BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
BLITZER: Government shutdown started as an effort by some House Republicans to try to defund Obamacare, but 11 days into the crisis, hardly anyone is talking about the Affordable Care Act right now. They have other issues on the agenda. Let's get some more now with two members of congress. Democrat Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas and Republican Steve Scalise of Louisiana. He's chairman of the Republican Study Committee. Congressman, thanks very much for coming in.
Is Obamacare really for all practical purposes, congressman, off the table right now in order to end the government shutdown and raise the debt ceiling?
REP. STEVE SCALISE, CHAIR, REPUBLICAN STUDY COMMITTEE: No, Wolf. Everything is on the table. We're trying to put a lot of things on the table to get the government open, to make sure that the debt ceiling's extended and to get our economy moving again. And of course, Obamacare is one of those things that's holding our economy back. Obviously, there's a lot of big issues we want to address to get the economy moving again so that American families that were struggling before the shutdown are able to actually --
BLITZER: When the dust settles and there's no reference at all to Obamacare, will you vote to reopen the government and to raise the debt ceiling? If there's no mention of Obamacare in the legislation whatsoever?
SCALISE: Obviously, I want to see what a deal is.
BLITZER: Let's say there's no reference to it at all. What happens?
SCALISE: I don't deal in hypotheticals but we're pushing to get the problems of Obamacare addressed. What about just fairness? The fact that President Obama himself exempted members of Congress from this law, if it's so good, shouldn't it apply to everybody? Don't just exempt businesses. Don't just exempt members of Congress. Exempt everybody if the law's not working.
BLITZER: What do -- Congresswoman, what do you say to that?
REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D), TEXAS: You know, this is my neighbor. Louisiana. And I'm from the state of Texas. So let me give you two truths. Millions of people are being helped by Obamacare as we speak. Frankly, Obamacare is not the worst thing since slavery. It is helping millions, it's helping those with pre-existing disease, and it is not an issue that should be tied to reopen the government --
BLITZER: When you hear Dr. Ben Carson, a distinguished physician at Johns Hopkins University, well known surgeon, when he says that this is the worst legislation since slavery in the United States, what do you think?
JACKSON LEE: Well, Dr. Carson is a friend of mine. I have a great deal of respect for him. But obviously he has missed the historical legacy here in this country although we've overcome it, we interred the Japanese, we discriminated against the Chinese. There were Jim Crowe laws. It saddens me. Because millions of people are being saved, lives saved, people coming out of hospice now being able to have, if you will, preventative care.
But let me just say this. I introduced legislation yesterday that said that never again will we tie a legislative debate or disagreement to the debt ceiling or the continuing of the government. And this is for the House of Representatives.
BLITZER: (INAUDIBLE) have done that many times in the past as you well know.
JACKSON LEE: But we have not -- we have not had it in the context, in the context of a law that has been passed and affirmed and continued to have the government shut down without saying that we will continue this debate later on.
BLITZER: All right. Let me let Congressman Scalise --
JACKSON LEE: And this is not the time. There are too many people hurting.
BLITZER: I want you to weigh in on that. But do you agree with Dr. Ben Carson that Obamacare is the worst law in America since slavery?
SCALISE: I didn't hear his comments. You know, and I don't think he said it's worse than slavery.
BLITZER: No, he didn't say it was worse.
SCALISE: I think anybody would suggest --
BLITZER: It is worse since slavery.
SCALISE: What I will say, Wolf, is that millions of families are losing the good health care that they had before Obamacare and that was a promise, remember, if you like what you have, you can keep it. That promise has been broken. It will lower costs, that promise has been broken.
Families in Louisiana are paying over 50 percent more from health care -- for health care in the premiums that are coming out under Obamacare. You're seeing doctors leave the practice of medicine. You're seeing the IRS under Obamacare --
BLITZER: What about the millions of people who never had health insurance who will now be eligible to get health insurance because of previous illnesses, pre-existing conditions or whatever? Isn't that a good thing?
SCALISE: Well, actually the high risk pool under Obamacare that promised all those people with pre-existing conditions that they'd be able to go in and get that health care, the president shut that off in February. He literally shut those people out starting in February. So you can't go into that high risk pool right now.
This thing is so broken, Wolf. The president is not acknowledging it's not working. He has issues over 1200 waivers. He's given a waiver to members of Congress, of all people.
BLITZER: You want to respond?
SCALISE: He shouldn't do that.
JACKSON LEE: I absolutely do. First of all, the conservative wing, the extreme right, are misrepresenting. Frankly what is open now to the American people is to go into the exchange. Their existing insurance may go up but they are able to go into the exchange. There are people willing to testify to premiums of $100, $130, young men, young women who would not have had insurance before are getting insurance but particularly the people with pre-existing disease. On the high risk, they are now able to go into the regular exchange.
