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U.S. Government Shuts Down, Senate Budget Vote Soon; White House Aide Abuse Claims Ignored for Months. Aired 1-2 ET

Aired February 9, 2018 - 01:00   ET




ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello and welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Isha Sesay live in Los Angeles where it's turned 10 o'clock Thursday night.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): And I'm George Howell, live in Atlanta, 1:00 am here on the U.S. East Coast and here we are, moving into the second hour of the U.S. government shutdown.

Keep in mind this is the second time that this has happened during the Trump administration. Let's take a live look right now at the Senate floor and you get a sense of exactly what's happening right now.

The Senate does have a budget plan, we understand, but the vote has been held up by one senator, Republican Rand Paul. Paul objects to the increase in government spending and the impact that it would have on the federal deficit.

Otherwise, this plan has bipartisan support. We're expecting to see procedural votes here. That's what we believe is happening right now. That will, of course, be underway.

Let's go ahead and go straight to Capitol Hill, our congressional correspondent, Phil Mattingly, following the story.

And, Phil, a lot happening here, so many pressing questions aside from whether you'll get any sleep tonight, of course, is there any indication on whether Senator Rand Paul will back down on this?

Or is he looking to hold firm?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He held as firm as he could, George. I think this was the point where he could actually push things right now because of how the Senate works, because of Senate procedure.

Basically if the senator from Kentucky, Rand Paul, did not agree to an earlier vote, this was going to go until 1:00 am. Well here we are at 1:00 am and if you look at the Senate floor right now, they are having that first procedural vote. Basically this will end debate on the budget deal in about an hour, an hour and a half from now. They will hold the vote to actually pass this and get this done. George, keep this in mind, when this day started, there were two things that were known.

The Senate had the votes to pass this and the Senate was expecting to move this over to the House sometime in early afternoon. Well, here we are, 1:00 am, the government has been shut down for an hour. Senator Rand Paul, as you noted, with major objections to the deal, also objections to the process, just wanted one amendment to get a vote, has objected throughout the entire process.

And because of that, not only did we cross the threshold of the shutdown, right now there is not necessarily a clear path forward as this moves from the Senate to the House over the course of the next couple of hours.

HOWELL: Let's talk a bit about that. So if it gets to the House, the question about Democrats, are the votes there?

MATTINGLY: It's the elusive answer we've be looking for throughout the day and not just reporters, not just senators who've been watching from afar, the people who are actually behind closed doors in the rooms, trying to whip votes, see where the votes actually are.

Here's the basic dynamic right now. House Republicans, because a conservative group of the party are against this spending, much for the same reasons as Senator Rand Paul, they believe it increases spending far too much, particularly on the non-defense side of things, will be opposing this deal.

That'll be a group of about 40 or 50, I'm hearing, up to this point. That means they're going to need Democratic votes. And right now, George, they don't know where those votes are. Democrats have made very clear they're holding out for the time being.

The question now is when this actually gets to the House floor, as it's expected to, probably around the 5:00 am or 6:00 am hour, will they come around?

Until they have the answer that that, right now most things are just in the dark.

HOWELL: Phil, the other question, how does DACA play into this?

Especially for those House Democrats who wanted to see some sort of a commitment similar to what they saw in the Senate with regard to just taking this issue up?

MATTINGLY: Yes, it's everything. It's the reason why we don't have firm answers right now. If you take a look at this budget deal, this was a bipartisan deal and while it was announced over in the Senate by Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, Republican leader Mitch McConnell, this was a deal that was negotiated in large part by Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi's staff over in the House along with Paul Ryan, the Republican leader, over in the chamber as well. The reason, even though they were in the room, even though they got a number of domestic priorities they wanted, more $130 billion in new non-defense domestic spending over the course of two years, the reason why they are still opposed -- or at least haven't given the OK yet to move this forward -- is the DACA issue.

And you noted the key issue here. In the Senate, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has said he is going to have a free and fair process. It will start next week; basically whoever gets the most votes, whoever gets more than 60 votes, that proposal is going to be moving forward.

Democrats in the House want something similar. Speaker Paul Ryan has made clear, he wants to take this issue up. He wants to deal with this issue but he is not going to move anything in the chamber unless it has the support of President Trump.

George, that's where the divide happens because Democrats have no trust in where the president is on this. They've seen the president's proposal related to DACA. Two of the four pillars in that --


MATTINGLY: -- proposal Democrats are vociferously opposed to. And that's why we're here right now. Keep in mind, Democrats are in the minority in both the House and the Senate, particularly in the House. That means there is limited to no leverage at all to get anything they want.

These types of moments, must-pass bills where Democrats have voted, the Democrat votes are needed to actually move things forward, these are the moments of leverage and that's why Democrats right now have been holding out for that more extensive commitment.

The real question now is, given the fact that a number of Democrats -- dozens I'm told -- really want to vote for this deal, are very supportive of the budget deal, will they be willing to hold their votes off and really force this issue?

And frankly make the shutdown that could only be a couple hours last a lot longer?

The answer to that question, well we're going to have to wait and see for a couple hours -- George.

