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Budget Deal Imminent?; Interview With New Jersey Congressman Bill Pascrell Jr.

Aired October 16, 2013 - 15:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: And welcome to CNN's special coverage of the countdown to the debt ceiling deadline. Welcome to the viewers around the United States and around the world. I'm Anderson Cooper live on Capitol Hill. What a day, it is October 16th and as the nation verges on the edge of default, we're waiting until after dinner. That's when the Senate will be voting on the first deal since this thing began. Right now, House Republicans are meeting to discuss that deal.


SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: It's never easy for two sides to reach consensus. It's really hard sometimes harder than others. This time was really hard. But after weeks spent facing off across partisan divide that often seemed too wide to cross, our country came to the brink of a disaster. But in the end, political adversaries set aside their differences and disagreements to prevent that disaster.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: For today, the relief we hope for is to reopen the government, avoid default, and protect the historic cuts we achieved under the budget control act. This is far less than many of us had hoped for, frankly, but it's far better than some had sought.


COOPER: Senator Mitch McConnell. Republican Senator Ted Cruz says he doesn't like it, but he will not block it.


SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: The United States Senate has refused to do likewise. The United States Senate has stayed with the traditional approach of the Washington establishment of maintaining the status quo and doing nothing to respond to the suffering that Obamacare is causing millions of Americans. The timing of this vote, it is my understanding from leadership, is likely to occur today. I have no objections to the timing of this vote.


COOPER: Well, Speaker John Boehner's camp is silent. No decision now for now on how this will go in the House, but it appears investors have faith, at least. As news of the potential deal spread, stocks climbed, with the Dow adding about 150 points.

So, what exactly is in the deal? Well, here are the parameters we know about at this point. The government opens for business immediately, funded until January 15, the debt ceiling extended, putting that whole thing on the back burner until February 7.

Now, that hypothetical can -- basically kicking the can down the road again, hypothetically, and here's an idea, budget negotiators appointing folks who can actually sit down and talk to one another about long-term spending. And then there's the O-word. That's right. You heard Cruz there. The only Obamacare-related issue in this deal, income verification for people getting health care subsidies to make sure that they qualify, to eliminate fraud.

Let's go to Dana Bash, chief congressional correspondent.

Dana, what do we know? Any word yet on how the House GOP leadership who are meeting right now feel about the deal and when it's going to come up?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, how they feel about it and whether it's going to come up are two very different things. That tells you everything you need to know about where we are right now.

It's the whole House Republican Caucus actually that is meeting right now, trying to just sort of discuss the terms of the deal that we do expect to be voted on in the Senate first now and that will happen some time probably between 5:00 and 7:00 tonight. And we don't expect any cheers out of the House Republican Conference at all, in fact, just the opposite.

Already, we're hearing from Republican members going in that they don't like this, that they're going to vote against it, but -- this is the big but -- it doesn't mean it's not going to pass. For the first time, John Boehner is going to do what he has refused to do for two- and-a-half weeks, three weeks, which is put a bill on the floor that will get bipartisan support and perhaps, we don't know for sure, but perhaps not a majority of his fellow Republicans.

So that's the state of play right now. Would not be surprised if we heard from a number of Republicans coming out of this meeting which again is just getting under way right now, saying, we don't like this, we're going to vote against it. I just got an e-mail before coming on with you, Anderson, from one of the Tea Party groups, FreedomWorks, saying -- sent to all of the Republican offices, one of them just sent it to me, saying, we're going to count this, we're going to score this, meaning count this against your record as a conservative if you don't vote no.

There's a lot of pressure from conservative groups to vote against this.

COOPER: Dana, a lot was made when Ted Cruz decided to talk, talking at the same time, essentially, as Senator Mitch McConnell. That raised a lot of eyebrows. Can you explain why? BASH: I was actually there and I saw what happened. It was not something that he calculated. He was walking out of the Republican meeting with senators. He was talking to a number of reporters in the hallway.

The people who work for television networks, including ours, said, please, can you come over to the microphones because we would like to hear and see you? And that's what happened. Now, I think a lot of things happened fast. I did mention to him that Senator McConnell was speaking on the floor and would he wait? And I think there was a lot of groaning from reporters who wanted to hear him right away.

So, I don't think it was anybody's fault. It was just a fast-moving story with a lot of people trying to figure out what was going on.

