Return to Transcripts main page


Can President Trump and Congress Avert Government Shutdown?; U.S. Government Shuts Down at Midnight Without a Deal; Interview with Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired January 19, 2018 - 16:00   ET



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good afternoon, and welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We're going to start with the breaking news.

We are less than eight hours from a federal government shutdown. And as of now, with even some Republicans saying they are going to vote against the funding bill, it is not clear that there are even 50 votes in the Senate to avoid a shutdown, let alone the 60 needed.

Congressional negotiations are going on behind the scenes. Just hours ago, President Trump summoned Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer to the White House. Schumer emerged from that meeting, giving us 18 seconds of zero specifics as to gauge where we are at this hour.

Take a listen.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: OK, I'm going to be brief. I'm not going to answer any questions. OK?

We had a long and detailed meeting. We discussed all of the major outstanding issues. We made some progress. But we still have a good number of disagreements. The discussions will continue. Thank you.


QUESTION: Sir, are you going to shut down tonight?


TAPPER: Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas said he spoke with White House Chief of Staff John Kelly about Schumer's meeting with President Trump, and indeed no agreements have been made.

Both Democrats and Republicans in this town seem to be of the belief that it will be the other side whom the American people blame for a shutdown. Even more breaking news right now, we're going to release some brand-

new CNN polls revealing where the blame is perceived to be as of now -- 21 percent of those polled say President Trump will be responsible for any government shutdown, 26 percent will blame Republicans, and 31 percent say Democrats will be responsible for the mess.

That means a plurality will blame Democrats, but, as a political matter, 47 percent of the president public will blame either the president or his party. Ten percent say a pox on all their houses, everyone is responsible.

So, are Democrats overplaying their hand by pushing an immigration hand into this funding bill? The new CNN poll shows that most Americans the believe avoiding a shutdown is more important than passing a bill to fix DACA.

That's the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that allows those brought to the U.S. illegally as minors can stay.

Another bargaining chip is funding CHIP itself, the Children's Health Insurance Program. Most say this is extremely or very important to them. Overall, the public is frustrated. And it shows. The new CNN poll shows Congress' approval rating is down to just 18 percent, the first time this Congress is under 20 percent in approval.

Despite the stalemate on Capitol Hill, the president's approval rating in CNN's polling has improved. It is now up five points to 40 percent; 55 percent of the public disapproves.

Today, President Trump is canceling his trip to a Florida fund-raiser. His unique way of negotiating started today with a tweet saying -- quote -- "Democrats are needed if it is to pass in the Senate, but they want illegal immigration and weak borders. Shutdown coming? We need more Republican victories in 2018."

The clock is indeed ticking. Congress has less than eight hours to figure this entire mess out.

My political panel is here with me to break down all these numbers and all the latest to avoid a shutdown.

I want to start with the idea of blame. Again, to repeat these numbers, 21 percent will blame President Trump, 26 percent will blame the Republicans in Congress, 31 percent say Democrats in Congress.

The White House is calling this the Schumer shutdown, but right now it doesn't look like anyone specifically is going to be blamed. Kind of just everyone.


Look, shutdowns are never good politics for their party. If you look, this would be the fourth government shutdown in the last 25 years, '95, '96, 2013. And this would be the fourth.

In each of those times, there was split-party rule, either a division in Congress, one party controlled the House or the Senate, or one party controlled the White House.

This is first time that Republicans or one party is controlling all houses and the White House. So there is a slight difference. You see in the polling that Republicans would be slightly more blamed. And there would be a question, as they have been in all of the last polls, of whether they can properly govern.

But all that being said, no one wants a shutdown. Schumer doesn't want it. McConnell doesn't want it. They all are trying to manage their leverage right now to see what they can get out of it.

TAPPER: Schumer is trying to offer a short-term, not a one-month resolution, but even less than that, in exchange for some sort of deal that Schumer says everybody is going to have to go along with, lifting the caps on military spending, which Republicans want, coming up with a DACA deal, which Democrats want, and everything.

