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Compromise Builds Bipartisan Support; "Productive" Talks, Still no Deal; Obamacare Site Rife with Problems; Some Macy's to Open Thanksgiving Day

Aired October 14, 2013 - 10:30   ET


MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back. The Senate back in session this afternoon hopefully in an attempt to make a deal on the debt ceiling and the shutdown.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And they could have a new plan as a starting point. Thanks to a bipartisan proposal from Senator Susan Collins of Maine and Joe Manchin of West Virginia. Now speaking to CNN earlier this morning Manchin expressed optimism about getting a deal done.


SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA: Well I think we're 70 percent to 80 percent there. Putting the extra 20 percent to 25 percent to it Chris is ok. When should the CR come due? When should the debt ceiling come due?

So that -- and does that give time for the -- for the budget conference, the budget committees to sit down and work through this? So those are the details that have to be worked out.


BERMAN: All right that was Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, a Democratic. And just a few moments ago, Senator Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine, she has been at the center of these negotiations. She came out and spoke to cameras and she gave an update on these meetings that have been going on all morning.

Erin McPike joins us now from Washington. Erin what did Senator Collins have to say about any signs of progress?

ERIN MCPIKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well John she said that they are making progress. They think talks have been very constructive. I will tell you a little bit of this. she said, "We're not going to release any details until we have an agreement. I hope we will have an agreement. We're making progress toward an agreement, but we're not there yet."

Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee said much the same thing. He said "There could be a deal today." They're optimistic and hopeful. But let's not get ahead of ourselves just yet because there are sticking points. We want to go through what we've seen of the deal so far. Now again, Senator Collins says they're not going to release any more details until the end of the day until they've reached something. But from what we've seen so far we're going to show you some of these -- of these things they're talking about. One is to extend the debt limit through the end of January. Also funding the government for six months -- now, the level at which they would fund the government is $986 billion. That is $70 billion less than Democrats nationally wanted.

So another piece of a sticking point there. Also to repeal the medical device tax. Now, again, the White House is adamantly opposed to that. But Democrats in the Senate are open to repealing the medical devices tax. Now that might be something that comes up in an agreement in December as opposed to what's on the floor now.

There's also income verification, which is something that Senator Manchin was talking about this morning as a potential piece of an agreement. And also some flexibility on spending cuts. That's another sticking point for Democrats right now. But there is a plan in place. And they do seem to be negotiating.

So maybe we will have some news on this later today John and Michaela.

BERMAN: Well let's hope. But I did speak to Congressman Matt Salmon, Republican of Arizona, just a little while ago. He seemed to indicate he would be unlikely to support this kind of thing unless it took more of a bite out of Obamacare.

Then you have President Obama and Harry Reid on the other side from the left who sort of pooh-poohed a potential of a deal from Collins and Manchin earlier this weekend. And any sense of which side this bipartisan group of senators is more nervous about here?

MCPIKE: Well I think what we are looking at is seeing House Democrats join with some more moderate Republicans in the House to pass something that a moderate group in both Houses can get behind. This is one of the things that Senator Bob Corker said as he just left this meeting, he said it might not attract, quote, "fringe from either side of the aisle, but we hope to get something on the Senate floor that we can pass." So we're looking for moderates here.

BERMAN: Is there a middle to be had here? That's what we all want to know.

PEREIRA: They need to find it.

BOLDUAN: Erin McPike, thank you so much. It's great having you here.

We're going to have a panel of political experts to unpack all of this. They are standing by. We're going to talk about the Manchin- Collins proposal right after the break.


PEREIRA: Well, we have been talking about this new bipartisan plan and if it has legs. Just moments ago Senator Susan Collins came out of a meeting and said they are making progress but they are not there yet. Let's talk about that. Joining us now: from Miami, HLN contributor and Hiram College professor Jason Johnson; and in Atlanta, "Daily Beast" contributor, Patricia Murphy. Good morning to the both of you.



PEREIRA: Jason, let's start with you. This Manchin-Collins proposal, this includes a delay on the tax on medical devices. The White House reportedly against it, but at this late stage the Obama administration likely has to think about making some sort of concessions to end the stalemate? No.

JOHNSON: Well they don't really have to think about making concessions there's still the 51 votes option in the Senate. But I think what's going to happen is this, the Republicans need to take something back to their sort of extreme base in the House and the medical device tax is something fairly easy. You've got Democrats and Republicans who don't like it and I think in the end the Republicans in the House are going to have to cave.

