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U.S. Federal Government Partial Shutdown Continues; Senate Works on Plan; House Republicans Hold Press Conference; Interview with Rep. Charlie Rangel

Aired October 15, 2013 - 11:00   ET


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN HOST: Hello everyone. I'm Ashleigh Banfield. It is Tuesday, October 15th and welcome to "LEGAL VIEW". Nice to have you with us, even if it is one of those days, again. And even if calamity doesn't strike at 12:00 a.m. Eastern on Thursday in the absence of a hike in our debt ceiling and it's not going to be so stark either. It's going to be a lot more gradual than that.

Still, 37 hours, is this the best we can do? And the best we have is a framework of a possible compromise? Just a framework? It's actually a can kicking. Actually, no, we've got two frameworks. I hope that feels better, to be able to say two frameworks. They're similar, but they are not alike.

Right now on Capitol Hill, Democratic leaders in the Senate are testing their version of a framework on their own members ahead of a possible vote possibly sometime tomorrow. We're waiting for them actually to come out and talk about it in the House level because the House Republicans met amongst themselves this morning. You could say maybe trying to head the Senate off at the pass.

They're rolling out a plan they say makes the Senate plan more fair, "fairer" in their words.

We're waiting for Speaker Boehner and other House leadership come out and discuss this. Our cameras are trained live on the flags and the members of the media because at this time every day it seems we wait with baited breath for some kind of development, some kind of good news, actually just some kind of news that they're doing their job.

Both of the plans in the Senate and House would fund the government, ObamaCare included, through January the 15th, 2014. Remember that date because that was chosen for a specific reason and I'll get to that in a moment.

Both of the plans would let the government continue to borrow money as well. That would go through February 7th.

And the Senate plan would require both houses to craft a proper budget. Remember the days when we had a proper budget? They'd have to do that at some point in December.

The Senate plan calls for minor tweaks to the Affordable Care Act, minor tweaks to ObamaCare, but nothing remotely approaching that wholesale scrubbing that the House GOP was demanding and which, if you'll remember, two very long weeks ago actually led to the government shutdown.

The House plan would actually delay something called the "pacemaker tax." That's actually a tax on medical devices. That's been talked about a lot. And it would also bar health care subsidiaries for the big guys, all those guys who are arguing, fighting, causing these problems, the members of the Congress, but also the president and the president's cabinet.

So those are some of the highlights, but if you -- it depends on what team you're on, you might call them lowlights. Who knows?

What happens now? I'm going to put that question to CNN chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash, as well as senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta. They're both standing by, live.

Dana, I'd like to begin with you, if I may. So this sort of felt like this came out of left field. We were talking that all the focus was on the Senate. Now all of a sudden, shazam (ph), the House comes in with a one-two punch, the wazoo (ph). I don't know what you want to call it, the watusi (ph)?

So was it so unexpected and is this just trying to be better at the politicking, get the message out first?


Last night, we were getting word from House Republican sources that they were likely to move some kind of bill, their own bill with regard to the debt ceiling.

I think what is very interesting and telling is what that bill looks like, and you just laid it out very well, Ashleigh. It looks -- the fundamentals look a lot like the Senate deal, and that's something to keep in mind.

It raises the death ceiling until February 7th. It keeps the -- re- opens the government and keeps it funded until January 15th.

The differences are in the -- what House Republicans really want to hold on to are more aggressive changes to ObamaCare and trying to make a political point by saying that members of Congress should not get any subsidiaries to get ObamaCare that the rest of America don't -- that they don't get.

So that is -- those are the changes that the House Republicans have made.

Now when you look at the process, this, you know, very well could be a wink and a nod. Why is that? We know John Boehner was in and very much aware of what was going on in the Senate yesterday. He was in Mitch McConnell's office.

So, if and when the House passes this, and we expect that to be later today, Ashleigh, what could happen and what will happen is that bill goes to the Senate. Then it will up to the Senate to figure out how to deal with it. And they would have the opportunity, we believe, under these rules to pretty easily strip out the provisions that they don't like.

And I say "easily" with a simple majority. Now there are some rules and are some maneuvers that Ted Cruz, for example, might be able to use that we don't know about. He might be studying and scrubbing the Senate rules as we speak.

But it looks like it could be easier than one would think for the Senate to sort of put their mark on it and make it look more like the deal that they originally came up with yesterday.

That would put this whole thing back, again, in John Boehner's court, back in the House, and raise the question about whether at that point, probably will be tomorrow, one day before the debt ceiling deadline, at that point, if he is willing to put whatever the Senate sends him back on the floor and just say, eureka.

