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Republican Senate Bill to Reopen Government Fails to Pass; Trump Accepts Postponement of State of the Union; Commerce Secretary Expresses Confusion Over Why Furloughed Federal Workers Need Food Pantries. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired January 24, 2019 - 15:00   ET



ZACH WOLF, CNN POLITICS DIGITAL DIRECTOR: That, of course, came right after the two sides had delivered dueling speeches on national television to the country.

So, they have spoken basically to the people indirectly. They have tweeted at each other. They have written letters. But they haven't actually gotten down to the negotiating table in more than two weeks.

And I think the big question in Washington right now is whether these votes today will sort of break the fever and get them in the same room again.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Zach, thank you so much.

And if you are just -- thank you. If are just tuning in, live pictures there of the Senate floor. How did I say it at the top of the last hour? You're about to watch Washington dysfunction at its best, these two Senate votes that are expected to fail.

The next question is, perhaps might that then lead to some sort of compromise?

Lauren Fox is standing by for us up on Capitol Hill.

And for people who are just now tuning in, Lauren, talk us through each of these proposals and why we think they're going nowhere.

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Well, that first vote is on the Republican proposal, a bill that largely reflects the president's proposal from over the weekend. It includes $5.7 billion for money for the border wall, in exchange for three years of an extension of DACA and those with temporary protected status.

Now, that bill, of course, like you said, expected not to go anywhere. We do know one Democrat, Joe Manchin, has said he will support the Republican plan, but, again, falling far short of those seven votes they need to actually pass it.

So, then you move to the Democratic bill. That bill simply reopens the government for a few weeks into the beginning of February. And then it also includes some disaster relief money. Again, it doesn't have enough votes.

We do know there are a number of Senate Republicans who might cross the aisle and support it. We know Lisa Murkowski, Cory Gardner, Susan Collins, they're all expected to vote for it, but again falling short of the 13 that they would actually need to pass it.

So, the hope is that, after this vote, they can actually find a way to come together. Sometimes, an action on Capitol Hill yields some kind of action. Everyone sees it fell apart. They show the president, look, you can't get enough money for the border wall. Maybe that gets something moving. That's the hope at least, Brooke.

BALDWIN: OK. We're hoping inaction leads to action.

And, Lauren, since I still have you. I wanted to ask you about a potential -- let's talk about the action. House Democratic leaders and top committee chairs have been drafting a border security proposal over the last couple of days. From what I understand, could be released as soon as today. Might that pique the interest of some Republicans?

FOX: Perhaps. We haven't seen that proposal. It's still up in the air exactly what it would entail.

I do know that Republicans and Democrats in the Senate are hoping to take the floor and give some speeches about trying to encourage the president to reopen the government in the short-term and then try to negotiate a broader border security plan.

Again, it's just not clear what the White House will support. And that's always the key question here. Republicans and Democrats who are moderate can get in a room, make a decision, come up with a plan, and if the president won't sign it, it's going nowhere.

BALDWIN: OK. Lauren, thank you so much. We will come back to you in just a second.

I have got Manu Raju also up live on Capitol Hill. He follows all these members of Congress so closely each and every day for us.

And so, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, I hear, is one of those, what is it, 30 or so House Democrats who have taken a trip over to this Senate building to sort of, what, stand in solidarity, essentially saying to these Republicans, vote with us.


And I just ran into her on the way in. I asked her if she was going on the floor. She is. This is all a theatrical move bill the House Democrats to try to express their frustration towards the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, and his refusal to bring up House- passed legislation, although one House-passed bill will get a vote after this first vote goes down.

The Trump proposal, after that fails to get the 60 votes needed to advance, then that other proposal to allow the government to be reopened until February 8 will come forward. That did already pass the House.

But other House bills, 11 that have passed the House total, 10 of those have not seen any action in the Senate, so that's part of the pressure going forward.

But you're seeing some different efforts on display. Soon after this -- these bills do go down, we do expect roughly a dozen, maybe 15 members of both parties in the Senate to take to the floor, express their frustration, impatience about what is happening, try to pressure the president to agree to a short-term spending bill to reopen the government with some sort of commitment from the speaker to provide some more commitments on border security and hope that is enough to suggest a way forward and out of this.

