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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Interview With House Majority Leader Eric Cantor; Obamacare Enrollment Numbers Released; 106,185 Enrolled Through Obamacare

Aired November 13, 2013 - 16:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.


We're back with Gloria, Dana Bash, and Newt Gingrich.

Gloria, we are talking about these numbers, 106,000 people enrolled in health care plans through Obama's federal -- Obamacare's, rather, federal and state marketplaces. You can fit every one of them into the Michigan Wolverines' stadium and it still wouldn't be a sellout.


TAPPER: In terms of breaking down these numbers, 106,185, 26,794 are through, 26,794, very small, 79,391 through the state exchanges in 14 states. What are your thoughts?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It's embarrassing for the administration. They clearly need more, wanted more. They were lowballing this.

But let me take you back. The Congressional Budget Office, which is the nonpartisan budget office, early on, estimated that seven million people would need to be enrolled by March 31 to make this work.

TAPPER: Mr. Gingrich?

NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Well, I think three numbers that put Gruber's comments in perspective. He said at the end of the first year, they had 36,000 signed up in Massachusetts. We have had 37,000 signed up in California already. And the fact is, yesterday, the insurance commissioner announced a million Californians were losing their insurance.

This is a massively bigger problem than Romneycare and any comparison to it is I think almost silly.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Republicans are tripping over themselves to come out and talk about what Gloria said, that this is embarrassing.

Just one line from Speaker John Boehner's statement: "Above all, this report is a symbol the failure of the president's health care law. It is a rolling calamity that must be scrapped." But maybe the loudest criticism is what we're not hearing from Democrats so far. The sound of silence tells you everything you need to know.

TAPPER: Just to be completely honest, we had a difficult time booking Democrats to come on after those numbers were released, to have them come on and talk about fixing the problem.

Speaker Gingrich, Gloria, Dana Bash, thank you so much.

And we're going to get reaction from the Republican leadership as well. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor will join me live on set in just a few minutes to get reaction.

But, first, let's go to the world lead and that horrific story out of the Philippines, a tireless search for missing family members, a lack of basic necessities like food and water, and the overwhelming stench of death. That's the brutal reality for survivors of the typhoon in the Philippines.

The rapidly deteriorating conditions have only heightened the sense of panic and desperation in the aftermath of the killer storm. Eight people died in a stampede at a rice warehouse where people literally were climbing over each other to get their hands on sacks of food. Police and security on the scene could only stand by helplessly as the chaos unfolded.

While aid has started flowing into military airports, it is not yet reaching the hardest-hit areas because of blocked roads and frankly unorganized relief efforts. Five days after the storm, two million people still waiting for food and medical supplies to reach their towns, and to compounds the problem, armed rebels are now said to be looting supplies and shooting at survivors of the storm.

The Philippines government now puts the death toll at 2,275, but that number could still climb to twice that amount or more. The government estimates that half-a-million are homeless.

We want to go live now to CNN's Anderson Cooper, who is in Tacloban, a town left completely flattened by the storm surge.

Anderson, we hear the mayor is urging people there to get out of town as quickly as possible.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: And people are certainly heeding that warning. They have been trying to get out, frankly, for five, now moving into the sixth day since the storm.

I can tell you about 300 feet, 400 feet from where I'm standing, there is already a line of people and they have been standing all night, many of them standing all day yesterday, just waiting, residents here just waiting for Philippine military aircraft to come. They come about once or twice a day and get some people on those C-130 planes, get them to Manila, get them to Cebu or to basically get them anywhere but here. People just are desperate to get out. There is really -- in the direction all behind me, Jake, there is really nothing. I mean , the houses are gone, the shacks are gone, people are still looking for food, still desperate for water. Even the people standing in line here at the airport will come up to you with an empty water bottle and, you know, ask you if you have any water. Supplies are running low for everybody.

And you talked about the aid coming in. It is coming in. In the last 24 hours, the last 12 hours in particular, there has been a big uptick on it. Brigadier General Kennedy, the Marine general in charge of this operation here at the airport, promised to get the airport up and running on a 24-hour basis. He has done that. Planes have been coming in during the night.

