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Senate Finance Committee Passes Health Care Bill; Labor Unions Unhappy With Health Care Reform

Aired October 13, 2009 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Some groups that typically support the president and the Democrats won't necessarily support the bill passed by the Senate Finance Committee today. We're talking specifically about the nation's labor unions.

And what Hillary Clinton wants, she can't yet have from Russia. The secretary of state travels there seeking agreement over a key issue involving Iran. But Secretary Clinton ends up a bit empty- handed.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in CNN's command center for breaking news, politics and extraordinary reports from around the world. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"The Washington Post" dramatically says -- and I'm quoting now -- "Not since Theodore Roosevelt proposed universal health care during the 1912 presidential campaign has any such bill come this far."

We're following the breaking news.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Chairman, the final a tally is 14 ayes, nine nays.

SEN. MAX BAUCUS (D-MT), FINANCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: The ayes have it. And the mark is ordered recorded.


BLITZER: A Senate panel passes an $829 billion health care bill designed to cover millions more Americans. Immediately after the vote, Republicans went on the attack.


SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: We know that this is a long way from having what they want, which is basically a single-payer system. And, frankly, I think, if we ever go to that system, we will all rue the day.


BLITZER: President Obama's praising this action by the Senate Finance Committee.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As a result of these efforts, we are now closer than ever before to passing health reform.


BLITZER: Closer, yes, but the fight is far from over. Lawmakers must now negotiate this bill with others before any final bill can emerge.

Let's go straight to our senior White House correspondent, Ed Henry; he's working the story for us.

The White House clearly pleased, Ed, but as the president himself knows, this is by no means a done deal yet.

ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf, but they do feel here, maybe for the first time in this long debate, that they're getting a little bit of momentum.

Certainly, the best development for this White House is that after weeks and weeks of courting Republicans and coming up empty, their hard work in trying to reach out to Republican Senator Olympia Snowe finally paid off, the president hailing her for what he called political courage despite the fact that no other Republicans would join her.

Nevertheless, as you say, they're excited here, but they also realize there's a lot of tough battles ahead. And the president in the Rose Garden was clear to say it was no time to pop the champagne corks.


OBAMA: Now is not the time to pat ourselves on the back. Now is not the time to offer ourselves congratulations. Now is the time to dig in and work even harder to get this done.


HENRY: Now, we're told by top White House aides that this is going to be a turning point in the debate. We're going to be seeing a lot more of the president. He's going to be going back on the road soon getting more assertive in this debate. But we have heard that for a long time.

And I can tell you I have already talked to some top Democrats on Capitol Hill who are complaining that they think the response so far from this White House so far has been sort of tepid. They want the White House to be more assertive than they have been.

They think now that the Senate Finance Committee has moved this bill through, they really want to get them more on the record pushing even harder than we have seen already. So, we will see what kind of tension develops between Democrats -- Wolf. BLITZER: Speaking of tension, there's some tension between a traditional ally of the Democrats and the president. The major labor unions, they came out today and said they don't necessarily like what the Senate Finance Committee has done.

HENRY: That's right. And what they're going to do is start running ads in newspapers across the country tomorrow.

And they're mad about two things. The labor unions normally supportive of this president, number one, are worried about taxes on Cadillac health plans. They don't just go after businesses; they also could go after labor unions who have gotten very lucrative health plans. And secondly they're upset that this Baucus doesn't have the public option that the president has previously talked about.

So, what I think is happening more than anything is groups like labor unions are staking out ground, trying to make this bill better. The president himself said it's not a perfect bill. And the labor unions are going to be watching closely, because starting tomorrow Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff, he will have a seat at the table on the Hill and they're looking for this White House to start pressing harder for a public option, something the president did not mention in the Rose Garden -- Wolf.

BLITZER: They're going to be working hard over there, up on Capitol Hill. Ed Henry, thanks very much.

This is certainly a major step forward on a journey that's been long in the making, still many, many more steps left on this road.

Let's bring in our national political correspondent, Jessica Yellin, to explain.

What comes up next, Jessica?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, you have seen the headlines, momentous, big news, a victory for the Democrats. That seems to be the takeaway at first from today's health care vote. But where does this leave us and how much more work is yet to be done? The answer, quite a bit.


YELLIN (voice-over): It's been 223 days since President Obama started the race to pass health care reform this year.

OBAMA: This time is different.

YELLIN: There have been at least 60 hearings, more than $124 million of TV ads, one presidential address, and an unknowable number of status updates.

Finally, it's game day. Off the blocks, Chairman Baucus was feeling strong.

QUESTION: It's going to pass today? BAUCUS: Yes, yes, yes. Big day.

YELLIN: But all eyes were on Senator Olympia Snowe, the one Republican who might vote yes. Would she?

SEN. OLYMPIA SNOWE (R), MAINE: Let's say I'm sorting through all the issues.

YELLIN: All this attention, all this interest.