COOPER: OK. For people who don't realize, that's viewed as very bad form, as sort of something you don't do on Capitol Hill. Dana, appreciate it. We are going to talk to you, well, probably well into the night.

CNN talked earlier to Republican Congressman James Lankford. We got a glimpse of what House Republicans might be doing behind closed doors right now.



REP. JAMES LANKFORD (R), OKLAHOMA: Folks will obviously get a chance to get a copy of it, start looking through that. We will meet at 3:00. We will talk through the parameters. They will talk about what is happening over on the Senate side and the schedule.

The speaker will outline, here's what the deal is, here's what it's all about. Majority leader Cantor will step up, kind of explain where things are as well, and then we will have some interaction among everybody and everybody will have a chance to be able to visit on that.

BASH: You have no doubt that the speaker will bring this to the floor?

LANKFORD: I don't have any doubt that he will bring it to the floor.




COOPER: Well, Lankford would not say whether he would vote for the plan. He said he wants to read it first. If House Republicans do not back the Senate leader's plan, Boehner might have to turn to House Democrats for votes.

I want to bring in Democratic Congressman Bill Pascrell. He's a congressman who is joining us now.

You just got out of your own caucus. What do you make of what you heard?

REP. BILL PASCRELL JR. (D), NEW JERSEY: I think we can deliver between 195 and 198 votes. And I hope that the speaker will be able to deliver at least 100 of his.

COOPER: You have no doubt that, brought to the floor, this will pass?

PASCRELL: Well, I have no doubt that we're going to have our votes. John's got to take care of his -- the speaker has got to take care of his own votes.

Look, we're losing $164 million a day in the economy with the government shutting down. Needless to say, just look at the charts as to what's happening to the stock market and what's happening -- well, the stock market is up a little bit because they think we're going to do the job today, but the interest rates are starting to rise, Anderson, and that's not a good sign at all.

Just when the economy is starting to get some lift, just when it's starting to get light, or whether we're talking about foreclosures, whether you're talking about prices of homes going up, we don't need this at all.

COOPER: How would the timing of all this work out? When would you anticipate a vote in the House?

PASCRELL: Well, we expect a vote some time late tonight. The Senate -- we were going to go first, and then I think it worked out that the speaker wanted the Senate, gives him a little bit more weight in what he's trying to do on his side. He's got a tough job. I think he's tried his best. I think John is a good American patriot.

He let these guys and gals get too much rope in 2011 and 2012. He thought he could rein them in. They can't -- you can't rein them in. There's about 40 or 50 of them that just want to be on their own. Regardless of what we do on our side and what John Boehner does, they're never going to agree to anything. And that's proven.

COOPER: What is it like to be in there these days? I mean, is it -- I have talked to people, longtime-serving members who say they have never seen it like this, that even in the worst of the old days, people would talk.

PASCRELL: I have been here for 17 years. I was here in the Iraqi vote, Afghan vote. I have never seen anything like this in the 17 years that I have been here.

COOPER: Does it depress you?

PASCRELL: No, you can't be depressed and you can't give up the ship. We're sent here to do a job. That's why we're getting paid -- not yet, but this is while we will be paid if we do our job. And I intend to do my job. I'm not going to let it get me down. I served on a local level. I was also in the Jersey legislature, and it primes you for this. And, yes, many of these people never served in local government. They don't know what the hell they're doing half the time.

And you have to give them almost a GPS to get through the day, but that's where we are and we got to deal with it. That's where it's at.

COOPER: Where do you see the negotiations going now? This is essentially kind of kicking the can down the road. There now actually have to be negotiations. What is the give on the Democrats' side?

PASCRELL: Well, Anderson, we would not be having this conversation, not that I would not want to have the conversation with you, if we would have done our job five, six months ago. The House passed its budget. I voted no on that budget.

The Senate voted its budget two days later. And our -- Congresswoman Pelosi, our leader, named our conferees right away. Harry Reid tried 18 times to name the conferees. So, you bring the two sides together. You bring the budget in the House and budget in the Senate together. There's always a difference. And you work it out.

Six months later, they talk about negotiating? We tried over and over and over again. The record is very clear on this. So now, both Budget Committees in both the House and the Senate are going to have to sit down between now and the middle of December to work out something for the rest of this fiscal year, which will lead -- bring us to October 1 of next year.

