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Senator Rand Paul Criticizes Budget Deal; White House Won't Reveal When Abuse Allegations Became Known. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired February 8, 2018 - 18:00   ET

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


[18:00:03] SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: We have been funding it with phony interest rates that are concocted and given to us by the Federal Reserve. But they aren't real. What if interest rates become real again?

Anybody remember when interest rates were 5, 10, 15? I remember, as a teenager, them being 19 percent or 20 percent. But, historically, they have often been at least 5. You know what happens to the government when our interest rate goes to 5 and they have to borrow for Social Security and Medicare and all the other stuff we do?

There will be a catastrophe in this country. Already, interest rates are ticking up. Stock market is jittery. If you ask a question why, maybe it has something to do with the irresponsibility of Congress spending money that we don't have.

So, the bill's going to exceed the budget caps by $296 billion. And that's not counting the money they don't count. All right? These people are really, really clever. Imagine them running their fingers together and saying, how can we hide stuff from the American people, how can we evade the spending caps so we can be even more irresponsible than we appear?

So 296 is the official number, about $300 billion over two years that will be in excess of the budget caps. But there's another $160 billion that's stuck into something called an overseas contingency fund. The budget caps don't apply there. So, we're $300 billion for two years over the budget caps. Then we're another $160 billion over the caps, and they just don't count it and they act as if it doesn't matter, and just we're just not going to count it.

And then we come to catastrophes. And you might say to yourself, well, I have great sympathy for those people's houses that were flooded in Texas and Florida. I do. My sister's house was flooded in Houston, or near Houston.

And so I have great compassion. But even for my family, I can't take the money from you or borrow it from the next generation and just say, hey, here's a pot of money, go rebuild your house. We should do it in a responsible fashion.

We have already I think spent 30-some-odd billion on emergency relief for the hurricanes. There's another $90 billion. But you know what I have said? Instead of just plunking 490 billion down or actually printing it at the Federal Reserve or borrowing it, instead of just doing that, why don't we take the $90 billion from somewhere in the budget that it shouldn't be?

People come to me all the time, they want something from government. I say, well, if you want something from government, tell me where to take it from, because I'm not going to borrow anymore. We should take it from some other place in the budget.

Where do you get the $90 billion from? So I have had some suggestions. And you know how many votes they get? About 10 or 15 people will vote with me. I say with, well, let's not send it to Pakistan this year. They burn our flag. They put Christians in jail. They put the guy in jail, Dr. Afridi, who helped us find bin Laden.

We finally got bin Laden. He'd been living high on the hog in the middle of a town a mile or two from a military academy. Everybody probably knew he was there in the Pakistani government, and he lived uninterrupted. We finally got him when a guy named Dr. Shakil Afridi gave us information.

You know what Pakistan did to this doctor? He's in jail for 33 years. You know what they did with a Christian by the name of Asia Bibi? Pakistan has her on death row. She went to the well in a small village to draw water, and as she was drawing water, the women of the village began stoning her and beating her with sticks as she lay on the ground bleeding.

And everybody watched and gawked as she lay on the ground bleeding. She was crying out for help and the police finally arrived and she thought she'd been saved, only to be arrested for being a Christian.

And yet we have given $33 billion to Pakistan over the last decade. Good money after bad. Almost everybody up here loves it. They just want more of your money to go to Pakistan. Saudi Arabia, China, you name it. They will send your money anywhere. And we have got a country that needs it here.

Instead of nation-building abroad, why don't we build our country here at home? Why don't we do some nation-building here at home? So we have $90 billion we need for emergency relief. Even as conservative as I am, I would say, we can probably find that. We're a great rich country. We can probably rebuild and the government can be part of that.

But you know what? Why don't we quit sending it to Pakistan? Why don't we quit sending it to countries who burn our flag and chant death to America? Why don't we keep that money here at home?

Why don't we say to the government writ large that they have to spend a little bit less? Anybody ever have less money this year than you had last? Anybody ever have a 1 percent pay cut? You deal with it. That's what government needs, a 1 percent pay cut.

If you take a 1 percent pay cut across the board, you have more than enough money to actually pay for the disaster relief. But nobody's going to do that because they're fiscally irresponsible. Who are they? Republicans. Who are they? Democrat. Who are they? Virtually the whole body is careless and reckless with your money.

[18:05:17]

So the money will not be offset by cuts anywhere. The money will be added to the debt. And there will be a day of reckoning. What's the day of reckoning? The day of reckoning may well be the collapse of the stock market. The day of reckoning may be the collapse of the dollar.

When it comes, I can't tell you exactly. But I can tell you it has happened repeatedly in history when countries ruin their currency, when countries become profligate spenders, when countries begin to believe that debt does not matter.

That's what this bill is about. But here's the confusion. Some at home will say, we just want them to cooperate. If they would just hold hands and sing kumbaya, everything would be fine. Well, guess what. That's what you have got.

You saw both of the leadership of both sides opposing me because they are now clasped hand in hand. Everybody's getting what they want. Everybody's getting more spending. The military, the right's getting more military spending. The left's getting more welfare spending.

And you're getting stuck with the bill. Not even technically you. It's the next generation being stuck with the bill. Your grandkids are being stuck with the bill. But mark my words. The stock market is jittery. The bond market is jittery. There is an undercurrent of unease amidst this euphoria you have seen in the stock market.

