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GOP Moves Ahead with Vote to Avoid a Government Shutdown. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired January 18, 2018 - 07:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: House Republican leaders facing a major test today. We'll see if they can move forward with a vote to keep the federal government funded. It is not clear if they have the support within their own party to pass it. Republicans and Democrats are struggling to find common ground.

[07:00:27] Conservatives, they're big on the military and how long and how deeply military objectives are funded. Democrats want protections for DREAMers. Neither of those are in the GOP's current stopgap measure.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Then there's the wall, and you can't blame people for being confused. President Trump says his definition of a border wall has not changed or evolved since the campaign. The president tweeting this morning that Mexico will pay for it, directly or indirectly.

Sources tell CNN that the president's chief of staff told Democratic lawmakers yesterday that Mr. Trump's position as a candidate was, quote, "uninformed."

We have all of this covered for you. So let's begin with CNN's Abby Phillip. She is live at the White House. Good morning, Abby.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alisyn.

Well, today is a big day for the government funding debate. We're about one day away from a potential shutdown. And the White House is now saying that they do support a short-term bill to fund the government, but even still, we are still not sure if that bill can actually pass the House and the Senate.

Now, the House will vote on it today, and in the midst of all this uncertainty, we're already seeing both sides blaming each other for a potential shutdown tomorrow.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PHILLIP (voice-over): House Republicans scrambling to secure support for a short-term budget resolution ahead of tomorrow's government shutdown deadline. The member of the House GOP whip telling CNN they are confident, but as of now, CNN's count shows they do not have the votes.

A key concern, the roughly 30 conservative hardliners in the House Freedom Caucus who largely oppose another short-term fix.

CUOMO: Are you in a position right now to vote "yes" on what's out there for a budget resolution on Friday?

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH), HOUSE FREEDOM CAUCUS MEMBER: No. Here's what I want. I want us to do what we told the American people we were going to do, what they elected us to do: fund defense, hold the line on nondefense and do what the election was about on immigration.

PHILLIP: But even if the resolution passes in the House, it faces more uncertainty in the Senate. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham announcing Wednesday that he will not support the short-term bill, because it deprives the military of long-term funding assurance.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I'm not going to vote for a C.R. The Democrats seem to be willing to increase military spending. Many Republicans are willing to have a DACA fix. And those who don't want to combine the two are just, I think, very naive.

PHILLIP: By contrast, Democrat Joe Manchin declaring that he will support the short-term bill.

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA: We should be able to work to keep this government operating the way we're supposed to do and that to punish 300 million plus people is just ridiculous, for our dysfunction here.

PHILLIP: With Senator John McCain absent, if all remaining Republicans vote "yes," Senate leadership needs 10 more votes from Democrats.

SCHUMER: The revulsion towards that bill was broad and strong.

PHILLIP: Five Democrats have definitively said they will not back the continuing resolution, leaving little room for additional "no" votes.

Senator Graham continuing to push for a bipartisan bill he cosponsored, but President Trump rejected, but has been garnering growing support in the Senate. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell giving this blunt response when asked why he has not yet brought the so- called Gang of Six bill to the floor.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: I'm looking for something that President Trump supports. And he's not yet indicated what measure he's willing to sign. As soon as we figure out what he is for, then I would be convinced that we were not just spinning our wheels.

PHILLIP: The White House pushing back.

RAJ SHAH, PRINCIPAL DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Now the president has been pretty clear. There's been plenty of discussion back and forth. And yet we'd be happy to contact the leaders' office another time about this.

PHILLIP: Chief of staff John Kelly further muddying the waters, telling a group of Democrats that Mr. Trump was uninformed when he repeatedly made this signature campaign promise.

TRUMP: But we will build the wall. Mexico is going to pay for the wall.

KELLY: He's very definitely changed his attitudes towards the DACA issue and even the wall. He has evolved in the way he's looked at things. Campaign to governing are two different things.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PHILLIP: So Alisyn and Chris, already the president is responding to his own chief of staff and almost point by point refuting some of the claims John Kelly made in private and in public yesterday. The president wrote on Twitter just this morning that his view on the wall "has never changed or evolved since the first day I conceived of it."

He said that on the issue of whether the wall will be a solid wall or a virtual wall of some kind, he says it was never intended to be built in areas where there is natural protection. And he promises once again, contrary to what John Kelly said yesterday, that -- that Mexico will pay for the wall, whether it is directly or indirectly.

So the president already this morning pushing back a little bit on his chief of staff from that building right behind me -- Alisyn and Chris.

