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Legal View with Ashleigh Banfield

GOP Pushes Piecemeal Funding; Sen. Barbara Box Says Democrats Accepted GOP Spending Levels; Rep. Bill Johnson says GOP Sent Compromise Bills; Americans Furious at Federal Government; Rep. Peter King talks GOP versus GOP on Obamacare, Shutdown.

Aired October 03, 2013 - 11:30   ET


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: We just saw President Obama in a very familiar situation, making his case to the people when he hits a brick wall with Congress. The president spoke at a construction company in Maryland, in the suburbs there, just hours after his first face-to- face meeting with congressional leaders since this shutdown began on Tuesday. Jovial crowd there. Jovial president. But make no mistake, those leaders and the president talked about the funding gap and the looming government debt crisis and, from all indications, their accomplishment? A big fat nothing.

Republicans, however, are once again trying to get around this shutdown by offering up bits and pieces of funding legislation, just to keep a few critical agencies open. And it isn't the Democrats don't support things like Veterans Affairs or the national parks or the National Institutes of Health. They do. But they are insisting on an all-or-nothing approach to this, no partial fixes, please.

And when it comes to that last one, the National Institutes of Health, our Dana Bash on capitol hill asked if that last one, if maybe just that last one was worth a partial spending bill, especially when you're dealing with sick kids and all.

But listen to how Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, responded to her.


SEN. HARRY REID, (D), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: They have no right to pick and choose.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: But if you can help one child who has cancer, why wouldn't you do it?

REID: Listen --

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, (D), NEW YORK: Why would we want --

REID: -- why would we --



SCHUMER: -- one against the other?

REID: Why would we want to do that? I have 1100 people at Nellis Air Force Base that are sitting home. They have a few problems of their own. This is -- to have someone of your intelligence suggest such a thing --


BASH: I'm just asking the question.

REID: -- very irresponsible.


REID: Yes?


BANFIELD: That exchange came up today as well in a House Republican event. I want you to check out a prop, a prop that was featured pretty prominently, in fact. The Harry Reid quote, "Why would we want to do that?" There you have it. It's a partial quote, let's not forget. He was talking about other people who are needed as well who wouldn't be covered by the piecemeal. But it's ugly, nonetheless.

You know what? Dana Bash is not the first reporter who has been taking it on the chin for even asking either side of this awful debate why they're doing what they're doing.

I'm pleased to welcome now another member of the Democratic Senate caucus, Barbara Boxer, of California.

Senator, I've got to ask you, right off the bat, is that fair? Is that fair for Harry Reid to attack Dana Bash for simply asking a question?

SEN. BARBARA BOXER, (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, Dana Bash is a tough lady. She can handle it. I can handle it. You can handle it. Let's talk about what matters, not if someone gets insulted.

What matters is that the government is shut down. Yes, kids are being turned away from cancer treatment. And I want to tell you, in my state, I have kids with bleeding noses. They are very sick. There's an environmental justice issue. The EPA was working on it to find out why. They have been called off the job. Open the government.

It's not about Harry Reid or Dana or you or me. It's about what's happening here. And the president is so right. You don't negotiate just showing up. We have to show up and keep the government open and pay our bills. After that, everything is on the table.

And the great news is -- and this is really good news -- Speaker Boehner could just bring up that vote right now, in five, 10 minutes, and we would open the government and then we would sit down and talk about all the things they care about. What's really interesting is that the Republicans in the House have been gutting the NIH, so I'm glad they now care about it. That's good.

BANFIELD: But let me ask you this. I understand when you say it's not good enough just to show up but it's also, as other people will say, also not good enough to extend an invitation, invite leaders to your White House and say I'm here to tell you once again I'm not going to negotiate.

I bring this to you only because he's not the first president to be in this circumstance. In fact, when Tip O'Neill was the Democratic leader of the House and had to face off against a very strong Republican president, President Reagan, they went through this over six times, and President Reagan gave in, and did negotiate. Why is President Obama not prepared to give in and do a little negotiating --


BOXER: You've got -- you've got the history a little wrong. There was no government shutdown. There was --


BANFIELD: There were over six government shutdowns during the Reagan years. I don't have the history wrong.