Here's my point. If you have a disagreement about legislation approved by the United States Supreme Court, signed by the president and two branches of the Congress, two Houses of the Congress, have the debate during the regular order. But right now, we've got employees who will get 40 percent checks today. We have people who are not able to pay mortgages, their child care.
We have people saying they want to be on -- that will have to be on, not want to be on, food stamps. What we're arguing for is the markets are going to take a devastating hit, one, if we don't open the government and then we raise the debt ceiling for only a few weeks, if we tie other things to it.
BLITZER: All right.
JACKSON LEE: What the president said is that when you open the government, a clean bill on the floor, when you raise the debt ceiling, yes, we'll open it up to a lot of things.
SCALISE: The --
JACKSON LEE: Let me -- let me just tell you. I may --
BLITZER: All right. Hold on. Finish the thought.
JACKSON LEE: I may disagree with entitlement discussion or chained CPI, but I will tell you that the president has said all of us will have everything on the table. That's the right thing.
BLITZER: Go ahead.
SCALISE: First of all, for the president to say, unless I get everything I want in a government funding bill, I won't even sit at a table and negotiate. That's not how our democracy works.
Look, we have divided government, Wolf. You have Republicans running the House, you've got Democrats running the Senate and the White House. And that's the way America has set it up. That's the way our country is. There is division but what they also expect is that their leaders sit in a room and negotiate those differences. For weeks we've been saying, let's get in a room and actually start talking about our differences.
BLITZER: But that's what -- they're doing that now, right?
SCALISE: The president for weeks said he won't negotiate. He still hasn't agreed to negotiate, by the way. We sat with him yesterday and we said we'll raise the debt ceiling in exchange for the start of negotiations over our differences. And so far he hasn't agreed even to that.
BLITZER: He wants you to reopen the government, end the government shutdown and then continue the negotiation.
SCALISE: But under his terms. Under 100 percent of his terms.
JACKSON LEE: Not his terms.
SCALISE: Clearly we have big disagreements over the funding of government. By the way, we passed 18 bills in the last two weeks to fund either all or parts of government.
BLITZER: All right. Go ahead.
SCALISE: Including agencies like Veterans Affairs. Shouldn't we at least agree, pay our veterans benefits while we're negotiating over these other differences.
JACKSON LEE: Those are political votes that are going nowhere. And frankly --
SCALISE: They shouldn't be going anywhere. They should be going to the president and get signed.
JACKSON LEE: Those are political votes -- we have never run the government in that way. Every vote that we've had --
SCALISE: Of course the government has been run in that way in the past.
JACKSON LEE: Every vote that we've had, they've left out large elements of veterans services. That's why the veterans centers are closed.
But let me just say this. In the meeting we had with the president -- in the meeting we had with the president when Democrats, when all of us were able to come, the president made it very clear. He made it very clear that he might make some Democrats unhappy as he moves forward but what he said is, I don't want to hold the American people in a hostage position. Open the government, give us an opportunity to turn the markets in the right direction by raising the debt ceiling.
SCALISE: But that's not what a negotiation --
JACKSON LEE: And everything --
SCALISE: He's got to be willing to sit in a room and actually have those negotiations.
JACKSON LEE: And he will open the negotiation process. He said it to the Republicans yesterday. Paul Ryan understood it. He said there was a meeting where we're discussing open the government.
BLITZER: All right.
JACKSON LEE: Don't hold us hostage and not opening the government.
BLITZER: The president is not calling it negotiations but for all practical purposes, what's going on right now are negotiations.
SCALISE: We haven't really gotten agreement from the president to negotiate. His response was, I haven't said yes and I haven't said no. This isn't a time to vote present. This is a time to actually lead --
BLITZER: Very quickly, will there be a deal in the next couple of days?
SCALISE: We can absolutely get a deal done if both sides actually sit in the room and negotiate the real differences we have to get our economy moving.
BLITZER: Will there be a deal?
JACKSON LEE: There should be a deal around a clean bill to open the government, to raise the debt ceiling. I'd like it to be longer than these six to eight weeks. Possibly a year or time. I like what the Senate Republicans seem to be open to that kind of compromise. And frankly, let me say this. You can't put 18, 25 little bills on the floor and leave the rest of the government operating on half a tank of gas.
We have to have an allegiance to more than our individual interests to the American people and if we do that, we will have a deal. I believe that.
BLITZER: Sheila Jackson Lee, Steve Scalise, it's a good debate.
SCALISE: That's not a negotiation.
BLITZER: We will see what happens. The stakes are enormous. Shake -- shake hands.
JACKSON LEE: Thank you.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT