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AC 360 LATER
Budget Deal; Interview With Congressman Steve King; Interview With Senator Jon Tester; Interview with John McCain
Aired October 16, 2013 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Hey. Welcome to "AC360 Later."
It is down to the wire. We're live tonight in Washington, D.C., where the House is now voting on a bill to reopen the government and extend the debt ceiling. It's not a moment too soon with the debt ceiling deadline just two hours away. The deal passed the Senate less than two hours ago by a vote of 81-18.
It's really just a temporary fix, if you can even call it a fix, funding the government through the middle of January, extending the debt ceiling only through the middle of February.
The president spoke earlier tonight. We will have that in a moment.
But, first, let's get the latest from chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash.
Dana, the House now has the bill. The voting has begun. How long until it's over?
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: About 13, or, no, now 11 minutes. At least that's until technically the vote is over. People tend to straggle in late at night and these votes last a little bit longer.
COOPER: There's no doubt it's going to pass?
BASH: But I was just going to say, it's just a matter of time right now.
There really doesn't seem to be a doubt it's going to pass. Just the fact that -- this is a little bit in the weeds but it's telling. The fact that Republican leaders were able to bring this to the floor so quickly it meant that every single member of Congress had to agree to that. That tells you...
COOPER: Even those who were going to vote no for it.
BASH: Even those who were going to vote no for it, they know this is inevitable. They know there's no reason to try to stop the train because the train's going to leave the station right away. COOPER: There are a lot of Tea Party groups which are going to be watching this vote very carefully to see who votes for this to see about possible primary challenges against those from House Republicans.
BASH: That's exactly right. Several Tea Party-backed groups, other conservative grassroots groups have been sending notices to members of Congress all day long, particularly Republicans in the House saying we are going to count this. They judge them and whether or not they should have a primary challenge based on a series of votes.
They say this is absolutely going to be one of them. That is going to be a big thing. It is possible that this vote might not -- expect it to pass, but it won't be as big as it could have been because for some Republicans it will be what we call a free vote, meaning they can think this is a good idea to vote for, but they will vote no to make sure they're not in political trouble at home.
COOPER: In terms of the president signing it, would that happen tonight before midnight?
BASH: That's a question for Brianna. She would know the answer to that. Usually just the logistics of they call it enrolling a bill to actually get from here to the White House takes a few beats. If he's going to stay up for it, I'm guessing he would stay up for it, I can't imagine why he wouldn't.
COOPER: And do you know how quickly -- I have been getting texts and tweets from people who want to bring their families to Washington this weekend and go to the parks, go to the museums. Will things be immediately open immediately, do we know?
BASH: We don't know for sure, but it's hard to imagine that the sun will not come up tomorrow and the government will not open.
That's the whole point of Congress doing this finally now with such warp speed. They want the government to reopen. We do expect that to happen tomorrow.
COOPER: And then I know a lot of House members go back to their districts for the next couple days. I think the next vote is Tuesday. What happens in terms of actual negotiations so that this doesn't just happen again?
BASH: Actually, we are going to see something pretty rare tomorrow morning, Anderson. We're going to see the Republican budget chair in the House, Paul Ryan, the Democratic budget chair in the Senate, Patty Murray, get together, have breakfast and start talking.
COOPER: Amazing that that is rare.
BASH: Isn't it stunning? That is what is supposed to happen.
COOPER: You would think it happens all the time.
BASH: You would think. This kind of negotiation hasn't happened in years.
COOPER: In years?
BASH: Yes, in years. You know why? Because in the past year- and-a-half, it's because Republicans haven't wanted to get together. But before that, Democrats didn't pass their own budget because they didn't want their Democratic rank and file to be on record voting for increases in spending. So it goes both ways.
COOPER: Fascinating stuff, Dana Bash. Thank you very much. We will continue to check in with Dana throughout this hour.
Once the bill passes the hour as we said President Obama says he will sign it immediately. The president spoke shortly after the deal passed the Senate thanking leaders of both parties for getting a deal done. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: One of the things that I said throughout this process is, we have got to get out of the habit of governing by crisis. And my hope and expectation is everybody has learned that there's no reason why we can't work on the issues at hand, why we can't disagree between the parties, while still being agreeable, and make sure that we're not inflicting harm on the American people when we do have disagreements.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Senior White House correspondent Brianna Keilar joins me now.
Do we know, Brianna, when he will sign it, assuming it passes here?
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It really depends, we're told, Anderson, on when the bill makes its way here to the White House.
There's sort of a process it goes through on the Hill. It has to be enrolled and it is physically brought here to the White House. The president is a bit of a night owl. We know that he stays up frequently until about 1:00 a.m. He did say he would sign it immediately. But if it is something kind of that is delayed, I have also been told by White House officials it doesn't really matter if he signs it tonight or tomorrow morning, because you heard Jay Carney earlier today say that really the borrowing authority expires after tomorrow night, so midnight Thursday going into Friday.
COOPER: Do you have a sense of the mood of the staff at the White House, how they're viewing events tonight?
KEILAR: I think they're relieved that it's over. I think they definitely recognize thought it was Republicans who were the losers in all this. But I also think that there's been some frustration, Anderson. They feel that this has been a bit of a waste of time. They want to kind of move on to other business.
And really I think it's frustrating for them the fact that this whole really divisive -- divisive, I should say, fight just shows how difficult it really is for the president to move forward with his domestic agenda items.
