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President Obama Meets With Congressional Leaders; 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' Survey; Interview With Drew Brees; Help Desk Tips; First Chevy Volt Rolls Off Assembly Line Today; Republicans Discuss White House Meeting Live; Republicans Talk After White House Meeting; Obama Talks After White House Meeting
Aired November 30, 2010 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And hello, again, everyone. Top of the hour in the CNN NEWSROOM, where anything can happen. Here are some of the people behind today's top stories.
Gays in the military -- the long-awaited report on how the armed forces feel about "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is coming out today. We are digging deeper on what's in the report.
And Super Bowl champ Drew Brees gets a new honor today for his work on and off the field. The star Saints quarterback joining me live in just a couple of minutes.
Let's get started with our lead story right now.
They're meeting face-to-face, as Ed Henry just mentioned, but will they see eye to eye on the issues facing the country? President Obama and congressional leaders sitting down for the first time since the Republicans won dozens of seats held by Democrats in the midterm elections.
We expect to hear from the president live in about 20 minutes or so. That time is always fluid. We will also bring you comments from lawmakers as they come out of the meeting.
Among the big items on the agenda, the budget, the deficit, and the Bush-era tax cuts.
Let's bring in our chief national correspondent, John King, in Washington.
John, good to see you. Glad to know that you're going to be with us for most of this hour.
What is likely to come out of this meeting?
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, unfortunately, Tony, I think not much.
You have both sides going in saying we want to learn to get along with each other, we want to learn at least to see what we can get done in the next couple of weeks. You mentioned tax cuts is a big issue. Will they get the votes on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"? Probably not.
But it's interesting. Both sides have essentially laid down some positions before this meeting. And what does that tell you? It tells you that they're trying to say, hey, you should do this on our terms, or, hey, you should do this on our terms.
And I think the bigger question -- maybe your out there and you care about the deficit, maybe you're worried about those tax cuts, maybe you want "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" repealed, or you want it left in place. There are a whole host of other issues.
The biggest challenge here for these guys is to learn to trust each other. The president of the United States is a Democrat, and these two Republican leaders, Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, Mr. Boehner will be Speaker in just a few weeks, in January, and they've been together for two years here in Washington, Tony, since Barack Obama became the president of the United States, and they don't get along very well. They don't have any deep relationships, if you will, and they have a trust deficit.
You can't deal with any of these other issues until they figure out how to trust each other. They're not going to get along on big issues, but sometimes the country needs its leaders to come together. That's what I think is the biggest challenge of this meeting, developing a relationship of trust.
HARRIS: Well, John, you made a great point. Is there an issue where the sides can come together, where there is a lot of agreement, so that you can work on those trust issues on an issue where there is some common accord?
KING: Normally that's foreign policy. And the president does have deep Republican support when it comes to Afghanistan, for example, and the pressure from -- on Afghanistan, the pressure comes from the president's left. So you see some progress there. However, the biggest issues, the Republicans say the message of this election is to cut spending. You saw the president yesterday trying to essentially be the locomotive, not the caboose, in the spending debate by saying, I'm going to freeze federal pay for two years. Now, that's a first step for the president.
Some people out there, federal workers, may not like it. The Republicans are going to force this on the president anyway. So this was smart politically for President Obama to get to the head of that debate.
However, Tony, even if you freeze federal pay, that is a penny on the dollar, maybe, when it comes to dealing with the larger issues of federal spending and deficit spending. So it's a down payment. The Republicans say, good for you, Mr. President, but then they immediately come back to the table saying we want more.
And so the question is, on the big, giant issues, can they -- the president says his commission says, for example, if you want to deal with the deficit, you have to touch Social Security and Medicare. The left doesn't like that. Then you probably have to raise some taxes. The right says no.
If everybody comes to the table saying no before they have a conversation, well, then you can't negotiate, find compromise on any of the big issues. That's why trust is so important. Can they go into a room privately, try to cut a deal, thinking the other side is not going to rat me out the minute I give something up?
HARRIS: That's terrific stuff. John, I think you're with us again at the half hour. Let's talk at that time.
