Return to Transcripts main page


Who's To Blame for Shutdown?

Aired October 1, 2013 - 18:28   ET



ANNOUNCER: Tonight on CROSSFIRE, Obamacare goes online as the federal government shuts down and simple bipartisanship on life support. Who gets the most blame?

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This Republican shut down did not have to happen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need the Senate Democrats to come join us.

ANNOUNCER: On the left, Van Jones. On the right, S.E. Cupp. In the CROSSFIRE, Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow, an Obamacare supporter, and Republican Senator Tom Coburn, who opposes it.

Obamacare and the shutdown blame game, tonight on CROSSFIRE.


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

S.E. CUPP, CO-HOST: I'm S.E. Cupp on the right.

It's day one of the government shutdown, and the world has not ended. Tonight, House Republicans are offering a handful of bills aimed at funding portions of the government, including military veterans, and once again President Obama and congressional Democrats are refusing to deal.

Only time will tell who will suffer adverse political consequences here. But Republicans who vowed to do everything they could to stop or slow Obamacare have been true to their word. And since when is keeping a promise grandstanding? As Speaker John Boehner says, it's just an issue of fairness.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The bill we passed in the House last night would have funded the government through December the 15th and provide fairness to the American people under Obamacare. No exemptions, no exceptions. Let's treat everyone the same.


CUPP: No good? JONES: Well, funny he should mention the word "fairness." You know what's fair? Fair would be letting everybody in Congress vote -- in the House of Representatives vote their conscience on this bill. Something called majority rules. That would be fair. Unfortunately, we've not had that, and that's why we have a shutdown.

But in the CROSSFIRE tonight, we've got some people to help us think this through. Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan. She's here. She supports Obamacare. We also have Republican Senator Tom Coburn from Oklahoma. He's a doctor in real life; he's against Obamacare.

Welcome to both of you.

We're going to start with you. Now you have been one of the voices of sanity. And from my point of view in this whole process saying we should not shut down the government. There's smarter, better ways to deal with Obamacare. We are now in this ditch. The car is upside down. The wheels are spinning. How are we going to get out of this now from your point of view?

SEN. TOM COBURN (R), OKLAHOMA: I think anytime you have a conflict like this, what you have to have is the first thing is communication. You have to have the vision on how you get there. You have to create a way for everybody to save face, so they can walk away partly injured but still walk away. And you have to have some common sense.

We have -- You know, this will play out. I was here in '95 and '96. You know, I had a four-year hiatus where I went back to my practice, but it's the same type of thing. It is. Leadership, Van, leadership doesn't allow this to happen, whether it's Republican leadership, presidential leadership or the Democratic Senate leadership. We have allowed this to happen through failed leadership, not recognizing, not seeing the signs of polarization and trying to interrupt them. And we haven't seen that.

And Republicans are as guilty as Democrats, and, you know, I'll put a little bit on the president. He knew this was coming. Is it advantageous politically? Maybe. But the thing would be, I would think, is if you see this coming, try to stop it. Go and have the talks. And none of those talks have happened yet. They haven't happened between John Boehner and Harry Reid. They haven't happened between the president and John Boehner and Harry Reid.

JONES: Well, as we go forward, I would love to get some of your wisdom, and you were here before. It seems like you were wise enough coming out of the last situation to know to try to avoid this. I'll let S.E....

CUPP: Senator Stabenow, same question: What is your plan for the road forward? We can't live in this ditch for the rest of the year, the rest of our lives.

SEN. DEBBIE STABENOW (D), MICHIGAN: No question. And first, let's say what we're really talking about. We're talking about whether or not we will agree on funding the government for six weeks. Government services from food safety to helping veterans to the CIA, FBI.

What is on the floor right now is whether or not to continue funding for six weeks while we do what Tom's talking about, which is a larger effort to sit down. I agree that we need common sense.

What we have right now is a situation, though, where we came together and said, "You know, it's only six weeks of funding. So we're going to compromise and agree with the funding level that the Republicans want. Not a dollar more than what they're asking for, for six weeks so we can get to the bigger question of the budget, the deficit and so on." But that unfortunately wasn't good enough.

Instead, what we have are a minority of a minority of the minority in the House which has said, "No, we want to add to that the repeal of the affordable health insurance for up to 30 million people."

Now, it's interesting: Last fall people voted at the ballot box that they wanted a president that would give them more affordable health insurance; more Democrats in the Senate. Today -- today they voted in front of their computer with their mouse by having five times more people go to to try to get affordable insurance than any day of So plenty of folks are saying, "We want health care."

CUPP: They also vote for a Republican House, let me remind you.