It's the longest shutdown in U.S. history. Of course, there are a lot of questions about how they will be implemented, questions about whether the president himself would endorse that.


And Lindsey Graham told me moments ago that if the speaker were to say that she would accept whatever border security bill could actually get approved by the Senate, then perhaps there could be a way forward to end the shutdown and reopen the government immediately.

Of course, there's no reason to believe that Pelosi would just endorse any bill that would come out of the Senate, especially given her opposition to the president's border wall. But that is one area of discussion that we expect out of the Senate after these votes this afternoon to say, look, there may be a way forward. We need to move forward.

But I can tell you, Brooke, this is one of the first days I have seen this level of concern, frustration, impatience among Republicans in the Senate in particular, in talking to a bunch of them just now, particularly frustrated that there's no end in sight, no strategy to get out of this.

So we will see if that changes the dynamics after these votes go down here in just a matter of moments, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Yes, hoping the inaction leads to action. Manu, thank you so much. We will let you keep catching up with different members of Congress and bringing us this great color.

David Chalian, what about compromise? Are you see any inklings of a possible compromise in the works?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Compromise, I guess, is in the eye of the beholder. But is there a pathway out of the shutdown?

I will say what we saw from President Trump last night when he caved to Speaker Pelosi on just the small side issue of the State of the Union address, and he did so in a way that acknowledged the reality of her power position in this new world order in Washington, that was the first shift we saw, Brooke, in the politics of all of this in more than a month.

This has been defined by both sides dug into their position with their lines. And then on this, again, side issue, I don't want to overinterpret it that it means there's a deal right now on the horizon to end the shutdown, but for the first time we saw a shift in those political stances and it came from the president.

If you also take that and listen to what Bennie Thompson, the Democrat in charge of the Homeland security Committee in the House, or Jim Clyburn, the number three in leadership in the House, today was saying about this notion of $5 billion or plus in border security, not appropriations for the border wall that the president wants, to me, to my ears, as much as Nancy Pelosi didn't want to talk about that, because she doesn't want to talk about anything until the government's opened, as her negotiating position, to me, hearing Democrats say, there is this idea that maybe we could put this $5 billion in border security as a part of this, that to me suggests, well, maybe that is the beginning of a negotiating position, even while the government's still closed right now.


CHALIAN: Or at least a telegraphing what they're thinking. I do think there are some cracks here that indicate a possible pathway forward.

BALDWIN: Yes. Yes. Maybe that is -- maybe that is a way forward potentially to compromise, and here's hoping that the president's tweet last evening, you know, quickly and politely acknowledging that he would not give this State of the Union until the government is reopened stays that way.

David, don't go too far.

Let me go to the White House. Let me go to Kaitlan Collins, who, of course, is keeping track of this administration and their perspective.

How are they watching these votes on the Senate floor right now, Kaitlan?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: So, Brooke, they know, like everyone else in Washington, that these votes are not going to pass.

But the thing that the White House is watching here is to see which proposal gets more votes, because they have got the president's proposal, but then they have also got this short-term bill. They're watching to see which turns out to be more popular here in the end, because they have said for some time now they know these are going to fail, but they do feel that the failure of these can then lead to more serious negotiations going forward.

They're going to be watching to see which Republicans are voting for what, even moderate Democrats could potentially vote for the president's bill, where their heads are, because as Manu and Lauren just laid out, lawmakers are starting to get frustrated. They're hearing from constituents. They're dealing with the blowback

from this government shutdown, now the longest in history. And they are letting the White House hear those complaints, even some of them urging to end the government shutdown.

Now, Brooke, this comes as the White House has not had a positive two days in their corner about how they have messaged the shutdown, because not only did last night you saw the president blink and essentially capitulate to Nancy Pelosi's demand that he not deliver the State of the Union address until after the government has reopened.