I don't think this bill, the Collins-Manchin bill as it's currently formed is going to be the final deal, but the Senate probably will pass that in the last minute, force the House to move it through and maybe the shutdown and the debt ceiling will be fixed by Thursday.

PEREIRA: The President certainly has made his -- his point very clear; he's seemingly dug his heels in on a lot of things. Patricia what are your thoughts?

MURPHY: Yes I'm honestly not as optimistic as Jason is here on this one. With the medical device tax, actually a majority of the Democrats and Republicans are willing to get rid of that. But the Tea Party Republicans in the House consider that just pocket change. That is not remotely near the changes that they want to see in this. And you have to sort of wonder who is going to ride to the rescue here.

There are terrible relations between all of the people negotiating these deals with each other. Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell do not get along. John Boehner and most Democrats don't trust that he can even get a deal through his caucus. Even if the Senate passes a bill, even if it passes the 70 votes we've seen with immigration, that makes not one bit of difference among House Republicans what the Senate is doing these days.

So I -- I really don't see a path forward given who is in the room making these decisions and the caucuses that have to be able to pass these bills through them.

PEREIRA: Well let's talk about who is in the room? It's interesting, John McCain on some of the Sunday morning talk shows talking about his frustration that the White House is not playing a larger role in these ongoing negotiations. And in fact says he wants Biden out of witness protection program.

Jason, do you think that Biden's relationship with some of those key members could play a role in ending the stalemate?

JOHNSON: No. Biden would be terrible in this. Look there's a lot of Democrats in the Senate who are concerned that both Obama and Biden are too quick to capitulate. And I think it's actually a good thing they've both been out of the picture.

The President shouldn't be in too many of these negotiations up front because there's too much political capital in the House and the senate who are just standing to Obama for any reason. When he's in the room, things get volatile.

And Joe Biden, he's got too many friends. And he's too inclined to cut a deal. So I think this is good that's it's been about Harry Reid, he's on a safe comfortable seat. And I think it's going to be the Democrats demonstrating that this is not the proper way to negotiate policy which is important not just for this administration but for every administration following it.

PEREIRA: Patricia do you think it's a good idea to keep him out of the fray?

MURPHY: I think Joe Biden is being kept out the fray deliberately because as Jason said Democrats feel like he's giving away way too much -- giving away, way too much in tax cuts and not getting enough in increases.

I think it's a mistake to keep him out of it if anybody really wants a deal. But the White House says they're not going to negotiate. And Joe Biden negotiates. That's what he does so I think you know again him not being in the room is another sign to me of the fact that this is really not going anywhere quickly.

And you have to remember, even if all sides come to an agreement, you have to write that legislation, you have to let CBO score that legislation and you have to schedule the votes and make them happen.

So this is not a process that happens overnight. And it really is up to John Boehner what he is willing to do. A lot of Senate Democrats don't want to put Boehner in a bad position that he wouldn't be able to get something through his own caucus because they believe he's really the only stabilizing force over there on that side. So a lot of moving parts and none of them seem to be moving forward.

PEREIRA: Well they're down to the wire and even though there are a lot of moving parts, people are anxious for them to make some sort of deal happen and soon.

Jason Johnson, Patricia Murphy thank you for -- for joining us this morning.

MURPHY: Thank you.

BERMAN: And for them to move those parts as far and fast as possible to be sure.

Still to come for us -- people keep calling them glitches. But the problem for the Obamacare Web site, they do not seem to be going away. What experts say could be snagging the system.

PEREIRA: Is there a stronger word for "glitch"?

BERMAN: "Glitch." Say it loudly.


BERMAN: All right. This just in to CNN. Senator Susan Collins of Maine has been at the center of trying to work out some kind of bipartisan agreement in the Senate to push through this government shutdown, raise the debt ceiling before the deadline hits Wednesday night into Thursday. She's been behind closed doors this morning with this bipartisan group of senators. And she just came out and spoke to cameras to give an update of how things are going. Let's listen.


SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: We're making progress. We're going to continue to meet throughout the day. And the conversations have been very constructive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And are you making any changes to your proposal?

COLLINS: We're not going to release any details until we have an agreement. I hope we will have an agreement. We're making progress toward an agreement but we're not there yet.


BERMAN: She says progress is being made. They are still talking. It's often a good sign in Washington when they will not give you the details because they want to keep them secret. Sometimes secret is sometimes more constructive.


