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Current Stopgap Spending Bill Expires in Under 38 Hours. Soon: U.N. Votes on Trump's Jerusalem Decision; Funding for Child Health Insurance Program at Risk. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired December 21, 2017 - 10:00   ET



POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Top of the hour, 10:00 a.m. Eastern. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York. John Berman has the day off.

The first major victory of the all-Republican led tax initiative is not even yet signed into law and now already a shutdown is potentially looming, and potentially turning into a crisis. As we speak, Republicans are battling Republicans. Republicans are battling Democrats. Democrats are battling Republicans. House members are battling senators all over keeping the government that U.S. taxpayers fund up and running.

The stopgap spending bill that has been in effect for just two weeks, it runs out at midnight Eastern on Saturday. That is just 38 hours from now. The president just wrote this on Twitter, quote, "House Democrats want a shutdown for the holidays in order to distract from the very popular, just passed, tax cuts. House Republicans, don't let this happen. Pass the C.R.," the Continuing Resolution, "today and keep our government open."

Our Sunlen Serfaty is on the Hill, watching all the back and forth. The only thing is, you know, if all the Republicans were on the same page on this thing, they wouldn't need a single Democrat.

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Poppy. And this really highlights the problem right now that House Republican leadership is having a lot of the demands and competing demands are among members of their own caucus. So what they're trying to do right now is to push through these competing sets of demands within the Republican Party and really coalesces behind one actual proposal. But that right now doesn't have a way forward. So they have a lot to figure out.

Now some of the key sticking points that are still on the table and not only from Republicans but Democrats here, is the children's health insurance program, which expired in October, FISA warrantless surveillance program, that expires by the end of the year, how much if at all defense spending will be included in there and how much if that all disaster aid will be included as well.

So a lot of issues on the table to sort out, the House Rules Committee is meeting this morning to try to come behind one specific proposal and put a path forward and there is some optimism that although right now there is not a clear path forward, right now there is not an agreement among Republicans on how to get there, that eventually at some point today they will be able to get there. Here is the chair of the House Freedom Caucus, Mark Meadows, with some tepid optimism this morning.


REP. MARK MEADOWS (R-NC), FREEDOM CAUCUS CHAIRMAN: We're hopeful that we vote later today. That has not been scheduled. Honestly, there's a little bit more work to do, but I believe at the latest tomorrow morning. And so hopefully we're breaking news right here with you, Alison, but that's a decision that will get made by our leadership.


SERFATY: So if agreement in the House and if they vote it through, it would then of course need to go over to the Senate but across the board, certainly behind the scenes, Poppy, Republicans privately admit that they simply do not have an appetite to force a government shutdown by midnight tomorrow night. They don't want this to end, this stalemate to end that way, particularly because it's a big week for them on tax reform, so certainly a desire to avoid that confrontation, although there is at this hour no clear path forward yet.

HARLOW: Sunlen, on the Hill, let us know when you have updates. Thank you very, very much.

Now to a crucial moment at the United Nations, take a look at this, live pictures out of the U.N. general assembly where any moment a vote is expected on rejecting a resolution from President Trump on a resolution to reject President Trump's choice to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Now President Trump is threatening to cut off U.S. funding to any country that votes against the U.S. on this and this also means big allies in the Middle East. U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley will be taking names and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejects the results of the vote before it even happens calling the U.N. a house of lies.

Our military and diplomatic analyst John Kirby joins us now. This is set to happen in just moments. This is a follow on vote from the Security Council vote on this where the U.N. was alone. I mean, totally standing alone on this one and that is the way it is, obviously, expected to go here in the general assembly. You say this is the president in your words cutting off his own nose to spite his face, why?

REAR ADM JOHN KIRBY (RET), CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: Well, because foreign aid and assistance -- first of all we don't know what kind of money he's talking about, whether its foreign aid assistance or it is defense military sales or what. But whatever it is, we do those things for our own benefit and for the benefit of our allies and partners.

[10:05:00] We spend that money to help enhance security and stability in other places around the world so that those problems don't migrate elsewhere. And so that we have -- we, the United States, have a stake and a vote in how policies and programs in those countries go forward. When you cut off that funding - and I don't believe he's actually going to do this Poppy, but if he did you basically remove America's influence and interests in those parts of the world and you open up a vacuum where other countries like Russia and particularly China, when we're talking about Africa, would gladly step in and fill our shoes and again then we lose even more influence in what is going on in those parts of the world. So it's incredibly self-defeating and childlike.