HOWELL: Phil Mattingly, stand by here, OK. I want to take a live look here at the Senate floor just to see exactly what's happening right now and I want to get your perspective on this.

Give us the play-by-play. We see activity there. Again it's 1:05 here on the U.S. East Coast.

What exactly are the senators doing?

MATTINGLY: So this is the first vote. This is what people have been waiting for, for hours. And, George, to take you behind the scenes here, I've been talking to senators and Senate staff throughout the course of the day. There is extreme frustration that it ever got to this point.

There were flights home that were scheduled for late afternoon, early evening. They expected to be out of town by now. Again everybody knows how this is all going to end in the Senate.

They have the votes to move this forward. So this first vote is a procedural vote. Essentially we will get a sense of where everybody is right now. I think the big question right now is how big the vote is going to be, not whether or not it's going to pass.

So this will be our first indication of that. After this vote, Senator Rand Paul will likely get another hour or so on the floor to plead his case. He will once again not get the commitment vote that he wants. And they will move to final passage.

I think the interesting element of all this is just the timing of it all. Essentially the government has shut down right now because Senator Paul who is not given his amendment vote and they ran out of time, not because there's a specific policy issue that people are trying force, not because there is a large group of one party or another that's trying to make a major change to domestic or perhaps foreign policy.

It's because they ran out of time. This is what happens when you release a 652-page budget deal that incorporates major spending on the defense and domestic side; over $90 billion in disaster relief, things like tax extenders, health care extenders, all compiled into a single deal, release it an hour before the day you're supposed to vote on it.

These types of problems happen. And because of that, George, we're in a shutdown and senators are desperately trying to get themselves out of it as we see right now on the Senate floor.

HOWELL: Sorting through the details, Phil Mattingly, live for us, a great deal of uncertainty, the path ahead here. Phil, we'll stay in touch with you. Thanks.

SESAY: All right, bringing it over to Los Angeles now and joining us, CNN political commentators Democratic strategist Dave Jacobson and Republican consultant John Thomas. Also here with us, Jessica Levinson is a professor of law and governance at Loyola Law School.

Welcome to you all.

John, to start with you, let's put up that live shot of what's happening on the Senate floor, just to keep our viewers abreast of what's happening there in D.C.

As we look at this procedural vote, John, underway right now, delayed by Senator Rand Paul, hearing those on Capitol Hill speak earlier on in the day, there was a great amount of irritation that Rand Paul did this.

Do you share that irritation? JOHN THOMAS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I do. Senator Paul is speaking for two reasons. First, he's finding his lane for 2024 to be the fiscal watchdog in the -- in the race for president.

And the second is he is using this as a fundraising opportunity. As he --


SESAY: - a cynical play?

THOMAS: I absolutely do. He knows that he's not going to get his amendment. There was no possible way here.

So why else would he be filibustering?

He said he wants to drive the debate, drive the discussion.

No, he wants to drive his presidential ambitions. I think that's frustrating for the other senators.

SESAY: OK, you say this is about fundraising, getting his name out there.

Dave, I want you to take a listen to something that Rand Paul said to our own Erin Burnett a few hours ago. Take a listen.


SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KY: It's the only way for the American public to believe that some of us really believe it, is to be consistent against debt, whether it's Democrat or Republican.

And that's the real problem here, is that Republicans have completely changed now. And they said $1 trillion deficit was terrible under President Obama but it's just fine if it's a Republican.

And that's just not going to wash with people. And it really upsets me because there are many of us who truly are conservative, truly are worried about the debt but are consistent.

It doesn't matter which party is doing it, it's wrong. If it's wrong, it's wrong.


SESAY: Dave, Rand Paul says this is actually about hypocrisy, hypocrisy on the part of the GOP. They called out President Obama when he added to the deficit and now here they are, advocating for the same thing.

DAVE JACOBSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Precisely. I think this is reflective of two things. One he is a Republican; Republicans are --

[01:10:00] JACOBSON: -- in control of all the different power levers of government. And they look incompetent. That this is the second time within three weeks of the federal government is shutting down, number one.

But number two, he is absolutely right. Republicans are totally disingenuous. Just a month ago they blew open the deficit, adding $1.5 trillion of debt while giving massive tax cuts to Wall Street corporations after years of railing against President Obama, campaigning against adding to the deficit.

So I agree with him. They look extraordinarily hypocritical.

SESAY: John, very quickly, respond.

THOMAS: It's a fair criticism but the deal is, President Trump and the leaders in both houses are coming to a bipartisan solution, something everyone in the country has been begging for. And now they're getting slammed for reaching across the aisle and making a deal?

That doesn't quite seem fair.

SESAY: I want to get Jessica to weigh in here because really, when it comes down to it, to Dave's point, this is the second shutdown in some three weeks. This is happening during the Trump administration. President Trump voted in with the mantra of we're going to do things differently with me in the White House.

JESSICA LEVINSON, LOYOLA LAW SCHOOL: Well, we have done so many things differently with President Trump in the White House. So I'm not with you on that. But I see so many uniquenesses and differences.

But I will say the polarization that we see in our elected officials is still very much the same and it will maybe shock John to know that I absolutely agree with you with respect to what Senator Rand Paul is doing.