Even though today on Twitter he was saying that he will not cave on his demand for a border wall, Brooke, they're also dealing with the backlash from several of the president's inner circle members making remarks like what we saw the commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, say today when he essentially was advising federal workers, 40,000 of whom he oversees that are not getting paid right now, to take out these loans, saying, yes, you might have to pay a little interest, but it's not that -- it's not a zero paycheck that you're getting.

That did not sit well with a lot of people even inside the White House, who were amazed at the comments that Wilbur Ross had made and didn't feel like they were helping the White House at all in their argument that the government shutdown is worth it for the border wall.


So, right now, the White House essentially waiting back, sitting back and watching to see these votes and seeing which one ends up more popular on Capitol Hill.

BALDWIN: Quickly, quickly, Kaitlan, back to the blinking and the president's tweet last night, do we know any -- do we have anything on why he blinked so politely?

COLLINS: So, it actually surprised White House officials.

They thought that Nancy Pelosi was just bluffing, that she wasn't going to actually disinvite the president. But then once she sent that letter, they started looking at alternative venues for the president to give a speech next week, because they didn't want to be seen as backing down.

But then the president sent out that tweet last night saying, essentially, I'm going to wait until the government has reopened. And we're told that's because once advisers were looking at that list of alternative venues, Brooke, they went to the president, but he just simply wasn't interested, not only because he didn't want to travel, but also because that prime-time Oval Office address he gave not too long ago was something the president was not pleased with.

He thought it was a flop and didn't end well, and he didn't want a repeat of that. It was a big surprise to people. But as you saw the president today trying to hit back at Nancy on his Twitter feed, saying that is what he calls her, saying -- he was quoting what she said during a press conference, saying, I don't understand why.

The president was implying that was about the border wall. But if you watched Nancy Pelosi's press conference, as the president was doing in real time, she was quoting Wilbur Ross saying he doesn't understand why federal workers who aren't getting paid are going to food banks, instead of taking out loans, just to get their paychecks.

BALDWIN: Kaitlan, thank you, at the White House for us.

We should note we talked to a congresswoman just a little bit ago, Democrat, Virginia Congresswoman Wexton, who has apparently written a letter to Secretary Wilbur Ross, essentially saying, hey, come with me to the Capital Area Food Bank and let me show you what's going on there in person.

Tim Naftali is with me.

And I would love to hear, as always, from you a historic perspective, but let me just jump in as we're watching these votes. I was just handed this piece of paper. This is from our man Phil Mattingly.

Democratic Senator Joe Manchin voted yes on the shutdown proposal, as he said he would. Republican Senator Tom Cotton, immigration hard- liner, voted no. Senator Mike lee, Utah Republican, also voting no.

TIM NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, I mean, it's very important to frame this a little differently from the way some people have.

I have been traveling lately. And when you travel...

BALDWIN: You get a lot of perspective.

NAFTALI: Well, you are asking for the TSA to help you and keep you secure, and if you leave the country, the Border Patrol need to and Customs do.

All of those people are working without being paid. Is that what we have become as a country? In many ways, it's the United States, us, against our own civil servants.

This is not a hard problem. This could be solved. It's the president who decided to use the leverage of blackmail to get through his vision of border security.

BALDWIN: How so?

NAFTALI: Because he decided, after the C.R. -- sorry, the continuing resolution -- was passed by the House and the Senate, he decided, he said, I'm not going to sign it, which meant that they have to get a higher threshold of votes for them to override his veto.

He's the one who injected the border issue into this. We -- our government would be functioning. And because the American people in November -- and you know elections matter -- said, we want divided government. And what does divided government mean? It means compromise. We would be having negotiations between the two

houses and then ultimately with the White House, but the president decided to hold our civil service hostage.

Now, that's the moral issue today. The moral issue is, are we as a people going to require Americans to vote to -- I mean, to work without being paid? It's bad enough there are others who are being furloughed, and they should be paid and they have mortgages to pay for.

But what about the people every day who are working for us and not getting paid? Is that what we want in this country?

BALDWIN: Of course not. We're the United States of America.

NAFTALI: Well, we're a mature democracy. You don't do that. No other country would do that. No other democracy would do that.

So, part of the issue here is a moral question. Are the senators just going to keep expecting TSA, Border Patrol, the Coast Guard and the federal civil servants who are considered essential at all of our institutions, are we going to continue to expect them to work without pay?