Or more importantly to his conservative members, look how many times we tried to put our stamp on this. There's only so much we can do. Let's make sure we don't default. That seems to be what's going on.

BANFIELD: For the average guy out there, we all have our lives. We're busy with children. We've got our jobs.

We can't follow this every single minute, so it just seems like a lot of noise coming from Capitol Hill.

And ultimately it sounds like something stinks in Denmark, that one body wants the other party to be the one that defeats. Is there anything to that?

BASH: I'm not so sure it's that one wants the other to be the one to defeat as much as you should look at the flip side of that coin, which is that, particularly in the case of House Republicans, they want to be able to say to their constituencies, to the conservative constituencies saying don't give up, we tried, we fought until the last possible minute to get every little bit of what we've been fighting for in here.

I think that probably is a better way to look at it

BANFIELD: So let -- now, do the math with me because you were so eloquently explaining throughout the weekend why January 15th is a significant day that that's where the stop-gap funding needs to end.

What does that mean? What's the deal?

BASH: The reason is because Democrats see that as critical because the forced spending cuts that are already going to kick in as part of the law of the land right now, the next round of the spending cut kick in the middle of January, right around January 15th.

That is why Democrats think that this deal that they have created and now what House Republicans have adopted in their own bill is a win for them in that they will be able to negotiate a different budget, a budget with different spending levels that aren't those next round of cuts. Those next rounds of cuts would not be included.

And that really is a key, key thing for Democrats who can't stand what's known as the sequester, or forced spending cuts, that are in place right now.

It would be horrible for them, from their perspective, for the next round of arbitrary spending cuts to go into effect. So this from their perspective would prevent that from happening.

BANFIELD: OK, Dana, stand by if you will. Thank you for that excellent explanation.

I want to go to Jim Acosta, live at the White House. Is the White House reacting to this very last-minute announcement of a House deal?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they are, Ashleigh. We just got this in a few moments ago. Don't even time to -- have time to make a graphic out of it, so I'm just going to read it to you, but here's what it says.

"The president has said repeatedly that members of Congress don't get to demand ransom for fulfilling their basic responsibilities to pass a budget and pay the nation's bills. Unfortunately the latest proposal from House Republicans does just that.

"In a partisan attempt to appease a small group of tea party Republicans who forced the government shutdown in the first place, Democrats and Republicans in the Senate have been working in a bipartisan, good faith effort to end the manufactured crises that have already harmed American families and business owners.

"With only a couple of days remaining until the White House" -- or, excuse me -- "until the United States exhausts its borrowing authority, it's time for the House to do the same."

That is from the White House spokeswoman Amy Brundage. So, right there, there you have it, Ashleigh, a very strong response from the White House at this point to what the House Republicans are proposing. They just don't like that plan that's coming out of the House.

And I heard this from officials yesterday, Ashleigh, that what they say right now here at the White House is basically the House had its chance, and they're now looking to the Senate to craft a bipartisan agreement, and they feel like they're seeing the makings of that.

Mark Pryor, senator from Arkansas was on "NEW DAY" earlier this morning saying that they think they might be able to get 70 to 80 members of the Senate to sign on to what the Senate has proposed.

That is music to the ears of the White House. They would like to see that proposal get out of the Senate and go over to the House.

Now, as Dana just mentioned, this proposal in the House may have been crafted in such a way that, if it gets over to the Senate, some of these provisions that Democrats don't like might be stripped out, or there would be the ability to strip those out.

That might fly with the Senate Democrats. That might fly with the president. But we just don't know just yet. We haven't gotten to that point.

But a very negative response from the White House to this House Republican proposal. No surprise really, they've been at each other for weeks over this, and this is just the latest example of that.

BANFIELD: I'm just going to ask you a yes-or-no question here. And that is, so this thing is dead in the water when it comes to the president's signature? Is that what you're saying?

ACOSTA: What's that? Say that one more time.

BANFIELD: This has no chance of getting the president's signature is basically what that statement says, right?

ACOSTA: That's what that statement means.

And that's why it's critical if this gets out of the House, goes to the Senate, and if those provisions are stripped out, then maybe you might have something.

But I can tell you from talking to this White House over the last couple of days, they've been, for the most part, maintaining radio silence. The approach has been, don't stick your hand at the tiger cage at this point because they don't want to disturb what's happening --

BANFIELD: Jim, I just want to cut you off so I can go live to the speaker if that's OK.


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 would 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.

But we're going to continue to work with our members on both sides of the aisle to try to make sure that there's no issue of default and to get our government re-open.

