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CNN "Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees" - Transcript: Affordable Care Act and Reopening the Government


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COOPER: All right. Dana, thanks very much. A lot going on tonight. We'll get back to you later.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham has been venting frustration about what he calls the little leverage that his party was left with approaching this deal and also about where his party is heading today. The senator wrote on Twitter, quote, "We could have done much, much better. By the time we got to this point we were playing poker only holding a pair of twos." And this, quote, "To say we as Republicans left a lot on the table would be one of the biggest understatements in American political history."

Senator Lindsey Graham joins me now. Quite a tweet there.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Well, it's true. I mean, we could have repealed the medical device tax. We could have done a lot of things that would have been good for the country but by the time we made a deal we're at 75 percent disapproval. It's not a whole lot of leverage when 75 percent of the people don't like what you're doing.

COOPER: So those polls really had an impact?

GRAHAM: Well, you can't let 20 or 30 polls cloud your thinking, apparently. Of course they had an --


GRAHAM: Of course they had an impact and to the people on my side who think this turned out to be a good idea, I just think that's not reality.

COOPER: John Boehner said we fought the good fight. Was this a good fight?

GRAHAM: Well, you know, I love John Boehner. And the thing I like about John is he was trying to bring sanity at the end. It really hurt me to see him not be able to get something out of the House to -- that would have been a lot better than this, but 60 percent of the American people want to fire every incumbent. My party is at 24 percent. The president is not doing very well. The Democrats moved the goalpost twice.

I can understand in general discuss with everybody and I can understand why we suffered the most.

COOPER: So when Senator Cruz came out today and said look, not only did we fight the good fight, but we accomplished stuff. We accomplished them. Was anything accomplished in all this?

GRAHAM: Number one, the debt wasn't affected at all. Obamacare wasn't changed in any real measure. Our numbers went down, and if you think those polls are wrong you're kidding yourself. The president was AWOL I thought during the time of national crisis. Harry Reid kept moving the goalpost when we tried to get a deal. So everybody lost. So I just don't see -- if you like this movie, maybe a sequel is being in the mix now for January.

If we do this again in January, we all should just --

COOPER: Well, I mean, is this -- is the can just being kicked in the road here?

GRAHAM: Totally. Name one thing in this deal that changed the underlying faults in Obamacare that we in a bipartisan fashion agree with. Name one thing in this bill that changed the course of this country becoming Greece over time. But this is the best Mitch could do because we overplayed our hands so badly. By the end we had just a pair of twos. But it's not about us winning or losing or the Democrats win or losing, it's about the country suffering under a dysfunctional system.

Our system up here is completely broken and you get second chances in life very seldom. We'll have a second chance between now and January to prove to the American people the Republican Party can govern and the Congress can address the problems that face us all.

COOPER: Did those who said to their constituents we're going to defund Obamacare, we're going to -- we're going to delay it, we're -- and were fundraising off it, were they lying?

GRAHAM: No, I don't know if they were lying. I'm not going to question their motives but I know it wasn't possible. There are a lot of people sincerely upset with Obamacare. Think it's bad for their business, bad for the economy, bad for the American health care system. There are a lot of people really afraid about what's going on in Washington and to stoke their fear and to create unreasonable expectations about what you can do really is not the way to go.

It was never possible to get President Obama to repeal, defund or delay a signature issue. We have a small majority in the House, we have a minority in the Senate and Obamacare, the guy whose bill is named after still in the White House. I never understood how this could end well for us.

COOPER: So what happens now? I mean, the deadlines are pushed back, the government reopens, there's supposed to be now negotiations. Do you think without this threat of catastrophe, there will be real negotiations?

GRAHAM: Well, I think there is a wakeup call. There has been a wakeup call for us, I hope. I think it has been. I see some people in my party talking in a more practical form regarding conservativism. Democrats know they didn't really shine, either. So between now and January maybe we could come up with a deal to reform entitlements, flatten out the tax code and take small steps but significant steps toward changing America and find a way to deal with Obamacare where there is a bipartisan agreement that the plan is not working.

For two weeks it's been a disaster and you haven't talked much about Obamacare as failures because we got in the way of that story. We've done more to elevate Obamacare in the last two weeks than any Democrat could have hoped of.

COOPER: It's actually gone up in the polls.

GRAHAM: Yes, it has.

COOPER: Despite this roll out which has been --

GRAHAM: It's been --

COOPER: Obviously --

GRAHAM: This has been a debacle for us but the good news, I guess politically, Obamacare will be a debacle long after this shutdown is over. By next summer, if there are not changes in this law Democrats are going to come to us and say help us change it, if we all just get out of the way.

COOPER: Lindsey Graham, appreciate you being with us.

GRAHAM: Thank you.

COOPER: Thank you, Senator. I know you got to go vote. Appreciate it.

GRAHAM: Yes. That's right.


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