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House Votes to Keep Government Running, Defund Obamacare

Aired September 20, 2013 - 18:28   ET


STEPHANIE CUTTER, POLITICAL CONSULTANT AND CO-HOST OF CNN'S CROSSFIRE: Welcome to Crossfire, I'm Stephanie Cutter on the left.

NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER AND CO-HOST OF CNN'S CROSSFIRE: I'm Newt Gingrich on the right. Today the House of Representatives voted to keep the government running and to defund Obamacare. Good for them. Also today, the president's signal that deep down he realizes he needs to compromise.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES FROM VIDEO CLIP: Nobody gets 100 percent of what you want. You guys know that in your own lives, in your own families. I don't know how many people are married here, but you know you better learn not to expect getting 100 percent of what you want.


GINGRICH: You know, he was addressing that to the Congress. But I wonder if he's also signaling that he knows over the next couple of weeks he's not going to get 100 percent of what he wants either.

CUTTER: Well, Newt, the president has always said if somebody has a good idea to improve on Obamacare, he is open to it. But I have a question for you. If doing the exact same thing twice is the definition of insanity, then what is the definition of doing something more than 40 times and expecting a different result? This is insanity -

GINGRICH: It's courageous for (inaudible) -

CUTTER: -- the Supreme Court ruled against them, a national election was held on this, they've lost the vote every single time on repealing Obamacare. So what is the ending here?

GINGRICH: The ending here is to consistently watch as there's more and more negative news, more and more problems. Forty-one out of 82 deadlines have been missed. The system's not ready. It's fully not ready for prime time. Even here two nights ago Governor O'Malley, a strong supporter of the president said, 'you know, there are things we need to fix in Obamacare.'

CUTTER: Absolutely. But that's not what they're attempting to do. They're attempting to throw it out. To repeal it, to get rid of it. Nothing short of that is going to work in their eyes -

GINGRICH: So the question is -

CUTTER: -- and that's what the debate is about.

GINGRICH: The question is today in Missouri, that the president, when he said nobody gets 100 percent signal, that maybe he'll bend some on Obamacare.

CUTTER: Well, I think that -- the area that needs to bend is that 45 House Republicans that's holding everything hostage. But, in the Crossfire today. Neera Tanden who is one of the architects of Obamacare and one of the law's main opponents Matt Kibbe. Matt, this question goes to you. Isn't this insane? Don't we know how this is going to end?

MATT KIBBE, PRESIDENT AND CEO OF FREEDOMWORKS AND OBAMACARE OPPONENT: Why, I think the budgeting process is insane. I think the fact that everybody in this town agrees that this law is not ready for prime time, and yet they're going ahead. Suggesting to fund something that nobody thinks works. That's insane. I think the American people had a great victory today and I think we got to keep pushing because there are some Republicans and there are plenty of Democrats that don't want to acknowledge that they made a mistake. The sane thing to do --

CUTTER: Well, that's not how it played out in the vote today.

KIBBE: -- the sane thing to do would be to say 'you know what, we screwed this up. It doesn't work, people are dumping their employees.'

CUTTER: The American people haven't said that. They didn't say that in the national election. They didn't say that when the law was passed. The Supreme Court didn't say that. And nothing has changed. And every -- 42 times now -- that the House has tried to do this. So I'm not sure what you expect to change.

KIBBE: Well you're not reading the polls I'm reading because this thing is more and more unpopular every day.

CUTTER: But people don't want to repeal it. The law has been split along party lines since the law was passed, but people don't want to repeal it, because people are already benefiting from it and we're two weeks from this thing being implemented.

KIBBE: No, they're running from it. They're afraid that they're going to lose what they had and that's the promise he's --

NEERA TANDEN, PRESIDENT OF CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS, AND OBAMACARE SUPPORTER: That's not why -- that's not what senators are saying today. They're definitely not running from the law.

GINGRICH: But let me -- let me pick up just for a second because --

TANDEN: Uh hm.

