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Negotiations Continue Ahead of Senate Vote; U.S. Military Affected by Government Shutdown; Senate Expected to Vote on Plan to End Government Shutdown. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired January 22, 2018 - 11:30   ET



[11:32:14] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: All right, with about half an hour to go now until a vote in the Senate to reopen the government, where it looked like maybe there were not going to be enough Democrats to go along with Republicans and make this happen, it appears there is some movement that opposition may be softening. That's what Dana Bash is reporting as she's been talking with Democrats who are actually meeting right now on the Senate side, talking amongst themselves, deciding what to do, a meeting we believe is still under way at this point in time.

I want to bring in Sunlen Serfaty. She is there on the Hill.

Sunlen, what are you hearing about these negotiations as we're just minutes away from this key vote?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Brianna, a lot of reading of tea leaves here on Capitol Hill. A lot of flurry of activity, members going in and out of meetings and trying to get the sense, of course, of is this deal one that Democrats will accept? There was just a round of applause outside the Senate Democrats' meeting. Unsure what that applause was for, but certainly the sense up here is that this is moving in the right direction, moving in the direction to potentially have that vote go through today. But the big point is we just do not know until those votes are counted and voted on. You know, got the sense from Senate Democrats heading into meetings today that they wanted to hear more firm commitment, more firm assurances from the Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell that he intends to hold a vote and will commit to holding a vote. It is all about a matter of words. Will Senate Democrats take that offer, which we have been told is the best that they will do? Will they take it and vote through today? This comes down to the math. Senate Republicans need at least seven Senate Democrats to break ranks and vote with them today when they vote at noon. So all eyes will certainly be on those Senate Democrats who as of now have not said whether they will vote, whether they will come down on the side of Senate Republicans. A flurry of activity out here at the Senate Russell Office Building. Senators going in and out of meetings. The most important time is the noon vote they're pushing towards, will they have enough to end this filibuster if they need 60 votes to pass that through over in the Senate -- Brianna?

KEILAR: Sunlen Serfaty. Sunlen in the basement of one of the Senate office buildings. That's

how we know stuff is going down. That's where all the work happens there in the basement there on Capitol Hill.

I want to bring back David Chalian and Gloria Borger to talk about this.

This is really interesting. We don't know for sure that there are enough votes. We're going to get a clearer picture here as Democrats start coming out of that room.

But whether they do or not, whether there are enough Democrats, Gloria, to join Republicans and vote to reopen the government, it is hard to imagine a unified Democratic caucus on this issue, right?

[11:35:00] GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. There is a split and we saw it publicly because Dianne Feinstein put out a release. She's up for re-election. Liberal state of California, which she says you have to allow a vote on the DREAM Act as an amendment to much must pass legislation which means the budget, the continuing resolution. Clearly, you're going to have Democrats who are saying, what did we get for this? We got a vote that maybe we were going to get anyway. Why did we, you know, why did we shut the government down? We need more of a commitment and someone like Dick Durbin, very involved in it, may say, look, I think I have a commitment.

KEILAR: Because what is the commitment from Mitch McConnell to be clear? What he's promised is we will have a vote, right, by February 8th. But it is not as if this will be a clean bill on DREAMers. This could be a myriad of immigration issues.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: What they wanted initially. Remember, we all remember Dianne Feinstein in the cabinet room with the president when he had that 55-minute meeting and she was going in hoping for a clean bill on the DREAMers. That was never in the cards, you're right. They have a promise for a vote by February 8th. They have a promise from Mitch McConnell of a debate that will be a level playing field with opportunity on both sides for fair amendments, but here's the thing. We talk so much and have talked so much over the last few years about what a divide there is inside the Republican Party over immigration, right, the Jeb Bushes and Marco Rubios of the world, versus the Donald Trumps of the world. That we saw that play out intraparty on the GOP side. You're going to see a split here on the Democratic side too. Again, over the issue of immigration. I would imagine even if -- as dana is reporting, to have two Senators in the room who were noes on Friday, trying to get to yes today is a softening of opposition. And perhaps they are moving to reopen the government here and what do they get? They get the end of a shutdown that perhaps they are starting to sense that they're going to be held responsible for. And so that's one thing that they would get on this. The other side, we will see a split in the Democrats. Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, all have 20 in their head and they're thinking about running in an upcoming Democratic primary, I would imagine they want to keep on fighting. We'll see if those kinds of Senators come on board or if it is more sort of moderate Senators who have said to Chuck Schumer and Dick Durbin, we have to reopen the government now.