John King, the host of "JOHN KING USA."
The Pentagon goes public with the results from its survey on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."
CNN Pentagon and congressional correspondents are standing by. We'll get to Dana Bash with the politics of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" in a moment.
First, to Chris Lawrence, at the Pentagon, where the defense secretary, Robert Rates, will make the findings public in a couple of hours.
Chris, you and Dana have been digging. Chris, to you first. What have you learned about the report?
CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Tony, I think the bottom line is that basically, when and it comes to how repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" would affect military effectiveness, the report is going to say that risk is low. The authors also say that a lot of the concerns about openly gay troops are simply based on misconceptions and stereotypes. And bottom line, the authors are "confident" that they can repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," even now, in a time of war. The report will find that there would be some disruptions if "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" would be repealed. But what they found was those disruptions would be very isolated, only in certain units, and only for a very short amount of time, not widespread across the military.
On the other hand, they did find that there would be some opposition. About 30 percent of the troops who were surveyed, according to this report, had a negative feeling about "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" being repealed. And that number was even higher when you focus solely on, say, the Marine Corps, where the number was between 40 percent and 60 percent negative feelings.
There were also some troops who raised some serious moral and religious issues about homosexuality. The report will say and the authors will say that those concerns shouldn't be dismissed or ignored, but, ultimately, the report is going to say, look, there's already people who have different moral, religious and ethical values serving in the military, and the troops would be able to work that out.
HARRIS: OK. Let's get to our senior congressional correspondent. Chris, appreciate it. Thank you.
Our Senior Congressional Correspondent Dana Bash.
Dana, look, there are going to be hearings later this week, I believe Thursday and Friday, on this issue. Are we pushing forward to a moment where members of Congress are going to have to take a stand on the record on this?
DANA BASH, CNN SR. CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We are pushing to that moment, yes. As you said, the sort of first moment is going to be those big hearings at the end of the week. And then we are going to see, if you believe Harry Reid, we are going to see a push for a vote to try to get this overall defense bill which includes a "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" repeal on to the Senate floor.
But sort of following up on what Chris was saying, I talked to a Senate source who was in a briefing with the authors of this report. That's where much of this information that he and I got came from. And what was interesting is that I was told by this source that some of the questions -- and these are just staffers, not senators, but just staffers -- from the skeptics, were, wait a minute. How can we be sure that this -- although you call it a comprehensive report -- really is comprehensive?
Because they put out these questions to 400,000 military personnel, and about 112,000 sent back. And some of the skeptics are saying that's 28 percent.
Now, the authors of the report are saying that's pretty good when it comes to surveys. And I think our survey chief would agree with that. But those are some of the things that you're going to hear from the people, and there are many people very outspoken who are pretty skeptical about this.
But I think the fact that these -- that these authors of the report -- and we'll certainly hear from the brass later -- came, and they are briefing members of the House staff as we speak -- I should mention that as well -- and said, look, we believe that the risk overall is pretty low --
BASH: -- it's certainly hard to imagine that it's not going to have an impact, particularly politically on the fence-sitters. And there are many fence-sitters in the United States Senate. Those who want this repeal are going to really hope that those fence-sitters see this report and say, OK, maybe we'll vote for it.
Our senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash.
And our thanks to Chris Lawrence at the Pentagon as well.
Thank you, both. If you would, hit us up on Facebook or Twitter. We know you have thoughts on this. Let us know what you think about "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and gays and lesbians serving in the military.
Out of work and out of benefits, that is situation millions of Americans will face soon. We will explain how that could hit the economy for everyone else.
First, though, our "Random Moment." That's coming your way in 90 seconds.
HARRIS: All that holiday clucking over -- you remember that? -- over full-body airport scans -- cluck, cluck, cluck, cluck, cluck. "The Random Moment of the Day" found a company capitalizing on the naked outrage.
A medical imaging firm has come up with a tongue-in-cheek ad to play off the uproar. Yes, it's the TSA pinup calendar. Yes, 12 x- rays, one for each month of the year, with passengers in provocative poses.