HARLOW: It's important to note this is symbolic, this does not have teeth, however this vote goes, it doesn't change things. We know how this vote is going to go. The U.S. can and has now recognized the capital of Israel is Jerusalem, but this is ahead of the vice president's trip to the region, one of the places he's going to be going is Egypt. This comes on the heels of the Turkish president to President Trump directly this morning saying, Mr. Trump, you cannot buy Turkey's Democratic will with your dollars. I mean why say you're going to cut funding if you're not going to cut funding? Doesn't that just make the U.S. look foolish in this?

KIRBY: Well, we already look foolish in terms of the decision to declare Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. But that's another point.

Who knows why this president makes these kinds of threats. But I honestly can't believe that he would be so stupid and so foolish to actually do that. And you talked about symbolism, Poppy. Yes, it's symbolic in the terms that it's not going to change the Trump administration's decision to declare Jerusalem as the capital and eventually move the embassy there, but the symbolism ends there. It is a stunning rebuke of the decision by the United States to do this, by the international community. That alone is not symbolism, that's a big deal.

Number two, it's going to essentially set back any chance of reaching a two-state solution and a peace process in the Middle East for who knows, maybe forever, certainly for years. So what he's done and the international community's response to it really does have practical, tangible outcomes there in that part of the world.

HARLOW: Indeed. Admiral John Kirby, thank you very, very much.

Let's talk about this and more, the potential government shutdown with our political commentators, Maria Cardona and Doug Heye and CNN political analyst Nathan Gonzales. It's nice to have you all here.

Nathan, let me begin with you, just your assessment. We know what we're going to see happen at the U.N., as Admiral Kirby just went through, but what do you think -- will there be ramifications from these key allies in the Middle East, like Turkey, like Jordan, like Egypt? You know if the Trump administration does try to actually pull that funding if they vote against the U.S., which they're expected to or do you think it is all bluster?

NATHAN GONZALES, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think as Admiral Kirby said I think it depends on what actually comes after the vote and I think what we've seen from the president is there is a big difference between the tweets and sometimes the action that follows. But what I do know is that for the president's supporters here in this country, I think they love this. They love the saber rattling, they love the threats. They love you know sticking it to these other countries. This is something that I think helps him with the base, but it does provide certainly uncertainty when it comes to what's happening with our allies overseas.

HARLOW: All right. Let's talk about the potential government shutdown. I can't even believe I'm saying that. 38 hours from now, it is possible it could happen. Doug Heye, to you as a Republican strategist on this, who works so closely with the RNC, Paul Ryan was so confident yesterday, you know, when he was asked on the "Today" show is the government going to stay open and he said absolutely it is. I think maybe not so confident now, 24 hours later, this morning. And the president's now blaming Democrats on Twitter. He's saying it's up to Democrats, they want this to happen. It's up to Democrats. It's actually up to Republicans if they can all get on the same page they don't need a single Democrat.

DOUG HEYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know, Poppy, I worked in the House of Representatives when we had the 2013 shutdown. That was a divided government and I tell you it was still Republicans' fault that the government shutdown. We brought it amongst ourselves or onto ourselves. The difference is here, obviously, we have Republican government wholesale so that means we would be responsible for this, but what I'm hearing from sources at the Rules Committee in the House and the House Appropriations Committee, is that they feel pretty confident that they can get a short-term C.R., pass a separate supplemental bill and they know that Congress could ruin Christmas which is why they're working hard to prevent Congress from ruining Christmas or ruining the New Year and politically it would be a disaster. And If I could say, Poppy, real quickly about Jerusalem -


HEYE: As you know, I've not been Donald Trump's biggest fan, but the difference what we're seeing from Donald Trump right now is, Barack Obama promised that he would move the capital of Jerusalem. George W. Bush promised that he would move the capital Jerusalem. Congress has overwhelmingly voted to do so. Donald Trump's fulfilling a promise that he made to the American people. I think that's something that we should applaud, regardless of how we feel about this issue or that issue. He promised to do it and he did it. I think that's a good thing for a president to do after so many times presidents have walked away from that promise.

HARLOW: Every president has promised to since the '95 vote. Their staff will tell you all well knowing that they weren't actually going to act on it. But I hear your point. Maria -

[10:10:09] HEYE: We should keep the promises we make. That's important. And Donald Trump is doing this in this case. And again, I have not been his biggest supporter as you know but he is fulfilling a promise that he has made to Israel and I think that's a good thing. HARLOW: Maria, to you, looking at what is, you know, being battled over here now, you have defense spending in this potential government shutdown, you have, you know FISA and that surveillance ability. You also have children's health insurance.


HARLOW: I mean you have this C.H.I.P., this bipartisan program that provides funding for medical care for children whose parents are sort of stuck in the middle. They don't make enough to pay for their children's care, for these crises and these diseases but they make too much to get, you know, fully government funded for that. 16 states are going to totally run out of funding they say by the end of January.