BANFIELD: They were short but they were shutdowns.

BOXER: In the particular point in time you were discussing, there was never a threat of a default. I want you to know that I was there during the Reagan administration. Oh, my god, how old am I? And the fact of the matter is, 18 times we raised that debt ceiling. There weren't threats about that. You know, I just want to say this.


BANFIELD: You know what, Senator boxer, just going to stop you there. I didn't say this was over a debt default. I told you that there were over six government shutdowns. And they ranged --


BANFIELD: -- two days to six days each.

BOXER: Yeah.

BANFIELD: But make no mistake, they were shutdowns. They even involved a continuing resolution. They were shutdowns. And they involved a president who negotiated. Why is your president not negotiating?

BOXER: Well, he's your president, too. He's the president of the United States of America. And he is facing a situation where, because he wrote a health care bill along with Republicans and Democrats, and it passed three and a half years ago, and the Republicans don't like it, they are willing, not only shut down the government but to default, default on America's credit.

Now, when you're dealing with a situation like that -- and I will tell you, I never saw that. I have been here with five presidents. Three of them were Republicans. So there were lots of things I didn't like. I never saw ever in my lifetime Republicans or Democrats say we're going to take our marbles and shut down this government and maybe even default, because we don't want people to get health care. I have never seen it.

The president has reached out from day one to the Republicans. He offered them a $4 trillion deal where we would cut spending by that much over time. They walked away. They play these games with him. He is completely right. We show up to work, there are two basic things we have to do: Keep the government open, OK, and not default on the bills that have been accrued. That's very simple. All the rest is on the table. And you don't go to a negotiation with a gun at your head, as Harry Reid has said.

So this is our president. This is our country. Have we gotten to the point where we're now saying "your president"? I think that's a sad day. I really do.

BANFIELD: You know what? You're right. I will take that on the chin. Because you're right, I should have never said, "your president." I simply meant your Democratic president. And you know what? I only say that because I think we reporters are exhausted from being attacked for being the messengers and being the ones who ask the questions.


BOXER: Well, you're not the only ones being attacked. You're not the only one.

BANFIELD: I hear you.


But you know what? Let's not attack the messengers. We're the only people out there who have the voice to ask for the people out there who don't, and they're livid.

Senator Boxer, thank you. And you don't look a day over 29.

BOXER: Well, we are livid.


No one could be more livid than I am at what's happening here.

Thank you.

BANFIELD: Thank you, Senator Boxer. And best of luck in the negotiations ahead.

BOXER: Thank you. When we come back, I will go right to the other side of the aisle and be just as tough on the Republican from Ohio, who joins me next to answer the tough questions about just what are these factions and how far will they push, and is anyone within the Republican party about to blink? He will come up next. It is Republican from Ohio, Mr. Johnson, coming up next.


BANFIELD: My next guest helped his party retake the House in the Republican shellacking of 2010. When I say "shellacking," I'm using President Obama's term. Midway through his first term, the House added 63 new Republican members. So, yes, it was a shellacking.

Bill Johnson was among them. Congressman Johnson is a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel and businessman representing the Sixth District of Ohio.

Congressman, thanks so much for being with us.

We just had an interview on the network with Barbara Boxer, who I really grilled about the negotiation process, that President Obama called this meeting yesterday, and out came the Republicans saying it wasn't a negotiation, there was none.

But you, on the other hand, are one of the members that President Obama calls extremist. He just said it in his speech. Who won't allow your own speaker to just go ahead and call a vote, call a vote on a clean funding bill. Is that fair? Are you an extremist?

REP. BILL JOHNSON, (R), OHIO: Well, this is the kind of mule-headed actions in Washington, Ashleigh, that I was sent here to change. Calling people names, that's not negotiating. Negotiating is coming to the table with real solutions. Leadership is not about sitting in an office or wearing a title. It's about producing results and achieving a positive movement forward for the nation. In this case, it's about fairness for all Americans.