A country cannot go on forever spending money this way. And what you're seeing is recklessness, trying to be passed off as bipartisanship. So we have gotten together. They're all holding hands. And there's only one bad guy standing in the way. One bad guy's going to keep us here until 3:00 in the morning.

You know what? I think the country's worth a debate until 3:00 in the morning, frankly. I think it is worth a debate on whether or not we should borrow a million dollars a minute. I have been saying that for a few years. We borrow a million dollars a minute, because I think it really brings it home.

And we were talking about it with my staff today. And they said, it's almost $2 million a minute now, $2 million a minute. Can you imagine? And this is exploding. This deficit is exploding. And there really -- there isn't the alarm you should see.

But guess what? Every one of these people, you will see them come home to your state. You will see them come home and they will tell you how earnest they are and how the deficit is bad and big government spending is bad and we have to reduce waste. It's dishonest.

They're not doing anything about the waste. The waste has been out there for probably half-a-century or more. Nothing's been done in the last 40 years for one precise reason. There is no oversight. You realize what they are passing is all of the money gone together in one bill. No one will read the bill. No one knows what's in it.

And there is no reform in the bill. That, I can say with absolute certitude. No one will read it. No reform. Nothing gets better. The debt will grow.

When the Democrats are in power, Republicans appear to be the conservative party. But when Republicans are in power, it seems there is no conservative party. You see, opposition seems to bring people together, and they know what they're not for, but then they get in power and they decide, hmm, we're just going to spend that money too, we're going to send that money to our friends this time.

The hypocrisy hangs in the air and chokes anyone with a sense of decency or intellectual honesty. The right cries out, our military is hollowed out, even though military spending has more than doubled since 2001. The left is no better. Democrats don't oppose the military money as long as they can get something for themselves, as long as they can get something for their pet causes.

The dirty little secret is that, by and large, both parties don't care about the debt. The spending bill's 700 pages. And there will be no amendments. The debate, although it's somewhat inside baseball that we're having here, is over me having a 15-minute debate.

And they say, woe is me. If you get one, everybody will want an amendment. Well, I guess that would be called debate. That would be called an open process. That would be called concern for your country, enough to take a few minutes.

And they're like, but it's Thursday, and we like to be on vacation on Fridays. And so they clamor. But we have been sitting around all day. It's not like we have had 100 amendments today and we're all worn out, we can't do one more. We're going to have zero amendments. Zero. Goose egg. No amendments.

[18:10:02]

So it's a binary choice. They love that word. It's a binary choice. Take it or leave it.

You know what? I'm going to leave it. I didn't come up for this. I didn't leave my family throughout the week and travel up here to be a part of something that is so much inertia and so much status quo that they're not leading the country. They're just following along and it's a big ball rolling down the hill, grabbing up your dollars as the boulder rolls down the hill and gets bigger and bigger and it's going to crush us.

But nobody's got the guts to stand up and say no. Over the past 40 years, only four times have we actually done 12 individual department of government appropriation bills. You have heard of like the Appropriation Committee. This is where the spending is.

You have like the Department of Defense, the Department of Commerce, Health and Human Services. We're supposed to pass each individual bill. And what would happen, when we pass the bills, they would go through committee and each committee would look and see, well, this spending seems to be working, we're getting a great result and we want some more next year.

And this spending appears to be -- have been put in a closet and lit on fire. And so next year we're not giving that person who put the $10 million in the closet and lit it on fire, we're not going to give them any money.

But guess what? That doesn't happen. So, people keep putting your money in a closet and lighting it on fire. You have heard about FEMA, this emergency organization. You have heard about people without food. So there was like 300 million meals they needed I believe for Puerto Rico, 350 million meals.

So, you know who got the contract? A person that had no employees. Now, raise your hand -- you're not allowed to, actually. But let's say raise your hand in a figurative way if you think it's a good idea to give a contract for 350 million meals to someone who has no employees, who's not already in this business.

They just know how to fill out the forms in the federal government to trick us into giving them the contract. They were woefully short and there are still people waiting in line for meals. So, it's not even compassion or no compassion. It's idiocy vs. more idiocy.

We gave the money to someone who doesn't do this, 350 million meals. So, over the past 40 years, four times have we actually done the right thing, passed 12 individual appropriations bills, bundled them together, have a budget, and try to do the right thing.

There's no guarantee that everybody will be watching in their spending, but it's got to be better. It can't be worse. What do we do instead? It's called a continuing resolution. We glom all the bills together in one bill, like we have done tonight, Republicans and Democrats clasping hands.

And nobody's going to look at it. Nobody's going to reform the spending. As a consequence, wasteful spending is riddled throughout your government. Only four times in four years have we done the appropriation process the way we're supposed to.

Recently, they did a Pentagon study. It was the beginning of an audit. And they audited a part of the Pentagon. This partial audit shows that $800 million was misplaced or lost. Just $800 million. I don't think they actually put it in a closet and burned it. But they can't find it.

A while back, they looked at some of the military expenditures and they had $29 billion worth of stuff they couldn't find. Overall, the audit found that over $100 billion in waste was found at the Pentagon, $100 billion. Their budget's like $700 billion.

So we're talking about a significant, over a 10 percent, you know, problem with figuring out waste. But it doesn't get any better because we don't vote on all these things individually and we don't parse out the difference. I will give you another example. The Department of Defense, last

year, we found this out, spent $45 million on a natural gas, gas station in Afghanistan, $45 million. It was projected to cost $500,000 -- 86-some-odd overruns, cost overruns, $45 million.