KEILAR: Let's look at where the Democrats to watch. I think this is your list, David Chalian, of people you've been watching. These are not the Kamala Harrises, right? These are the folks who are in a tricky spot. They are in Trump states. They may be up for re- election.

Gloria, you were going to say?

BORGER: Look, these are the people that Chuck Schumer is taking their pulse now, trying to figure out where they are. Where they are on this. Someone like John tester last week, you know, was adamant that we need to do more. It is about trust and it is also about the president at this point. I mean, maybe this is the time where you ask the White House to show -- to show where they stand. As David was pointing out earlier, you have these ads over the weekend saying that Democrats are complicit in murder, right? If it is committed by an illegal immigrant. This is not a way to build trust. Between the parties. And then, of course, you have to figure out where Paul Ryan is and where the Republicans are in the Senate. I mean, in the House. The Democrats want to get this DACA stuff done. And they're trying to figure out the best and the fastest way to do it. And the president has quite frankly been all over the lot on both DACA and this question of pathway to citizenship and larger immigration bill.

CHALIAN: And you have to remember, sort of why we are where we are, right. The base of the Democratic Party was really demanding this moment of using this leverage, of, yes, I understand it is not maybe the cleanest politics in the world to attach this to a funding bill and shut down the government over it. But this really matters to us, and where is the Democratic Party right now in that election year? With all the enthusiasm on their side. With all this negotiation, after the New Jersey and Virginia governor's races, the Senate race in Alabama, so Democratic leaders want to -- they don't want to do anything that will dampen that enthusiasm on the Democratic base and just going along here may have done that. They showed the fight. But now it is Senators are moving, you know that there is a growing sense inside the Democratic caucus that this isn't necessarily working for them for a prolonged fight.

[11:39:32] KEILAR: Created a visual on Saturday of protests against Donald Trump on the one-year anniversary of his presidency with the government shutdown, which may be all they wanted in the end. We'll see.

David Chalian, Gloria Borger, thank you so much to both of you.

Coming up, the stunning impact of the government shutdown as it could be on military members and their families. The gridlock in Congress is now halting bereavement pay for relatives of those who paid the ultimate price, we're talking about Gold Star families. That's not all of the effects. We'll have details, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KEILAR: All right, we're looking at the Senate floor, you see Senator Joni Ernst there addressing whoever is in the chamber at this point in time. And this is just minutes from when lawmakers are going to hold a key vote that could end this government shutdown. As we just have some news in from dana bash that it sounds like there may be some opposition from Democrats softening. So we're following that story.

In the meantime, a shutdown that is already having a real consequence for the military.

I want to get to Barbara Starr to talk about this. She's at the Pentagon.

The government shutdown means, Barbara, that families of fallen military not going to receive $100,000 death benefits. That has been in effect since the shutdown on Friday. That means the families of two service members killed in a helicopter crash on Saturday at the national training center in Ft. Irwin, California, are not going to be receiving what is really a crucial payment. It is usually made within days of their loved one's death. What are you learning?

[11:45:13] BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, we are learning just that, Brianna, we now have -- there are pictures. There are real families, real names, real soldiers involved here, they are First Lieutenant, Clayton Collin of Indiana, and Chief Warrant Officer, Kevin Burk of California. They died in a training accident in the early hours of Saturday morning at Ft. Irwin, California, in the line of duty for this country. And now as long as the shutdown lasts, their families not getting that $100,000 emergency death benefit. Real families, real impact here. We do know that a very well-known military charity, the Fisher House Foundation, very quickly as they did in 2013 shutdown stepped in and said they would volunteer to cover the payments to help the families out. A short time ago, the Fisher House told me they haven't even heard from the Pentagon yet, though they have made this offer. So whether or not the shutdown is lifted, and certainly everyone hopes it, there has been serious impact on the U.S. military. Some of the -- and it has been working its way through the system. We know, for example, base by base, they're looking at commissaries, looking at child care benefits. They're looking at training, at Reserve units, sticking with their duty schedule, maintenance, depot maintenance, intelligence analysts. All of this they are looking at since the shutdown went into effect at midnight on Friday. And decisions very rapidly being made. We're even seeing already some civilians here at the Pentagon get back in their cars, and head for home because they have every reason to believe they are being furloughed. So massively disruptive, unsettling to the military, and real impact for grieving families -- Brianna?

