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Obama Says Washington Needs To Change; Budget Conferees Hold First Meeting; Debt Crisis Averted For Now; Poor View Of The Tea Party; Temporary Budget & Debt Deal; Obamacare Website Glitches Persist

Aired October 17, 2013 - 13:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much, guys.

Right now, the partial government shutdown is over, furloughed employees are returning to work, and a government default has been averted. Now President Obama says it's time to change the way Washington does business.

Right now, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney is preparing to face questions from reporters. The White House briefing is scheduled to begin this hour. We'll go there live once it starts.

Right now, the stock market is focused on earnings reports with the immediate fiscal crisis here in Washington over. We'll have a quick check of the markets and take a closer look at the economic impact of this 16-day government shutdown.

Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting from Washington. The latest fiscal crisis may be over but President Obama says Washington can't just go back to business as usual. The president says the partial shutdown and the threat of default hurt the U.S. economy, but the country he says will bounce back. He says it's the politics that need to change.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And today, I want our people and our businesses and the rest of the world to know that the full faith and credit of the United States remains unquestioned.

But all of my friends in Congress, understand that how business is done in this town has to change because we've all got a lot of work to do on behalf of the American people and that includes the hard work of regaining their trust. And there's no good reason why we can't govern responsibly, despite our differences, without lurching from manufactured crisis to manufactured crisis.


BLITZER: The president called on lawmakers to take what he called a balanced approach to a responsible budget. He also called for finishing the work on comprehensive immigration reform and for passing a farm bill.

Plenty to chew on today. To add a little depth and perspective, we have our Chief Congressional Correspondent Dana Bash up on the Hill, our Senior White House Correspondent Jim Acosta, obviously he's over at the White House.

Jim, let me start with you. A lot of us thought that maybe the president would extend an olive branch to the Republicans. Did not necessarily completely materialize. He was pretty tough.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. I think what happened was President Obama extended that olive branch and then proceed to beat the Tea Party with it for several minutes during those remarks here at the White House. We were expecting him to sort of talk about bipartisanship and he did that somewhat. But, really, the expectation, Wolf, was based on what the president said last night. He said, I'm willing to work with anybody, Democrat or Republican, House or Senate member. I've never believed that Democrats have a monopoly on good ideas. These are things that he said last night. Contrast that with what he said earlier this morning. There are no winners here. There was no economic rationale for all of this. It's encouraged our enemies. It's emboldened our competitors. He talked about the fact that the framers of the Constitution and the founders of this country have been building this up for 200 years. And his inference there during that speech, Wolf, was that the Tea Party was essentially tearing a lot of that down. Here's little bit more of what the president had to say.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You don't like a particular policy or a particular president, then argue for your position. Go out there and win an election. Push to change it but don't break it. Don't break what our predecessors spent over two centuries building. That's not being faithful to what this country's about.


ACOSTA: And so, it's safe to say, Wolf, that we do expect the White House press secretary, Jay Carney, to be asked about all of this during the briefing here within the hour. He's going to be asked about this change in tone from the president. He sounded like he was really trying to aim for bipartisanship last night but it sounded like more of a lecture earlier this morning -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, he was, as I say, tough. And he had a lot to relay and certainly did. All right, Jim, stand by. Let's go to Capitol Hill right now. Our Chief Congressional Correspondent Dana Bash is getting reaction to what the president said. How were they received, Dana?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, let's start -- actually, I would like to start with Democrats because Republicans have been, at least on the record so far, silent. It was the president's Democratic colleague here, the Democratic leader, Nancy Pelosi, who came in and just had a press conference and she took what Jim described as a lecture and took it many steps farther. Very pithy and pretty biting with regard how she talked about the Republicans. Listen to just one example of what she said. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), MINORITY LEADER: The Standard & Poor's says to date the shutdown shaved .6 percent off annualized fourth quarter 2013 GDP growth, or taken, in other words, $24 billion out of the economy. Was their temper tantrum worth $24 billion? I don't think so. Perhaps they didn't know.


BASH: Now, as for Republicans, as you know, maybe it's hard to talk about Republicans now, very hard, as one group, because there are very big differences between Republicans on whether this was the right strategy. So, you're hearing Republicans say similar things to what Nancy Pelosi said that this was a temper tantrum that cost $24 billion. But others, particularly sources who are in the leadership are telling us that they did not think that the president's remarks were helpful. In fact, one source said, what an opportunity the president had to unite the country following a crisis but it was completely willfully squandered. So, that kind of gives you a sense where they are, just with regard to the president's tonight.