COOPER: Yes. He's been talking about immigration. The idea that they're going to go -- something as divisive as immigration next, that seems unlikely, doesn't it?
KEILAR: It really does seem unlikely. I think what you're seeing though is President Obama saying, hey, I'm going to press ahead. Either you're going to come with me reasonably or you're going to come with me painfully if you're not going to go along with what I want to do.
A lot of folks looking at moving here into the year, this next year where we will see the midterm elections as an unlikely year for resolution on immigration reform. They think it's more likely to happen following the midterm elections. They think really 2015, maybe the year when Republicans start to refocus instead on a presidential election that they will sort of take that lesson from 2012, where they just really got creamed, that they will sort of take that as a lesson of, hey, we really need to move ahead on immigration reform.
COOPER: We're watching the vote there on the House floor.
As the president was walking out of the Briefing Room, you asked him and kind of tossed him a question he actually answered. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: Mr. President, is this just going to happen all over again in a few months?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Quite a succinct answer there from the president. No, he says it won't happen again in a few months. Are they that confident?
KEILAR: They say they are confident. But the truth is, Anderson, it really isn't up to them, is it? It's really up to House Republicans and really how they handle themselves, whether Tea Party Republicans object and whether House Republican leaders go again in the direction the Tea Party Republicans want them to go.
The reasoning from the White House is this. They say it just doesn't make sense for Republicans to go through this fight again. And they say if it's been damaging this time, it's going to be even more damaging as they get closer to an election. And they say, reasonably speaking, it just doesn't make sense. We will have to see if that holds.
COOPER: It also depends on what happens in those negotiating rooms between Republicans and Democrats as well.
KEILAR: That's right.
COOPER: Brianna, appreciate it.
Just a few minutes ago, I spoke with one of the congressmen who's voting right now, Republican Steve King of Iowa. He stopped to speak with me literally on his way to the chamber right before we went on air. Listen to what he had to say.
COOPER: You plan to vote against this tonight?
REP. STEVE KING (R), IOWA: Yes.
S. KING: Because, first of all, there's nothing in there for conservatives, nothing in there really for Republicans.
We have pitched this fight for a long time, actually, the strategy clear back as late June, and all the way to this point, and now the final deal comes back and it's just got nothing in there that's worthy of the effort. And I would rather keep this thing going.
Now, I might consider extending the debt ceiling and keeping this government partial shutdown going, so that we can get something on Obamacare. But to conflate the two and put it all on one late-night deal and then have it be the president's deal and Harry Reid's deal with nothing in there that restrains our spending and nothing in there that does anything to slow down the juggernaut of Obamacare, nothing in there for me.
COOPER: How would continuing the shutdown, though, give you any leverage on Obamacare? You don't have the votes to delay or defund Obamacare.
S. KING: Well, it is -- if you hold out on this thing, and you can't be sending the message that you're not going to -- and that's the problem with the situation we're in right now.
You could get some changes in Obamacare or you could get some kind of agreement that will make some changes in Obamacare. But the American people have rejected it. And now the two issues are conflated. And that's one of the things that I really wanted to avoid was sticking the two together. It's exactly what we have in the same bill. It's a worst-case scenario from all of this that we have done over the last months come together here tonight. And Nancy Pelosi has apparently said that she will deliver 200 votes to get this passed. That means that there's not a vote on my side that is required.
COOPER: You have no doubt it's going to pass?
S. KING: I'm pretty confident it's going to pass.
And I want to live to fight another day and I don't want to sacrifice my principles, because then you don't have a lot of fight ground to fight on.
COOPER: What was accomplished? Was anything accomplished? John Boehner said you fought the good fight. Ted Cruz said there was a lot accomplished. Do you actually believe something was accomplished by this?
S. KING: Well, I do. But you have to look for it a little bit.
And one of those things is, I think we have identified 20 or 30 good strong conservatives in the House that will stand up and actually stand on principle and fight. And there's probably more than that. But that's a good bunch that have emerged now on the national scene. That's true. Ted Cruz is stronger. Mike Lee is stronger. The conservatives in the Senate are stronger.
And maybe one good thing that could come out of this is a shift in the dynamics so that perhaps Republicans could win the majority in the Senate coming up in the 2014 elections. That would make it all worth the fight.
COOPER: But it seems like you're the only person who thinks Republicans are going to come out of this ahead. You look at the polls now, it certainly -- it hasn't helped Democrats, but it certainly has hurt Republicans more, no?
S. KING: Well, I have long said that there's going to be this friction that's going to come during this period of time, and that public opinion will sort this out.
If public opinion goes against us, we will see members that will peel off one after another. That's their perception, whether it's real or not. And the polls do say that it's real. And so the public opinion polls have polled our members away from this. But once we get the other side of that, there may be a short-term political penalty. There may not.
But in the long term, we can never recover from Obamacare. And when it becomes implemented, and we watch in January 1 as people get their premium bills and they find out that their deductibles have gone up and they can't keep their insurance company, can't keep their doctor, then the politics of this thing starts to take on a whole new flavor.
And that's what I think we need to look to if we're going to ever put an end to Obamacare.
COOPER: There are those who are critical of obviously your efforts and others who have said to their constituents we can defund, we can delay Obamacare and have raised money on that and continue to raise money on that.
They say -- Democrats, even some Republicans say it's a fraud, it's frankly dishonest. You have always known you haven't had the votes. What do you say to that?
