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NTSB Begins New York Plane Crash Investigation; Stimulus Package Winners and Losers

Aired February 13, 2009 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, breaking news and heartbreaking news.

The breaking news: the U.S. Senate tonight just moments away from approving the economic stimulus bill, the vote stretching late into the night, being held open, several people simply waiting on the floor, as you can see there, just a couple of people waiting for Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown, who spent the day back home at a memorial service for his mother. We are going to bring you the vote as it happens and look at what it means for you.

But we begin with the heartbreaking news: the investigation into the plane crash that left 50 people dead. From the plane's cockpit and data recorders, investigators tonight have early and compelling clues about what happened as Continental Connection Flight 3407 made its final and doomed approach to Buffalo Niagara International Airport.


COOPER (voice-over): I-Report home video taken moments after Flight 3407 nose-dived into a house near Buffalo, New York. Flames soar from the crash site. The tail of the airplane is still visible.

WILL CHARLAND, EYEWITNESS TO CRASH: It sounded like a lawn mower was falling from the sky, best way to describe it. Next thing you know, I hear just a loud crash. And the sky lit up like the sun was rising.

COOPER: All 49 people aboard and one person on the ground were killed. Incredibly, a mother and daughter inside the home survived.

It is the first fatal U.S. commercial air crash since 2006. This is an actual picture of the plane, a 74-seat Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 turboprop. It was built last year and operated by Colgan Air, the flight delayed two hours in Newark Airport before taking off.

Flight 3407 was not full. It had 45 passengers and a crew of four, one of them off-duty. As it approached Buffalo, communication between the cockpit and air traffic control indicated no sign of trouble.

UNIDENTIFIED AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL: Colgan 3407, turn left heading 310.

UNIDENTIFIED CO-PILOT: Left heading 310. Colgan 3407. UNIDENTIFIED AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL: Colgan 3407, contact tower 120.5. Have a good night.


COOPER: But, at 10:17 p.m., contact is lost, and the plane falls off the radar screen.

UNIDENTIFIED AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL: Colgan 3407, Buffalo tower. How do you hear?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) ground communication. We need to talk to somebody at least five miles northeast, OK, possibly Clarence, that area right in there, Akron area, either state police or sheriff's department. We need to find out if anything is on the ground.

COOPER: What happened? Investigators have the data and flight recorders. They're also looking at the weather. There was ice and sleet in the area. An official said the crew reported significant ice buildup on the windshield and on the edges of the wings.

Aviation experts suspect the ice weighed down Flight 3407, sending it into a spiral, a theory backed up by one witness.

DAVID LUCE, EYEWITNESS TO CRASH: We heard the plane, and it was unusually loud. So, it was clear that it was low. But the engines sounded like -- like they were revving at very high, high speed, unnatural sound.

COOPER: Among the victims, Beverly Eckert. Her husband was killed on September 11. A voice for the families of 9/11, she met with President Obama just last week. Eckert was heading to a memorial for her husband's birthday.

This young man's sister was also on board.

CHRIS KAUSNER, BROTHER OF FLIGHT 3407 PASSENGER: Right now, I'm thinking the worst. And I'm thinking about the fact that my mother has to fly home from Florida and what I'm going to tell my two sons. That's what I'm thinking.


COOPER: Well, speaking of Beverly Eckert, President Obama today paying tribute, sending condolences to her family. We're going to have more on her in a moment.

Also among the dead, a woman who documented the genocide in Rwanda and two members of musician Chuck Mangione's band, and, on the ground, Doug Wielinski, 61 years old, in his living room. His wife, Karen, and daughter, Jill, also at home, survived the impact and fire.

Today, Karen told her story to a correspondent from local station WBEN.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) KAREN WIELINSKI, PLANE CRASHED INTO HER HOME: I shouted first, in case anybody was out there, and then just kind of pushed what was on me, part of that, off, and crawled out the hole.

I had heard, like, you know, a woman crying. And I -- when I came out of the hole, you know, the back of the house was gone. The fire had started. I could see the wing of the plane. And Jill was over to the side, you know, crying, of course, hysterical.

To me, it looked like the plane just came down in the middle of the house. And, unfortunately, that's where Doug was.

He was a good person, loved his family.


COOPER: The grief still so raw.

The investigators' work is well under way. And although it normally takes months of painstaking effort, there were early and significant signs of progress today in the case.

For the latest on that, let's turn to Jason Carroll near the crash site -- Jason.

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And, Anderson, investigators here at the command center have a lot of information to work with.

As you mentioned, they recovered the cockpit voice recorder, as well as the flight data recorder, both recovered from the tail section of the plane earlier today. There is two hours of conversation on the cockpit -- cockpit voice recorder. The investigators are focusing what they heard from the crew. The crew discussed several things. They discussed weather. They discussed visibility and, of course, ice.


STEVE CHEALANDER, NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD: ... at 16,000 feet that they noticed that it was rather hazy, and they requested air traffic control to allow them to descend to 12,000 feet.