BAUCUS: The meeting will come to order.

YELLIN: This must be the final decision on health care reform, right?


(on camera): This is just the vote of one Senate committee. Next, their bill has to be stitched together with another bill passed by a different Senate committee, and that new health care bill will go to a full vote of the U.S. Senate.

So, you think that's it, one more vote and health care reform is done? Oh, no. Over here at the House of Representatives, they are working on their own health care bill that would be paid for differently and include some type of public option. If that passes, then you have two health care bills, one from the House and one from the Senate.

Here's the homestretch. Those two bills have to be merged before the full Congress can make the big vote on health care reform. Simple, right?

(voice-over): So, why is everyone taking this vote so seriously?

UNIDENTIFIED MALES AND FEMALES (singing): Happy birthday, dear Maria.

YELLIN: Well, most of it was serious. That was for Senator Cantwell's birthday.

It's serious because this committee has been the biggest roadblock to passing health care reform. And Republican Olympia Snowe announced she's voting yes.

SNOWE: They want us to continue working.

YELLIN: At least for now, the White House can claim a smidge of bipartisan support, and health care inches forward to the next step.


YELLIN: Wolf, now the Democrats' goal is to get all of this done, have the big bill passed by Congress before the winter holiday, so then it can go on to the White House for the president's signature this year. In other words, they want it done and off the table before 2010, because you know what happens next year, another election.

BLITZER: And that could complicate the matter even more than it's already complicated.

Jessica Yellin working the story.

Let's zero in on some of these competing proposals right now on Capitol Hill.

The Finance Committee's more moderate plan as it's described does not -- repeat -- not include the so-called public option. In the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee in the Senate, that plan urges a robust public option. And liberals in the House of Representatives strongly want a public option as well.

The first plan creates state-based insurance exchanges for individuals to buy coverage; the second creates state-based benefit gateways as they're called where individuals and small businesses can buy coverage. The House plan creates a health exchange where individuals and small businesses can buy coverage, and, lastly, the first plan slaps a fee on some employers that don't cover employees, with some exceptions for small businesses.

The second requires employers to cover employees or pay an annual fee, with special exceptions for small business. And the third plan requires employers to cover employees or pay into a fund, with special exceptions and financial help for some small businesses.

Did you catch all that? If not, we will be telling you a lot more about it in the coming days and weeks.

Meantime, let's go back to Jack for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: I don't know who did the research and put all those graphics together, but they did a pretty nice job. There's a lot of stuff going on with five different bills.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said no three times when asked if she will ever run for president again. Clinton now works for the man who defeated her in that bruising series of primaries for the Democratic nomination last year. She told NBC News over the weekend her job as President Obama's secretary of state is great, but -- quote -- "It's a 24/7 job and I'm looking forward to retirement at some point" -- unquote.

If Clinton changes her mind, she would either have to run against President Obama in the primaries in 2012 or she would have to wait until 2016, at which point she might be getting a little long in the tooth. She turns 62 this month.

Hillary Clinton is denying that her voice is not being heard inside the Obama administration, calling that absurd. She says that it's not her style to try to be the center of attention and that she believes in delegating power.

She also says she wants to be a positive force in enacting the changes the Obama administration believes in, but -- quote -- "That doesn't mean it has to be me, me, me all the time" -- unquote.

Of course, we have seen many examples of politicians who swear up and down they're not going to run for office, like president, and then don't you know somewhere down the line things change and they do. And when it comes to the Clintons and their political instincts, history suggests it's a bad idea to ever count them out of anything.

Here's the question. Hillary Clinton says she won't run for president again. Do you believe her? Go to Post a comment on my blog.

I don't know if either one of them would have the strength for another round of primaries like we saw last year. That was one of the most bruising political battles I have ever seen.

BLITZER: Yes, it was tough. I covered it together with you, Jack, every step of the way, but you know what? It's a free country. People can change their mind if they want.

CAFFERTY: Oh, yes. She still has a lot of supporters out there.

BLITZER: And politicians often do.

CAFFERTY: Yes, they do.

BLITZER: Barack Obama once said he wasn't going to run for president after serving only a few years in the Senate. And guess where he is right now?

CAFFERTY: I wonder if he has any regrets?

BLITZER: Yes, I don't think so. I think he's enjoying it despite the problems.


BLITZER: All right, Jack.

Some Latino leaders are organizing a protest against the White House and Congress -- why they're calling for a boycott of next year's national census.

Plus, Hillary Clinton is in charge of relations with Russia, but can she get Moscow to join with America in putting pressure on Iran?

And the children of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. agree to end their family feud over their parents' estate.


BLITZER: The next U.S. census gets under way next year, some Latino leaders, though, right now calling on people in their communities to boycott the census.

Let's go to CNN's Brian Todd, who's joining us now with more.