S. KING: We have never really known that.
And I wrote the legislation that would have cut off all the funding to implement or enforce Obamacare. I brought that to this Congress just over your shoulder on the evening of February 14, 2011.
COOPER: But there were not enough votes for that.
S. KING: Well, we had the momentum then. We had the momentum from the 2010 wave election. The time to really do it was then. I got turned down by some of my own people at that time.
And we didn't coalesce around that idea. This was still a good idea. It needed to be done. It was the last chance to get this done. It really was the last tool in the toolbox before Obamacare began the sign-up on October 1. And so I understand that the people that weren't with me then when I thought all of them should be with me vigorously, they thought that there'd be a presidential election that would bring about a Mitt Romney that would get this repealed.
They thought the Supreme Court would find it unconstitutional. All the other options have been used up, the tools are out of that toolbox, down to this. I understand why it had to happen. It wasn't a strategy that I devised, but it's one that I said I will support and I will stand with you on this, because we owe it to the American people to do everything we can to shut off Obamacare.
COOPER: Congressman King, appreciate your time. Thank you. .
S. KING: Thanks for having me on tonight. I appreciate it, Anderson.
COOPER: Well, King voted no, but the breaking news, the House vote on a deal to reopen the government and extend the debt ceiling is now finished.
Chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash joins me now.
It's passed, Dana, yes?
BASH: It is.
I'm just going to show you the House speaker is now waving to us and walking to the House floor right by us. He's going out there to talk to his colleagues. Just looking down as I'm talking to you, 239- 111 so far. It's still an active vote, but it has passed. The bill has passed the House and it will be heading to the president's desk soon.
I'm also, as we're talking, Anderson, looking on the screen how Republicans have voted. So far it looks like now 66 yes-votes in the Republican Caucus, which is pretty high, considering the fact that you definitely had about two dozen who were actively vocally saying no.
There you have now 70 yeses in the Republican Caucus. It looks like the Republicans are going to be pretty much split on this, but definitely a healthy majority voting so far. Again, this is still a big tally, 253 yeses.
COOPER: It's hard to believe in a way that it's almost over after how long this has been going on. From here, it obviously goes to the White House, although there are some procedures to go through first.
BASH: That's right. It's just some technical procedures to go through before they have to -- it's called enrolling the bill and then they have to send it over to the White House. You and I talked about that earlier in the hour.
But you're right. It is pretty remarkable and pretty unbelievable that after every sort of tease that we had that this was almost potentially going to be done with so many different potential deals and ways out of this, and when I say this, of course, I mean not just the government shutdown but the deadline that we were up against in an hour and 45 minutes for the U.S. to default, the fact that this is actually done is really hard to believe.
But it definitely is going to take a lot of time to heal the wounds that are very raw right now here on Capitol Hill and, of course, across the country, but especially raw among and dividing Republicans right now.
COOPER: And in terms of negotiations, the timeline of that, they begin you said tomorrow.
BASH: They do. And that is definitely a hopeful sign. The fact that the Senate Republican -- excuse me -- the Senate Budget chair, the Democrat in the Senate, Patty Murray, the House budget chair, a Republican, Paul Ryan, are going to sit down with other members of the negotiating teams to start talking about next year's budget, really this year's budget when you talk about the fiscal year, is a good sign.
It is the way Congress is supposed to work. And it hasn't worked like that in a very long time, which is why we go from crisis to crisis, not so much on the debt ceiling, but with regard to the government opening and closing or the threat of closing. It's because Congress doesn't get their basic function done, which is to fund the government.
COOPER: I want to bring in CNN political commentator and Democratic strategist Paul Begala. We will have our panel here. Paul Begala will join us, also CNN contributor and Republican consultant Alex Castellanos, and Matt Kibbe, the president and CEO of FreedomWorks, a conservative group that urged lawmakers to vote against a deal.
Paul, it has now passed. What do you think?
PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: First, hallelujah.
And really this is not just a political thing. I keep wanting to come back to, the first thing I did, because I'm a political hack, is I looked at the Republican vs. Democratic breakdown, 72 Republicans voting yes. So, I'm processing that way. I have to remind myself that I'm a human being, too. There are hundreds of thousands of people, civil servants who try to make up safer and cleaner and stronger and smarter who have been furloughed, and there's millions of Americans who have been suffering.
And so thank God for that this thing is over. We can get back to the business of being America again.
COOPER: Matt, obviously, you're looking very closely also at the Republicans who voted yes for this. What is your message to them tonight?
MATT KIBBE, PRESIDENT, FREEDOMWORKS: Well, I think we -- first thing we're going to do is find out what's actually in this bill. I have already discovered a $2 billion earmark for Mitch McConnell's reelection campaign. And I'm sure that's just a start of that.
COOPER: ... Kentucky kickbacks, some have called it.
KIBBE: Yes. Maybe that's true.
But they have also gutted the debt ceiling process. And the travesty is that no one actually read this bill they just voted on. But I think for Republicans, this could well be TARP 2.0. It could be the next stimulus.
COOPER: In what sense?
KIBBE: In the sense that there'll be accountability. I think people want to know that their legislators are actually doing what they said they were going to do in their campaigns. Are they fighting to defund Obamacare, are they willing to actually balance the budget?
Somebody has to be the skunk at the garden party here and say you know what? We can't just keep borrowing money and spending money that we don't have.
COOPER: When you talk about accountability, you're talking about primary challenges for some of these Republicans?
