Return to Transcripts main page


GOP Gives In Without Fight On Debt Ceiling; Dems Call Out Obama

Aired February 11, 2014 - 18:28   ET



ANNOUNCER: Tonight on CROSSFIRE, Republicans cave on the debt ceiling and blame the president.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: He's the one driving up the debt.

ANNOUNCER: Obama care pushed back yet again. The president is put on defense.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We understood from the start that there were going to be challenges.

ANNOUNCER: The politics of 2014. On the left, Van Jones. On the right, S.E. Cupp. In the CROSSFIRE, two swing state senators: Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio, and Dean Heller, Republican of Nevada. With the Senate up for grabs, will voters side with the president or Republicans? Tonight on CROSSFIRE.


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

VAN JONES, CO-HOST: And I'm Van Jones on the left. In the CROSSFIRE tonight, we've got two senators from key swing states. Well, another big win for President Obama today in a big showdown over whether or not to raise the debt ceiling. Moments ago, the House Republicans surrendered. Totally rolled over, didn't even fire a shot. I love it.

And now you've got these far-right groups like Heritage Action totally stunned. They can't believe it. They tell the speaker of the House, "But we're the Tea Party. Remember? You have to do what we say." Nope. Not anymore.

President Obama promised he was going to put an end to all this brinksmanship and foolishness. Last fall when the same extremists tried the same stunt, he vowed he was going to break the fever. Well, as of today the Tea Party fever is officially broken. Thank you, President Obama.

CUPP: I don't know why you're so happy.

JONES: I'm just --

CUPP: With the debt ceiling off the table, we can go right back to talking about Obama care.

JONES: What's that?

CUPP: A rousing endorsement from Van Jones.

JONES: Look, I love it. We can get into it, but I'll tell you what. This president has defamed the Tea Party. And now we get back to the normal governance.

CUPP: All right. In the CROSSFIRE two senators, Democrat Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Republican Dean Heller of Nevada. I'll give the first one to you since you're in such a good mood today.

JONES: Well, thank you. I am in such a good mood.

Senator, welcome to you. Glad that you're here.

SEN. DEAN HELLER (R), NEVADA: Thank you very much for having me.

JONES: Well, listen, we're excited because we actually have the threat to America's full faith and credit removed. We can move forward, except your colleague, Ted Cruz, has now announced he is going to filibuster. Are you going to join with Ted Cruz in filibustering the clean debt ceiling proposal?

HELLER: Well, first of all, I wasn't aware that he was going to filibuster, but I wouldn't be surprised. You've got more information than you're giving me (ph).

But you know, they passed it in the House. They wanted some reforms, couldn't pass it with any reforms on it. They couldn't get the 218 votes. And Pelosi said she wouldn't -- she would get their caucuses support --

JONES: Well, is Ted Cruz wrong, then? Are you saying that Ted Cruz is wrong to filibuster?

HELLER: First of all, I think it's a Republican -- or the president's party that's responsible for passing the debt ceiling increases. I mean, it was true under Bush, and it's true under Clinton. So it is the Democrats' responsibility.

SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D), OHIO: I give credit -- I give credit to the House. John Boehner every day wakes up. Is he going to be speaker of the Tea Party and the Republican Caucus, or is he going to be speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives? He's from my state; I give him credit for doing the right thing. I give credit, like I give credit to Dean for fix -- working to try to extend unemployment insurance.

JONES: I think that's very -- but we do have two senators here, and I think it's important to help us understand: Do you think that Ted Cruz is right to filibuster? Are you with him or not? HELLER: Well, I don't think it's right, because at the end of the day, we're going to pass a clean debt ceiling increase, with Ted or without Ted's support, with my support or without my support. But at the end of the day, at the end of the day, there's going to be a debt ceiling increase and it's going to be clean. And the reason being -- is because of the action the House just took.

CUPP: Well, let me say Van is absolutely right. Republicans caved today. And I think it was a practical concern. I think they want to shift back their attention to Obama care, which is still not very popular.

And yesterday, the administration announced its 18th unilateral change to the ACA. Of course, they did it without Congress. Here's what the president said about that today. Take a listen.


OBAMA: We want to make sure that the purpose of the law is not to punish them.

Our goal here is not to punish folks.


CUPP: The president has to say twice today that the goal of his signature legislation is not to punish people. Do you think it's a really good idea that the president is out telling people who are hurting because of Obama care, "You're not really hurting"? Do you think that's smart?

BROWN: I think you always, if you're doing these shows, you leave out what's already happened with the Affordable Care Act.