HARLOW: 20 more states to follow. So, I mean, -- how far do you think lawmakers on both sides of the aisle should go on this to keep this funded?

CARDONA: I think this should be a huge priority, Poppy. And I'm so glad you brought it up because it was going to be one of the things that I brought up as a messaging point that I think is really, really difficult for Republicans. Doug is right, traditionally in the last several years Republicans have been blamed for shutting down the government. They will be blamed for shutting down the government if it happens on Friday.

But more so from a messaging standpoint, they have a real problem here because millions of children are on the brink of losing their health insurance and you have Republicans saying yes, we absolutely want to fund the children's health insurance program, we just need to find a way to pay for it. On the day after they passed a $1.5 trillion tax bill that is not paid for, that gives billions of tax breaks to the wealthiest, millionaires and billionaires like Trump and his friends, and to the wealthiest corporations who are making record profits right now. -- So right there you are seeing the priorities of this Republican Congress and this Republican president and children's health insurance and the livelihood and lives of our kids are not one of them.

HARLOW: Nathan, is that a fair assessment? Is that a fair read of Maria Cardona to say that Republicans -- essentially saying Republicans don't care about funding this because they didn't include it in the tax bill? I mean this was, you know, not one of the key talking points in the tax bill. The question is are they going to fund it in a continuing resolution or are they going to fund it in the next you know, budget process.

GONZALES: Well, we'll see what happens between - you know what happens in the next 24 hours and if it gets kicked to January and then we have this discussion again. But what I think is fascinating about the shutdown is that I think Democrats believe they're not afraid of a shutdown because they think Republicans will get blamed for it. President Trump I don't believe is afraid of a shutdown because he thinks he can blame Democrats and Doug brought up the 2013 shutdown. I think that's critical because there are some Republicans on the Hill who aren't afraid of a shutdown right now because they remember what happened in the 2014 elections when Republicans did well. The problem with that is what I think they don't remember is that after the 2013 government shutdown was the rollout which was an epic disaster and it turned the conversation from Republicans in Congress back to President Obama and the poll rising piece of legislation, so no one is afraid of a shutdown right now and I think that's why we've gotten this far.

HARLOW: I think we, the taxpayer, don't want to see a shutdown. We would like the government we pay for to stay up and running. Maria Cardona, Nathan Gonzales, Doug Heye, thank you very, very much.

CARDONA: Thank you.

HARLOW: President Trump says Democrats, as you just heard, want to shut down the government. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer joins me next with his reaction.

Plus, a top Republican senator says there would be an uprising or revolt if the president moved to try to get the special counsel fired. Ahead what the White House is saying, pushing back.

And still in the dark, a grieving woman wants answers about what happened to her fiance at the U.S./Mexico border and she speaks with CNN.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The whole thing is very confusing. You know, just the fact that nobody is getting any answers, just makes it even worse.



[10:18:35] HARLOW: This morning we are less than 38 hours away from a potential government shutdown. The president this morning is blaming Democrats. Here's what he wrote on Twitter just moments ago, "House Democrats want a shutdown for the holidays in order to distract from the very popular, just passed, tax cuts. House Republicans, don't let this happen. Pass the C.R. today and keep our government open."

So let's ask one of those Democrats what he thinks. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer is with me. So, sir, the president says it is your fault that you and other Democrats want a government shutdown. Do you?

REP. STENY HOYER (D-MD), HOUSE MINORITY WHIP: That's absurd. The only president -- I mean the only person who has talked about shutting down the government in the last four months has been President Trump himself. He said that might be good for the government. It would be bad for the government, bad for the American people. And we don't want it. Now we don't have the votes to either shut it down or keep it open. The fact is that Republicans, as you've discussed just earlier in your program, have consciously shut down the government to try to take the government hostage.

HARLOW: Well -

HOYER: -- and have the ACA repealed.

HARLOW: You have the votes to keep it open though, sir. I mean, respectfully, you do have the votes to keep it open if other Republicans vote against it.

HOYER: The Republicans, we had a no drama, keep the government open, extend the debt, limit in September. 90 Republicans voted against that. Every Democrat voted for it. And so, the government kept open. What we are now confronted with is a take or leave it proposition on a C.R. and on a supplemental.

[10:20:05] Both of which we think do not properly do the business of government. So, we may not vote for things that are jammed down our throat, but we don't want to shut down the government. We think the Republicans should not shut down the government. And if they want to do things purely on a partisan basis, which has been the fact we've been confronted with, then frankly it's their responsibility to vote for their partisan bills and if they don't vote for their partisan bills the result may well be the shutting down of government which would be a bad policy but a policy which they pursued in the '90s and a policy which they pursued just a couple of years ago.