And so we have continued, we are not different in that we still have senators grandstanding, essentially throwing tantrums and creating a government shutdown because they're getting a ton of free media for their next election cycle.

And so, yes, things are different but things are still very much the same with respect to the inability to do what I think we expect most Americans to do in their jobs, which is come to some sort of compromise, to keep the lights on.

And I do think that this will be a relatively short shutdown because I think as much as the House Democrats do want to exercise their leverage for DACA, they also want to not be seen as the minority party that really put their foot down and was the one who created the shutdown.

THOMAS: Well, being obstructionist is even more dangerous for being a Democrat as that generic ballot continues to tighten. People in vulnerable seats, especially Democrats, don't want to have a shutdown for a second time on their heads.

SESAY: Well, you're both expressing optimism that this'll be short- lived. Let's play some sound from the vice president, who is actually in South Korea for the Winter Games which are about to kick off.

He shares your sentiment. Let's hear from the vice president.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We remain very hopeful as process goes forward, that this will be only a temporary government shutdown. I know that the schedule in the Senate runs past midnight and that there likely will be a short-term shutdown.

But our hope is the bipartisan agreement reached in the Senate will be passed out and sent to the House of Representatives.


SESAY: Dave, Vice President Pence expressing some optimism there but the votes in the House are not guaranteed.

JACOBSON: For sure and, look, let's remember last shutdown actually "Politico" put out a poll that showed 41 percent of Americans said that they blame Republicans for the shutdown; only 36 percent blamed Democrats.

So Democrats didn't have the upper hand according to public opinion, at least from that poll.

But I think it's smart for Nancy Pelosi to exploit this issue when it comes to DACA because the American people are on their side; 90 percent of Americans in poll after poll want a DACA fix.

Paul Ryan has not committed to it in a way that Mitch McConnell even has. And so I think it's it it's in the Democrats' best interest to try to leverage this and try to get something out of it.

But I do think at the end of the day there will be bipartisan support to push this thing through.

SESAY: (INAUDIBLE) wants this thing to pass. We all know she wants it and she (INAUDIBLE) had a hand in drafting this.

JACOBSON: Precisely. But she has said that she's not ready to vote for it just yet, right, she's trying to leverage this opportunity because the Speaker doesn't have the votes.


Because Republicans aren't fully supporting it. You've got the House Freedom Caucus. That's 30 to 40 votes that have come out enthusiastically opposing this because they don't want to add to the deficit.

SESAY: John is this everything ordinary Americans hate about politics?


THOMAS: My own party can't agree with themselves, then you've got obstructionists on the Left using it for fundraising. It's sickening but I do think in the next couple of hours we'll get through this.

And Republicans and President Trump had committed to coming up with a DACA and DREAMer solution. Now the devil's in the details but it's not as if they don't want to have that conversation.

SESAY: Well, you say that but Paul Ryan has he will -- they'll have a debate but it has to be something that the president will agree to, which kind of narrows the field of conversation.

THOMAS: Well, it does. He has the veto. But I think President Trump is gone a distance in terms of offering far more than simply DACA recipients to be able to stay here.


THOMAS: He is just saying he wants border enforcement, he wants to end chain migration but other than that --


THOMAS: -- a few hundred thousand DACA recipients and double it almost to 2 million illegals that have a pathway to citizenship.


LEVINSON: -- tie their fortunes to what President Trump wants is a really risky business because he has said that he is absolutely against DACA and yet these are very important people and he's very much in favor of DACA.

And so this is the worst of politics, though, also because I think what we're seeing is that the American people, as Dave said, are very much in favor of let's get a deal on DACA. And let's be honest, the American people also basically blamed both parties about the same for the last government shutdown.

But it's our legislators who we see having a big disconnect with what we want and not being able to get the deal on the table. So I think that it is -- it is disheartening for all of those reasons and more.

But I think that you are really rolling the dice if you say, well, we're just going to make sure that we tie our fortunes to what President Trump wants at that moment with respect to DACA.

SESAY: Dave, John and Jessica, thank you. We're going to hit pause for a second but just remind our viewers, we're going to stay very much across what's happening there on Capitol Hill in the hours ahead. So stay with us for that.

We're going to take a very quick break. A top aide to President Trump accused of domestic violence. How the White House is scrambling to contain the latest political scandal. All of that is next. Stay with us.





HOWELL: 1:18 on the U.S. East Coast and you're looking at a live image of the U.S. Senate floor again. What we're seeing right now there on the floor is the procedural vote, this vote in advance of the budget deal.

Keep in mind that we are into the second hour now of this U.S. government shutdown. So the government officially shut down until this process can play through. This is the second time that this has happened during the Trump administration and quite frankly right now all eyes are on the U.S. Senator Rand Paul.

What will he do?

Will he agree with this?

Or will he continue to hold firm?

We will have to wait and see but again this live image of the U.S. Senate floor, where this procedural vote is underway.

SESAY: All right, thank you, George, for that.

Another big political headline here in the United States, the fact that the White House is scrambling to explain why it kept staff secretary Rob Porter on the job after allegations of domestic violence.

Porter resigned Wednesday and he's denying the charges. A source says the White House counsel and the chief of staff were aware of the claims after the FBI interviewed Porter last fall.