Shortly after that request, they were cleared to 11,000 feet. The crew discussed significant ice buildup, ice on the windshield and leading edge of the wings. The flight data recorder indicated airframe de-ice, which is a system on the airplane that helps de-ice those wings and windshield and surfaces on that aircraft, that the airframe de-ice was selected in the on position before those comments were made about the significant ice on the windshields and leading edge of the wings.


CARROLL: And the little bit more information about what they were able to retrieve so far on the flight data recorder. According to what they were able to discover so far, in the final moments, the pilot lowered the flaps to try to slow down the plane. Also, in the final seconds before, there was a lot of pitching, a lot of rolling going on before the plane ultimately went down, Anderson.

Of course, at this point, investigators on the ground here are working with members of the FBI, as well as the medical examiner's office, to try and recover remains. At this point, the NTSB saying, despite all the information they have been able to get so far, it is just too early to determine an exact cause -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Jason Carroll, thanks very much.

One woman tonight is badly shaken, but, thankfully, that is all. Susan Reinhardt had every this to curse the weather yesterday afternoon. She was grounded at Newark, running four hours late. Tonight, she can thank her lucky stars.

Looking for a standby seat on 3407, the gate agent sent her to another line, essentially saving her life.

Susan Reinhardt joins us now from Buffalo.

Susan, thanks very much for being with us.

I can only imagine what must be going through your mind. How are you doing?

SUSAN REINHARDT, TOOK ANOTHER FLIGHT TO BUFFALO: I don't -- I'm not sure that it's completely hit me yet. I think I'm still in a little bit of shock.

My phone has been ringing off the hook all day, people saying, "Oh, my God, I'm glad that you didn't get on that plane."

So, you know, I'm happy to be here. Believe me, I'm happy to be here.

COOPER: You -- you -- you were on another flight, and then you heard that 3407 might leave before your flight was taking off. What made you not get on that flight?

REINHARDT: Absolutely.

It was a combination of things. One, I would have had to change a gate. It wasn't that much time difference, Anderson. It was maybe 30 minutes. And I had been at the airport since 3:15. And, by now, it is about 6:30. And I thought, what's another half-hour? So I said, I can get some dinner. And I -- I did. I opted not to get on that plane.

COOPER: And that -- I mean, that decision, that -- that split- second decision, or several-minute decision, I mean, that saved your life.

REINHARDT: Yes, I guess to a certain extent. And, unfortunately, I think this is the hardest thing for me. I was at the gate trying to determine if I should get on 3407. And there was a young woman there with me. We were using our BlackBerrys to determine which flight was going to go out sooner, my 4:30 flight or her 7:00 flight.

And it was determined the 7:00 flight was going to go out sooner than the 4:30. And she said: "I really want to get to my boyfriend. He is in Buffalo. I'm calling him and I'm going out on the 7:00 flight."

And she left. And my heart breaks for her family, her boyfriend.

And I didn't get on that plane.

COOPER: Do you know her name?

REINHARDT: No, I don't.

It was just one of those coincidental meetings where we both happened to be there talking about the same flight. And, as I said, we were -- we were texting. We were texting and -- and using our BlackBerrys on to find out what flight was going to go out sooner.

COOPER: You fly this route...

REINHARDT: And here -- as you had...

COOPER: Sorry. Go ahead.

REINHARDT: Frequently, frequently, three -- probably two to three times a month.

COOPER: So, do you tend to see the same people on these flights?


REINHARDT: I do, mostly on the way out of Buffalo into Newark, rather than on the way back. You know, on the way out, it is almost always the same people. On the way back, it depends upon what your hours have done for you, what you have been there, can you get on a 4:30 or a 5:00 or a 6:00 or a 7:00, and you just get on the plane that works best for you.

COOPER: And, so, you...

REINHARDT: And, at the time, it was a 4:30.

COOPER: You flew over the scene of the crash, but, at the time, didn't realize it?

REINHARDT: Absolutely. We flew over the scene of the crash, did not know there was anything wrong.

When we landed at the airport, there was no indication that there had been any type of tragedy. And it was only through conversations of people on the plane. Once we -- once we landed and were taxiing, people were on the phones to others who were picking them up.

And you heard, oh, there's been a plane crash. And we had no idea of what it was. And when someone said, it's in Clarence, we said, well, we just flew over Clarence, and the -- we automatically assumed it was a small plane, a two-seater, or something along those lines. Had no idea it was a big commercial plane.

COOPER: It is just extraordinary how, you know, choices which we don't even realize they're important choices at the time change the course of our lives.

REINHARDT: Absolutely.

And I was fortunate. And I do want to express my condolences to everyone who wasn't as fortunate as I am. My thoughts, my prayers go out to everyone who wasn't able to get by the way I was.

COOPER: Susan Reinhardt, appreciate you -- you talking to us.

Thank you, Susan.

We're going to have more on the investigation in a moment. Let us know what you think.

Join the live chat happening now -- I have logged on -- at Also, Randi Kaye will be having a live Webcast during commercial breaks.

