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August 25th, 2013
04:28 PM ET

Sen. Cruz to Candy Crowley on defunding Obamacare: "We do not have the votes right now"

Today on CNN's State of the Union with Candy Crowley, Sen. Ted Cruz joined the program  to discuss his effort to defund Obamacare; former Gov. Howard Dean and Heritage president Jim DeMint spoke about the 2014 election and beyond. Plus, Crowley’s conversation with Congressman John Lewis on the 50th anniversary of the march on Washington. Embeddable video highlights and the full transcript are after the jump.

SEN. CRUZ on his citizenship: " I was an American by birth and serving as a U.S. senator, I think it's appropriate that I'd be only an American.”

CRUZ on defunding Obamacare: "We do not have the votes right now… I believe if we see a grassroots tsunami, that is going to cause Republicans and Democrats to listen to the people.”

HOWARD DEAN on Sen. Cruz: "Ted Cruz may be a very good politician, but he certainly does not know anything about health care… God help us if he ever does get to be anything more than the senator from Texas.”

Bash asks, should Speaker Boehner be replaced if he doesn’t act to shut down the government if Obamacare isn't defunded?
JIM DEMINT: "We're saying this thing should be defunded, it should not go forward, the president is arbitrarily implementing the law… so, we need to stop it and this is a time that it needs to be stopped."

Full Transcript

THIS IS A RUSH FDCH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

BASH: I'm Dana Bash in for Candy Crowley and this is STATE OF THE UNION.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASH (voice-over): Today a Texas lightning rod.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If we see a grass roots tsunami, that is going to be cause Republicans and Democrats to listen to the people.

BASH: Senator Ted Cruz on why he hopes the wave that carried him into the Senate is still strong enough to wash away Obamacare.

And Heritage Foundation president, Jim DeMint and former governor, Howard Dean, on the 2014 election beyond. Then, an ally of President Obama hint at impeachment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think we're going to have another constitutional crisis in our country in terms of the presidency.

BASH: Plus, the 50th anniversary of the march on Washington and a complication with the youngest keynote speaker on that historic day, Congressman John Lewis.

Welcome to STATE OF THE UNION.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH (on-camera): Now, we start with breaking news, though, out of Syria this morning. CNN's Fred Pleitgen reports that the Syrian government has reached an agreement with the United Nations to allow inspectors full access to any site of any purported chemical weapons attack. Syria's deputy foreign minister says the agreement is effective immediately.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon has prepositioned four warships armed with cruise missiles in the region. Joining me now is our Pentagon correspondent, Chris Lawrence. And Chris, this is big news. This is why obviously inspectors got there, they want to get to the bottom of what really happened. Do you think they can now?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's possible. I mean, we know that secretary of state, John Kerry, was speaking with his counterpart, the Syrian foreign minister over the weekend. Those two do not speak very often, so that was significant. If they are able to find actual evidence, this could certainly change the calculation for the Obama administration.

We know that the Pentagon has been updating its target list for potential air strikes in Syria, looking at not only command and control facilities, but the actual delivery systems as well, our artillery batteries, missile launchers, things like that. And they've also moved warships. They've added a fourth destroyer to the Mediterranean, and they have also moved a third close to Syria. That's important, because all of the capabilities we're talking about here is standoff capabilities. They don't want to put U.S. fighter pilots in Syrian air space. So, what we're talking about here is fighter jets launching from outside that air space or more likely cruise missiles from these destroyers.

BASH: And back to the breaking news, I mean, there are reports of 1,300 casualties. I mean, this obviously could be monumental. So, first of all, the question is, were there chemical weapons used? But maybe more importantly in terms of the posture of the United States government and beyond, it's who did it, because that's the issue there. The rebels are saying it was the government. The government was saying it's the rebels.

LAWRENCE: You've got both sides pointing the finger with each other, and we saw just over the weekend, the video released of that cache in the rebel stronghold. The Syrian government says they came across that gas mask canisters in a rebel area saying the rebels were using this.