REPRESENTATIVE ERIC CANTOR (R), MAJORITY LEADER: Good morning. We just talked to our members, and I think it's been very clear all along what we as Republicans in the House have wanted.

One, we've wanted to the Democrats to sit down and talk to us so we can work out our differences, and we've been saying since day one that we believe there should be no special treatment under the law and there should be fairness for all Americans, those elected and unelected. And I'm glad to see that Harry Reid and the Senate finally has begun to sit down and talk with the Republican leader there and we encourage that.

We also, though, as the House Republican conference think it's very, very important for us to stress in whatever proposal we move forward will reflect our position on fairness, that no special treatment for anybody under the law.

REPRESENTATIVE KEVIN MCCARTHY (R), MAJORITY WHIP: It's very clear in our discussions that we think individuals should be treated fairly, that big business should not have special treatment, members of Congress should not have special treatment.

We are very cognizant of the calendar. We want to find a solution to this in a bipartisan manner that gets us moving forward and gets America back working again.

REPRESENTATIVE CATHY MCMORRIS RODGERS (R), WASHINGTON: For weeks now the Republicans in the House have been leading with solutions and we believe that this is the time for solutions and they need to be based upon fairness for all.

We recognize that people all across this country continue to struggle and have their challenges, and as a foundation, we want to ensure that laws are written and implemented in a way that provide that fairness for all, whether moms, dads, small business owners, seniors, young people, that are trying to find their way forward.

And we, in the House, we remain committed to being a part of a solution to working in a bipartisan fashion to find those common sense ways to make sure that we're doing what's good and right for America.

BOEHNER: I'll take a couple of questions.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Speaker, the changes in your bill to the president's healthcare law are arguably pretty minor. Were they worth a two-week government shutdown.

BOEHNER: Listen, we're working with our members on a way forward and to make sure to be able to provide fairness to the American people.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Speaker, can you guarantee the American people Congress will not go past the deadline and (inaudible)?

BOEHNER: Listen, I have made clear for months and months that the idea of default is wrong, and we shouldn't get anywhere close to it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Speaker, will there be a vote today on the plan?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you going to (inaudible)?

BOEHNER: We're talking with our members on both sides of the aisle to try to find a way to move forward today.



BANFIELD: The speaker and the Republican House leadership make their way out of this room. This is becoming a very repetitive scene, meetings, changes, news conferences, headlines.

And every time we see those headlines, they're very different. I don't know if you saw a theme through those four speakers, but each one of them was talking about fairness to all Americans, individuals should be treated fairly, a fairness for all, no special treatment for anyone.

These are critical because one of the provisions in the House bill was to treat government members, particularly elected and appointed government members, the same as everyone else when it comes to ObamaCare.

I want to bring in Jim Acosta at the White House. Development moving pretty fast and furiously, you have further developments from there?

ACOSTA: That's right. House Democratic leaders will be here at the White House at 3:15 this afternoon.

That's an interesting development, Ashleigh, because it basically means that there maybe things coming out of the Senate agreement or whatever the House proposal is that the House Democrats may not like.

And this may be an attempt by the president to make sure that the House Democrats are onboard because, Ashleigh, if this thing gets through the Senate and goes over to the House, they're going to need, John Boehner is going to need, every one of those House Democrats, potentially. to get it passed and a small number of Republicans. That is one of the options.

It's unlikely at this point that if the Senate passes what they're talking about passing right now and it goes over to the House, that John Boehner will get a lot of those tea party-backed Republicans to vote in favor of what's coming out of the Senate.

And so that may be what this meeting is about this afternoon, make sure that the president communicates that message to the House Democrats to stand united at this point.

BANFIELD: All right, I want to bring in Wolf Blitzer, my colleague in Washington, D.C.

One of the questions, Wolf, that I heard the press core asking the speaker was these seem to be fairly minor changes, especially when you look at this in relation to the last two weeks. When we started at "defund Obamacare completely." Now we're looking at bits and pieces of changes that do seem minor to the untrained eye. The question was, was this worth the two-week shutdown? And the answer was, we're moving forward. Is this going to be the legacy of this battle?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: It depends on how it ends up. It depends on what happens over the next 24 to 48 hours. These are critical hours, every one of these hours. There's no doubt about that. If it ends up with some sort of deal whereby they keep -- they bring the government back to full operation, they delay any debt ceiling issue until January or February or maybe a little bit longer, whatever, then they'll have time to deal with some of these other related issues.

I think Jim Acosta is right, and I suspect that Dana is right as well that that these kinds of requirements, these relatively modest changes in Obamacare, the president is going to reject, and it's presumably the Democrats in the Senate are going to reject as well. Even though a lot of the Senate Democrats wanted to eliminate at least for two years this tax on medical devices part of Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act.

