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White Officials, Congressional Leaders Meet to Avert Government Shutdown; Mitt Romney to Seek Retiring Orrin Hatch's Senate Seat; Michele Bachmann Considers Run for Al Franken's Senate Seat; State Lawmakers Plot to Fight GOP Tax Law; CA State Senator Calls for Government Shutdown to Protect DREAMers; Death Toll Rises as Brutal Cold Continues to Hit U.S. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired January 3, 2018 - 11:30   ET



[11:31:22] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Trying to avert a government shutdown, that is the pressing issue topping the agenda today when White House officials head to Capitol Hill. President Trump's budget director, Mick Mulvaney, and his legislative affairs director, Mark Short, will be meeting with House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Democratic leaders, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer.

CNN congressional correspondent, Sunlen Serfaty, is joining us from Capitol Hill.

Sunlen, what do we expect?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Ana, this is certainly a big meeting today to discuss the budget bill and a spending deadline, which looms large, set for January 19th. The leaders will sit down at 3:00 p.m. today in Speaker of the House Paul Ryan's office. And top of the agenda list is setting the domestic and defense spending levels. Ahead of this meeting, going into this meeting, Democrats really trying to draw a line in the sand here, saying they will continue to insist on parody here. Meaning that they want equal spending for defense and domestic programs in the spending bill.

Also, you have in this mix, these issues of DACA, funding for CHIP, the disaster aid bill that Democrats will continue to insist potentially be included in this spending bill. And keep in mind here, they do -- Democrats do have some leverage. The fact that they -- that Republicans cannot pass this through without Democrat support, so that adding into the starting point today of negotiations -- Ana?

CABRERA: All right, Sunlen Serfaty, on Capitol Hill, thank you.

Let's bring in our panel, Laura Barron-Lopez, a congressional reporter for the "Washington Examiner." Jake Maccoby, a Democratic strategist and former policy advisor to the Hillary Clinton campaign, and Doug Heye, former communications director for the Republican National Committee. So, Laura, a spending bill and this legislation to protect DREAMers

seems to be the big linchpin here. What are the chances of a shutdown?

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, WASHINGTON EXAMINER: Well, I think that right now Democrats are seeing this as the most leverage that they are going to have. and so because their votes are needed to pass this spending bill. So there is some talk that they may need to pass another short-term C.R. in order to reach a deal, because there isn't much time between now and January 19th.

So, especially if Democrats stay -- stand hard on this, you know, what they want, which is DACA, a DACA fix, they want the CHIP money. And so in order to get that, they can't really be -- they have to take a firm stand. They can't really be saying, OK, let's kick the can down the road again, especially since DACA recipients don't have time for that.

CABRERA: So, Jake, the president says, no DACA deal without the wall. Democrats are saying, no way to the wall. Are Democrats really willing to shut down the government over this?

JAKE MACCOBY, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I think Democrats want Donald Trump and the Republicans to honor their commitments on this. You have 800,000 people who are Americans in all but name, who were brought here when they were children, who were covered by DACA. They're members of our communities. They're members of our families. They are members of our businesses. And they're a big part of America.

And they're looking at a whole lot of uncertainty, which is why Democrats made a deal back in September with President Trump that would have insured the safety of DACA recipients. And then Donald Trump walked away. Now Republicans are saying, well, we'll give you DACA, but we want something in return. And frankly, the American people shouldn't have to bribe Republicans in order to do the right thing here.

CABRERA: One thing's for sure, no deal is a deal until it's a done deal.

And, Doug, another deal that's been made recently with Mitch McConnell, telling Senator Jeff Flake that he would bring a vote on DACA legislation to the floor in January if a deal was reached. How do you see this playing out?

[11:34:56] DOUG HEYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I can tell you from my experience on Capitol Hill, there is no more divisive issue within the Republican House and Senate conferences than immigration as a whole, whether you're talking DACA or other issues around immigration. The one thing members of Congress and Senators know is that there is no daylight between Donald Trump and where he is on immigration and where Trump voters are on immigration.