But there doesn't seem to be an appetite for that.

MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I think the more likely thing is that there is the cleaner C.R. that doesn't have DACA as part of it and that Republicans say, look, the negotiations still exist for DACA. There's a deadline coming up in March.

And, frankly, some of the polling I think is surprisingly good for Republicans, considering. And I think some of is it messaging. They have decided, look, they're not OK with -- no matter which side is making demands, we are going to get called the hostage-takers. It happened last night when they were making demands. And now Democrats are making demands.


And they're like, no, we're not going to have that. We are going to say that you guys are the ones making the demands and walking away from the table, if that's the case. And I think it has had some effect.

Also, this number, the 56-34. The priority is not having a shutdown. The priority is not DACA, although it is very popular and people are in favor of it. I think that has to be a little worrisome as well.

But I think evenly distributed blame for a shutdown is probably the most healthy, because they all get the message that, hey, this isn't a great way to do business.

MAEVE RESTON, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And about that point, it's good branding, right? The Schumer shutdown is pretty catchy.

TAPPER: Alliterative, yes.

RESTON: I think the big question right now and why these poll numbers are somewhat surprising is, are voters really focused on this and paying attention yet? How are they going to feel next week if there is a real shutdown or the next several weeks and months? Obviously, the Democrats' chances right now of retaking the House are looking really good.

And a lot of times, in these kinds of shutdown situations, you see blame bounce around a bunch of times. I don't think it is a great weekend for Trump to have his first anniversary and have a government shutdown when he ran on fixing the government.

TAPPER: Yes, cleaning up the mess.

Just by comparison, let's go take a look at the polling before the 2013 shutdown and then also the '95 shutdown. Right before the 2013 shutdown, CNN asked Americans who would be more responsible. Thirty- six percent said President Obama; 46 said Republicans in Congress. Thirteen percent said both.

In 1995, the CNN poll about the November 1995 showed Americans blamed Republican leaders over President Clinton 49 percent to 26 percent, with 19 percent blaming both.

So, Mary Katharine, you're right. These numbers today about this shutdown are better for Republicans than historically. Historically, it's been much more of a suggestion that Republicans are the ones doing this. And now it seems much more of a mixed bag.

But to your point, this does seem to hurt President Trump's self- styled title as negotiator in chief.


And certainly that's why he invited Schumer over to the White House today, had a very long discussion, more than an hour. We don't know exactly what happened in that meeting yet.

And I think Jen's perspective on this would be interesting, but I don't think the Democrats have done a great job this week of articulating why this is so important to them and why this is the bill that they will take their stand on. And I think that's why we're seeing some Americans out there kind of accept Trump's branding exercise.

TAPPER: Do you agree with that? Because even if DACA is not part of this is a short-term funding bill just until February. I think a lot of people might be, why not do this and then do DACA? And then you could vote against in it February, but why now?

PSAKI: Well, I think here's how the Democrats could be telling the story a little bit better.

One, they were given the promise back in December, when many of them supported a short-term the C.R., that DACA would be fixed. We're talking about 800,000 people who are not citizens, but they are law- abiding. They came in here innocently as children. And they see this as an opportunity for leverage to fix the problem, one that Trump promised he would fix. If you look historically at numbers as well, while there's disapproval

for Republicans, say, back in 2013, it was short-lived. Typically, disapproval for shutdowns and who is responsible doesn't last that long.

So I think the Democrats are making a calculation that this may be their only opportunity on fix DACA and they can move through the polling after this, because fixing that is to them morally important, but it's also something that politically they should do as well.

TAPPER: It is true that President Trump said they were going to fix DACA and then do the wall later.


HAM: Yes, if only it had been done legislatively while Democrats were in charge and Obama thought it was the most important thing in the world, they wouldn't have this problem.

But, look, I think there's the issue with chaos too, because normally Democrats have the sort of Trump chaos working for them. In this case, they would be the ones sort of adding to the chaos by saying this is where we make our stand, even if it's really for good reasons, this is where we make our stand and we are going to sort of throw it into who knows what.

