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House to Vote on Obamacare

Aired September 30, 2013 - 18:28   ET



ANNOUNCER: Tonight on CROSSFIRE, counting down, not backing down.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You don't get to extract a ransom for doing your job.

ANNOUNCER: Will a last-minute deal keep the government open or change Obamacare?

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The House will act this evening, and we'll send it over to the United States Senate.

ANNOUNCER: On the left Van Jones, on the right Newt Gingrich. In the CROSSFIRE, Brad Woodhouse is against delaying Obamacare, and Andrew Roth, who wants to repeal it. Who gets the most blame if the government shuts down? Tonight on CROSSFIRE.


VAN JONES, CO-HOST: Welcome to CROSSFIRE. I'm Van Jones on the left.

NEWT GINGRICH, CO-HOST: I'm Newt Gingrich on the right.

Tonight there is an amazing amount of hysteria and vitriol over what is a normal part of the constitutional process the government shut down 12 times under Democratic House Speaker Tip O'Neill. It was only shut down twice while I was speaker. Yes the president, the news media and the far-left fringe are acting as like it's unprecedented. Van, tell me: Why is there such hysteria, when this has happened many times?

JONES: Well, I just think what is unprecedented is usually, you have two strong parties going against each other. We've got three. You've got the Tea Party; you've got the Republicans; and the Democrats don't know who to deal with. That's a part of what's going on.

GINGRICH: OK. Well, we're going to talk about that some, but right now, there are so many things going on so rapidly, there are fast-moving developments on Capitol Hill. Let's get the very latest from CNN chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash.

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Newt, there are very fast- moving developments. Right now what we are waiting for is the House to begin a series of votes on the plan that they announced earlier today, which is not a bill that the Senate Democrats say that they would pass. Not a bill that the president said he would sign, but one that once again tried to chip away at Obamacare by delaying the individual mandate for a year and by saying that members of Congress and their staff would not get federal subsidies for their health care.

But -- here's the "but" -- I learned just a short while ago that moderates in the House Republican Conference are staging a revolt. They are trying to get their fellow Republicans, at least enough of them, to vote against the first procedural measure on this, because they say they've had enough. They say, "We've made our point. We've said it. We're at the deadline. Let's vote to fund the government and move on." The question is whether they will have enough votes, probably about 17 to 20, that they would need in order to stop this. If they are successful in that first vote, this plan could crumble.

JONES: Well, Dana, thank you. That is a big deal, actually; that's a pretty big development. We've got some help to talk about it tonight in the CROSSFIRE. We've Brad Woodhouse, who's the president of Americans United for Change. He is against delaying Obamacare. We also have Club for Growth's Andrew Roth, who wants to appeal Obamacare.

Welcome to CROSSFIRE, both of you. I'm going to start with you. Now, I see this is a good deal. It seems to me that sanity is starting to break out in Congress. I believe in majority rule. I believe that right now there are enough congress people to get a clean resolution done, and you guys can go back to fighting Obamacare in a normal process. Are you for majority rule?

ANDREW ROTH, CLUB FOR GROWTH: I thought you were talking about the House bill as being a good deal.

JONES: Oh, it is a great...

ROTH: No, no. The current bill that the House is bringing up has bipartisan support. Twenty-two Democrats have voted to repeal the individual mandate. And I think that getting rid of the member subsidy has wide support across America. I mean, that's a 90/10 issue.

JONES: But I guess what is happening now is, though, you might think it's great, you have a bunch of Republican moderates who are breaking with you and who are trying to get a clean resolution passed.

I'm -- I'm curious, from your point of view, we were supposed to be majority rule in the House of Representatives. The Hastert rule, which says all the Republicans have to get along with it, that's not in the Constitution anywhere. Why wouldn't you support a clean resolution right now? Haven't you made your point?

ROTH: Well, I wouldn't support it, because it goes contrary to my principles. Now...

JONES: You're principled against majority rule? ROTH: Well, now if it goes -- if Boehner decides to bring it up and majority rule passes with a lot of Democrats and just a few Republicans, that's fine, but there's going to be consequences for the Republicans who side with the Democrats.

JONES: It's fine. You say, "We've got to knock him off."

ROTH: Right, right.

JONES: Majority rule (ph) is going to take out Republicans.

GINGRICH: Brad, let me ask you something.


GINGRICH: I've been fascinated to watch. The president can reach out to Putin. He can reach out to Assad. He had a good conversation over the weekend, but with the Iranian president, not the Republican speaker. He had time today to meet with B.B. Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel, but not time to meet with Boehner. He had time to golf Saturday after his radio talk.