So you're scratching your head and you're saying, natural gas, gas station, what is that? We don't have one in my town. We don't have any in my town either. They didn't have any in Afghanistan. But you know what? They decided that they needed to reduce the carbon footprint of Afghanistan.

All right? They would reduce the carbon footprint of Afghanistan. I thought the military's job was to kill the enemy. So, the military's job now is to reduce their carbon footprint? So they bought a $45 million gas station that serves up natural gas.

And guess what they discovered? They kept waiting. There's a guy sitting next to the pump. You can imagine him sitting on a stool and he's waiting for customers. No one ever came.

And then someone said, oh, my goodness, they don't have any cars that run on natural gas. Well, that would probably be the same if you came to my town in Kentucky. Almost nobody's got a car in America. They live in a primitive state in Afghanistan, and you were expecting them to have natural gas cars?

[18:15:03]

So they said, well, gosh, we already built this $45 million gas station. Maybe we should buy them some cars. So, they bought them some cars with your money. They paid for the gas station with your money. Now they bought them some cars with your money.

But then the people still wouldn't come in. They said, we don't have any money. And they said, OK, well, we have got the gas station, and we have got your cars. You need a credit card. So we gave them credit cards.

So they have a U.S. credit card that you pay for to take their natural gas car that you paid for to go to a natural gas, gas station because we're reducing the carbon footprint in Afghanistan. When did that become the job of the military?

And why does that go on year after year after year, the waste? For 17 years, we have been trying to get the Pentagon to be audited. And do you know what their response has been? Hey, we're too big to be audited. How's that for your government?

Your government telling you they're too big to be audited and that scrutiny is not -- that's just not your business?

Is it any wonder, really -- it surprises sometimes it's not worth it. Is it any wonder that our debt's a $20 trillion debt? So, 50 years ago, William Proxmire was a senator. He was a Democrat senator, a conservative Democrat in some ways. He began handing out something called the Golden Fleece Award, and we

will talk about a few of them. This is 50 years ago. And the reason I want to point this out is, as you look at this and listen, you will find that some of the stuff we're doing today is just as bad as 50 years ago.

Some of it's the same agencies. And so you scratch your head and you say, 50 years? We have been through a couple of generations of politicians and they're still not learning anything from finding this waste? Some of it's the budget process, the process that we pass these enormous bills that no one reads, that no one scrutinizes, and that do not reform the spending.

So, William Proxmire used to do his Golden Fleece Award. And I remember this as a kid in the early '70s. So, here's a couple of things that he had pointed out. This is sort of some of his best.

The National Science Foundation spent $84,000 trying to find out why people fall in love. Now, there sounds like a really worthwhile science project with a real specific answer.

I think the conclusion was they're not exactly sure. The National Science Foundation, which you will see is a recurring theme in bad and wasteful spending, also spent about $500,000 to try to determine why rats, monkeys, and humans bite and why they clench their jaw.

Now, you could say, oh, well, that's really important, maybe we will discover something from that. Or you could say, when we're running a deficit and we're borrowing money, that maybe some of these things maybe not be the most worthwhile to borrow money for.

This is a good one. This is from the early '70s. Federal Aviation Administration spent $57,000 studying the body measurements of what they called in those days airline stewardesses. These were trainees, and these were the purpose of purchasing their safety equipment.

But somebody got $50,000 to measure the body measurements of airline stewardesses.

The administration -- the Federal Energy Administration -- this is still from William Proxmire 50 years ago -- spent $50,000 to find out if drunk fish are more aggressive than sober fish.

I'm not going to tell you the answer. I'm going to let you ponder that one. Do you think drunk fish are more aggressive than sober fish?

This is your government. This is your money. And this is the debt you're handing on to your kids and grandkids. And this is 50 years ago. So now we will get into some of the things that we have been doing more recently.

We do a waste report where we point some of these things out. And every week, we have a new one. And so if you want to look at our waste report we have got that up I believe on our Facebook and on our Web site. This is one of my favorites. do you remember when Neil Armstrong landed on the moon? He said one

small step for man, one giant leap for mankind. Or some people think he said one small step for a man, one giant leap.

So, there's been some discussion, some very heated discussion of whether he said one step for man or one step for a man.

The preposition a, did he or did not use the preposition a? So your government in their infinite wisdom took $700,000, which, by the way, was supposed to go to autism research, and they decided to study Neil Armstrong's statement.

So, somebody at some university decided to play the tape over and over to see what he said -- $700,000 later, they couldn't decide. They just -- inquiring minds want to know, but we just still don't know. Did he say a man or did he say man?

So this is the same kind of stuff you were seeing with William Proxmire 50 years ago, but this is last year. And I think it's the same group, National Science Foundation.

[18:20:03]

I think I'm probably going to get some hate mail from them.

So, this is $850,000. And we call this one the game of waste. This was spent -- you think when we're spending money in Afghanistan, well, surely it's to kill the enemy. Sometimes it's building bridges, sometimes it's building roads, stuff that we don't do in our country anymore.

But this one was $850,000 for the development of a televised cricket league. You see, self-esteem is important and we want the Afghanis to feel good about themselves. We want them to be able to watch the national sport on TV.

So we spent $850,000 to get it televised. The only thing we didn't reckon is that it was kind of like the natural gas cars. They didn't have TVs. So I don't know if we're in the process now of buying them TVs, but we did spend $850,000 of your money to get a televised cricket league for those people in Afghanistan.