Up next: retired airline captain Jim Tilmon on what the flight crew may have encountered in the air last night and why just a tiny coating of ice can turn a routine flight into a tragedy.

Later, one of several notable victims, we mentioned her just a moment ago, Beverly Eckert -- her story of bravery and compassion in the wake of 9/11 ahead.

And our breaking news: We're watching closely the stimulus bill, the final Senate vote happening any moment. We will show you what it is -- what's -- how that occurs, and also what's in the final version of the bill.

And we will hear from President Obama, his thoughts on what happens now with the bill, in his own words, with the stimulus -- that and much more tonight on 360.



MARY JANE LUCE, WITNESS: After a few seconds of silence, we heard this huge explosion, and the house shook. So, we ran toward our back windows, which look out towards the house that was hit. And we could see flames rising high into the sky.


COOPER: And they said there were sometimes 40-, 50-foot flames.

Early clues tonight to why it happened -- the cockpit voice recorder picking up mention of ice, conditions last night diabolically -- diabolically perfect for coating aircraft in what is called rime ice.

We have got a photograph now of Captain Marvin Renslow. There he is on the left with his family. He apparently was at the controls last night, his first officer, Rebecca Shaw, in contact with air traffic control.

In addition to the cockpit voice recorders, investigators have a lot more to go on now, the flight data recorder, weather reports, radar tapes, what other flight crews encountered, including a similar Dash 8 400 that landed a soon time later.

Now, we wanted to get some perspective now from retired airline captain Jim Tilmon, who was up with us most of the night last night.

Jim, thanks for coming in and talking with us.

According to flight data recovered from the scene, the crew discussed what they called a significant ice buildup on the plane, and they tried to pull out of their landing approach. What does that tell you? Does that tell you that -- that ice is -- is most likely the cause of this crash?

JIM TILMON, FORMER AMERICAN AIRLINES PILOT: Yes, I would say that that's where the investigation is going to be pointed initially.

However, I want to caution that this is so early in the investigation. One should not speculate too soon. It could be so many things. And maybe the ice exacerbated the situation, but we have got a lot yet to learn.

COOPER: Yes, Jason Carroll reporting the pilot lowered the flaps and there was lot of rolling before the crash. And it seems almost unbelievable that only one house on the ground would be destroyed in this crash.

TILMON: Well, you know, ice is so, so difficult to deal with, in that it's never symmetrical. It never gets -- coats exactly -- both wings exactly the same amount.

And, of course, that would create a differential in your lift, because as this ice coats the wings, it not only creates weight for the airplane to carry. It also changes the lift that's available on that wing's surface.

And if you had these wings that were not symmetrically balanced, you could end up having the airplane begin to tilt and turn and bobble back and forth a little bit.

I still feel, however, that this crew was capable of dealing with this. It was just that they got overwhelmed by something that -- an event that took place very suddenly. And they were not able to recover from it. And it is possible to literally fly into kind of a little pool or level of a super-saturated air that's full of ice, that's just going to really dump all of a sudden on your airplane.

And, then, at your airspeed, you may not be able to sustain flight.

COOPER: This is probably a stupid question, but, so, the wings aren't heated at all? I mean, there's no way to melt -- melt that ice?

TILMON: Well, on a turboprop airplane, there just is not enough heat available to heat the wings and fly the airplane and keep those engines working properly.

So, they use a system, which is very effective, of boots that are on the leading edge of the wing's surfaces. And they will allow for changing the configuration of that leading edge by expanding and contracting, and breaking up the ice that is there, as well as some electrical circuits that do a nice job of heating up the cowling and the -- and the propellers.

This airplane, remember, was built in Canada. That's where they understand very clearly what it's like to fly in winter conditions. So, the airplane is configured so that it should be able to be handled very nicely under most circumstances.

COOPER: I want to play you what one witness said. A lot of witnesses talked about a strange sound they heard from the aircraft, a sputtering sound, a sputtering from the engine.

Let's listen.


DAVE HARTZELL, EYEWITNESS TO CRASH: You could tell, when the plane came in, it was going like -- and we see planes or hear planes go over all the time. So, as the plane was going over, you knew something was wrong.


COOPER: You and I heard this last night from multiple eyewitnesses. What do you make of that?

TILMON: Well, you know, the NTSB will be able to come up with this specifically.

But it does lead one to believe that there was a differential in the way that the propellers were responding to the commands and where the airplane was. If you end up with the airplane on sort of one wing up down and one wing up, the up engine is going to be developing a different sound, because the propellers are going to be shaped differently at that point in time. They're going to be configured differently. So, that difference in resonation between those engines takes what would normally be kind of a purr that you hear where the turboprop engines are working in coordination with each other, to something more of a flutter, or something that is a burbling sound, like having two stands of fans that you hook up one at one time, it purrs. Hook up another one right next to it, and now you get a burbling. That's because of the air not being uniformly dealt with.