[07:05:04] CUOMO: All right, Abby.

Joining us right now is CNN political analyst David Gregory; and associate editor of RealClearPolitics, A.B. Stoddard.

I remember, David, being taught that one of the most dangerous combinations in politics is ignorance and arrogance. And it seems to be on on full display this morning with the president of the United States. He was wrong with what he was saying during the campaign, whether he knew it or not. And now he refuses to admit any error, even though General John Kelly was trying to do him a favor. Right? He was trying to make Trump's mindset go into the realm of the reasonable, and then Trump winds up undercutting him, literally, just minutes ago.

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. And then there's one more layer, which is chaos. I mean, it's the governance by chaos here. It's impossible to predict where we're going to land on this government shutdown.

As it pertains to the wall, which is your question, if we get to this as part of an overall DACA settlement. I think the president is looking for victory. He wants to say that he won on this issue. I don't think there's any question about that. He will define what the wall is, what security is, in a way that it's consistent with the mandate that he believes that he has.

So he'll take all comers: Democrats, his own chief of staff, whatever he has to do to say, "This is what I always meant, and this is what a wall has to look like." But it's got to be there. And I still think we're moving towards some kind of finesse play here

on border security that the president could live with short of the wall that he campaigned on that -- that could be part of a deal. But it's, at the moment a little difficult to see that from here.

CAMEROTA: A.B., I don't know why we're stuck on the wall. So many voices during the campaign said, "That's not going to happen. That's not realistic. Mexico is never going to pay for it." I mean, didn't people even then know, at least certainly the conversation on cable news, that it was a hollow promise? I mean, it was -- call it what you want. It was an empty promise. And it wasn't going to happen.

And so the president is not evolving on it as his chief of staff says. He's waffling. Because he goes back and forth by the day. And the only problem with that -- so we know that's what he does. We know that's who he is. The only problem is that lawmakers, legislators are trying to figure out what to do about that.

A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATED EDITOR, REALCLEARPOLITICS: Right. What I love about Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is when the s-hole hits the fan, he's not cryptic. He's very blunt. So he basically said we have no idea where the president is. We can't move until we know what we have figured out he's for. And he is waffling. And I think Lindsey Graham is waiting for him to waffle back to some kind of position that would embrace a compromise with Democrats.

But he's still, again -- you -- all of us know from watching this last year that General Kelly, the chief of staff, knows exactly what would happen if we went into a room full of liberal Democrats and said the president's campaign plan on the wall was uninformed, that it would get leaked to the press, and that his -- as sure as the sun would come up this morning, President Trump would push back and not like to be boxed in by that.

He doesn't like any -- no one does him any favors by trying to go to the television cameras or to a meeting that would leak and counter him firmly like that.

I think this was out of desperation, to say he's evolved and all this stuff, because they're trying to move him off of what he's saying private, which is -- you know, he's tripling down on this, and they're trying to get to a place where they can compromise. And they know if they don't do it by this Friday, they still pass the spending bill, they've got to do it for the next couple weeks or before March 5.

So it's clear that General Kelly is frustrated. I don't know why else he would ever go and do this with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, knowing it would leak out to the press and it would become the headline in the news and, of course, would invite a tweet back from the president this morning.

GREGORY: Right. Because I'm sure -- let's not forget, I am sure that the president has said, and what he said publicly in that meeting, that he wants this bill of love. He wants a big victory on immigration. I mean, let's not forget that. I mean, I grant-- CUOMO: That's accurate. He loves victory. He loves victory, so it is a bill of love with him. It is a bill of love for him, because he loves victory.

GREGORY: Right. But my point is, he is -- yes, he's waffling on what the wall is. But I mean, you know, I think we should accept that, that we've seen a lot of that from him. But I don't think there's any question that what John Kelly knows and perhaps he's not happy with the way this got reported out from the meeting, or maybe he expected it, but I think they're still trying to push him to where they think he wants to be. Which is let's get something big on immigration, something that nobody else could do. I mean, this is a president who would love that. "I can do what Obama couldn't do. I can do what George Bush couldn't do. I can get a comprehensive immigration bill."

CUOMO: He was there. He was there just a week ago. A week ago he had everybody in the room all saying the right kinds of things. We were marveling at this taking place in real-time. He said, "You guys figure something out. I'm on board." He went from that to being, you know, a real hindrance to this process, by all indications.

[07:10:10] So it leaves us in the same place, A.B. As of now, what is it looking like happens tomorrow? Where are we headed and why?