I think it can be done. I think it can be done. Maybe this is a lesson for everybody. Look, no party is privy to virtue, but these guys have made -- they have written a new chapter in the history of this country. It's not pretty.

COOPER: Congressman, I appreciate you being on tonight. Thank you. Thanks a lot.

PASCRELL: Honored to be here.

COOPER: Thank you.

One of the main factors to help this deal get done, the threat obviously of a market collapse, Wall Street reacting to the news, up about 150 points right now. How concerned should we be for the short- term solution? Next, the answer from a trader on the New York Stock Exchange.

Plus, the leader of a powerful conservative group with strong words for House Republicans. He says agreeing to this deal will be -- quote -- "a full surrender." We will talk to him about that.

This is our special coverage from Capitol Hill.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: Hey. Welcome back. I'm Anderson Cooper live from Capitol Hill.

Billionaire investor Warren Buffett is slamming lawmakers for using the limit on America's debt as a bargaining tool. He thinks it's too dangerous. He compares it to a nuclear bomb.

Watch what he told Poppy Harlow on CNN this morning.


WARREN BUFFETT, CHAIRMAN & CEO, BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY: It is totally asinine to have a debt ceiling at all, and to use it as a means to try and get your way on anything else, whether it's abortion, gun control, Obamacare, you name it. It's a political weapon of mass destruction that shouldn't be used.


COOPER: Political weapon of mass destruction. Wall Street did breathe a sigh of relief on word of a deal in the Senate to raise the debt ceiling and reopen the government for now. Right now, the Dow Jones industrial average is up about 160 points.

Zain Asher is at the New York Stock Exchange.

Zain, you have been talking to traders on the floor of the exchange. Are they concerned Congress is just kicking the can down the road again?

ZAIN ASHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely, Anderson. That is certainly a major concern, especially when the next potential deadline could be just a few months away.

You have got to remember that Wall Street hates uncertainty. Even though the Dow is up today, we have seen volatility over the past few days. A lot of people sitting on the sidelines. I did speak to one analyst -- his name is Mark Newton of Greywolf Execution Partners -- and I asked him, what's going to happen to stocks over the long term as we come up against more and more of these short-term deals? Take a listen.


MARK NEWTON, GREYWOLF EXECUTION: It's certainly something that we're going to have to continue to deal about for the next few months. Congress still has a lot to do in terms of trying to reconcile spending issues, figuring out exactly how we can keep spending caps under control and potentially raise the debt ceiling in a way that the country can continue to operate, so it's something that it's not going to be short-term in nature.

If anything, what investors are hoping is that they can extend this until December or January and let Congress really get to work in trying to figure out the bigger issues.

ASHER: And how are the markets going to handle this kind of uncertainty all over again in the interim?

NEWTON: Well, it's important to note that we're entering one of the more bullish times of the year, November-December, where the market typically has a very bullish bias.

So, yes, there is uncertainty, but the trend is up. Earning season is here, and the market right now has been resilient, shrugging off really any sign of any concern. My thinking is any type of uncertainty will likely just prove short-term and the market can likely extend into the new year.


ASHER: And you heard Mark say that, you know, this market has really been resilient through all this. And I think that when you talk to traders here, very few people here on this floor believe that Washington is irresponsible enough to let the full faith and credit of the United States crumble.

And, lastly, there is a feeling if they don't reach a deal by tonight, of course, that doesn't necessarily mean default -- Anderson.

COOPER: Right. There is some time. Zain Asher, appreciate it.

As House Republicans meet right now behind me, discussing how to handle the Senate deal, here's the man presiding over a splintered party. John Boehner was caught in the middle of Tea Party conservatives and Republican moderates, even the president saying Boehner could not control his own caucus. What's next for the House speaker?

This is CNN's special live coverage from Capitol Hill continuing in a moment.


COOPER: Hey. Welcome back. I'm Anderson Cooper. This is CNN's special live coverage from Capitol Hill.

The Senate reaching a deal to reopen the government, as you know, raise the debt ceiling. Right now, House Republicans, who put up the biggest fight, obviously, are meeting behind closed doors to discuss the next step to move forward. How would you like to be in that room?