COOPER: Well, Jim, again, I appreciate you staying up late with us last night. You helped our coverage a lot.

Appreciate it. And thanks for being with us tonight.

TILMON: It's -- it's an honor to be on your show.

COOPER: Well, just ahead tonight, a life story cut tragically short -- the remarkable story of Beverly Eckert, who lost her husband in the 9/11 attacks and went on to help so many others.

She met last week with President Obama. We will get his thoughts on the tragedy as well.

And we will bring the moment as it happens tonight, the breaking news, when the 60th vote is cast and the massive stimulus bill is finally passed. We will also look at what really is in the bill. And we will play you a lot of President Obama's comments today about the stimulus and what happens now.



OBAMA: Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends who lost loved ones. And, as always, our thanks go out to the brave first responders who arrived immediately to try and save lives and who are still on the scene keeping people safe.

Tragic events such as these remind us of the fragility of life and the value of end of single day. One person who stood that well was Beverly Eckert, who was on that flight, and who I met with just a few days ago. You see, Beverly lost her husband on 9/11 and became a tireless advocate for those families whose lives were forever changed on that September day.

And in keeping with that passionate commitment, she was on her way to Buffalo to mark what would have been her husband's birthday and launch a scholarship in his memory. So she was an inspiration to me and to so many others. And I pray that her family finds peace and comfort in the hard days ahead.


COOPER: President Obama today on the tragedy of Flight 3407. You heard him talk about Beverly Eckert, one of the passengers, a remarkable woman, as the president said, a 9/11 widow. She became a champion for the families of those who perished on September 11.

And she was determined to keep her husband's memory alive. It was in fact his birthday this weekend. In so doing, she turned her personal grief into a very public mission.

Here's Randi Kaye.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These were happier times, Beverly Eckert and her husband, Sean Rooney, high school sweethearts. She worked in insurance. He worked on Wall Street. They lived in Connecticut, across the street from this woman.

GAIL ARMONDINO, NEIGHBOR: They were the first neighbors we met when we moved in. They came over with a fresh baked pie that was still warm. And it was quite delicious.

KAYE: Beverly and her husband enjoyed the theater. He was an avid golfer. She had a book club. They didn't have any children, just the two of them. Then, the planes hit.


BEVERLY ECKERT, WIFE OF 9/11 VICTIM: My husband called me. And he was very calm. And he was trying to figure a way to get out of the building.


KAYE: Sean Rooney never found a way out. He perished in the World Trade Center's south tower. Beverly couldn't make sense of it. She turned her grief into action.


ECKERT: Well, I'm simply resolved that his death won't be meaningless.


KAYE: She co-founded Voices of September 11, an advocacy group for survivors and 9/11 families.

Valerie Lucznikowska lost her nephew on 9/11, and got to know Beverly.

VALERIE LUCZNIKOWSKA, FRIEND OF BEVERLY ECKERT: We have lost an advocate for humanity. I'm still rejecting the understanding that Beverly isn't -- isn't here anymore. I still can't quite accept that.

KAYE (on camera): Beverly worked tirelessly in her husband's name. She co-chaired the 9/11 Family Steering Committee, devoted to exposing failures that led up to the attacks, and fixing them. She pushed for the 9/11 Commission and for Congress to adopt its recommendations. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, DECEMBER 6, 2004)

ECKERT: If this bill doesn't pass, I don't think I will ever -- I don't think I will ever be able to go back there. I think I will be too ashamed, because -- first, because I will have failed my husband, and, secondly, because his government will have failed him -- again.


KAYE (voice-over): In recent months, Beverly started volunteering for Habitat for Humanity and working as a teacher's assistant. She had a boyfriend, too.

Just last Friday, she took the train to Washington, D.C., to meet with President Obama and other victims' families about how he planned to handle terror suspects. Valerie was on board with her.

LUCZNIKOWSKA: She had prepared a two-page agenda on what we could do about Guantanamo.

KAYE (on camera): What did she ask the president during this meeting?

LUCZNIKOWSKA: The one thing that she asked the president during the meeting was if there would be more meetings. She was hoping that this would -- there would be something to build on.

KAYE (voice-over): This picture was taken with Beverly's camera just minutes before that meeting. It is one of Beverly's last. She sent it to Valerie a couple of days ago.

Beverly had launched a scholarship in her husband's name in their hometown of Buffalo, New York. She was headed there Thursday night on Continental Flight 3407 to celebrate with family what would have been his 58th birthday. Just over seven years after a plane took her husband's life, a plane took her life.

Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.


COOPER: It's just devastating.

Coming up, breaking news out of Washington: The final Senate vote on the massive stimulus package, it's going to happen any moment. We're watching it live at the Capitol, bringing you the latest coming up.

Now that the deal is done, what is it, actually? What is in it? What about accountability? How will this nearly trillion dollars be spent? We will look at that and the "Raw Politics" coming up.

And, later, who is President Obama's favorite artist? The president will honor him at the White House. We will give you a hint: He's a singer -- the answer about who it actually is ahead.