His first ex-wife released a picture of herself with a black eye that you see here on our screens and she said Porter punched her. The FBI spoke with both of Porter's ex-wives as part of his security clearance, which was never approved.

White House chief of staff John Kelly sent an e-mail to staffers Thursday, saying, quote, "While we're all processing the shocking and troubling allegations made against the former White House staffer, I want you to know that we all take matters of domestic violence seriously.

"Domestic violence is abhorrent and has no place in our society."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RAJ SHAH, PRINCIPAL DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE SECRETARY: I think it's fair to say that it -- that we all could have done better over the last few hours or last few days in dealing with this situation. But this is the Rob Porter that I and many others have dealt with, that Sarah dealt with, that other officials, including the chief of staff have dealt with.

And the emerging reports were not reflective of the individual who we had come to know.


SESAY: Porter's second ex-wife said he recently asked her to downplay allegations of domestic abuse. She spoke with CNN's Anderson Cooper.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: It does sound like he was asking you to deny what you had...

JENNIE WILLOUGHBY, ROB PORTER'S EX-WIFE: He was asking me to downplay it. And he was asking me to a emphasize more the relationship that he and I have now, as opposed to what I experienced in our marriage.

COOPER: Have you talked to him in the last couple of days?

WILLOUGHBY: I haven't. I haven't spoken to him since that conversation.

COOPER: The -- Rob Porter is in a relationship now with the White House press secretary, Hope Hicks.

Do you think he's changed?

WILLOUGHBY: I don't think he's changed.

COOPER: Does that worry you?

WILLOUGHBY: It worries me for a lot of reasons. I mean it definitely worries me because if I'm being frank with you, if he hasn't already been abusive with Hope, he will. And particularly now that he is under a lot of stress and scrutiny.

That's when the behaviors come out. And if he hasn't already, he will.

COOPER: You think he can't -- he has not gotten help, he can't stop at this point?

WILLOUGHBY: I don't think that he has done the self-reflective work to acknowledge this issue. I don't think that he has really taken the time to deconstruct why it is that he behaves this way.

And until he's able to do that, I don't know that he has control over it.

COOPER: So you're saying you're worried about Hope Hicks?

WILLOUGHBY: I am worried.


SESAY: We're back with our panel now, Dave Jacobson, John Thomas and Jessica Levinson.

Jessica, to start with you, what does it say about this White House that, according to our reporting, CNN is learning that the White House counsel and the chief of staff were made aware of this after the FBI interviewed Rob Porter last fall and still did nothing until it emerged?

LEVINSON: Well, the question is the answer, that they did -- they were aware at least with respect to the broad-brush allegations that there were domestic violence allegations. And that's why the security clearance never became permanent. And that's what he just had temporary security clearance.

And nothing was done. And sadly this is entirely consistent with the Trump administration. Again, candidate Trump was on TV bragging about sexual assault and this is a group of people who've decided to work for that man, being the president.

And so I think General Kelly's comments that he was shocked and that we're still absorbing this and that there is no place for domestic violence in our society, I would sadly say, all actions to the contrary.

There's -- it really strains common sense to think that they were unaware. And let's remember that Rob Porter's stock was rising in the Trump White House. He was profiled as one of the most important behind-the-scenes members of the administration. He had a hand in running the State of the Union. He was in large part the gatekeeper in terms of flow of information to --


LEVINSON: -- the president. So we can put out as many statements as we want but let's look at the actions. And the actions are extremely troubling, to say the least.

SESAY: John, to pick up with what Jessica just said, again, we hear the chief of staff say it's abhorrent; we're totally opposed to it, as they rightly should be, of course, but then the actions don't marry up with the words.

And here is a man, as Jessica said, his stock was rising and many people say this points to a problem with the culture in this White House.

THOMAS: Well, I certainly think the White House screwed up in how they handled this and there should be consequences to whoever knew about it and didn't --


SESAY: And if it is proven categorically that chief of staff Kelly knew about it, should he go?

THOMAS: I don't -- I'm not privy to all the facts but there needs to be consequences. Whether he needs to be removed or not, I'm not -- I don't think it's safe to say that at this point. I'm sure we'll learn more as time goes on.

But we can't forget --

SESAY: But that's ducking the issue. If he knew and it comes out that he knew and it --


THOMAS: But I think here's the challenge. The challenge is even Rob Porter's ex-wife said that this is -- he's a very smart man, he's a very persuasive man. He convinced her to stay with him for some period of time.

I would bet you that Rob Porter, as he sounds like he was excellent at his job, at his role in the White House, was pushing aside those early allegations and dismissing them and convinced those around them that what they're hearing from an ex-wife is just simply just disgruntled ex-wife.

So I'm concerned that what he did is effectively muddy the waters internally until it bubbled up and then they kicked him out.

SESAY: Jessica is bubbling, too, bubbling up herself.


LEVINSON: I'm absolutely with you that I think he was very persuasive. He's a smart guy. He's good at his job. I also think that he will very likely engage in criminal -- in domestic abuse.