CUPP: Tell us.

BROWN: I will. A million seniors in Ohio, more than a million seniors, already hundreds of thousands have saved an average of $700 on their prescription drug coverage. Over a million have gotten free, with no co-pays, no deductibles, kinds of preventative care, physicals, all that. A hundred thousand plus people in my state of Ohio, from Chillicothe to Toledo, are on their parent's health care plan. People in their teens and 20s. Pre-existing conditions gone.

I mean, the fact is that all these votes in the House are taking away benefits that are already there. I'm glad the president's flexible -- use the word "punish" or not. I probably wouldn't use that word. But he's elected, and none of us is elected president, so he used that term. But the fact is, all these votes that can -- all these efforts are to take away benefits that are now all --

CUPP: Yes, but wait.

BROWN: -- people are enjoying.

CUPP: Wait a minute. That sounds amazing in Ohio. It sounds phenomenal.

BROWN: Because it's working.

CUPP: Why does -- then why does he have to insist it's not punishment?

BROWN: Because they -- I mean, every time --

CUPP: Did he invent that?

BROWN: When Congress passed Medicare in 1965, one of the things Medicare did, if you heard an offer you got on the phone, called the mayor of Atlanta, the governor of Alabama and said, "If you want Medicare, if you want these dollars, you've got to integrate your hospitals." It was a painful process, and it worked for our country. It worked for them and worked for our country.

These are not easy --

CUPP: It's going to be painful.

BROWN: No, I didn't say -- I didn't say it's difficult. And we'd like to fix some of these -- these minor or not so minor things. But the House Representatives won't even let us come and change some of the rules -- some of the things in a small way to make it work.

HELLER: We've had 25,000 Nevadans lose their health care with this law, and I would like to know how many in Ohio have lost their health care.

JONES: Let's talk -- let's talk about that in Nevada. I mean, let's talk about a few other topics that are really important for the Senate.

You have about 300,000 people in your state that earn minimum wage.


JONES: Tomorrow, the president's going to take action to make sure that at least federal contractors going forward get their raise. Don't you think that the minimum wage should go up in your state and the people in your state should get a raise who earn minimum wage?

HELLER: I think it's up to the people of Nevada to decide that. We had a ballot question in Nevada just a few years ago that set our minimum wage. Why should the minimum wage of New York City be the same as Elkhorn, Nevada? Elkhorn's a small town, a rural town in the --

JONES: So if and when this comes before you, you're going to vote no to raise -- raise the minimum wage?

HELLER: Well, I never say what I'm never going to do. Here, it's your show. But the bottom line is, is I think that Nevada ought to make that decision. They've made that decision. And frankly, I don't think it's a federal issue. I think it should be a state issue. And Nevada is just taking care of it.

CUPP: Let me ask you about both of your states. Because, as much as Van and other Democrats think that raising the minimum wage is going to be some kind of panacea for our economy, not everyone would be affected by that.

If you look at youth unemployment in both of your states, in Ohio, 15 percent; in Nevada, 17.2 percent. Minimum wage doesn't create a single job for those people. What's your answer for these kind of -- ?

BROWN: Actually, you're wrong about that. Minimum wage puts money -- Henry Ford 100 years ago last month said he's going to start paying everybody in his plant, his place $5 a day. He did that not because he was kind-hearted -- maybe he was; maybe he wasn't. History might say he wasn't. But what Henry Ford did, putting money in people's pockets, was he knew they'd go out and spend it and it would help the economy, and people could buy his cars.

CUPP: How does raising the minimum wage help someone without a job?

BROWN: You raise -- if you raise the -- if you raise the minimum wage, you put money in people's pockets. It generates economic activity, just like extending unemployment. I give Dean a lot of credit, standing up to his party, pushing for an extension of unemployment benefits. He understands it helps those families. It also helps the economy, because people have money. And low-income people, unemployed people that are getting unemployment benefits. They've paid in. It's insurance. They get it out.

Or minimum wage people, people in minimum wage, they don't have a lot of money. They're spending that money. It's generating economic activity and creating jobs. That's -- that's the point.

CUPP: When employers decide to hire fewer people because the minimum wage is raised --

BROWN: That's a deception.

CUPP: -- how are these people -- how are these people --

HELLER: You have to have a job. You have to have a job -- yes, you have to have a job before minimum wage makes a difference. And right now, we have very high --


BROWN: Let me ask you.

HELLER: Eight point eight percent unemployment in the state of Nevada. They're not worried about the minimum wage. What they're worried about is actually having a job.