Why would they want not to be counted, Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, these leaders say that by boycotting the census, illegal immigrants are sending a signal to Washington that whatever resources the government is sending the Latino community in the U.S. are not getting to them. They believe it's the only leverage they have to push immigration reform through.


TODD (voice-over): Miguel Rivera holds an impromptu rally on Capitol Hill for a campaign he never thought he'd take on. Rivera is an Evangelical minister from Bergen County, New Jersey. He leads the National Coalition of Latino Clergy and Christian Leaders, and he's leading an effort to get undocumented Latinos in the United States to boycott the census next year. It's a protest, he says, against the Obama administration and Congress for not passing a bill to improve the immigration status of undocumenteds.

(on camera): What have they not done that you believe merits this kind of action?

REV. MIGUEL RIVERA, NATIONAL COALITION OF LATINO CLERGY AND CHRISTIAN LEADERS: They basically have done nothing. And the truth is that, as of now -- as of right now -- I'm sorry -- basically we're not seeing that this is a true priority, nor for the White House or for this Congress.

TODD (voice-over): Contacted by CNN, a White House spokesman flatly refuted the claim, saying President Obama has tasked Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to work with Congress on reform, and "The president has consistently said we would begin work on comprehensive immigration reform this year, and that's what we're doing."

But Rivera's group believes a census boycott is the only bargaining chip undocumented immigrants have to improve their conditions.

(on camera): One Reverend Rivera's biggest complaints is that counting more undocumented immigrants doesn't necessarily give them more power in Congress. They may have more numbers in a given congressional district, but because those people can't vote, they don't really get the representation from their congressmen that they should. He calls those ghost districts.

(voice-over): But several Latino groups are against Rivera's stand. They say it's ludicrous to believe that not getting counted will actually improve access to resources. Gabe Gonzalez of the Center for Community Change also says there's a bigger picture

GABE GONZALEZ, CENTER FOR COMMUNITY CHANGE: But what I do think is fundamentally important is that people participate in every aspect of American society that's open to them. The census, as I said, is part of that participation.

(END VIDEOTAPE) TODD: Gonzalez's group and many other Latino organizations argue that not participating in the census will only place undocumented immigrants further into the shadows. Most of them, he says, want to be citizens, want to be part of the fabric of American life, and a census boycott is not the way to go about it -- Wolf.

BLITZER: It's a real sensitive issue right now for a lot of folks.

Brian, thank you.

Remember, we're only eight days away from "Latino in America," our comprehensive look at how Latinos are changing America. CNN's Soledad O'Brien hosts "Latino in America." It airs next Wednesday and Thursday at 9:00 p.m. Eastern. It also will be simulcast CNN Espanol.

A closed-door diplomatic meeting between two nuclear powerhouses, but still no firm agreement on how to cope with Iran's nuclear program, the secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, meeting today in Moscow with her Russian counterpart.

Our foreign affairs correspondent, Jill Dougherty, is traveling with Secretary Clinton -- Jill.


JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, President Obama put Hillary Clinton in charge of U.S.-Russian relations, and, so far, own this very quick visit to Moscow, it does appear the two countries are making some progress, but they still haven't reached a meeting of the minds on Iran.

(voice-over): Hillary Clinton, across the table from Russia's foreign minister, gives a shorthand version of U.S.-Russian relations based on her recently broken elbow.

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Now both my elbow and our relationship are reset.


CLINTON: And we're moving forward, which I greatly welcome.

DOUGHERTY: But on the key issue of Iran, that reset doesn't give the secretary of state what a senior official says she came for, clarity from the Russians on what specific forms of pressure they would be willing to sign on to if Iran doesn't come clean on its nuclear program -- Clinton's strategy, a dual-track approach.

CLINTON: We are aware that we might not be as successful as we need to be, so we have always looked at the potential of sanctions in the event that we are not successful, that we cannot assure ourselves and others that Iran has decided not to pursue nuclear weapons.

DOUGHERTY: But Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says, threats of sanctions and pressure right now would be counterproductive.

SERGEI LAVROV, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): The threats of sanctions, imposing sanctions or pressure, are counterproductive.

DOUGHERTY: Diplomacy, the Russians say, is working so far.

The evidence? Iran's agreement to let U.N. inspectors see its previously undisclosed uranium-enrichment facility. At his residence in the Moscow suburbs, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev welcomed Secretary Clinton and says his country and the U.S. are ready together to find answers to the most pressing and difficult issues on the international agenda, including Iran.

But he does not repeat what he told President Barack Obama in September, that sometimes, sanctions may be inevitable.

DMITRY MEDVEDEV, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): We are disposed to find answers to the most topical questions of the international agenda, the most difficult questions, and we are very interested in discussion of those.

DOUGHERTY (on camera): Clinton, too, says that, while Iran is willing to show some openness on its nuclear program, it's not yet time for tougher sanctions. But the Obama administration says it's not willing to wait for Iran indefinitely. Just how long Moscow is willing to wait isn't clear -- Wolf.