And the FBI thought that there was a there there. So he can say, well, I didn't do that, as much as he wants. But the Chief of Staff, both General Kelly and previous chief of staff, were aware that the FBI thought that there was enough substantiation of the allegations that we can't go forward with his security clearance.

So the very least there was very strong tipoff that this was a credible --


SESAY: Dave.

JACOBSON: Can I just say like, on a human level, like that interview was extraordinarily hard to watch, knowing that this person was a high-level official in the White House, one of the most powerful people in our country. And the White House has created a culture of sanctioning this kind of

behavior. I have no doubt that John Kelly knew about this. He brushed it to the side, thinking that it wasn't ever going to come out and he should be fired immediately.


THOMAS: -- if it was well known, Hope Hicks, I don't believe, would get into a relationship with somebody that she believed was a domestic violence perpetrator.


THOMAS: My point is that if John Kelly knew it, obviously there needs to be consequences. But it doesn't sound like this was written on the -- on the bathroom stall where, that everything was going --


SESAY: OK, so let's take you -- let's take what you're saying and take it down a logical road. So the FBI interviewed these ex-wives. They put a block on him getting this permanent security clearance.

That was obviously known by people.

Why wasn't there an internal investigation?

Why wasn't there?

I mean this notion that he had to have a sign or had to be written on the bathroom stall, I mean, why wasn't there an investigation?

THOMAS: You're right; there should have been. Part of the challenge, I think, in how he muddied the water -- and this is speculation -- but remember, Rob Porter's worked for many high-profile elected officials in senior positions.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What does that have to do with anything?

THOMAS: No, but my point is, he was a known commodity.

So when he's trying to dismiss these allegations, he could have persuaded people in the administration that it was noise.

SESAY: And you know what that says to me?

It says that women have to do so much for their voices to be heard. Women have to do so much to be believed.

THOMAS: And it was incredibly bold of this woman to go on Anderson Cooper and absolutely the right thing. And there should be consequences. I'm just trying to figure out -- because there's no way that John Kelly, if it were cut and dry, would let this go --

(CROSSTALK) JACOBSON: -- yesterday who said that DACA recipients were lazy. I mean this has been a pretty bad week for John Kelly and this is a president, let's not forget, who said that he grabbed women by the genitals and then admitted it, right.

So like this has long been an issue, that the Trump White House has sanctioned.

SESAY: And so we must leave it there. Dave, John, Jessica, always appreciate it. Thank you. Thank you for the great conversation. We're going to take a very quick break. Next on CNN NEWSROOM, the U.S. government has shut down -- again -- as lawmakers work on passing a budget bill. We're live on Capitol Hill -- just ahead.


[01:31:15] SESAY: Welcome back to our viewers watching in the United States and around the world. I am Isha Sesay live in Los Angeles.

HOWELL: And I'm George Howell live in Atlanta where we're following the breaking news this hour out of Washington, D.C., the U.S. government has shut down for the second time in three weeks.

A live look here in the U.S. Senate floor, the Senate just passed a vote to advance the bipartisan budget bill. Now, next hour, the final vote will happen. Republican Rand Paul had been holding up that process. Now keep in mind, he objects to the large spending increases and their impact on the federal deficit. The Senate is expected to approve this bill and we understand that the final vote is happening now. Let's go now live to CNN's Phil Mattingly who is following all this and, again, Phil, we understand that the vote is happening now, tell us more.

MATTINGLY: Yes, that's actually a surprise. We expected Senator Rand Paul, he was allotted another hour to speak. Obviously, he's been the reason this process has lasted this long, the fact that the government shutdown was because he objected to an earlier vote as you noted trying to get some kind of vote on his amendment to essentially unravel this bipartisan spending bill because he said it increases spending far too much, it's not nearly responsible enough on the physical side of things.

He has chosen not to take that hour which means what you're seeing on the Senate floor right now is the final Senate vote on passage of this $300 billion budget deal and total cost about $500 billion when you add the $90 billion-plus disaster relief, you also have billions of dollars in the healthcare spending extenders, tax extenders as well, it is a very large package. It deals with an enormous number of issues, it came together very, very quickly. And then as we've noted throughout the day ran into problems.


Over in the Senate, the problem was one senator, Senator Rand Paul. The biggest question now though George is what's going to happen next. We know how this vote is going to end up, you saw the procedural vote just a few minutes ago, a very big vote in favor of this bill, I believe it was 73 yes votes in total. So that's probably going to be repeated in this final vote right now.

Then it will move over to the House, now the big question has always been, George, where are House Democrats going to come down as it currently stands given that Republican Speaker Paul Ryan needs democratic votes, no one know if he hasn't yet, it's still an open question.

HOWELL: All right. Give us some context there because, again, what we're seeing right now the vote essentially happening, right? And if -- as it moves on to the House, what are you hearing about what Democrats were told from Nancy Pelosi about basically what to say on their decisions?

MATTINGLY: Keep your cards close to your vest, that was actually the specific message the democratic leader gave her caucus this morning in a closed-door meeting. Look, there is the reality here that Democrats, a number of Democrats like this deal a lot.