BASH: And Chris, I want to just put you on hold right there, because we have Fred Pleitgen on the phone who actually just got this news from the Syrian deputy foreign minister. Fred, what can you tell us?

FRED PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Dana. Yes. I was in an interview with the Syrian deputy foreign minister. It was just as the U.N. team walked out of this office where they got that confirmation from the Syrian government that they were going to be able to visit all of the sites where chemical weapons were allegedly used.

Now, he told me that this goes into effect immediately and that the only thing that the U.N. now needs to work out these logistics of how they get there, because of course, they have to cross the front line, they have to go into rebel controlled territory. So, those are things that need to be worked out now, but as of right now, they have the permission to go wherever they want - Dana.

BASH: What does that tell you? The fact that the Syrian government is allowing them in to have what looks at least what they're saying is a pretty wide range of movement there. What does that tell you about how the Syrian government feels about these allegations?

PLEITGEN: Well, it's certainly (inaudible) and there's also taking a potential response by the U.S. and its allies very seriously. What's interesting over the past couple of days that you heard from organizations here in Syria that you normally never hear from, like, I've - but many times that I've been here, I've never able to even to speak with an official from the Syrian military.

Yet, very quickly, they put out a statement saying that all of this was fabricated, that that air force has not used any chemical weapons now, but hearing foreign minister told me that they, from the beginning, were willing to let the weapons inspectors go there. However, they obviously needed to work all that out within their government institution, but now, that was going on.

He said that the government has nothing to hide, that the weapons inspectors are welcome to go there. He wouldn't say whether or not he believed that the rebels were behind the alleged chemical attacks that happened, but he said that his government has nothing to hide and they were more and willing to allow the weapons inspectors to go there.

But clearly, the Syrian government is getting the message that the international community is becoming very, very impatient and so they have actually for their standards moved very quick on this issue.

BASH: So to be clear, though, a still of flat denial from the Syrian deputy foreign minister that his government was responsible at all for any chemical attacks?

PLEITGEN: Absolutely. Still a flat out denial. He said that the Syrian forces would never use chemical weapons against Syrians. I confronted them with the fact that you have all these videos coming out, that you have doctors without borders saying that they have information that some 3,600 people were treated because they were apparently subject to some sort of nerve agent.

He still flat out, denied and said that his government did not do this. He said he couldn't speak to what was actually going on there, because this hurts that all of this happened, and the (inaudible) in rebel control are in the hands of the opposition, but there was still a very firm, very flat out denial that their forces were behind it.

BASH: Well, Fred, thank you very much. We're going to continue speaking with you and monitoring the situation and the fact that you were there on the ground with some old-fashioned shoe leather reporting, watching the U.N. inspectors go out to do their job is pretty remarkable. And Chris, thank you very much also for keeping us updated.

Meanwhile, President Obama hit the road this week, finding himself among friendly audiences at northeastern college where he criticized Republicans who want to block his signature legislation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They're threatening to shut down the government and have another financial crisis, unless, for example, we get rid of the health care reform that we fought to pass and that's going to provide millions of people health care security for the first time. That won't create jobs. That's not going to help our economy. That doesn't strengthen the middle class.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: One republican determined to defund Obamacare is freshman senator, Ted Cruz.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CRUZ: We've all seen this movie before. What happens next is President Obama and Harry Reid are going to scream and yell those mean, nasty Republicans are threatening to shut down the federal government. One side or the other has to blink, how do we win this fight? Don't blink.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Joining me now, Howard Dean, the former Vermont governor and chairman of the Democratic National Committee and Jim DeMint, former Republican North Carolina - excuse me, South Carolina senator and currently the president of the conservative, Heritage Foundation.