And on substance, the president did talk about moving forward on three issues, of course one is the budget. Another is immigration reform. Again, getting a lot of skepticism and that's putting it mildly from Republican sources saying that they don't see how that's going to happen, especially and particularly in the House where this is a very divisive issue. And you see a lot of Republicans who want to get this done for their party, because they believe it's the right thing to do, because they did so poorly with Hispanic voters in the last election think that some of them actually explicitly say they think that the president is luring them in to set them up for disaster in the next election so that he can help take the Democrats back in to some of the majority in the House.

BLITZER: We were showing some of our viewers some pictures of Patty Murray, the Chair of the Senate Budget Committee, Paul Ryan, the Chair of the House Budget Committee. They're getting ready. They've started actually meeting to try to work out --

BASH: They did.

BLITZER: -- some long-term budget deals. How did that go?

BASH: You know, they had a first meeting. So, the fact that they met. You're right. I mean, the fact that you can see a picture with Paul Ryan, the Republican Budget Chair, Patty Murray, the Democratic Budget Chair in the Senate, sitting together with the Democratic and Republican counterparts on other committees, it's pretty remarkable. And it's even more remarkable that it is so unusual for them to be sitting down and having a picture with them. But it is a first step. Both of these chairs insist that they are really willing, with good will, to sit down and try to find out a way to come up with a budget, something that this Congress hasn't had in years, to avoid the kind of crisis that we've had, particularly the one that just shut down the government. BLITZER: All right, Dana, thanks very much. Dana's going to be busy as she has been all along.

Moving on to the next round right now. Tea Party-backed Republicans, let their voices be heard. What message are they getting back from the American people? Gloria Borger, she is here standing by. We'll sort all of that out.


BLITZER: The White House press secretary, Jay Carney, is getting ready to brief reporters. So far, a pretty empty briefing room right now. Supposed to be doing it at the bottom of hour. That's when it's scheduled to begin, 1:30 p.m. Eastern. We'll have live coverage. Lots of questions for the White House to answer on this day after the reopening of the partial government shutdown, reopening of the federal government.

Congress is moving on to the next step right now. Also, looking back at the effects of the 16-day shutdown and getting so close to the debt limit deadline. Senator John McCain gave his assessment on CNN's "NEW DAY".


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Look at the -- what the American people's view of this is. You know, I have this line that I use all the time, we're down to blood relatives and paid staffers.


MCCAIN: Well, I got a call from my mother who's 101, I just lost one of the blood relatives.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You even lost your mother?

MCCAIN: I even lost my mother. The president won. We -- I give him credit. He won. But he should have negotiated more earlier and we could've prevented some of this pain.


BLITZER: Let's bring in our Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger who's been watching all of this. So, McCain says the Republican -- the president won this battle. Jay Carney took the high road and said nobody won. We know -- we know a lot of Americans --


BLITZER: -- we know a lot of Americans lost and we know that the Standard & Poor's said the American economy lost $24 billion during the 16-day shutdown.

BORGER: Yes. And I don't think anybody gained anything here, Wolf. I mean, this was a complete exercise in futility. You could have come up with this same agreement with very little on the president's Affordable Care Act except for an anti-fraud measure 15 days ago. You didn't have to go through the shutdown of the government. People could have had this political discussion with or without it. And what wound up occurring is that the Republican Party dropped to its lowest number in 20 years in the polls. American government got more popular as did Obama care which wasn't exactly the intended consequence.

BLITZER: I'm looking through the roll call --

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: -- in the House of Representatives, 285 voted for the bill, 144 voted against it, 144 vote -- all Republicans, by the way. Only 87 Republicans voted for it. But the speaker and the top Republican, Eric Cantor, leadership. Except for Paul Ryan. He didn't vote for it.

BORGER: Right, the leadership voted for it because they had to. It was their -- it was their sort of compromise. Paul Ryan was so interesting to me. When we were watching the roll call last night and when saw that Ryan was a nay, it was surprising because don't forget, he had voted on the fiscal cliff with the leadership a year ago the last time around. He's clearly gotten a lot of grief on that, Wolf. He's clearly running in 2016. And then, Congressman Peter King, another Republican, sort of said to me last night, look, maybe it's because he's actually on this conference committee. You saw -- you used his picture just before that he feels like he needs to let the Tea Party folks know that he's representing them. I think that was kind of a nice way to put it. I think it's probably a lot more political than that.