Don't -- don't you think, even as a supporter of where the president's at, don't you think there's some grounds under our system for sitting down and talking, and trying to find a way not necessarily to give up on his core principles, but to find some way to get to a positive agreement?

WOODHOUSE: Well, first of all, let's look at the history of this. The president has done that. The president did that with Speaker Boehner during the debt fight in 2011, and Speaker Boehner walked away. He offered this year something that we're opposed to, and that most -- most Democrats are opposed to, offered something called chained CPI. He's put stuff in this budget that is a compromise on the big budget issues of the day, in trying to reach some agreement on spending and deficit reduction.

What he said is the Rubicon he won't cross is trying to chip away at Obamacare. That's not part of the budget process.

And in fact, shutting down the government is not going to stop Obamacare. Defunding Obamacare is not going to stop Obamacare. I mean, this is just a false choice. Pass a clean C.R., and then continue to debate Obamacare.

GINGRICH: But don't you agree that there are a number of things that, in fact, could be fixed and improved in the way the current bill is working? I mean, if you end up with big corporations getting a waiver, but the individual doesn't, it looks to me like that's the opposite of what Democrats used to stand for.

WOODHOUSE: Well, look, we know what's really going on here. Everyone knows, as you know -- you support individual mandate in the '90s. Everyone knows the individual mandate is the glue that holds the whole thing together. You have to get more people in the system to lower premiums. You have to get more people in the system to cover people's preexisting conditions. Getting rid of the individual mandate is just another substitute for unraveling Obamacare.

ROTH: Senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat, said it was reasonable and sensible to get rid of the individual mandate.

WOODHOUSE: Well, I mean...

ROTH: And if you're going to do it for corporations, why not do it for individuals?

WOODHOUSE: Look, I can find a lot more Republicans that think that the activity that the right ring and your group is engaging in in political suicide than you can find Democrats that want to roll back Obamacare. You've got one. Right there: one.

JONES: Let's talk about this. I am confused. You know, I hear Republicans saying that they want to go forward, and you're going to make sure insurance companies don't deny people any more. You cherry pick the parts of Obamacare that you like, but then you don't want the individual mandate. I didn't expect Republicans to be the "something for nothing" party. You've got to have all the people paying into the system when they're well so they can get out of the system when they're sick.

Have you now become the pro-moocher, "something for nothing" wing of the party?

ROTH: No, no, no. Come on, come on. No. There's -- everybody agrees on the end goal. Everybody...

JONES: How will you pay for it, though?

ROTH: Right, right, right. Everybody agrees on the end goal that everybody should have insurance, and everybody should get affordable health care.

JONES: Then how do you do it?

ROTH: OK. The Democrats say, "Let's mandate. Let's force them."

The Republicans say, "Well, we can assuage them or convince them by handing out tax credits. Or give..."

JONES: Tax credits are in Obamacare.

ROTH: In Obamacare, is that right?

JONES: Yes. All those good ideas...

ROTH: But without...

WOODHOUSE: Subsidies are in Obamacare.

ROTH: Even Obama was...

(CROSSTALK) GINGRICH: Let me ask -- I want to break the rules. I want to break the rules and ask both of you this question, since you're so enthusiastic.


GINGRICH: Why is it that they couldn't design an insurance policy people would voluntary want to buy? I mean, I think part of the reason I changed my position was I began to realize this wasn't going to be some bureaucrat forcing people against their will to do something they didn't want to do, and that basically, it's structured that way. They make it more and more and more expensive if you don't sign up. So it's a coercive approach.

ROTH: And when you force them to buy something and at the same time you decide what that product looks like and how much mandates are on top of it and what kind of coverage, it gets nasty really fast.

JONES: OK. Here's a couple things; I think there are some myths out there.

First of all, what we've set out, these things are called exchanges. I think frankly, we needed you to give us a better name. They're not exchanges; they're marketplaces. There are 50 new marketplaces plus one in D.C. where, starting tomorrow, there's no longer going to be mythology and people guessing and scaring each other. Tomorrow you can go to, and you can actually look at the Web site. And guess what? That's competition, transparency and choice in these marketplaces.


WOODHOUSE: Here's another thing. Here's another thing. If you don't -- if you don't mandate that people buy insurance, than you're mandating that you and I and every other taxpayer pay for people who don't have insurance and show up at the emergency room.

You know, famous Mitt Romney said, in one of these debates, you can't have -- you can't have freeloaders. You can't have people going to the emergency room to get care who otherwise could afford insurance.

GINGRICH: But even under Obamacare, there's millions of people who are not going to be under insurance. I mean, every estimate has shown literally tens of millions of people...