GINGRICH: -- the president talked today about constitutional obligations. The House in fact did pass keeping the government open except for the ones that are fighting them. So in terms of meeting a budgetary obligation, you may not like it as a design, but they met their Constitutional duty to express where they stood and to pass what could become a real law.

TANDEN: Look, you know, I think it's fine for a Republicans to continue their sort of realistic effort to vote against this law time and time again, what the American people are objecting to is holding the government hostage and holding this economy hostage to the whims of the party base -- the extreme right wing who has a hostility towards this law. The vast majority of Americans oppose shutting the government down over Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act. These are separate issues in their mind. In in fact I think they would like to return to a debate on jobs and the economy, not you know, conservative attempt to undo a law that was passed four years ago.

GINGRICH: Right, but -

TANDEN: Move on. That's what the American people are saying. Move on.

GINGRICH: -- but just let me give you an example of how utterly incompetent the current system is. We're -- the administration's proposing that we have an individual mandate on which we're going to rely on the honor system to check on giving people cash. Now, an earned income tax benefit which the IRS does such a bad job, that between 21 and 21 percent of its payments are wrong, about $11 to $13 billion a year funding to people who don't deserve it. And hat's with checks and balances. Why would you want to move forward and implement on October 1st a system that has no provision for verifying the people ought to get the money?

TANDEN: Then, you have long supported the individual mandate. I remember in 2005 when you talked about the individual mandates -- I know that you have a lot of expertise on this issue, but the administration has not said that it's not going to -- it's not going to actually check the law. It's just saying we're going to implement it and we're going to take time to properly ensure it's working -

GINGRICH: It's going to (inaudible) in between.

TANDEN: They're not saying -- but of course you have to ensure that people have the support to actually get health insurance -

GINGRICH: But listen -

TANDEN: -- there's a tax credit -- health care tax credits. Things that Republicans have supported for years and now when --

CUTTER: I have a question about incompetence.

GINGRICH: I want to understand this. In effect your administration is holding up a sign that says 'Would You Like Some Money?'.

TANDEN: No, it's not -- it's absolutely not. People are going to verify people when they go on the exchange ---

GINGRICH: There's still a verification?

TANDEN: Yes, sir, -- (inaudible).


TANDEN: There is an -- when they go online there's income verification as well. So, I mean I appreciate. My only view of this is you're right. There are people are going to sign up in two weeks. Why don't Republicans put aside the partisan politics that we've been engaged in year in and year out, make sure -- like actually see how this law works over the next six months, eight months. Come back in a year. But -- no -- this is isn't -

KIBBE: So we should implement it to see what's in it?

TANDEN: No, we should implement it to allow --


KIBBE: The president himself has delayed at least 20 provisions. There are been at least five that have been defunded and this arbitrary picking winners and losers and having some gray-suited bureaucrat decide for you how you're health care is going to be provided.

TANDEN: What are you talking about? That is not within the -- you know what's ironic about this -- I find so ironic about this? This law is basically creating a health care marketplace where there's private insurance that people can choose from. An idea that came from conservatives, the Heritage Foundation, etc. and implemented by a Republican governor in Massachusetts and progressives and Democrats and the American people are saying 'let's see how it works.' It's going to go up in two weeks, it's going to have a six-month period, let's over this next year judge how it's working and put aside the partisan politics and, I'm sorry, get back to the budget. We're talking about the budget. And not just you know -

CUTTER: You know who agrees with you? The Wall Street Journal editorial page who called this mission of House Republicans a kamikaze mission. And usually the pilot loses out in a kamikaze mission. So if The Wall Street Journal is saying that and some key conservatives -- Senator McCain called this irrational, Senator Corker called it silly.


CUTTER: Bill O'Reilly.

KIBBE: Just to be clear, you guys are standing with the Heritage Foundation and The Wall Street Journal editorial page?

CUTTER: Who are you standing with?

KIBBE: I'm standing -- I'm standing with the American people.

TANDEN: (Inaudible).

CUTTER: I don't think the American people are saying that they want this.

KIBBE: Oh, there's only one reason the House did this.

CUTTER: The American people want Washington to work.