But that's not what we're seeing here. We have sent numerous pieces of legislation to the Senate leading up to this government shutdown. Each one of them, in its own right, a concession over the last, and yet they have been summarily rejected by both the Senate and the president. So saying I'm going to take my ball and go home and come to the table and negotiate, but it's my way or no way, that's not a negotiation.

BANFIELD: Actually, the criticism of what you've just said, Congressman, is that those 42 pieces of legislation you sent over to the Senate was just "go away Obamacare." It wasn't a negotiation. It wasn't suggestions on how to change or alter a law you clearly don't like and that's fair. But it was just do away with it or else.

I want to read you a quote that you gave the "Christian Post" back in 2011. You said, "One faction of one party in one House of Congress in one branch of government doesn't get to shut down the entire government just to refight the results of an election." Pardon me. I beg your pardon. I misread that. I read what President Obama said, only because they sounded so similar.

What you said was, "We Republicans hold control of one half of one third of the decision-making process in the federal government. To think that I can go to Washington and ball up my fists and make them do what I want them to do, that's not going to happen."

Do you see how similar you both sound, you and the president? But aren't you balling up your fists here?

JOHNSON: Well, I certainly agree with you that there's mule-headed thinking. There's bullying going on, on both sides of the aisle. But I can tell you that what you just said about the legislation that we've sent to the Senate, that's just mischaracterized, because we did send over a piece of legislation that would have repealed Obamacare, but then we sent over other pieces of legislation that would have delayed it, that would have given the American people the same delay in the individual mandate that the president has already given to big business. So it's not just all-or-nothing. We've come to the table multiple times. And there's not a member of our conference that doesn't agree on the goal. And the goal is to do what the American people have asked us to do.

I would like to comment on something that Senator Boxer said earlier. She said President Obama helped write this law that both Republicans and Democrats passed. Not one single Republican voted for this law, Ashleigh. So what we've got today is the majority of the American people, particularly those in my district, that have said --


JOHNSON: -- they have major concerns about this law.

BANFIELD: You know, Congressman, I'm sorry, I'm just trying to search my mind, there was one Republican who voted for it. It's not fair of you to say not one single Republican. I will say this in your defense. Any of the Republicans who voted for Obamacare, they are no longer on the Hill, so yes, there's a fresh new crop that doesn't like it.

But on behalf of the rest of America, would you please just perhaps leave it to the elections of more members to vote out different bills instead of holding the C.R. and the spending to do this? I know it's been done in the past but it's really painful to the economy, and it's painful to the rest of us, and it's painful to all those people who are out trying to work check-to-check today and they can't because they're not working.

Thank you, Congressman, for being part of the conversation today. Appreciate it.

JOHNSON: Thank you for having me today, Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: Congressman Johnson joining us live on the Hill.

It's amazing. Like two different worlds living on that same capitol hill.

Don't miss the special CNN report live on the government shutdown. Jake Tapper is hosting "Shutdown Showdown." It is live from Washington, D.C., tonight at 11:00 eastern, immediately followed by "Crossfire." That starts at 11:30 tonight.

The stalemate in Congress over the government shutdown has people all over this country furious.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Grow up. You're there for a bigger purpose.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's just games that they're playing. I would say get beyond it, get over it and think about the people that they're hurting.


BANFIELD: Real people, really angry politicians. Everyone seems intransigent. We are going from city to city to hear your voices. We will take you to where it really matters, Peoria, Illinois. How is it playing in Peoria? Coming up next.


BANFIELD: Just a few moments ago, President Obama was not hiding his feelings when it comes to who he thinks is to blame as the government shutdown now moves into its third day. The GOP would most likely disagree with him. But we wanted to know how you feel, and how all these words are playing in Peoria.

That's where we sent Ted Rowlands.

Ted, what are you hearing out on the street? I'm just assuming a lot of universal anger.