Joining me now, Ryan Lizza, Washington correspondent for "The New Yorker" and CNN political commentator, and Lynn Sweet, Washington bureau chief with "The Chicago-Sun Times."

To be in that room right now must be fascinating. What is the future for House Speaker John Boehner?

LYNN SWEET, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "THE CHICAGO SUN-TIMES": Short- term, it's going to be rocky, but since we get a replay of all these issues in just a few months early next year, Anderson, I think his history has to be rewritten, but, right now, he had lost on almost every bid that House Republicans made to gain from this shutdown episode.

COOPER: And what kind of a price does he pay for that?

RYAN LIZZA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Look, I think the big question going into this was, could Boehner lose his job over this?

You know, most of the -- I have been e-mailing with aides to House Republicans today. And they're all saying the same thing. He stood firm. The base is happy with what he did, even though they're not getting anything out of this in the end. But they feel like he fought, and at least right now, most conservatives are saying his job is not in jeopardy.

Maybe they're just putting on a strong face right now and maybe that will change, but it seems like they think that he went as far as he could, was dealt a very, very poor hand by -- was pushed into this by some people whose advice he probably shouldn't have taken and didn't want to take.

But at the end of the day, it doesn't seem at this moment his job is in jeopardy.


SWEET: And one other quick thing on it, rule of politics is you can't replace someone with no one. There's no other person out there who is even remotely a contender to replace him right now.

LIZZA: Yes. People talk about Paul Ryan and other folks.


SWEET: But they're not doing it seriously.


COOPER: What about the House Republicans who have run on -- who put up this battle, who have run on defunding/delaying Obamacare.

We heard from Ted Cruz earlier today basically spinning that this as kind of a victory for the American people, that it coalesced the American people against Obamacare, brought this issue to the fore. Is there any price for them to pay? Or is this a plus for them? They fund-raised on it, they raised money on it, and they can continue doing it?

SWEET: And they still will because in just a few hours, I would expect that they will vote no, and they can take that home, they can fund-raise on it, they can tell their base, I fought the fight.

LIZZA: Look, anyone who is honest about the situation that we just watched over the last two weeks will tell you this is an unmitigated disaster for the people who pushed this course on the Republican leadership.

There wasn't a single Republican leader who wanted to be in this place. There wasn't a senior political Republican strategist who wanted to be in this place. And they all predicted the outcome that they got.


COOPER: What Cruz is saying is that, look, I and others stood firm and pushed official Washington to deal with something they didn't want to deal with, to face something they didn't want to face.

LIZZA: They got nothing, they got zero, zilch.

SWEET: And even worse than that, they forced this shutdown on real people across the nation who suffered because of it, for what? Republicans have tried umpteen times to defund, derail Obamacare. The program started the very day the shutdown started, October 1.

Now, we could talk all day about how there have been glitches in that rollout, but that's not what -- Ted Cruz didn't have anything, I think, of substance out of this for anyone, except himself.

COOPER: What -- the timeline of all this, how does this play out?

SWEET: Just like reporters work on deadline -- and I'm sure Ryan and we all know that -- so does Congress work its best on deadline, and in the few hours, I would expect both chambers, the Senate much more cheerfully, doing a compromise measure that just kicks the can, Anderson.


SWEET: That's the whole point, everyone. We are going to be back here because the debt ceiling is only for a few months and so is this resolution to fund the government.


COOPER: But there's nothing to force negotiations, really.

LIZZA: There's nothing to force -- well, there are some deadlines, but -- and there's another debt ceiling and there's another -- the government will run out of money. There will be another deadline for that, but you have to think that the White House accomplished its key goal in pushing Republicans to this place and not giving into the concessions.

You have to think that they accomplished the goal of making Republicans realize that they won't again test the White House when you're bumping up against a debt ceiling deadline to try and get some policy concessions.

COOPER: Well, we will know in a few weeks whether or not that's true.

Appreciate both of you joining us. Thank you. It's fascinating days here.

(CROSSTALK) COOPER: Defunding Obamacare was the rallying cry for some Republicans when negotiations began, certainly delaying it. Now the leader of one powerful conservative group thinks House Republicans are giving up too easily. In fact, he says agreeing to this deal would be -- quote -- "a full surrender."

The president of FreedomWorks will join me ahead. We will talk live with him next.


COOPER: Hey. I'm Anderson Cooper. This is CNN live special coverage.

