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Government Shutdown Nearing; Unrest in Syria; Republicans Want to Cut Funding to Planned Parenthood; Federal Government on the Brink of a Shutdown

Aired April 08, 2011 - 15:00   ET


T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Nine hours, folks, that is all we are talking about. Nine hours from now, your federal government will shut down unless something is done.

A deal on this budget still not met. And we talk about just nine hours away, but to be quite honest with you, they have had some six months to get this done. They are six months behind on their work, folks, but now we're talking about a deadline of nine hours.

But that is what we are against. You're looking at a live picture, Senate floor, a lot of back and forth, a lot of heated words we have seen exchanged today. But the one that jumped out at us that we want to share with you right now, a statement that was made on the Senate floor today that kind of sums it up and is not quite partisan, if you will, but it will be something that you probably agree with.

Take a listen to this.


SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: I have got to tell you, in China, they have got to be laughing at us right now. They have got to be clapping. How terrific that the United States of America can't make a decision. Boy, does that send a wonderful message to businesses all around the world. They can't make a decision. They can't decide an energy policy.

They can't decide an infrastructure policy. They can't fix their schools. They can't do anything. And now they can't even get a budget. That's a hell of a message around the world. While we are running around the world preaching the virtues of democracy, people have got to be scratching their heads and saying, that is what we are going to get?


HOLMES: Yes, it is not just people around the world scratching their heads, people right here in the U.S. scratching their heads. Why in the world has this not been done? Why in the world is there a threat of a government shutdown that could affect so many families in this country and affect this country's still fragile economy right now?

A lot of folks scratching their heads. The action continues on Capitol Hill.

Our Brianna Keilar has been there at her post working this for us all day long.

Brianna, before I ask you the first question, I want people to listen to the House speaker, John Boehner, who was in front of a microphone it seems like an awful lot today talking about these numbers. And I will ask you afterwards if you can help me make sense of these numbers.

But let's just listen to the speaker first.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: But we are not going to roll over and sell out the American people, like it has been done time and time again here in Washington. When we say we are serious about cutting spending, we are damn serious about it.


HOLMES: All right, Brianna, damn serious, OK -- $38 billion was the number we were told that in the meetings last night with the Democrats, the White House and Republicans --


HOLMES: Uh-uh?

KEILAR: Uh-uh.

HOLMES: You're stopping me right there.


KEILAR: That is the meeting -- or that is the number -- pardon me as I turn off my cell phone off.

HOLMES: It's all right.

KEILAR: That is the number that you're hearing from Democrats. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, he says $38 billion off of the current funding levels, that is what was agreed to, and he's saying that publicly.

If you listen to House Speaker John Boehner, he is saying nothing is agreed to. And when you listen to Republican sources, they say it is also what is in the cuts, the composition of the cuts, and, furthermore, some of the policy issues. For instance, we have talked about abortion and the Environmental Protection Agency. All of these things are interwoven.

And so they say nothing is agreed to until everything to. It's kind of a package deal.

HOLMES: So, Brianna, what in the world are they fighting over? They can't even agree, at least publicly, on what the fight is. So is it dollars? Is it ideology, as they say? It sounds like you're saying it's a mix of both. What do we know actually?

KEILAR: I think it is fair to say it's a mix of both.

And one of the big things that you have seen Democrats talking about today, you have probably heard them talking about Title X funding and you probably go, what is that? I have no idea. They are talking about Republicans targeting women's health funding. That is what the accusation has been.

Well, let's do a little fact check on this, because it is a complicated issue, but here is what they are talking about. Title X funding, it is like family health issue funding. It is money for things like cholesterol screenings, breast exams. Does it go to abortion? No, it doesn't. Some of it goes to Planned Parenthood for services that it provides besides abortion.

But because Planned Parenthood, T.J., does provide abortions, you also some Republicans who think that it shouldn't get any federal money. So, in these negotiations, what is being proposed is to take this money and to say, hey, states, you can be in charge of doling out this money and determining if Planned Parenthood gets it.

So, T.J., if you follow me, what you realize then is that if a state is sort of more conservative, they are probably not going to give money to Planned Parenthood. The bottom line fact check here, you have Democrats saying Republicans are targeting women's health.

I think if you ask the question are Republicans against cholesterol screenings, breast exams, the answer would probably be no, right? It would be no. Are there some Republicans who want to kind of take a ding at anything abortion-related. That I think is true.

