Return to Transcripts main page


Can Another Shutdown Crisis Be Avoided?; Senator Ted Cruz and the Blame Game; Not So Clean Bill?

Aired October 17, 2013 - 20:00   ET



Good evening, everyone.

We are live tonight in Washington, D.C, where among some, there is a collective sigh of relief because a crisis has been averted by the exact same people who created it. And if that isn't a concept that can only exist in the beltway, I don't know what it is.

Federal employees got back to work today after the Senate and House passed a bill to reopen the government and extend the debt ceiling, a bill President Obama signed overnight. We wanted to be here again tonight to just take a breath and ask what many of you are probably wondering after this big dog and pony showdown. What in the heck just happened and what happens now. What's the cost of the 16-day shutdown that slammed right into a debt crisis like a perfect storm of political dysfunction fueled by -- well, maybe a lot of hot air.

Now cost that isn't just about the faith or lack thereof, the American people has in the people they elected to get things done. The real cost of death benefits not being paid to the families of military personnel killed in action or clinical cancer trials not going forward or national parks being closed.

The real cost that can also be measured in concrete terms in the hit to the American economy. $24 billion, according to Standard & Poor's. $24 billion in 16 days.

Today the president praised Democrats and, quote, "responsible Republicans," for getting together to get the job done, but he also called it a self-inflicted crisis with ramifications for the country economically and otherwise.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The same folks, who pushed for the shutdown and threatened default, claim their actions were needed to get America back on the right track. To make sure we're strong. But probably nothing has done more damage to America's credibility in the world, our standing with other countries than the spectacle that we've seen these past several weeks.

It's encouraged our enemies. It's emboldened our competitors. And has depressed our friends who look to us for steady leadership. (END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash has been following all the machinations of the showdown today. She spent her time trying to figure out what she's done the past 16 days of her life. And what's next here in Washington. She joins me now.



COOPER: So what does happen now? What is happening already?

BASH: Everyone is trying to pick up the pieces. You can see a lot of Republicans licking their wounds, admitting it, particularly the Republicans who didn't want to go down this path to begin with.

Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate who had to cut the last-minute deal with Democratic leader Harry Reid, said in an interview with the "Hill" newspaper today that he is not going to let this government shut down again.

COOPER: He says it will not happen again?

BASH: It will not happen again. He does have the power to prevent that. He didn't do that before. I mean it took him three and a half weeks to say OK, enough already. But he might have some problems because you have Ted Cruz. An aide to him telling me earlier tonight that he's not ruling anything out.

So you might see the same kind of fight when we get to this next deadline January 15th but a lot more resolve by Republican leaders that they are not going to let this happen again.

COOPER: But -- you know, negotiations go on from now until then but what's to say that there will be any outcome from these negotiations that haven't occurred -- you know, they haven't been able to do it in the past?

BASH: The difference is that they have this singe on them. And they know what has happened just now. I talked to several members of the House Republican caucus today who say that they firmly believe that there are enough -- even of those maybe two dozen what Gloria Borger likes to call the hell-no caucus, that get it now a little bit more than before.

Part -- there's so many dynamics that went into this, but one of them is that over 50 percent of House Republicans have only been here for two and a half years or less. So that combined with the fact that they feel that they really have a mandate or had a mandate to push their principles, made them not listen to people like John Boehner who've been here.

But now -- I would just say that now the feeling is that they will listen because many of them actually regret doing this because they know that at the end of the day it buried their lead, which is Obamacare, and it hurt their brand.

COOPER: We'll talk to a Tea Party supporter, see if he agrees with that.

Dana Bash, thanks very much.

Senior White House correspondent Brianna Keilar joins me now.

So the president making the point again today that there are no winners here but behind the scenes, does the White House feel this was a victory for them? Because a lot of folks here on Capitol Hill, Republicans, saw the president's comments as being kind of arrogant today.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes -- no, I think in terms of sort of Washington score counting, they certainly realized that this was a victory for President Obama, but about his comments not being well received by Republicans, Anderson, you know, I think the message coming from President Obama was his hardball tactics are here to stay for sure. And you have to look at it. In 2011 he tried in earnest to negotiate with House Republicans, didn't go so well for him.

This time he didn't and he faired a lot better. So I think now you have White House officials who certainly think perhaps some of these Republicans may be tempted to use the same strategy but they're really banking on the fact that some of those Republicans that you just heard Dana talk about are going, certainly, to be more concerned about the national brand of Republicans and how it's fairing with independent voters and the White House is really banking on the fact that they'll prevail. President Obama certainly is.

COOPER: It's certainly interesting, though, you have Ted Cruz, as Dana was saying -- you know, saying another shutdown is not off the table, though Mitch McConnell says it is. The White House has said they're not going to do this again. Is there really any way for the White House to stop it?