KIBBE: There's only one reason the House did this -

CUTTER: They want Washington to work. They don't want government to shut down.

KIBBE -- is that so many people are so frustrated that we're moving ahead with this crazy law that nobody knows how it works yet.

TANDEN: That's not why they're -

CUTTER: The reason why there's going to be implemented in weeks.

KIBBE: Right.

CUTTER: That's an open season just like we all get our insurance -- there's an open season just to (inaudible).

KIBBE: I'm not the one that called it train wreck. That was the architect who called it a train wreck. I'm not the one that (inaudible).

CUTTER: The American people are actually experiencing the law. Adult children on their parents' plan-

KIBBE: I know they're experiencing it.

CUTTER: -- children who now have protections from being discriminated for preexisting condition. $8.5 million people have gotten a rebate on their insurance.

GINGRICH: Let me explain to you that, one, the American people are also watching the rising costs of the law. As cost projections go up, not down. But, second, don't you all find it -- well, but don't you two find it a little bit odd that the institution of our system, which is up for reelection next -- the U.S. House -- I mean in theory.

TANDEN: (Inaudible) the U.S. Senate. They are U.S. senators up next too?

GINGRICH: Well, just take a look. The entire U.S. House, all 435, have to go and run again.

TANDEN: Uh hm. GINGRICH: And in that setting, the Republicans have overwhelmingly said they believe it is essential to represent their constituents by trying to stop this law before it gives away billions and billions of dollars in systems that don't exist yet.

TANDEN: First of all we've had elected -- we've had an election of the entire House of Representatives -


TANDEN: -- since this bill passed. But we've also had an election for the president and the senate. And the president had an opponent that said he wanted to defund Obamacare, get rid of it, and he lost.

GINGRICH: So it's a split decision.

TANDEN: (Inaudible) and senators scheme, so actually two of the three branches here that actually campaigned, Democrats gained seats. So, I don't think the issue here is -- I think that the American people actually feel like this issue has been litigated. And on the important issue of health care costs, Newt, I think what's been vitally important about this law is that we have had a historic reduction in health care costs. Even CMS that came out this week acknowledged that these costs that we have in the health care system -- health care inflation which -- you know -- people see in their premiums, those are going down. Projections of these costs were supposed to be double, triple what they are, and we're seeing lower health care costs for everybody.

GINGRICH: Wait a second. First of all, the costs went down because we went into a deep recession.

TANDEN: That's not -- no, that is not the -

GINGRICH: They have continued to rise faster than the rate of inflation.

TANDEN: No. They have risen faster than the rate of inflation (inaudible) years but they're slowing.

GINGRICH: And the projections are next year they'll go up even faster.

TANDEN: Not accurate.

GINGRICH: But let me carry you back -- you described a split decision. The American people elected a Republican House that deeply believes this should be changed -

TANDEN You were House (inaudible) one at least (inaudible) and it's majority (inaudible).

GINGRICH: And so, doesn't that suggest that the will of the nation is to find a compromise? TANDEN: You know, we have a way to decide this right now. Which is, you can ask people -- people have been asked. "Do you think we should defund the government -- I mean we should defund Obamacare as a strategy on the budget?" And their response -- two-thirds of Americans are saying no to the strategy. So we have a way to ask that question right now. And the vast majority of Americans think it's the wrong strategy. So what I say is, you know, I think people can recognize there is a budget to date. There's a question on the debt limit. Let's have a debate about those issues, and put Obamacare, (inaudible) care -- let's put that to the side.

GINGRICH: Which means in effect never touch -- you know the president has volunteered to debate -- is intended

TANDEN: If your view is right, then the Senate will pass it.

GINGRICH: Does the president want to do it in retirement. When does the president want to debate Obamacare? In retirement?

TANDEN: I think the time he did. In 2012. When he debated Mitt Romney. Three times in a debate. Or (inaudible) on it.

CUTTER: A lot of people out there are pretending that a shutdown -- a government shutdown is no big deal. Well, they're wrong. We've seen shutdowns before and people could get hurt. That's next.