HOLMES: Well, like you said there, "T.J., if you follow me," and a lot of people are having a hard time following right now, because we're talking about money on one hand and now all of a sudden it's about women's issues and abortion being thrown in there.

So let's see if Republican Michele Bachmann can help us make sense of this. She was on CNN just a bit ago. Take a listen.


REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: I believe in life, and in the protection of innocent life. And so I believe that Planned Parenthood does have a problem when it comes to acceptance of government grants. They are a billion dollar a year operation, $350 million of which comes from federal government grants.

There's a lot of people that have moral problems with that. And I think it's difficult to force people to violate their conscience to send that money to Planned Parenthood.

(END VIDEO CLIP) HOLMES: OK. There was not a meeting at the White House today, but the president did talk to leaders of both parties. So where are we right now ,less than nine hours away? What action, what movement is taking place behind the scenes?

KEILAR: OK, so this I think will interest you, because you know you have seen all of this. This is kind of a change from yesterday. You have seen kind of all of this verbal mudslinging going on between House Republicans and Senate Democrats.

Negotiators are still talking, T.J. They are still trying to work out a deal. So all hope is not lost. It is possible we could see something if they can make some strides. But discussions continue even as we see all this posturing which is kind of the blame game in case there is a government shutdown, which there could be, or really to try to force the hand of the other side in these negotiations.

HOLMES: And it sound likes the Democrats, you could tell exactly what they were going for with their theme of the day, if you will, saying the Republicans are trying to take away women's health quite frankly, trying to make it harder for them to get health services and they are turning up the heat on House Speaker Boehner. Take a listen to this that we heard from the Senate floor today as well.


SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: I would say to Speaker Boehner, please, tell the Tea Party folks, they are going to get some of their way, but not all their way, and they are not going to get their way on these extraneous riders related to women's health. The battle for whether the government shuts down goes on inside Speaker Boehner's head.


HOLMES: Some tough word there. We also heard Senator Kerry on the House floor talking about Speaker Boehner, saying, you know what, he says he is in a tough spot having to deal with some of the Tea Party Caucus in the House, said, well, he is not in a tough spot. He wanted this job and now he's got it.

So what is a man to do? What is driving Speaker Boehner at this point?

KEILAR: Well, he's got a few different things. There's the Tea Party, T.J., which by and large, or Tea Party-backed members, they're generally fiscally conservative. They care a lot about the spending cuts.

There is another faction, the conservative Republican faction. They care more about the social issues. Or certainly the abortion issue is a big one for them. And then you also have some Republicans who are more compromise-minded who are seriously, seriously loathe to deal with a government shutdown. They think the political blowback will be terrible for them. And you have Speaker Boehner who is trying to keep them all together. Maybe you don't envy his job. HOLMES: No, you don't. But, again, he wanted it. He has got it. This is what leadership is all about. So, let's see somebody deliver up there on the Hill.


HOLMES: Brianna, you have been delivering for us all day. I know you're still working it. Probably, we will talk to you again here in the NEWSROOM the next couple of hours.

Thank you so much.

Before we move on here, I want you to see two of the major players in all of this. And there's a good chance you don't know their names or their faces. They're not the two that are coming out and speak in front of those cameras and the microphone.

These are some behind the scenes guy. See the man with House Speaker here -- this is chief of staff Barry Jackson. He followed Boehner to Washington some 20 years ago, served in the Bush White House under Karl Rove, returned to Boehner's staff last year. He is now heading up these all-night talks for the Republicans.

Also heading things up for the Democrats, David Krone. He is the right-hand man to the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid. He is kind of new on this job, if you will, got it last November, after a year on Senator Reid's staff. According to "The Washington Post," he's been a Democratic fund-raiser and lobbyist for the telecommunications industry. David Krone there, Barry Jackson, again, those guys you might not know the names or the faces, but as their bosses, if you will, come out to the microphones and are giving press conferences and speaking on the House floor and the Senate floor, these are two of the guys who are really responsible for a lot that is happening behind the scenes.

We want to take you to the Pentagon now, our Chris Lawrence standing by there with some breaking news we got a short time ago, just a bit ago.

Chris, hello to you once again. We have been hearing so much about how this country will be affected and the military will be affected and all those federal employees could be affected by a government shutdown, but now we are hearing something else that is really going to upset Americans even more if this shutdown takes place.