Gentlemen, the clock is ticking on this fight over health care. Some of the provisions kick in on October 1st. Candy Crowley sat down with Sen. Ted Cruz to talk about all that and I want to play that and I want to talk about the fact that it actually started with another interesting political controversy and that is that is a question about Ted Cruz's birth place.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY: I have to get this birth certificate off the table. I think it's fairly cool that you have dual citizenship. You could go run for the Canadian parliament. You can go run for president. What's wrong with that?

CRUZ: Well, look, I think it's the silly season in politics. I was born in 1970 in Calgary, Canada. My parents were working there in the oil and gas business. My mother was a U.S. citizen by birth, born in Wilmington, Delaware. And so, under U.S. law, I'm an American citizen by birth. And, when I was four, we moved back to Texas.

So, I grew up in Houston, Texas, always been my home. And when I was a kid, my mom told me that if I ever wanted to, I could affirmatively choose to claim Canadian citizenship, but I got a U.S. passport when I was in high school. I never did anything to affirmatively claim citizenship, so I thought that was the end of the matter.

And then the "Dallas Morning News" run a headline where they went and talk with some immigration lawyers that said technically, the immigration lawyers said that I still had dual citizenship. And so, the question was raised, well, if you do, would you renounce your Canadian citizenship? And I said, well, look, if that's right, then sure.

Because serving as a U.S. senator, I was an American by birth and serving as a U.S. senator, I think it's appropriate that I'd be only an American.

CROWLEY: And you know how it's being interpreted, though, with, oh, clearing the way for a 2016 presidential run. You want to get this issue off the table - CRUZ: Listen, there's a lot of silliness. I thought it was a reasonable question when the "Dallas Morning News" asked for my birth certificate, so I gave it to them.

CROWLEY: Let me move you to health care, Texas has the highest percentage of uninsured citizens of any state. Let's say you're successful in defunding Obamacare, the next day, what do you tell those 6.2 or something million Texans?

CRUZ: Well, number one, Obamacare is the biggest job killer in this country. And there's bipartisan agreement that it isn't working, that it's killing jobs, that it's forcing people to have their hours forcibly reduced to 29 hours a week, that it's driving up the cost of health insurance, that it's causing people to lose their health insurance because businesses are dropping.

And so, the first thing I would say is the single biggest thing we can do to restore economic growth, to bring jobs back is to defund Obamacare.

CROWLEY: But that doesn't help those 6.2 million.

CRUZ: Well, it does, because those numbers - if you keep seeing employers dropping health insurance, you'll see more and more people unable to afford health care, more and more people losing their health care. Look, once Obamacare is defunded and repealed, there's a great deal we can do on health care reform. I think three reforms are most important.

Number one, we should allow people to purchase health insurance in all 50 states. Right now, it's illegal –

CROWLEY: Cross state purchasing.

CRUZ: And the advantage of that, the biggest barrier to getting health insurance right now is cost, because many people can't afford health insurance.

CROWLEY: Do you think it's right that so many people in this country cannot afford health care and therefore do not have it?

CRUZ: Well, no, and that's why I want to fix that. Secondly, I think we need to expand health savings account, to make it easier to say in a tax advantage way to take care of prevention, to take care of routine medical needs. And third, I think we need to delink health insurance from employment.

If you or I get fired, you don't loses your car insurance, you don't lose your house insurance, you don't lose your life insurance. There's no reason you should lose your health insurance, and of all –

(CROSSTALK)

CRUZ: That's exactly right. We should have health insurance policies that are personal, that affordable.

CROWLEY: Are you getting calls in your office from people seeking direction on how to sign up in this health exchanges? Will you or have you helped those people?

CRUZ: You know, we have not been getting significant calls in that regard. We have been getting calls from people saying, please stop Obamacare. Please stop this train wreck. Would you help someone who called and said I want to sign –

CRUZ: Look, we have a major constituent service operation that helps anyone dealing with the government

CROWLEY: Including signing up for something you don't –

CRUZ: Oh, sure, sure. Look, it's the job of someone representing - you know, I'm honored to represent 26 million Texans and dealing with the government is inherently frustrating. It's inherently confusing. And one of the things that our office takes very seriously is trying to help Americans deal with the government.