CUTTER: Welcome back. Thanks to House Republicans, we're ten days from a possible government shutdown. We've seen their PR games on television all day, we've all watched it. But this is not just a political ploy. There are consequences to shutting down the government. The last time this happened 800,000 federal employees didn't get paychecks. Military veterans lost services. It cost taxpayers $2 billion. That's where we were heading again. Listen to what Nancy Pelosi just told CNN's Candy Crowley.


NANCY PELOSI, MINORITY LEADER OF THE UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES ON VIDEO CLIP: Republicans put legislation on the floor that was intended to shut down government. For them, that's a victory because they're anti-government ideologues who dominate the Republican party.


PELOSI: No. They want to shut down government. The effect of putting the Obama -- Affordable Care Act on the bill is to shut down government. They know that. They know that has no prospect of prevailing.


CUTTER: So, Matt, I have a question for you, and I want to have an honest discussion about this. So, we both know that Obamacare is not going to be defunded. And what's going to happen is this bill's going to go over to the Senate. Harry Reid is going to strip the Obamacare provision out of the CR and they're going to send this -- a -- bill back to the House. And even your poster child, Senator Cruz, admitted that there's nothing he can do about it. That it's up to the House. There's nothing the Senate can do to impact this debate. So where -- again -- where does this end? If this ends in a government shutdown, why in the world would you want to do that?

KIBBE: Well I don't think it does end in a government shutdown. But let's talk about insanity. Seventeen trillion dollars in debt. One hundred trillion in unfunded liabilities. Why would you add another entitlement program? We all know how they grow. There's history here. But here's the point. If the Republicans don't stand for what they ran on. If they don't do what the American people are looking for, they're really not in a negotiation at all. The whole budget process is crazy. The fact that we're going to do a three-month CR?

CUTTER: Right.

KIBBE: That's insane. But it would be more insane to expand entitlements that we know we can't afford.

CUTTER: So even Republicans who are telling you that this is silly? Republican leaders who are telling you that -

KIBBE: No, it's not silly at all.

CUTTER: Even John Boehner just a few months ago said this was the law of the land. He's indicated that he didn't want to do this.

KIBBE: This is America forcing Washington to do the right thing.

CUTTER: I don't think so. I think it's 45 (inaudible).

KIBBE: They don't want to do this. Let's talk about examples where we all said it was impossible. Do you remember when Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid and Barack Obama extended the Bush tax rates? Everybody was saying it's crazy. And yet that happened in 2010 after the election.

CUTTER: Uh huh.

KIBBE: You remember both Republicans and Democrats saying 'Oh, we can't do the sequester, it's too draconian'. It's a small haircut on a huge deficit.

CUTTER: So you think that this is -- this is the magic formula? The 43rd time - KIBBE: The magic formula is if you don't --

CUTTER: -- of defunding is actually going to get somewhere?

KIBBE: The magic formula is if you don't show up to fight, you never win. CUTTER: Right. Even though half of your party doesn't want to fight. And like Ted Cruz that basically said that you can't win this fight.

KIBBE: There's a lot of insiders in Washington -

CUTTER: He's going into the Alamo and already conceding that (inaudible).

KIBBE: There's a lot of lobbyists, there's a lot of insurance interests that would love to see this. There's companies I think that -

CUTTER: They actually want to see the law implemented.

KIBBE: -- right. They would love to see that and now you're standing with The Wall Street Journal editorial page and big insurance. I think the American people would love to see -

CUTTER: I'm actually standing with the millions of Americans who have not been able to afford insurance for decades. And now they're on the brink of being able to afford it. Because they're going to be able to find private insurance in a private insurance exchange and be able to get the care that they need. For the first time ever. That's who I'm standing with. And that's where the American people understand this is going.

KIBBE: Just won't do it.

GINGRICH: First of all -

TANDEN: They did do it in Massachusetts. You know, but -

GINGRICH -- the national (inaudible) -


KIBBE: And he was Mitt Romney, I love that.