We will do the next one. This is a good one. Everybody likes to take a selfie. Right? Because everybody's had it. If don't you do them, your kids will do them with them. Your grandkids do them with them.

This was a study of $500,000 to tell if taking selfies makes you happy, whether you're smiling or you're frowning, and you look at yourself in the picture. Does it make you happy?

Now, you know, inquiring minds want to know. And if you want to study that, good for you. Go get somebody to voluntarily give you some money to study that. All right? And I really would like to watch you going around the neighborhood knocking on doors, asking for money to study whether selfies make you happy. OK? This stuff has been going on for 40 years. Why don't we root this out and stop it? Well, one, they will come to you all high and mighty and they will say, but, sir, it's science and you are just a layperson and don't understand how important selfies could be and you aren't qualified to talk about selfies because you don't know about happiness.

We have experts in happiness that can tell that we could make the world happy again, we could all be happy if we had more selfies.

And so it goes on. They give us this scientific mumbo jumbo that somehow we're not smart enough to have common sense enough to know what we should be spending money on. But this goes on decade after decade.

School lunch program. And you might say, well, you know, we need to help those who can't buy school lunch. So we have a school lunch program, except for what we discovered was $158 million was given, federal money, to a Los Angeles school district and it turns out they were buying things other than lunches because nobody was watching them. Nobody was auditing the program.

Nobody was doing the individual appropriation bills. They were passing, class pans together, continuing resolutions, where nobody looks at it, 700 pages, and nobody reads it. And when nobody reads it, they buy sprinklers and buy things for themselves, new televisions for the faculty to what, $158 million that was not spent on school lunches, but was wasted and spent on other items.

Everybody's heard about climate change, and there's some undertones and overtones of politics in climate change. But in case you haven't heard of climate change, the people who want you to hear of climate change want to spend some of your money to make sure you're listening to them about climate change.

So, they spent $450,000 on a video game. This is also National Science Foundation. So a whole new generation will be able to play this video game on climate change, and, you know, complete with great graphics. And we have got this game that your kids can play on climate change.

And it's like -- it's just one thing after another. You may have bet on this one if you're in Washington. This one, we call a street car named waste. There's a street car over here a few blocks on H Street and they spent $1.6 million on it. I think they'd already spent more on it before that. They spent an additional -- it goes a mile. It goes from nowhere to nowhere.

And you get on it and there's nobody on it. And it just costs a fortune. You could walk from one end to the other in about the same time it takes you to go on the subway, or on this trailway, tramway.

And so -- but $1.6 million. And you have to ask yourself when you see this government spending, would you give money to this? And I ask this question often when I'm home. I ask people, if you had $100 you were going to give because you wanted to help people, would you give it to the Salvation Army or the federal government that spends $1.6 million on a street car that goes from nowhere to nowhere and no one rides?

[18:25:09]

So I talked about whether or not we should be spending the money somewhere else or here. This is $250,000 that was spent on bringing 24 kids from Pakistan to space camp and to Dollywood. And you can say, Well, that's good relations. Now we're going to have good relations with Pakistan, they're no longer going to kill Christians, put them in jail or burn our flag.

Maybe. And I'm not against interaction. And in fact, if this were some kind of privately funded group that wanted to have some money to have interaction between us and Pakistan, I'd be all for it.

But, first, the price tag's a little scary to me, $250,000 for 24 kids. But then I also think, I represent a lot of people in Kentucky who don't have the money to drive down to Huntsville and go to space camp with their kids. So really should we not sort of readjust our priorities and start thinking, you know, do we need to take care of ours at home here before we start shipping our money overseas?

Or do we really need to think about can we afford to just keep borrowing money for projects like this? This is the Department of Defense. And this I think we referred to earlier. This was the $29 million worth of heavy equipment that they lost, can't find it in Afghanistan.

It's even worse than that. See, they lost that, but we also made the decision as we were downgrading the war in Afghanistan after the last surge that we did in Afghanistan that we didn't want the other side to have our stuff. So we blew up a lot of our own stuff. We blew up billions of dollars worth of Humvees, tanks, you name it.

But when they were looking and counting it up, they found $29 million worth that they couldn't find. But this is -- if you really think about it and you're thinking, how could we have more money for both our national defense and how could we have more money for infrastructure -- you hear people talk about infrastructure. People want to build roads.

Republicans and Democrats want to build roads. But guess what? There's no money. We're a trillion dollars short this year because we passed these class pans, spend whatever the hell you can find. Whatever is not tied down, spend it and give it away. Both sides spend it like there's no tomorrow.

But if you say how could we change our government, where would there be some money that we could actually save? Really, some of it is in our foreign policy. We do not have enough probably for our military to be involved in seven wars.

We might have enough to be involved in maybe three or two or one or maybe we should not be involved in any of the ones we're involved in at this point. The thing is, we said after 9/11 we're going to go after those who attacked us, those who aided the attackers, and those who supported them. They're all dead. We killed them all.

Now, that's good. We should declare victory and come home from Afghanistan.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Rand Paul continuing his delivery on the Senate floor, preventing a final vote by the Senate on this compromise budget proposal, a spending deal.

He's going to continue talking, we're told, for some time.

Phil Mattingly, it's a little complicated, cloture. A lot of Senate rules. But the delay is going to be -- the vote is going to be delayed, I take, it at least until 1:00 a.m., meaning at midnight there will be a government shutdown.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's basically where things are headed right now, Wolf.