But Senator Coburn, I want to press you on what you've described as kind of a political risk in shutting down the government. I'm not really sure why the shutdown is such a gamble for Republicans.

Are you really convinced that in November of 2014, voters are going to remember that one time they weren't allowed to visit the national park? Or are they going to be thinking about and reeling from the effects of Obamacare that's been implemented for a year now? And is that going to be the thing that drives them to the polls, like it did in 2010, to vote for Republicans who oppose Obamacare?

COBURN: Maybe. But the thing is, is you have the microphone of the president that is hundreds of thousands of times more powerful than all the Republicans, if they were speaking in unity.

CUPP: But do you really think that Obama in November of 2014 is going to be saying, "Vote for Democrats because the Republicans shut down the government a year ago"?

COBURN: No. No, I don't. But I think at the same time is we're all here to govern and to make the best decisions, not for the short-term political career, but for the long term of the country. And that's why I'm critical of my side and the other side and the president.

Look, why would this degenerate to this level? And the only reason it has is because people have not displayed the leadership characteristics of a free country.

STABENOW: I would also have to say, Tom, that it's gotten to this point because, unfortunately -- and I appreciate the position you have taken on this, and frankly, the majority of Republicans in the Senate -- but we do have a group of folks in the House that ran in 2010 saying, "Elect me. I'll shut the government down, yay, yay, yay," from the Tea Party. And in fact, they are happy today, because they finally did it.

CUPP: Senator, they were elected to oppose Obamacare.

STABENOW: Right. The minority of the minority of...

CUPP: That's what they're doing.

COBURN: Actually, Debbie, that's not right. It's not the minority of the minority.

STABENOW: Let me just say, though, what people are going to talk about in 2014. I'll tell you what they're going to talk about in Michigan. And that is a family of four in $50,000 a year in Michigan is going to be able to get a basic comprehensive health-care insurance plan for $80 a month, including maternity care, including emergency care, including lower prescription drug costs, including mental health care. So...

COBURN: And what's the deductible on that, Debbie?

STABENOW: Well, we're looking at...

COBURN: Going to be about 4,500 bucks.


COBURN: So if they ever get sick, what they're going to have is a promise of insurance, but not real insurance. Let me make a point about what...


STABENOW: Let me just say one thing, and that is right now they have nothing.

COBURN: You said a minority of a minority. Last night, every one of the votes was over 218 votes. That's not a minority. You take a position with your vote. So your claim that this is a minority. The fact is, the vast majority of Americans think this is a pretty risky experiment, what's called the Affordable Care Act.

And I call it the Affordable Care Act to emphasize that it's not going to be affordable. It's actually going to cost you, if you look at it -- all the comparisons made in the press so far are the price of the policy versus what they thought it was going to be, not what you could have gotten before Obamacare.

STABENOW: Well, but...

COBURN: So the real out-of-picket [SIC] -- out-of-pocket costs are going to be far greater for the average American under the Affordable Care Act if you don't count subsidy and if you count subsidy. JONES: What do you say to that?

STABENOW: First of all, let's look at the fact that Oklahoma, which is one of the lowest low-cost policies opening up today, that family of four at $50,000. Sixty-three dollars a month, they're going to be able to get basic care as opposed to what they would get without this new reform of about $630 a month. And what we have to look at...

COBURN: But there's no difference on when you...

STABENOW: Let's look at what was happening before. Let's look. A lot of folks were getting something several hundred dollars a month that basically left them in a situation where, if they got sick, the insurance company could kick them off their insurance and did.

Or maybe they have a $5,000 cap so if they really get sick they still go bankrupt, they still lose the house, because there's no coverage. The different now is we're talking about comprehensive basic coverage. Eight million women starting in January will have the chance for the first time to buy basic maternity care. Healthy babies, healthy moms. This is a good thing.

JONES: Look, we're talking about the policy and the substance. We're going to continue to do that. But I do want to just take one step back to the politics of this.

You said something just a moment ago that was kind of shocking to me. You pointed out that, before you had maybe passed budget with a bunch of good stuff in it, and then this continuing resolution comes across your desk that is lower than that.


JONES: And you surrendered without a fight to go with the Republican continuing resolution.


JONES: That devastates all these programs that you love. Ted Cruz is fighting for what he believes in, and I think he's actually making headway. Why are Democrats willing to -- Isn't it bad politics for you to give away programs that you care about and get no concessions from Republicans on it, and now be stuck with both supporting a bad budget and having the (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

STABENOW: First of all, let me say that we originally were talking about a six-week continuing resolution while we worked out the larger effort to eliminate the sequester, which is costing about 750,000 middle-class jobs this year so that we could restore cancer research.

