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Shutdown Showdown Hits Double Digits; Interview with Sen. Angus King

Aired October 9, 2013 - 23:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Also in a partisan world --

SEN. ANGUS KING (I), MAINE: My intention coming here was to help solve problems.

TAPPER: He isn't beholden to either side. Independent Senator Angus King of Maine is our guest.

And Congress' approval rating plummets to its near death. The news isn't that it's so low, it's that 5 percent of the public still thinks Congress is doing A-OK. To quote Seinfeld, "Who are these people?"



TAPPER: Welcome to this special half hour of CNN's SHUTDOWN SHOWDOWN. I'm Jake Tapper.

We are an hour away from this partial government shutdown going into double digits. At midnight it will be 10 days. Also at midnight marks one week until we hit the debt ceiling after which the U.S. government will no longer have all the money it needs to pay all its bills.

I just want to point out at Universal Studios Orlando this evening a bunch of people got stuck on a roller coaster. Now they all got off safely, thankfully, after an excruciating 2 1/2 hours. But isn't there a better metaphor for what's happening in Washington?

There are ups, there are downs. Right now it's stuck and everyone is getting nauseous. There is, however, some incremental progress to report this evening. Earlier this evening in a closed door meeting with House Democrats, President Obama said he would agree to a short- term increase in the debt limit if the Republicans would, too. According to a Democrat who was there.

If something like that were to pass it would probably only last a few weeks, maybe six. That may not seem long but it is four weeks longer than the TV show "We are Men" lasted on CBS.

Our apologies Kal Penn, Jerry O'Connell and Tony Shalhoub. Their sitcom got the ax tonight but I digress. Tomorrow President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner will come face-to-face. The president invited the entire House Republican caucus to the White House but the speaker said no. Just the leadership is coming because the hour is late.

Joining me tonight to discuss the latest on the government shutdown is Independent Senator Angus King of Maine. He serves on the Senate Budget Committee. And it wouldn't be SHUTDOWN SHOWDOWN, of course, without chief political analyst Gloria Borger and chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash.

Senator King, I want to ask you about this news that we have that President Obama has told Democrats that he's -- he would be open to a short-term extension of the debt limit and that I heard from a House Republican just before the show that that's what House Republicans are going to be pushing when they meet with President Obama tomorrow.

They are not going to be talking about reopening the government but just extending the debt ceiling a few weeks to, I guess, get us off our crisis footing. Is that something you could support?

KING: Well, I don't understand it, frankly. I mean, it gets us off our crisis footing this week but we're going to be back on a crisis footing at Thanksgiving or sometime. I mean, I don't think the debt ceiling ought to be the subject. I mean, I think it's perfectly appropriate to negotiate budget issues in connection with the budget. And the continuing resolution and the funding. But the debt ceiling we ought to just do and move on, in my view.

So if the president's willing to do it then I can -- and the Republicans agree then I guess that that's probably going to happen. But, you know, that's more of what we seem to do best around here which is put things off.

TAPPER: I want to introduce you a little bit to our viewers who outside of New England may not necessarily know that much about you. But you were a two-term -- a two-term governor?

KING: Two-term.

TAPPER: Of Maine. You ran against a Democrat and a Republican. There had been a shutdown in Maine two years before and you ran against the partisan system.

Coming here to Washington, is it as bad as you thought? Is it worse than you thought? You caucus with the Democrats, although you've said your mind is open if the Republicans ever take control you could caucus with them. Are things worse than you thought it might be?

KING: Certainly they are in this two weeks. I don't think I could characterize my first nine months as being worse because we were able to do some bipartisan things. I got very deeply involved last summer in the student loan negotiations, where that was a truly bipartisan deal where we snatched something that was about to die.

Immigration was done on a bipartisan basis. But, you know, the problem is you get into this budget stuff and the Affordable Care Act and you're getting to the core values of the two parties. And that's the hardest thing of all to make a deal.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: But here -- here you are an independent, and do you feel like you're whip sawed? You know, this is the most partisan Congress we've seen in awhile, a very partisan issue. You were spotted on the floor the other day in the Senate talking to none other than Ted Cruz, right? Your Democrats made fun of you a little bit.