KEILAR: And in 2013, President Obama signed actually a bipartisan effort to make sure that the military would continue being paid. We saw the same thing, though, Barbara, with these death benefits. Those were not covered and certainly that, but also the paychecks for the military that is only at this point paid through February 1st when we see pay interrupted. That would create an astronomical pressure on Congress to act, right? STARR: Absolutely. And they know this is coming. The pay schedule

for the military are pretty complex. But basically, exactly right. They're being paid for the work that -- hours and the days of duty that they have already completed. And they will get another paycheck towards the end of the month.

But if this doesn't get resolved, think of this, Brianna, could the president of the United States and Congress at the end of the month hold that State of the Union address in the capitol and be facing a situation where they are addressing the nation and the United States military is serving without a paycheck still? I don't think they think it is going to go that long, but the way things are these days, who really knows -- Brianna?

KEILAR: That is why we're keeping our eye on the Hill amid this news of possible movement there.

Barbara Starr, at the Pentagon for us, thank you so much.

You're looking there at the Senate floor where any moment now lawmakers are going to take a big vote. It could end this government shutdown, a key vote scheduled just moments from now. Can they reach a deal? Senators are talking. We're there in multiple places on the ground on Capitol Hill. We'll tell you what we're hearing.


[11:53:18] KEILAR: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world.

The Senate is expecting to vote, and this is a big one. It is a key one. Any minute now it's a plan that could end the government shutdown.

And I want to bring in our panel one last time before the Senate's vote. We have CNN political director, David Chalian, and CNN chief political analyst, Gloria Borger.

It is sounding like there are Democrats who are really in a position to want to go along with Republicans on this who are saying this is looking like the government could reopen. Right?

CHALIAN: Like Joe Manchin, who voted last Friday to keep the government open, unsuccessfully. According to our reporter up there, he left the Democratic meeting and said, quote, "It was very positive," and added, quote, "I think it will be open by 12:10 is or 12:15."

KEILAR: Is that optimistic?


CHALIAN: That's his opinion. Schumer left the room and was asked and then said, we'll have something to say shortly. We don't have the definitive word from the leader yet. BORGER: It's going to be interesting, because now we're seeing this

cement crack underneath the Democrats' feet. It will be interesting to see how Chuck Schumer portrays this on the Senate floor. If he portrays it as a victory that the Democrats have actually gotten something from Mitch McConnell that they didn't have before beyond hope and intention to raise the DACA issue, I'd like to know how Schumer is saying they won in this battle.


[11:55:55] KEILAR: sure. And even if it's not clear. You expect he is going to say that. Sure, if even if it's not clear. But you would expect he would try to spin it as a win. But clearly, Gloria, they're concerned that they have not won the messaging, at least, on continuing this shutdown.

BORGER: The messaging has never been clear from the outset, I believe, so I'm curious as to what their messaging is going to be now. Is their messaging going to be we're getting a DACA vote that will pass? The president has agreed he will take care of the DREAMers and so is has Mitch McConnell and so has the House, and that is an issue we'll be able to dispose of in the next week or two. We'll see.

KEILAR: What's the point, David Chalian? Not to say this is a foregone conclusion, because it isn't, and we're waiting for the Senate floor to hear what Democrats are going to do, at least some Democrats. What, then, does anybody really get out of a three-day shutdown?

CHALIAN: This is going to be a Chuck Schumer's mission. What did he extract? Here's what they get. They get to go back to their put a stake in the ground, we fought really now is going to be solved by February 8th. That is what we got. We got it to be solved sooner, and we got everyone to focus on this issue of DACA to make sure that that was resolved before February 8th. Plenty of time before the March 5th deadline. I assume it will be something like that. But you are right, Brianna. If Democrats thought that keeping the government shutdown was the best way to achieve their political goals right now, they would do that. And if, indeed, the opposition is softening and we're just a few minutes away from them -- enough Democrats siding with Republicans to open up the government, it is a clear indication that at least the Democratic Party is split over it and that enough of them think this is not working for them politically.

KEILAR: Thank you so much to both of you for being on this for the long haul with me, especially as we see things shaking here on Capitol Hill. May not look like it from the Senate floor but this is the calm before the storm.

David Chalian, Gloria Borger, thank you so much.

We are waiting for a key vote that could lead to the end the shutdown. We're just moments away from that. Stay with us.