They are in lockstep together. I think that actually gives Donald Trump an opportunity here, especially, maybe paradoxically, given his past rhetoric about the wall, given his past rhetoric against immigrants, to actually be in a Nixon and China moment and cut the deal. And we'll find out. This is the pre-posturing that we get before these kinds of meetings and potential shutdowns and so forth. We'll find out if this is posturing from Donald Trump or if he's the great negotiator he's promised to be. If there's a government shutdown, it's going to end up on Republicans' doors.

CABRERA: Now, of course, Republicans have less of a majority in the Senate and on the heels of Doug Jones, of course, about to be sworn in.

Senator Orrin Hatch is retiring. We've learned Mitt Romney is expected to run. He changed his Twitter location yesterday to Utah.

Laura, how soon will he make an announcement? Any chance he doesn't run?

BARRON-LOPEZ: I think he wants to give Hatch some time. The announcement of his retirement just came out yesterday. So we're seeing Romney wanting to be respectful of that. At the same time, I think we're going to see pretty soon him making an announcement. All signs are pointing towards him making a run for it.

CABRERA: Doug, Mitt Romney runs, let's say, his chances are extremely high that he'll win. I mean, he beat President Obama in Utah by about 50 points in 2012. So, if he's in the Senate and Trump is in the White House, I'm wondering which Mitt Romney shows up. The Romney who interviewed for secretary of state or the Romney who said President Trump is unfit for office?

HEYE: I think we'll see the Mitt Romney that is the statesman in the mold of Orrin Hatch. And this is where, if you've worked in politics for a long time, you get a little sentimental about these things. I met Orrin Hatch in 1990 at the first political event that I ever attended in my political career in Charlotte, North Carolina. He's been a statesman, somebody who's been willing to work across party lines, but always kept true to his conservative values. He's not been someone who's fallen into extremist rhetoric or anything like that, even as he's worked pretty closely with the Trump administration.

I would expect Mitt Romney to play similarly in that role. Certainly, he's been critical of Donald Trump in the past, in the not-too-distant past. But if he's representing the people of Utah, and if he runs, he most likely will win. I think it's almost a metaphysical certitude he would win. I think you would see Mitt Romney stand up and be the statesman, but also standing up for the people of Utah and their priorities, first and foremost.

CABRERA: Senator Al Franken, he's out now. Tina Smith, who was appointed by the governor to temporarily fill his seat, is going to run for that seat permanently. And now, it looks like Michele Bachmann might throw her hat in the ring. She said, in a radio interview yesterday, the Democratic Party even admit they threw Al Franken under the bus because they wanted to look pure.

Jake, could this sort of roundabout defense of Franken encourage voters who may lean Democratic to really seriously consider Michele Bachmann?

MACCOBY: Michele Bachmann comes from a wing of the Republican Party that was on the fringes not too long ago, until Donald Trump brought them into the mainstream. I would be extremely surprised if any Democrats considered voting for Michele Bachmann. She's a person who's said she wanted to end Social Security and Medicare. She's a person who has called homosexuality a sexual dysfunction. She is not a person who Democrats are likely to get behind. And frankly, she's not a person who Minnesota is likely to get behind. But we're in sort of a brave new world of Republican candidates, as you saw in Alabama. So we'll see how it plays out.

CABRERA: But her remark there about throwing Al Franken under the bus to look pure, is there some truth to that?

MACCOBY: I think this has been a pretty cynical way to look at what happened recently. But I think -- I think what we really need to be focused on is making sure that we have a positive environment in the Senate, in government in general, and in business around the country, where women can be respected, where women can work alongside men without constant -- without harassment from any quarter. And so, I think that's what Democrats have been focused on. And I think, to look at it otherwise, is pretty cynical.

CABRERA: All right. Jake, Doug, and Laura -- I know, Jake, Doug, you might have one last word. Go ahead.

HEYE: I was going to say, just operationally, on the campaign side, Michele Bachmann still has more than $1 million in her campaign accounts. If she decides to run, that gives her a big head start in a primary that could move her forward to being the nominee. Whether or not she wins in the end, you know, obviously remains to be seen.

[11:40:01] CABRERA: It's going to be so interesting to see how all of these races play out.