KING: Well, you know, I went over and sat down with Ted because I wanted to know, can we move beyond this Obamacare? Because my view is --

BORGER: What was his answer?

KING: His answer was no.



KING: I know. It is. But, you know, because it's interesting. For example, today there was an op-ed in the "Wall Street Journal" by Paul Ryan. Did not mention the Affordable Care Act once.

BORGER: Yes, we noticed that. Yes.

KING: You know? I mean, I thought that was --

TAPPER: Ted Cruz noticed that.

BASH: Yes. Right.

KING: But so I thought, OK, if we can move beyond that then we can start talking about budget issues which I think is appropriate. I don't think it's appropriate to re-litigate a major piece of legislation in the context of hostage taking.

BORGER: But he said no to you.

KING: He said --

BORGER: He said we can't move beyond it and your Democrats said get back over to the --

KING: No, no, they didn't say that. When I walked back across the aisle they, you know --

BASH: They said, why are you eating at his lunch table?

KING: They said what are you --

(LAUGHTER) What are you doing over there? Yes. There is -- it does have a seventh grade quality to it.

BASH: It definitely does. So I bumped into Senator King last night, I have to say. I thought you were a tourist. I saw him. And he was -- no, seriously which is --

KING: Did I look lost?

BASH: No. Because you were with your iPhone and you were taking pictures in the rotunda. And I thought, is that Senator -- that is Senator King. And we started talking. But the reason why I mentioned it is because it's a reminder that you are looking at Washington with fresh eyes, which is nice.

KING: Yes. Well --

BASH: It is refreshing. And so given that and given your experience, give us the scoop on what conversations you might be having to get everybody out of this mess with people on both sides of the aisle since you're an independent.

KING: Well, a reporter asked me today, what are you -- you know, what are you doing with all your spare time because, you know --

BORGER: Taking pictures in the rotunda.

KING: There are a lot of things -- well, let the record show that was like 9:00 last night.



KING: But I can tell you, there are meetings going on all the time. I've probably met with 15 senators, long conversations with Republicans in the House.

BORGER: Democrats you're talking about.

KING: No, both. Republicans, Democrats. And everybody is trying to figure this out. And everybody is trying to figure out how do we get ourselves out of this fix. The focus a lot of the conversation is how do we help John Boehner get himself out of the fix that he's in.

BORGER: And so what's the leading idea?

KING: Well, I think the leading idea is if we can get them away from trying to re-litigate the Affordable Care Act, then there are lots of things to talk about.

BORGER: But you can't -- I mean, you -- Ted Cruz said no.

KING: Well --


TAPPER: But you look at Paul Ryan. Yes.

KING: Yes. You look at -- I mean, I'd call that a kind of wilted olive branch.

BORGER: He wasn't partisan.

KING: I mean, that's --

BASH: A wilted olive branch.


KING: It was an olive branch. It was -- he was saying --


KING: He was saying here are things we can do that maybe will get us out of this. He didn't mention the Affordable Care Act. And one of the problems, one of the reasons, you know, I can share a little bit of perspective from both sides. One of the reasons the Democrats in the Senate are so adamant about this is they felt like they've already given at the offense.

Harry Reid made a deal with John Boehner in early September, we're going to take the lower number on the sequester number on the continuing resolution. We hate it. We don't like it. But OK, to get it done. And then the speaker couldn't get the votes.

BASH: And the Democrats said to me, the speaker can't deliver a pizza.

KING: Well --

BASH: They're very -- they're very annoyed with that.

KING: I -- well, but, you know, he's doing his best. I'm sure he didn't go into his caucus saying, don't let me do this.


TAPPER: Senator, let me ask you a question because this has become -- I asked Senator Durbin about this today, the Democrat from Illinois, which is House Republicans obviously are the ones who started this shutdown. Because they said defund Obamacare or we'll fund -- or we won't fund the government. And that was just a nonstarter for the Senate, a nonstarter for the president. But now --

KING: As everybody knew from the beginning.