We are learning that troops who are killed in the line of duty during the shutdown will not be able to get that hundred to several hundred thousand dollars in death benefit that normally the military tries to give their families very, very quickly.

Legally, the Pentagon cannot pay out any money while the government is shut down, and so these troops, if they killed in the line of duty during a shutdown, the Pentagon will get them the money, but it cannot do it during the shutdown.

What they are trying to do is to trying to work with some of the aid organizations to get some of the money to these families to sort of bridge the gap until the government comes back to work and then the Pentagon can kick in and make it up.

But when you consider that these payments are made to between 100 to 150 families every month, you could be talking about a very serious situation at a very stressful time for these families.


HOLMES: Go ahead.


LAWRENCE: Go ahead.


HOLMES: We might not know exactly how many people could be affected, but the numbers you just gave there give us an idea, but it sounds like the Pentagon is taking it seriously enough. Do they have an idea of how many people could potentially affected and so they are getting ready for that possibility?

LAWRENCE: They have reached out to a lot of aid organizations. I mean, you can never tell, you know, how many service members are going to die in the line of duty. And we're not just talking about people in Iraq or Afghanistan. It's anyone who is on active duty and dies while they are on duty.

But we are also getting some good news for other military families. The troops are supposed to get paid next Friday on the 15th. There have been a ton of husbands, wives, families very worried that if the government shuts down tonight, they will only get a half a paycheck next week.

Well, I just talked to a senior defense official who now says even if this shutdown goes a few days, if they can reach a agreement by Tuesday, he thinks that the Pentagon can work quickly enough to still get these troops a full paycheck by next Friday. So midnight tonight now looking like it's not exactly drop-dead date in terms of getting the troops paid.

Again, if this only goes until Tuesday, he thinks they can make it up. Also, we are hearing that Navy Federal Credit Union is saying, look, any troops that get their pay deposited in our credit union, we will give them the full amount next Friday. It does not matter if the government is shutdown, we will cover it up until next Friday.

Now, what about after that? Well, again, a senior defense official told me basically what is going to happen is if and when this is settled, they are going to work very quickly to try to make an emergency payment, so a lot of the troops may not have to wait until, say, you know, May 1 to get that back pay. What they will do is try to get them a special pay date just as soon as they can after the government goes back to work.

HOLMES: OK. Chris, that is a great development and great news for a lot of people to hear, even though Tuesday is still just around the corner, but we were worried about this deadline tonight. It sound likes the military at least and for our military members getting all of their pay, their deadline at least could be some time next Tuesday, so they could get fully paid.

Chris, you are right. Like you said, it is good news. Glad you could bring that to us. Chris Lawrence for us at the Pentagon, thank you so much.


HOLMES: Well, the response we are getting from Americans pouring into us here as the government gets closer and closer. Watching the clock, we're less than nine hours away from a possible shutdown. Who are the American people blaming for all this right now? And why are social issues suddenly front and center in this whole debate? Jessica Yellin will join us next.

Jessica, maybe you can bring some sanity to this whole conversation.

We will be right back.


HOLMES: All right. We have been hearing an awful lot from the folks in Washington, D.C., your lawmakers. But what about everybody else out there and how do they feel about this looming government shutdown?

Jessica Yellin looking into this for us.

Jessica, is it anything like the earful I have been getting with folks, whether it is Facebook, Twitter, at the grocery store or anywhere else, about this government shutdown possibility?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It is exactly what you are hearing at the grocery store, I'm guessing, T.J.

The overwhelming majority of Americans want both parties to just figure out a solution and keep government running. A Gallup poll found by almost 2-1 Americans do want a compromise to avoid a shutdown -- 33 percent of Americans want members to stick to their principles and allow the shutdown, but that is a pretty small minority.

And when you break it down by party, you will see who falls where, T.J. Democrats and independents overwhelmingly oppose the idea of the shutdown. But Republicans support the shutdown by 51 percent. So, if you dial back and look at this through a big political lens, you can assume Democrats and Republicans, they might be locked down on the sides, but independents in general want both parties to get along, get together. Oh, and here are some new numbers. You see that there's not a lot of approval for either Democrats or Republicans in Congress. President Obama is getting the highest marks. And that is probably because he is looking like he is above the fray, trying to get both sides together and cut a deal, which is what most Americans want.

HOLMES: OK. That is what everybody wants, but part of this and certainly today as well, some of these social issues coming up, and now Americans may be thinking, wait a minute, I thought we were fighting about money, and now we're fighting about ideology? Are people confused quite frankly?