But I think you're right that these things are less catastrophic politically in the long run than people -- than the conventional wisdom says.

TAPPER: Yes, Republican did just fine in 2014 in the midterms.

Let's get more information about that Trump-Schumer meeting this afternoon. Did they move the ball forward at all?

CNN's Jeff Zeleny is live at the White House for us.

Jeff, what can you tell us about the meeting?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, we do know the meeting was about 90 minutes long or so. That's how long Senator Schumer was over here at the White House.

I am told they met for most of that time. And perhaps the most interesting fact certainly that changed over the last week here, only John Kelly, the chief of staff, was in the room. He was the only White House official in the room.

That is a sign this was a one-on-one meeting between the president and the minority leader here, certainly a change from earlier in the week. But the senator said that progress was made on this. And it does seem like some progress was made.

What they're talking about right now is essentially a short-term fix, potentially four or five days, vs. the month-long fix here. But Democrats have yet to sign onto this. [16:10:05]

But, Jake, in typical Washington fashion, the sign that they had a meeting at all was a sign of progress, they said.

I caught up with White House Kellyanne Conway, and she said this:


KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP SENIOR ADVISER: This is what leadership looks like, the president inviting people from both parties and from both chambers again and again to this White House to discuss the matters of the day with him.


ZELENY: So, "This is what leadership looks like."

As the hours are counting down to a deadline, I'm not sure that is what leadership looks like, particularly President Trump himself, when he was candidate, private citizen Trump, I should say, in 2013, he said that the president owns this responsibility.

He went on FOX News to say the president owns the shutdown. So, now he, of course, owns that as well here, Jake.

We do know that there is still movement. They are still making phone calls. There could be other meetings here, I'm told, at the White House. We will keep our eye on that. But we know the president canceled his trip to Florida. He was supposed to fly down there this afternoon, actually in this hour.

There is a chance he could go later this weekend, but an even higher chance he may not -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Jeff Zeleny at the White House for us, with just seven hours and 49 minutes exactly until the federal government shuts down.

We're going to take a quick break.

When we come back, much, much more. Stay with us.


[16:15:20] JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: We're back and sticking with our politics lead with less than eight hours to go before a federal government shutdown.

CNN's Phil Mattingly joining me live from Capitol Hill with all the latest in the negotiations.

Phil, where is the vote count on this at all? It has to get 60 votes in the Senate.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I give you two numbers to really underscore the reality here on Capitol Hill. First, one. That's how many Democrats, Senator Joe Manchin, are publicly out saying they would vote in favor of that short term CR. Then you got three. That's how many Republicans are saying they're likely or will vote against the CR.

You put those together and recognize where the rest of the caucuses are, on the Republican side, on the Democratic side, Jake, it is very clear that there are not the votes to actually move this forward. It's really been what's been driving the talks between Senator Schumer, the White House over the last couple hours, the effort by Democrats to figure out some path forward here.

But I want to underscore a key point, Jake. Republicans on Capitol Hill remain firm. They remain comfortable with their position. They are still saying the only option right now is the four-week House passed CR. And they're ready to move forward with that even if it's going to fail on the Senate floor.

I will note, though, there is an expectation the vote was going to take place earlier today. Obviously, it has not. The talks are continuing and people are waiting to see what's going to come out of it. But when the vote comes to the floor, there's one thing we know for sure, it will fail. What happens after that? Well, that's still an open question, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Phil Mattingly on Capitol Hill for us, thank you so much, sir. I appreciate it.

My panel is back with me.

Let's go back to 2013 to that government shutdown. I want to play a little bit of sound from a friend of ours. President Trump about the question of who would be the one responsible for the 2013 government shutdown under President Obama. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Who's going to bear the brunt of the responsibility if indeed there's a shutdown of our government?

