Meet the Press   |  September 22, 2013

1: The latest in Kenyan hostage crisis; congressional panel on shutdown

David Gregory gets the latest update on the Kenyan terrorist attacks, and a Meet the Press roundtable of lawmakers looks at the potential of a government shutdown.

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>>> this sunday morning, heading to a government shutdown . who will blink first? despite a costly shutdown over 20 years ago, the threat of a repeat is very real this morning. at the heart of the fight, obamacare. we've assembled our own congressional summit with four key lawmakers from the senate and the house . my key question, what is the end game ?

>>> another mass shooting, this time at a navy yard in washington. what can be done to prevent this in the future? we meet the executive vice president of the national rifle association , wayne lapierre , and i'll talk to a mother of the aurora shooting about her fight for gun laws.

>>> and the president's policy with iran. bill kristol , tavis smile y. i'm david gregory . all that ahead on "meet the press" this sunday morning.

>>> good sunday morning. we're going to get to the government shutdown in just a moment, but first the breaking news we're tracking in nairobi, kenya. one of the most deadly acts of terror in east africa since the u.s. embassies were attacked in 1998 . nbc's ron allen is on the phone where the hostages are still being held. he's got late, breaking details for us. ron, this morning.

>> reporter: good morning, david. the death toll is now up to 59 and 175 people wounded and those numbers could easily rise because this is still a very tense and uncertain situation. we believe there are 10 to 15 gunmen still held up in this mall. they're holding up to 30 hostages. the number is unclear. authorities don't seem to have a full grasp of what's going on. we're talking about a huge urban mall, four stories tall, dozens of shops, restaurants, a food court . there was a matinee movie under way. there was a children's event on the roof of the food court with dozens of children entertaining themselves, so a very chaotic situation. the hospital overwhelmed with wounded. we understand there are just a few americans who are involved in this. none of the fatalities are americans , though there are some foreign nationals who were killed. at this point the authorities are taking it slow, trying to get a grasp of what's going on in every inch and every nook and cranny of the mall, and it remains to be seen how patient they will be or whether they will try to force the gunmen out. we know the man linked to al qaeda has claimed responsibility with the involvement in somalia, but again, this is an uncertain situation now this morning 24 hours old.

>> ron allen on the team force in nairobi. ron, thank you very much.

>>> and back home, the future of the american economy is at stake as congress fights its way toward yet another fiscal deadline, another fiscal crisis. on friday, the house passed a vote to fund the government for the rest of the year, but that bill denies fund foing for obamacare. bottom line , if there is no agreement between the senate and the house by the end of the month, the federal government could shut down. in the meantime, the battle lines are drawn.

>> the american people don't want the government shut down, and they don't want obamacare.

>> they're not focused on you. they're focused on politics, they're focused on trying to mess with me.

>> joining me now from utah, republican senator mike lee from minnesota, democratic senator amy klobuchar , barbara lee , representative from california, and marsha blackburn of tennessee. i want to start with a question for all of you which is really a yes or no question. senator lee, is the government going to shut down?

>> no. we all know that the government is going to be funded. the question is whether it will be funded with obamacare or without.

>> senator klobuchar , do you think there will be a shutdown?

>> no, because i believe the people of good will will come together and do the right thing and stop this.

>> barbara lee , what do you think?

>> no, and we're not going to allow the defunding of the affordable care act .

>> as much as the president wants a shutdown, he's not going to get it.

>> you all think somehow that will be avoided. the question for you, senator lee, as one of the fire brands in the senate , conservatives who are fighting to defund obamacare, you got what you wanted, you wanted to have this fight, it's now in the house and coming at you in the senate . i don't have to tell you republicans are arguing with each other about whether this is the right thing. you have members of congress who think you have overprochmised to the base. carl rove wrote this on thursday. the desire to strike obamacare is praiseworthy, but any strategy to repeal, delay or replace the law must have a credible chance of succeeding or affecting broad public opinion positively. the defunding strategy doesn't. going down that road would strengthen the president while alien ate iing independents. it's a difficult tactic and the senate should reject it. what do you think about that?