TAPPER: Right. As John Boehner said in March which is why in March he said he wasn't going to pursue that strategy so --

KING: And John McCain said they never should have promised their constituents they could do it.

BORGER: Right.

TAPPER: So -- but here we are. Here we are. And John Boehner needs something, as you say. There -- he needs something to be able to take back to his caucus, to get something through the House of Representatives.

Is that something the Democrats are thinking about? Look, even if he and his Tea Party caucus is the reason we're here, we still -- we're all in this together?

KING: This is -- yes. We got to play the hands dealt us. I understand that. On the other hand, if -- you know, you ought to have him on and get his views.

TAPPER: I'd love to.

KING: I don't want to put thoughts into his head. But I don't think you're ever going to satisfy 40 to 80 members of this caucus. I don't think anything we can do short of repealing Obamacare would do it. I think he's got -- have his hands stringed with the rest of his caucus saying, look, I can deliver some deficit reduction, I can deliver some entitlement reform. And if I can do that, I think that will solidify the caucus enough to give him the votes.



TAPPER: And let's leave it right there. We're going to take a quick break.

Senator Angus King, independent of Maine, is going to stay with us. Also Dana and Gloria.

When we come back President Obama told Democrats he has an option to get Speaker John Boehner out of the tree he's stuck in. That's a quote. But is a short-term solution good for the long-term economy? More when we come back.


TAPPER: Hey, fellow political nerds. Do you remember this moment?


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There is not a liberal America and a conservative America. There is the United States of America.


TAPPER: Good times. That was Illinois state senator Barack Obama in his 2004 Democratic Convention keynote speech. And since then a lot more has changed besides his hair color. Is America united in wanting the shutdown over with? We'll ask our independent senator guest next.


TAPPER: Welcome back to SHUTDOWN SHOWDOWN. We're back with Senator Angus King, former governor of Maine and a relative newbie here in Washington, D.C. He's only been in the Senate for 10 months. And as an independent, he's got some interesting admirers such as former independent Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura who's considering he says a presidential run. And he might be looking for a running mate.


JESSE VENTURA (I), FORMER MINNESOTA GOVERNOR: I would consider Senator Angus King from Maine, the former independent governor. We -- he and I were the only two independent governors. So it very well could be a Ventura-King combination.

JOHN BERMAN, ANCHOR, CNN'S "EARLY START": Have you talked to Angus King about this?

VENTURA: I have not.

BERMAN: So this is news to him right now?

VENTURA: Well, he knows that I'd pick him because he's the only guy I would trust.


BORGER: Yea or nay?


BORGER: Are you on the ticket?

KING: That's pretty good. You want to tell Jesse no? You tell him.


BASH: Yes. But we didn't show the clip that he actually said beforehand that his first choice was Howard Stern.

KING: Well --

BASH: At least you came before Baba Booey.

KING: Gee, you had to pop my bubble so quickly?

BASH: Sorry. Sorry.

KING: No, Jesse and I were at the Independent Governors Caucus. He is -- he is a real -- he's a great guy.

TAPPER: If he actually ran would you consider running with him? KING: We'll have to discuss that.


BASH: That door is wide open.

TAPPER: Let's turn back to our more serious topic.

BORGER: Scottie, you have been in Washington (INAUDIBLE).


TAPPER: Which is -- which is the debt ceiling debate.

KING: I measure the drapes over at Biden's house.

BORGER: Have you? OK.

TAPPER: Which is the debt ceiling debate, which is actually I think probably we could agree of more consequence than the government shutdown. We know that the government will reopen at some point. The question is, if we pass the date where we hit the debt ceiling, how bad would the damage be to the stock market? What else might happen? Who else wouldn't get paid?

We were talking earlier about a potential short-term deal. President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner are likely to talk about tomorrow. I'm told that House Republicans are even considering introducing legislation tomorrow for a short-term deal to lift the debt ceiling. But you have real skepticism about that.