CROWLEY: Do you agree with the fact that if someone actually does not support defunding Obamacare, if there are Republican that they ought to be replaced?

CRUZ: What I agree with is I think now is the single best time to stop Obamacare, because there's bipartisan agreement that it's not working. The wheels are coming of. And because defunding it, if it doesn't happen now, it's likely never to happen. CROWLEY: The president is never going to sign a bill that defunds Obamacare.

CRUZ: You know, you may be convinced to that.

CROWLEY: You're not convinced to that?

CRUZ: I am not at all.

CROWLEY: This is his signature. This is what they consider his signature achievement, so far, of his administration in its fifth year.

CRUZ: Here's what I think should happen. The House of Representatives should pass a continuing resolution that funds the federal government in its entirety, every aspect of the federal government, except Obamacare, and it should explicitly prohibit any funding for Obamacare mandatory or discretionary. And I filed legislative language in the Senate to do that.

Now, the next stage, we know how this play goes forward. President Obama and Harry Reid will scream and holler that the mean nasty Republicans are threatening to shut down the government. And at that point, Republicans have to do something we haven't done in a long time. Stand up and win the argument.

We have to stand up and say, no, we want to keep the government open. We have voted to keep the government open, to fund the government. Why is President Obama threatening to shut the government down, to force Obamacare down the threats - the throats of the American people.

CROWLEY: You will need 41 Republicans. How close were you?

CRUZ: We do not have the votes right now. We need 41 Republicans in the Senate or we need 218 Republicans in the House. And that will only happen, and you know what, this fights is likely to heat up in the month of September. That's going to be when the battle is engaged. And, I'm convinced there's a new paragon in politics that actually has Washington very uncomfortable.

It has politicians in both parties very uncomfortable. And that new paradigm is the rise of the grassroots, the ability of grassroots activist to demand of their elected officials they do the right thing. And I believe if we see a grassroots tsunami, that is going to cause Republicans and Democrats to listen to the people.

CROWLEY: But it's going to take a tsunami?

CRUZ: It is going to take a tsunami and I'm going to do everything I can to encourage that tsunami.

CROWLEY: But what about you lost? You lost. This has been put into law. I mean, this is the argument on the other side. It's already law, why not just get on board and try it? CRUZ: Because it's not working and it's hurting Americans. And by the way, the people it's hurting the most are the most vulnerable among us. The people who are losing their jobs are young people or Hispanics or African-Americans or single moms. I don't think that's fair, I don't think that's right.

CROWLEY: Let me move you on to a couple of political issues. One of them is, do you see yourself supporting incumbents during primary challenges or would you entertain supporting a challenge?

CRUZ: I have not made a definite decision on that. I think it is likely that I'll stay out of all incumbent races on either side.

CROWLEY: Would you support Mitch McConnell versus a Tea Party candidate? Would you support Lindsey Graham versus a Tea Party candidate? Would you support a Lamar Alexander versus a Tea Party candidate.

CRUZ: I think it is likely that I'll stay out of all incumbent races. Now, listen, I intend to be very involved in 2014 in open seats and working to help support strong conservative candidates. I think 2014 is a very favorable environment for Republicans to retake the Senate.

CROWLEY: Chris Christie in one of his latest moves as New Jersey governor has outlawed therapy designed to turn gay people straight for children 18 and under. What do you think of that decision?

CRUZ: You know, I like Chris Christie. I think he is a straight forward, brash sometimes blunt speaker. I think he's someone who has managed to stand up and defend his principles in a state that is historically not very friendly to Republicans. And I am glad for that. The decisions that states make locally about health care, I think are best left to the states.

CROWLEY: Could you see yourself on a ticket with Chris Christie?

CRUZ: You know, I am not going to speculate about the future. I can tell you, my focus is 100 percent on the U.S. Senate, because the Senate right now is the battleground.