Just look at the Senate vote right now, it's a bipartisan vote in a major way. If you look at the deal itself particularly on the nondefense spending, more than $130 billion to hit kind of key democratic priorities like opioid funding, veterans affairs issues, those are things they've been fighting for for years to remove the caps that have been in place on that kind of spending. But, what leader Pelosi has made very clear, they need and want leverage to try and get a very specific structure for the immigration debate to come.

Obviously the DACA issue, it's been hanging out for months now, deadlines are starting to come up and there is very, very limited trust right now not just with House Republicans but also with the president of United States in terms of where Democrats are. Why they have been keeping where they are close to their vest? They want a firm commitment from Speaker Paul Ryan that he will essentially mimic what Major Leader Mitch McConnell has done in the Senate, allow for any bill that can get -- can come up, any proposal that exist to come up and whoever gets the most votes ends up winning, kind of queen of the hill, king of the hill type of scenario right now.

At this point, Speaker Ryan has made very clear, George, he is willing to bring DACA to the floor, he wants to address this issue, but he's not going to move something until he knows President Trump supports it, that's where the trust issues come right now. Now, you want to talk about the votes exactly, obviously the message the leader gave her caucus this morning, throughout the day they've been kind of trying to walk a very thin line here of acknowledging that a lot of their members want to vote for this, for trying to impress upon them that leverage is still needed.

I will say behind the scenes Democrats in the House have not been whipping their members to vote against it, at least not actively. They've told them that the leaders going to vote against it, Leader Pelosi will vote against it, Steny Hoyer, the number two will vote against it, James Clyburn, the number three will vote against it but they have not been actively threatening or trying to coax their members in devoting no.

All of that leads to kind of a simple reality right now, Speaker Paul Ryan knows there are Democrats that want to vote for this, he does not have a firm count of how many he's going to get given the fact that conservative on his side of the aisle, maybe 34, 40, 50 will be opposed to this deal on spending grounds like Senator Rand Paul, he's going to need Democratic votes, he's going to need to know where they are when this actually gets to the floor. And until he has the answer to this question, at least over the next couple of hours, nobody really has a clear idea of how this is all going to end George.

HOWELL: Phil Mattingly, standby, I want to reset for our viewers who may just be joining us. But, again, we're all looking here to live image of the U.S. Senate floor. Again, we understand the government has been shut down, the shutdown started just after midnight Eastern Time. We are here into the second hour, moving into the second hour of this government shutdown.

Now, this was -- the vote was held up by Senator Rand Paul but now we understand this vote is underway, let's bring back in CNN's Phil Mattingly who is there following all of this. And Phil, tell us just a bit more about the nature of this particular bill because, again, it is bipartisan. There are things that Democrats and republicans like about this bill.

MATTINGLY: Yes. And idea that has probably been addressed too few times I think over the course of the last couple of years, maybe the last decade or so. Look, talk about the details in a second, let's look at the bigger picture of what this deal actually represents. The idea of self-imposed crisis on the spending side of things week-after- week, month-after-month, obviously there is a shutdown just 18 days ago, it feels like we've been going through this year after year after year were just the simple process of writing appropriations bills.

The general basic functions of the U.S. government has been extraordinarily difficult, never seems to get done. We always seem to be in this last minute situation of just trying to get the government open. On top of that, you also have the debt ceiling, an issue that has led to a serious of potential market crisis, a series of major problems and flare-ups over the course of the last couple of years, that will be suspended in March -- until March 2019. So you're looking at the idea of almost clearing the decks right now of major fiscal issues and manor potential fiscal crisis over the course of essentially at least a year, maybe a two year period, so that's the bigger picture.


Now you dig into the deal a little bit, why this is so attractive to Republicans, it's a defense spending, more than $160 billion over two years of increases in defense spending, this is something that since the sequester basically, the caps on budgets, how much can be spent, and also the imposed cuts that were supposed to take effect because of the sequester back in 2013, that will be done away with completely. This will be a major plus up in defense spending, something President Trump's defense secretary James Mattis has been calling for pretty much since he got into the job.

Also key senators like Senator John McCain, Senator Lindsey Graham have been saying the same thing, basically saying the military has become depleted because of these cuts, those will now be addressed, that's the karat for Republicans, that's why they're on board. I want to mention again why Democrats like this deal and why you've seen a big democratic vote in the Senate, it's a nondefense domestic spending. It is a huge deal to bring $130 billion over the course of two years into kind of that barrel of the spending side of things.

But you also add on top of that, healthcare provisions like extending the children's health insurance program from six years to ten years. There's a number of issues there, there's a significant amount of money for opioid rehabilitation, something that is obviously been an epidemic in this country. So basically the take point here is there's a lot for both parties to like in this deal. There's plenty that both parties feel was left out, you've got people like Senator Rand Paul who've made clear the spending is far too high and certainly against what fiscal hawks believe in and on the left, you've got people who believe that here has to be a DACA resolution before they would ever agree to give up this leverage of defense spending.

But this is where they are now, this agreement came together quickly, I think a lot of people were very surprised that they actually got to this point, 652 pages in total, it was released at 11:15 p.m. on Wednesday night and now we're here. We know it's going to pass the Senate in a short matter of time and the big question then is, what happens in the House?