As long as Senator Paul decides to object to any efforts to move that vote up, and again, this is Senate procedure and Senate rules, basically how long it has to take before they can have that vote, that vote will happen now after midnight, which means we will breach the shutdown deadline.

I'm told that Senator Paul does not plan on giving in anytime soon. And, Wolf, you have heard on the floor what his issues are. Obviously, he objects to the deal. He's not the only senator that objects to the deal. His issue is he wants a specific amendment, just the opportunity to debate the amendment and then have a vote on the amendment.

That amendment would maintain the current budget caps, which is essentially the spending deal, the $300 billion spending deal, does away with. What you saw before Senator Paul started speaking was Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer come to the floor and essentially do something that was a little bit choreographed.

Senator Schumer making clear, look, if Senator Paul gets an amendment, I have a lot of guys who have some problems with this deal, too. They're going to want amendments.

What they were trying to say there is, given the deadline, given how this deal came together, they're not willing to open up the bill as it currently stands for any type of amendment. That would just kind of create a major problem.

With that being said, if leaders as they currently plan will not give Senator Paul that amendment vote, Wolf, we are very clearly on the path towards a government shutdown. How long will it be? That's a great question, because the Senate right now, I'm told, has the votes to actually pass this deal.

Right now, this is because of the time limits of Senate rules. But it's very clear, if Senator Paul sticks with where he is right now -- and by every account that I have heard so far, he plans to -- we will absolutely cross that midnight threshold -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Stand by, Phil.

We're watching this unfold, a government shutdown now likely, the deadline midnight tonight.

David Chalian, the president, he tweeted yesterday. He said publicly, this is a good deal. This compromise worked out by Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer, he wants it to be passed. It's being delayed, at least right now, by Rand Paul.

[18:30:15] DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: It is. And that's a headache for the White House, it's a headache for Mitch McConnell, and it's a headache for Paul Ryan. Here's why, Wolf.

The president is saying he favors something that cuts against the grain of some of his supporters and some in his party. The last eight years of Republicans, the Obama-era Republicans, this has been a rallying cry, to cut spending. You could pull press conference after press conference of Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan and their members saying over and over again "spends too much, spends too much, spends too much."

So here they are, as Paul -- as Rand Paul points out correctly. Here they are proposing a lot of spending. So yes, the president is in favor of something, and the Republican leaders are pushing something that actually cuts against the grain.

And so here's the hiccup that they have now, is that it's not so easy to get everybody to go against their -- where they are ideologically like Rand Paul is being ideologically consistent with where he's been on this issue. It's not easy to just say, "Get on board, because leadership wants it this way."

BLITZER: Our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, is getting reaction from the White House. Jim, it looks like that government shutdown at midnight tonight will happen.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It looks like it's going to happen, Wolf. And I've just been told by a senior administration official in the last few minutes that the White House has started to advise agencies of the federal government to begin their shutdown operations.

And so they are now preparing for a shutdown here at the White House and inside the Trump administration. This is sort of a standard operating procedure that happens every time there's the prospect of a government shutdown. They start to talk to agencies seven days in advance. But typically on the evening before a shutdown, the word goes out to get ready for a shutdown. And apparently, that word has gone out, told by a senior administration official just a few moments ago.

So Wolf, they're getting ready for a shutdown here that they weren't expecting. We did talk to a senior White House official earlier today who thought this vote was going to be close, but the senior administration official I was just talking to a few moments ago conceded that, yes, this is a bit of a surprise. They did not think the government was going to shut down tonight.

But we should point out, Wolf, it was just a few days ago when President Trump was over here with law enforcement officials, lawmakers talking about the immigration issue, when he said, "I would love to see a shutdown." Well, Wolf, looks like he might get one -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Not because of the issue he wanted to see it, because of border security. He wanted to -- he was referring to immigration, not necessarily to what Rand Paul is talking about right now.

ACOSTA: That's right.

BLITZER: You know, Chris Cillizza, Rand Paul makes the point that government spending is going to go up dramatically if this two-year plan is put in place. It's going up dramatically as a result of the tax cuts, because less revenue, tax revenue will be coming in.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS CORRESPONDENT AND EDITOR AT LARGE: Yes.

BLITZER: And let's not forget, he makes this point, but it's an accurate point, that during the Obama administration in the last few years, the annual deficit was around 500 or 600 billion dollars. If this goes through with the tax cut legislation, this year with a Republican in the White House, a Republican majority in the Senate, a Republican majority in the House, it will be over a trillion dollars.

CILLIZZA: Yes. He's right. And the line that he had in there, which is when Democrats are in control, the Republican Party is the conservative party, when the Republicans are in control there is no conservative party, he's not wrong.

The 2010 version of the Republican Party -- David touched on this -- would be nodding their heads vigorously at everything that he is talking about. Paul Ryan is -- you can connect a straight line between Paul Ryan's budget, which was premised on the idea that we are spending out of control, we are burdening our children, grandchildren. We need to cut spending. We need to make real cuts to entitlement, security. You can draw a line between Ryan -- Paul Ryan saying that and Paul Ryan being the speaker of the House right now. That's what rose him to natural prominence, won him kudos among conservatives.

It shows the fact that this is 100 percent Donald Trump's party. Donald Trump doesn't care about debt and deficit. He never has. He said, "I'm the king of debt. I love debt."

When he wins, he conducts a hostile takeover of the Republican Party in the 2016 election, and they have capitulated to him.