BLITZER: Jill Dougherty in Moscow for us -- thank you, Jill.

Will some of President Obama's strongest supporters end up killing health care reform? Is that at all conceivable? We're going to get the inside story with the best political team on television. They're standing by live.

Plus, the Swiss parliament weighing in on film director Roman Polanski's attempts to avoid returning to the United States -- details coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: The best political team on television is standing by.


BLITZER: A major milestone in health care reform, but now the president is facing a new hurdle, labor unions. They're about to take the president and Congress to task. They want more.

Plus, reworking the GOP. One top Republican senator says -- and I'm quoting now -- "We're not going to be the Ron Paul party." What does that mean? That's coming up with the best political team on television.


BLITZER: More than two dozen unions are about to enter the health care reform fray. They're taking out full-page ads in major newspapers tomorrow opposing the reform bill that passed the Senate Finance Committee earlier today. They're unhappy with taxes on high- end insurance plans and the fact that there's no public option.

Let's talk about this and more with our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley, our own Joe Johns, Democratic strategist and CNN political contributor Paul Begala, and Republican strategist Tony Blankley, former spokesman for Newt Gingrich.

We want to note that Paul Begala is an adviser to the Service Employees International Union. It is not, by the way, one of the unions taking out those full-page ads tomorrow.

But, having said that, Paul, the president's got problems with the Republicans, some moderate Democrats. Got some problems with labor unions as well from the liberal left side, because they want a lot more.


They want him -- and your statement was right -- they want -- they don't want their members' benefits taxed. There's a lot of union members who gave up pay increases over the years.

BLITZER: Because of so-called Cadillac plans.

BEGALA: The so-called Cadillac plans. But they're -- a lot of them are held by guys and gals on the assembly line, not just the people owning the Cadillacs, but the folks who build them.

So they feel like this is a tax increase on the middle class. They really want this public option, as well. And I can tell you, that is good politics, as well as good policy. I saw a poll that John Anzalone did. He's a great pollster out of Montgomery, Alabama. And Anzalone polled in the Blue Dogs' districts. In 91 districts, the most swing districts, he found out 54 percent of Americans in those swing districts want the public option.

So on that one I certainly think -- actually, on both of them, I think the labor unions have the better...

BLITZER: Here...

BEGALA: ...politics on this.

BLITZER: Here's what the president said back on September 9th in his address, which many interpreted as his commitment to the so-called public option.


OBAMA: I will not back down on the basic principle that if Americans can't find affordable coverage, we will provide you with a choice.


BLITZER: He would, Candy, have to back down if he can't get 60 votes in the United States Senate that would support that public option.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: He would. But the president is a very good wordsmith. He has very good speechwriters. And he did not commit to a public option in that sentence...

BLITZER: You notice I said some interpreted that (INAUDIBLE)...

CROWLEY: That's right. Although, the hopeful interpreted that -- at least the hopeful for the public option.

If he has to, the president will take something less than that. And he has to be able to say, listen, this does give you the choice, whether that's a co-op -- a state kind of co-op with employees, whatever it is, he has to be able to argue, yes, there is this choice. I would have preferred the public option, but I will take this.

BLITZER: Because...


BLITZER: Because she walks away -- Olympia Snowe, who voted with the Democrats in the Senate Finance Committee, she would walk away if there are some significant changes, which the more liberal Democrats would like.

TONY BLANKLEY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Maybe. Maybe she'd walk away. I -- I think...

BLITZER: You don't think she would?

BLANKLEY: I don't know. It depends what it is. But I think she's probably going to be there at the end. I think Collins is going to be there, because she's going to follow Snowe...

BLITZER: Susan Collins, the other senator.

BLANKLEY: Yes. They're both senators from the same state and Olympia Snowe is the more dominant figure, so she'll probably lead. That gives them two. Maybe you'll get Voinovich or one or two others.

My guess is that although the legislation is going to get more liberal as it moves through the different committees, that an 80 vote majority in the House and a 20 vote majority in the Senate, plus at least a couple of Republicans, they're going to get most of what they want. The trouble is going to be that it's going to cost more.

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And the people are probably going to continue to advocate for this right down to the very last. You know, on the left, it hasn't been reported on that much, but there's a lot of anger out there. There's anger that, in the first place, they threw out the idea of single payer insurance before the talks even began. And then you get to the public option, it goes out the window. And now we're talking about a trigger.

So there is a lot of anger on the left.

And the question is just how much can the Democratic Party bear and still keep control of the Congress?

BEGALA: Yes, I think, what, Alex, I'm trying to say to my fellow liberals is I think Tony's got it right, that Senator Baucus today passed out what I think is the floor. That's the minimum level of health care coverage.