HOWELL: And when it gets to the House, the big question there, what happens with democratic support? Will they have the votes to move it forward? CNN's Congressional Correspondent, Phil Mattingly who never sleeps certainly on top of this story. Phil, thanks. Standby, of course, for us, we'll touch base with you as we see developments there on the center floor, thank you.

SESAY: Well, joining us now, CNN Political Commentator, Democratic Strategist, Dave Jacobson. Republican Consultant, John Thomas. Also with us Jessica Levinson, Professor of Law and Governance at Loyola Law School. Thank you for staying with me.

John to you first, despite Rand Paul's objections, he gave up his extra hour of the debate if you will and now they're actually voting on passage of this budget bill, it cannot be underestimated what a big moment this is because it's expected to pass in the Senate the fact that potentially they're taking off the table and less more shutdowns in the future by getting this done.

JOHN THOMAS, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT: It is a big deal. I mean, I believe it's a two-year deal, that's very, very significant. And it's a deal that came together despite Rand Paul's complaining in a bipartisan fashion and that's remarkable especially given where politics are today with Democrats refusing to give President Trump an inch. So I really think it's a testament to both parties that they could come together here and now, of course, the next battle after this is going to be DACA and what happens with those dreamers. SESAY: Yes. Dave to you, I mean just taking the moment that is playing out on the Senate floor right now, this vote that is going on right now. This happened very, very quickly and people still wondering about the democrat's motivations in signing up for this, bear in mind just weeks ago that was so adamant that nothing would get done without a DACA deal.

DAVE JACOBSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well I'm not a fan with democrats caving so early. Last shutdown, I think we looked relatively spineless and I think that we didn't take advantage of the situation in a way that we should have. I think we should have held the line a little bit longer on DACA and I think perhaps we could have gotten DACA fixed.

That being said, I think this is a win-win. At the end of the day, domestic spending is going to skyrocket on things like healthcare, infrastructure, disaster relief, I mean, there's a lot of things that Democrats could be happy with when it comes to this bill. And frankly, defense spending, we've had a lot of issues with our defense department and I think we need to re-up spending on that front. So I think Democrats have a good justification to support this bill and frankly, I think voters are sick of the gridlock and nothing getting done in Washington, so I think it's a win-win.

The question is what happens in the House because there's a large number of Republicans in the House Freedom Caucus who have come out and oppose this bill, 30 to 40 votes. And so the question is, is Paul Ryan going to be able to get any Democrats to come on board with this existing bill or Nancy Pelosi helped her staff, helped her write this bill but she has not come out saying, "I'm going to vote for her." So is there some sort of deal that she's able to make to get Paul Ryan to make a commitment on DACA in order to get Democrats to vote for them.

SESAY: Jessica, as we make the point, they're voting in the Senate right now for passage of this bipartisan budget bill, it still has to get to the House. That is far from guarantee that it will get through the House on schedule, that they will get to decide anytime soon at the rate this is going.


What are the political risks here for both sides? There are fiscal conservatives in the House that are very much opposed to seeing the deficit go up to the tune of $1 trillion according to some estimate from 2019. There are those who look at the Democrats and say -- they said they've got a deal on DACA and here they are caving. What are the political risks there for both sides?

LEVINGSTON: Well, I think that's exactly the risk and I would say this is a bipartisan bill in a lot of ways but it's bipartisan in Trump's world. So it's bipartisan with democrat's understanding that they're in the minority, that they're dealing with a very unpredictable president and that there is a lot of big spending here for programs that they care about.

I would say who's the loser in this scenario, in a lot of ways its people who care about its economists who are looking at how much we're spending, who are looking at how much we're in debt and who are saying we're facing a looming wall ahead. Now to your point about the political ramifications, I think that for Democrats, you don't want to look like you're the petulant child in a room who created another government shutdown because there is so much to like for many Democrats. And you don't want to look like you just can't deal and you are just the obstructionist party.

On the other hand, I do think that there a number of -- big percent of debate who -- debates who will think, "You told you cared about DACA, I care about DACA and now you're showing that you're really not putting your money where your mouth is." For Republicans, for the freedom caucus, I think that they hold a very honest belief that this is too much spending and our deficits are getting way too big. And so for them similarly to Democrats, I think they have to look like they're holding their ground.

THOMAS: But this is going to be I think for the Democrats and this is why you're going to see this thing passed in a bipartisan fashion is it's still going to be a win for Democrats because they're still going to have that fight and it's going to be very public next week over DACA.

So they can stomp their feet and filibuster all -- they could do everything and still look to their base that we did everything we could to hold strong on DACA.

LEVINGSTON: But without the leverage of we could hold up the government shutdown.

SESAY: Go ahead.

THOMAS: Well that's true but they don't want to be responsible for a government shutdown.


SESAY: It caught in an eye towards the midterms that are fast approaching even it's only February --

THOMAS: And that's what this is all about, make no mistake about it.

SESAY: Exactly. And to that point about them fast approaching, will the GOP face that -- an issue come November when it tries to say where the party of fiscal responsibility?