YELLIN: Yes, there is a lot of confusion and there is a big, you know, you could consider the reasons why for example after discussing billions and billions of dollars, folks are sticking over a $330 million outlay to Planned Parenthood, which is comparatively small in a multitrillion-dollar budget.

But think about this. Two things. If Speaker Boehner does compromise and makes a deal with Democrats for less than Tea Party activists want, he is bound to lose some support of some Tea Party Republicans. So, to pass the House, for his budget to pass, he will need the votes of social conservatives for whom issues like funding for family planning are important.

So, that's one thing. And also don't forget we are entering an election year. Energizing social conservatives, making sure their issues are addressed are essentially to the Republican Party. On the other side, Democrats need to woo as many women voters as possible to hold the White House and the Senate. So, there is political calculus for both sides in this fight, T.J.

HOLMES: Oh, I'm sorry. It all boils down to politics. I'm sorry. I thought heard you correctly.


HOLMES: Jessica, we appreciate the breakdown of the numbers there. We will talk to you again soon.

YELLIN: Thanks.

HOLMES: And to our viewers, we will not going to go far away at all from that story. Again, it is a developing story. It's been a developing story for quite some time and certainly all day, as we watch this clock tick down to less than nine hours before the possibility of a government shutdown, so we will have much more on that throughout the CNN NEWSROOM. We will get back to it in just a moment.

But we need to tell you here coming up more about what we're seeing overseas as well, in particular in Yemen. Look at this, a sea of protesters there raising the stakes the country's government. Yemen's president just made a big move.

Also, we are also keeping an eye on Syria. Witnesses say government forces there opened fire on protesters. See what happened in the chaotic moments following the spray of bullets.


HOLMES: I want to turn to Yemen here for a moment now.

Brutal clashes between security forces and protesters there after a defiant leader refuses to step down. At least two people were killed, 300 injured after security forces fired live ammunition at a crowd in Taiz. That's according to a medical source, who says the forces also fired tear gas at these protesters.

Yemen's president today rejected a mediation plan that would have led to his removal from power. The State Department is urging President Saleh to step down. He is facing a groundswell of anti- government demonstrations there.

And another Middle East hot spot today, Syria. I want to take a look and take a listen to this. You are hearing that gunfire there, and sources telling CNN at least 22 people have been killed today after Syrian police fired on crowds after Friday prayers.

A doctor at this scene in Daraa says security forces blocked entrances to hospitals and fired on an ambulances that was transporting injured people.

Also, today's violence was triggered when thousands began flooding the streets in several cities. Protesters are demanding greater political freedoms and the release of political prisoners.

And again we're keeping a close eye in this country on Capitol Hill right now, Congress, as you know, bickering back and forth about what to leave in, what to take out of the 2011 budget, but also trying to decide right now, leaving a lot of government workers in limbo. They're trying to figure out which of them considered essential to keep the government running.

Also, if there is no deal by midnight, wait until you hear what government workers will be forced to give up cold turkey.


HOLMES: So, we are eight hours and 34 minutes away now from a possible government shutdown, one that could affect a lot of Americans, not just those estimated 800,000 federal employees who might not be showing up for work when the government shuts down.

But some agencies are essential in the federal government. They will not close. Others, that's certainly not the case.

Our Alison Kosik live for us in New York.

Alison, always good to see you here.


HOLMES: And I guess some of these workers might get a blow to the ego when they find out they are not essential.

KOSIK: Yes. And there is a difference.

So, for the essential workers, those are the people who work for the federal government That we need to protect human life And property. That is the actual definition. So, I'm talking air traffic controllers, food inspectors, border control. All of these people will still work. And they will get paid, just not right away.

That adds up to about one million people. All right. So who is nonessential? Talking about Park Rangers, many economic bureaus, the Federal Reserve, the Housing Administration, the Census Bureau.

But here it gets kind of fuzzy, because there are some agencies, T.J., like the SEC, that have workers that are considered both essential and nonessential. Now, with the SEC, some are going to work, but up to 4,000 will not. Just in case you are wondering, the total government work force includes more than two million civilian employees -- T.J.

HOLMES: All right, another thing, certainly not the most important part of a possible shutdown, but something that did -- has come out, whether or not all of these federal workers -- and a lot of them of course have BlackBerrys. They run their lives by these BlackBerrys. We're all guilty of that, but a question of whether or not they are allowed to use them during a shutdown. Will they have to give them up or not?