COOPER: President Obama on his way to Chicago with his -- the first family, celebrating the House approving his $787 billion stimulus package. It was a one-sided deal. Not a single Republican supported it.

Tonight, we have the breaking news from Capitol Hill, where the Senate is expected to also vote any moment now on the bill. Right now, the unofficial tally is 59 for it, 38 against, largely along party lines -- no surprise there. Democrats need 60 votes to get it passed. They're waiting right now for Ohio's Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown, who returned to Washington after attending a memorial service for his mom today. His vote will seal passage of the bill. And, when that happens, we will bring that to you.

Now, as lawmakers were voting, banks were failing. Incredibly, four shuttered their doors alone today, four in a single day. Since the year began, 13 banks have gone under. That is a big reason Republicans are opposed to Mr. Obama's plan. They say all that money will not save the economy from a freefall. Democrats and the White House say it will.

So, how does it break down?

Tom Foreman has a close look at the details -- Tom.


You know, it really is all about these numbers. Massive numbers in this bill make it very hard to sort it out. But we know two things. Some CEOs are very unhappy tonight -- we will explain that in just a moment -- and there are some clear winners and losers in all of this.

Let's take a look at some of these, as we spread these out a little bit.

One of the big winners in all this: state and local government. They will certainly get well over $100 billion, maybe $140 billion or so scattered throughout this bill. It will flow to local governments and communities in a wide range of ways. And we can look at a few specifics when it comes to this.

One of the ways will be through law enforcement. They're going to get about $4 billion, a windfall for state and local law enforcement all around the country to do their jobs. Beyond that, many Americans need jobs. So there will be almost $4 billion for various employment services, for training and helping people find jobs.

Many lawmakers wanted to focus on building things, because they believe that that will create jobs very quickly. So look at this: $27 billion just for highways alone. Billions more will wind up in bridges, airports, other public projects.

On the subject of transportation, if you look specifically at light rail in towns and then expand it to mass transit, $8 billion more when you include all of it. Sort of a jackpot there.

The sciences did a little bit better. NASA and the National Science Foundation will get $4 billion collectively. A fair portion of that money destined for climate change studies, and about $24 billion will go for going green: refitting federal buildings and other things to try to promote energy conservation.

Of course, not everyone came up big winners this way. Democrats did not get nearly what they wanted for schools. That was one of the real issues here that they wanted to deal with. So when they looked at schools, they found a big zero in many ways, especially for building. They did get some silver lining: funding for special ed, $15 billion for college Pell Grants. Those are good progress but not what they wanted.

And we have to talk about the tax cuts here for sure. There's no question about that. When we look at this whole program, one of the things that was a cornerstone that Republicans were really caught up, was the question of tax cuts.

This is what it comes down to. If you make $75,000 a year or less, you're going to get a $400 tax credit. Families that make $150,000 or less will get twice that much, $800.

If you're a first-time home buyer, you're going to get a break. You'll get an $8,000 tax credit if you have that same level of income that we just mentioned a minute ago.

And you can also get a little bit of a break on a car, even, a new car if you make little enough money.

So back to what I said at the start. What has these rich CEOs so steamed about all of this? Well, Connecticut Democrat Senator Chris Dodd slipped in a small amendment attacking exorbitant pay for executives at all companies that have received or will receive bailout money. There's been a lot of talk about this, but he's actually done it.

Here's the deal. Their bonuses must be in stock and no more than a third of their total compensation. He's got some other tough measures in there, too. Might be hard to enforce but, Anderson, for the moment, it's a bit of bite in this bill.

COOPER: All right. Tom, thanks for the details. Appreciate it.

Let's fast forward to next week when Mr. Obama signs the stimulus bill into law. Then what happens? When will we see start seeing some of that money? And can the government really make sure it's not going to be wasted?

Joe Johns tonight has the "Raw Politics."


JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is the biggest one-time spending bill ever, which means the potential is enormous to screw it up and lose track of billions.

DAVID WALKER, FORMER U.S. COMPTROLLER GENERAL: It's going to be a real challenge to be able to get all that money out and to have appropriate accountability for it.

JOHNS: The politicians who wrote the stimulus knew that. They give $180 million to beef up the federal inspectors general, according to the House Appropriations Committee.

Another $25 million to the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office, which does some heavy duty auditing. They create a new accountability board to oversee this money, and they require people who get the money to file reports on how they spend it.

A good start, but the guy who used to run the GAO says that's not enough.

WALKER: And it's not just a matter of having, you know, additional transparency through the Web. It's not just a matter of having additional people looking at it after the money's gone out. You need have appropriate objectives, conditions and criteria that have to be met before the money goes out the door, because once it goes out the door, it 's too late.

JOHNS: Speaking of going out the door, when will taxpayers see that money? Some of it pretty quickly. Some road maintenance projects could start in 30 days, because local jurisdictions can use existing crews with no heavy lifting, but that doesn't necessarily create new jobs.