KING: Well, it's just going make the markets skittish for another six weeks or whatever. I mean, I don't see why we can't just get that off the table. We don't have to speculate. I mean, I understand there are people who basically are denying that this is going to be a real problem. We don't have to speculate on that.

In 2011, the stock market fell 2,000 points. Seventeen percent -- 17 percent in just a few days. $2.4 trillion of wealth was wiped out. In the country. Just in that -- in that week. Job creation went down. Interest rates went up. Mortgage rates went up. I mean, to even be talking about this is ridiculous.

BASH: But you know why, you -- OK. But you know why we're talking about this. We're talking about this because the president has said don't compromise. I'm not going to negotiate on anything. The speaker has said, you can't say you don't negotiate. So this is sort of a middle ground. And you --

BORGER: And they get to keep the government shutdown, by the way, which some of them want to do.

TAPPER: Right. Because --


TAPPER: This would not include reopening the government.

KING: No, no.

BORGER: Right. Because they can say they've made their point on Obamacare and that's still hanging out there.

KING: Well, my view -- I mean, you know, you've got these two things coming at the same time. You've got the government shutdown and you've got the debt ceiling. It just happens that they align unfortunately.

BORGER: Right.

KING: In my view we ought to pass the debt ceiling and move on. The shutdown I don't like.

BORGER: Not happening.

KING: I know. But -- you know.

BORGER: Not happening.

TAPPER: We did ask him for his view.


KING: That's -- were my view.

TAPPER: That's why he's here.

KING: So --

BORGER: Just a little reality check on that.

KING: And do -- but do the negotiation around the budget. That's where you negotiate these kinds of things.

TAPPER: But the Senate hasn't -- I know you haven't been here for all that long, but the Senate until this year had gone many years without doing a budget.

KING: Right. But that, you know, we passed a budget --

TAPPER: You have a bill that says if the Senate doesn't introduce a budget, senators don't get paid.

KING: That's right. And I supported it.

TAPPER: Right.

KING: And we passed a budget for the first time in four years. We've been -- I think they've have gone to the floor 18 times to move for conference on the budget. And a few Republicans block it every time.

BORGER: So do you like your job? You've been here, what, nine months, 10 months? As long as you and Ted Cruz, same class? KING: Well, listen. For somebody who is curious, likes public policy and likes trying to fix things, yes. It's -- and I worked here 40 years ago as a staff member in the Senate. And to come back as a senator is almost surreal.

BASH: I have talked --

KING: But it is pretty -- I mean this week is pretty awful. I mean, there's no question.

TAPPER: Can I just turn the conversation back? We only have a minute left to the Paul Ryan op-ed. Because I've heard Republicans talk about maybe this could be a big grand bargain. Maybe what we could get out of this is lifting the debt ceiling, reopening the government, normal funding levels, not the sequester levels that House Republicans want.

KING: Yes. He even suggested in there, there are some ways to deal with the sequester.


BORGER: Right.

TAPPER: But entitlement reforms and tax reform. Is that something you think would be ultimately good for the country?

KING: Yes. Yes. I mean, we do have to do something about the debt and the deficit. We do have to do something serious, although the deficit is coming way down.

TAPPER: The deficit is, right.

KING: It's fallen 60 percent in the last year. We're lot better off than we were. But we have to do more. And I think what he's proposing is we ought to at least open that discussion.

TAPPER: We will leave there. Senator Angus King -- I mean, independent, I'm sorry. Independent of Maine who caucuses with the Democrats. Thank you so much for being here.

KING: Thank you.

TAPPER: We appreciate it.

Dana and Gloria, stick around.

Coming up, 5 percent. Five percent of Americans approve of the job Congress is doing in Washington. Either that or their cable's been out for the last couple of weeks. Stay with us.


TAPPER: Welcome back to SHUTDOWN SHOWDOWN. Congress's approval ratings according to a recent Associated Press poll is down to 5 percent. Five percent. Five percent of America looks at the work being done on Capitol Hill by our lawmakers, and says yes, yes, I like what I see.

So who are these people? Stay with us. We'll be right back.