There's aid stacked up. I just walked by pallets and pallets of it from USAID, tarps, thousands of tarps that could be used for shelter under the brutal heat, under the rain that comes in intermittently. But the problem, as you say, is getting it out from this airfield now to the communities, even to communities a mile away from here, half-a- mile away from here.

There aren't trucks. There is not fuel. We're running out of fuel to even broadcast. It is a very, very dicey situation here and the bottom line is, more needs to come, more logistics, more trucks, more fuel in order to actually get this aid to the people that need it most.

TAPPER: Anderson, is there any indication that the Philippines government knows that the problem is getting all the aid and the tarps that you are talking about, that are right near you, that they know that they need to be able to provide soldiers or police or whomever to provide that to the survivors who need it and that those reinforcements are coming to do that job, or is everybody just sitting around waiting and wondering when help like that will arrive?

COOPER: You know, there are hundreds of Philippine police and military here at the airport and elsewhere at roadblocks and such, but you don't see them out going block by block searching for bodies, searching -- you know, I haven't seen any search-and-rescue operations, even in the immediate days after the storm.

You think back to the tsunami in Japan back two years ago or three years ago, within a day, there were Japanese defense forces out with -- they didn't have the earthmoving equipment. They were just out on foot walking, block by block. They divided up communities. That has not happened here.

People are left to their own devices. I was with a mother who was searching for her six dead children yesterday. She found three of them. She had to carry their bodies, place them under some sacks, but she was still looking for her three other children. Her husband, she had already found his body. And there's just no one to help these people.

You know, people here are very resilient. They're used to being abandoned by their government for generations, for decades certainly, and, you know, there's not a high expectation on the part of a lot of people here of outside help or governmental help. And that is certainly -- their expectations have certainly been met.

I think, you know, the government must know what's going on. It's just a question of ability and logistics. They just -- they don't -- there are not the trucks available to get aid out here. That's something certainly the Marines are hoping to work on in the next couple days. But it's still a very desperate situation.

TAPPER: That's so heartbreaking, Anderson.

I know you did an aerial tour of the damage today and you will be showing that on your show later this evening. What did you see out there? Give us some perspective of just how bad things are in some of these towns.


We went out with the Marines in their Osprey aircraft which have now started to fly, which really allow them to get into some places that others have not been able to get into. We went to a nearby island about a 30-minute flight from here called Samar.

Again, it's devastation. It's one island after another all along the south that's just destroyed. We landed with a member -- a captain from the Philippines special forces from the navy, and, you know, he was talking to the people, he was trying to get an assessment of the damage.

And the bottom line, the message is, more supplies, we need food, we need water. And in these small communities, there's only about -- according to this captain, only about 15 or 20 percent of these communities that have actually been assessed. So, there's still a lot we don't know about what's going on in some of these outlying places.

TAPPER: All right, Anderson Cooper in Tacloban, thank you so much. Stay safe, my friend.

Coming up next on THE LEAD: He's been one of the leading voices in the push to get the numbers behind the Obamacare enrollment. So, what does House Majority Leader Eric Cantor think now the cat's out of the bag? He will join me next.

And the mayor of Toronto admits he smoked crack in a drunken stupor, but, believe it or not, he was apparently sober when he told his political opponents that he's a -- quote -- "positive role model for kids" -- unquote -- the latest in the Toronto mayor's fight to keep his job coming up.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Back to our national lead, the breaking news, that the Obama administration finally released enrollment numbers under the Affordable Health Care Act. More than 106,000 enrolled in health care plan through Obamacare's federal and state marketplaces.

But in the breakdown, only 26,794 were able to enroll through the troubled federal exchange,, during that initial period. That's 36 states and the District of Columbia, only 26,000; 79,391 people signed up through state exchanges in the 14 states that have their own exchanges and Washington, D.C. I'm sorry. That's they have their own exchange.