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. People think it's absolutely pathetic. How's it playing in Peoria? I think people want their money back. It's really -- we're hearing -- we have been in different cities all this week and people are disgusted, disgusted with Washington and what is happening.

This is Shanna Shipman, an Independent, not on one side or the other.

First of all, your take on the shutdown?

SHANNA SHIPMAN, INDEPENDENT VOTER: You know, I have been following developments and I think probably what strikes me as most unfortunate is that the debate over issues has been reframed, at least from our perspective, as a debate focused on political posturing. You know, I think any time you approach a situation as a zero-sum game, where one side has to win completely in order for the other side to lose completely, you can only have gridlock. So until one or hopefully both sides can reframe the debate in a way that allows the other side, if you will, to make political and practical games, we'll have to wait patiently.

ROWLANDS: Quick message to lawmakers, what would it be?

SHIPMAN: I'm sorry?

ROWLANDS: One quick message to lawmakers?

SHIPMAN: I think, you know, obviously we don't like to see unnecessary partisanship but that's part of the system. So focus on the issues and get the job done. We have a longstanding history of functional democracy. Let's put it back in play.

ROWLANDS: All right.

ROWLANDS: One opinion, Ashleigh. But I tell you what, people are literally embarrassed, some of them, about what's going on in Washington. Someone said to me, if we could get a bunch of normal people together, it's time for a third party. There's a lot of disgust around the country, as you might imagine. And you know, so we're hearing it here in Peoria and across the country, telling lawmakers "get to work."

BANFIELD: Maybe there's somebody actually fermenting a campaign to replace some of those lawmakers.

Ted Rowlands, thank you.

We want to hear from our viewers. If you want a chance to sound off, what's your message to Washington? We're asking you to make a video for us, send it to As this shutdown continues, we just may share your views right here on CNN.

Back in a moment.


BANFIELD: If you have followed the stand-off at all, you know that one group of lawmakers is refusing to fund the government and keep it open unless it can defund or delay Obamacare. Another side says, fund the government now and debate Obamacare at another time. Both of those groups are Republicans, which is kind of weird. For once, it's the Democrats marching in lock step while the GOP in both houses is fighting amongst itself, it seems.

Pete King is the leader of the "fund now, fight later" camp, which seem to be getting larger by the day, and he joins me from Capitol Hill.

Congressman King, thanks so much for joining me today. I know it's a busy day for you.

The way I read the coverage on you -- and it comes from different angles but it's seems to be very similar -- is that you just may be one of the guys fomenting a revolt against what's going on right now and getting members of the Republican party to come on side with you and blink and just go for it and pass the C.R., pass the resolution with no strings attached, and move on. Is this true, and if so how many people do you have with you?

REP. PETER KING, (R), NEW YORK: Ashleigh, I consider myself a solid conservative. I think what's happened here with the Ted Cruz Republicans is absolute insanity. We've allowed them to hijack our party. There's any number of people in our party that call themselves moderates or whatever who say this is wrong, and we have to have a clean, continuing resolution and the government has to be reopened. The fact is we have to take action. It's not good enough to talk about it.

One thing I have to give Ted Cruz accolades for he is when they want to do something they do it. I've been voting no for the last -- really since Monday, saying we just have to go forward and stop all of this delaying, we have to stop all of the government shutdown talk, and we have to take action. Unless we take firm action, John Boehner will be stuck with the Ted Cruz Republicans. I have great regard for John Boehner. I think he does not want to be in this position. The Cruz Republicans put him there. If the people who are opposed to that, if they're serious, have to start taking action.

BANFIELD: I'm still trying to read into the number here. From what I've seen, you have mentioned that you had a meeting yesterday. You think there's about 10 members at this point who believe -- they really do want to go ahead with a clean resolution, no strings attached, get the government back open? These are Republicans. But that you secretly believe it's closer to two dozen and that if you had an anonymous vote tomorrow, you'd have 180 Republicans vote for a clean resolution. So how does that play when the speaker invites people of your ilk into a meeting yesterday? Was he angry with you? Did he respect the fact that you and a growing number of Republican want to do this? What was that meeting like?