BLITZER: Yes, you're probably right. The Pew Research Center, a new poll that came out, view of the Tea Party, it's gone bad -- it's gone 25 percent at an unfavorable view back in 2010. It's up to 49 percent unfavorable right now. The favorable went from 33 to 30. I guess a lot more people know about the Tea Party now --

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: -- than knew about it in 2010. And that's why you saw this big increase from 25 to 49 unfavorable.

BORGER: What was important to me about this Pew poll, if you dig deeper into the numbers, Wolf, is that when you talk -- when they asked Republicans about how they viewed the Tea Party, 51 percent of Republicans say that they viewed the Tea Party as a separate movement different from the Republican Party. And so, I think this is what we're seeing in the Republican Party which is not just a rift but I think we're actually seeing a split in the Republican Party. I don't see where there are differences that these people can really work out. They have different views of government.

We were talking to Congressmen last night who were saying -- moderates saying to us, I'm a member of the same caucus. Well, would that mean that the Tea Party is the insane caucus? So, I think what you're going to see now, among Republicans on the Hill, is the moderates trying to assert themselves and kind of put the Tea Party aside.

And we'll see -- we'll see where registered Republicans go with this because if Republicans want to win back the White House, they have to nominate somebody who is popular with independent voters. And two- thirds of independent voters don't approve of this government shutdown and what occurred.

BLITZER: Yes. All right, Gloria, thanks very, very much. Interesting. All the Republican leaders in the House -


BLITZER: Voted with the minority - with the majority -

BORGER: With the majority, yes.

BLITZER: The minority of their own party, the minority of Republicans, in favor of the deal last night.

BORGER: Right. Right.

BLITZER: Thanks very much.

BORGER: The Senate negotiated bill met a lot of resistance in the House, but it did pass. Up next, I'll speak with Congressman Tom Cole, one of the Republican lawmakers who made it possible. Stay with us.


BLITZER: After an exhaustive effort legislation to raise the nation's borrowing limit and reopen the federal government has finally passed, it has been signed into law by the president. The Senate negotiated bill had a surprising level of Republican support in the House. While 144 Republicans voted nay, or no, 87 Republicans voted in favor of it. One of those Republicans, Congressman Tom Cole of Oklahoma.

Congressman, thanks for coming in.


BLITZER: Tell us why you voted in favor of this legislation. So many of your Republican colleagues, as you know, voted against it.

COLE: Well, you know, while my colleagues and I certainly have the same aims, I've never thought shutting down the government was likely be a good tactic. Number one, it hurt the American people and I think there's a lot too much discussion up here about frankly who gets the blame instead of who gets hurt. And, second, I didn't think it was going to be successful. So, you know, as I pointed out at home, I consistently voted to keep the government open or to reopen as many parts of it as we could. And when an opportunity came up to accomplish that and to protect the full faith and credit of the United States, something that both parties actually agree on, I took it and I think that's moved us to a better position as a country and certainly as a party. BLITZER: You probably could have had that vote early on, even before the government shutdown, certainly within a day or two afterwards, that so-called clean continuing resolution. For all practical purposes, this was fairly clean, except for some extraneous measures that were thrown in. We can discuss that later. But was it a mistake to go 16 days into this government shutdown knowing what we now know?

COLE: I would have preferred dealing with this earlier. I actually recommended that to my conference. But, you know, sometimes a good fight clears the air a little bit. And, you know, this hopefully will do that. We're now at a negotiating table. We've got serious negotiators. Obviously we have tremendous differences. But it's an opportunity to make things work and find some common ground. So I hope that's where we'll go. Certainly that's -- I'm going to do everything I can to make sure that's the direction we move in.

BLITZER: That's certainly what happened after the government shutdowns in '95, '96 when Bill Clinton was president, Newt Gingrich was the speaker, and the immediate aftermath of that 20 plus day shutdown in early 1996. They did manage to get their act together. They passed some significant legislation. Are you that confident that this president, this Republican leadership in Congress can do the same thing that Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich did then?