STODDARD: Well, obviously, there's still fiscal hawks in -- and defense hawks in the House Republican Conference balking at the idea of yet another short-term extension, which provides no certainty to the Pentagon. And that is driving the opposition on the Republican side.

If you're a Senate Democrat up for reelection in a state Trump won, you're hoping it never gets to counting your votes and that it's held up by conservative Republicans and, therefore, the whole mess is in their laps.

They managed to get something out of the House and assuage these hawks with more military spending or more certainty in terms of -- in terms of the length of spending for defense. And they get something over the line, and it goes to the Senate.

At this point, the reporting is that there is not nine Democrats to -- to vote in support and get you to the 60-vote threshold, which leads to government shutdown.

When you listen to the words of Mitch McConnell and even Senator Graham, they repeatedly say, "We're not going to shut the government down. It's simply not going to happen." They know it would be foolish, and they'd catch most of the blame. So I don't know what it is that they would do to get there. But at this point, if you're a Democrat, you're hoping that it gets bungled up on the House side and delayed, and it's not a decision you have to make.

GREGORY: And A.B., don't you think there is one other factor here, which is on the Democratic side you have, you know, the Joe Manchins, who is in West Virginia, a state that -- you know, that Trump won where he says, "Look, we don't want to shut the government down. That's the wrong thing to do."

There's a lot of Democrats who are feeling that pressure from their base to resist President Trump, to push for this deal. They think that's very good politics. And that's what Schumer's trying to manage here.

CAMEROTA: OK. David Gregory, A.B. Stoddard, thank you very much for walking us through all of that. Forty hours and 48 minutes, and 10 seconds left to figure that out.

CUOMO: Not any more. It's five seconds now.

CAMEROTA: I know. It's mesmerizing.

CUOMO: The problem with that countdown clock. It keeps moving.

CAMEROTA: It's two, it's one, go. All right. The White House says the Graham-Durbin bipartisan immigration plan is dead on arrival. Despite that, both men introduced their bill in the Senate. You see the disconnect? That's what we're talking about. They're supposed to be on the same page. We're going to talk to two senators who support it, and they'll tell us why.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:16:26] CUOMO: The clock is ticking. It's right there on your screen. As Congress tries to avoid a government shutdown.

There are several sticking points. But a major one is whether protections for DREAMers will be included in any spending bill. Senators Lindsey Graham and Dick Durbin introduced a bipartisan plan for DREAMers that the White House says is dead on arrival. But several senators still want to see the plan make it to the floor.

Joining us now is Republican Senator Mike Rounds and independent Senator Angus King. They both support the Graham-Durbin bill.

Gentlemen, thank you for joining us. I know it's a busy morning.

SEN. MIKE ROUNDS (R), SOUTH DAKOTA: Thank you. Appreciate the opportunity.

CUOMO: So Angus, as of now, on the vote for tomorrow, would you vote for the C.R. that is out there and floating around?

SEN. ANGUS KING (I), MAINE: No. And you mentioned the DREAM Act. But my frustration goes a lot deeper, Chris. My issue, and I think Mike Rounds agrees with me is, I'm sick of voting for C.R.s. This is no way to govern. We haven't had five a year. This is the fourth this year. We have to close this escape hatch and stop voting for C.R.s and tell leadership they're going to have to make their deals and then we'll get it done.

I vote for one for a few days to do the paperwork. But to kick it down the road for another month, we're not going to know anything then that we don't know now. So I'm just through taking these half steps. This is a terrible way to try to govern.

CUOMO: Senator Rounds?

ROUNDS: I agree with Angus. And that's the reason why I'm opposing the C.R. as well. It's not because immigration isn't included. We both want to see a good immigration policy put together.

And the proposal that Lindsey has been working hard on with Dick Durbin may not be perfect, but it's a step in the right direction. And it's a vehicle that we can use long term to fix a lot of the stuff that's in the immigration world today.

But for me, it's a matter of defense and it's a matter of trying to make sure that in the future, the message is "Let's get our work done on time." It's been 44 years since we actually had a budget act that was workable. And in the last 44 years, in only three cases have we actually gotten this budget and the appropriations process done on time. That's a terrible message to send. If I was in South Dakota, and we were doing this kind of stuff, they would throw us out of the Capitol.

KING: Chris, one of the -- I think one of the ways to look at this is these continuing resolution, I call it a crappy resolution. It doesn't really -- C.R. doesn't really do anything.

CUOMO: That's catchy, Senator.