KEILAR: Well, I think they actually feel like this whole process, the president taking this position is a way that they have certainly discouraged it, and what you just heard Dana reporting, I think the White House would point to that and say that their strategy this time may have worked. What may have pushed the ball and it may mean that while certainly you have some Republicans who I think White House officials acknowledge, they may be tempted to take this strategy again because they're afraid of being primaried to the right.

And certainly I think the White House admits that maybe after the next midterm elections when Republicans start to moderate or we expect they will ahead of the presidential election, that the president may have more luck with his agenda then, but I think right now what they're kind of saying is hey, Republicans know how this all went down. The closer you get to an election, this is going to play out even more negatively for them?

COOPER: Right. KEILAR: Do they really want to repeat this?

COOPER: OK. Brianna Keilar, appreciate the reporting.

Joining me now CNN political commentator and Democratic strategist Paul Begala, chief political analyst Gloria Borger, and Matt Kibbe, president and CEO of FreedomWorks, a conservative group that urged lawmakers not to vote for a deal.

Matt, let me start with you. Is the -- I mean, Dana was saying some of the so-called hell-no caucus or House Republicans took away the lesson that OK, we're not going to do this again. Is that the message you got from this? Because my sense is there's a lot of Tea Party folks who think the problem was Republicans who didn't stand with the hell-no caucus and -- and keep a united front.

MATT KIBBE, PRESIDENT AND CEO, FREEDOMWORKS: Well, that was definitely the problem. You had Republicans shooting at each other and really helping the Democrats with their message instead of focusing on Obamacare. But that being said, the tactic doesn't work if the Republican Party is divided. I think we shift our conversation now onto the implementation of Obamacare, not just the train wreck that's the Web site, but the real numbers and the real problems that people are going to be facing between now and next year.

And focusing on those red state Democrats that are going to be feeling the heat as this thing doesn't function properly.

COOPER: And is it a mistake for Mitch McConnell to say we're not going to do a shutdown again? A shutdown is off the table?


KIBBE: Well --

COOPER: Shouldn't a shutdown be off the table?

KIBBE: It's a bad negotiating tactic to preemptively say I'm not going to negotiate because that's how we lost this one.


KIBBE: But -- but I think the question is all about health care now.

BORGER: But I think the president is going to keep dividing the Republican Party. I mean, you know --

KIBBE: He's very good at that.

BORGER: Yes. He's very good at that and the Republicans manage not only dividing themselves but they united the -- I mean, have you ever seen a unanimous vote in the House of Representatives among Democrats? No. So don't you think he'll do it on immigration reform where he can --

COOPER: You think he'll bring up immigration reform --



COOPER: Isn't that incredibly divisive for -- to do now?

BORGER: Oh, I do.

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Oh no. If you want divisive, if you really want to drive a steak to the Republicans, he'd bring back gun control, hugely popular with Americans, not at all popular with Republicans. You'd bring up minimum wage. Hugely popular in America. Terrible with Republicans. Immigration has actually got a lot of Republican support. The original sponsor of it was John McCain who ran against Barack Obama.

COOPER: So you think they might actually try to go for that?


BEGALA: They're going to bring up immigration and the farm bill. Now Republicans like farmers, they're into agriculture. They eat. Some of them -- I think Rush Limbaugh eats more than a third world country. I mean, they -- so these -- I think actually immigration and agriculture could be the confidence building measures. There are plenty of Republicans who support those two bills.

BORGER: And you know, business, which very often supports Republicans is very much in favor of immigration reform. So the president can drive a wedge right there and the business community is going to sort of have to decide who it sides with, who it supports, who it funds.

COOPER: What -- to match that, what about Obamacare? I mean, as far as the president is concerned, that is certainly off the table in any negotiations right now except for minor things here or there.

BEGALA: Right, and I think that's been resolved by this. But Matt makes a point that one of the huge cost the Republicans have paid was taking all of our cameras off of the really inexcusable mistakes in this rollout. They'll come back, though, now. And hopefully -- Secretary Sebelius says she's getting their act together. There's some problem, maybe, I think she's being called to testify at the House and I think she's resisting.


KIBBE: It's going to take a month.

BEGALA: She has to testify. She has to stand up and say here's what we did wrong, and here's how we're fixing it. I mean, that's her job.

COOPER: This administration has not been up front --


COOPER: -- about the problems with this rollout. I mean, to say the least.

KIBBE: No, not at all.

COOPER: They -- I mean, they clearly have numbers about people signing up. I mean, they're saying they're not going to release them for a month.

KIBBE: They didn't want to talk about the health care plan or the functioning of the Web site or the disparity between delaying the employer mandate but imposing the individual mandate. Check out the House vote on delaying the individual mandate. They picked up 30 plus Democrats on that.

BORGER: Right.