KOSIK: This is kind of interesting, because it appears to be illegal for them to go ahead and use those BlackBerrys or their laptops for work purposes. But it really is one of those gray areas.

There is this 1884 law that says, if the government shuts down, you are not allowed to work if you are considered a nonessential employee. Now, obviously, we have technology now that didn't exist way back then, so government workers cannot check work e-mail right now or use their BlackBerrys if the government in fact is shut down.

But good luck enforcing it. You know how we're all addicted to our "CrackBerrys." Good luck with making sure that you put the e-mail police out there as well. It's really up to these departments. These departments still are trying to figure out a plan at this point.

Office of Management and Budget, for example, and the Treasury Department, they have not even figured it out, because it gets kind of complicated. You look at the housing -- House and Urban Development, nonessential workers, they can keep their BlackBerrys and laptops, but they are not allowed to use them.

When you look at the essential workers, they are supposed to be carrying out only essential functions, like me taking media questions, but the question is, how do you know if an e-mail is essential unless you go ahead and check it?

So, T.J., it is really going to come down to each department or office deciding individually who is essential and who is not essential and who can use their BlackBerry and who can't -- T.J.

HOLMES: You know what? There are so many parts to this story, but that is another element of it, as so much is going on behind the scenes.

KOSIK: Very unique.

HOLMES: We are all in disarray right now to figure out what if. And, hopefully, they get this done.

Alison Kosik, thank you so much. Good to see you.

Well, something I heard today, and a lot of us working on the show team, we kind of perked up when we heard this, but we heard a senator on the Senate floor today say that more than 90 percent of the services that Planned Parenthood provides are abortions, 90 percent.

Is that really all they do? Is that really the right number? And how did this so-called rider that everybody is talking about get elevated to such an important role now in this debate in the first place? I am going to be talking to Planned Parenthood for their side of the story, as we now get to eight hours and 30 minutes away from your government shutting down.


HOLMES: Well, now, about eight hours and 28 minutes from your government shutting down. Back in January we took a poll asking Americans what's tops on their list of things that they want the president and Congress to deal with, what is most important, your priorities.

Number one was the economy and number two was the unemployment. Jump to number four and you find the deficit. Out of 15 issues, abortion came in at number 14, just beating out same-sex marriage for last place or 15th of the list we put together.

And if you are wondering why we are getting closer to a government shutdown, right now the Republicans are pushing to strip federal money from the Planned Parenthood. I want you to take a listen now to Jon Kyl of Arizona and what is on the table and what is holding up the deal.


SEN. JON KYL, (R) ARIZONA: You don't have to go to Planned Parenthood to get your cholesterol or blood pressure checked. You go there to get an abortion which is over 90 percent of what Planned Parenthood does.


HOLMES: Our poll of what is next to last of the things that Americans want the government to work on, and right now. Judy Tabar is president of Planned Parenthood of southern New England joins me now from Washington. Ma'am, thank you for being here. Let me get your reaction, because we sat up and heard that from him on the Senate floor today. He says that what you do at Planned Parenthood is abortions. Is that correct?

JUDY TABAR, PLANNED PARENTHOOD OF SOUTHERN NEW ENGLAND: It could not be further from the truth -- 90 percent of what we do is to provide primary and preventative care, such as breast and cervical cancer screenings, annual exams, birth control, and testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections. Our focus is prevention.

HOLMES: And I have statistics that say that three percent of the services that you provided in '08 is what you had posted on the website is 3 percent were abortion service, and can you help me to explain or any way that you can explain how he could have arrived at that number? Is there a difference of the percentage of the services versus the percentage of the money that you use to go towards abortion services?

TABAR: First of all, no federal funds are used for abortion services. That has been the law of the land since the '70s and we have followed the law. That is very clear.

HOLMES: All right, I do want to pass along to viewers here as we heard from Senator Kyl trying to ask what he was talking about there, and, you know what, I want to give it to you verbatim here. It says that "His remark was not intended to be a factual statement but rather to illustrate that Planned Parenthood, an organization that receives millions in taxpayer dollars, does subsidize abortions." So that is their statement. Take it for what you will there.

But you have been with Planned Parenthood you told me about 30- something years and you been working with the organization and you have seen anything like what we are seeing right now?

