Return to Transcripts main page


Awaiting Senate Vote on Deal

Aired October 16, 2013 - 18:28   ET


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

NEWT GINGRICH, CO-HOST: Welcome to CROSSFIRE. I'm Newt Gingrich on the right.

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

It is a big day for the country. We are waiting for the Senate to start voting, finally, on the deal to end the government shutdown and to raise the debt ceiling.

This is a total vindication, in my view, of President Obama and his strategy of refusing to negotiate with the crazy wing of the Republican Party. And it is a total humiliating, crushing defeat for Ted Cruz and his wing of the Republicans. Listen to how House Speaker John Boehner conceded defeat on his hometown radio station.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE (via phone): We've been locked in a fight over here, trying to -- trying to bring government down to size, trying to do our best to stop Obama care. We fought the good fight. We just didn't win.


JONES: Well, from my point of view, he didn't win, but the rest of us did win, and I'll tell you why I fell like -- and I'm interested to hear this from you. This is bigger than John Boehner. To me, it's bigger than the Republicans, bigger than Obama. This was about whether or not America is still governable, despite this group of extremists that burrowed down into the House. And I think that they lost, and I am happy, happy, happy. How are you?

GINGRICH: Well, I think first of all, this is why it's CROSSFIRE. I think this is a sad day for America. I think it's a day where we didn't fix Obama care, which is failing in every single state right now. It's a day when we didn't fix the budget, which is going to bankrupt our children and grandchildren. It's a day when we didn't fix the bureaucracies, which don't work. It's a day when we saw no sign of the president of the United States leading the country. What we saw was a partisan who went around the country vilifying his opponents in a way that makes no sense for an incumbent president. And I think it's going to be a challenge.

But tonight, in CROSSFIRE, we have two congressmen, Rhode Island Democratic Congressman David Cicilline, and Louisiana Republican Congressman Steve Scalise.

And I really want to start, if I can, Congressman Cicilline, from this perspective. And this is part of my populist bias, I guess. Once again, we see leaders meeting in secret to design a secret deal which they announce the principles of, which a few minutes ago, they actually released the 35 pages of, which the Senate will vote on presently before the American people know what's in it, which will come to the House for you to say yes or no.

And in the end, we're not going to get anything major. We're going to end up kicking the can down the road. Don't you think somehow that we ought to find a way to get back to more open government, more open legislating, and some kind of commitment to solve...

REP. DAVID CICILLINE (D), RHODE ISLAND: I would say, Mr. Speaker, first of all I disagree that it's a secret. This was the position of the president from the very beginning and of the Democrats in the House. Open government, raise the debt ceiling so we don't default on the full faith and credit of the United States, and then send this matter to the budget committee, to a conference committee, regular order, so we can hammer out a resolution. That's been the president's position from the beginning. It's been the position of the House Democrats. So I don't think there's any secret about that.

I think today the Republicans finally accepted that proposal so that government will open, so that we won't default, and that we'll have a process in the budget committee.

The budget committee -- you know, the House passed a budget, a budget I voted against. The Senate passed a budget. Then the next thing is to go, as you know, is conference committee. The speaker refused to appoint conferees. We asked him back in April. I sent a letter. All the Democrats asked him to appoint conferees. So there is a process.

I think today's deal, as outlined in the Senate proposal, will make sure that we go to regular order so we can actually have a long- term solution and adopt a budget.

GINGRICH: So -- so let me ask you a follow-up on that. They didn't meet, according to Chairman Ryan, because they are so far apart, particularly on taxes, where the Senate called for a trillion dollars in additional taxes in a weak economy.

Why should any of us believe that, having failed to get anything done for months and months and months, we now have a magic date of December 13, and all of a sudden, magically this thing is going to work?

CICILLINE: No. I don't think it will be magic, but the reality is not having a conference committee, because the sides disagree. That's exactly why you have a conference committee. There are two difference versions, and you go to conference, as you well know, Mr. Speaker, work out the differences. But to suggest that we shouldn't have a conference committee, because the differences are big, we would never have a conference committee. But that's the idea. Go to conference committee. Make your case; make it in public, in front of cameras, where you have to defend the Ryan budget, or we defend the Democratic budget from the Senate, and let the voters see that. And I think that's what a conference committee will do.

