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CNN "State of the Union with Candy Crowley" - Transcript: Benghazi and Affordable Care Act


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AYOTTE: Good morning, Candy. Thank you.

CROWLEY: There is a movement by Senator Lindsey Graham to block all of the president's nominees until survivors of the Benghazi attack are allowed to come and testify to various committees. Are you on board with that tactic?

AYOTTE: Well, Candy, we've written several times, not only Secretary Kerry, but also the president asking for the survivors to be made available to Congress to get to the bottom of this. So, I understand we've been brushed off many times. I understand that Senator Graham is actually going to be speaking to the administration about this, trying to come up cooperatively to address this issue.

But it's not acceptable that they've not been made available and to say that because there's an ongoing investigation in terrorism, that would preclude oversight by the Congress in any terrorism case.


AYOTTE: Including 9/11. So, I think there are ways we can work together and make sure that we're protecting the sensitive nature of this but to not get to the bottom of this isn't acceptable. We keep being brushed off and we need answers.

CROWLEY: But to the question, are you willing as Senator Graham is to block nominees until those witnesses are produced on Capitol Hill?

AYOTTE: Candy, I don't have a hold on any witnesses right now, but -- and I'm hoping we can work this out with the administration, but I assume that Republicans will come together because it's been so long, over a year without answers and being basic access to the survivors that were there, that by the way, it can't just be the executive branch gets this access.

Many of them were interviewed in conjunction with the ARB report, but they haven't been made available to Congress. So then, I will evaluate whatever means we need to do to get that information, but I hope we can work this out cooperatively and I think we should be able to, but it's been too long and we've been brushed off for too long.

CROWLEY: I'm going to take that as a maybe yes, maybe no and move on to something that Jay Carney said in response to this.


CARNEY: The fact is we have been enormously cooperative and gone to extraordinary efforts to work with seven different Congressional committees investigating what happened before, during, and after the Benghazi attacks, including testimony of 13 different Congressional hearings and participation in 40 staff briefings and the provision of over 25,000 pages of documents.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CROWLEY: Is the administration correct in --

AYOTTE: Candy --

CROWLEY: Go ahead.

Well, I'll tell you right now, I mean, Jay Carney, well over a week well after that had said that this was not preplanned or premeditated, still blamed this on the video, and so, we still don't have answers why that information came out the way it did and the misrepresentations were made to the American people.

AYOTTE: But there's much information that has been brought forward, including why were security requests denied, provided access to these survivors.

We've asked for months in trying to work cooperatively with the administration, so what he said is not the case. It can't be that the executive branch just hopes this goes away because the American people and the victims of this deserve to know the truth.

CROWLEY: Moving on to health care and the president's Affordable Care Act. It seems to me that Republicans at this point take one of two positions on this, either all right, let's -- this is going to go into effect January 1, let's see what we can do to fix it or let us continue to try to derail it. Where are you on that spectrum?

AYOTTE: Well, Candy, I can tell you, this is a mess. You've seen not only the problems with the website, but it's much deeper than the website including so many Americans that are getting cancellation notices right now including stories I've heard from people in New Hampshire, rising premium cost as a result of Obamacare. So, it's much deeper than the website.

Where I am on this is -- you know, I was one of the Republicans who said -- called out members of my own party on the shutdown strategy to defund Obamacare because I didn't think it was the effective. I didn't think it was good for the country. I'm calling on the president now to say, let's have a time out on this, Mr. President. You call a time out on this.

Convene a group of bipartisan leaders to address health care concerns in this country because this is not working. I'm hearing it from my constituents and let's do this right as opposed to way this was passed in the first instance. CROWLEY: I want to play for you something the president said Wednesday in Boston about the opposition to his Affordable Care Act.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Unfortunately, there are others that are so locked into the politics of this thing that they won't lift a finger to help their own people because if they put as much energy into making this law work as they do in attacking the law, Americans would be better off.


CROWLEY: Now, he is saying in a sort of nuance way what other Democrats are saying right out there which is that you- all would rather defeat the president and Obamacare than help your constituents. Have you helped your constituents who called to your office looking for help? And do you think republicans are vulnerable on this that they have tried so hard and so many times to derail it, but now the criticism looks like nothing but politics?

AYOTTE: Well, Candy, my constituents are writing me, but how can I help them when it's the situation of their getting cancellation notices because of the way that Obamacare is drafted when they can't access the website because it's such a mess. So, absolutely, I want to help my constituents. But again, I would say to the president, why doesn't he call a timeout on this, understanding that it's not working right now?

This was passed on a party line basis. Why not convene a group to see how can we work together, issues like the 29-hour workweek, issues like if you -- people being denied their current plans, issues like rising health care costs, all of which are unfortunately I'm hearing the opposite from my constituents. I want to help them, but obviously, the administration in the way this is being rolled out is a mess. So, it's time to call a time out.

CROWLEY: Let me move you to some new polling we saw this week. We talked about the president's numbers in our open and I want to remind you the polling on the opinion of the Republican Party positive, 22 percent and negative 53 percent. What does that tell you about the midterm elections a year from today with the Republican Party at such a -- held in such low esteem by voters?

AYOTTE: Well, Candy, what I think it tells you is that the American people from the president, obviously, the president's poll numbers aren't doing well, either. They want leadership. They want people to get things done and they didn't appreciate the government shut down. I didn't support it. But now, here we are with Obamacare again that they want problems to be solved, and I think that they will reward the people who are trying to work to solve problems for this country.

It's a long way until the 2014 election, but I guarantee that Obamacare is going to be one of the primary issues on it and that's why I say now let's work together because there are real issues that need to be addressed with our health care system, but certainly, this is not the answer.

CROWLEY: Nonetheless, going into an election year with a 22 percent approval rating for the party, and by the way, a very low approval rating for Congress in general, is not a great place to start and it's clear that what Democrats want to campaign on is that Republicans are blocking everything that we want to do and what Republicans want to campaign on is Obamacare is a disaster and it's not going to work. Is that an atmosphere in which you can get anything done?

AYOTTE: Well, I think we owe it to the American people to get things done. One thing that I took from the whole shutdown situation had a chance to work with bipartisan group of senators is that I think the American people are rightly frustrated with both sides of the aisle.

Congress has a low approval rating because, obviously, we're not getting basic things done like plan for funding the government. Right now, we're in the budget negotiations. We got to get the government funded for the year. We need to deal with basic issues of oversight of government and I think that's what it's all about, and it's frankly a problem for both parties.

CROWLEY: Senator Ayotte, little time left but I need to ask you. Recently, Senator Reid had said that he would, you know, selfishly like to see Ted Cruz run for president and be on the ticket, because he thought it would be the end of the Republican Party. Do you agree?

AYOTTE: Well, I think that, obviously, 2016 is a couple of years away. I think we'll have a number of candidates for president. And as you know, Candy, many of them will come to New Hampshire. I think that the Republican Party will carefully vet those candidates. My constituents in New Hampshire, I know, will and then they'll decide. But Harry Reid is not going to decide who our nominee and there's a number of excellent candidates out there including governors.

CROWLEY: Senator Kelly Ayotte, I'll take that as not quite a yes and not quite a no, but we really appreciate your time this morning. I hope you'll join us again.

AYOTTE: Thank you.


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