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U.S. Federal Government Shutdown Continues; Debt Ceiling Dead Approaches; Senate Waits for New House Plan; Bernie Sanders Speakers; Second Dry Ice Bomb Rocks LAX; Princeton Professor Discusses Politics; Red Sox Come From Behind Victory

Aired October 15, 2013 - 15:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Let's listen quickly here. I want to play some sound. This is from a top House Democrat who seems to think Cruz was pushing these House Republicans to make new demands, as you point out, of their leaders.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. STENY HOYER (D-MD), HOUSE MINORITY WHIP: On the brink of an agreement that would open up our government and make sure that America pays its bills, that the Republican Conference met this morning apparently after a number of them talked to Ted Cruz and said, no, it's not good enough for us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: I know you touched on this, but do you have any more information to support the notion here that these House Republicans, you know, who met with Cruz last night, that they did, in fact, go back to their leaders today to start making some new demands?

MATT FULLER, STAFF WRITER, "ROLL CALL": Well, certainly in conference this morning, the plan that Speaker Boehner laid out sort of dissolved. It was not a plan that Republicans seem to be supporting. It was a two-hour conference meeting.

As you've pointed out here, members just aren't quite happy with the proposal that Boehner has put forward, which is a middle of the road proposal.

Right now, the speaker and leadership is determined if there's a way they can sort of re-enforce the proposal, make it stronger, more appealing to these Republican members.

But the 15 to 20 members who met at Tortilla Coast are certainly members who don't seem like they'd support anything like this, 15 to 20 members who are constant thorns in the side of leadership. No deal seems like it's going to be palatable to them.

BALDWIN: Of all places, I think what got all of us is in the bottom of a Mexican restaurant. Matt, thank you so much.

FULLER: Thank you. BALDWIN: Happening right now, live pictures at the White House, as we know, Democratic Party leaders on the House side are meeting with President Obama.

We are expecting to get some video from inside any minute now. As soon as we get that, we'll turn it around and play it for you.

Also coming up next, we'll talk to Senator Bernie Sanders. Does he know what's going on at the White House? Could a deal be in sight? We're going to ask him, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: As that deadline fast approaches, as the clock ticks, we're watching specifically the action in Washington, or the lack of action.

We just heard from Dana Bash, Republican Congressman Devin Nunes says this House bill we've been hearing about today will likely be put to a vote tonight.

This is one that has been criticized by the White House, by some conservatives. Much of the crux of that criticism was because of Obamacare.

It appears at least in part, according to the reporting, that breaking news we had from Capitol Hill, this source saying they had dropped the medical tax device delay, but they did not take out changes to that law completely.

Back to Washington we go. I want to bring in independent senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders. So, Senator Sanders, great to have you back on the show.

I know that from what I can tell, and maybe you give me the correct wording, I'm hearing the Senate is really in a holding pattern.

But if I may, I'd like to just get your reaction to what we're hearing about this House proposal that will likely be put to a vote tonight.

Although, we're hearing Boehner doesn't have the votes, at least not yet. Your reaction to that?

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: Well, Brooke, let's take a deep breath and look where we are.

In two days, for the first time in the history of the United States, this country may not pay its bills and precipitate an international and national financial crisis.

The U.S. House of Representatives, John Boehner, the Republican speaker, cannot even get his act together to come up with any kind of language.

The problem there is there are 232 Republicans. He does not want to go to the Democrats. They're not involved.

He needs to get 217 out of 232 in agreement. Given the wild people they have there, that's virtually impossible.

BALDWIN: As we are taking our collective deep breath, I wanted to let our viewers know, we're looking at pictures of House Democratic leadership meeting with President Obama. They're in the White House right now.

We got a quick little pool spray, as we call it in the news business. We wanted to show our viewers that. I wanted to pick up what we were talking about.

You're a senator, so let's talk about what's pertinent to you, this specific deal. Where does that stand?

SANDERS: Well, we woke up this morning, and everyone was feeling pretty good. Reid was positive. Mitch McConnell was positive.

Then somewhere in midmorning or so, McConnell said, wait a second, as I understand it, he has to back off from the agreement he had reached with Reid, which frankly from my perspective was not a great deal, but at least it was better than the alternative. That's not reopening the government or not paying our bills.

So we had momentum. Then Mitch McConnell, as I understand it, says, well, you know what, I can't go forward until we see what's going on in the House. But nothing is going on in the House because they can't get their act together.

You know, it pains me very much. It really does. This country, as you know, Brooke, has enormous problems. We have a disappearing middle class. Poverty is at an all-time high. The gap between the rich and everybody else is growing wider.

We can't begin to address those problems because we're waiting for the House to say, oh, yes, I guess it's OK to pay our bills or reopen the government.

BALDWIN: I hear your frustration. You're not the first senator to come on this show and express frustration regarding your colleagues in the House.

Let me read a quote. This may explain some of the lack of action. This is a quote I read this morning.

This is from "The New York Times" asking Congressman Tim Huelskamp, Republican from Kansas, about your deal, the Senate deal, and this is what he said.