Speaking of constructive, there's been a lot of frustration and some constructive progress could be made, we hope. It's almost two weeks into the sputtering rollout of Obamacare. Still we have very few explanations for all of the technical problems. Some experts say fixing them could take a very, very long time.

Senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen has been trying and for her it's been a very frustrating process to set up an account.


ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): I put in my user name and password and it didn't recognize it.

(voice-over): Error messages, page not found, system down. It's been a tough nearly two weeks for Obamacare.

(on camera): There were error messages or that little annoying kind of like twirly thing --

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: I hate the twirly thing.

COHEN: Hate it, hate it, right?

(voice-over): I've been trying since day one to get an account and log in on I failed again.

(on camera): We couldn't make this page work.

(voice-over): And again.

(on camera): It wouldn't log me in.

(voice-over): And again.

(on camera): It's not working.

(voice-over): When I called the 1-800 number for help, the reps tell me volume is high and to try again during off-peak hours. So I tried at 10:30 at night, 7:00 in the morning, and still it didn't work. So finally I set my alarm clock for 3:00 a.m. Sunday morning. But guess what? The system was down for maintenance.

I'm not the only one having trouble. On Facebook, people took to the page to vent by the thousands and on CNN's iReport --

MARK IVY (ph), CNN IREPORTER: I've tried it hundreds -- literally hundreds of times since October the 1st.

COHEN: Independent analysts tell CNN the problems go way beyond high volume and minor glitches. They say the site fails to follow even basic protocols in its coding. There is always the old-fashioned option of enrolling over the phone and using snail mail. And you do have time. To be insured by January 1st, you just have to complete the process by December 15th.


PEREIRA: Joining us now from Atlanta is Elizabeth Cohen, our senior medical correspondent. Is it true, did we have success finally Elizabeth?

COHEN: We finally did have some success, Michaela. Just before I came on TV, I sat at my desk and I tried again. I tried to log in, and it failed. Tried to log in again and it failed, tried a third time. Then I tried to create a new account. That failed. I tried to create another new account -- that failed. The third time I tried to create a new account, it finally worked.

And so I'm thrilled. You can get in and you can, you know, you can start to see some of the options that are available. The concern is that it's of course not suppose to work that way.


COHEN: You're not supposed to have to try that many times. It's supposed to work right hopefully the first time, maybe second but not the -- I can't even keep count anymore since I've been doing this for two weeks. But it's not supposed to take that long.

PEREIRA: Well, you're a reasonably tech savvy person. I know this about you. I can't even imagine someone, maybe a senior who's trying to get on or someone who doesn't have computer access regularly and they're trying maybe at a public library just to get on -- they might just give up.

COHEN: Right. I mean, I know -- right, absolutely people would certainly give up. Again, it's supposed to work right the first time. You're not supposed to have to be sort of like -- I mean it was almost being kind of crafty about it. I was trying to create -- I had to create several new accounts.

PEREIRA: Outsmart the system.

COHEN: Well, I was trying to outsmart the system. And actually I called the 800 number and they told me, you know, you're not supposed to do that. We don't want people trying to create several accounts because we already have too much volume and I was going to shoot for, I'm sorry, but it was kind of --it was what I had to do in the end to make it work.

PEREIRA: Well, we appreciate your tenacity and for following that to give us sort of a real-time account of how it is for users out there trying to get signed up.

Elizabeth Cohen, thank you.

COHEN: Thanks.

PEREIRA: Still it come, it has been a tradition for 155 years -- Macy's having been closed on Thanksgiving Day.

BERMAN: But not -- not in 2013. We'll tell you why the popular department store plans to open its doors before Black Friday. History

PEREIRA: 2012.


PEREIRA: You know it's kind of hard to even say the word "Thanksgiving" without adding Macy's and parade -- right.

BERMAN: I can't do it. Can't do it at all.

PEREIRA: You can't. Try it.

Nope, can't do it. But now reports say the iconic department store wants to have you think about shopping. They actually may want to break with a decade's old tradition and -- gasp -- open their doors on Thanksgiving Day. This is mind boggling.

Alison Kosik joins us now.


PEREIRA: 155 years.

KOSIK: I know. It is kind of sad that, you know, people are looking -- that they're seeing that a lot of the demand is there. People want to rush out and not necessarily enjoy their thanksgiving meal with their families.

But this is right now just talk because there is actually word from a Macy's spokesperson saying that, you know what, at this point Macy's hasn't officially decided on what its schedule is going to be for the holidays. But there are reports in the "New York Post" and the "Chicago Sun Times" saying that Macy's was miffed that what happened last year was, you know, these parade goers went to the traditional parade, they go to Macy's parade. And then when the parade was over --

PEREIRA: Now what?