KIBBE: Well, and Democrats as well by the way. This is going to be unpopular I would predict in red states where Democrats are trying to win reelection in the Senate.
COOPER: Alex, what do you make of this long national nightmare, as some Democrats would probably call it?
ALEX CASTELLANOS, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Maybe a brief respite for sanity has returned to Washington a little bit.
It's been a good evening finally. We haven't had one here in a long time. I think one reason nobody knows what's in the bill is because a lot of people clogged up the process and waited until the last minute. This airplane pulled up right before it hit the mountain. We were risking the good faith and credit of the United States.
And I have to say it was good to see President Obama on TV tonight reassuring global markets that there's still a government that functions. But I think there's a lesson here not just for Republicans but for Democrats, too. And that is the old way of doing things in Washington has to change, that good people on both sides here knew this was a crisis, knew this was a critical moment, and even with the best of intentions, they couldn't get together.
What does that tell us? We have got to find a better way, a new way of doing things. And I think next election, the theme is going to be change Washington. The party of the status quo is going to lose. The party that offers change is going to win.
COOPER: What does that change look like? What does that change mean? Obviously, for Matt, that change is very different than, Paul, what you would prescribe.
BEGALA: Right. I will let Matt speak for him. But I think a lot of conservatives want to talk about the debt and deficit. And it makes Democrats like me crazy since we balanced the budget. But, OK, that's their biggest issue.
What's being unaddressed what is what the American people think is the biggest issue, which is the shrinking middle class, jobs, economic growth. Some people think that comes from cutting the debt. Other people think it comes from having a better educational system, stronger health care system, the kinds of things Democrats want to do.
If we could ever get back to a discussion of -- Robert Shiller just won the Nobel Prize in Economics this week, a Yale professor, brilliant man. He says the biggest economic challenge we have is income inequality, by which he means that shrinking middle class. That's the real crisis.
I think actually that's what the next election will be about, not simply just about a dry debate about deficits.
CASTELLANOS: I think Republicans are going to have a very different view. And that is, how do we address these problems? The old way, top down, politically and artificially from Washington by growing Washington's economy and not ours, or do we try something fresh? Do we try to grow the economy bottom up, naturally and organically by putting money and power in the hands of the American people?
Look at the things that are working in the world today. It's an eBay Ford, it's a Facebook world, it's a bottom-up world. It's not a top-down world anymore. Big, dumb, slow things like this federal government, it doesn't govern education, it doesn't govern health care. Everything it touches seems to fail. But things are working in the states.
COOPER: But, Matt, when you look at this, we talked about this in the 8:00 hour, you believe something was accomplished in all this from your perspective.
KIBBE: Oh, yes.
We're demonstrating that there are actually some people in Washington, D.C., not very popular in this town, but willing to say you know what, we can keep doing the things the way we used to do it. I do think there's a direct relationship between this unchecked growth in government, this unchecked growth in borrowing, and the inability of American workers and American businessmen to get back to work.
It's a direct relationship. There's too much Washington, there's not enough people getting opportunities. And the income gap between the rich and the poor has grown under Barack Obama. And I think we all need to acknowledge that and talk about what the source of that problem is.
COOPER: Paul, I got to give you the final thought. And we got to move on.
The deficit was created. It was not a typhoon. It was manmade. And it was made by tax cuts, mostly benefiting the rich, declaring war in Iraq and then putting it on a national credit card, passing up an entitlement for senior citizens on prescription drugs that they did not pay for, and then the recession. Those four things caused it, not Head Start for children or better education or health care.
KIBBE: Still Bush's fault?
BEGALA: Absolutely it's Bush's fault, and it will be for the next 50 years while we're paying it off.
COOPER: And this debate will go on among these gentlemen.
Paul Begala, Matt Kibbe, appreciate it. Alex Castellanos, stick around.
I want to bring in Dana Bash.
Dana, you're getting some more details on the vote.
BASH: The vote is final. The final number is 285-144. As we said earlier, it passed. But the thing that we were watching for, the sort of last bit of political drama that was left was to see how the Republican Caucus voted here and whether or not John Boehner would get a majority of a majority to be united as he told his caucus in private, we understand earlier today.
He did not. It didn't even come close to that. This was passed with the help of I believe at the end of the day all Democrats. We have to check that just to make sure that nobody switched their votes in the end. But all Democrats, Democrats were united, which is pretty rare when you're talking about 200 people. But they were united in doing this.
And it just kind of shows you when we were going through the past two weeks, when the House Republicans had so many different versions and options of how to fund the government, all of which were dealing with defunding or delaying Obamacare, Democrats and Republicans, some Republicans, in the later weeks, said let's just put a clean bill on the floor.
John Boehner didn't want to do it because he wanted to stay true to the conservatives in his caucus. He didn't want to have a majority of Democrats approving a bill. Well, that's exactly what just happened. So he resisted for so long doing what exactly ended up happening at the end of the day.
COOPER: And, Dana, do you expect John Boehner, other Republicans to be speaking tonight? Was John Boehner expected to make comments?
BASH: No. I would be shocked if John Boehner was going to make any comment. They have got nothing to say right now that would benefit I don't think them politically externally or internally. I think that they're going to let things sit and let things sort of calm down.
I'm told that he specifically said to his members in this private meeting today, look, we're going to go home. The House is going home after this.
COOPER: Right. We're looking at pictures right now of House members leaving, getting into their vehicles, which are parked right outside there.