GINGRICH: But the national -

CUTTER: (Inaudible)

TANDEN: People are right occasionally.

GINGRICH: But nationally I think even if this is fully implemented, there's still millions of people who won't be covered. I think the studies indicate that it will be in the millions.

TANDEN: There are -- that is true -- there are some people who won't be covered.

GINGRICH: OK, second --

TANDEN: But there's tens of million who will be covered as long as we actually move forward. GINGRICH: I think part of the point Matt's making is this is not free money. I mean, this is a country whose projections now show that our debt is going to be up to a hundred percent of our entire economy -

TANDEN: They were -- it was that 238 percent. Those numbers are actually coming down -- coming down dramatically. But I appreciate that we have these arguments. These arguments sound very familiar because we had them when the law passed. And unfortunately it did pass in your view -- unfortunately at that -- but we have then had an election after it passed -- after it passed in 2012. And so I think the issue here is, again, I think there are people -- there is the base of the Republican party who is angry and obviously calling the shots in the House Republican pocket. But the truth is the vast majority of Americans don't want to defund this law and they'd like to talk about it. They don't want to shut down that will actually have consequences for real people. The exposure for Americans -

GINGRICH: First of all, you all are either going to talk about the government shutdown even though they just passed a bill to keep the government open. But, second, this is the beginning of the negotiation. I mean, essentially the battle cry in the Washington establishment is, if only House Republicans would surrender before negotiating, then we could accept their surrender and then we wouldn't have to go through any process of negotiating. But let me ask you about two things in this bill. The first is -

TANDEN: In the (inaudible) or the health care bill?

GINGRICH: In the health care bill. You've seen -- Home Depot I think today announced that 20,000 part-time employees are now going to be put into the government system. You've had Walgreen decide that they're going to go into a private system, but they're no longer going to offer group insurance. UPS has said their part-time people are going to go in the system. I mean, aren't you seeing a lot more -- and there's several (courts) today from former administration officials saying we're seeing a lot more big companies begin to put people into the system that we really thought would continue to insure, and that's going to have a big financial cost to the -

TANDEN: So there -- these are really a few separate issues. First of all, Walgreen's is just creating another form of private insurance so that really has nothing to do with the Affordable Care Act. But there are -- there are companies like Trader Joe's and others that are seeing that the Affordable Care Act actually offers benefits to their low-income workers and they are saying let's have those income workers take advantage of this law and Trader Joe's is still going to provide subsidies to those workers. So I actually just think this is another form of people getting, again, private insurance --

GINGRICH: But this is going to dramatically --

TANDEN: It's not like dumping into anything or anything else -- these are people who are getting private insurance and you know this is a good thing. CUTTER: I think it's a piece of a very broken health care system. This is a big part of the healthcare problem -0-

GINGRICH: But it also means if the bigger companies are doing this, it means substantially higher costs to the taxpayer and costs to the federal government.

TANDEN: If you are looking at this -- Trader Joe's is looking at a very small percentage, Home Depot -- they're talking about a small part, a small percentage of their workers are not doing it for their full-time employees where their part-time (inaudible) do it a long time. I mean, look, the truth inaudible) about this law is that's it's not actually -- these are marginal costs. I think what happens --

CUTTER: How much does the government save because we're not paying for uncompensated care? Obviously that's a lot.

TANDEN: That's a huge savings (inaudible).

GINGRICH: OK, so over on this end you have this huge savings, over here you don't want to admit that you have this potentially big and growing cost.

TANDEN: Wait, wait, you described it. Potentially big costs. We don't have those costs right now. I think conservatives are looking at each and every example, but -

GINGRICH: Come on now, you don't have the savings either.


GINGRICH: You have a projected saving theoretically and now we have projected costs. Let me ask you.

TANDEN: No, no, no, I think we should talk about savings. You know if you look at health care costs over the last several years, something that everyone was really concerned about -- health care, inflation, so premium costs, rising premium costs because that's a cost for every American. Those costs are at decades-long lows, and I think the Affordable Care Act as well as the broader economy are having an impact on that -

GINGRICH: As well as the broader economy.