JONES: Fair enough. Well, first of all, welcome, Congressperson. I am -- just can't wait to hear from you. Because you have an opportunity now to do something pretty important, which is to vote to end this shutdown, to raise the debt ceiling. Because of the shutdown that you were a big part of, we've got, I don't know, 80 -- a lot of people, I think 350,000 people who right now are sitting home, should be working, including my cousin, including my best friend from high school. Got a lot of people who are sitting down right now They should be making America better. Are you going to vote tonight to put them back to work?

REP. STEVE SCALISE (R), LOUISIANA: Well, first of all, Van, I voted four different times to open the government up and to prevent a shutdown, each one of those times, by the way, Harry Reid didn't even have a debate on it, just tabled the bill summarily.

Then we passed about another 14 different bills, each of which has large bipartisan support, to open up different parts of government where we had agreement while offering to the president the ability to start negotiating.

JONES: Fair enough.

SCALISE: Look, I spent -- I spent an hour and a half with the president in the White House last week. And the first offer we said was, "Look, we'll raise the debt ceiling if you just agree to start negotiating." And Barack Obama wouldn't even agree to negotiate. But the fact that the president is declaring victory over the fact that he was able to shut the government down, to then get a deal from the Republicans and from the Senate, both Republicans and Democrats, to then max out the credit card again. Look, the reason we're hitting the debt ceiling is because the government maxed out the credit cards. We should be solving the problem.

JONES: Can I ask you the question again? You may have missed my question. I understand what you're -- relegating the past, but tonight, here you are. Are you going to vote with your speaker? Are you going to vote with the Senate? Are you going to vote with hundreds of thousands of federal workers who want to get back to work? Are you going to vote with Americans who are terrified that we're going to hit this debt ceiling? Are you going to vote to open the government? Yes or no?

SCALISE: Well, first of all, this bill doesn't solve the problem. I voted for 14 different bills to open the government back up.

JONES: How about this one? SCALISE; This bill doesn't address the long-term debt problem.

Look, Van, if you like crisis-to-crisis living, which President Obama clearly likes living from crisis to crisis, this sets up yet another crisis on January 15. And then the debt ceiling comes right behind that in a couple more weeks.

JONES: Does that mean you're voting against opening up the...

SCALISE: So why do we want to set up a deal where all these people that want to get back to work and get the government back open again, they don't want a deal that just lasts a couple of weeks.

JONES: How are you voting tonight?

SCALISE: ... back into crisis. I'll be voting no on this deal, but I voted yes 20 different times to open either all or parts of the go. This forces yet another crisis. Well, look, on January 14, you're going to be sitting there with the president, going, "Give me everything I want again. Let's kick the can down the road for a few more weeks and max out another credit card.

JONES: So you're voting again opening the government.

GINGRICH: Let me ask you that from -- not the standpoint that we're getting another shutdown. But from the standpoint of, if you're a normal American and you've watched this now for years, and you've seen the only time there's been a major breakthrough in spending was in 2011, which was clearly a crisis, and produced the entire process the president hates, where we've simply sequestered money.

Why would you now look up and say, you know? The very same people who have refused, as you point out, have refused to conference, and the very same people who are apart by at least $2 trillion if you count taxes and spending.

They're now going to somehow magically over Thanksgiving solve the problems so by January 15. And I'm not talking about shutdowns. But do you think by January 15 we're going to actually have a big enough agreement that it will, in any significant, move the whole process of American indebtedness?

CICILLINE: Well, I think there's no question that we will not have that if we don't go to conference committee. We've got to go through this process.

Look this shutdown has cost, according to S&P today $24 billion in the U.S. economy; hurt hundreds of thousands of families who are furlough. The threat of default has already had an adverse effect on our economy. I think every reasonable economist has said a default would be catastrophic. We're the reserve currency to the world. And the implications of that are really difficult to even contemplate.

So I think we -- I think what this circumstance has shown is we have got to come together and figure out how we deal with the debt in a responsible way, go through the budget process. We did it already once. We did cuts in spending and we generated new revenues. The president said we need to do the same thing. We need to do more targeted kinds in spending, generate more revenues, do it in a balance way. We can do that, but we need to go through the regular process in a budget committee to do it.

GINGRICH: Just one thing, because I've been fascinated by this assertion. The stock market from the beginning of this fight to today hasn't moved.

CICILLINE: You know why? Because they cannot believe that the Republican leaders in the Congress would be so reckless to allow the U.S. to default. They just can't believe it. And frankly, I hope they're right, because they realize to do that would be so catastrophic.