BROWN: I certainly think people are worried about the minimum wage that are making 9 or $10 an hour. How come when a CEO gets a $3 million raise or a Wall Street banker gets millions of dollars, how come people don't say, "Well, they're taking all that money out. They're going to have to raise prices. They're going to have to lay off people"? It's only when somebody making $8 an hour wants $9 that it's going to cause layoffs, but not when a CEO gets millions of dollars. Can you explain that?

CUPP: People -- people do make that argument. They make that argument all the time.

BROWN: I don't hear anybody saying --

CUPP: Sure, they do.

BROWN: -- if you give bonuses to CEOs, they lay people off.

CUPP: Sure.

BROWN: Well, sometimes you give them bonuses because they laid people off. That's not really the point.

CUPP: People make that argument, but it seems like a real false assertion, to suggest that raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour is actually going to put people to work when clearly folks at mom-and- pop stores and small businesses, all the way up to Wal-Mart, have to hire fewer.

BROWN: But -- what you -- what you forget is people don't hire people because they have a budget to hire people. They hire people in a business because they need them to perform certain tasks. So they're not going to just lay off people if they need --

CUPP: They also have to pay them (ph).

BROWN: They do. But they're -- it means -- all these -- there really are no studies, except for some of your allies of the far-right think tanks that really even contend, with any legitimacy, that this costs jobs. It puts money into the economy. It helps these families --

CUPP: You can keep saying it. That doesn't make it so.

JONES: Would you be in favor of eliminating the minimum wage, then?

HELLER: No, not necessarily. Again, I think it's a state issue. But I will tell you this.

BROWN: It will create jobs, right?

HELLER: I don't know what the percentage in Ohio is of people who work at minimum wage, but in Nevada, it's probably about 1, 2 percent.

CUPP: Yes.

HELLER: Eighty percent of those people are between the ages of 16 and 21.

CUPP: Of course.

HELLER: Getting their first jobs. Now what are we going to do? What are we going to do? Maybe not in Ohio but in the state of Nevada?

CUPP: I think, Senator Heller --

BROWN: When you talk about one -- when you talk about living at minimum wage, minimum wage is 7.25. When you raise it to 10.10, you also capture all the people that are making 7.50, 7.75, $8.

CUPP: Right.

BROWN: so when they say it only affects this small percentage, it really affects far more people.

CUPP: All right. We've got to go. We'll return to this.

If you don't believe me that President Obama is having problems, why don't you ask some of the Democrats who won't even appear with him on the campaign trail? I'll show you how candidates in his own party are calling the president out, next.


CUPP: Welcome back. In CROSSFIRE tonight, Democrat Sherrod Brown and Republican Dean Heller.

President Obama has a huge problem on his hands this election year. Democrats don't want to be seen with him. Even safe Democrats who aren't up for reelection are calling the president out. Listen to Senator Claire McCaskill this morning, trying really hard not to throw the president entirely underneath the bus.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you were running for election in Arkansas, Louisiana or North Carolina, would you invite the president and campaign side-by-side with him?

SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D), LOUISIANA: Probably not. I mean, this is, you know, I don't -- I mean, I try to be really candid and honest on this show. You know, the president's numbers are not strong in my state or in Arkansas or Louisiana or North Carolina.


CUPP: Hell of a sales pitch. That's one example. And the list goes on and on. It certainly isn't good news. The Democrats think to retain the Senate. They have to do it at the expense of Obama. Remember 2006?

Senator Brown, I could go on and on, Mark Pryor, Kay Hagan, Mark Begich, some no-name in Wisconsin running for governor. None of them want to be seen with President Obama. This is embarrassing.

Tell me how this bodes well for 2014? SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D), OHIO: It's a study on how divided our society is. I mean --

CUPP: How divided in a way?

BROWN: No, I think if President Romney were, (INAUDIBLE), there were senators running for reelection in New York and President Romney were, wanting to come into the state, if he had been elected, that would be the same kind of thing.

CUPP: It happened with Bush.

BROWN: I think it just -- it happens with presidents in states that they did badly, and president Obama didn't do well in pretty much all of those states. So, that's no surprise.

CUPP: I know why it's happening.


CUPP: I just want to know why it bodes well for 2016?

BROWN: Well, I think it bodes well because I think people are beginning to see what's happening with the Affordable Care Act and how it's affecting people. There are as I said earlier, there are millions of people in my state. There are hundreds of thousands in the states like North Carolina that have benefitted from this. People are going to start telling their stories.