Hang on a second. Hold it. All the images are computer- generated and do not feature anyone's junk. Before you start sending me the e-mails, "Why are you kidding about this? This is serious" -- but what a clever way to use current events to advertise a product and make it a "Random Moment of the Day."
HARRIS: So Congress takes no action to extend unemployment benefits for millions of out-of-work Americans. That means about two million people are expected to stop receiving checks next month.
Last hour I spoke with one woman who has already exhausted her benefits. She worked in a factory for 12 years but has been looking for a job since August of 2008.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WENDY ASHLEY, UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS EXHAUSTED: I've sent out resumes. I've even looked outside my field of work, like clerical stuff. I've tried looking for part-time jobs.
HARRIS: Well, what are employers telling you?
ASHLEY: Let's see. I've been overqualified for positions, I've been underqualified for positions. The job market is so tight right now, it's just flooded with so many people, that they can just nitpick over everything. You know, you may have the experience, but you don't have a college degree.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS: OK. Running out of unemployment benefits means more hardship for those struggling to make ends meet. It makes sense, right? But failing to extend the benefits could also hurt the economy.
Christine Romans of our Money team is great on this.
Explain to us why -- I know part of the reason is people spend those checks. They don't bank those checks. They spend that money.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: They do. And, in fact, people who are supporters of extending these again and again and again will tell you this is money that is essentially a stimulus in the economy, because somebody like Wendy, who is unemployed and gets that check, spends it immediately on gas and on groceries, and on rent and on food, and heating bill, and it goes into the economy and it gets moving.
Literally, today, hundreds of thousands of people, Tony, are asking questions. Should I be filing for an extension? What happens to me? When does my check run out?
I mean, we're in a situation now where there's a whole phrase for people like Wendy called the "99ers," people who exhausted their 26 weeks of unemployment benefits the state provides, and then now have moved into almost 99 weeks, up to 99 weeks of unemployment benefits. It's a phenomenal amount of time to be by the state for paying your bills while you wait for the job market to improve.
Two million, as you pointed out, could lose their unemployment benefits by the end of the year. Four million by the end of February. I mean, think of two million people. That's the size of the state of New Mexico in population. It's a bunch of midsize American cities. That's just how big that is.
Now, here's something that the Democrats on the Joint Economic Committee point out. They say that extending -- or ending the extended benefits program would drain the economy immediately of $80 billion. And they allege, the Democrats say, that their analysis shows economists surveyed by the Democrats say that about a million jobs have been saved, frankly, by all of those paychecks moving -- or jobless benefits checks moving into the economy.
So it has been something that has juiced the economy. But the big question is, how do you pay for extensions, Tony --
ROMANS: -- again and again and again? The last one cost, I think, $34 billion. And you and I have talked about this. At what point is emergency spending for the out of work, what point does it become a chronic condition and you need to address it in some other way?
I mean, this is getting really distressful for people who have been out of work for six months. And it's kind of -- it's a catch-22. The longer you are out of work, the harder it is to get a job, right? The longer you're out of work, the less likely people want to give you more money to stay out of work. It's very difficult here.
HARRIS: Did you see our full-screen presentation last hour with Josh? We talked about the unemployment rate for folks.
ROMANS: I did.
HARRIS: I mean, come on. If you don't have a college degree, it is tough. And it seems to be getting tougher in this economy right now to find work and keep working and be -- there it is.
Look at that, Christine. And you've talked about this.
ROMANS: There it is.
ROMANS: Yes, 4.5 percent if you have a B.A. or higher. I mean, that's essentially full employment if you have a college education.
The problem here, Tony, is it's not just people who have a B.A. are immune from this. They're not, because the housing market affects them, because -- I mean, it's very difficult.
And they're worried about sending their kids to school. They're worried about getting a loan.
You are also talking about a lot of people who have dropped out of the labor market. You've got this big chunk of millions of people who have been left aside. That's a problem for all of society.