WOODHOUSE: Look, that's not the part of the law that I like. That was -- that was part of the problem to get folks to pass Obamacare...

GINGRICH: But let me ask you something. You know, we went through an interesting time in '95 and '96, when we closed the government for five days in a fight. President Clinton came back, got a temporary deal through Thanksgiving, and then came back and closed for 16 days. During that process we talked almost every day. We negotiated. We looked for what is it we can get together on? And I get a sense...

WOODHOUSE: But you were negotiating on funding levels ostensibly, right? I mean, you were negotiating.

GINGRICH: Also welfare reform and a lot of other -- some policies, but what I'm fascinated by is that President Obama and Harry Reid have adopted a policy of scorched earth. Is there no willingness to sit down? In fact, apparently, according to a report today, Reid said flatly he wouldn't even come to a meeting if it involved Boehner, because he was not going to sit in a meeting.

WOODHOUSE: Well, a couple of things. One, first of all, negotiating with a gun to your head is no way -- is no way to negotiate. I mean, "Roll back your signature domestic achievement or we'll shut the government down" is not a negotiation strategy that is appropriate.

And, you know, furthermore, the fact is that what we need to do is pass a clean C.R. And then if they want to negotiate over getting rid of the sequester, Democrats would be happy to be part of that. If they want to negotiate over making sure that people can get Meals on Wheels and people can get Food Stamps, they'd be happy to negotiate over that.

See, Republicans can't take yes for an answer. They right now have got sequester level funding in the C.R. That's what they wanted. That's not what Democrats want.

ROTH: Can I put on...

WOODHOUSE: They should declare victory and move on.

ROTH: Can I put on my liberal hat and answer Newt's question? Tell me if I'm right or wrong.

JONES: I'm dying to see this.

ROTH: Tell me if I'm right or wrong. Obama knows that Obamacare is in a troubling spot. We've seen the headlines. We've seen the premium increases. We've seen the states that insurers pull out of various states. He knows that something's wrong, but he cannot accept any demands by Republicans because, once you chink the armor of Obamacare a little bit, then it gets dangerous. And that's why he's opposed to any changes, even good changes.

JONES; Well, first of all, I think the president has made several changes and you beat him up for that, as well. But you know, we're going to come back. I feel passionately about something. We're going to talk about it after the break. I think the language is getting in the way, and it's getting out of hand. We've got terms like "arsonists," "anarchists," and a term that's even worse. We're going to talk about it when we get back. Something that was said here on CNN that I want your response to.


JONES: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

We're just a little over about five hours now from a government shutdown, and there's still no clear way forward. And part of what's causing all the confusion, I think, is that the rhetoric has gotten way out of control.

I want everybody to listen to what a Republican congressperson told Wolf Blitzer the other night here on CNN.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: This is worse than the pro-slavery legislation?

REP. JOHN FLEMING (R), LOUISIANA: I can't think of anything right now that could be more damaging for our economy than passing and putting into effect and implementing...

BLITZER: I know. I understand you think it's dangerous now, but you said it's the most dangerous piece of legislation in the history of the United States?

FLEMING: Yes, I think so. I believe that, yes.

BLITZER: And I'm asking you: Do you think it's even worse than pro-slavery?

FLEMING: Well, I haven't drawn any specific comparisons between Obamacare and any specific laws in the past. And certainly, archaic laws like that that are no longer in effect I can't really comment to, but the point is that Obamacare is hurting Americans.


JONES: Now, listen, I know that this guy did not mean to come across as offensive as he did, but I've got to tell you, when you start, as he did, brushing off on comparing it to slavery and it's worse than anything ever, including slavery, the internment of Japanese? We've had some really bad stuff happen in this country, and to say that Obamacare is worse than that?

I think when you get to the point where you have leaders of a major political party who are taking a bill and putting it at that level, I think things have gone way off the rails. You don't agree that Obamacare is worse than slavery, do you?

ROTH: No. Of course not, and -- but the emotions are very high right now. I'm not excusing what he said, but it makes sense that people make statements that they don't believe out of just emotional fury and because of what's going on.

JONES: I mean -- I mean, I just have to say, I feel like, you know, you have a major political party that has some responsibility here. There's been a lot of fear that's been whipped up about this bill. Frankly, it is weird to me, because a lot of stuff, as I've said, these are Republican ideas we put forward. But you turn on the TV and hear that kind of stuff. Don't you think that on your side, you need to, when people do get out of line like this, say, "Listen, that's not appropriate?" I didn't hear anybody from the Republican side say that was inappropriate.

ROTH: That's the first time I'm seeing it. Yes, but he certainly shouldn't have said it.