And ultimately, I think, S.E., when you think about this, they're going to be -- what their challengers want to do is take away benefits in health care that are already here. They want to take insurance away from people on Medicaid. They want to bring back preexisting condition. They want to tell 22 year olds, sorry, you can't be on your parents' health care plans, sorry you have cancer. They want to take these benefits away from seniors. They're saving hundreds of dollars into drug benefits. Those stories --


CUPP: That's what you want to do, right?

VAN JONES, CO-HOST: I agree. That's why --

SEN. DEAN HELLER (R), NEVADA: Sherrod sounds like someone who's not for reelection.

BROWN: No, I'd be doing --

HELLER: You do not hear any of their candidates say what he just said. It comes with like four Pinocchios I think every times that's spoken about.

JONES: Well, let's just -- maybe I change the subject from Obamacare. In fact, I sometimes think --


JONES: I bet you would, I bet you would.

CUPP: He's just got a mouthful.

JONES: That what you guys really want to do is focused on Obamacare because your party's policies are so unpopular on so many other issues, whether you're talking about minimum wage, if you just talked about, whether you're talking about unemployment insurance, immigration reform. Don't you think at a certain point, all this finger-pointing on Obama is trying to cover up the fact that your party is out of step and out of touch?

HELLER: First of all, Van, I would disagree. If you take a look at the latest polling data, it shows that people believe that the Republicans can do more about the economy than the Democrats by 11, 12-point margin now. And I think this Obama economy, Obamacare.

By the way, I think the Obama economy is going to be a far bigger issue coming into this election than even Obamacare will be. But that's going to be on the table also. I'll just throw a list out. I think anybody that's got a close race, or from purple states, are going to lose. They're going to lose, if you're a Democrat that voted for Obamacare.

JONES: So, you're saying that you guys are going to try to make (ph) the fact that people are having a lot of economic pain a big part of your sales pitch in 2014. But what about --

HELLER: It's always about the pocketbook.

JONES: So, that's very interesting. What are you going to do in the meantime to help with that pain? I don't call this the Obama economy. I call it the obstruction economy because there are things that you could be doing right now that make a difference and you're not. What are you willing do with this president in the meantime to help the people that you say are offering?

HELLER: That's a great question. I reached across party line all the time, on immigration reform, on U.I. extensions and some of these issues. If there's a good idea out there, I don't care if it's a Republican or Democratic idea.

But let's start with --

JONES: Sir, can you name in one issue in five years that your party has supported this president on?

HELLER: Well, if he's interested in tax reform, we'd be there with him. He had his own study and ignored it. His own study, he ignored. I think there are Republicans out there that are saying, if we've got the highest corporate tax rate in the world, do you think we're going to be competitive? Of course not. And that's why we're -- go ahead.

BROWN: You go back to 2010 and Mitch McConnell said on the stage when he said, my number one goal is to make sure Barack Obama is not reelected. It means that the reckless behavior of shutting the government down, of going right up to the debt ceiling, threatening to do -- I'm glad they did what they did today. I give John Boehner credit.

But each time they do that, investment freezes, it froze in the summer of '11, that affects economic growth, shutting the government down, affects economic growth.

And what are my friends in the House going to do in the next eight or nine months to make a better economy? I mean, some manufacturing bills that Senator Blunt, Republican from Missouri, and I are working on. I think we get bipartisan support there. That's good.

But things like minimum wage, extending unemployment benefits, those have been so hard to get to the Senate, let alone the House, that will help the economy. That will help these workers. That will help these families that are going to vote in November.

HELLER: This is what they've been trying to do all along and this is why we're in the rot that we're in. They want to raise taxes, they want to raise minimum wage, do all these things, that doesn't create jobs. None of these creates jobs.

XL Pipeline would create jobs.

CUPP: Right.

HELLER: It creates jobs tomorrow.

There's a number of things out there.

CUPP: That's another thing that majority of Americans want to pass.

JONES: We can debate it --


CUPP: Let me just ask Senator Brown about what's about to happen tonight at the White House.

There's going to be a big state dinner with Francois Hollande from France. I know that Van --


CUPP: -- doesn't want to blame President Obama for this economy he's president over for six years. That's fine. I will blame him just a little.

HELLER: They're running out of excuses.

CUPP: He's failed to reduce income inequality, something he admits to, as why it's his new pitch, because it's basically been ignored for six years.

JONES: For 30 years. CUPP: Poverty is basically been ignored under this administration as well. It's now his new pitch.

