Return to Transcripts main page


Sheila Jackson Lee on Moving On After Shutdown, Troubled Obamacare Website; Setting Agenda for Near Future; S&P, Google Hit Record Highs; Obamacare Woes May Be Growing; Assange Blasts WikiLeaks Movie.

Aired October 18, 2013 - 13:30   ET


REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE, (D) TEXAS: I think Patty, Ryan and McConnell and Reid understand it. I can tell you that Nancy Pelosi, the former speaker, understands it, and Speaker Boehner who said we ran a good race and we lost.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: What about your fellow Texan Ted Cruz?

JACKSON LEE: Well, I know leadership doesn't want to go through it. Let me say this. It's a free country to express your view and the First Amendment. But there's something about good common sense that is isolates voices that are strained and strident. He has every right. I've met with him. I hope to work with him on issues for Texas but he has every right to speak decidedly and to continue that sound of drums. But I tell you, I have every right to join with the majority and stand for the American people and we're going to win this. We're not going to shut the government down. There may be a poison pill. I don't even want to speak what I might be willing to accept. We'll be in a lot of meetings, huddled in a lot of meetings.

But what I will say to you, it was so vial the experience, the words were so shrill, the comments about the president and faith and despicable comments about his faith or non-faith, the carrying of the confederate flag, the raising of tempers, I can tell you we do not want to the go through that again.

I do think there is some discussions that may be very, very heady that may take a longer period of time. Tax reform, maybe we'll have language on that issue. The entitlements is painful. But maybe there can be discussions that will reasonable heads will say it's a longer process to do. But if we can get an efficient budget that doesn't cut the head off everything that so many of us care about and the growth in this nation and creating jobs, then there will be many of us who will be willing to listen.

I can tell you as I go about my duties here in Houston, first, congratulations and appreciation, that's wonderful to hear. Certainly, there are other strident comments but they appreciate the fact that we stood fast. Every Democrat voted, every Democratic member that night voted for that are sequester budget. I'm sorry that we didn't get more Republicans, but Republicans did do it, and I thank them. So if it has to be in that context, both on the House side and the Senate side, I just think the backdrop of what we went through, worse than we ever went through previously and so I hope that will happen.

BLITZER: One quick final question before I let you go. How angry, frustrated are you right now by this roll out of the Obamacare website?

JACKSON LEE: Enormously frustrated. And prepared to roll up my sleeves if it's necessary and get in the room and make sure that it works. I will tell you that I met with the navigators about 40 of them. Maybe about 35 to 40. And I will tell you, they are all happy and they have experienced people who are desirous of getting the health insurance. That's a good sign. If we've got a crack in the armor, Wolf, we just have to fix that crack. Nobody is smiling about it. I this I it's fixable. We know Google had glitches. This is more than a glitch. I know that. But I'm going to be going around in the district. We're planning a big enrollment in the November with three members of Congress here in Houston. We've seen people who said please, this is something I need. So we're not going to give up on this. But the glitch turned into a monster has to be fixed.

BLITZER: Should heads roll?

JACKSON LEE: I'm unhappy. And I know that the administration is, and I'm going to leave it to the president to be able to make the right decision on how this is fixed and who has to fix it and then what other decisions may be made. I'll listen and determine how we address it. I hope we'll have some constructive discussions and hearings maybe to be helpful.

See, I believe in being helpful because there are too many people waiting in line for health insurance. I hope right now, somebody's in a room right now addressing this and won't come out of that room for days and nights to come until they can get this up running. There are too many. People hurting and too many people need health insurance.

BLITZER: Sheila Jackson Lee, thanks very much. I know Congressman Upton's Commerce Committee is going to be holding hearings on this website crisis going on.

Thanks so much for joining us.

JACKSON LEE: Wolf, thank you for having me.

BLITZER: Coming up, the president's agenda. Is he aiming too low? What about the Republicans? Can they get back to being unified? We'll answer those questions and more when we come back.


BLITZER: Let's get some analysis on where we go from here.

Jonathan Chait is joining us. He is a writer and author for "New Yorker" magazine.

Thanks very much for coming in. I've been following you a long time. You've got a lot of good insight. Can we avoid another crisis in January and February, or are going to go through this again early next year?

JONATHAN CHAIT, WRITER, NEW YORKER MAGAZINE: I don't think we'll go through a crisis like before. I think Republicans figured out that this is not a hostage they can shoot. This is not a bluff that they can pull off and make Obama fold. So I don't think they're going to shut down the government and I don't think we'll have a debt ceiling crisis. Now, if we can have normal constructive budgeting, that's a different question. We may it be lurching from day to day, live by the skin of your teeth, always on the end, but won't be having these kind of crises like this.

BLITZER: I remember when I covered the White House, after the government shutdown in early '86 that lasted 20-plus days, all of a sudden, Bill Clinton got re-elected but then he and Newt Gingrich really worked closely together, welfare reform, balanced budget for four, five years.

CHAIT: Impeachment.