That's well below the pace needed to meet the 800,000 who were projected to enroll in Obamacare through November. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius revealed the figures on a conference call with reporters just moments ago, a call that came only two hours after President Obama's top I.T. guy finished testifying on Capitol Hill about what went so wrong.


TAPPER (voice-over): The White House had originally claimed that its chief technology officer was too busy to testify about the continued failings of, so the chairman of the House Oversight Committee thoughtfully helped him clear his schedule with a subpoena.

REP. DARRELL ISSA (R), CALIFORNIA: This was a monumental mistake to go live and effectively explode on the launchpad.

TAPPER: Todd Park, appearing today with other government technology experts at the hearing, which more than once devolved into partisan sniping.

ISSA: I wasn't insulting your state.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I take it as an insult.

TAPPER: Park, while taking his lumps for the Web site's poor performance, revealed the number of users it can currently take on at once.

TODD PARK, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF TECHNOLOGY OFFICER: The system has been comfortably handling at present about 20,000 to 25,000 current users.

TAPPER: Great, except that's only about half its intended capacity. A month-and-a-half after the launch, after all the assurances that the White House's top people are working on it right now, how can they ever meet the self-imposed deadline which President Obama restated just a week ago?

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are working overtime to get this fixed, and the Web site is already better than it was at the beginning of October, and by the end of this month, we anticipate that it is going to be working the way it is supposed to.

TAPPER: Now it's sounding increasingly unlikely that the Web site will meet that November 30 deadline.

ISSA: Mr. Park, will it work on November 30?

PARK: The team is working incredibly hard to meet that goal.

TAPPER: That's not a yes. Park is still working on fixes, but Tony Trenkle, the chief information officer for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, which is running the site, resigned. The Web site does have some satisfied customers out there, such as Flora Brewer of Fort Worth, Texas, who says she found coverage similar to what she has now, but for a lower price.

FLORA BREWER, SATISFIED WITH OBAMACARE: Well, I'm very happy with this coverage. They said, oh, yes, we have got your application. We have got you. You're -- you're enrolled.

TAPPER: That was only after Brewer gave the system repeated chances, of course. Many others don't have as much patients, especially after learning their current insurance plans are being canceled, such as a supporter of Obamacare with whom I spoke, Sue Klinkhamer.

SUE KLINKHAMER, LOSING HER INSURANCE POLICY: "Please note that coverage under your current plan will end December 31st, 2013." Then, they gave me my plan options. It's available but it's not affordable.

TAPPER: That's becoming all too common story for Americans who believe that pledge that if they like their health care, they could keep it. A vow President Obama has been trying to amend for weeks now.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What we said was, you could keep it -- if it hasn't changed since the laws passed.

TAPPER: That's not sitting well, even with the man who President Obama once described as his secretary of explaining stuff, former President Bill Clinton, who undercut the president with this.

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT: I personally believe even if it takes a change in the law, the president should honor the commitment the federal government made to those people and let them keep what they got.

TAPPER: President Obama will award Mr. Clinton the Medal of Freedom next week, potentially awkward.


TAPPER: But it isn't just Bubba. Many others in the president's own party are growing impatient. Senator Mary Landrieu now has six of her fellow Democrats backing a bill that would let people keep plans that have been canceled on them, according to "The Washington Post."

House Republicans have a similar measure. And if the White House does not announce fixes for the Web site by Friday, a senior Democratic source tells CNN House Democrats may start defecting and backing that GOP plan. Joining me now to react is the House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Republican of Virginia.

Congressman Cantor, thanks so much for being here. Let me get your reaction to these enrollment numbers.

REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), MAJORITY LEADER: Well, you know, pretty stunning. Just another day in a series of mess ups in Obamacare.

You really can't even tell what's going on here. They say 25,000 names and people who have apparently gone to the Web site, but we don't know whether they purchased insurance or just in the shopping cart. And the same goes for the state exchanges, we don't really know.