SCALISE: There's only one person who can actually bring us to default, and that's Barack Obama. In fact, Barack Obama made it clear he was willing to default.

We passed a bill, by the way, out of the House to take default off the table, to guarantee our country can't default. The day we passed the bill, President Obama issued a veto threat on that bill. So clearly, President Obama wants the threat of default, which is dangerous and reckless for this president.

CICILLINE: In fairness, this began -- this process began because you and others in the Republican Party decided to use the debt ceiling and the threat of closing down government to repeal the Affordable Care Act. It was something which was enacted by the House, passed by the Senate, signed by the president, affirmed by the Supreme Court.

Then after that, we had a presidential election which your candidate said, "I'm going to repeal it day one."

The president said, "I'll defend it." He did that.

And despite all of that evidence, your party said, "We're going to shut down the government and risk default unless you agree to repeal it, delay it or..."

SCALISE: Barack Obama made it very clear he wanted a government shutdown. Look, on October 1, the first day of the shutdown, he had signs at the World War II memorial, which by the way, doesn't even need an opening gate, that said, "This place is closed because of the shutdown.: So he already had that set up.

We didn't want a shutdown. We wanted to solve the spending problem in Washington. And look...

JONES: What about Obama care?

SCALISE: Obama care is one of the problems. Obama care is one of the things that's holding our economy back.

Look, in Southeast Louisiana, the biggest impediment to job creation every small business talks about is the president's health- care law. It wasn't just, by the way, a partisan issue. You've got jJames Hoffa, the head of the Teamsters union, no close friend of mine, saying that it's destroying the middle-class work week. Yet, President Obama is giving waivers to 1,200 friends and members of Congress.

JONES: What's terrifying me, and I know we have to go to break, is it just doesn't seem like you guys have learned anything. And I'm just -- what was all this for? You said it was about Obama care. You didn't repeal it. You didn't delay it. You didn't defund it. You couldn't even steal the health care from your congressional staffers. What was all this for? I know we have to go to break.

SCALISE: Look, don't worry. President Obama gave an exemption to members of Congress and staff, you know, while he's saying everybody else, regular hard-working families, they've got to live under the law. President Obama hasn't signed up for these exchanges. In fact, people that go to the exchanges, they spent over $600 million building this Web site; doesn't even work. You can't even sign up for this product that people don't even want to buy. And yet, the president is saying this is his signature law, and he's willing to shut the government down over that.

JONES: You guys haven't learned anything at all. OK.

GINGRICH: We've got to come back in a little bit. Hold on, everybody.

We are still waiting for the Senate to begin voting on the deal. The last 48 hours have been so wild and wooly, I think Speaker Boehner now faces a major strategic decision. I'll go through his options, next.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

GINGRICH: Welcome back.

We are waiting for the U.S. Senate to begin voting on the deal to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling. A pair of congressmen are in the CROSSFIRE tonight: Democrat David Cicilline and Republican Steve Scalise.

I think Speaker Boehner faces a key question tonight. If he can't rely on his party's most conservative members, the real activists, how does he govern for the next two years? If he can't get 218 Republican votes to pass something, he's going to ultimately have to get some Democrats. Can he take, should he take 180 or so Republicans and try to find enough Democrats to work with him that they could routinely pass things?

It would mean accepting the permanent anger of about 50 members of his party and many outside groups, but it might enable him to run the House. And I think he's got to weigh tonight what's the best future for the House, given what happened in the last 48 hours?

JONES: Yes. Well, since you're here, and you're in this weird situation, you know, you guys backed -- Boehner backed you, basically. I think Boehner really didn't want to take it this far. You guys said, "Look, let's go." He stood with you.

Now tonight, he's kind of having to go away from you and go toward Democrats. Are you going to continue to back Boehner? Is this something that you're going to hold against Boehner, or do you think Boehner's your hero, because he was with up, at least up until now?

SCALISE: I support the way that Speaker Boehner's handled this. It's been a very tough situation. Look, I was in that room with him and a few other of our members, where he literally was putting option after option on the table to President Obama, and President Obama just sat back and said, "I'm not even going to be willing to negotiate on anything."