>> every time we started defunding the budget in july, they attacked it. some said it is not physically or legally possible to pass a bill that funds government but defunds obamacare. we've seen all those things are untrue. we've seen the american people are rallying around this idea. they have seen the president acting to protect big business , big unions and other special interests and they want to be protected, too. this week --

>> but senator, public opinion is running against obamacare, that's a fact. you also don't have support in the senate to defund obamacare, do you?

>> well, look, here's the issue. we have to ask the question, how many more people left to lose their jobs or have their wages cut or lose their health care benefits before congress acts, before congress does something to protect the american people ? how many more states will have to announce that premiums are going up? this week we saw home depot announcing that 20,000 employees will lose their health care benefits. the house boldly active this weekend. i commend speaker boehner for his leadership on this.

>> do you have to have support in the senate to defund obamacare or don't you?

>> we had 40% support in march to defund obamacare. we will add a sixth from new jersey. i would hope a few senate democrats , especially those in red states up for reelection this year, will consider joining us.

>> here's my question for the group, and i'll come to you, congresswoman blackburn, first. you remember in the shutdown in '95 and '96?

>> sure.

>> it hurt americans . $1.4 billion in the cost of the government. the images of closed parks and furloughed workers and parts of the government shutdown was seen as a net negative for republicans. why would you want to go through that again?

>> we're not trying to go through it. we know the president wants it because he wants control of the checkbook for congressional spending. republicans are looking to solve the problem of all this spending in washington, d.c. look what has happened with spending since this president took office. look at what is happening with jobs, with the economy. look at what is happening with obamacare. and the impact that that, $2.6 trillion of additional expense, is going to have on federal spending. we want to solve the problem. we would love to have the president meet with us instead of going to meet with putin.

>> senator klobuchar ? your thoughts on this?

>> first of all, david, i think the cuts are a great opportunity here. in my state, down to 1.5%, the real estate market is turning around, and you're seeing improvement across the country but we're not where we're supposed to be. the last thing american people want right now is playing political gains, putting in poison pills and threatening to shut the government down and default on our debt. what i think we should be doing is moving forward on the immigration bill which reduces our debt by $160 billion in ten years c years. if you want to talk about debt reduction, there's a good one right there. moving forward on the farm bill and looking for these opportunities to help americans get jobs. and this going to the end every single time like we saw in 2011 when the dow cascaded down 20 points is not the way to go.

>> barbara lee , congresswoman, do you agree with your colleague here? do you think the president really wants to push for the shutdown to try to win back the house and get more of his agenda through after the mid-terms?

>> the president does not want a government shutdown . first of all, when the president took office we were losing 800,000 jobs per month. the president has turned the economy around. yes, we have a long way to go, but we are creating jobs. this administration is doing that. with regard to the affordable care act , for the life of me, i can't understand why in the world the affordable care act would be held hostage to our government shutting down. millions of people have already benefited from this. we have children who now receive health care who couldn't receive health care prior to this because of preexisting conditions, we have millions of young people who are still on their parents' health insurance plan who would not be on those plans, we have over 100 million people now who not be jammed out of their insurance because of the cofact they exhaust their benefits. people now are benefiting from affordable care.

>> they're being hurt by it.

>> they're not being hurt by it.

>> look at the 7 million more individuals who will lose employer-provided insurance. that's according to the cbo, because of obamacare. look at the thousands -- we've got over 300 companies that have altered, changed or reduced health benefits because of obamacare, and that is thousands -- hundreds of thousands of uninsured lives. we have 21.3 million americans who are either on or underemployed.

>> health care costs are going down. they're going down for the first time --

>> no, they are not.

>> let me inject a point of fact here. there is a lot of confusion and we've done some checking on this as well. even the issue of premiums. they have gone up in some states. they're coming down in other states that they have exchanges. you know full well it depends on who the governor is. if you're a governor of florida , you're going to make it more difficult, the feds have to come in and do it. in new york, democratic governor, they'rean easier time of it. it really does matter where you are. but there is confusion to your opposition. here's the headlines. roiters, cleveland clichk announce job cuts to prepare for obamacare. bloomberg, ge, ibm ending retiree health plans in historic shift. health care for 100 bucks a month? yes, really. there is unvulnerability because it is unpopular, but there is not a fact pattern that you can say is a singular fact pattern in terms of the impact of obamacare yet.