And this is the problem. I mean, any of these numbers pale in comparison with the millions of Americans who are receiving these cancellation notices. I mean, Jake, this is what the problem is right now, is millions of Americans are being told by their insurance companies they can no longer have the health care they need because of Obamacare -- that they like.

TAPPER: Somebody from Richmond, Virginia.

Now, these plans are being canceled because they don't meet the standards of Obama care, the standards that would allow quality care, higher quality care, the Obama administration says, better care covering more things. Is that not a good goal to have fewer what the Obama administration calls junk plans?

CANTOR: This has been the problem all along, when the President Obama thinks he knows better for families what they need, what they can afford, that's when things go awry. And again, millions of Americans who have actually chosen the plans that fit their budget and fit their health care needs are being told that you can't have those.

TAPPER: But, surely, you acknowledge some of these plans are junk plans, some of these plans don't actually cover health insurance when families need them, some of these plans take advantage of individuals.

CANTOR: Well --

TAPPER: I'm not saying all of them, but some of them.

CANTOR: Well, I mean, but we're hearing from millions of Americans who say I like my health care. And, in fact, if you look at any of the public polling, most Americans who have health care insurance right now like their health care. These are the ones that we're talking about, frankly, in trying to help.

And this is what the Fred Upton bill on the floor of the House this week will try to address and it's not a total fix. I mean, listen, the only way you're going to stop these cancellation notices, the only way you're going to fix this is to repeal Obamacare.

We've been there. The president says he won't do that. So, this is one step towards trying to help people who are getting hurt right now.

TAPPER: Let's talk about fixing and I want to play sound from former President Clinton, and also from Dick Durbin, the number two Senate Democrat.


WILLIAM J. CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT: So, I personally believe, even if it takes a change in the law, the president should honor the commitment that the federal government made to those people and let them keep what they got.

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL), MAJORITY WHIP: I would say to President Clinton, if we can bring that group together, we can start to solve some of the problems we're facing.


TAPPER: There's a bill in the House right now, as you mentioned, that would let insurance companies keep offering these plans that don't meet Obamacare standards for another year, but healthcare experts say this is going to be an administrative nightmare. Are House Republicans willing to work with Dick Durbin and Senate Democrats to try to fix some of these problems in a bipartisan way?

CANTOR: What we have said all along is we want what's best for people's health care right now. We've never believed that Obamacare and its mandates and "Washington knows best" mentality is what's good for people's healthcare.

So, if the Democrats are now saying, "You know what, we ought to let people choose, we ought not be imposing higher prices on people" and -- yes, we certainly want to work with them.

But you know what? This is Bruno Gora. As you suggest, Jake, Richmond, Virginia, constituent of mine who says now he's not only can no longer have his health care coverage that he likes, he will be charged up to $3,400 more just because President Obama and Washington say that he should have the healthcare coverage that they say is appropriate, not for him.

TAPPER: And that is a story that we've been covering in the media for weeks, but there are other stories, positive ones, people who are benefiting from Obamacare.

One of the TV stations in Richmond, WTVR, did a story recently of how Obamacare is affecting people in the community. There were some negative stories like the one you shared. There are also some positive ones. They talked to two women, one signing up who doesn't have insurance and a mother with special needs child.

Take a listen.


ANNE MALIFF, MOTHER OF SPECIAL NEEDS CHILD: His monthly medication bills, if I didn't have health insurance, would be over a thousand dollars. It certainly gives me a level of comfort that I didn't have before.

SHERREE WELLS, EMPLOYER DOES NOT OFFER HEALTH CARE: You actually have the opportunity to get affordable health care because I currently don't have a job that offers health care.


TAPPER: So that's from Richmond TV station WTVR, I'm sure you're familiar with that, in addition a Kaiser Family Foundation study found more than half a million Virginia residents are going to be available for these subsidies, for these tax credits to help them.

What do you say to the people -- I know what you say to these people -- what do you say to the people who are benefiting from Obamacare?