And so it's a tough situation when you've got a speaker saying, "Look, I'm here to negotiate." We've cast a lot of votes to pass bills to open parts of the government that the president and people in his parties would say we don't want to fund, that these people want to shut down everything. We actually cast the votes to keep those areas of government open.

JONES: But quick follow-up now. I think that the speaker put on the table, this is a leadership position from him. How is he supposed to move forward? To get stuff done, he may have to move in more of a direction of working with Democrats. You don't seem to be willing to go with him in that direction. Are you going to wind up having to go against Boehner later? I mean, how does this work? How is the Tea Party thinking about this now? Boehner was with you. Basically, you guys from my point of view, took you into a ditch. He's going to take you out of that ditch. He's going to be working with Democrats. Do you turn on him? Do you stay with him, even if he is marginalizing you?

SCALISE: Look, Harry Reid and President Obama brought him into this ditch. He tried to work out of it with a lot of different options. Neither of them wanted to negotiate at all. So, you know, that's where they've been.

But going forward, there are a lot of things we've been able to work with Speaker Boehner on. Look at the Farm Bill where not one Democrat voted for a Farm Bill, yet we passed it with all Republican votes. Most people would have said that could never be done. So we want to tackle the spending problems. And I'll work people like Paul Ryan and others that have good plans to get these things done.

CICILLINE: I think the speaker raises a really important question. I this Speaker Boehner has to make the decision, does he want to govern and be the speaker of the House or does he want to be the leader of the Republican Caucus? Because on every issue -- on the immigration bill, on the infrastructure plan, on dealing with the budget -- if he's prepared to accept a governing coalition of most of the Democrats and some group of Republicans, we can get the work done. And that's what our country needs right now.

GINGRICH: Let me ask this question. Because I was here with Tip O'Neill, and you had this kind of a coalition. I was here with Jim Wright. You had that kind of coalition. I was here with Tom Foley. Here's the difference. It was historically always virtually all the Republicans and 50 or 60 Democrats.


GINGRICH: Now do you think that Leader Pelosi will tolerate 40 or 50 Democrats voting with John Boehner? Or does he have to cut a deal with Pelosi, in which case the deal, frankly, so far to the left he probably can't cut it?

CICILLINE: I think what has to happen is Speaker Boehner has to accept the notion what is right for this country is to build a governing coalition that's going to require support from the Democrats, that he cannot any longer listen to this very far right of his Congress, because they can pass bills in the House, but they're going nowhere. If we actually want to confront the issues in our country...

SCALISE: Well, the far left doesn't want to pass these bills.

CICILLINE: No, no, you want...

SCALISE: If Obama wants to bring us from crisis to crisis and the brink of default...

CICILLINE: But you just bragged about you passed a lot of things in the House, and the problem is you passed -- but nobody...


CICILLINE: It will not pass the Senate or will not be signed by the president. So you can pass stuff, but the idea is, you want to make it work for the American people. And that requires passage in the House. Passage in the Senate, same as the president.

So I think it requires a working relationship between Leader Pelosi and the speaker. The leader has made it very clear, she's interested in getting things done for the American people on immigration reform, on the budget, on rebuilding our infrastructure, on making the investments in science and research.

SCALISE: That's just not been the case. That's just not been. We actually passed a bill to fund the National Institute of Health, to fund cancer research. It was a bipartisan vote. The day we passed it, President Obama issued a veto threat. We passed a bill to fund FEMA. Disaster relief should not be held...


SCALISE: If we can't get an agreement, if the president doesn't want to negotiate, you're saying shut it all down unless you get everything you want? CICILLINE: No, no, we didn't shut down...

SCALISE: That's not a reasonable approach.

GINGRICH: The next thing I'm going to ask is a very practical matter.


GINGRICH: OK. It's virtually impossible, at least for me, to -- to imagine that John Boehner can cut deals with Nancy Pelosi that are acceptable to the majority of the House Republicans.

It's possible to imagine you could have a bipartisan coalition that comes together on one issue at a time where you get 40, 50, 60 people.

My question -- and I think Boehner has a big choice. But I also think Pelosi has a big choice. Would she tolerate parts of her caucus on an issue by issue basis, deciding to form a bipartisan working group? Or will she insist that it has to be a Boehner/Pelosi negotiation, in which case, frankly, I think you're back to where we are right now?

CICILLINE: I think two things. One, I think Leader Pelosi has been an important and effective leader of our caucus. She speaks not only for herself but really for the Democrat Party in the House. I think she's been an effective advocate for our positions.