CROWLEY: So, if it says - if I read and I did that you were, quote, "seriously mulling" running in 2016, that's incorrect?

CRUZ: You know, I find it amusing these stories that speculate about I don't even know what seriously mulling means. What I can tell you –

CROWLEY: - you really thinking about it.

CRUZ: I understand in the media, it's fun to cover the game. It's fun to cover politics all the time. But, we've got huge challenges in this country. I am a big, big believer that good policy makes good politics. That if you stand up, you'd do the right thing, need to roll up your sleeve, you try to work with Republicans, with Democrats, with anyone who'll work together to get our economy moving, to bring jobs back, but the rest of it the politics will take care of itself.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: Politics will take care of itself. Well, we'll see about that. And joining us again is Democrat Howard Dean, and Republican Jim DeMint. I want to start with you both about the big issue at hand, the big issue that Ted Cruz is talking about, which of course,  is Obamacare.

And Governor Dean, I talk to a lot of worried Democrats on Capitol Hill and elsewhere who say that Ted Cruz is able to gain traction because their constituents are concerned because the Obama administration didn't handle the implementation well. As a politician and as a doctor who knows the angst of patients not just voters, did the White House mess this up?

DEAN: No, all I can say is that was a very long interview with very little content in it. Ted Cruz may be a very good politician, but he certainly does not know anything about health care. First of all, Obamacare is in fact, as John McCain suggested in 2008 going to separate eventually, going to separate health care from employment.

That's actually a good idea which John McCain put forward, and that's going to happen gradually and carefully. Second of all, I don't want the Texas insurance commissioner being the commissioner up here in Vermont. And so buying insurance across state lines is a terrible idea. We've had universal health insurance for all our kids for 20 years.

They have 22 percent of their children uninsured in Texas. I don't want anything to do with Texas' health care system in Vermont and I don't want our people buying Texas health insurance. So, these are crazy ideas from the far right. He's a slick spokesman and God help us if he ever does get to be anything more than the senator from Texas.

BASH: Well, Senator DeMint, you are a friend of Senator Cruz, we'll let you respond to that, not to mention the fact that you agree with Sen. Cruz in terms of his prescription for what to do if not - if Obamacare is no longer there.

DEMINT: Dana, good morning. Good morning to you, Howard. The real issue here - Obamacare was passed under false pretenses. American people were lied to and they have every right to demand that their representatives stop this unfair and un-American law. As you know, we're traveling around the country getting people more informed about what this bill is really doing to their jobs and our economy.

Getting them inspired to be involved. Heritage Action is taking the lead on this to tell them how they can get involved as Senator Cruz was talking about. But federal health care is not going to provide good health care to Americans. You can't find a federal program that's working effectively. We need to make health insurance more affordable and available to every American. But it's not going to happen with a cash for clunkers style health care plan is going to come out of Washington. BASH: All right. Well, governor –

DEAN: I disagree - Jim, I disagree with that. I think Medicare works pretty darn well and people like it and that's a federal program that works very well for people.

DEMINT: Howard, it's tens of trillions of dollars in debt, because it's been mismanaged at the federal level. It's going to leave huge debt on our children and more and more doctors won't even see a Medicare insured patient. So, it is not going to work for the future and it has not been designed well.

DEMINT: And as we put more people on Medicare and Medicaid and that's what Obamacare is going to do is push more people into Medicaid-style plans, fewer and fewer doctors are going to see these folks. So, we need to make sure people get health insurance that doctors will actually take.

BASH: OK, gentlemen. I know, governor, you want to jump in.

(CROSSTALK)

BASH: We're going to be able to talk a little bit more about that on the other side of the break. Stay with us, because I also want to ask you, particularly, Senator DeMint which Republicans ought to be replaced who are talking about Obamacare or maybe not talking about Obamacare.