>> that may well be the case, but the fact is this law is creating enormous uncertainty that has americans on edge, that has americans understanding they could lose their jobs, they could have their wages or their hours cut, and they could lose their health care benefits, and that's happening to a lot of people. we have to remember, the body that has acted now to prevent a shutdown, to fund government, is the house of representatives . the house of representatives has said let's fund government and not obamacare. that's what the american people want. almost 1.6 million people have gone to don' to register their opinion about this law. the house has acted. the senate now needs to do its job and follow suit.

>> you're campaigning for this, which i understand. that's your prerogative. you don't really have the support, and what i'm wondering is why focus on this issue to the exclusion of, say, tax reform ? i know you've actually proposed something on that, but as a group, why focus so narrowly on obamacare which your own colleagues are saying publicly and privately is not going to be dismantled? even rand paul, while he supports the funding, says in the end it's not going to be repealed.

>> well, look, that's shifting, too. as recently as a week or two ago, people were saying the house of representatives would not pass something that funded government wealthy funding obamacare. that turned out not to be true. a few weeks ago people were saying it's not possible to fund obamacare through a continuing resolution. now the house of representatives has passed something that does exactly that. they're calling for this.

>> what i can tell you is 50% of independents say they don't want to defund obamacare if it means shutting down the government. that is a poll from carl rove . the 500 people who marched to cure alzheimer's, do you want to tell them their loved ones with alzheimer's will have delayed treatment because of a government shutdown ? it makes no sense. i come from a high quality health care state and we want to see those at the clinic go across the country. we do not want to relitigate the battles of obamacare again. the house and senate passed it, the senate passed it into law, the court upheld it. will there be changes in the future? yes. but the answer is not to defund it.

>> now to get to the debt limit. what we're talking about now is funding the government. if you don't do it by the end of the month, possible shutdown. that's a separate matter from raising the debt limit which you have to do to pay the bills for the appropriations congress has made. the house , i'm told, wants to pass a bill that would delay obamacare by a year and make that a part of an agreement to raise the debt limit. wong wom congresswoman, the president says he's not going to support raising the debt limit.

>> we must pay our bills. we are not a deadbeat nation. this should not be held as a bargaining chip, it should not be held hostage. we've raised the debt limit over 40 times now.

>> do you have the vote to raise it right now?

>> the president has not said he would not do something with regard to the budget. he is not going to negotiate on something that should not have to be negotiated about, and that's raising the debt ceiling. we've got to pay our bills.

>> in the past, and here's the list of all the times that congress has worked with the commander in chief to raise the debt limit and institute some serious budget reforms.

>> but that was held as a bargaining chip.

>> it would delay it for one year. and one of the things we make certain we do is prohibit all the taxes. senator klobuchar 's state with all the medical devices , that's a 2.3% tax.

>> it was not held hostage. it was not a bargaining chip. this has nothing to do with raising the debt ceiling.

>> the disagreement continues. one last question, senator klobuchar , bottom line . will there be an agreement on raising the debt limit despite the fact the president would not like to negotiate about it?

>> i believe that there will be an agreement, and i think we can do it without any of these extraneous, partisan poison pills because the american ppeople remember what happened back in 2011 . we had our credit rating reduced reduced, and it cost us $1.3 billion in extra borrowing costs. this is money taxpayers have to pay. this is affecting families and real people , and that's why i think in the end this gaming chip has to end and we have to get on the real business of the american people , and that's why i think we'll move on and negotiate a real budget that's balanced.

>> this is just getting started. you're getting a sense of that here this morning. senator lee, thank you so much, amy klobuchar , barbara lee , marsha blackburn .

>>> when we come back, the nra's wayne lapierre is here with me exclusively. plus a response from a mother whose daughter was a victim in at ro the aurora sheeter shooting.

>>> and we will be talking about obamacare and foreign affairs as well. we'll be right