Well, President Obama's dining companion tonight, Francois Hollande, as you know in France, they tax the wealthy 75 percent. Now, I know no one here would want to do that. But do you think that's the answer, to tax the wealthy more?

BROWN: Of course, that's not the answer to do that. It's the answer to close tax loopholes that Wall Street exploits. You know, we still, we can't pass in the Senate an amendment to take away the tax breaks that companies have shut down in Steubenville or Garfield Heights, Ohio, and move to Wohan (ph) or Sheihan (ph), China.

They can deduct the shutdown of their plants. They can deduct the construction of plant in China. We can't close that loophole because of Mitch McConnell --


HELLER: That's not true.


BROWN: He's tried over and over and over on floor amendments and we can't pass it.

HELLER: (INAUDIBLE) floor amendment. There are no floor amendments. Your leader won't allow for amendments.

BROWN: There's attempts to do that -- no, we do that.

HELLER: We got four floor amendments that last six months of last year, four. Open amendment process.


BROWN: -- close those tax loopholes. We can't even get that done in this Congress. And that's the way, that would help us grow job. So, of course, the tax -- I mean, closing the hedge fund tax break that people in Wall Street and hedge fund operators pay a 15 percent tax break, everybody else pays up to 28 or higher.

HELLER: Back to your leader, tell him to allow amendments and all that will come. Open amendment process.


JONES: Stay here.


JONES: All right. Next, we're going to have outrages of the day. You've got to get the outrage out there. Mine is about the millions of incarcerated American who've already served their time but somehow, they still are not allowed to vote in America. You're going to see what the attorney general would say about this when we get back.

Also, we want you at home to weigh on today's "Fireback" question. Would you rather live in the USA or France? Tweet --

CUPP: You have only one right answer.


JONES: Only one right answer.

Tweet USA or France using #crossfire. You will get the results when we get back.


JONES: We are back with Senator Sherrod Brown and Dean Heller.

Now, it's time for our outrages of the day.

I am outraged that more than 5 million fellow Americans are not allowed to vote right here in the greatest democracy in the world. These are Americans who made mistakes, got caught, they served their time. But now, we got 11 states where they're being punished for that one mistake forever and never allowed to vote. My point of view, that is not right. Everybody deserves a second chance.

More importantly, even if somebody messed up in the past, we really need everybody to feel like they've got a strong stake in America's future. That's actually a big part of breaking the cycle of crime and creating safer communities.

Now, in California, we do let formerly incarcerated people vote and it's working out just fine. I was super happy today to hear the attorney general say that he wants all states to do what we do in California. I sure hope they'll listen to the attorney general.

CUPP: You know, Mike Lee and Rand Paul are with Van and Eric Holder on this issue. What's your thought?

HELLER: I was secretary of state of the state of Nevada and my position is always that, always against me, people registered to vote as possible, get as many as possible to vote.

CUPP: OK. Well, now, to my outrage. This Friday is Valentine's Day. And for many, that means chocolates, roses and romantic dinner. For others, it means drinking alone on the couch, watching season three of "Homeland" on Netflix and wondering if you're too drunk to post on your ex's Facebook page.

Well, one kindergarten teacher doesn't think 5 year olds should know about the dark side of Valentine's Day. New Jersey mother KristineF416 (ph) posted on Twitter a note sent home to parents. "If your child chooses to exchange Valentine cards in school, he or she should have one for each classmate," the note read. "This will avoid hurt feelings." Yes, it will also avoid reality, because in the real world, feelings get hurt. Not everyone gets a date to the prom, not every girl gets a proposal, not every guy gets a trophy wife or a husband. The real world is rejection and when better to learn about that rejection and the cruelty of life than at a very young age.

Also, mom and dad are getting divorced and Santa isn't real.


JONES: Well, I do think that it sometimes gets a little bit chaotic in these classrooms and some kids get a card, some kids don't. I'm not saying --


CUPP: Not everyone gets a Valentine's Day card.

All right. Thanks to Senators Sherrod Brown and Dean Heller.

Go to Facebook or Twitter to weigh in on our "Fireback" question. Where would you rather live? Right now, 65 percent --

JONES: What?

CUPP: -- of you say U.S., and 35 percent say France?

JONES: Oh no!

CUPP: Wow.

The debate continues online at, as well as Facebook and Twitter. That is unacceptable.

JONES: From the left, I'm Van Jones.

CUPP: From the right, I am S.E. Cupp.

Join us tomorrow for another edition of CROSSFIRE.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.