JONES: I like that. You were fighting for that.

STABENOW: And so on. But we were willing...


STABENOW: ... in the effort of compromise, because we didn't want to see the government shut down. Do you realize that as of today...

JONES: But now we're shut down and you gave up your principles.

STABENOW: Wait, wait, wait. Well, we didn't give up our principles. This is called governing in the United States of America, where believe it or not, you don't always get everything that you want at the moment that you want it.

So we were willing to say, "We will give you six weeks of continued funding at a level that we believe does not support education, innovation, growth and the economy in order to get a broader agreement that will move us forward."

And instead, what we're hearing is that's not enough unless you potentially eliminate health care for 30 million people.

JONES: I feel like we compromise...

CUPP: Van wants a Democratic Ted Cruz.

JONES: I thought -- I thought we get -- you're telling us now that we didn't compromise. We compromised and got no credit. She compromised and got no credit.

STABENOW: I know. I know. That happens all the time. We're the ones trying to govern. But you know what? It's because we actually really do care in the democracy of the United States of America about governing.

COBURN: So -- so her statement would say we don't care. That isn't true. The fact is, is the sequester's never going to go away. What it's going to do is slowly increase the discretionary spending.

You know, if you actually study all these things, which I have for nine years, what you know is, in our discretionary budget today, a quarter of a billion dollars of it is duplication, waste or fraud. OK. That's not my numbers; that's the GAO.

JONES: Well, look, we're going to come back and talk about those numbers and more. But when we get back, Republicans have been pretty giddy today about the fact that there have been some glitches on the Web site. You know, you have a start-up, and the Web site's all glitchy. Everybody's excited -- excited. "Oh, look, that's bad."

I think it makes my point. I'm going to ask you, Senator Coburn, when we get back to explain to me, if Obamacare is so terrible and unpopular, why are so many people trying to sign up that they're crashing the system?


JONES: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. Today is the first day you can go online and sign up for health care through the Obamacare exchanges. Now many people tried. So many people tried, they crashed the system.

Now we're here with Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow and Republican Senator Tom Coburn.

Now I want to go to you, as we were going to talk about at the break. Why is it the case, if this is such a terrible program, that so many people are signing up for it, are interested in it, that they're actually crashing the system?

COBURN: Well, it may not be the number. It may be the system. The system may suck.

There are a couple points I'd make. No. 1 is health care is a problem in our country. You know, the difference is, is we had no Republican agree that this was the best way to fix it. As a matter of fact it didn't get one Republican vote in the House or the Senate. So there was a way to do this where you didn't have this polarization in our country on health care.

I would posit to you that the two things that are out of control in our country that we're not doing well on are health care and education.

JONES: Sure.

COBURN: Both of those are majority controlled by the federal government. There's not anything the federal government does that doesn't cause things to cost more. You just name one that doesn't cost (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

So why would we go in a direction that exacerbates the problems of the system that we have now? There's some good things in the Affordable Care Act. I won't deny that. As a doctor, there's some things. I fought insurance companies my whole life. So there are some great things in it that I'm glad are there. But the over long-term system is going to cost us -- it's going to cost us trillions of dollars.

JONES: Let me jump in for a second.

COBURN: With decreased actual availability.

JONES: I want to talk with you about the thing that you liked, but first let's hear from...

STABENOW: Yes, let me just jump in there and say when we talk about Republican support, remember that this was based on Massachusetts and what has been called Romney care, which in fact everybody now loves. Rates have gone down. More employers are now covering people than before.

And so what we're looking at is something that's actually based on...

JONES: Republican...

STABENOW: ... private sector competition. And it's also saying, you know what? If you have insurance, you ought to get what you're paying for. You can't get dropped. There's no preexisting conditions.

CUPP: But Senator -- Senator Stabenow, let me -- let me ask you about the mechanics of this. Because the whole thing to me seems to hinge on the idea that you will coerce millions of young people, young healthy people who really didn't want to buy health insurance before Obamacare to suddenly buy it and in some cases buy it at a more expensive cost than before Obamacare.

I'll just talk to you about Detroit, Michigan. Twenty-seven-year-old single person will see a 150 percent increase in premiums, thanks to Obamacare. If you build it and no one comes, doesn't this whole thing collapse?

STABENOW: Well, yes, except they're coming, because we saw crashing on the computers, because everybody's coming.

CUPP: The right people will have to come, right?

STABENOW: Let me talk to you about the 27-year-old who earns $25,000 a year in Michigan, who will be able to find for the first time comprehensive basic care starting at $80 a month.