"We've got a name for it in the House. It's called the Senate surrender caucus. Anyone who would vote for that in the House as a Republican would virtually guarantee a primary challenger."

Senator Sanders, your reaction.

SANDERS: I think it speaks for itself. There's nothing more I have to comment on. We are seeing a huge amount of suffering in this country today, a million federal workers who are not getting paid, tens of millions of Americans.

Veterans in the state of Vermont are worried they're not going to get their disability benefits. People are worried about whether or not they're going to get social security. Head Start is being impacted.

This guy says that an attempt to reach a bipartisan agreement between a conservative Republican, Mitch McConnell, and the majority leader, Harry Reid, is an act of surrender.

I mean, that just should tell every single American, regardless of their political views, what is going on with the extremists in the House of Representatives.

BALDWIN: Just so I'm clear, are you saying you believe we could be going over the deadline, that we are going over the deadline?

SANDERS: Well, no. First of all, I passionately hope and pray that does not happen.

By the way, you have heard and I have heard Speaker Boehner saying default -- I don't want to put words in his mouth, but the quote is, he says we're not going to default. Default would be unacceptable.

What I hope and expect happens is that in the 12th hour Boehner looks his right wing extremists in the eye and says, look, guys, I've gone as far as I can with you, I cannot allow a default to take place, I cannot allow this entire world's economy to go into recession.

We're going to work with the Democrats. We're going to pass what the senate has brought us. And that's the way out.

BALDWIN: OK. Senator Bernie Sanders, thank you very much, taking our deep breath, reality check here for all of us. We appreciate you keeping an eye on Washington.

But coming up next, going to Los Angeles, what the heck is going on at LAX, the airport in L.A.?

Another dry ice bomb has been found. Why? Who's behind this? That story is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: The suspect in the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Africa pleaded not guilty this afternoon before an American judge. Delta Force soldiers seized Abu Anas al-Libi October 5th, right out of his home in Tripoli, Libya.

U.S. prosecutors say al-Libi is an al Qaeda operative who played a role in the attack against American outposts in both Kenya and Tanzania. His wife says al-Libi, who's now 49 years of age, no longer has ties to al Qaeda and is in poor health from Hepatitis C. And for the second time now in the course of 24 hours, a dry ice bomb has rocked the third busiest airport in the United States. This second explosion happened just last night in a restricted area of Los Angeles International Airport. This is two corridors down from where a bomb was found inside an employee bathroom on Sunday night.

Rene Marsh has more on what authorities believe is behind these explosions. Rene?

RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brooke, it's the second dry ice explosion at the airport in just as many days and now investigators are trying to track down who's responsible.

The explosion happened at the Bradley Terminal last night. Police say the dry ice bomb was in a storage cage on the tarmac near an airplane.

Now, there was a second dry ice bomb in a different area of the terminal, but it did not detonate. We can tell you no injuries were reported, but the explosion did trigger a massive police response, including the bomb squad. Police say the restricted area where the explosion happened is not open to the general public.

Investigators also say at this point there's no link to terrorism. It appears to be an internal job, maybe a labor dispute or prank, but what is so peculiar about all this is it's the second dry ice explosion set off at the same airport in just two days.

Sunday night, dry ice in a plastic bottle exploded inside a men's bathroom, an employee men's bathroom. That caused a brief shutdown of Terminal Two. In that incident, no one was injured.

And at this point, no word of any arrests. Brooke?

BALDWIN: OK, Rene Marsh, thank you.

Coming up, back to Washington, this hour, a Republican House member said that the House bill we've been talking about today will be up for a vote tonight.

Coming up next, can majority leader -- can the House speaker, John Boehner, deliver the votes need to pass?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: So here's where we are right now. House Republicans this morning unveiled this alternative plan to reopen the federal government and to stave off the chance of a Treasury default.

But apparently, the plan drew some resistance when it was laid out before House Republicans, which led House Speaker John Boehner to concede that he really isn't sure what's next.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPRESENTATIVE JOHN BOEHNER (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: Our leadership team met with our members today, trying to find a way forward in a bipartisan way that we continue to provide fairness to the American people under Obamacare.

There are a lot of opinions about what direction to go. There have been no decisions about what exactly we will do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Well, as you know by now, there is also a bipartisan plan taking shape in the Senate, but no vote scheduled there as the government's power to borrow money expires Thursday.

So joining me from Princeton, New Jersey is historian and professor, Julian Zelizer.

Really, I can update that because we heard at the top of the hour we now know that the House does plan to put their version of this proposal with some changes, a bit of Obamacare in there, but taking out the medical device tax issue, that's it.

My question really to you is are you surprised that the House Republicans sort of preempted the Senate by putting forth their proposal first?

JULIAN ZELIZER, HISTORIAN, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: No. The story's been the same.

Speaker Boehner's had trouble controlling the conservatives in the caucus and the conservatives in the House have been very reluctant to let Senate Republicans or Senate Democrats lead this debate.