The $400 a person tax break will start kicking in before the end of the year, says Bill Beach of the conservative Heritage Foundation.

BILL BEACH, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: Because you get the money out of Washington very fast. People can adjust the IRS -- adjust the IRS holding tables.

JOHNS (on camera): But the tax cut works out to just about $13 a week on the average paycheck. Most of the money will kick in next year, and will that translate into jobs?

A few weeks ago the Congressional Budget Office was saying it means 800,000 to 2.3 million jobs by the end of this year. But economist Bill Beach says it will create less than a million. Back when the Reagan administration infused billions for jobs, few jobs were created when the economy needed it most. The GAO said so, too.

BEACH: You know, the surprising thing was, despite the emergency, it still took a full five years for the federal government to get all of the money into play.

JOHNS (voice-over): This time around, much of the money will be spent by states, which will have their own rules and timetable. So promises out of Washington don't always come true, at least not right away.

Joe Johns, CNN, Washington.


COOPER: Well, partisan politics and the economy. The president has the votes but only from three Republicans, so how can he govern? We'll talk about that with our panel next.

And later in his own words, President Obama on the financial deal. His comments today and on this unprecedented moment for our country.

Plus, the strange case of Joaquin Phoenix, looking more, well -- bizarre appearance on Letterman and an update on his interview, a dance remix made from it. We'll be right back.



BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The goal at heart of this plan is to create jobs. Not just any jobs but jobs doing the work America needs done: repairing our infrastructure, modernizing our schools and our hospitals, promoting the clean alternative energy sources that will help us finally declare our independence from foreign oil.


COOPER: That's President Obama this morning, speaking to members of the Business Council, pushing the promise that his stimulus package will create jobs by the millions. We're going to play a lot more of the president's remarks later on in this hour.

Right now, the breaking news. This economic recovery plan is about to be passed by the Senate. We are awaiting the final vote, literally awaiting the final vote. Sherrod Brown, senator from Ohio, is on his way to Capitol Hill to vote on this. As soon as he gets into view of cameras, we're going to bring you the shots live. There are only a few people left right there on the floor.

As of right now, only three Republican senators favored this bill. In the House, not one single Republican lawmaker backed it. So when President Obama signs the legislation on Monday, Washington will be as divisive as ever. Not exactly the bipartisanship Mr. Obama was hoping for in the first 100 days.

Joining me now, CNN political analyst David Gergen, Joe Johns and senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash.

David, I want to play some of what Republican Congressman John Boehner said on the House floor this morning. Take a look.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R), OHIO: Here we are with 1,100 pages. Eleven-hundred pages that not one member of this body has read. Not one. There may be some staffer over in the appropriations committee that read all of this last night. I don't know how you could read 1,100 pages between midnight and now. Not one member's read this.

What happened to the promise that we're going to let the American people see what's in this bill for 48 hours? But nope. We don't have time to do that.


COOPER: Does he have a point, David?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: He has a point, and he made it dramatically. That's the right of a -- of someone in opposition. At the same time, Anderson, you have to ask the question, if you want to have a long time for deliberation, we've got a fire in the house. Do you want to put water on it quickly and have some spillage or do you want to stand back and -- and look at the hose?

And in this case, I think there was a shared sense of urgency on both sides of the aisle. They disagreed strongly, and I think there's a great disappointment in the White House with a lack of Republican votes. And I think there's great disappointment among Republicans that they feel they had very little authorship of the final package.

COOPER: Joe, how often do congressmen, senators and the members of the House vote on bills they haven't read?

JOHNS: Quite a bit. I mean, it happens all the time. Frankly, if you look at the average member of Congress' schedule, usually it's packed from day-to-day to day with hearings, with meetings. They've got to go here. They have a lunch. I mean, how can you sit down and read 1,000-page bill?

So they have aides. They get help. And then, if they don't get a result that they want, they can go out on the floor, especially if they're in the opposition and say, you know, "I didn't get to read this bill. Nobody got to read this bill. Nobody know what's in it."

That said, the truth is, a lot of times there are big surprises in these bill. Again and again and again, I've seen things. The last Congress, we talked so much about something that may have actually been slipped into a bill after it was passed in the House and Senate and before it made its way to the president's desk, which is just simply incredible.

So, yes. You have that kind of problem that happens out there. It's one of the big problems in Washington, because people are voting on things. They don't know what's in there, and then a lot of unusual things get slipped in.

COOPER: Dana, President Obama today described the sometimes contentious debate leading up to today's vote as a good thing. Those are the words he used. And said that the debating viewpoints is how we learn and refine our approaches.

What do you think the president has learned from all of this, in particular about his relationships with Republicans and even Democrats on the Hill?

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think one thing that he learned is that he can lobby and try to charm them as much as possible, but on core issues where there are philosophical differences like this one, it's not going to help.

But I just want to go back to what you were talking about. I want to show you this, Anderson. This is what you're all -- you're talking about. This is how enormous this bill is. I mean, I can barely lift it. It is 1,100 pages. And this was not on the Web site until 11 last night.