BLITZER: Impeachment was another story. But on substantive issues they got some stuff done, I think, in part, because of the shutdown. Here's the question: Having learns the lesson of this all of experience, can they, can John Boehner and President Obama work together and get something done for the country?

CHAIT: I don't know. Look, President Obama was really trying on immigration reform. You had a handful of partners in the Senate on the Republican side willing to go along with that. I think some house Republicans want to do that for their party. But so many Republicans are so strongly against that bill, I think they're just going to try to the hide from it and stay away from it. The lowest common denominator in the party is to get through the deal, doing the least amount they can do. That's the way John Boehner keeps his job from day to day. And that seems to be the way for --


BLITZER: A lot of votes have come up, even though the Hastert Rule was not in play. He didn't have a majority of the majority. He had a third of the majority on this vote. A few other times he allowed that to come up. If he allows that to go on down the road, the Democrats will probably be in favor of something but a nice chunk of Republicans will probably, as well.

CHAIT: That's right. The problem is, when there's a deadline, a gun to his head, metaphorically, Speaker Boehner has to act, then he'll get the Democrats to pass the bill for him. But there's nothing forcing him to act on immigration and nothing forcing him on a broader kind of budget for the year. They can do what's called continuing resolutions. Let's keep it going, let's keep the lights staying on, and they can keep doing that. BLITZER: Every second-term president worries about their legacy. I'm sure this president does. He's got three years left. What does he do now in the next three years?

CHAIT: He's got a lot of administrative action on the environment. I think that's the big story --


BLITZER: He mentioned yesterday, the budget. He mentioned immigration, the farm bill. I didn't hear anything about the environment.

CHAIT: Yesterday, is what he wants Congress to do. He can do the environment without Congress. That's the real attraction. He can get the EPA --

BLITZER: You think that's going to be a legacy issue for him?

CHAIT: I think that's the big move of his second term.

BLITZER: He can do that without congressional action.

CHAIT: He can and he's doing it. The EPA is actually moving forward.

BLITZER: Can he get comprehensive immigration reform passed?

CHAIT: Probably not, but he's going to try.

BLITZER: Can he get any gun control legislation passed?

CHAIT: Nothing.

BLITZER: So these are major issues.

CHAIT: I never thought he could get gun control through. Immigration is a possibility. Maybe some kind of small budget deal where they get a little bit of cuts here, a little bit of like --


BLITZER: Entitlement reform, Social Security reform, Medicare reform, the big-ticket items, as you will, tax reform, you think he's going to be able to do that within three years?

CHAIT: No, he wants -- he wants the Bowles-Simpson grand bargain. He wants --


BLITZER: Which he rejected at the time.

CHAIT: He didn't reject --


BLITZER: He didn't accept it.

CHAIT: He didn't endorse it. He said let's talk about it. He didn't say this is my plan. He says, let's do something like that. You close tax loopholes and tax deductions and I'll give you cuts to Medicare and Social Security.

BLITZER: Which will irritate a lot of his Democratic base.

CHAIT: Some are irritated.


CHAIT: But the Republicans say, no, zero. So Obama is going to be saved from the split within his party by the Republicans and has been saved by republicans for three, four years in a row because they won't touch that deal.

BLITZER: Jonathan Chait, good of you to come in. Thanks so much.

CHAIT: Thanks.

BLITZER: Jonathan writes for "New Yorker" magazine. He writes well.

It's a banner day for Google and the S&P 500. Both hit record highs. We're going to have a live report when we come back.


BLITZER: The rally continues. Not one but two record highs on Wall Street. Both the S&P 500 and Google -- Google -- they're soaring to new heights.

Let's go to Alison Kosik. She's joining us at the New York Stock Exchange.

Alison, what's the driving force behind all of this.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: You know what, Wolf, Wall Street's finally able to focus its attention away from the dysfunction in Washington and actually focus on other things like earning season. Earning season for the third quarter has been under way. And some solid earnings came in from Morgan Stanley, from G.E. and Google. Google topping $1,000 a share. A jaw-dropping $1,008 for one measly share. It's a record high for Google. Look how the company has been moving since it went public nine years ago. If you bought in nine years ago, one share of Google back then was $85. If you bought a bunch and held on to it, you're sitting pretty today. Today's jump for Google is happening because it had some good earnings. Sales beat expectations.

As for the overall market, there is still some nervousness on Wall Street. It's kind of quiet, not big gains because the reality is Wall Street only kicked the proverbial can down the road. It still hasn't worked out the long-term debt issues plaguing this country. It's leaving some uncertainty in the market. There is a silver lining for some investors. That means the Fed will likely keep propping up the economy with the stimulus money. It's pouring in and that means more support for stocks -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Alison Kosik at the New York Stock Exchange, thanks very much.

So the problems with Obamacare, the website, they may be mounting right now. Up next, we're taking a closer look at reports of new technical problems with and we'll tell you why some insurers are deeply concerned right now.