BASH: Yes, exactly. They're walking down the steps, they're leaving and they're going home.
And a Republican leadership source said to me just about an hour ago in the hallway, we need our members to go home. We need them to go home and talk to real people. It always helps when they go home and talk to real people.
It sounds really basic and fundamental, but it really is a necessary thing for them to get out of the echo chamber, not just of Washington and all the process here or the politics, but also of the way that the party in particular the Republican Party, has been so split. The leadership really wants them to get out of here, take a breath, get some rest, which is a quote I'm told that John Boehner said to his rank and file, and they will come back and try to go forward with the next fight.
COOPER: But for some of these House members, though, they go home and into districts where Obamacare is hugely unpopular. There's a lot of concern about it.
There is no question about that. And part of the frustration -- I know you have heard this from people you have interviewed as well -- is that Republicans do think that they have proof in the pudding of Obamacare not necessarily being what the president said it was going to be.
Obviously, it's only been two weeks. But one of the biggest frustrations by Republicans -- of Republicans here is that they buried their own story, that there have been problems with Obamacare and that has not risen to the level of consciousness in the news media and elsewhere as it should have, they would have preferred, because everybody is talking about the shutdown, everybody is talking about whether the U.S. is going to default.
So Republicans think that they stepped on their own message, and they're very frustrated by it.
COOPER: And a lot of -- we see a lot of members of Congress right now driving away. Their cars are driving off. It's almost over. Hard to believe.
Dana, we're going to continue to check in with you throughout this hour.
A lot more ahead to be watching. We're going to take a quick break. As we said, the House has now approved this measure. It obviously goes to the White House after some procedural issues are sorted out. The president has said he will sign it immediately. Exactly what time that means, we are unclear on that. But more than likely, the government will be open tomorrow.
Let us know what you think. You can follow me on Twitter @AndersonCooper. Tweet me #AC360Later.
We are going to have more about what was in this bill, about what happens next when we come back.
COOPER: And welcome back "AC360 Later."
Our breaking news, the House has just approved a deal to end the government shutdown and avoid a debt default, the vote 285-144. That's after the Senate approved it. Senator Ted Cruz blasted the deal before the vote. He took a swipe at fellow Senate Republicans, saying they buckled and failed to support House Republicans. Plenty of GOP colleagues are pointing fingers right back at Cruz.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: I intend to stand against Obamacare as long as I'm able to stand.
SEN. TOM COBURN (R), OKLAHOMA: We cannot, only controlling one house of Congress, tell the president that we're not going to fund any portion of this.
REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: Ted Cruz is a fraud.
CRUZ: It is because of you that the House of Representatives has been standing strong.
SEN. KELLY AYOTTE (R), NEW HAMPSHIRE: I just disagreed with the strategy.
REP. SCOTT RIGELL (R), VIRGINIA: It's led us into the political abyss.
P. KING: The party allowed itself to be hijacked by this guy.
CRUZ: This fight, this debate will continue.
REP. CHARLIE DENT (R), PENNSYLVANIA: This really poorly thought- out tactic led by Senator Cruz.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Obviously, it's very divisive in our party.
REP. DEVIN NUNES (R), CALIFORNIA: This was probably not a wise move.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, in a strongly-worded editorial today , "The Houston Chronicle" criticized Ted Cruz and mourned the retirement of his predecessor, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, saying that if she kept her seat, Cruz would not be in Washington today.
By the way, they endorsed Cruz.
We're joined now by political analysts Gloria Borger and David Gergen, and Senator Jon Tester, Democrat of Montana.
Senator, what do you make of what the American people have witnessed through today and over the last several weeks?
SEN. JON TESTER (D), MONTANA: Well, I think what we have seen over the last three weeks is America speaking up and saying this is craziness that's going on in the House of Representatives. And we are playing with too much fire here. You're putting a drag on the economy. You're trying to sink the economy. And knock it off. And I think what we saw tonight in the Senate and the House was the fact that the people stood up, business folks, working families, and said, enough is enough. Grow up and do what we sent you there to do.
COOPER: But there's a lot of Republicans who believe, look, the Democrats played a role in this, the president played a role in this in not being willing to come together, not being willing talk.
TESTER: I think, if you look at the initial negotiations that went on, coming off of, what, $1.52 trillion, down to $986 billion, that's a huge step.
And a lot of our people in caucus fought that. But the bottom line is, is that we do need to get the deficit and debt under control. But you don't sink the economy as a way to do that. You sit down and work across the line in a bipartisan way. And there's lots of folks in the Senate that are willing to do that. But you don't do it by threatening the whole economy of the country.
COOPER: Is there any sense? Do you guys have confidence that this isn't just going to happen again?
BORGER: No, I don't. I heard Dana say they're all going to meet for breakfast tomorrow? Well, great. OK. That's really a start. But I think -- and you hear the president saying he wants these budget negotiations to work.
Look, I think Congress is a crisis-activated institution. And they only do things -- excuse me, Senator -- when it's in their own self-interests. So if they believe that it's in their own self- interests and the public reacts as you say they're going to react, which is by saying, "Just get it done. We want a deal. We want to fix this problem," then they'll do it.
If they don't feel the pressure and the Tea Party people feel emboldened by this, by their own wing of the party, then -- then not much is going to happen.
COOPER: Steve King says this has helped to identify -- Congressman King said this has helped identify, you know, who's an upstanding member of the House, and it's been a good thing in that way.