Rand Paul is the conscience of 2010, 2011, 2012 Republicans saying, "Wait a minute." Mitch McConnell could have given essentially the speech that Rand Paul is giving or Paul Ryan is giving, which is saying, "We're spending well beyond our means. Why are we doing this? Look at these things we're spending on." And frankly, Paul Ryan may have given a similar speech at some time in

those eight years.

BLITZER: I want to quickly go over to April Ryan. She's over at the White House for us. April, we thought the drama was going to be in the House of Representatives, but there's a lot of drama unfolding right now in the U.S. Senate.

APRIL RYAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. And the crazy thing about this is, Wolf, yes, the president thought that this was a great deal once it came to him.

[18:35:04] But, you know, what people could remember, and this could hurt him, you know, he said, "I would love a shutdown." And even though he accepted, you know, this compromise on the budget, he said, "OK, but now those words from a couple of days ago could hurt him," especially as he's been touting the economy.

And who knows how long this could go? It may go beyond the two or three days of the last shutdown. So the president's words are still lingering, even though he agreed to a compromise.

BLITZER: You know, Kaitlyn Collins, what Rand Paul is saying now on the Senate floor will certainly resonate with a whole bunch of conservative Republicans who will have to vote, assuming this eventually does pass the Senate.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And we should note that Rand Paul actually spoke with President Trump this afternoon, he said, and tried to get him to be receptive to this idea, tried to get him to actually call the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell. He said this afternoon. But he said that the president was not receptive to his pitch.

So keep that in mind while we're going back and forth on what the White House's role in all of this has been.

BLITZER: Let's not forget, Juan, that yes, conservative Republicans who think this is too much government spending, raising of the deficit, the annual debt, it's too much.

On the other side, there are a whole bunch of Democrats who don't like it, because it doesn't directly deal with the fate of hundreds of thousands of DREAMers.

JUANA SUMMERS, CNN POLITICS SENIOR WRITER: That's absolutely right, Wolf. We've heard House Speaker Paul Ryan openly say some Democrats will need to vote for this bill to get it through his chamber. It needs a simple majority. But a number of Democrats, including Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi say they're not willing to vote for this without a permanent solution for DACA.

Paul Ryan, of course, has argued that Congress needs to first pass the budget, deal with that, then shift the focus to immigration. But Democrats say they're giving away leverage if they allow the House speaker to do that, so it's just not clear if some of the conservative Republicans that Kaitlan discussed don't decide to vote, emboldened by what they're seeing Rand Paul do in the Senate, if there are enough Democrats to make this happen.

CHALIAN: That is so critical, what is happening here. This is, yes, slowing down the process and potentially causing a shutdown for some period of time as they try to move the process forward.

But what happens, and we saw this a bit with Ted Cruz years ago when he was shutting down the government, the time allows the psychology of the House members to change, as well. So while Paul Ryan and his whip team will have been trying to make sure they have enough Republicans on board so they figure out we only need this many Democrats to get this over the finish line, now are they risking, because Rand Paul is out there galvanizing some conservatives, are they risking losing some of the Republicans in the House they were counting on, therefore making their challenge even greater to get more Democrats?

You also mentioned the tax cuts. We should note Rand Paul voted for the tax cuts that added to the deficits.

BLITZER: Even though it added a trillion dollars.

CHALIAN: Exactly. Exactly. So he was a "yes" vote at the end of the day, even though initially expressed some reservations about adding to the deficit with the tax cuts. But at the end of the day, he was a "yes" vote on that.

CHALIAN: And take one more big step back. Why are -- why are we here? Because we have set up a system of governing by crisis.

The reason that this is such a big deal is not because Rand Paul is doing anything that is outside of his rights to do. It's because -- and Chuck Schumer said this right before Rand Paul started speaking. The point is, I don't disagree with you that we should have some amendments to a bill like this, because we're talking about $300 billion in spending.

The fact that we don't is because we govern crisis to crisis and because the government will close in 5 1/2 hours. So no one can think this is a good process, and this is what you read when you plant the seeds of, OK, well, we'll kick the -- we'll do this five days C.R., ten-day continuing resolution. This is what happens, is you have a 700-page bill. He has -- Rand Paul, no matter what you think of him ideologically, he has a very valid...

BLITZER: He makes the point it's not just $300 billion in extra spending. It's more than $500 billion in extra spending, and he's very angry about that. Phil Mattingly, you're talking to your sources up there on Capitol Hill. How long could this drag on?

MATTINGLY: Look, it's an open question. Obviously, if you talk about the Senate timeline right now, how this actually all works, by 1 a.m. The cloture motion, basically what we're on right now on the Senate floor will ripen.

Now, after that point, the senator could ask for another hour or two -- or another hour to speak. So this could go even a couple hours beyond that. Then there would be a vote to actually get to the budget deal.

That just kind of gives you a sense of how far away we could be from actually getting a resolution to this in the Senate if Senator Paul continues to object to two agreements to actually move forward.

Wolf, here's kind of the best encapsulation of the U.S. Senate. It can move extremely fast so long as all 100 senators agree with that. If they don't, there are a lot of time limits that are in place, hours on end. And I think that's what we're looking at right now.

The big question right now is, I guess, how far does Senator Paul want to push this?

And I can tell you, Wolf, behind the scenes. top Republican aides and lawmakers have been aware of this issue all day. He made very clear that this was his problem, that he wanted an amendment vote and that he wanted this addressed.

[18:40:08] What they offered was, essentially, a procedural vote. He rejected that, said that wasn't enough. He wanted the amendment vote.