TABAR: No. It is absolutely outrageous that the government could be potentially shutdown over an issue that would prevent women from getting pap smears, birth control, and breast exams. And as I said before, Planned Parenthood is focused on prevention. We are focused on helping people plan a healthy pregnancy and prevent an unintended pregnancy, and that's over 90 percent of our work.

HOLMES: Yes, and ma'am, I know some of the arguments with rehearing on Capitol Hill and some of the questions that Americans have about Planned Parenthood and the numbers do bear out that some of the clinics that you have around the country provide abortions and roughly 300,000 over the past several years have been provided by Planned Parenthood clinics.

But people try to understand that yes, you get federal money, and it is illegal to have it go towards abortions, but how do you necessarily separate once the money is together, how does the person know for sure that no money, no taxpayer money is going towards supporting an abortion clinic quite frankly?

TABAR: Well, again, this is has been the law of the land since the '70'7 '70s, and we followed the law of the land and we are held accountable.

HOLMES: How do you do that?

TABAR: Well, like any health care organization, we have an annual audit. And we are accountable to an audit and accountable to the funders to ensure that we used the funds the way they were intended. Once again, these funds primarily serve help us serve low income women, women who would have nowhere else to go for the services if Planned Parenthood were not here. Just think --

HOLMES: Yes, ma'am, go ahead.

TABAR: Just think what would happen if Planned Parenthood was not here and the number, the increase in the number of unintended pregnancies and people not getting treated for sexually transmitted infections, the teen pregnancy rate would go up. We provide a critical service.

HOLMES: And one more thing here, and again, it was talked about on Capitol Hill here and clear this up, because many people do have this question, you do get federal money, and yes, you could say it goes over here in this area, and not towards abortion services, but in getting money from the federal government to maybe provide for the pap smears and provide for the other services, that allows you to free up maybe more money that does go towards abortion services. Can you respond to people who have that question as well?

TABAR: Well, again, that is absolutely untrue. The federal funds make it possible for us to not turn anyone away. Many of the women who come to us have low incomes. That's what we are focused on. We clearly keep a separation, we're held accountable, and no federal funds are used for abortion services.

HOLMES: Ma'am, Planned Parenthood, and the name has been talked about an awful lot today and the last thing here quickly to you, your name Planned Parenthood has been talked about a lot, but what do you believe that the debate is about?

TABAR: Well, clearly, this is about denying poor women, low income women access to the services they need. And while we do provide abortion services, that is a small percentage of the services of what we do. We provide and we are focused on prevention, and the women who come to us need these critical services. I hope that in all of this that poor women won't be denied the services they need.

HOLMES: Well, Mrs. Tabar, of Planned Parenthood and working with that organization for over 30er years in southern Planned Parenthood, we appreciate your getting your side out to the rest of the public.

TABAR: Thank you.

HOLMES: And to our viewers, again, we are staying on top of what we are seeing with the budget. Right now take listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: That's a hell of a message around the world. While we are around the world preaching the virtues of democracy and people have to be scratching their heads and saying, that is what we are going to get?


HOLMES: That is Senator John Kerry and strong words for Republicans over the bickering in congress. And many Democrats are blaming the Tea Party movement for holding up ne negotiations. So what exactly does the group want Republicans to do? Is it over money, social issues? Well, coming up, Senator Rand Paul will give the answers to those questions. You don't want to miss him.


HOLMES: Well, eight hours and 15 minutes now away from your government possibly shutting down if a deal is not reached. I know Republican Senator Rand Paul, freshman from the state of Kentucky who was elected last November, I think he is one of many who would not like to see the government shutdown. He joins me now.

Senator Paul, we appreciate your being here. We have heard a lot and you have heard it, too, a lot of back and forth in front of the cameras and the podiums and the microphones trying to pitch this to the American people if you will who to blame.

But we are also hearing at the meeting Speaker Boehner said that this is the number. The president agreed. Why is that not the end of the discussion? Is that understanding of what happened?

SEN. RAND PAUL, (R) KENTUCKY: Well, this is the amazing thing. Say we cut $$61 billion which is what the Republicans posed in the house, that is two percent of the spending next year and it is a small pittance toward a $1.6 trillion deficit. We have to do more than the $61 billion. The democrat proposal is $16 a year, which is what we borrow for one year. We are headed towards a real debt problem in the country and the American people are ready for us to cut spending.