So what they're doing is trying one last time to show that they are a force to be reckoned with and creating uncertainty whether Speaker Boehner actually can close the deal.

BALDWIN: Julian, you are a professor, you are a historian. Bigger picture, I'm just curious, this era, we have seen really the last couple years of crisis, couple months, crisis, couple of months. I mean, is this the beginning of the new normal?

ZELIZER: I do think we're reaching that stage. We have obviously had budget battles before. We have even had threats of default.

But I think we're entering a new stage where there are some politicians actually willing to use the tools that will result in default, that result in government shutdown, not occasionally but as a normal part of budget politics.

What's amazing --

BALDWIN: Which doesn't poll very well with Americans.

ZELIZER: It doesn't. Americans are not happy with Congress, not happy with Republicans, but the question is, in midterms do they do something about it?

That's how ultimately politicians react to voters, not to the press or not to warnings about public opinion.

BALDWIN: You are correct, sir. Julian Zelizer, thank you.

Coming up here, think about this just for yourself. Do you consider yourself conservative? Do you label yourself as liberal? Maybe you're more in the center?

There's this fascinating new survey that takes a closer look at this country. Are we really split when it comes to politics? And the answer might surprise you.

Don't miss that. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: It is tempting to watch the drama unfolding in Washington and conclude that America is more divided than ever.

You have left versus right, conservative versus liberal, but is the country really split down the middle?

A wonderful article in the new "Esquire" makes the case that it is not. "Esquire" has uncovered what it says a large group of American voters, even a majority, who make up a new American center that is passionate, persuadable and very real. They are merely waiting for Washington to find them.

Richard Dorment is senior editor at "Esquire." Richard, I think what's fascinating is you point out at the top of the piece, I should point out this is also polling you did with NBC News, that people who outwardly say, hey, I'm liberal, hey, I'm conservative, really, their ideology fits in the center.

RICHARD DORMENT, SENIOR EDITOR, "ESQUIRE" MAGAZINE: Well, the problem is that a lot of people are using those terms, but they don't mean what we think they mean.

Today, based on these survey findings, we found that things like support for abortion and support for gay marriage, support for raising minimum wage are not exclusively liberal positions. Those are centrist positions.

Similarly, things that you think are exclusively conservative positions like extreme wariness of government spending and pro-voter I.D. laws, those are also centrist positions.

It really just changes the way we think about and talk about these issues.

BALDWIN: You run through, it's a multi-page piece where you run through different questions and different surveys and pie charts but my question in going through all of this is how did we get this way?

DORMENT: Well, if you're talking about how we are in Washington, that's an excellent question. I will leave it to far greater minds than mine. I think like a lot of people across America, we look at Washington and see a funhouse version of ourselves, we see distortions and exaggerations and not an accurate reflection of what we believe.

It's a question of two things. One, it's a primary process that rewards the most extreme candidates, but also a surge in redistricting that protects the most extreme candidates.

I think because of that, you see a fundamental disjunction because what Americans actually believe and what we're seeing in Washington.

BALDWIN: Do you think there is an elected official out there right now who embodies, who best personifies the view of this new American center?

DORMENT: It's funny. We created an interactive tool that you can find at Esquire.com and NBCNews.com that enables anybody in America to take this survey and identify where they are on the lineup.

We ran through 25 elected officials in the country to see if anybody sort of really sticks in the middle, and they don't.

The closest we can get are Susan Collins from Maine and John Tester from Montana. They're as close as you get to the center. But they are still pretty far to the left and the right.

So, no, I don't think there's anybody out in Washington really speaking for 51 percent of the country.

BALDWIN: It is in the latest issue of "Esquire." Richard Dorment, thank you so, so much.

DORMENT: Thank you, Brooke.

BALDWIN: With all this back and forth and back and forth in Washington, I just wanted to leave you with this today.

The Boston Red Sox, they take the field tonight in baseball's playoffs. This is game three, but this is six months after a bombing that rocked the city's famous marathon.

So Sunday night, they enjoyed this miraculous comeback. If you waited up and watched this game, it was amazing.

It was an inspiring start. That's what I want to focus on. The national anthem was sung by Jane Richard, the 7-year-old lost her leg in the bombing last April, and it was her brother who was the youngest of the three people killed, but I tell you, she fired up the crowd.

Then in the eighth inning with the Sox losing five-to-one to the Detroit Tigers, this was the picture seen all around. David Ortiz, "Big Papi," if I may, sent a grand slam blast into the bullpen, tying the game and setting the stage for victory in the ninth inning.

As his blast sailed over this fence, right fielder for the Tigers, Torii Hunter, these are his legs. He tumbled into the bullpen and you see the guy behind him with his two hands up, the Boston police officer who cheered the homer became a local hero.

Game three tonight, I'll be watching.

Before we go, quick check here of the Dow as we watch what's happening in Washington. Before that closing bell, it is down, a big 130 points, sailing into the closing bell any second now.

I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you for being with me. I'll be back tomorrow.

In the meantime, Jake Tapper starts right now.