JONES: And the president called attention to another state legislator who literally said that it was the same as the fugitive slave act. That's wrong, don't you agree with me?

GINGRICH: Look, first of all, unless you have experienced or looked at it or studied it, you can't imagine how bad slavery was for several hundred years, how bad legal segregation was for over 100 years. I think anything which compares to that is inappropriate.

But on the other hand, let's talk about this harsh -- I think your point about harsh language is right. And we live in a period where we've had bombing in Boston. We just had the killings in Nairobi, and here is what one of President Obama's closest advisers said recently. Just look at this.


DAN PFEIFFER, SENIOR ADVISER TO PRESIDENT OBAMA: We are for cutting spending. We're for reforming our tax code. We're for reforming our entitlements. What we're not for is negotiating with people who have a bomb strapped to their chest.


GINGRICH: Now, it strikes me, at a time when people with bombs strapped to their chests is a very real thing, that Dan Pfeiffer said it. Candidly, if I were still speaker, I would have told the White House if he keys his job, don't expect to negotiate with us, because we're not talking to anybody in the White House.

I mean, that is so offensive to me to have somebody in the White House compare their American political opponents with suicide bombers. There's something almost sick about it. But don't think that's way over the top?

WOODHOUSE: Well, look, I think that look -- First of all, I'd be the last person to criticize people for rhetoric. You can just Google some of the things that I've said over the years. So I'm not sure that I'm -- I'm the best judge.

I would say that Congressman Nunez (ph) today used the same -- Republican used the same terminology in describing what the right wing and the Republican Caucus is doing. He said they're lemmings with suicide vests attached to them. So he actually agreed with Dan Pfeiffer.

But rhetoric aside, what's most, I think, frustrating about today is the rhetoric does hide the substantive argument. For example, and I think the gentleman's clip that you played, said that Obamacare is the worst thing, you know, that could happen to us. And you hear this all the time. it's a job killer.

You know, the fact is, if you want to argue it on the facts and get rid of all of this rhetoric, Obamacare proponents will win every single time on the facts. On the facts.

ROTH: That is not even close. I mean, that...

WOODHOUSE: Well -- I imagine --

ROTH: You can go down the list of all the wrong things going on with Obamacare right now.

WOODHOUSE: Let's take your top talking point. Top talking point on the right is that Obamacare is a job killer. Well, when Obamacare passed what was the unemployment rate in this country? Ten and a half percent. Ten percent.

ROTH: It hasn't even been implemented yet.

WOODHOUSE: What is it today Well, wait a minute.

ROTH: Wait until it does, and then it's really going to...

WOODHOUSE: See, now you're backtracking. You said it's a job killer. The unemployment rate has declined. The stock market has gone up since it's been passed. Look, I don't think it's a credible argument to say that, because Obamacare passed, millions of jobs have been created, but you can't make the opposite argument credible.

GINGRICH: How about a specific? Obamacare has substantially increased the number of people getting paid for less than 30 hours a week.

WOODHOUSE: Well, Mark Zandy (ph) did a study on that, went through all of the Labor Department data on this, could not find any credible evidence in the aggregate.

Now, you have some companies, especially companies, many CEOs supported Mitt Romney, and many of which probably supported you that want to make us show that come out that we're not going to cover this, or we're not going to cover that or we're going to reduce these hours, but in the aggregate, there's no evidence that companies are doing that. He was in the Congress for John McCain.

ROTH: I love that how they always like to point out how Mark Zandy (ph) is a Republican economist. Do you have a beef against Mark Zandy (ph)?

WOODHOUSE: Yes, absolutely.


ROTH: How is this a surprise? This guy is a pro-Democrat, pro stimulus economist. WOODHOUSE: Chief economist to your nominee in 2008, and he said there's no evidence to this talking point.

ROTH: He's not exactly a favorite of conservative Republicans. We're making a lot of news here.

JONES: But listen, I actually think that this heated rhetoric, I think it matters a lot. And I think it's actually hurting not just the conversation in this town. I think it's hurting the American people.

I want to show you this. We did this poll. Look at this: we asked the American people what they thought about their elected leaders in the middle of this crisis. Sixty-nine percent said the Republicans are acting like spoiled children. Fifty-eight percent say Democrats are acting like spoiled children. And for the commander in chief, he's almost at 50 percent acting like spoiled children.

I think the rhetoric is a big part of that. Now I'm going to ask you both: What do you think that people on your side of the aisle could do to tamp this down and to get us back to something a little more constructive? I'll start with you, because you've done a great job championing the cause. But do you think the Democrats have been perfect? Have we not -- we have no responsibility for these kinds of outcomes when the American people are disgusted?