HOLMES: For you right now, you, sir, if it is a $38 billion in additional cuts is what we understand the number is, that would get us to the overall number of maybe $70-plus billion for the entire year, but the latest round of cuts, are you OK with that latest round of cuts and would take that deal?

PAUL: Well, the thing is that realize that these are cuts in proposed increases in spending. So no cuts actually. In 2011, we will spend more money than we spent in 2010. What I don't want to have happen is that it is an either/or situation where we accept one proposal or shut it down. I have been saying for months now, there's and in between solution, spend the money coming in, and pay for interest and pay for Social Security, Medicare, pay our troops, pay our employees.

In fact, we have a proposal that is called the government shutdown prevention Bill, which if nothing else gets introduced today we will introduce this, and it basically pays all workers at 75 percent of the normal salary. It is not perfect, but that way you don't shut the government down and you continue to have government going.

Now what we do is to pay congressmen and senators at zero. That way it gives them an incentive to come to the table and figure out a solution.

HOLMES: Well, sir, the deal we are hearing is that this number is reached, but the number agreed in the latest round, can you vote for that? Can you support that?

PAUL: Well, nobody comes to me with any kind of deal. I'm new enough here that I don't hear any deal until it comes to the table. And so far, we haven't had any appropriations bills in Congress from on the Senate side. We have not had a budget, and so far, I've not seen any numbers. I read and watch the news like you do, and nobody is coming to me, and saying, here is the deal will you take it? There is nothing coming forward right now.

HOLMES: Do this for me, sir, and do this for the audience, let's say that the government duds shut down here in 8:12, and a deal is not reached. And you go back home to Kentucky and you are standing in the grocery line and one of the constituents say, Senator Paul, the government has shut down. Why? What is your answer to that, because a lot of people are looking for that answer, simply, why?

PAUL: Well, my answer may sound partisan, but I truly believe this. Government will be shutting down because Democrats are refusing to cut spending. Democrats increased spending when they were in charge of the presidency of both branches of the house by $700 billion since 2008. We now spend 25 percent of our money is spent, 25 percent of the GDP is spent in Washington.

Spending has risen exponentially. We have to bring the spending back down, and that is the only compromise. If we don't do it, we are threatening to go the way of Greece and Portugal and Iceland and Ireland, all of the countries that are defaulting on the debt. It could happen to even to America and I would say if government shuts down, it is because the Democrats refuse to cut spending.

HOLMES: How far personally are you willing to go to prevent the shutdown seeing that the numbers are close and the funding that Planned Parenthood would get, and we are talking about a matter of $75 million to Planned Parenthood from the federal government? So the numbers sound like they can be agreeable but the ideology maybe not. What are you willing -- are you willing to shut down the government over numbers that seem, at this point now, so small?

PAUL: I would agree with you that the numbers are so small that they don't even affect the deficit or outcome of whether or not we have a debt crisis or not. But what I would say is we need to have an alternative that's not shutting down government.

I have a bill that we've introduced, and it will prevent a shut down. You just keep spending money but at a reduced level, but it gives you a longer time to come to a conclusion. It never made sense to me that government was shut down precipitously and we couldn't have an austerity measure that goes forward. That just means everything putters along until we get an agreement rather than shut it down precipitously.

HOLMES: Sir, I want to ask you, because the Tea Party -- certainly that name has been thrown around and the role it's playing. But before we get to that, do you have a problem with the dollar amount in particular that is being talked about going to Planned Parenthood, or do you have a problem with any federal money going to Planned Parenthood?

PAUL: My main concern is the overall dollar amount that we're not cutting for spending for everything, not one particular program.

HOLMES: So you have no problem with the federal money going to Planned Parenthood?

PAUL: Well, I have a problem with federal money going to abortion. I voted against both the Democrat and Republican proposal because neither one deals with the deficit. That's one or two percent of the problem in one year. It's not enough. Neither proposal will really change the trajectory of government. Neither proposal really will keep us from having a debt crisis in our country.

HOLMES: And, sir, certainly you play a prominent role with the Tea Party, part of the caucus there as well. The Tea Party, what has the role been, and would this conversation be any different? Some say it would be if Speaker Boehner wouldn't have to answer to some of the Tea Party members that he has. Maybe this conversation wouldn't be the same. He said that extreme element, the way he puts it. What is the role that the Tea Party has played?

PAUL: I'll tell you the role the Tea Party has made, and I think it's been a good one. Two years ago, the debate would have been how much are we going to increase spending and really go overboard with new programs. Now the debate is over where we're cutting. So we have changed the debate.