KOSIK: -- they went ahead to the rival department stores and blew their money. And Macy's is like hey wait a minute.

PEREIRA: What about us?

KOSIK: Yes. And now they're thinking about opening up Macy's, the flagship store and maybe even the nationwide stores on Thanksgiving Day, breaking that 155-year tradition. And for the past two years, once again, it did open its 800 stores nationwide at midnight. But this would be different because they would be opening at 8:00 p.m. on Thanksgiving. That's right when you're kind of eating the pumpkin pie, right.

BERMAN: I'll be sleeping then.

But this Thursday -- Thursday, basically Thursday and Black Friday, it's just everything for retailers.


KOSIK: It is.

BERMAN: So much of it.

KOSIK: Black Friday is everything because what Black Friday is, is the day after Thanksgiving first of all. And Black Friday means it's a way for the retailers to turn a profit to go into the black. They have all their door busters. You see everybody run.

I mean you look at the National Retail Federation says on Black Friday weekend last year, consumers spent $60 billion. Black Friday really brings out the shoppers. Look how much people spend. A record 247 million shoppers visited stores, shopping online over Black Friday weekend. That's up from 226 million last year. And a big draw for many consumers actually is to go online as well. So that's another aspect of it. It's just a big weekend. Macy's is trying to like jump on the band wagon, you know.

PEREIRA: To break tradition though, 155 years. That would be a shock for so many --

BERMAN: But you have to take it from their standpoint. You can't sit there and watch people go to these other stores.

PEREIRA: I know.


KOSIK: If you can't beat them, join them.

PEREIRA: I know. I know. I know. If you can't beat them, join them.

Alison Kosik, good to have you.

KOSIK: You got it.

PEREIRA: Thanks so much.

BERMAN: We'll be right back.


BERMAN: Checking some top stories right now. A pregnant woman was one of the many Texans rescued this weekend after floods swept through the central part of that state.


HOLLY WHITMORE, RESCUED FROM FLOODING: I tried to get out of my car and my door wouldn't open. So my window rolled down and he came over to help me. And I just crawled out my window and walked out.


BERMAN: Terrifying downpours also forced organizers to cancel the performances at the Austin City Limits Music Festival. More than a foot of rain was reported in some areas around Austin and as much as three inches more rain predicted today.

PEREIRA: New leads in the disappearance of Madeleine McCann. The little British girl disappeared in 2007 from her family's vacation rental in Portugal. She was just three years old at the time. But today investigators say they have the clearest picture yet of what may have happened and released these new sketches of a man who may know where she is. More images will soon be released.

BERMAN: The Minnesota Vikings' Adrian Peterson took to the field yesterday just two days after his two-year-old son died in what police are calling a case of child abuse. The running back said he didn't expect people to understand his decision to play.


ADRIAN PETERSON, MINNESOTA VIKINGS: Any time you lose a child, no matter what the circumstance or the situation is -- it hurts. You know, can't describe it. But, you know, I got a good supporting cast, you know, surrounding me. And I'll be good.


BERMAN: So sad. The police have charged the boyfriend of the toddler's mother with aggravated battery of an infant, also aggravated assault.

PEREIRA: Madonna apparently no longer welcome at a movie chain, a movie theater chain, until she apologies for texting during a movie. That's right. According to witnesses, the Material Girl was using her cell phone at a movie premiere in New York City even refusing to stop when she was asked to. Upon hearing the news, the founder of Alamo Drafthouse Cinema tweeted "Until she apologies to movie fans Madonna is banned" -- I say banned -- "at the Drafthouse." Ok, I added that part. Madonna for her part has not responded.

BERMAN: I'm sure Madonna has nowhere else she can see a film.

PEREIRA: Nowhere else -- of course, poor thing.

BERMAN: It's going to be a hardship for Miss Madonna.

Thank you so much for joining us today. Can I say happy Canadian thanksgiving?

PEREIRA: You sure can.

BERMAN: Happy Canadian Thanksgiving.

PEREIRA: I must find a turkey somewhere.

I'm Michaela Pereira alongside John Berman, the one and only.

"LEGAL VIEW" with Poppy Harlow starts right now.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN HOST: Have you seen this man? If anyone has it might be the big break in the Madeleine McCann case -- a major move today to find the British girl who disappeared without a trace more than six years ago.

Another infamous child mystery.