the special Obamacare protection for labor unions --

ACOSTA: Right.

COSTELLO: -- in the emerging Senate agreement and replaces it with a two-year delay of Obamacare pacemaker tax, which is the medical device tax --

ACOSTA: Right, right.

COSTELLO: -- which places a new tax on the essential medical devices like children's hearing aids and such and will hurt small businesses.

ACOSTA: Yes. I mean it also goes on to say in that note, those talking points that are being circulated among Republicans, that the House Republicans have the sense that or indication from the administration that they're willing to accept that we just have not heard that at this point Carol. So that's going to be very interesting to see how that plays out.

As for the reinsurance fee or tax that you mentioned, that is something that the labor unions wanted. And no surprise that House Republicans saw that emerging potentially in the senate deal although there's some indications that it's no longer really under discussion in the Senate deal. House Republicans have said, "Hey wait a minute, if the labor unions want this, why is that in there? Let's take that out.

So you know, a lot of this Carol is about who gets what out of this deal. The White House likes this deal that's coming out of the Senate right now because the continuing resolution would only last until January of 2014. That would allow them to re-open the discussion about the sequester cuts. Because the next round of forced budget cuts in the sequester kick-in in January. The White House likes that.

And so the Republicans are saying, hey, what's in it for us? You get the debt ceiling increase, you get he continuing resolution that reopens this debate over the sequester, what's in it for us? And that's why you're seeing some of these additional measures added to the House Republican plan.

They're looking for a way out. They're looking for a way to sell this to those conservative Tea Party Republicans who have said some not very nice things about this plan coming out of the Senate at this point. And they feel like on principle, they're right. And so, you know, Democrats in the White House, they might have to find a way to get them to yes at this point. If it's not in that deal, it might be in a different deal -- Carol.

COSTELLO: All right. We're still awaiting the House leadership to come out and speak to the public.

We're going to take a break, hopefully they'll be behind the podium when we come back.


COSTELLO: Good morning. I'm Carol Costello. Thank you so much for joining me.

Washington by the numbers: Day 15 of the partial government shutdown and less than 40 hours until the potential economic disaster of a debt default.

Right now, on Capitol Hill, an 11th hour deal has been reached in the House of Representatives. That coupled with the senate deal might re- open the government. We just don't know at the moment. We are expecting House leadership to talk directly to you in just a few minutes. You see the flags set up there and the microphones.