HARLOW: Hold on -

HOYER: -- but they have no intention of wanting to shut down the government.

HARLOW: I hear that. But it also sounds like, you know, you're saying that Democrats really don't have a role here when I mean they do. I mean, what must be included in a stopgap bill for you to come to the table or what can you just not vote for?

HOYER: Look, we think a simple C.R. would -- has no other policy in it which is essentially what we did in September, which we voted for. We understand that policy. But only in the event that they'll do some work in the interim to try to do the right things that we need to do to keep government funding, that we need to invest in the C.H.I.P. Program to keep the C.H.I.P. Program operating. What they've included as we understand in the C.H.I.P. Program is a short-term extension and we already have states saying even in light of that short-term extension they're going to have to shut down because they can't plan for an insurance program which is obviously not a month to month program.

HARLOW: Let's tell - let's tell viewers what you're talking about. You're talking about the Children's Health Insurance Program -


HOYER: Sure. Children's Health Insurance Program -

HARLOW: -- for 9 million children across this country - HOYER: 9 million children who as you pointed out are in between Medicaid -

HARLOW: Right.

HOYER: And so they don't get help there and they need help.

HARLOW: This was a bipartisan effort. It ran out of funding at the end of September. 16 states are going to have no money for this come the end of next month. 20 more states tack on to that with no funding for this a few months later. Are you willing to vote against a spending bill at some point that does not fully fund C.H.I.P. again? I mean, are you willing to say that is my stake in the ground and this is what has to be funded.

HOYER: That certainly is a stake in the ground because we need to make sure C.H.I.P. can effectively operate for those 9 million children. Frankly, we had a bill that's been passed twice through the House of Representatives which we have made very clear to the majority leader and to the Republicans, it's a partisan bill. It's not going anywhere in the Senate. It didn't go anywhere in the Senate.

We were very close to making a deal but as one of your commentators pointed out, they wouldn't make a deal without cutting further in the Affordable Care Act which cut health care for children, cut vaccination programs for children, other programs for children. We didn't think that was paying Peter to pay Paul. We thought that was bad policy. -- We've already agreed on the authorizing. So let's agree on the funding and by the way, as you pointed out, they repealed the one provision of the ACA, cost $17.5 billion to do so and then they didn't pay to for that.


HARLOW: I want to get you quickly on the tax bill because I know you hate it but it's about to be signed into law. -

HOYER: It's a bad bill.

HARLOW: You called it a perverse giveaway to wealthy Americans. -- I hear you that the biggest cuts are for corporations and for the wealthiest Americans. However, you know, that make money certain ways, right? For example, the -- you know, the loophole for hedge fund managers the president said he would get rid of, that's gone, but I hear you. But here's my other question. When you look at the independent analysis of this, the Tax Policy Center part of Brookings, the oldest think tank in the country, said 80 percent of American families will feel a tax cut next year, will see an actual tax cut next year. That is more than just the wealthy Americans. No?

HOYER: Well no. That's correct.

HARLOW: Right.

HOYER: They will get a tax cut.


HOYER: Some people will get a very small tax cut and some people will get a very large tax cut. They have $1.5 trillion of borrowed money increase in the deficit increase in the debt, and that money was on the table. They talked how we needed to help working people. What did they do? Yes, they gave some tax relief to working people, 17 percent of that $1.5 trillion. 83 percent of that $1.5 trillion they gave to the top 1 percent of America.

Our opinion is that is perverse. That's not helping working men and women by giving 83 percent of all the resources to the wealthiest in America. So yes, they're right, somebody may get $10, may get $100 maybe even get $1,000 while the top 1 percent gets 50 or 60,000. -

[10:25:06] HARLOW: Yes, more than $10 or $100 --

HOYER: It is more than -- let's say it's -- let's say it is $1800. Let's say it is $1800. They phase out that $1800 in 2005. Why did they do that? Because to meet scoring rules in the Senate. But they don't phase out the top 1 percent resources. So, yes, I understand Brookings says that 80 percent gets some money. They do. But the overwhelming majority of the money was not used for the struggling family making $59,000 that Paul Ryan talked about on the floor and that Mr. Brady talked about on the floor yesterday.

HARLOW: I have to leave it there. But it is a true and fair point that the corporate tax cuts do not sunset and the individual tax cuts do sunset unless they are extended. Thank you very much Congressman. Appreciate it.

HOYER: Thank you.

HARLOW: Happy holidays.

HOYER: Thanks a lot.

HARLOW: Growing concern on Capitol Hill over attempts to discredit Special Counsel Bob Mueller. We are getting brand new reaction from Democrats and Republicans, including one who says this is a fight for the soul of our democracy. Hear from them next.