By the way, pretty doggone good, actually -- I think more liberal than what Al Gore ran on just a few years ago. And Al Gore is certainly no right-winger. But I think then House Speaker Pelosi is going to give us the ceiling. I think she's got a very strong progressive majority in that Democratic House. They'll have a strong public option there, which she sees as a break against rising premiums. If you require people to buy health insurance and they have don't have any other public option, she's really worried that premiums will go up, which is exactly what Karen Ignagni was telling you, from the health insurance lobby, Wolf, let's hear.


BLANKLEY: See, the problem for the Democrats, I don't think is passing. I think they're going to pass pretty much what they want. The problem is that the public may not like it and the Republicans will be able to run against it, particularly if it has the public provision and it's got a bigger total sum of costs, because deficits and costs are really hit -- are really grabbing across the electorate now.

So I think that if they do pass what they want,. You're going to see a campaign in the next year that's going to be a lot focused on we -- you know, get a Congress that will repeal this monster.

CROWLEY: Well, the problems is they can camp -- the Republicans can campaign against it if it doesn't work. But the first things that are going to kick in are what consumers hate, which is the preexisting conditions and the fact that you can deny health care.

BLANKLEY: Medicare...

CROWLEY: That will kick out...

BLANKLEY: Medicare kicks in in September of next year -- the cuts in Medicare. So you don't -- so all the people over 65 are going to know that their Medicare benefit, the advantage, is -- is gone.

JOHNS: In the big picture...

BLANKLEY: That will be a month-and-a-half before the election.

BEGALA: And the question will be, will that affect their benefits?

The Democrats believe...


BEGALA: ...that this is corporate welfare, that there are private insurance companies making a killing off this so-called Medicare Advantage. Now, others who are Republicans believe that it will hurt benefits...

BLANKLEY: I mean the polls so far...

BEGALA: It's sort of new for Republicans to care about Medicare benefits, I have to say.



BEGALA: This is corporate welfare, at least. So the Democrats, I think, can run that debate, that we're -- we're trying to cut the corporate welfare.

BLANKLEY: Right now, the polls show that the -- the seniors are moving away from -- from this.

JOHNS: The health insurance plans may have actually played right into the hands of the Democrats. You know, your interview with Karen Ignagni...

BLITZER: From the American Health Insurance Plans.

JOHNS: Exactly.

BLITZER: That's the insurance...


BLITZER: That's the lobby for the health insurance industry.

JOHNS: Right. The Democrats have been trying to cast them as -- as the bogeymen for a long time. Now they come out with this report, which provokes all these questions about how much did you spend and so on -- questions that you asked. And now, they're in the position of -- of basically saying hey, we're really for this program, even though our report says that we're against it. So it turns them closer to the bogeymen that the Democrats want and everybody can shoot at it.


BLITZER: Guys, hold -- hold those thoughts, because we have more. We're just getting started.

Does the GOP need to change its image?

A key Republican senator says he doesn't want it to be "the party of angry white guys." The best political team on television is here standing by.

And Rush Limbaugh's bid to be an NFL owner is running into a prevent defense. The current owner and the league's commissioner issuing some words of warning.


BLITZER: We're back with the best political team on television.

I want to move on to some issues involving the Republicans with a jump ball for whatever wants it -- a final thought on what happened today.

Is this train leaving the station?

Will there be a signing ceremony at the White House this year?

BLANKLEY: The train is leaving the station and it will get to a signing ceremony, then it will go off the tracks after that.

CROWLEY: Well, he's -- he's right, only different -- different wording. Yes, the train has left the station. I think it left the station on January 20th. But yes, the train has left the station.

And the next question is, is it going to work?

BEGALA: Yes. I think we'll have a signing ceremony, but it will be New Year's Eve.


BEGALA: It will be as late as (INAUDIBLE) maybe like the seventh night of Hanukah. I don't know, pick your winter holiday. But it's going to be later than everybody thinks, because that's how the Congress works. But they'll get it.

JOHNS: And the question is what's the cost?

What's the cost in the long run?


JOHNS: What's the cost to the Democrats?


BLITZER: ...the money to pay for it.

JOHNS: Right. Yes, there's a lot of people out there very angry about this thing.


JOHNS: And who knows what happens after that?

BLITZER: All right. I want to go to Abbi Tatton, our Internet reporter, right now -- Abbi, Republicans are saying some interesting things, as well.

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, there is something that the GOP tried today which didn't go too well. This is their newly revamped, relaunched, which, through much of the day, looked more like this or this or my favorite -- this.

Web sites crash. It happens. But what was happening to this one is even before the Web site went down this afternoon, it was being widely knocked and mocked online by the left but also by some conservative bloggers.

Some of the things they were pointing out, this was supposed to be the future Republican leaders' page, which initially said -- it was completely blank and then it said could not be found. You can imagine the Democrats' glee at finding this one.

A GOP spokesman says that these issues are being ironed out, the glitches are being worked on and it's the high traffic that meant this all went down today and it's going to be back up. And it is, in fact, coming back up in pieces as we go throughout the day.