Frankly, I think senators should stop taking their pay and members of the House should stop taking their pay, because why should they be paid, frankly, while everybody else who is doing work for us as a people are not getting paid?

To my view, there are two issues. There's a political issue, and that's how you define border security. And then there's a moral issue. The moral is, get these people paid, because we're Americans. We expect to be paid if we work.


BALDWIN: To be fair, some members of Congress have said, don't pay us.


BALDWIN: I talked to a Democrat and a Republican just yesterday on this show who said, don't pay us while they're not getting paid. But I hear your points.

Hang with me, Tim.

Manu Raju is on Capitol Hill following some of the details from the vote.


Manu, what are you getting?

RAJU: Well, Vice President Mike Pence was just on Capitol Hill speaking with Senate Republicans in a closed-door meeting. And I'm told that he did not lay out a strategy about how to end this government shutdown at the lunch, especially after these votes are expected to fail this afternoon. And Republican senators, a number of them, some of whom I talked to, just are not happy at the lack of strategy coming out of the White House.

As one person told me, he said, look, people just want a strategy about exactly what we're doing next.

Now, John Kennedy, who's the senator from Louisiana, talked to our colleague Liz Landers, and he said that he was asked if the president gave -- or the vice president gave any indication about what Trump would sign to end the shutdown, and Kennedy said -- quote -- "He did not."

So that is the big question going forward and something that has been really one that has lingered since this shutdown started 34 days ago.

BALDWIN: That there's no plan.

RAJU: What is the plan? Exactly. What is the plan afterwards? What would the president ultimately sign, beyond his demand for $5.7 billion for his for his border wall, which Nancy Pelosi will not give him?

Well, what next? What else could he agree to? That's just not been clear to Republican senators even. And I'm told, in this private meeting, there was some frustration about the lack of strategy going forward, especially since these votes are going to go down, and then what?

So that's why it's also prompting these discussions among rank-and- file Republicans and Democratic senators to see if there's any middle ground going forward. But, of course, Brooke, the president needs to endorse that in order for this to get any momentum, at least among the Republicans here on Capitol Hill.

And he has not said that yet. And that's why some Republicans are just not happy at this point -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: That is the last thing all these federal workers who Tim was just talking about want to hear, that there doesn't appear to be a plan.

Manu, thank you so much.

Special coverage continues as we wait for the voting results. Also, we will talk about some of the tone-deaf comments made by members of the Trump orbit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On this vote, the yeas are 51, the nays are 47. Three-fifths of the senators duly chosen and sworn not having voted in the affirmative, the motion is not agreed to.

BALDWIN: Manu, quickly back over to you, 51-47 nine, so clearly shy of that 60-vote threshold, so no dice, no surprise. RAJU: Yes.

And that's what we were expecting all along, that this bill was going to go down because of Democratic opposition. We do know that Joe Manchin is one who did vote for it.

We will see what the final vote tally is, if any other Democrats flipped. But all Republicans will be expected to support that measure going forward. Now, what's up next is this Democratic plan to keep the government open, reopen the government up until February 8, that also expected to fall short of 60.

And then, as we have been saying here, what next? We don't know what's next. And as these federal workers wait to hear what Congress can do to reopen the government, the members themselves don't know what they can agree to or what the president would ultimately sign, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Manu, thank you so much.

Quick break. Special coverage continues after this.



BALDWIN: We are back covering this breaking news up on Capitol Hill.

Let me just bring you up to speed. The U.S. Senate voting down the president's plan to end the shutdown. And right now lawmakers are voting on the House-passed Democratic plan.

We're going to start there.

I have with me CNN political commentators van Jones and Ana Navarro.

And, Van, you're sitting next to me, so I'm going to start with you here on call it dysfunction, call it fruitless. Other folks who have covered Capitol Hill for a long time say, well, inaction leads to action.

How do you characterize what we're looking at?

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Complete breakdown of leadership in the country, a huge humiliation on a world stage, a threat to public safety in every way, because you got the Coast Guard, the TSA, the FDA, air traffic control, the people -- everybody who keeps the food safe and keeps Americans safe not getting paid is a complete disaster.