DONALD TRUMP, BUSINESSMAN: Well, let me say, who gets fired? It always has to be the top. I mean, problems start from the top, they have to get solved from the top and the president is the leader and he's got to get everybody in a room and he's got to leave. And he doesn't do that, he doesn't like to.

In 25 years, in 50 years, 100 years from now, when the government, when they talk about the government shutdown, they're going to be talking about the president of the United States.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So much easier back then, right?



TAPPER: He makes a good point back then. And he's not doing it now. He doesn't have all the players in a room.

MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Also, the good news for him is that's not how it turned out. People didn't blame Obama that much. Who knows --

TAPPER: Oh, that's right. OK, good point.

HAM: How it will go this way. But, yes, he was free to say that because he didn't have responsibility at that time. Look, I do think bringing Schumer over and having this responsibility is how you do it. It is under fortunate that we do it in this pressure cooker situation. I know many people's politics on shutdown change depending on who is in charge.

But my view is like this is irresponsible. But in the end, probably less catastrophic materially and politically than conventional wisdom says. It just didn't end up being that much of a giant deal, although detrimental to our reputations. In 2013, I think the same is true here.

MAEVE RESTON, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: But can we also point out that it was a week ago that he did have everyone in the room? Was that a week ago?

TAPPER: A week and a half.

JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: And said he would sign a bill that was agreed to.

RESTON: And said he would -- he would and agree to work Democrats on DACA, and then he blew up his own situation with, you know, a vulgarity in that meeting and sent everything off track. Wouldn't today potentially be easier for those Republican leaders who are really concerned about maintaining control of the house and Senate if he had just played ball.

TAPPER: And while we're on the subject of the ghosts of Christmas past, Chuck Schumer has been citing the old Trump sound. Here's what Senator Schumer had to say back in 2013.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: You know, we can do the same thing on immigration. We believe strongly on immigration reform. We could say we're shutting down the government. We're not going to raise the debt ceiling until you pass immigration reform. It would be governmental chaos.


PSAKI: Things always look different from the other seat. Look, the interesting dynamic here is that Schumer and Trump both have a mutual interest in the two of them striking a deal. That would be a great look for Chuck Schumer. That would be a great look for Donald Trump.

The person that would be a terrible look for is Mitch McConnell. And the similarity this has to 2013 is Mitch McConnell also then looked terrible because Ted Cruz is the one who essentially shut down the government in 2013, which is why Barack Obama didn't get blamed. They said this is Ted Cruz trying to defund Obamacare. So, there are some weird similarities here. We'll see how this pans out. But it would be no surprise if Chuck Schumer goes back to the White House, if there is a dramatic several series of meetings and they work out some crazy deal between them.

[16:20:03] But obviously it has to go back to the Senate to do --

HAM: Also, Mitch McConnell is no stranger to looking bad and then coming out fine.


PSAKI: It's true.

HAM: This is my question. Do we have consequences for any of these actions anymore? It is unclear to me.

RESTON: Isn't this what Donald Trump loves to do? Start a week in chaos, work through and it then there is the dramatic final act.

PSAKI: Of course, it's 11:58 p.m. He comes out arm in arm with Chuck Schumer and they struck a deal. Earlier than that was a Senate vote, but --


TAPPER: And when you look at the congressional approval now at under 20 percent, 18 percent. I mean, that is a horrible number for -- especially if you're Mitch McConnell or Paul Ryan because people tend to take it out on the incumbent party. So even though there might be this idea of ultimately, people, you know, just as many people are going to blame the Democrats as blame the Republicans, et cetera, and it's kind of like a mixed bag, and maybe people don't -- aren't going to hold anyone responsible at the end of the day. It does feed into the narrative of people hate Congress.

HAM: Yes. And well, here's a thing. I think it is a long-term erosion in faith and institution. But the problem is, it's not acute enough an erosion for either party for anyone to change their behavior. That's what concerns me, is that they seem to jump back, at least in this very low bar situation fairly quickly after these things happen.