And Joe Biden, was he President Obama's best political decision?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BASH: The battle over Obamacare has conservative activist groups going after one of their own.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Take Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, on the issue of Obamacare, he says.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These laws are disaster and I want you to know we're not backing down from this fight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But when he has the chance to defund Obamacare, some say he is chickening out. Senator McConnell, conservatives don't need a chicken when it comes to Obamacare. Leaders lead, but if you fund it, you own it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: More with Democrat Howard Dean and Republican Jim DeMint next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BASH: We're back with Howard Dean and Jim DeMint. And Sen. DeMint, I want to start with you about the kind of fracture that this whole question that you're pushing out there on this tour about shutting down the government if Obamacare is funded, the fracture that it's causing within your party. I want to read our viewers a quote from you earlier this week.

You said, "I think President Obama knows that Republicans are afraid and if they are, they need to be replaced." Well, a fellow conservative group is actually going further than that, you can see the visual with chickens on the screen, talking about Mitch McConnell who, of course, was your former leader in the Senate, the Republican leader.

He is not signing on to your idea of demanding Obamacare be defunded or shut down the government. Do you think he needs to be replaced as leader or even as senator?

DEMINT: Well, the Heritage Foundation doesn't get involved with elections, but I have said on several occasions that if someone runs for office making a promise such as many did to stop Obamacare and then they say they're afraid to do that because they might lose the next election. My personal opinion is they should be replaced regardless of what party they're in.

But I can't speak for Republicans, but I can speak for millions of conservatives across the country that know that this is not going to help the uninsured in America. It's going to diminish health care for all Americans and we see that in every country around the world where national health care has been instituted.

BASH: And just to follow up on that, you can't talk about elections, but you can talk about your party, that's what you do at the Heritage Foundation. And specifically, the House, the only branch of government that's run by Republicans, House Speaker John Boehner also isn't too enthralled with your idea to shut down the government if Obamacare isn't defunded. Should he be replaced as speaker if he doesn't do that?

DEMINT: Well, the Heritage Foundation doesn't represent Republicans or Democrats.

BASH: You personally, senator. You personally, what do you think?

DEMINT: Well, what we think is that Obamacare is clearly a law that's going to hurt the American people. The president is not implementing it fairly. He's given exemptions for Congress, big business. We're saying this thing should be defunded, it should not go forward, the president is arbitrarily implementing the law. That's not law in America. So, we need to stop it and this is a time that it needs to be stopped.

BASH: OK. I just want to turn, since we're talking politics, to politics on the other side of the aisle. Governor Dean, Democratic politics. I want to play for you something that President Obama said about his vice president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: It was the best decision that I ever made politically because I love this guy and he's got heart, and he cares about people and he's willing to fight for what he believes in. And he's got some Scranton in him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: That sounded, Governor, like a little bit of maybe a soft endorsement looking ahead to 2016. I know you told Jake Tapper earlier this week that you would support Hillary Clinton if she runs, but you're leaving the door open. Would the door still be open if Joe Biden were to run and not Hillary Clinton?

DEAN: Well, before we get to that, let me get a little equal time on health care. You know, I was not a supporter of Obamacare when it passed, I am now. I think this ought to be implemented. In our little medical office in Burlington, Vermont, we discovered that premiums are going to be cut in half for the five people who work from my wife and her partners. So, this is going to make a big difference. I disagree with both Jim and certainly Senator Cruz.

And it's going to help a lot of people. And it's going to - I think it's going to improve health care significantly in this country.

Now in terms of politics on the Democratic side. There's one thing that Jim DeMint and I can certainly agree on, this is much too early to be talking about this stuff. I'd expect President Obama to say something good about Joe Biden. And Joe Biden has been a great vice president. So this is all politics. This is all moving around. We'll see what happens but it's a little early.

BASH: It's a little early but I do well know that because you've done it before at this point maybe it's at this point maybe it's never too early to be thinking about it behind the scenes even if you don't want to talk about it in public.

Governor Dean, thank you very much. Senator DeMint, appreciate it. We will talk to you soon.

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