And there's not a single person in the country with the moral authority to just bring people together and make them act right. And it's awful.

And so they can -- everybody's got their reasons, but the people have to live with the results. And the results of a massive food fight in Washington, D.C., are 800,000 people who cannot put gas in their car to take their kids to school, people who are having to delay getting lifesaving medical treatment because they cannot afford to pay their insurance while this nonsense goes on.

And I give 80 percent to Donald Trump, because he said he was going to be the dealmaker in chief. He said he cares about working people. He said that Mexico was going to pay for the wall. We're paying for his folly.

I will also say that, you know, on the Democratic side of this, there's got to be some ability to come up with some kind of creative solution at least to give people the sense that there's a way out of this.

I appreciate the Democrats not rewarding the president's temper tantrum, but there's got to be a third way out here. And I think people are getting very frustrated and -- but this is a disaster.

BALDWIN: I am going to come back to you on solutions in just a second.

But, Ana Navarro, I want to play you a sound from -- yes, the president did say once upon a time that he felt like he could relate to these people who are hurting.

But now we have heard from two members of the president's orbit who are getting a lot of reaction today , as millions of people are suffering.


QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, there are reports that there are some federal workers who are going to homeless shelters to get food.


And I don't really quite understand why, because, as I mentioned before, the obligations that they would undertake, say, of borrowing from a bank or a credit union, are, in effect, federally guaranteed.


So, the 30 days of pay that some people will be out is no real reason why they shouldn't be able to get a loan against it.

LARA TRUMP, DAUGHTER-IN-LAW OF PRESIDENT TRUMP: It is a little bit of pain, but it's going to be for the future of our country. And their children and their grandchildren and generations after them will thank them for their sacrifice right now.


BALDWIN: Ana, what do you think about that?

ANA NAVARRO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You know, it makes me cringe.

And as it makes me cringe, I only wonder how it makes the people who are suffering, who are paying the consequences feel.

It's horrible to hear this "Weekend at Bernie's" secretary of commerce that we have be so disengaged and detached from the reality of Americans. A lot of times, we talk about the need of having diversity in a Cabinet, in government, in Congress.

Donald Trump appointed a lot of very wealthy people to his Cabinet. There's nothing wrong with that, except that they don't understand and they don't relate to the people living paycheck to paycheck, the people whose stories we have heard who are rationing their medicine, rationing their insulin, people who have no way of putting food on the table, who are afraid of getting evicted, who can't pay their utilities, who are not able to sleep, and then going to work as air traffic controllers, because of the stress and the nerves of not knowing when they're going to get paid and how they're going to manage to pay their bills.

So, if you're going to hold on to this strategy of continuing the shutdown, at the very least, fake relating to it. At the very least, fake empathy.

No, Lara Trump, it's not a little bit of pain. It's a hell of a lot of pain for a hell of a lot of people in America. So, if you can't relate, do me a favor, do us all a favor. Either shut the hell up or fake it.

JONES: Yes, well said.

And there's something called credit scores. I don't know what this guy is talking about. You can't just walk into a bank and say, hi, I work for the federal government, give me some money. That would be great.


NAVARRO: Well, Van, I am sure Wilbur Ross can get a loan by picking up the phone and calling his banker, who I'm sure he's on a first-name basis with and has more than one.

Rich people can do that. People who live paycheck to paycheck cannot.

JONES: Well, exactly.

And I just think that, for people who have something called a credit score, which may not be that great, they're not going to get a bank loan just because they have a job.

The idea is, just because you have a job, a federal job, your bank loan is federally guaranteed is so insane, that he should have been really just taken away as soon as it's over and put away to some other place.

He has no relationship to the way that working-class and middle-class people live.

BALDWIN: Not to mention, if you are able to secure a loan, the interest, right, that you're paying back, all of that, all of that.

Stand by, please, both of you.

We're getting more breaking news. Democratic Senator and 2020 contender Elizabeth Warren is planning to propose a so-called wealth tax plan targeting some of the richest American -- those details next.