CANTOR: What we say is there are -- there is a better way for them to benefit and to have health care insurance that fits their needs. Republicans have always said in the House when Obamacare debate was ongoing in '09 is that there is a more efficient way to help those with preexisting conditions. We don't feel that they ought to be denied coverage, but we ought not be raising prices on people like Mr. Gora here to say you have to pay $3,400 more.

TAPPER: But how do you do it? How do you bring in the special needs kid who would normally be denied coverage because it's so expensive, without asking other individuals to pay a little bit more?

CANTOR: What we have said is, that we would believe in the creation of high risk pools at the state level, properly and adequately fund them, and then insure that the rates and premiums that they're charged don't exceed at least 100 percent, 150 percent of the market rate for insurance.

Absolutely there are ways to do this. The problem now is as we know, Jake, there's very little option for Mr. Gora if he's in the individual market now to buy a plan that best fits his needs. In many instances, you're having 65-year-old -- 61-year-old men say, hey, we've got to have maternity coverage in a policy that I have to buy.

That's exactly the point. Mr. Gora knows what's best for him, not Mr. Obama.

TAPPER: We only have about a minute and a half left and I know you want to talk about Iran, a very important issue going on. You're weary of these negotiations that are going on right now between the White House, Western powers and Iran. I want to play something of what Jay Carney said in response to opposition to these negotiations.


JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The American people justifiably and understandably prefer a peaceful solution that prevents Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. And this agreement, if it's achieved, has the potential to do that. The American people do not want a march to war.


TAPPER: A march to war, Majority Leader Cantor. Is turning away from negotiations potentially leading to a march to war?

CANTOR: You know, I find that just astounding, that the White House would say that a deal that would allow enrichment of uranium and building a plutonium reactor, something that is not a march to war -- that's the march to war. The deal that was in the works, frankly, would allow Iran to continue its pursuit of nuclear weapons capability.

And, in fact, what we're trying to do in the Congress, as we already have done in the House, is to pass additional sanctions. And it's up to the Senate because the House has passed the sanctions.

You know, and I think, you know, what is very odd right now in the Middle East, is you have the Arabs and the Israelis join together in their sense that American foreign policy as it's played out in that potential interim agreement is something that is not helpful to the stability of the region. And, in fact, those allies of ours are telling us to allow Iran the ability to continue to enrich or build a plutonium factor is a sure way to spawn nuclear proliferation and, God forbid, face a nuclear Iran.

TAPPER: So, you're saying that the Obama administration has been able to unite the Israelis and the Arabs?

CANTOR: In an odd way, all of a sudden, that they're united against what our White House is pursuing in terms of policy.

TAPPER: House Majority Eric Cantor, we always appreciate when you come by. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts.

CANTOR: Thanks, Jake.

TAPPER: Another Democratic senator joins the call to let Americans keep the health care plans being canceled under the affordable care act after a dismal rollout. Will the White House listen?

Stay with us.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

In the politics lead -- it's a numbers game. Right now, the White House is in a pretty deep hole. A month and a half after's very rough rollout, only about 106,000 Americans have selected health care plans enrolled in them from the state and federal marketplace. Only 26,000 or so are through, the federal Web site that 36 states are using.

For perspective, that's just shy of the population of billings, Montana, 106,000.

For more perspective, let's bring in our panel: Republican strategist and president of New Frontier Strategy, Phil Musser; president of Solis Strategies and former campaign manager for then-Senator Hillary Clinton, Patti Solis Doyle; and White House correspondent for "The New York Times", Mark Landler.

Thank you so much for being here, one and all.

Patti, if you were in the White House right now, what is President Obama's number one job? What did they need to be doing right now?


TAPPER: Fix the Web site.

DOYLE: Fix the Web site. From all accounts, they're putting resources, man power into fixing the Web site. I think we knew the numbers weren't going to be great given the problems with the Web site. But it's still really early.

We've got more, you know, four plus months left for enrollment. And I think once the Web site is fixed, I think a relaunch needs to be put out there to really engage the American people, get them to sign up, and let's see where the numbers are two or three months from now.