The president didn't want any linkage of anything involving Obamacare to re-opening the government or extending the debt ceiling. These are sensitive issues. They're going to have to finesse, they're going to have to come up with some sort of compromised language. What was a little bit encouraging was to hear the speaker say the country is not going to default. That's not going to happen. Let's see if that does happen. There's only a couple or three days left for the potential for that kind of default at least on some financial obligations whether overseas or here at home. These are sensitive moments right now.

BANFIELD: I want to bring in Dana Bash again. You just heard that quick news conference. Very few questions taken, very few questions answered. I do have this question for you, and that is, off these minor tweaks that we just talked about, are any of them nonstarters for what Jim Acosta described as a hopeful united Democratic front? Meaning, if the Democrats do stay united, are any of these dead in the water?

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The one that is most likely to be dead in the water is the repeal or the delay in the medical device tax for two years. Not because there isn't bipartisan support for that. There is. There are so many Democratic senators from states that make these medical device taxes who can't stand this and are looking a way out.

But this has been one of the lines in the sand, as Jim was talking about, by the president, by Democratic leaders saying you can't hold any of these items on Obamacare for ransom to reopen the government or make sure the U.S. doesn't default. So, I think that would be one of those.

On the flip side, the whole question about taking away basically the employer contribution from the federal government and federal employees for members of Congress and the cabinet, because the staff is not involved, this might be hard for the Senate to take out. It might be just a politically -- it is a politically difficult vote for them to take. That's why this is in there. It will be hard for them to vote to say, yes, I want to keep the federal dollars coming into my bank account to help me pay for healthcare, which effectively is what this is. That's going to be tricky for the Senate to vote on. So we'll see what they do on that. But also big picture. As we were talking and talking to Wolf and Jim, a couple of people walked by me. One of whom is a House Republican leadership aide. And I sort of played out the end game that you and I were talking about. And he sort of struggled his shoulders and said, we'll see. Meaning, we'll see if ultimately if and when the Senate makes their changes that the House -- it will be the end for them. They'll finally pass this and we'll be done with these crises.

Another House Republican member just walked by and I asked that question and his answer was please, God, I hope it is the end. I hope that's exactly what we do. This is a Republican member who is one of the few moderates left. That's sort of the feeling and the buzz literally in these hallways as we've been getting the news of the developments.

BANFIELD: I could not hear the last question that the speaker answered very abruptly and left. Did someone ask are you going to bring the Senate version to the floor? Was that the question? Was that the right -- did I get it right?

BASH: I honestly didn't hear it either.

BANFIELD: It was tricky.

BASH: It was tricky. But he didn't answer it.

BANFIELD: I know. I just wanted to know.

BASH: That is a key question. That is the key, whether or not when they're done, when the Senate makes their changes, if any changes, whether or not that will be the end of this two-week saga, drama, crisis. Choose your adjective..

BANFIELD: I have a few. They're not for television. Thank you Dana Bash. Stand by because obviously these are very fast-moving parts. You're working so hard. I'm so impressed with your stamina.

Obviously the House needs to deal with the deal. the deal. And we're going to talk to some representatives coming up this hour. Democrat Charlie Rangel is going to join me live next to tell us if there is any end-game in sight and what he thinks about what he's just hearing. Coming up next in just a moment.


BANFIELD: In the debt ceiling deadline, it 's a battle the bills. Look at that number. We're hours away from that debt ceiling deadline. And there's good news and weird news. The good news is that the Senate majority leader seems to be optimistic that within the Senate they're going to reach a compromise, but there's all the business going on in the House. But let's hear from the Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on the floor as to what he thinks about where they are.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. HARRY REID, MAJORITY LEADER: Mr. President, the Senate will recess until 12:30 until 2:15 to allow for the weekly caucus meetings. There're productive negotiations going on with the Republican leader. I'm confident we'll be able to reach a comprehensive agreement this week in time to overt a catastrophic default on the nation's bills. The Republican leader and I will keep our members informed as to how negotiations are going. And I express my appreciation to everyone for their patience.


BANFIELD: So that is what Harry Reid had to say just moments ago on the floor. We've been hearing from the House Democrats, they're going to be briefing reporters at the bottom of the hour, and the live mics with the flags ready to go. We're going to take that live the minute it happens. Expecting it in six minutes or so.

You also just heard from the live mics with the flags from the House Republican leaders on their plan to reach a deal to raise the debt limit and end the government shutdown. It includes some parts of the Senate plan that Harry Reid was referring to.