I think the big thing right now you that hear when you're talking to aides is Senator Paul has done things like this before, not just the "stand with Rand" on the national security issues, intelligence issues but also kind of threatened other types of spending deals, budget deals in the past and then has backed down eventually.

It's very clear, at least in talking to some of the people that are close to Senator Paul and what he said on the Senate floor, that at this point he's not planning to do that.

So I think the real question right now is, obviously, there are time limits that will allow votes to occur, but that could stretch honestly over the course of days if he wants it to.

So I think the real question right now, Wolf, is trying to figure out how far he's actually willing to push this. Because again, underscoring a key point here, Senate Republican and Democratic leaders are sure they have the votes for this deal. They just need to actually get to the vote to make that happen, Wolf.

BLITZER: Given Senate rules, that's by no means easy, as Rand Paul is underscoring right now.

The headline, the White House is informing federal employees here in Washington, around the country, get ready for a government shutdown at midnight tonight. We're going to have a lot more on the breaking news right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:45:54] BLITZER: We're continuing to follow breaking news on the suddenly impending government shutdown because Senator Rand Paul is blocking a vote in the Senate on a bipartisan Senate agreement. As we monitor those critically important developments up on Capitol

Hill, I wanted to turn to another major breaking story out of the White House. Right now the erratic attempts at damage control after the resignation of a top aide accused of domestic abuse by two ex- wives.

Let's go back to our chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta.

Jim, the administration's spin seems to be changing on this story sort of dramatically over the past 24 hours.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.

And the White House did something pretty remarkable today. The White House spokesman, Raj Shah, who is filling in for the White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, at the briefing today, making his debut appearance we should point out in the briefing room, talking to reporters, did something pretty remarkable. He admitted that this White House made mistakes over the last 24 to 48 hours in dealing with this Rob Porter matter.

At one point, he said to me in the briefing room that they could have done better, that they did not do as well as they could have in responding to all of this, and what he was talking about was essentially how they put out these glowing statements about Rob Porter as Porter was essentially acknowledging to some extent that there was some abuse in his past marriages.

Now, we should also point out the White House spokesman Raj Shah was not very forthcoming when it came to the White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and what he knew about these allegations. As we've been reporting, these allegations did surface during the background check that was going on last year to grant Porter a security clearance. He never obtained that security clearance. He was working with an interim one according to raj shah.

And when reporters were pressing Shah about the timeline on all of this, as to when John Kelly was made aware of all of this, he would not say. He only said that Kelly was fully aware of what was going on yesterday, but when he was pressed on that he said that was in preference to photographs of a black eye on the face of one of Porter's ex-wives that surfaced yesterday. And that was all Raj Shah would say about that. He was pressed repeatedly, Wolf, as to what Kelly knew months ago when our sources tell us that Kelly and other top White House officials over here at the West Wing were aware there were problems in Rob Porter's past.

Now, we should also point out other questions were asked about the future of the communications director over here, Hope Hicks, who had a hand in writing these statements yesterday. Apparently, she did recuse herself in some of these matters, according to Raj Shah. But during the briefing, Shah told reporters that the president still retains confidence in the Chief of Staff John Kelly, the communications director Hope Hicks, and the White House counsel Don McGahn, who through normal standard operating procedures in a White House would have had some knowledge about these background check issues.

And so, Wolf, while we got some answers today and actually a pretty remarkable admission from the White House that mistakes were made and they could have done better in all, this there are still some lingering outstanding big questions about John Kelly and what he knew about all this, Wolf.

BLITZER: Lots of unanswered questions right now. Jim Acosta, thank you very much.

Let's bring in our chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto and our senior White House correspondent Jeff Zeleny.

The security clearances that he had, they were temporary security clearances, not the full security clearances. Even though he'd been there for more than a year and was dealing with some of the most sensitive issues affecting the president.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: I've spoken to a number of former intelligence officials involved in previous administrations, and they say very simply this is unusual, particularly for a position like this, where you are a gatekeeper to the president. As staff secretary, you are in effect handling the information flow to the president. So you're going to see an enormous amount of classified material, highly classified material in that role.

We now know why it was an interim security clearance, because in the background check the FBI spoke to ex-wives who said that he had been guilty of spousal abuse. That is an enormous for obvious reasons red flag during a background check. Now, today as you heard Raj Shah, he repeatedly laid off responsibility in effect on the security clearance process. In fact, we went through the transcript and we counted 25 times that he said or referenced the security clearance process here.

[18:50:05] The way the process works, though, in fact, is while the FBI does the background checks, it does not issue the security clearance. It doesn't even make a recommendation. It supplies that information to the White House and it's up to the White House to decide whether or not to grant that clearance.

The White House gave the interim clearance. It would have been up to the White House to grant a fuller clearance.

One last point I would make is this. Raj Shah that the interim clearance was an issue for administration because there was no national security risk involved. The fact is, and I've spoken to investigations like this, and the say, in fact, the fact that you had spousal abuse in your past could very well be a blackmail issue. We don't know that it would be, but it's the kind of thing when you do a security clearance comes up as a red flag for that area.

BLITZER: And very quickly, Jeff Zeleny the fact that he didn't get security clearance, that should have raised flags not just White House chief of staff but maybe even the president. JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It should indeed.

We don't know the president knew about this. But certainly, the White House counsel Don McGahn knew, that Joe Hagan, deputy chief of staff, and certainly, Chief of Staff John Kelly knew.