GERGEN: People have very different views inside the House about who was upstanding in the end. About the only way I think this breakfast could help tomorrow is if it were a prayer breakfast. You know? Because they need to get out of this mindset of, this poisonous psychology.
Look, I think there's plenty of blame to go around, but there's no question that most of the blame is being directed at the Tea Party and what happened in the House of Representatives. And what you find now is this split. It's deepening within the Republican Party.
A Pew poll found today that, if you talk to moderates and liberals in the Democratic Party, if you can find any liberals, their favorability rating for Ted Cruz, Senator Cruz is 27 percent.
COOPER: Democrat or Republican...
GERGEN: Republican Party. Republican moderates and liberals, 27 percent favorability toward Ted Cruz. Among Tea Party types, it's 75 percent. There is that gigantic gap. And there's no question, I think, that the Tea Party folks feel they didn't -- people didn't fight hard enough on the Republican side. Moderates didn't fight hard enough.
COOPER: That's definitely the message that a lot of Tea Party groups are saying, is that we were abandoned by other members of the Republican Party. That's the reason this didn't go forward. Had we stood together...
TESTER: Had they stuck together they would have sunk the economy. I mean, that's the alternative here. I mean, the truth is thank God there are some Republicans that have some common sense that came to the table and so we could get this done.
Look, what they were fighting for would have destroyed this country. Would have put us into a bigger depression than by far than what happened with Lehman four years ago.
BORGER: Where does the Obama care issue come into this? Because Democrats are going to have some trouble defending it if it continues to have the problems it's having. I'm sure in your state, there are lots of issues with it.
TESTER: Sure there's issues with it. We need to work to solve those issues. But to say we're going to throw it out is not -- that doesn't solve anything. The old system was broken badly. And so we've got to figure out ways to make the health-care system work without breaking the bank. And there's so much misinformation out there on it right now that I can't wait to get it implemented so we can start working on the problems, the real problems.
GERGEN: You're seen as a moderate centrist Democrat. There is a feeling in this town tonight that a lot of Democrats who are more liberal than you are actually feel energized by what happened, that they now have the upper hand, and they're going to be less likely to compromise in the talks ahead, that they're going to hang tougher on entitlements and other issues.
TESTER: I certainly don't have that impression. I think that there's a real willingness to work together to try to fix the problems this country faces, and we've got a lot of problems. We've got a housing finance reform Bill right now, bipartisan in nature, that we need to get across the finish line. If we can start doing some of these things...
COOPER: You don't believe -- you don't believe that there are some liberal Democrats who are feeling emboldened, feeling like, "You know what? We won this thing. Now we use that to our advantage"?
TESTER: I certainly haven't gotten that impression at all. Not at all.
BORGER: Well, I think there are some maybe in the House more than in the Senate.
BORGER: But I think they definitely feel, OK, we won this and we're going to -- we're going to forge ahead. And if the Tea Party remains unpopular, the Republican Party splits, then we can -- then we can do what we want to do.
TESTER: You know what I like to look at: instead of looking at the Tea Party let's look at the policy they were advocating. And those folks that were advocating not to extend the debt limit and put this economy into a depression are people that, quite frankly, we need to fight against, both parties. That's not -- that's not good policy.
COOPER: We got to leave it there. Senator John Tester, I know it's been a long way for you. Appreciate you joining us. David Gergen, Gloria Borger, as well.
Just ahead, the good news is the government is going to reopen; the treasury won't default on its obligations. But in just a few months the same lawmakers will have to do this all over again. How's that going to play on Wall Street and beyond? Ahead.
We'll be right back.
COOPER: Well, tonight Congress slammed on the brakes in the 11th hour to veer away from the fiscal cliff. But the deal they've reached is just a short-term fix, as you know. That huge crashing sound many people hear is a giant can being kicked down the road.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: This deal kicks the can down the road.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are kicking the can. But better to kick the can than to stomp on the can.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At the same time, we can't keep kicking the can down the road.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Instead of kicking the can down the road.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kick the can down the road.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kick the can down the road.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the problem is we continue to kick it down the road.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's hard not to be cynical when we've seen the can kicked down the road so many times. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We will continue to kick this thing down the road and with real harmful effects for the American populace.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, the deal that President Obama expects to sign after the House is done voting funds the government until January 15, lifts the debt ceiling until February 7. Then we're back to square one. David Walker joins me now. He's the founder and CEO of the Comeback America Initiative, former comptroller general of the United States.
David, the fact that this deal essentially, I don't want to again use that cliche, kicks the can down the road, but how concerning is that to you? What needs to happen now?
DAVID WALKER, FOUNDER/CEO, COMEBACK AMERICA INITIATIVE: Well, the only thing that's really been accomplished is that they have a conference committee to try to be able to come up with a budget to determine funding levels for fiscal '14 and hopefully beyond.
What has to happen is we have to agree on a fiscal goal. We need to get our public debt as a percentage of the economy down to about 60 percent by 2030 and be on a path to keep it there. To do that, you have to be able to reform social insurance programs, rationalize health-care promises and better control costs, and do comprehensive tax reform.
Those are the three things that it takes. And hopefully, this committee will be able to get some progress in that area. You've got to keep in mind, Anderson, our public debt is up 90 percent since President Obama was inaugurated. Ninety percent. And President Bush 43 and Obama have set very poor records on fiscal responsibility. And we've got to turn that around.