KIBBE: That's the dividing issue and I think you're going to see a number of Democratic senators --

BORGER: I think so.

KIBBE: -- looking for some cover on that issue.


BORGER: I think that we --

BEGALA: I think we need uniting issues. We need web issues, not wedge issues. I really do think a farm bill and an immigration bill you could actually pick up Democrats and Republicans. That's what we need.

BORGER: The numbers the White House wants to put out are the numbers -- as they would say of the millions of people who actually want health care reform and then they can say or just health care and then they can say we had so many more people looking at this than we thought and that shows you that there was a great demand for that --


COOPER: But in terms negotiations --

BORGER: -- even though so mess up.

COOPER: In terms of negotiations, I mean, why is anything going to be different in these negotiations because, I mean, to Matt's point, yesterday was all about, you know, spending, debt and deficit. These are huge issues for an awful lot of people in this country. Is there actually movement to be made. I know you think you say immigration is actually an issue.

BEGALA: It's certainly better than what we just went through, I think. I mean, you know, there is a lot of pro-business Republicans who are for it. A lot of libertarian Republicans are for immigration reform. But I -- we -- I think before you get to those horrible issues of raising taxes and cutting health care spending for seniors which is really what we're talking about when you talk about these long-term big deals, we talked last night. I hate these euphemisms. Right?

Before you get to that, which is going to be cataclysmic and divisive, I think -- I know the White House wants to find ways that they can reach out, at least to some Republicans, and they think the farm bill and the immigration bill are the way to do it.

BORGER: But Paul Ryan is one of the budget negotiators and he voted against this and maybe it's because he wants to be able to talk to Tea Party folks, but maybe it's also because he's positioning for 2016 and that could be a problem in these negotiations.

COOPER: Matt, I mean, now that it's a day past from -- as you look back on this, as you woke up today, I mean, do you still believe something was accomplished in all of this?

KIBBE: Oh, yes, I think once Obamacare becomes visceral and people see the sticker shock and people see what's going to actually happen. They're going to look back and say, the Republicans, those are the guys that tried to stop this before it happened.

I absolutely think that there is a real value in differentiating between the two parties. That's what we did. There is a price to be paid when you sort of stand in front of a train and say, we shouldn't fund something that's not working, and that's what Ted Cruz and Mike Lee paid that price, but moving forward, you're going to see a number of Democrats looking for cover on this issue and nobody can avoid it.

The price tag is going to be in front of them. One of the reasons why the Web site doesn't function is they don't want to show folks the price before they sign up and before the subsides take effect. I think this system doesn't work.

COOPER: Paul, are you more confident that when actually people see it working or start to get health insurance for their preexisting conditions, that they're actually going to support it more?

BEGALA: Yes. There is research on this. Stan Greenburg who used to poll for President Clinton did a poll for those group of women's voices, women's votes, and they found that as people experience a system -- it's the exact opposite of what Matt is saying.

The glitches are horrible, I don't excuse them and I don't think they should try to spin their out of them. But when begin to participate, when they get -- their mom gets a free mammogram under Medicare or their dad gets a wellness checkup, where the donut hole shrinks where they -- carry their college-aged kid. Preexisting condition rule is gone.

I mean, they really like it. This is one of the reasons support went up during the shutdown even though the rollout was bad because when people learned specifics, they say hey, that's good for me. BORGER: Well, and that's the most interesting thing. The glitches are not to be excused, but what I hear over and over again from people who've gone on the Web site is that the one question they are not asked is, do you have a preexisting condition, and that's kind of liberating for people when you talk about health insurance and the White House thinks that's going to save the day.

COOPER: Two different views on what's going to happen when people start to see this and we'll see what happens then.

Matt, appreciate it. Gloria, Paul, as well.

Let us know what you think. Follow me on Twitter @Andersoncooper, #ac360.

Coming up, as we mentioned, a lot of people put the blame for the entire shutdown squarely on the shoulders of one man, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas. Is he on a misguided mission that damaged the Republican Party as some believe in the country? Or will he emerge even stronger as a major leader of the Republican Party?

Also tonight, the bill wasn't just a deal on the shutdown and the debt ceiling. There were some other stuff in there as well. More than $2 billion for a river dam construction project, for instance. We'll take a look at the fine print when we continue.


COOPER: Well, the ink is barely dry on the bill that reopened the government and already tonight as we reported an aide to Senator Ted Cruz said he is not ruling out another shutdown. The Texas Republican is taking a big share of the blame or the credit, depending on how you see it, for what has been happening in Washington for the past several weeks. He led the Republican effort to inject the defunding of Obamacare into the budget debate.

But what's been one of the more interesting things to watch over these past two plus weeks is how Senator Cruz has talked about the shutdown, kind of as if he had nothing to do with it. Listen.