The Senate deal at hand on the debt ceiling and partial government shutdown is exactly what many political watchers predicted, not a long-lasting solution, but a short-term Band-Aid that's come to be known as kicking the can. That's setting up a quick fix and pushing the deadline to find a real answer for later.

Congress' history of kicking the can is so prolific and convoluted, we have offered a simple timeline that still doesn't quite do justice to the dysfunction.

To get through fiscal year 2011, Congress and the president had to kick the can eight times, passing continuing resolutions, short-term funding bills in place of a real budget. Then, to get through fiscal year 2012, six short-term funding bills, and to get through fiscal year 2013, Congress managed to get by with just two bills.

Amid all these resolutions, we should point out, there were some major face-offs. Remember these? There was the first debt ceiling crisis of 2011, when the U.S. lost its AAA rating, the fiscal cliff of 2012, one result from that, those across-the-board government spending cuts called sequestration.

A lot to talk about. Despite the doomsday economic predictions if Congress doesn't raise the debt ceiling, there are still a lot of anti-Obamacare advocates who want to kill this deal. One alert sent by grassroots group FreedomWorks urges people to call their reps and tell them to vote no on the Senate plan on the table.

Quote: "Now House Republicans are contemplating an amendment that would lift the debt ceiling and fund Obamacare in return for essentially nothing. It's basically a full surrender," to say, "to the intransigent left and another win for the insulated Beltway elites."

Joining me now, the author of those words, Matt Kibbe, president and CEO of FreedomWorks.

Appreciate you joining us.


COOPER: You see this as a full surrender by House Republicans. Explain that.

KIBBE: I do.

It's exactly what Harry Reid and Barack Obama insisted on from day one. And Republicans always had one of two choices. They could fight against Democrats who were completely intransigent. They said, I'm not going to negotiate, or they could capitulate early on. And instead of presenting a united front opposed to Obamacare, opposed to spending so much money we don't have, they started shooting at each other. John McCain started shooting at Ted Cruz and helped the Democrats define the narrative.

COOPER: They said, the people who oppose your position say, look, you never had the votes to defund or delay Obamacare, that it was never going to happen. So, did you actually accomplish anything?

KIBBE: Yes, I think we did, and I think what we need to understand is that Obamacare is in reality a train wreck. It is in reality pushing people off their current coverage. It's going to raise premiums. It's going to force young people through the individual mandate to buy coverage they can't afford.

COOPER: But what did you accomplish?

KIBBE: What we accomplished was fighting.

And it's important in Washington, D.C., to step up to the plate and actually stand for something, even if the Democrats don't want to go along with it. This was all about educating the public. It was all about trying to move the needle outside the Beltway. We didn't do that because Republicans started shooting at each other.

COOPER: But aren't there ways to educate the public to your position without furloughing workers, without shutting down the government?

KIBBE: Well, it's interesting. Back in the old days, when Tip O'Neill was the speaker, he shut down the government 12 times and there was always this adversarial give and take between Republicans that wanted to do some things and Democrats that wanted to do other things.

We have stopped doing that now. Tip O'Neill famously used a shutdown to force Ronald Reagan to back off on his favorite program, "Star Wars." We don't do that anymore. So, now we fund both guns and butter, and that's how we get $17 trillion in national debt. It's also how we end up with implementing Obamacare, a program that no one in this town thinks is actually working today.

COOPER: Well, there's a lot of complaints about the Web site and the rollout of it, certainly. Nobody -- which, in fact, do you worry that in fact you could have had a stronger case? If this had not had happened, there would be more focus on the ridiculous way this thing has rolled out, beyond just computer glitches.

I mean, it's been sort of a disaster, the way it's rolled out thus far, but it hasn't gotten the attention it could have had otherwise. KIBBE: Well, the press loves to focus on the theatrics and all these tactical disputes that are going on, but real Americans in the real world are being forced, whether they want to or not, to look at the actual costs of Obamacare.

They're not going to have a choice. They're going to have to figure this stuff out. So, I would predict that six months from now, you're going to see a number of Democrats calling for a delay in Obamacare because it's going to be a political albatross on anybody who supported it.

COOPER: So, what is the price that House Republicans who vote for this, who vote for an end to the shutdown, what do you want the political price for them to be?