COOPER: So how confident are you that those things can actually be worked on? Because none of those are easy, even in the best of times. And these are certainly not the best of times.
WALKER: In my view, if we listen to the American people, we can solve this problem. And if the president shows more leadership.
I've been to all 50 states. I this past fall went around to 27 states, got 92 percent agreement on six principles for a grand bargain. Eighty-five percent agree it's going to be at least two to one spending reductions to additional revenues.
And at least 77 to 90 percent agreement on Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid health-care defense tax and other reforms. If you listen to the American people, you can solve this problem. If Washington continues to be polarized, have this ideological divide and live in a cocoon rather than the real world, then we're going to continue to have problems.
COOPER: You say we need to replace the debt ceiling all together. Why? WALKER: Well, because we're the only country on earth that has a debt ceiling denominated in nominal dollars. We know by definition we're going to hit it. We just don't know how fast we're going to hit it, but we know we're going to hit it.
We need to impose statutory budget controls to constrain spending, both tax expenditures and direct. We need a credit card limit, a constitutional credit card limit as to how much debt as a percentage of the economy we can take on you can only violate through a declaration of war or a super majority vote in the House and Senate signed by the president.
That will force the three issues that I talked about on the table. Because we are -- we are on a path to go over any reasonable limit of debt to GDP after the ten-year horizon. And you've got to start dealing with it sooner rather than later.
COOPER: And Standard & Poor's today said this shutdown has cost the U.S. economy $24 billion, which is a pretty startling number. You say that's insignificant when you look at the economy as a whole.
WALKER: Well, it's a big number to most Americans, obviously. But you know, we're a $17 trillion economy. A $17 trillion economy.
What we need to do is to provide more certainty and stability with regard to our tax policies, with regard to our spending practices. We can make these changes and phase them in over time.
And candidly, Anderson, we need to be investing more in critical infrastructure and research and development and less on consumptions and less on programs that, frankly, you know, just don't work. We've got a lot of programs that don't work, both direct spending and tax expenditures. And it's time to start separating the wheat from the chaff there.
COOPER: David Walker, it's always good to have you on.
We're back with two of our political commentators, Democratic strategist Paul Begala and Republican consultant Alex Castellanos.
Does this make sense, what he was saying to you?
PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It doesn't -- let me translate. I'm -- you know, I'm a professional wordsmith, and I come up with euphemisms like this for politicians all the time. You talk about rationalizing and reforming.
Here's what he's proposing. Raising taxes and cutting spending, mostly on things like Social Security and Medicare.
Now, a lot of experts say he's right, and he is an expert. But at some point we have to strip away the euphemisms and tell the American people, "OK, what we're talking about here is raising taxes and cutting Social Security and Medicare."
Try selling that in this building with the white dome behind us. By the way, here's a lot of other people who think the best way to bring all this down is to put America back to work, and that's when the deficit will come down. And a booming economy is a lot better than just cutting Social Security.
ALEX CASTELLANOS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: But there was a new idea there, something different than what Washington's doing now. Families, businesses. How do they make decisions and stay within a budget? You know what? They decide how much they have to spend first.
And if Paul Ryan and his Democratic counterpart can set a budget goal, then look what happens. Then spending underneath that, priorities compete. You know what? We have to make a car payment. We can't buy another plasma TV. But we don't have those.
COOPER: Let me just jump in here. Because last night on this program for our viewers, there was something happened that was one of the most bizarre episodes that has ever occurred on a program that I've been associated with. And I just want to play that for our viewers in case you missed it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CASTELLANOS: A friend explained to me today finally what Ted Cruz is doing. And I finally understand. He's having bunny sex.
COOPER: Are you high? What are you talking about?
CASTELLANOS: I'm high. Let me explain. The bunny -- the snowshoe hare -- I thought it's a marvelous explanation. Every six years, every ten years multiplies six-fold. Bunnies like sex, apparently. But they're -- the boom produces a bust. They press their food supply. They invite predators.
Right now Ted Cruz what he's doing feels good. He's growing his supporters. It's leading the Republican Party, I think, into a bust.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So we actually, because Alex Castellanos mentioned bunny sex and seems to be knowledgeable about it. We actually tonight brought a bunny here for Alex. We want you to meet Lucy.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hey.
COOPER: Hey. Can I -- do you want me to hold her? All right. This is Lucy. She's three years old. She's actually, Alex, she's up for adoption at the Washington Humane Society.
CASTELLANOS: I'm in.
COOPER: You're in?
CASTELLANOS: But no demonstrations tonight. That's all I ask, please.
COOPER: How -- so I was -- actually...
BEGALA: You going to ask where she came from? Let's talk later.
CASTELLANOS: The birds, the bees, the bunnies, we'll have a talk.
COOPER: Do you want to try to explain? Actually, I'm not even going to let you try to explain what you were saying last night. But people can actually adopt Lucy.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
COOPER: If somebody wanted to adopt a bunny, how would they go about it?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They would go to the Washington Humane Society. And we are online at WashHumane.org.
COOPER: How -- do bunnies make good pets?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They make great pets.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She's really calm, and she likes to be cuddled.
COOPER: Do they actually mess around a lot?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They play.
COOPER: They play?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They're a little more reserved than your cat or dog.
COOPER: Did you hear what Alex said last night? Did it make any sense to you? Because all day long I've been trying to figure it out.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's between -- that's between me and Lucy.
COOPER: All right. Listen, thank you so much...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.