What we are seeing now, across the country, is six out of ten people that haven't had insurance before are going to be able to find it for under a hundred dollars a month, including -- and I have to keep stressing again -- things like maternity care, preventative care, mental health, prescription drugs, doctor visits, et cetera, et cetera.

And here's the other reality of that young person or anyone without insurance. They walk into the emergency room, they get -- they get care. We all pay for it.

CUPP: Right.

STABENOW: At the highest rates possible.

COBURN: Here's the -- here's the other reality.

STABENOW: Everybody who has insurance is paying at least $1,000 more a year. So where's the personal responsibility?

COBURN: The reality...

JONES: You respond and let me ask you a question. Go on; then I'll ask you a question.

COBURN: The reality to that is, is why would you pay a hundred dollars a month or $80 a month, when you can pay a $95 fine and if you get sick or get pregnant you get care? So the point is, is the economic...

JONES: Well, we should have higher fines.


COBURN: Sure. If you're going to have a -- if you're going to have individual mandate...

STABENOW: The highest possible cost. We don't want that.

COBURN: ... you've got to make it economically incentive to put them into the group, and this bill does not do that.

JONES: Let's -- Well, we could make the fines higher.

I want to talk with you, because I know you guys have put a lot of thought into this. And I want to talk with you about this individual mandate which has been demonized by a lot of people.

My view of it is it's a very conservative principle. It's called the individual responsibility mandate. That nobody should be walking around in the United States without health care that could get it, without insurance that could get it, as the senator just said, expecting if they dive bomb themselves into the emergency room, we're going to pick up the tab.

To me, the individual mandate is -- is conservative; it also is honest. Because I know a lot of Republicans say they want to keep this idea from Obamacare that nobody can be denied coverage.

Well, hold on a second. You can't get something for nothing. If the -- if sick people are going to take out of the system, well people have to put into the system.

COBURN: I don't disagree with you.

JONES: What's wrong with the conservative principles in Obamacare? Why don't you support this?

COBURN: Well, here's the difference is, if you want to have an individual mandate, then give everybody the capability to have the same thing, all right? So what you do is, if you really want, if you really believe what you just said...

JONES: I do.

COBURN: ... give everybody a refundable tax credit. And let everybody be on the same basis. And then let markets actually decide.

The reason health care costs 50 percent more than it should in this country is because there's not a real market, and you're not going to get a real market with this. There's not going to be any transparency.

So if you give everybody a refundable tax credit in this country, including the irresponsible biker who breaks his pelvis and we're all paying for it, where the state, you're auto-enrolled if you don't enroll yourself in a high deductible plan so we actually really spread the risk. But we're going to have the government run and decide what you will get by the different plans. We've decided what you'll get rather than you deciding. Here's the thing that's going to happen. Here's what people are going to see.

You're not ever going to see the same doctor year in and year out under this plan. You're never going to have the same -- you're never going to have the same...


COBURN: It is not going to happen.

STABENOW: Time out. Time out. Time out.

JONES: Wait, wait. Let's let Senator Stabenow respond. Please.

STABENOW: First of all, in Michigan, right now there are 43 different plans. All we're talking about is allowing small businesses and individuals to go into an insurance pool so they can get the same kind of rate and have the same kind of clout as G.M. ...

COBURN: The small business pool is not even available right now.

STABENOW: But it is coming online. And folks can go online now. In another month they're going to be able to sign up. This -- there is no evidence -- zero, zero, zero -- that folks are not going to be able to see the doctor that they want to see. None. Ask the folks in Massachusetts. Not true. Not true.

COBURN: Well, let me give you the evidence. In the evidence -- in New Hampshire...

STABENOW: Not true.

COBURN: ... 12 of the main hospitals aren't even in the group. So if you live in New Hampshire, here's 12 hospitals you used to be able to go to. You can't go to any of them now.

STABENOW: Well, all I can tell you is that, first of all...

COBURN: So there's no proof. You said there was no proof. That is true.

STABENOW: That is not true. I have no idea what's happening.

COBURN: That's right. You have no idea. That's why we're making claims that aren't accurate.

STABENOW: Tell you what: In New Hampshire, maybe we need to kind of figure out what to do in New Hampshire. But all I can tell you...


JONES: Let me give you a better example, and you tell me what's wrong with this.

In Arkansas, which is a good red state, they've looked at this. You say the government is going to be mandating stuff. They've got very creative. They decided to create not a public option but a private option. They're being creative with their Medicare dollars. They're bringing in insurance companies.

COBURN: With Medicaid, now. JONES: I'm sorry. Right with Medicaid.

COBURN: Not Medicare dollars.