PSAKI: If you had told me that the numbers and the poll were 40 percent approval for Congress, I would be more shocked than the 18 percent. Just because the numbers to Mary Katharine's point, have been pretty low for quite some time. I mean, 18 percent approval, that's half of what Donald Trump's approval is.

TAPPER: Yes. PSAKI: But in elections, as we've seen, we don't know yet if this is going to be a nationalized election. Democrats and Republicans can't entirely predict that. If it is, it is probably good for Democrats because Republicans control everything. If it's not, it will be down to local candidate versus local candidate. And there's a difference, that number may matter less.

RESTON: And the generic ballot number. That looks pretty good for Democrats right now. You've got just a surgery of enthusiasm around the country. People, so Democrats who are upset with Trump and ready, you know, to get out there and campaign for their candidates. I just think, I just can't see how Republicans aren't able to see their way out of this mess and see how potentially bad it is for them.

TAPPER: Everyone, stick around. We got lots more to talk about.

Are Democrats making a mistake by not helping to vote for this congressional resolution over the issue of immigration reform? Democratic Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado is going to join me next.

Stay with us.


[16:26:51] TAPPER: We're back with breaking news coverage of the looming government shutdown. Just in: Democratic Senator Joe Donnelly of Indiana, who's up for reelection this year, he declared that he will vote yes on the short-term funding bill. He is now the second Democratic senator to say he'll vote yes, joining Joe Manchin of West Virginia, also coincidentally up for reelection this year.

Right now, there are not enough votes in the Senate to pass the bill.

Joining me is Democratic Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado.

Senator, thanks so much for joining us.

How would you vote? Would you vote with Donnelly and Manchin? Or would you vote against the congressional resolution, the continuing resolution ?

SEN. MICHAEL BENNET (D), COLORADO: Yes, I'm very inclined to vote against the continuing resolution.


BENNET: Well, for one reason because I don't think the government should be running on continuing resolutions. We -- since I've been here, in the ten years I've been here, we've passed something like 36 continuing resolutions. And now, we're doing work that should have been done before the end of the year. And we're proposing to delay it for another two weeks. Nothing is going to change over the next two weeks, so we should do our work.

You know, the result and I want to talk about DACA but the results of the continuing resolutions is that our military cannot do the war planning it needs to do. It has airplanes that are broken. They cannot get parts because of the stupid budgeting that's going on around here.

And if they can't get parts, they can't train pilots because the pilots can't fly. We've cut domestic discretionary spending in this country by 35 percent as a percentage of GDP because of the auto pilot that we've been on.

So, that's -- those reasons alone are enough for me to say enough is enough. And then there's the matter of the Dreamers, which we need to find a way to address as well. And wildfires in the west which we need to address as well.

TAPPER: So, but all those, I mean, those are all cogent points, especially one about budgeting which is a responsibility the Congress has shirked for a long time, as you know. But is it worth shutting down government over?

BENNET: Well, my hope is that it doesn't come to that. I mean, that's what happens here is we have fiscal cliff after fiscal cliff, short term agreement after short term agreement, lazy threats of shutdown and all the rest. And what it does among other things is drive people's confidence in the government down, understandably.

I appreciate coming on after the discussion about how terrible Congress's approval rating is. But there is a reason it is so freaking terrible. And so, I think this is an opportunity when we have a bipartisan agreement that I've been part of to deal with the Dreamers.

Republicans, Democrats coming together. That's unusual in these circumstances. We have a bipartisan agreement that can be the basis of negotiated settlement and I think we should stay here until we do our work. That's what we should do.

TAPPER: So Democrats are looking at retaking the House and trying to at least hold the seats they have in the Senate. But according to a polling CNN just released this hour, 56 percent of Americans believe that avoiding a government shutdown is more important than protecting the Dreamers right now in this legislation.

Are you worried at all about the politics of this? If the government shuts down, this could be a tactical error for the Democratic Party?

BENNET: Well, I think the politics of this is going to shift a million times.