COLE: Well, I think the elements for a deal are there, both in the Ryan budget and the president's budget. I think we've got some pretty good people on both sides of the aisle at the table. The real question is going to be whether there's the will and the skill there to actually get the job done. But, you know, life is about challenges. It's the challenge I hope that we can meet and shame on us if we don't because the country certainly doesn't need another government shutdown, certainly doesn't need a default. So let's just do what we know we need to do, sit down and find common ground, negotiate a deal.

I actually think from a Republican standpoint, we're on very strong ground here with the sequester being something honestly that both sides want to get rid of and with the president having put some entitlement reform in his budget. I can see the elements for a deal here and I hope we can keep working and find that deal.

BLITZER: I hope you're right. But, you know, frankly, the Paul Ryan budget versus the Patty Murray budget, Patty Murray, the chair of the Senate Budget Committee, Paul Ryan the chair of the House Budget Committee, they have to find some common ground. Paul Ryan voted against the legislation last night. You think that's doable?

COLE: I do. Actually, I think they're both consummate professionals and I think Senator Murray said it pretty well this morning. She said, you know, Paul Ryan knows I'm not going to vote for his budget and I know he's not going to vote for mine, so we better find something in between. I think if that's the attitude that both sides come to the table with, then we'll have the opportunity to do that.

And, look, the stakes are simply too important. We need to seriously begin to deal with the deficit. We're not going to solve it all. The differences are great. But the country needs, I think, a period of quiet and calm. I think that would be good for the economy, it would be good for the political system and the political process. So, you know, all I can say is I'm going to give it my best shot. I know my colleagues on my side of the aisle feel the same way and I trust that Senator Murray's do as well.

BLITZER: One final question before I let you go, congressman. You're close to the speaker, John Boehner. How's he dealing with what has happened over these past 16 days?

COLE: You know, I think John Boehner actually is a big winner in this in terms of the conference. People always see him as a skillful negotiator and legislative leader. But some of our folks who haven't been around very long didn't know what a fighter he was. And so I think, you know, even people that, you know, might have disagreed with the fight, admired the qualities he showed and he kept his conference together. He pushed to the very end for the things the conference wanted to accomplish. And, frankly, I see him as much more popular today within his own ranks and much more able to influence than perhaps was the case two or three weeks ago.

So, you know, he's a very tough guy, very resilient guy, a very upbeat guy. So, I'm proud of him. I'm very proud of the way he conducted himself. And I think it's probably going to pay dividends, not only for him but for the conference and, much more importantly, for the country, which I know is what he wants to do going forward.

BLITZER: Representative Tom Cole of Oklahoma. Congressman, thanks for coming in.

COLE: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Obamacare website problems have not yet been resolved. One of the problems involves passwords. Up next, we have some new information that could help you finally log on.


BLITZER: The debate over the budget all began with Republicans demands to gut Obamacare. It ended, though, with Obamacare virtually unscathed. One very, very tiny concession, the federal government will now issue two additional reports on how they verify customers' income when figuring out who gets health insurance subsidies and who doesn't.

Elizabeth Cohen is joining us now from the CNN Center.

Elizabeth, the president was able to fend off that challenge to his signature health care law. Other challenge, though, remain right now, technical challenges, communications problems with the administration of these new health care exchanges. What are you learning about potential problems with people's passwords on

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, I learned about this because of my own experience. So I signed up for a user name and password on October 9th. I have been trying it diligently every day at all sorts of hours and it has never worked. And I went online and saw that other people were also having this problem.

So I called the help line. The 1-800 number that you're supposed to call. And I chatted also online with agents. And all of the five of the agents that I talked to said the same thing. They said, if you created a user name and a password relatively early on in the process, meaning about the first week, those passwords have been deleted and your user name will not work. And so it's just -- you can try it as often as you like and it's just not going to work.

You know, there's sort of an interesting twist to this. I talked to a senior administration official and I said, all right, the call centers, the people that you hired to take phone calls, they're telling me this and they said, those people are getting it wrong. So the people who are supposed to help you are getting it wrong. And they say that passwords -- the administration official said passwords were not deleted. But she also said, look, if you're having trouble logging in, and we know some people are, you can always just go ahead and create a new account.

So, the bottom line of my experience, Wolf, is that I just got frustrated, created a new account and that is now working. The user name and password system now seems to be working. But if you did it earlier on in the first week to 10 days of the process, so October 1st to October 10th-ish, you may be having problems. It's not just you.