BLITZER: There are now reports the problems with the Obamacare health exchange website may actually be growing. Since the website launched, software problems have blocked many people from enrolling. And now the "Wall Street Journal" is reporting some existing enrollments are riddled with errors.

Brian Todd is covering this story for us, has been covering it from day one.

So what else are you learning, Todd?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As you mentioned, Wolf, up to now, most of the problems we have been hearing have been customers having problems logging in. Now, as you mentioned, hearing problems on the insurance side. We got off the phone with an official with an official Priority Health, an insurance company in Michigan. She said they got three or four applications for one individual. This person hit submit over and over because he wasn't sure they were going through. Early on, they had a lot of the duplicate problems. They are trying to streamline this. But this is now where you're hearing about problems on insurer's end rather than just the customer's end. They're getting faulty applications. The "Wall Street Journal" reporting today that, in some cases, with insurers, spouses are being reported as children. They cited an example of Medical Mutual of Ohio saying that one customer successfully signed up for three plans. So on the insurer's end is where you're getting processing problems.

The Department of Health and Human Services issued a statement saying: "As individual problems are raised by insurers, we work aggressively to address them."

We're going to be tackling some of that later and trying to get into some of the insurers' problems.

But now, you're hearing it from the other end rather than just the customers' end, so more problems with this website.

BLITZER: The more we hear about these problems, the less inclined people are to go and try to sign up for it.

TODD: That's right.

BLITZER: And the whole system is based on young, healthy people signing up in huge numbers. They don't need a lot of medical attention. They'll pay their, whatever monthly expenditures are, but that will subsidize people with long-term conditions, sicker people, older people, in this system. If you don't have the young people signing up, if they're dissuaded or discouraged from signing up, the whole system is not necessarily going to work.

TODD: That's right. They desperately need young people to sign up. Think about it, if you're 25 years old and not insured, you're having all these problems signing up, what's your mentality? You're mentality is, I'm healthy, I'll wait, forget about it.

BLITZER: Brian is working this story. We'll have more in "The Situation Room" later.

Thanks, Brian, very much.

The story of the WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, hits the big screen today, but Assange is blasting the movie, "The Fifth Estate." We'll tell you why he's so angry. That's next.


BLITZER: WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, is the subject of a new motion picture. "The Fifth Estate" debuts in U.S. theaters today, but Assange isn't happy about the film, calling it -- and I'm quoting him now -- "a geriatric snooze fest only the U.S. government could love." Why is he so critical? CNN's explains.


BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH, ACTOR: Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. But if you give him a mask, he will tell you the truth.

JAMES CARVILLE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hero or villain? It's the question many have asked about WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange. Now Hollywood is entering the debate with "The Fifth Estate."

LAURA LINY (ph), ACTRESS: 12 million people have seen the video. You still want to tell me it's just a little website?

CARVILLE: It stars Laura Liny (ph), Stanley Tucci (ph) and British actor, Benedict Cumberbatch, as Assange.

CUMBERBATCH: We got on incredibly well. It was a really, beautiful, beautiful collaboration. He's so smart and so sensitive.

CARVILLE: The beautiful collaboration is with the film's director, Bill Condon, not the man he's playing.

CUMBERBATCH: I also tried to get in contact with Julian and meet him, but I got a firm rejection.

CARVILLE: Firm, direct, and in writing. Assange e-mailed Cumberbatch back in January calling the film "negative, harmful, and toxic." Quote, "By meeting with you, I would validate this retched film and endorse the talented but debauched performance that the script will force you to give."

CUMBERBATCH: He thought the film was based on two poisonous accounts of events that he didn't want to condone by meeting me. And he was concerned it was damaging to him and his organization.

CARVILLE: In the e-mail, which along with the script posted on WikiLeaks, Assange implores Cumberbatch to give up the role, writing, "You will be used as a hired gun to assume the appearance of the truth in order to assassinate it. I believe you should reconsider your involvement in this enterprise."

CUMBERBATCH: This is information the world needs to know.

CARVILLE: Cumberbatch said he tried to reason back.

CUMBERBATCH: I want to present all your complexity. I don't want to color you nice or bad. I want to play something true to the full spectrum of how you're perceived.

CARVILLE: Assange, holed up in Ecuador's embassy in London to avoid an international arrest warrant, remains unmoved. Speaking to ABC's "This Week."

JULIAN ASSANGE, FOUNDER, WIKILEAKS: I know he tried to ameliorate some of the worst elements of the script, but unfortunately, with limited success.

CARVILLE: As for the film's success, it hits theaters this weekend, but like Assange, critics have been mostly unkind.

CUMBERBATCH: That's what they're afraid of.

Jamie Cargill, CNN, Los Angeles.


BLITZER: Last weekend, I saw a good movie called "Rush." If you like that kind of film, go see it. I enjoyed it thoroughly.

That's it for me, the movie critic, Wolf Blitzer. I'll be back at 5:00 p.m. eastern on "THE SITUATION ROOM."

NEWSROOM continues right now with Brooke Baldwin.