We even have the president -- I think the president wants to join the Tea Party. He says he will not -- he will veto any Bill that has earmarks on it. He has come our direction. The debate is going in our direction. The American people know they cannot spend money that they take in and neither can the government.

HOLMES: Senator Paul, did you just say President Obama wants to join the Tea Party?

PAUL: I think he does and it's an open invitation. He can be my personal guest.

HOLMES: Do you think he should be more active -- a lot of people have used the word triangulation. Do you think he needs to get more involved, maybe take more of a leadership role?

PAUL: I think in some way we all get sort of pigeon holed. Someone may have a perception of who I am, and I think that's part of the problem with Washington. Democrats, Republicans, the Tea Party, everyone is accusing others of being in the one place so we are all accused of what we are being instead of trying to discuss it.

But I think the president actually is a reasonable person and I think he would and could come to an agreement on this. And I agree with you it's not the numbers. We are getting and retrenching into our partisan attack positions. And really the thing is that what is missing from the whole debate, as far as I'm concerned is, none of the proposals touch the problem because there's such a small amount, there is not enough to touch government down but not enough to fix the problem.

HOLMES: Senator Paul, we appreciate you and just for clarity again, on Planned Parenthood, you do or don't have a problem with money, federal money, going towards Planned Parenthood?

PAUL: I don't think we should spend federal money on abortion.

HOLMES: It's not to pay for abortion. That's against the law.

PAUL: Right. But even on that -- I know. But what's interesting on it, is lot of these writers that we're talking about, Harry Reid has voted three times for the D.C. riders saying no abortion. There is confusion. You can say we give Planned Parenthood money for non-abortion and the private money is for abortion. So you can see where it's a controversial issue.

So why not just take the controversial issue out. Let's fund the basic things of government that we all agree on, the army, the roads, things that we can all agree on we should fund instead of very emotional things that we don't agree on.

HOLMES: Senator Paul, hopefully this will get worked out in the next eight hours. Thank you so much.

PAUL: I actually think it will.

HOLMES: We're hearing that a lot. We will see.

PAUL: I'm an optimist.

HOLMES: Thank you so much, sir.

I want to turn our viewers quickly to Steny Hoyer, Democrat, who is taking questions right now. Let's listen in.

QUESTION: Have you asked Leader Reid the question that we've been asking why he says that there's an agreement on spending and the speaker says there is not.

STENY HOYER, (D) HOUSE MINORITY WHIP: Frankly, my supposition is that both are accurate. What Reid believes is that there has been an agreement on a number that would be acceptable. The speaker believes that until there's an agreement on all items, there is not an agreement on any item. So I think both are correct in that sense. QUESTION: Is that where the cuts are going to come from, whether it will be mandatory or discretionary?

HOYER: I don't know about that. I think generally there is a number for cuts that is -- would be part of an agreement were an agreement to be reached.

QUESTION: Is the discussion with title 10 or no title 10?

HOYER: I have not been in the discussions so I don't want to characterize them particularly other than to say the president has made it very clear that he does not want to undermine health services for women under title 10.

QUESTION: Would block grant to the states be undermining it?

HOYER: I think the president -- again, I don't want to speak for him, but it is my view that that probably would be inconsistent with what he thinks ought to be our policy.

HOLMES: That's the Democratic whip Steny Hoyer taking questions from reporters on Capitol Hill. A lot of leaders have been taking questions from reporters on Capitol Hill today. Still, not getting the answers that a lot of people want from reporters and certainly you. The answer and only answer is, yes, a government shutdown has been averted. We haven't gotten that just yet, and we are coming up on eight hours away from the government shutdown.

One thing he did say there, possibly trying to clear something up, it sounds like Speaker Boehner is saying, no, we haven't agreed on a number, Harry Reid saying that we have. You heard Steny Hoyer say there, actually, yes, Senator Reid believes we have an agreement on a number but Boehner says you can't agree on a number until all of the issues are resolved.

Again, we're not going far from that story here in the NEWSROOM.

But, also, Donald Trump, you may have seen him out on TV, a media blitz, questioning whether President Obama was born in the U.S. You heard that one before. Trump taking the whole thing a step further today. You'll find out who he is meeting with.

Also, I'll be asked the new interim chairwoman of the DNC about Trump's claims. Donna Brazile is here with me.