TANDEN: -- and that -- no but -- all experts agree that it's the Affordable Care Act as well. And I think that's an area where we're seeing dramatic savings for every American. Not just people who are (inaudible).

GINGRICH: So let me ask of one other unintended consequence.

TANDEN: Uh hm.

GINGRICH: Did you all when you designed the bill really intend to begin to create a model by which small companies could give their employees a chance to go the exchange and leave the union multi- employer insurance? Was that the design or is that an accidental side effect of the bill?

TANDEN: You know, I think it's fascinating because now we have Newt Gingrich, champion of the union. So that's -- (inaudible) that's the (inaudible).

GINGRICH: (Inaudible).

TANDEN: You know, we actually thought through that it was important -

CUTTER: Maybe we should change that. Do you want us to change that?

GINGRICH: I just think -- I just wanted to know as part of the generally not-thought-through bill, did you think through undermining your union allies? Or was it an accident?

TANDEN: It's not -- you know the most important aspect of this is that everyone will have coverage. Those folks in unions will have coverage. Their coverage is not interrupted at all.

KIBBE: What happened to the promise that everybody got to keep the insurance they had?

TANDEN: That's a critical -- yes, that's a critical promise --

KIBBE: We haven't talked about that. And yet they're all being dumped into a system that they didn't want to go into.

TANDEN: No, they're not dumped. They're getting --

KIBBE: They didn't choose. They're being dumped by their employers to save money.

TANDEN: That's an excellent point actually because what's happening, in Trader Joe's and these others is that the employees are getting a better deal. They're saving money. That's the bottom line and it's important. It's an important option for them.

KIBBE: Can they switch? Do they get that choice?

TANDEN: I think they're choosing the (inaudible) -- no. I wouldn't think of it as dumped if I was saving money and had more choices.

KIBBE: Well here's the point, so there's always somebody else -- some gray-suited bureaucrat -- maybe they're at the IRS, maybe they're in the insurance department at Home Depot deciding for you, that's not what we want. We actually want patients and doctors to decide -

TANDEN: That's the beauty of this system -- you get to choose health care for you.

GINGRICH: This is clearly going to go on. I want to thank Neera Tanden and Matt Kibbe. We're both grateful that you two would come and join us today. Next, we cease fire. We actually do agree on one thing.


GINGRICH: Tonight on Crossfire, we've been debating Obamacare and how to prevent a government shutdown. Now, let's call a ceasefire. You know, I think what we hopefully can agree on -- this is a very difficult, contentious (inaudible). I think this is going to be a very difficult two or three weeks, maybe even four or five weeks, but I think at the end of it, we're likely to get an agreement negotiated that not anyone is totally happy with, and the president's comment today, no one will get 100 percent I think will turn out to be very prescient.

CUTTER: I agree with that but I also think that the big variables are what's the consequence to the American people, as Washington is debating over a political ploy by the Republican party what's the consequence to the American people, and number two -

GINGRICH: And refusal to negotiate by the president.

CUTTER: -- who pays the political price? Because right now the American people are pointing to Republicans, so, again, I do think this is insanity.

GINGRICH: I'm not worried about politics I just think the president can't make three partisan speeches in on week and then explain that he really sincerely wants to negotiate. While the --

CUTTER: He's been open to the negotiations on good ideas to improve this bill since the moment it passed and unfortunately none of those ideas have (inaudible).

GINGRICH: I think (RC's fare) is about as shaky as the Congress and the president's relationship.

CUTTER: You can weigh in on our Fireback question via Facebook or Twitter. If the government shuts down, which party deserves the blame? Right now only 17 percent of you would blame the Democrats -- I'm making my case -- and 83 percent would blame Republicans. Also, we noticed that the responses flitted in on Twitter, many of you wished that both was an option. The debate continues online at as well as Facebook and Twitter. From the left, I'm Stephanie Cutter.

GINGRICH: From the right, I'm Newt Gingrich. Join us Monday for another edition of Crossfire. Erin Burnett OutFront starts right now.