Thank you so much, Doug Heye, Jake Maccoby, and Laura Barron-Lopez. I appreciate it.

HEYE: Thank you.

CABRERA: You could soon be seeing a change in your paycheck with the new tax law in effect in 2018. But lawmakers in some of the largest and most heavily taxed states are plotting to rebut some of the new rules with their own tax laws. It's all about an effort to sort of push back on the impact of the tax overhaul. I'll talk to one of those lawmakers, next.


CABRERA: It's no secret that high-tax states are not happy with President Trump's new tax law. And Democratic lawmakers in states like New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and California are calling this a deliberate attempt to target blue states. They're planning to fight back to ensure they don't lose out on state revenue and so that residents in those states don't lose out on a popular tax deduction that just got drastically cut.

Take a listen to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.


ANDREW CUOMO, (D), NEW YORK GOVERNOR: This tax provision hits the blue states by eliminating the state and local tax deductibility. And uses that money to finance the tax cut in the red states. This is the most partisan, divisive legislation we've seen.

Look, there's always politics in crafting of legislation. But this was an egregious, obnoxious.


[11:45:15] CABRERA: California is another state that could take a hit with this reduction of state and local taxes and their deductions.

Democratic state Senator, Kevin de Leon, is working to get a plan to get around this new tax law. He's also announced a primary challenge to U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein.

State Senator de Leon, thank you so much.

You conceded to "The New York Times," with this idea, you're trying to game the season with the SALT tax. What are you proposing?

STATE SEN. KEVIN DE LEON, (D), CALIFORNIA: Good morning, Ana. Let me say, that wasn't my word, gaming the system. I think we were gamed in California by Donald Trump and the Republicans, as well as New York and New Jersey and Connecticut and other blue states throughout the country. The reality is this, that with this massive tax cut for corporations and hedge fund managers and for the wealthy of America, the expectation is that California taxpayers are going to bail out this massive tax cut for the wealthy. So what I'm attempting to do is move forward, some creative, innovative legislation that perhaps other states in the country can utilize as well, too.

So for California taxpayers whose SALT, the state and local tax deduction, that will be lowered to 10,000. In California, the average is $22,000 deduction. We're going to do a charitable contribution. For every dollar that California sends as a charitable contribution to California, you can write that off with a 100 percent tax credit by the federal government. It's legal, it's legitimate, and we believe it is an opportunity for us to recoup the dollars that belong to the people of California.

CABRERA: Why not take a hard look at just lowering state taxes?

DE LEON: Let me say this, Ana, because it doesn't make a difference if you're a Republican or if you're a Democrat, you have the responsibility to govern. So when you have a massive tax cut, just the one that just occurred in Washington, you have to still pay the bills. You have to pay the bills for our public schools, our universities, our community colleges, health care for the elderly, young children who have early signs, I should say, of -- or who on the spectrum of Alzheimer's or autism. You still have to pay the bills. By lowering the tax deduction and by cutting taxes even more so, you will drive states into budget deficits. You still have to pay the bills when they come full, you know, come every month.


DE LEON: So that's not a reality.

CABRERA: So are you concerned, though, about a court challenge from the Trump administration on this? Because that is likely, should you go down the path you're seeking?

DE LEON: I'll say, Ana, that if the Trump administration does litigate and sue us and try to revoke our authority as a state, we're prepared to move forward in a court of law. He will actually hurt other red states, such as Arizona, such as Florida. Two crucial states, I believe, in the next presidential election. These are two red states who also use, conceptually, the type of charitable contribution, tax deduction that we've been using in California. So, actually, it will put him in a conundrum. But we are prepared to litigate, if need be.

CABRERA: You're challenging Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein. You've been particularly critical of her on DACA. You've called for her and Senate Democrats to shut down the government to get protections for DREAMers.

I want to read to you from the "Sacramento Bee" editorial board, which urged against this move, writing, "Using blackmail to force legislators to act isn't wise and won't work. Besides, there's time to do things the right way. DACA doesn't expire until March. Shuttering the government would have its consequences. National parks would close. Passports would not get processed. Then there's the human toll, particularly in government towns, such as Sacramento. Federal employees, there are about 250,000 in California, would get furloughed, as they did during the shutdown of 2013."