JONES: Fair enough. Medicaid dollars. They're being creative, though, and they're creating little marketplaces where people have choice. I think that choice...

COBURN: How did that happen?

JONES: It happened because you had Republicans and Democrats come together and get creative.

COBURN: No, you had -- This administration grant them an exemption for that program but not grant Oklahoma one for theirs. Why? Because they have a Democratic governor. Oklahoma has a Republican governor. So when we asked for something very creative, we were told no.

JONES: Hey listen, I would -- listen...

STABENOW: We've got a Republican governor. We weren't told no on things.

COBURN: Did you have a reformed Medicaid plan? No. You're just expanding Medicaid.

STABENOW: No. Actually not true.

But let me also just say, all of this -- all of this, as we look forward. We have to remember where we have come from here. The millions of people that couldn't find any kind of insurance or paid a lot of money, got almost nothing when they got sick, got kicked off. I mean, what we're talking about is how do we make this better? I'm not even suggesting that this is perfect. That we don't need to work on it.

COBURN: I know it's not perfect.


STABENOW: I can tell you, it is a whole lot better than what tens of millions of Americans have...

COBURN: OK, here's the assumption.

JONES: Inarguably. Inarguably.

STABENOW: ... and women who have been discriminated against on their rates, who haven't been able to get preventative care. They haven't been able to get...

COBURN: Here's the assumption behind what you're saying, is that the government can buy your health care for you.

STABENOW: This is not about government.

COBURN: Oh, yes, it is.

STABENOW: No, it's not. That's why you're going to go onto a Web site. You are going to pick out your own insurance policy.

COBURN: That's why it's costing $1.3 billion over the next ten years.

STABENOW: You're going to go onto a Web site -- you are going onto a Web site, and you are going to pick out your own insurance policy.

CUPP: You're not going to. You have to.

JONES: You have to.

CUPP: You have to. That's an offense. That's an offense.

JONES: You're going to have to have both these guys back, because we have about 20 more questions we need to get to, but I've got one last one I want to ask.

CUPP: All right.

JONES: Now, listen. The Constitution says you guys have to keep your salaries. Americans are mad about that. You've got Congress people in the Senate. You've got a young veteran, Tulsi Gabbard in the House, who says she's going to give her salary back. People are going to give their salaries to charity.

My last question to you guys: Who are you giving your salaries away to? I'm sure you won't keep them...

CUPP: To the people.

JONES: ... because your poor staffers are suffering.

COBURN: My staffers are working.

JONES: But without pay.

COBURN: No, no, my staffers are working with pay. Right now. They're doing oversight on the federal government.

JONES: Fair enough.

COBURN: They're continuing to work on the waste...

JONES: But 800,000 federal workers are not getting paid.

COBURN: Nobody is for that.

JONES: Are you going to keep your salary?

COBURN: Absolutely. I'm going to keep my salary and going to make sure I spend it and tithe it and give to it charities and do the thing that I've always done.

JONES: Good for you. COBURN: I'm not going to stop working.

STABENOW: Eighty percent of my staff, unfortunately, is on furlough. I'm going to be contributing mine on a daily basis. For every day we are not seeing an open -- a government that's open, I'm contributing.

JONES: Thank you so much. There you go.

CUPP: OK, well thank you to senators Stabenow and Coburn.

Next we "Ceasefire" and see if there's anything that Van and I can agree on.


CUPP: Tonight on CROSSFIRE, we've been debating Obamacare and the government shutdown. Now let's call a "Ceasefire." Is there anything we can agree on?

You know, Republicans today made an offer on a piecemeal approach that would fund certain sectors of the government. It was an offer that the White House immediately rejected and Nancy Pelosi called pathetic. Now, I think, Van, you and I would agree that we have got to get certain sectors of the economy back online. Veterans services, for example.

JONES: I think the one thing we can agree on is that veterans should not suffer in this situation.

CUPP: Yes.

JONES: But I agree that I don't like Ted Cruz, now speaker of the House and the senator and I guess God King of America, sitting there saying, "Well, this agency is going to open; this one's not going to open." But he's right about the veterans, and we should make sure the veterans don't suffer.

CUPP: OK. Well, hopefully we can all come together and make it happen.

Go to our Facebook page or on Twitter and weigh in on our feedback -- "Fireback" question: "Should members of Congress be paid during the government shutdown?: Right now 3 percent of you say yes; 97 percent say no. That settles that.

JONES: The debate continues online on, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.

From the left, I'm Van Jones.

CUPP: And from the right, I'm S.E. Cupp. Join us tomorrow for another edition of CROSSFIRE.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.