WOODHOUSE: No. Look, this is a bigger discussion about how communication has broken down, broken down in Washington. We have -- we could talk for an hour...

JONES: What should we be doing?

WOODHOUSE: Well, you know, I think we should probably draw back some. But you know, you're talking about unilateral disarmament. Is the other side going to draw back? And look, I'm not suggesting that this language is good for -- is good for the debate. As I said, I think it hides the fallacy of a lot of their substantive arguments.

But look, I think whether it's this, whether it's the debt ceiling, whether it's dealing with the sequester, lowing the temperature in Washington, would be welcome to everyone.

ROTH: I kind of agree with you.

WOODHOUSE: Right here. Right here.

ROTH: Acting like adults is not the end result. It's nice to have. But at the end of the day, it's all about policy. And there's obviously a difference in policy. You guys want more government. We want less government. And that's going to get nasty. But at the end of the day...

WOODHOUSE: Let's say it's policy that matters.

GINGRICH: Let me mention from my perspective, which is limited, the biggest difference I sense between the Obama/Boehner relationship and the Clinton/Gingrich relationship is just simply frequency of conversation.

I mean, Bill Clinton and I would talk, if not every day, because we didn't always talk on Sundays. But we would talk, I bet, at least five days a week through the shut-downs, before the shut-down, after the shut-downs. And the result was -- and we met face-to-face for 35 days in the White House trying to hammer things out.

And the result is, when you get to know somebody, even when you're fighting hard, you kind of understand where the other person's coming from, and they're not some demonized, distant figure. And my sense is that the degree to which the top people don't talk to even other, whether it's, you know, Reid and McConnell, it's Boehner and Pelosi, it's the president and everybody, is really a breathtaking difference.

WOODHOUSE: I don't disagree. I think one of the differences, when you ran the House and Clinton was in -- was president, is that people spent more time in D.C. The Congress spent more time in D.C. I mean, the schedule that Boehner has for the House.

GINGRICH: Yes, but...

WOODHOUSE: What I'm saying is...

GINGRICH: Yes, but the president can pick up the phone and call John Boehner.

WOODHOUSE: Well, of course he can.

GINGRICH: The only conversation -- the only conversation they've had was recent. He called, and his opening line, I'm told by Boehner's staff, was "I will not negotiate." That was the opening line.

ROTH: And it's structural, too. It's not just the president and Boehner. It's all the way down through the members of Congress. They talk about how they never hear anything from the White House or from the other side of the chamber.


ROTH: Well, there is a memo somewhere that says do not talk to Republicans ever.

JONES: First of all, that's not fair. You've got Republicans that actually would be afraid to be seen in a picture with President Obama, because they would get beat up so much by organizations like yours that they're somehow selling out the country.

ROTH: That's right. That's exactly right.

JONES: And I think that that's -- we've got -- From your side of it, we've created a situation where literally the president of the United States has done things that you should be cheerleading for. You keep saying he wants more government. You know who wants more government? I want more government. GINGRICH: This is a great conversation. We're going to be doing more of it. Let me just say thank to Brad Woodhouse and Andrew Roth.

Next, we "Ceasefire." How do we get back to talking with each other?

Thank you.


GINGRICH: Tonight on CROSSFIRE, we've been debating the government shut-down fight. Now let's call a "Ceasefire." Is there anything we can agree on?

Actually, I think we can both agree that, if members and the president spent more time together, more time talking, even if they didn't always agree, they would lower the temperature and would make more sense, and the American people would feel more secure.

JONES: I think that's right. You know, even on this show. The different co-hosts, because we have to spend time with together, we still don't agree on anything, but we understand each other better, and where there is common ground, it feels more meaningful.

I think it's -- I think it's a terrible thing for our kids to be watching grown people who do not do what we tell them to do, which is to sit down, talk things out, try to figure out some way to have a constructive engagement.

GINGRICH: Well, when you go to the polling numbers we saw tonight, and realize these are the leaders of the most complex, powerful country in the world, clearly something has to change here.

JONES: Yes, I agree with that. I agree with that. It starts with people sitting down and talking. I hope that starts soon.

Now listen, you may have other ideas about what we can do to get the blood pressure down and get some progress here. If you do, go to Facebook or Twitter. Weigh in on our "Fireback" question, which is "Do you think the government will shut down?" Right now 63 percent of you say yes, it will; 37 percent of you, good optimists, say no, it won't.

But the debate overall continues online at -- We're also on Facebook and Twitter.

From the left, I'm Van Jones.

GINGRICH: From the right, I'm Newt Gingrich.

Join us tomorrow for another edition of CROSSFIRE.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.