JACOBSON: I think -- I mean, from a democratic perspective, we're going to capitalize on that. I will tell you that. I will tell you that I'm running congressional races in California right now, it's a state that Hillary won seven Houses races in but the seats are currently held by Republicans and we as democratic strategists are already capitalizing on the fact that Republicans blew open the deficit, added $1.5 trillion to the deficit while giving big tax cuts to millionaires and billionaires on Wall Street.

And they actually raise taxes on hardworking California families. And so at the end of the day, this is going to make Republicans up and down the state, very vulnerable (INAUDIBLE)

SESAY: One consultant to another, quickly John, what's your count to --

THOMAS: Well we're running in terms of the same races. But here's what's remarkable about where the fiscal issues could hurt would normally be in a primary process in the Republican side. But what we're finding is those fiscal conservatives identified themselves as Trump republicans first. And so if the Trump agenda is moving through, they will be able to withstand the attacks the fiscal.

JACOBSON: You mean the Trump agenda that's leading to thousand point drops in the stock market.

SESAY: All right. All right. All right. I'm calling time on you guys. We're going to continue the conversation. Let's hit pause and send it over to George Howell, he's going to bring in Phil Mattingly. George?

HOWELL: Isha, thank you so much. And let's do bring in Phil Mattingly following developments there on the Senate floor and Phil, we understand the Senate now has enough votes to pass this budget deal.

MATTINGLY: Yes, George that's exactly right. They passed the threshold in terms of votes they need. The vote is still open right now, so the vote isn't final. But the bottom line here is that the Senate has enough votes to pass this $300 billion budget deal.

Obviously, we've been talking about the next steps, this now needs to move over to the House, that will take a couple of hours. Right now House Republicans are estimating perhaps a final vote between 3:00 and 5:00 a.m., so it will take a little bit of time to forward and obviously a lot of unanswered question here. But just to put in perspective, we've been talking about the details of this bill in terms of this scope of it and what it actually entails, what it kind of takes off the table in the future, turns itself impose crisis.

The Senate over the course of four days was able to pull together in a bipartisan manner a deal that basically takes some of the biggest issues they have been dealing with not just for months George but for years. And not just pass it but pass it in a major bipartisan way. This was a big vote as obviously still ongoing. But this wasn't something that just squeaked across the finish line, they got a big vote here. And I do think it's important for context to take a look at that vote and take a look at where Democrats are on that on that vote and how that might reflect over in the House with those House Democrats.


I've been talking to a number of Senate Democrats and Senate democratic aids over the course of the last couple of hours and their thought process was one, they want House Democrats to get on board and get this across the finish line. But two, if Democrats had a big vote in the Senate, if Democrats showed a lot of support in the Senate that would help those Democrats in the House who said they want to vote for this but haven't' quite public acknowledged that yet or a little bit concerned about the DACA issue or where their leaders are on that, that this will help them kind of get things across the finish line.

This will almost can turbo boost the process that up to this point has been very slow and methodical or somewhat in the dark throughout the course of the day. So I think it will be interesting to pay attention to that. House Democrats have been gone for the better part of the last couple of hours, actually, most House staff has been as well, they're going to start filing in pretty soon as they prepare to start taking this up and that's when we'll start making chats. We'll start seeing where everybody is and obviously, that's when Republicans are going to try and see where House Democrats are as well, George.

HOWELL: It is always so interesting. Phil Mattingly, thank you so much. Busy time on Capitol Hill. CNN NEWSROOM will be right back after the break.


HOWELL: I want to update you on the breaking news that we're following, the U.S. government is shut down but the Senate has passed this budget bill. Again, that's the headline here at 1:54 a.m. on the U.S. East Coast. The Senate has passed this budget bill.

We see Mitch McConnell there giving word there on the Senate floor. Again, this debate has been held up for some time by Senator Rand Paul. Again, what we're finding now, this bill has passed the Senate, the next step will be to go on to the House.

Let's now bring in CNN's Phil Mattingly following everything there live. Phil, what's the latest?

MATTINGLY: Yes, the Senate is wrapping up. Something we thought was going to happen hours ago, actually yesterday at this point. By vote, George, of 71 to 28, the $300 billion budget deal, a bipartisan agreement is now passed at least one chamber. Obviously, as you noted, it still has to go over to the House, it's going to take a couple of hours to get that processed through.


But the U.S. Senate on a bipartisan basis passing an enormously consequential budget deal, one that would end the shutdown should the House follow suit. Obviously, a shutdown that's now been going on for nearly two hours but perhaps even more importantly in the longer term take a serious of potential self-imposed crisis off the table as it comes to fiscal issues, as it comes to spending issues. And perhaps even most importantly, it would tee up that immigration debate the Democrats have been wanting so desperately over the course of the last couple of months related to DACA.

Again, the big unanswered question is what's going to happen in the House, specifically where are House Democrats going to end up on this? When you take a look at this vote, 71 votes in favor of a build this large, of a package this large that bodes well for things going forward but as of now, still wait and see, George.

HOWELL: The Senate passes the budget bill. Phil Mattingly, thank you so much and we'll, of course, stay in touch with you. That's all the time we have this hour, I'm George Howell live at Atlanta.

SESAY: And I'm Isha Sesay in Los Angeles. The news continues on CNN right after this.