Chairman Steele hopes that this is going to be a forward looking, open platform for the party's new ideas. He does have his own blog on the Web site. It's called What Up?

Yes, really, it's called What Up?

Wolf, it seems like they're really trying to build an online community here, but in this case, maybe trying a little bit too hard.

BLITZER: Yes, but there's no evidence of any sabotage or anything like that, Abbi, is there?

TATTON: No, they said it was just a huge amount of traffic. But when you're launching a new Web site, it's supposed to be for -- inclusive for lots of people, you want it to actually be accessible to those people.

BLITZER: All right, Abbi. Thank you.

I want to play, also, guys -- and then we'll talk -- Lindsey Graham, the Republican senator from South Carolina, speaking yesterday. Here's a little clip from YouTube.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I'm not going to leave the resulting party, I'm going to grow it.


GRAHAM: I'm not going to give the party (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ron Paul will grow it.

GRAHAM: We're not going to be the party of the angry guys. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ron Paul will grow it.

GRAHAM: We're not going to be Ron Paul's party.


BLITZER: You probably couldn't hear, but we -- we heard. He listened carefully. He says, Graham: "I'm not going to leave the Republican Party, I'm going to grow it." You heard some hecklers screaming about Congressman Ron Paul. Graham said we're going -- we're not going to be the party of the angry white guys, we're not going to be the Ron Paul party.

BLANKLEY: Well, look...

BLITZER: And Lindsey Graham is...

BLANKLEY: If he -- if he drives all the angry white guys out of the party, there won't be too much left right now. So we need everybody. We need the angry white guys. We need the happy white guys.

I'm one of the happy ones. And, you know, we need angry and happy Hispanics, angry and happy African-Americans.

Look, he was getting harassed by -- by this crowd in South Carolina. Any time any politician is saying who he doesn't want in the party, he's not one of the people who's trying to get a big tent. I'd like to see a big tent.

BEGALA: And yet Tony's old boss, Ronald Reagan, helped purge the kook right, the John Birch Society then, in the '60s and '70s, out of the Republican Party and make it a credible party. They actually moved it more toward the center.

That's how a great leader leads. This could be the first sort of green shoots of a Republican recovery. And my old boss, Bill Clinton, picked big fights with labor unions, with liberals, with Jesse Jackson, to try to move his party back to the center.

Somebody, maybe it will be Senator Graham, is going to stand up -- and he's beginning to -- and saying, you know, I'm not going to be the party of the angry white guys or the crazies or Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh...


CROWLEY: But the difference between...

BEGALA: And whoever does that is going to redefine the party.


CROWLEY: -- the reality that Tony is talking about, which is you really don't want to drive anybody out of a minority party at this point, which the Republicans are. And then there's the perception -- you don't what the perception that Republicans are the party of angry white men.

So you're -- it's two different subjects here.


CROWLEY: And he did -- you know, I can assure you, Lindsey Graham doesn't want anyone to leave the party, but what he would like is for people to look at the party...


CROWLEY: -- in a different way than they're looking at it now.

BLANKLEY: I think everybody wants what they think is the ideal image of the party and it usually sort of looks like them, you know, because we all create our party in our own image. And -- and...

BLITZER: And Lindsey Graham, as you well know, Joe -- you've covered Congress for a long time, he's a very smart guy and he's an independent guy. He wrote that op-ed with John Kerry this week, calling for legislation on climate change -- something not necessarily all that popular with some conservatives and Republicans.

JOHNS: He's a very plain-spoken Republican. And -- and that gets him in trouble sometimes back in South Carolina. More than once, I've talked to him personally where he said, you know, people back in the state just hate me for what I said, but I figured I had to say it.

So this is a conversation that Lindsey Graham, as a guy who's succeeded on Capitol Hill and gotten a lot of respect, thinks the party and thinks the country needs to have. And that's why he said it. And I just sort of take it at face value.

BEGALA: Well, and it -- dare I say it as a political hack, it actually suggests that he believes in something, because there's probably no more conservative group in America than these South Carolina Republicans. And here's a guy whose only real risk in his political career would be if he gets cross wise with those South Carolina Republicans...

JOHNS: The party of Strom Thurmond.

BEGALA: Right.

BLANKLEY: That's right.

BEGALA: And yet he's willing to do it.

BLITZER: But he was reelected last year, so he's got five years to go.

BEGALA: Well, but he's -- he's actually...

CROWLEY: -- two years under that.

BEGALA: ...some principal. And this is the way forward for Republicans. I do think they have to purge some of the crazies, the -- the birthers and the death panelists and the -- the crazies...


BEGALA: And maybe Lindsey will be able to do that.

BLANKLEY: ...when the Code Pinkers and all the crazies in the Democrat (INAUDIBLE)...

BEGALA: Yes. But my party purged them.


BEGALA: When they interrupted hearings...


BEGALA: When they interrupted hearings, Ike Skelton, the Democratic leader; Barney Frank, a Democratic leader...