And I think she has demonstrated her willingness always to work with the speaker, to build -- You know, she calls him regularly and says, "What do you need? How can we help make these votes a reality," whether it's on immigration, education funding and the like. So I think she's willing to do that.

He frankly has to, as you said, come to terms with is he willing to develop a governing coalition that may not have a majority of the Republican caucus, or may not include some of the most vocal opponents within the caucus?

JONES: Speaking of, you know, let me just ask this basic question. You are going to be, when this thing passes with or without you, you're going to be in budget negotiations. Who's your leader? Who is the leader of the Republican Party? It's been baffling from the outside to watch Ted Cruz act as a whip in the House, and sometimes it seems like he's the speaker. Who -- is Ted Cruz your leader? Is Boehner your leader? Who's your leader?

SCALISE: Well, first of all, it was Harry Reid who tabled all of those bills in the Senate that led to the government shutdown. But if you look at the leader, John Boehner is absolutely the leader as the speaker, but in the budget negotiations, Paul Ryan is our budget chairman. I don't think there's anybody better in this town that understands how to solve real problems.

And if the president wants to solve problems, he knows he can work with Paul and get that done. He hasn't yet agreed.

And Barack Obama has got a real question he's going to have to answer. Does he want to be the leader of the free world and actually sit here and solve these problems with people that are of the other party?

JONES: I get...

SCALISE: Paul Ryan has got a really good plan.

JONES: You've done a really great job of communicating that you're frustrated with the leadership of President Obama, so let's just stipulate to that. I'm trying to figure out the leadership of your party. Who can actually deliver votes for a deal that can pass the Senate? Who can do that?

SCALISE: We proved we can deliver votes to pass a budget. We passed a budget every year. It took the Senate four years to pass one. They've got to figure out how to pass things, too, by the way.

JONES: They passed one six months ago.

SCALISE: I'm glad they passed one.

JONES: And you won't meet with them.

SCALISE: Look, Paul Ryan -- Paul Ryan has been talking to Patty Murray every week for the last six months. Clearly, they're very far apart. We have a divided government.

JONES: Can Paul deliver the votes? Can Paul Ryan deliver the votes?

SCALISE: Absolutely.

JONES: On a deal that can pass the Senate?

SCALISE: On a budget deal.

CICILLINE: Your question really is one of the big challenges. And I think the speaker has, unfortunately, on a number of instances been unable to deliver the votes.

And so when you're in some of these very difficult negotiations, there's no question Leader Pelosi delivers the votes of the Democratic Caucus. Unequivocally. Because they have confidence in her leadership. But it's a different vote. It's different policy. But we have tremendous confidence in her leadership.

The problem is you need to have somebody on the other side of the table who actually can deliver what he says or she says she can deliver. Actually part of the problem.

SCALISE: We actually care about the details. And the details matter. But shouldn't we solve the problems? I mean, Medicare is going bankrupt in the next few years if we don't solve it. President Obama wants to just ignore it, maybe wait till it's a crisis. Solve it now.

GINGRICH: Let me ask one question on that now, because it -- having served with Carter and Reagan and Bush 1 and Clinton, I thought it was almost weird today that the president found time to meet with Miss America. But he hasn't found time to meet one-on-one with John Boehner. He hasn't found time, I think, to meet with Mitch McConnell in months.

Doesn't the president have to also take a leadership role in actually working with the Congress before there's a crisis?

CICILLINE: I think a fair review of the president's engagement with Congress would reveal that he has attempted on more occasions than any president I can remember to reach out to people on both sides of the aisle, particularly people on the other side of the aisle, to help craft solutions to the big challenges facing our country. And each time, he's been repudiated. So I think the president has met repeatedly...

SCALISE: That doesn't match with this. Ronald Reagan and Tip O'Neill...

CICILLINE: By the way, they haven't agreed with him. They haven't agreed with his positions or been willing to do what he asked. But there's lots of conversations.

JONES: Well, this is a great conversation. We want to keep it going. We want you both to stay here. Next, we're going to "Ceasefire" and we're going to try to see if there is anything that you two can actually agree on.

We also are going to want you at home to weigh in on tonight's "Fireback" question: "Who won the shutdown fight?" You can reply with President Obama, Republicans or the Tea Party using #Crossfire. We're going to have the results right after this break.