COOPER: ... for bringing Lucy to us. I hope she gets adopted. What's the Web site again?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: WashHumane.org.
COOPER: WashHumane.org. Alex.
CASTELLANOS: Let that be a lesson to us all.
COOPER: All right. Alex, thank you so much for getting us started. Thank you so much. Paul, thanks.
Next, President Obama confessed he's not happy with the Web site for Obama care. Well, you would think. The administration said it would release some metrics, but it's breaking that promise. Investigative correspondent Drew Griffin is digging into the mess. He joins me next.
COOPER: Welcome back. Tonight's breaking news: the House approved the deal to end the government shutdown, avoid a debt default. The vote, 285-144. It passed the Senate earlier tonight 81- 18. The president said he will sign it immediately.
Even though it looks like this is a done deal, it's not exactly a banner moment for lawmakers here in our nation's capital. Senator John McCain, for one, has been very vocal about his disdain for what's been happening in Washington for the past 16 days. I spoke with Senator McCain earlier this evening.
COOPER: John Boehner said, "We fought the good fight." Was this a good fight?
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Oh, no. I think it was the wrong fight. And I think maybe, if Custer had survived, he would have said the same thing.
It was the wrong ground. It was the wrong premise. It was the wrong fight to have.
I fought against Obama care and continue to, because I don't believe it's good for America. But after the 2012 elections, it was clear that the American people had -- were in agreement about Obama care. It was the law. And so to sell to the American people that we could defund Obama care when you control only one of the three branches, executive and legislative, is a fool's errand.
COOPER: You described this as a shameful chapter? Is that correct?
MCCAIN: Oh, I think it was a shameful chapter that what we did to the American people. I mean, we put people out of work. We disrupted their lives.
We -- there's a small town outside of the Grand Canyon. I just met with the mayor. And because the Grand Canyon was shut down, it had a horrendous effect. They had to even fly food up there from the food banks, because all these people and their families were out of work. Is that what we want to do to the American people? Of course not.
We should fight, and we should use the parliamentary procedures, but in order -- but to do something like this was just not acceptable to most Americans. And the polls show that. And by the way, the president should have been much more involved.
COOPER: You do fault the Democrats for it. You say they have not negotiated. They haven't been as engaged as they should have.
MCCAIN: No. Especially the president should have shown more leadership. And -- but...
COOPER: What does that mean? What should he have done, in your opinion?
MCCAIN: I think he should have done what Bill Clinton did in '95. And that's have almost round the clock meetings with these people and try to find some common ground. The polls don't show that, in any way, this was anything but a huge setback for Republicans.
COOPER: What did you say to Ted Cruz today?
MCCAIN: I said to him, "Well, I hope that we can move on now. I hope that we can move on to other things. Because what we've done has been so harmful."
Not just to Republicans. The president's numbers went down. The Democrat numbers went down. Ours just went down further and faster. The American people have no confidence in their government. And can you blame them?
COOPER: Senator McCain, appreciate your time.
MCCAIN: Thank you.
COOPER: Well, President Obama's signature piece of legislation, the Affordable Care Act, remains intact tonight. To some extent, though, the battle of Capitol Hill has overshadowed the major problems at HealthCare.gov, the Web site has been having.
The Web site where people sign up for health care exchanges under Obama care launched 16 days ago. Even Obama care supporters call it a mess. The White House said it would release some metrics -- that was the word they used -- yesterday, but they didn't. Officials now say they won't release any numbers until November.
CNN investigative correspondent Drew Griffin joins me now.
So first the White House is telling us they -- they didn't know how many people had joined up.
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: that's right.
COOPER: It seems clear they know. They're just not releasing. GRIFFIN: They absolutely know. The White House, for some reason or another, Anderson, does not want us to know what the actual numbers of people who have signed up for the Affordable Care Act are.
Jay Carney was asked, White House press secretary, asked directly that question today and gave a very indirect answer, talking about volume of calls and visits to the Web site and traffic is up. But he would not answer specifically the number of people who have signed up for Obama care.
Let me tell you how silly that is, OK? HealthCare.gov is what we're talking about. But 14 other states and the District of Columbia have their own exchanges. We've been calling those exchanges every single day. And at the end of every single day, they have given us the exact tally of who didn't have insurance and who now has insurance under the Affordable Care Act.
The number of people in 14 states and the District of Columbia is 39,005. That seems low to us. Chris Freights (ph), my colleague, called around to insurance executives. It seems very low to them. There is concern that this is not catching on.
COOPER: Early on, what the administration was saying, well, it was just a question of overwhelming volume. But the problems seem to go a lot deeper than that. I mean, in the way these things were actually structured.
GRIFFIN: Well, there was glitches, right? And we know about those glitches from Elizabeth Cohen's own reporting.
But it seems like right now, two weeks into it, people are looking at what's happening, they're seeing the prices, and they're not signing up in the volume that at least this administration thought they were. Maybe the way they're going to try to hide that or hold that is to keep the numbers up until they try to get more people on.
COOPER: Supporters of this say, well, oftentimes when these kind of exchanges happened in Massachusetts, people visit multiple times before actually making a decision. Remains to be seen if that's the case in this one.
GRIFFIN: Let's see the numbers, right?
COOPER: Drew Griffin, appreciate the reporting. Thanks.
That does it for this edition of 360 LATER. Appreciate you watching. We'll see you again tomorrow night.
Jake Tapper continues our live breaking news coverage next.