BEGALA: ...down and threw them out.


CROWLEY: No, but I mean purging sounds like you're going to throw them out of the party.

BLANKLEY: ...were very, very appreciative of all of their...


BEGALA: Essentially they did. They kicked them out.

CROWLEY: Of the room.

BEGALA: Of the room, yes. But they...


BLANKLEY: Yes, not out of the party. Not out...

BEGALA: Who in the Republican Party has stood up to Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh...

CROWLEY: Well, you want a Sister Souljah moment...

BEGALA: And lived to tell about it?

CROWLEY: -- for the Republican Party.



BEGALA: Yes. CROWLEY: And I think that's what the Republican Party does think it needs. Certainly Lindsey Graham thinks it needs it, John McCain thinks it needs it. There are any number -- I mean, Olympia Snowe, I think.

BEGALA: Right. Yes.

CROWLEY: you could find any number of Republicans going whoa...

BLANKLEY: But that's a small...

CROWLEY: -- we need this.

BLANKLEY: That's a small number.

CROWLEY: you know, now, who's going to do it?

Will it be effective?

We don't know. But you can't -- you don't, again, expanding a party, you want to sideline those people. You want to take them out of the headlines, but you still want them to vote for you, for heaven's sakes. You want Code Pink to go out and vote for your guy.

BEGALA: Yes, but, you know what?

Bill Clinton wanted Jesse Jackson's vote. But he had a principled disagreement with him and he carried -- he carried it out in a public debate, in an honest way, in a Democratic primary.


BEGALA: That's what it takes to be a leader.

BLANKLEY: Both -- both parties want to have an image they think is appealing and the reality is they want to get as many people as possible behind the tent.


BLITZER: We -- we will have all of you back tomorrow.

Guys, thanks very much.

Will Rush Limbaugh be thrown for a loss in his NFL bid?

First players voiced concern. Now, there some tough words from a key owner and the league's commissioner.

Plus, living out his boyhood dream -- a congressman becomes a castaway, surviving for a week on a deserted island.


BLITZER: On our Political Ticker, Rush Limbaugh may be running into a prevent defense in his bid to buy a piece of an NFL team. Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay says he "couldn't even consider voting for the controversial radio talk show host" and the commissioner of the NFL, Roger Goodell, says "divisive comments are not what the NFL is all about."

A numbers of players have already been lining up against Limbaugh's ownership effort.

Some bad news for Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger of California. The new field poll finds that only 27 percent of California voters approve of his performance. That's his lowest approval rating ever. The only governor in recent years to score lower in the field poll was Democrat Gray Davis, who had 22 percent approval shortly before he was recalled by the voters.

What you're seeing here in these photographs is the realization of a childhood dream. Republican Congressman Jeff Flake of Arizona had always wanted to live on a deserted island, surviving by catching his own food. And for seven days, that's exactly what he did.

Congressman Flake, by the way, will be with us tomorrow here in THE SITUATION ROOM to tell us all about that fascinating adventure.

Remember, for the latest political news any time, you can always check out

Let's go to Lou Dobbs to see what's coming up at the top of the hour -- Lou.


Flake picked a pretty nice looking island, didn't he?

BLITZER: It was very cool.

DOBBS: Well, coming up, the...

BLITZER: The pictures are amazing.

DOBBS: You'd better believe it. If you're going to have to be on an island, he picked a good one.

Wolf, tonight, we're going to be talking about that vote in the Senate today -- a major health care concept passes. It's not really a bill. And the public option out for now.

But while all of this theater is going on, with one Republican joining in, this has nothing to do with what will be the final legislation. We'll tell you about that tonight.

And waiting on a war strategy -- President Obama says he's still weeks away from making a decision about Afghanistan.

Will he escalate the war?

Is there a middle ground?

When will we know and should we bring the troops home?

Also, concerns over the swine flu -- parents are now scrambling to get their kids vaccinated. There are new questions about shortages. The government doesn't know when there will be enough vaccine to go around, when it will be delivered.

What should you do?

We'll have answers to all of your questions.

Also tonight, three of the sharpest political thinkers in the business join us.

Please be with us for all of that, all the day's news and a lot more, at the top of the hour -- Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: All right, Lou.

We'll see you then.

Thank you.

Let's go back to Jack.

He's got The Cafferty File -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: An interesting name for a Congressman, don't you think, Flake?


CAFFERTY: Congressman Flake. I wonder if he ever gave any thought to changing it.

The question this hour, Hillary Clinton says she won't run for president again.

Do you believe here?

Timothy says: "History shall never count out the Clintons. As she once said, you'll always find me in the front lines of democracy. So, no, I don't believe her. She'll run again."

Kevin in Colorado Springs: "Does it matter? After what Obama is doing, there won't be another Democratic president for a long time."

Reid writes: "I am a far, far, far right-wing conservative. I wish she had won the presidency last time."