TAPPER: Welcome back to SHUTDOWN SHOWDOWN. Now this is a country that believes in forgiveness. But 5 percent of Americans, well, perhaps they're a little too forgiving. That's the percentage of people who actually approve of the job their elected officials are doing in Congress right now, according to a poll by the Associated Press.

Dana, Gloria, another poll we found online actually put toenail fungus, Miley Cyrus, twerking, jury duty, hemorrhoids and witches -- I think this is a (INAUDIBLE) people -- all with higher approval ratings than the United States Congress. That's quite an achievement.

So who are these people still on Congress' side in this mess?

BASH: I want to talk about people who actually approve of toenail fungus. Who are those people?


TAPPER: They probably work for companies that manufacture the ointments.

BORGER: Dana covers Congress. She's now going to defend Congress.

BASH: No, I'm. I'm absolutely not.

TAPPER: There's probably a fungus caucus you could talk to and get some information.

BASH: You think so? It's possible. We're a little punchy this late. Well, listen, I think that it's no surprise. And everybody in Congress laughs about their approval rating. But then they don't do anything about it so they make it worse.


TAPPER: You got 5 percent approval rating, and --

BASH: Laughing because --

TAPPER: Ninety-eight percent are going to get re-elected.

BASH: Yes.

BORGER: Got re-elected. Because all the districts are so polarized it doesn't really matter what they're doing. Right? I mean, that's -- just think about that. That's really --


BASH: Hate your Congress, love your congressman. And that said all, right?

BORGER: That 5 percent live on the moon. That's all I'm going to say.

TAPPER: It's still shockingly low. Shockingly low.

Dana, Gloria, thank you very much. Thanks for joining us tonight.

Thank you for watching. I'm Jake Tapper. Be sure to catch me weekdays on "THE LEAD" at 4:00 p.m. Eastern, 1:00 p.m. Pacific. I'll be right back here tomorrow night at 11:00 p.m. Eastern, 8:00 p.m. Pacific. Have a good night.

"CROSSFIRE" starts right now.

ANNOUNCER: Tonight on CROSSFIRE, running out of time. Running out of money. Running out of patience. Does anyone have a solution?

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know, back in the '90s, the Republican Party and Mr. Gingrich realized this isn't a sensible way to do business.

ANNOUNCER: How about now? On the left, Van Jones. On the right, Newt Gingrich. In the CROSSFIRE. Democratic Representative Rosa DeLauro who's just been to a White House briefing and Republican Senator Raul Labrador who wants the president to negotiate.

Is a deal in the works? Is one even possible? Tonight on CROSSFIRE.

VAN JONES, HOST: Welcome to CROSSFIRE. I'm Van Jones on the left.

NEWT GINGRICH, HOST: I'm Newt Gingrich on the right.

The president is getting his history exactly wrong. We negotiated all the way through in 1995 and 1996. That's how we got a deal. This president says he wants a deal first, then he'll negotiate? Here's how he fantasized about history yesterday.


OBAMA: The Republican Party and Mr. Gingrich realized this isn't a sensible way to do business. That we shouldn't engage in brinksmanship like this. And then they started having a serious conversation with President Clinton about a whole range of issues and they got some things that they wanted. They had to give the Democrats some things that the Democrats wanted.


GINGRICH: You know, what I find fascinating about this is, I went back and actually read some of the stuff from '95 and '96. Bill Clinton like President Obama had a veto pen. That was his great strength. The House had the ability to pass legislation involving money. That was our great strength. So we sort of check mated each other. We had a brief temporary shutdown for five days. Came back, thought we had a deal. About a month later the deal fell through. We went out for 16 days. Came back, and by then we had a real deal. But we talked all the way through it.

JONES: Well, you know, I can't debate with you about the past because you were here and I wasn't here. But I do think this president is smarter than people are giving him credit for. I think this president looked that the Republican Party, saw a lot of dysfunction, and said, I'm not going to negotiate with that Republican Party and held them at bay. And now you're seeing better voices in the Republican Party come out.