KING: Well, basically, again, a private meeting. I don't want to give anything away other than to say at least 10 people at the meeting and another 15 or so who agreed we're willing to go openly and say the government should open -- reopen, but their reluctance is to take action now to force that. I'm saying we have to force it now. Because otherwise, this is going to go on until next week. And every day that we are delaying, that's 800,000 people out of work, service being denied. Our national security is at risk. So really, again, the difference is the Cruz Republicans they take action. They don't care what anybody thinks about them. I think too many moderates are reluctant to take that step. I understand that they feel maybe it's too quick. If the government's shut down, we can't wait any longer. I'm urging that we take quicker action. Others think it's getter to wait a few days. Whatever it is, it's a matter of time before the government reopens. So if that's the case, let's do it now. Let's not allow these Cruz people to have this stranglehold over the Republican Party and over the country.

BANFIELD: I never thought I'd be hearing this kind of infighting between you and another Republican -- well, the Senator. But at this point, we're hearing word of a meeting yesterday where Ted Cruz was reamed by fellow Republicans who are angry with him for pushing this while there's no exit strategy. Is that also perhaps giving some momentum to the members you say are growing towards pushing for a clean resolution and an end to this?

KING: Yes. They realize that Ted Cruz just led the party down a dead end. I said from the start this guy was a fraud, that he was laying out a strategy that has no strategy. This was a dead end he was leading us into. He was saying that if we -- we voted to defund Obamacare in the House and sent it to the Senate that's all we had to do, that the Senate was going to cave into that, the president's going to cave into it, and Obamacare would be defunded. That was false and fraudulent from the start. Yet, we had 30, 40 people in our party who believed that, who made promises over the summer that they were going to vote that way, and then they threatened to bring the House down if we didn't defund Obamacare. John Boehner was against that policy but he went along with it only to give them the opportunity in the House to see if it could be done. It could be done.

BANFIELD: Let me ask you --

KING: But these guys still won't give up.

BANFIELD: Congressman King, I know there are a lot of members who came to the Hill because their constituents sent them to the Hill and asked them to rein in spending and do whatever they could to derail Obamacare. So their conscience is to stick with the constituency. Now there are a number of people out there who are out of work and are going to start feeling the pinch and the pain of the shutdown. How many fellow Republicans are starting to feel from their constituents that the pain of the shutdown is worse than the pain of supporting or going along with a resolution without stripping Obamacare?

KING: Well, I don't know if anything's going to get through to that 30 or 40. But many others are starting to feel, especially members of Congress who have, for instance, defense plants in their district. Others who have, say, an IRS installation in their office or the Department of Agriculture installation in their district, rather, they are starting to feel it because their people, thousands of people, being laid off. Also those who, for instance, who have children who are sick and very worried about the NIH, all of that is coming. But the fact is the 30, 40 people we're talking about, it's going to take a long time to get through to them. And that's why we have to take action more quickly to head it off.

BANFIELD: That's what I'm getting at. Just before you came on air with us, Congressman King, our Ted Rowlands, is out in Peoria, Illinois, talking to the people, and I'm telling you, it is next to impossible to find a man on the street to interview who said, go for it, keep it up, keep up the good work, dig in, do not allow this shutdown to stop you from your principles of defunding Obamacare. No one is saying that on the streets. Is the blowback from what's going on right now worse than the celebration from those constituents who say the Tea Partiers to the Hill to say rein in the spending?

KING: These 30, 40 Cruz people, I will tell you, everywhere they go in their district, people say to keep going. I don't know whether they hear this. I think they live in their own echo chambers. The fact is, my district, my area of Long Island, Ronald Reagan carried it by over 100,000 votes, the largest vote of any county in the country. So this is a right-of-center district. Most of my district was strongly opposed to Obamacare. No one, almost no one is coming up to me and telling me to shutdown --