Linda in Arizona: "Long in the tooth? Why would you use this hackneyed phrase on Hillary Clinton? She's only 62. Was crypt keeper McCain long in the tooth at 72? Your sexism is showing again, Jack."

E.J. in Washington: "She's getting more coverage being secretary of State than Joe Biden is being vice president. I think she's pretty content with the way the cards fell for her. Why would she want to go through that campaigning again only to possibly be let down once more? She'll be getting close to 70 years old in the next race."

That would be 2016.

Emma writes: "I don't believe her at all. She's a snake. Obama should not have trusted her."

A.J. writes: "I don't know whether Secretary Clinton was telling the truth or not, but I sincerely hope she runs again. Her millions of supporters, especially younger voters like me, are ready to make history in 2016. By then, Hilary will be ready for a new primary and general election fight and she'll be stronger than ever."

Joseph in Georgia writes: "Is Hillary going to run for president again, Jack? I guess that depends on what the meaning of "is" is."

And Barbara writes: "Yes, I believe her. She looks bored and fed up with politics, as we all are."


If you didn't see your e-mail here, check my blog at -- Mr. Blitzer.

BLITZER: I'm not bored. I'm not bored with politics. I'm not fed up.

CAFFERTY: Well, I know...

BLITZER: I love this stuff. You know that.

CAFFERTY: But you're different.



CAFFERTY: How many -- how many Twits do you have now?

BLITZER: I have...


BLITZER: I have a lot of followers over there on Twitter.

CAFFERTY: They call them Twits, right?

BLITZER: No, they -- they call them followers.

CAFFERTY: No, they don't.

BLITZER: Followers.


Well, how many do you have?

BLITZER: I have about 53,000, something like that.

CAFFERTY: Wow! That's a lot.

BLITZER: Yes. They read my Tweets.

CAFFERTY: Fifty-three thousand twits read your Tweets.

BLITZER: Yes. I send out those Wolfblitzercnn, all one word.

CAFFERTY: What kinds of things do you send to them?

BLITZER: Read it. You'll find out.

CAFFERTY: Well, I don't know how to find it.

BLITZER: Inside stuff. Inside stuff.

CAFFERTY: Inside stuff. All right.

BLITZER: We'll talk tomorrow, Jack.

CAFFERTY: OK. Come on.

BLITZER: -- Wolfblitzercnn -- all one word.

A car driving in the rain gave a group of kids a good soaking in the process. Now the driver might wind up in legal hot water. Jeanne Moos finds it Moost Unusual, when we come back.


BLITZER: A British couple finds themselves in hot water after using a car to douse some school children and then posting the big splash on YouTube.

CNN's Jeanne Moos has details of this Moost Unusual water cooler story.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: (voice-over): You know how kids like to play in puddles?

Well, driving through a puddle has left a 29-year-old British motorist in a legal muddle.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's -- that's me.

MOOS: Kerry Kollard (ph) and her boyfriend, seen here on her Facebook page, were in their car. She was driving. He was in the passenger seat, providing colorful commentary.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And here we go, ready to drench the kids. Look. Look. Bottom of the hill bust-up coming up. (END VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's not funny.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here we go. Here we go.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here we go. Look. Puddle at the bottom of the hill.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Coming up, kids at the bottom of the hill.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's not very nice.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come on. Come on. Yes! Yes! That was brilliant. Awesome.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I hope they got their thrill -- a foolish thrill.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Dumb is what I agree with.

MOOS (voice-over): The couple's problems started when they put the video on YouTube and several people complained to police. The driver explained that the kids had called out to them, asking to be splashed, so the couple made this, their second pass.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Coming up, kids at the bottom of the hill.

(END VIDEO CLIP) MOOS: The driver told the local paper, "The Plymouth Herald,": "If the kids weren't saying, 'Splash me, splash me,' I certainly wouldn't have done it. I'm not a serial splasher."

In slow motion, the kids seem to have their backs to the road, as if expecting to be doused.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My kids would love it. The wetter the better.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'd do the same.

MOOS (on camera): You'd do the same?

You mean you'd splash those kids?


Why not?

MOOS (voice-over): Why not?

Police say that driving through standing water could have caused the driver to lose control. They've forwarded Kerry Kollard's file to a prosecutor.

(on camera): In Britain, there's a law against driving without reasonable consideration. And splashing people is considered inconsiderate. There's a fine of up to $1,500.

(voice-over): There are accidental splashings and deliberately mean ones.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's a puddle there. Go on. Get him. Get him.

MOOS: This one really caused a splash.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Were these kids dirty or what or did they need a bath?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come on. Come on. Yes.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That was brilliant.

MOOS: ...New York.



BLITZER: Wow! People do strange things.

We have a new way for you to follow what's going on in THE SITUATION ROOM. We've been telling you about it. Let me remind you, I'm now on Twitter. You can get my Tweets at -- wolfblitzercnn all one word.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Up next, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" -- Lou.