KING: It's a slow-motion shutdown. The damage it's doing to the military, for example, in terms of training, in terms of contracting, it cost -- it cost the government more money. And it's, well, you know, 50 states. Or I think -- I can only speak for the one I know best, Maine. But I think South Dakota. They don't do these continuing resolution. They get their budgets done on time.

The problem is the continuing resolution gives the Congress an out to avoid difficult decisions. And they say, "Oh, things will be better in January or February or March, and it never happens."

CUOMO: So what's the guarantee--.

KING: It's very damaging.

CUOMO: What's the guarantee that if men of goodwill like the two of you don't vote "yes" tomorrow, and we go into shutdown mode; and we know that there's incremental pain for every day that it stays that way, that you would get something done quickly enough to justify that pain and get us closer to fiscal efficiency. Senator Rounds?

ROUNDS: We've had four months with four separate continuing resolutions with a threat of a shutdown each time. It's not changing. There's no stability. And if we continue on, on the current path, we'll be asked once again on February 16 for another continuing resolution that doesn't allow us to do the training, doesn't allow us to do the modernization, doesn't allow us to do the contracting necessary to upgrade our military forces. This -- if it was a one-time deal, I voted for the first one when

leadership asked when we were in October. And they said, "Look, we need time to work out the deal."

CUOMO: All right.

ROUNDS: We see no changes. We see no deal being done. We've got to call a head to it.

KING: Chris, you've got your -- you've got your countdown clock. There's 40 hours. Forty hours. If people sat down around the table, we could resolve almost all of these issues. If they came to us and said, "OK, we've got a deal. Here are the terms. We need five days in order to do the paperwork. And I think both of us would go along with it.

ROUNDS: Look, we're not trying to shut things down. For 44 years we have not fixed this mess. It's been three years since I got here. It hasn't been fixed yet. I don't want to be a part of that. I want to be part of a solution not a part of an ongoing problem.

CUOMO: No, understood. It is not easy for me to test you guys on the idea of, well, you should do it anyway, because it doesn't matter if it's inefficient. At least it's something. I accept your position. I get what it is. The idea of immigration as a sticking point -- now it isn't for you, gentlemen. Because you're saying that's not why you would vote "no" on the C.R. If I have it right, it's not because immigration or DACA is included in it, correct?

ROUNDS: Correct. For me.

KING: Well, and I think it ought to be included in it. But as I say, I think the issue is deeper. Because a month from now a year or six months from now, or a year from now, it will be something else. The point is we've got to fix this -- this terrible system.

CUOMO: But Senator, but this is easier to test. Because you do not have the same deadline. And look, I'm not being insensitive to the pain that's happening on a daily basis, the people who are having expiration of their work permits and the anxiety and the families that are being split up. I see it. We cover it. I understand it.

But the deadline for that is March, right? It's an artificial deadline. The president said it. He could reset it if he wants to. But why does it have to be in the C.R. tomorrow? Help me understand that, Angus.

KING: Well, you know, he started this clock running last September. August, I think. And here we are. I don't know what we're going to know in March that we don't know now.

Why can't we resolve it? We have a heavily negotiated bipartisan deal with -- I think we're now up to a dozen or more cosponsors both sides of the aisle. Let's go with it. Let's bring it to the floor. Let's see how we can do. Let's see if there are some amendments so we can make it better. And there's no reason that can't come up as part of this package in the next 24 hours.

CUOMO: Well, there is one pretty big reason, Senator Rounds, and I'll direct this question to you. It's that the president kind of laughed this idea out of the office and wound up getting into all those ugly comments about other countries. And it kind of revealed to us a pretty fundamental disconnect between the White House and even where the Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, is.

Let me play you some sound that kind of shows this confusion, this disconnect. Go ahead.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: I'm looking for something that President Trump supports. And he's not yet indicated what measure he's willing to sign. As soon as we figure out what he is for, then I would be convinced that we were not just spinning our wheels.

RAJ SHAH, PRINCIPAL DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president has been pretty clear about what it will take to get us to the next phase by having a DACA fix, along with border security, ending chain migration and ending the visa lottery system.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: Now, with the caveat, Senator Rounds, that Mitch McConnell does not have a lot of upside to say that there's a disconnect if there isn't one. Both of those gentlemen can't be right. What is the situation right now? Does the majority leader know what the president wants or not?

ROUNDS: Well, I think it depends on when -- when you spoke to him last and who was advising him last.