Why are you comfortable with this risk?

DE LEON: Let me be very clear, this is about a values-based judgment. We have hundreds of thousands of young men and women who have contributed greatly to our economy, who are young Americans. To date, have not been able to receive any type of temporary reprieve because we have folks in Washington, D.C., both Democrats as well as Republicans, who have refused to deal with the issue of DREAMers. I do believe strongly, it's time that we all stand up, both Republicans and Democrats. Voters across the country, overwhelming support, the DREAMers. So it's about time that Washington, D.C., get off their duff and actually work towards a compromise when it comes to the DREAMers. To date, we haven't seen one. And we're looking for Democrats to have a real spine in Washington, D.C., to have their voices heard, and make sure that the user leverage that they have in D.C. currently, before it slips through their fingers, and make sure that they protect the DREAMers.

CABRERA: But if a shutdown happens, Republicans and the president are prepared to blame Democrats.

[11:50:00] DE LEON: Well, listen, again, let me go back. This is a values-based judgment. I believe strongly both Democrats and Republican, voters, specifically, not the politicians, overwhelmingly support DREAMers. They've got to the use their political leverage to cut a deal to protect these young men and women, and their parents, as well, too. I haven't seen in Washington, D.C., right now, any strong political leveraging on the part of the Democrats to force a deal with the Trump administration --

CABRERA: What would you do?

DE LEON: -- and with Republican leaders? What I would do is clearly use the threat of shutting down the government. I'll tell you


DE LEON: -- right now, the Republicans will never hesitate for a second to move forward what they believe in by threatening to shut the government down or not threatening to shut the government down.

CABRERA: OK, Kevin de Leon, I really appreciate your time. Thank you for sharing with us.

DE LEON: Thank you, Ana.

CABRERA: The death toll is rising as punishing cold weather continues to hit a massive stretch of the United States. More than 100 million Americans are now under wind-chill warnings and advisories. Details ahead.


CABRERA: It's cold and it's about to get a whole lot colder. Freezing rain, sleet and snow are expected in the southeast. And a brutal winter storm is heading towards the northeast.

CNN Meteorologist Jennifer Gray is live in the CNN Weather Center.

Jennifer, 12 people have already died. A lot of people are dealing with frozen pipes. How much colder is it expected to get?

[11:54:29] JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It's going to get colder by the weekend. But right now, if you think about it, we're seeing some of the warmest temperatures we've seen all week. It's still very cold. It is cold enough to snow across north Florida this morning with temperatures around 37 degrees in Jacksonville. And temperatures are going to get even colder as we go forward in the next few days.

So most of the snow and the ice is pushing out of Florida now. This is the storm system that's going to move up the coast over the next 24 to 36 hours. It's going to rapidly intensify as it does so and going to bring possible blizzard-like conditions across portions of Virginia. Norfolk, Virginia Beach under blizzard warnings now. Snow, 5 to 8 inches. This goes into effect tonight through Thursday, and 50-mile-per-hour gusts possible. As we move up the coast, by the time we get into Thursday, Friday, that's when we're going to have the blizzard conditions for northern portions of Maine, eastern Mass. And so we could see possible hurricane-force wind gusts. We're going to see a lot of snow and a lot of wind.

Here are your snowfall totals expected over the next couple days. Philadelphia, an inch or two. New York City, 3 to 6. Boston could see 9 to 12 inches of snowfall. When you talk about adding very cold temperatures to that, temperatures will be in the single digits. These are high temperatures. Friday, Boston, 13. Saturday, 5 degrees your high temperature.

Ana, with these systems, a lot of times you get power outages. People are going to have to find a way to keep warm if their power goes out and temperatures are in the single digits.

CABRERA: A serious situation, no doubt. Not helping a lot of New Year's resolutions for those trying to get out and get moving a little bit more.

GRAY: Right.

CABRERA: Jennifer, keep us posted on the latest forecast figures. Thank you.

Coming up, the explosive new comments from one of the president's most trusted advisers. Steve Bannon saying Donald Trump Jr's meetings with the Russian was treasonous. That's next.