So, you know, Republicans would haven't voted for this even able to read this, but I talked to a lot of Democrats. And they said that they were not happy about it either, because just speaking to what Joe was talking about, the things that are slipped in here, this was so rushed.

One of my colleagues up here, Jamie Dupree ([h), he found a page -- and I'm sure there are lots of these -- where it said, in type, "No money for the Smithsonian." That was crossed out with somebody's handwriting and instead was written 25 and then six zeroes, $25 million instead. I'm sure that is happening throughout this, and really nobody had a chance to really look at it.

And that is, again, frustrating not just Republicans, but I talked to a lot of Democratic lawmakers who said the same thing.

COOPER: That's the power of the pen, being able to write in $25 million and have it -- have it so.

I should just remind viewers we are awaiting for the arrival of Senator Sherrod Brown from Ohio. This may be him actually pulling up. This is a scene from right outside the Capitol. We'll just continue to watch this. We have, really, basically this is the last vote.

David, how unusual a situation is this, I mean, to be waiting for a senator to cast the deciding vote?

GERGEN: It's unusual, but we have had examples where senators have been carried in on stretchers. I think probably one or two have been carried in drunk. So it's not unique, but it is unusual.

But, Anderson, to go back to this, I think one of the things that the White House has learned, I was over there this afternoon. They're very proud of how much they accomplished so far in governing. And I think they have a tough road ahead with so many things.

The automobile companies are due to report to this coming Tuesday. We're going to have a whole new set of controversies starting up next week about whether we're going to bail out the automobile companies.

COOPER: And we should say that is the senator who has just arrived from a memorial service for his mom today. He's now entered Capitol grounds. He came in through the carriage entrance. We're just going to continue to watch this as we discuss this.

It's interesting, though. I mean, as the president, you know, begins to tackle the rest of his domestic agenda, how hard, Joe, is he going to have to work for -- or how hard should he continue to work today for bipartisan support? It's still clearly a priority for this president.

JOHNS: Sure. It's absolutely a priority, and certainly, if he doesn't actually push that, then people will say he's hypocritical.

And you know, David was talking about it a little bit there at the top. This is one of those situations where this president has taken over the country, and he has crisis in a lot of different areas. And you saw a very interesting dynamic here. There's a big rush to get this bill through. It's a stimulus...



COOPER: Sorry to interrupt you. I just want to -- I think that's Sherrod Brown who just entered.

Dana, I think he's talking there to Harry Reid from what I can see. What's going to happen now?

BASH: He's -- they should call his name, or maybe they won't call his name, because I think they actually officially called it about five hours ago. And he'll probably raise his hand, and he will officially cast his vote, the decisive vote, the 60th vote.

And you're right: he is standing there talking to the Senate majority leader, who -- who arranged this and who worked with the White House to arrange this.

We should say that Sherrod Brown just returned from Ohio on a government plane, a plane that was actually officially arranged by the White House to take him back from his home state, bring him here and guess what? They're bringing him right back home, because unfortunately the funeral for his mother is tomorrow.

So it really does show, as Joe was saying, the rush that they are going through to get this done. But not just that, Anderson. It also really proves your point about the question about bipartisanship and the bipartisan vote that they were hoping they were going to get at the White House but they're not getting.

This -- there you see him. He's walking up. There you go. He just cast his vote. That was just the senator's way of saying aye. So there you have it. We'll probably hear a gavel momentarily. Maybe they're so tired they're waiting a little while.

But in any event, 60 -- the fact that they had to do this, they had to go to these lengths to get the 60th vote, just proves that...

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: The yeas are 60; the nays are 38. Three-fifths of the senators, duly chosen and sworn, having voted in the affirmative, the motion to waive Section 204-5A of S-Con-Res 21, regarding emergency legislation as agreed to, as a result, the point of order falls.

Pursuant to the previous order, which imposed a 60-vote threshold for the adoption of this conference report, this vote also constitutes the vote on the adoption of the conference report. Pursuant to that order, the conference report to accompany HR1 is agreed to, and a motion to reconsider that vote is considered made and laid upon the table.

COOPER: That was Dick Durbin there. And that's it, Dana.

BASH: That's it. That's it. And officially, they're going to have to do some business, clean up this bill a little bit. And they're going to -- they call it here enrolling it, but they are going to officially send it to the president.

That right there, that was the last stop for President Obama's top priority, his economic plan. And he will -- he will get it over the weekend likely, and we understand he's probably going to have a big signing ceremony on Monday.

But as I was saying, the fact that they had to rush Sherrod Brown back here to give him just the votes that he needs to squeak by to get this...


BASH: ... just proves that he simply does not have the bipartisanship that he was looking for.

COOPER: You know, David Gergen, it's interesting watching that moment. Not a very dramatic moment. Kind of a procedural moment. And yet so many people are seeing it with different eyes. Some people are seeing this as the -- you know, a great step toward the recovery of America, the recovery of America's economy. And an awful lot of people are seeing this as a step -- as a moment of doom.