We also heard Raj Shah said that the process was not completed. I am told the reason it was not completed because if it's formally denied that sticks with you for the rest of your career. So they in fact made the decision to grant him an interim one.

So, there is still the question who knew what when. John Kelly, the White House chief of staff, there have been questions all day, would the president keep him on board? We are told by two top officials we spoke to the president today. He will keep him on board.

One said this, the knives are still out but the president needs and trusts John Kelly.

BLITZER: That's news.

All right. Stand by. There is a lot of breaking news unfolding including an imminent government shutdown at midnight tonight. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're back with our analysts. We're following the breaking news on a changing story coming out of the White House of now former aide accused of domestic violence.

Shawn Turner, you work in the intelligence for a long time. His ex- wife says she gave the FBI the photo of the black eye back in January of 2017 during the interview process, the background checks. If the FBI knew these details, would they share it with the White House, with the chief of staff, the White House counsel, someone there's a problem?

SHAWN TURNER, FORMER DIRECTOR OF COMMUNICATIONS FOR U.S. NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: Yes, absolutely, Wolf. If this individual, if Rob Porter already had access to classified information and during the investigation process there was some sort of red flag that indicated that he might not get security clearance, as soon as that information came to light, someone on that investigative team would go to the White House. They would inform him that they have this information, and then the White House should have made a decision to revoke his access to classified information. It appears that did not happen in this case.

BLITZER: You know, Sam, according to "Politico", I want to be precise, one of Porter's ex-girlfriends went to the White House counsel, Don McGahn, and spoke about the alleged abuse.

[18:55:11] What should he have done with that information? Because he continued for more than a year in this really significant role in the White House. SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER TO NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER:

He should have restricted Porter's access to classified information. I just feel we need to say this. This is not normal.

Shawn, we worked in the White House for over a year together. I was there for four years. I can't think of a single person that had interim clearance for this long who had as much access to classified information. Because the fact this Porter was a prime foreign intelligence target. He had secrets. He didn't want stuff to come out and he had access to most classified intelligence in the country.

BLITZER: At the White House briefing today, the deputy press secretary, Kaitlan, Raj Shah, he confirmed that John Kelly, the White House chief of staff, knew about the allegations but only saw the pictures as images of the ex-wife with black and blue all that there you see it there, when they emerged this week. What does that tell you?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, that's their claim. The explanation of who knew what when is not very clear. And as we reported yesterday, the CNN White House team, senior administration officials knew about in detail about these allegations made against Porter as early as last fall. And we also know that the Chief of Staff John Kelly was aware about the allegations. We don't know specifically what he knew but we know he was aware of these allegations.

So, they are saying this. So not only were they aware two women had said they beat them when they were married, that alone should be something to fire someone from the White House. It's a pretty low bar. The White House tried to make the argument today that John Kelly issued his glowing statement praising Porter, saying he couldn't think of enough nice things to say about him before he saw the photos of the black eyes.

OK, the photos of the black eyes were tweeted around roughly 2:00 a.m. from another reporter. It was roughly 12 hours later in the White House issued that first glowing statement from John Kelly that he stood by until many hours later and said he was shocked about the allegations made against him.

So, what we are looking about now is cover up in the White House who knew what when about these allegations because we clearly know it was very high up, very high level of people who knew about it in the fall, and they could not have handled this in a worst manner.

BLITZER: And this now former staff secretary, Rebecca, he's been dating at least recently the White House communications director Hope Hicks who apparently helped prepare these very positive statements about him.

REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: So clearly a potential conflict of interest, Wolf, that the White House is going to need to address in more detail than they addressed today at the press briefing. But also this question of what did hope hicks know going into this relationship with Rob Porter? If there were men in the White House, including chief of staff John

Kelly who knew about the past and very serious allegations against him, did that information ever get to Hope Hicks? And if it didn't, why didn't it? If I were her and didn't know, I would be very upset right now with this coming to light.

BLITZER: I assume they have to do a full postmortem right now, Shawn, to see were people lying, was he lying, is FBI going to get involved? You lie to FBI in background interview, that's a crime.

TURNER: It absolutely s and they have to go and look at what happened here. I think there are some members of Congress who are calling for an investigation of the clearance process, and I think that's a good thing to do.

I think this absolutely will change the process through which we grant clearances when a new administration is coming into office. We regularly have people who may need access to classified information and the FBI might do an expedited clearance process. But we still sometimes have people who have access to classified information when they perhaps should not.

I just want to say with regards to General Kelly, this is particularly disturbing with regard to General Kelly. You know, General Kelly is a marine. I'm a marine. I served 21 years in the Marine Corps.

And I think I speak for a lot of marines when I say when we look at General Kelly's behavior in relation to this matter and some other matters, it's embarrassing. General Kelly is -- he's a marine first and he -- and there are things about being a marine that kind of brought us together, and I think he's for getting some of those things. And so, I think he needs to remember that we are all watching and as he behaves in a way that's inconsistent with our values as marines, that he should think of making a change.

BLITZER: Yes. A lot of people are suggesting that.

You know, Sam, very quickly, the fact that he had had access to all these classified documents, even though he only had temporary interim clearance, that's pretty extraordinary.

VINOGRAD: It's really extraordinary and it's really dangerous because, again, if you are Russia, if you're China, you're looking for someone with access to these classified documents that has information that can be manipulated that you don't want getting out and allegations of domestic abuse are exactly that.

BLITZER: Just serious problem that for the White House and indeed for the national security team is not going away.

Guys, thanks very much.

That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.