But there are key differences too in changes to Obamacare, they are way smaller than they were a two weeks ago. But key nonetheless. The House plan would eliminate healthcare subsidies for Congress, the vice president, the president, and members of the cabinet. It would also include a two-year delay on the medical device tax. If you don't think that's a big deal, it's a big part of the revenue, folks.

And it would get rid of the one year labor union Obamacare tax holiday.

So, with those three key provisions, I'm joined now by Democratic Congressman Charlie Rangel. Congressman, thanks so much for being with us. Your live reaction as you're probably hearing within the last few hours about these provisions in the House. This is something you're probably going to look at pretty shortly and vote on. What do you think?

REP. CHARLIE RANGEL, (D) NEW YORK: It's embarrassing and I'm certain that history is going to record that this is the lowest moment that we've had in the Congress.

BANFIELD: What's --

RANGEL: Clearly it -- well, when you say that you're putting the whole country's fiscal integrity on the line, when you say that you're closing up the government and you're still running around there to developing countries and telling them what they should be doing with their budget and what democracy is all about, not only is it embarrassing from an international point of view, but the hundreds of thousands of Americans that are suffering pain --


BANFIELD: When I asked you about this deal -- I get it. This whole thing has been embarrassing and that involves you as well, sir because you're part of all this. What I'm asking is the deal that we've just learned about, the provisions that have just come out today from the House Republican leadership. I wanted your reaction to those specific three provisions. What do you think? Can you deal with it?

RANGEL: I'm very, very optimistic about what the leadership has said in the Senate. This isn't a question of the House and Senate differing. This not even the question of Republicans and Democrats differing. This is all about a handful of people who got elected as Republicans that want to bring down our government. You can see it in the streets. You can see where they're coming from. And the same way they fought as confederates, they want to bring down the government and reform it.


BANFIELD: Wait a minute. Whoa whoa whoa. I'm sorry. Are you likening -- and I'm only assuming that you're referring to the Tea Party members, are pretty intransigent on their views. Are you likening them to confederates?

RANGEL: I can tell you this, if you take a look at the states that they control, take a look the Dixie-crats see how they went over to the Republican party --

BANFIELD: Michele Bachmann is not from Dixie. What are you talking about?

RANGEL: I am telling you one thing. If the Republicans really want to bring the government back, if the Republicans want to make certain that this country maintains its fiscal integrity, all they have to do is accept the Senate. Already they're fighting what the Senate hasn't even formally proposed. They're adding things onto this that cause a problem. The American people want us to act as adults. They want to make certain their government opens, make certain that our veterans are treated fairly. And they're not saying that they're going to embrace and work the Senate who Republicans and Democratic leaders are working together.

BANFIELD: Congressman Rangel, I get it that you don't like that position that they take. But the last I checked, they have an equal vote, as do you and those of your ilk. Doesn't that mean you've just go to deal with it sir? You just have to deal with it and negotiate, and that's what politicking is. Chipping away at both sides, including your side.

RANGEL: First of all, I don't think I'm going to like what the Senate comes up with, but in an effort to make certain that it re-opens government, I'm prepared to do it. And as far as my ilk is concerned, the ilk is not with me and the people that support my position. The ilk is with a small group of people that if they didn't vote for this compromise and the leader of the Republican party in the House allowed the other Republicans to do it, then the ilk would not vote for it and the Democrats and some good Republicans that believe in compromise and opening up the government would. So the ilk isn't me. It's a small number of people in the Republican party that really is against anything that comes out of these negotiations.

BANFIELD: Let me ask you this. And it's a pretty simple question. You keep deferring to the Senate plan. I get you. You're hoping for good things to come out of the Senate. I'm asking you about the development this morning. That's what's come out of the House, cause you're a member of the House and you're going to be asked to vote on it.. Are you going to vote for it or are you going to pass it off?

RANGEL: I have no clue and the Republicans have no clue what impediments they're going to do. All I know is that the speaker just announced that whatever comes out of the Senate, they're going to have their own bill. If we really want to move where the American people are, what they would do is say they're meeting with the Senate now and they may not like everything that's in it, no one does, but they're going to accept it and move forward. Or if they're not going to accept it, to work it out now with the Republicans in the Senate.

BANFIELD: I've been deal with this for three weeks. And I sort of shake my head every day -- and I will say you and your ilk, because you're all representatives. You're all representatives. You're our guys up there. And what I can't believe is that two weeks ago we were talking about the complete defunding of the Obamacare. A passed law that made it all the way through the Supreme Court. Today we're talking about bits and pieces of chipping little wiggle rooms away and it still seems the intransigence is as strong as it was two weeks ago.