GERGEN: Yes. All of the polls suggest, Anderson, that the president's travels over the past few days have actually strengthened support for the measure. I think particularly the "USA Today" series of polls on that. So that we have now more than half the country, nearly 60 percent, who believe that this stimulus measure is a good idea.

But you're absolutely right about the controversy, among Democrats as well as Republicans, about the actual contents of the bill. And I think it's going to be now some months, maybe a year or two, before we know whether this has worked or not.

The bill does require the president's economic advisers to report back, I think, every three months on progress on jobs. So maybe we'll get some measures sooner, but the White House itself does not expect many jobs to be created in the near term and they think in the near term, the bill will do more to save jobs, especially the state and local government level.

COOPER: What's so worrying, I guess, that you have smart people, very smart people on both sides of the aisle, on both sides of this debate who are arguing the exact opposite things. And it's hard to know who's right, and I guess time will tell to some degree. We're just going to have to -- you know, at least we're all in it together.

David Gergen, Joe Johns, Dana Bash, thank you.

Next, the peanut company linked to the deadly salmonella outbreak just filed for bankruptcy. Are they actually just trying to get an easy way out of this thing? We're going to bring you the details ahead.

And our breaking news: the stimulus plan just now approved. A whole lot of cash. Will it help you? Hear from President Obama in his own words tonight.

And one musician has been chosen to get a White House honor. Who is it? Well, the president's a huge fan. We'll tell you coming up.


COOPER: Still ahead tonight, the president's favorite artist, performing soon at the White House and getting a special honor. We'll tell you who it is in a moment.

But first, Randi Kaye has a "360 News and Business Bulletin" -- Randi.

RANDI KAYE, CNN ANCHOR: Anderson, a sharp rebuke of the Bush administration today from Hillary Clinton. The secretary of state told the Asia Society today that, in recent years, the U.S. government acted without hearing the facts or listening to others.

Clinton leaves on Sunday for her first overseas trip. That will take her to Japan, South Korea, Indonesia and China.

The peanut processing company responsible for a nationwide deadly salmonella outbreak today filed for bankruptcy. The move also shields that corporation, the Peanut Corporation of America, from liability lawsuits. So far, nine people have died, more than 600 people have gotten sick after eating peanut products.

On Wall Street, stocks tumbled today. The Dow fell 82 points. The NASDAQ lost 7 points. And the S&P closed 8 points lower.

And Alex Rodriguez made his first public appearance tonight since admitting to using steroids this week. The Yankee third-baseman dedicated a new baseball complex at the University of Miami that he supported with nearly $4 million. Call it the Field of Dreams or, as some of his detractors may call it, the Field of 'Roids.

COOPER: Yikes.

KAYE: Yes. COOPER: Up next, more of our breaking news. Just moments ago, the Senate approving the stimulus plan. We're going to hear from President Obama in his own words, his goals for a full economic recovery. Will it come, though, soon enough?

And later, my interview with actor Ben Affleck on the conflict in the Congo. He's been traveling there frequently and is shining a light on the conflict, a conflict few people seem to know about. Tonight, an update on the crisis.


COOPER: President Obama back in Chicago tonight where he'll spend the holiday weekend with his family. Earlier today he addressed the Business Council, the president explaining what the economic recovery bill is all about and how he thinks it's going to change the country. Here's President Obama in his own words.


OBAMA: And the goal at the heart of this plan is to create jobs. Not just any jobs but jobs doing the work America needs done. Repairing our infrastructure, modernizing our schools and our hospitals, promoting the clean alternative energy sources that will help us finally declare our independence from foreign oil.

To truly address this crisis, we will also need to address the crisis in our financial sector to get credit flowing again to families and businesses. And we need to confront the crisis in the housing sector. That's been one of the sources of our economic challenges. I'll be discussing that extensively soon.

And finally, we have to approach our budget in a responsible way. And that means investing in priorities like energy and health care and education that will grow our economy again, but it also means eliminating those programs that are wasteful and duplicative and that we simply cannot afford. We have to once again live within our means.


COOPER: Remember all the Stevie Wonder songs at Barack Obama's campaign events last year and the Stevie Wonder performance at the Democratic convention? Well, get ready for a Stevie Wonder performance for the commander in chief at the White House.

The president and first lady are hosting Mr. Wonder in the East Room on February 25. That's when the president's favorite singer will be awarded the second annual Gershwin Award for lifetime achievement from the Library of Congress, a just reward for an amazing career. Certainly one I hope will erase the image of Stevie Wonder having to perform with the Jonas Brothers at the Grammys. I'm still not recovered from that.

Coming up in our next hour, early clues in the crash of Continental connection 3407 and later Ben Affleck on the conflict in Congo, the deadliest and most overlooked conflict since World War II. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BEN AFFLECK, ACTOR: It's kind of a perfect storm of violence and neglect, and it's a place where, I guess, the overwhelming sense that you get is this shouldn't exist in the modern era.