Let's just talk about this. He wants more security. As a matter of a fact, I made a point of what when I agreed to -- to be one of the supporters of this plan. We do want more in border security. And it doesn't necessarily mean that you build a huge, long wall. It means a good border security system. I want e-verify improved. But I also want H-2B visas improved, because we're going to have a shortage of manpower in the upper Midwest when it comes to the tourism season.

KING: As are we in Maine.

ROUND: Yes. And so this is all workable. And I think the president, he says, "Look, it's a horrible plan, because it doesn't have enough -- enough border security on it." Let's work our way through that.

I think the president has good a good point. I agree with him. We can make that better. But simply walking away right now and saying that means that we're going to shut down negotiations, that's not the way you do it.

KING: Chris, I think it's important to realize that the plan that Lindsey Graham -- and it was -- by the way, it was six senators. It wasn't just Graham and Durbin who worked this out. It addressed all four issues the president said he wanted to address. And it responded to chain migration. It responded to the visa lottery, abolishing--

CUOMO: Not to his satisfaction. But, yes, they were in there.

KING: Well, but you know, this is like trying to hit a target that's behind a screen. You can't see where the target is.

They thought that they were meeting the requirements that he enunciated. And he said, "Bring me a bipartisan bill, and I'll sign it." They brought him a bipartisan bill and that all -- it all blew up.

We'll -- I still -- why can't we get these people around the table with people from the White House or the president and work it out? Because I don't -- I have a feeling if they get into the details. They'll find there's more common ground than they thought. And everybody, including the president, are going to have to compromise. That's how this place works.

CUOMO: Do either of you believe, Senator--

ROUNDS: -- deal maker. And I think he'll come around. I think he wants the best possible deal he can get for border security. I think he wants to make sure that he does it right. And we're fine with that.

CUOMO: Do either of you believe that whatever kind of wall, that's the another point of confusion, Kelly saying one thing, reasonable minds are saying something else. The president this morning on Twitter doubled down and said the wall has never changed; it's never evolved.

Do either of you think that Mexico is going to wind up paying for the wall?

ROUNDS: No.

KING: No.

CUOMO: Not even an attempt to keep a straight face. Angus, you're usually better at a straight face. Rounds is a bad influence on you, Angus. You usually use the moustache to kind of keep it a straight- line smile.

KING: Let me say just a term, Chris, that I think we need, that maybe we ought to go to. A wall system. I think it's -- we're not talking about a wall, because I think -- didn't the president's tweet this morning indicate that he wasn't talking about a wall from sea to shining sea and that there would be fences in some places, there would be drones in other places, there would be technology.

And -- and the problem with the wall is it just doesn't make economic or physical sense in many cases. And there are other better ways to provide security and a lot cheaper. The wall is something like $30 million a mile. Whereas more technology might be half a million dollars a mile. I mean, you know, let's -- let's be practical here.

CUOMO: Look, I mean, you guys are in a tough position. Because it seems pretty clear by all indications the president wants a win on the wall. And it's not about the truth. We all know that he wasn't going to build a wall all the way across. When we said it, people would get angry at us. He would get angry at us. But we know it wasn't a practicality. But he wants a win on it. And that's going to be part of the calculus for you guys, and we'll see where you wind up with it.

But I'll tell you this much. This was a great discussion. It's great to get where your heads and hearts are on this right now. Senator Rounds, welcome to the show. It's good to have you.

Senator King, as always, appreciate it.

KING: Thank you.

CUOMO: All right. So tonight in Prime Time we're going to talk with Democrat mega-donor Tom Steyer, you know, another big shot with money, wants to get into politics. He's doing it in a very different way. What are his goals? How close does he think he is?

CAMEROTA: Fascinating. But listen, a wall system, is that like a hair system for men? Because there's some appeal--

CUOMO: Was that a dig, by the way? Every time you talk about hair I have to make sure that my follicles are properly exercised.

Here's the problem. He wants a win on the wall, even though the wall as he wants it is somewhat of an impracticality. He says he has evolved. This tweet, we've been following this for a long time, you and I. This is not what he was saying during the campaign, what's on his Twitter thread right now.

And Kellyanne in our interview the other night said since he's become president -- and she's not in the business of making him look bad, right? -- he has met with experts and learned things. Did you know there were rivers involved? So if they're trying to sell it like he has new information about what a map is, obviously, something's changed.

CAMEROTA: Meanwhile, chief of staff John Kelly say the president's positions on that wall during his campaign were uninformed. What does that mean? One congressman who was at that meeting is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)