How are you going to fix it? With retraining? When does the economy -- what we need an economy that is growing more quickly than two percent or 2.5 percent. That's what we all need.
The question, is how do you get there?
HARRIS: You're absolutely right. And that's what's at the heart of the meeting, we all hope, between congressional leaders and the president right now. The president should be making a comment or two on it in just a couple of minutes.
Christine, good to see you. Thank you.
Christine Romans, the author of "Smart is the New Rich." Pick it up. It's a great read.
Still to come in the NEWSROOM, a '70s teen idol in trouble. We have got the dashcam video David Cassidy would rather you forget. He certainly wants to.
And when New Orleans needed a miracle, their Saints delivered, led by that guy. Tonight, he is getting the highest honor "Sports Illustrated" has to offer. But he is -- there he is, in the chair.
Drew Brees when we come back!
You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.
That's what I'm talking about.
HARRIS: OK. Let's see here. A live picture of the White House right now.
We're expecting the president any moment now. He has been meeting with congressional leaders. They're trying to set an agenda. They're trying to figure out what they can get done in this lame-duck session, and they are trying to plot a course, frankly, moving forward with the new Congress that is installed in January.
The president and congressional leaders are likely to make statements in the next 40 minutes or so. When that happens, of course, we'll bring it to you right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.
Got to get Drew Brees on. Got to get Drew Brees on.
You know, there were a lot of worthy candidates for Sportsman of the Year. But none more deserving than this man.
It's got to be unanimous, right? Super Bowl champion, Super Bowl MVP, hero of New Orleans, and now "Sports Illustrated's" Sportsman of the Year, Drew Brees.
Drew Brees joining us from -- Drew, you're in New York, aren't you?
DREW BREES, QUARTERBACK, NEW ORLEANS SAINTS: Yes, sir.
HARRIS: It's good to talk to you, doctor.
I don't want to be schmaltzy here, but nearly five years ago, the fact is you were looking for a starting job in the NFL, and New Orleans was trying to get its wits about itself right after Hurricane Katrina.
Right place, right time for you?
BREES: Well, yes. I believe everything happens for a reason. And certainly the opportunity to come to New Orleans was -- it was really my only opportunity at the time.
There were no other teams that were inviting me in, and yet New Orleans was. And I think that it was at a time coming off my injury, where I needed somebody to believe in me. And New Orleans had as much confidence in me as I did on myself.
And it went well beyond the football field though. It wasn't just about coming in and helping to revive an organization, the team. It was about coming in to help rebuild a city and a region.
HARRIS: All right. Let me pick up on that point. When did you decide you wanted to be more than the quarterback of the New Orleans Saints, more than the quarterback who, you know, gave turkeys to the needy at Thanksgiving and Christmas -- which is fine, which is worthy -- but that you wanted to make a real investment of time, of energy, of dollars, your family, your wife Brittany to that community? Was there a moment, was there a conversation, was -- what was that like for you?
BREES: Well, you know, I feel like every community that we've ever been a part of, we've wanted to be involved in that community, going back to my time at Purdue University, where Brittany and I met, to my five years in San Diego. And then I think the journey to New Orleans, though, was probably the most unique just because of the circumstances surrounding it.
You know, I never would have had the chance to come to New Orleans had it not been for me getting injured and getting that opportunity there. And I just feel like I've been blessed with so much in my life and have had so many unique opportunities, and had many great people around me, that I just want to be able to give back what's been given to me.
HARRIS: This SI award, what does it mean to you?
BREES: It means a tremendous amount. It's certainly very humbling when you look at the list of people that have won this award going back to 1954, names like Muhammad Ali, Michael Jordan, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold palmer, Billie Jean King, the U.S. women's soccer team, who won the gold medal in the '90s -- or the World Cup, excuse me.
It's one of those -- it's one of those awards that I think it transcends just the game that you play. It's about the contribution to the community and to society, and I guess leaving a lasting impression. And so, in that case, it's an unbelievable honor.
HARRIS: And you are so deserving.
All right. Stay where you are. We're not done with you just yet.
You didn't think we were going to leave this right here, right now? We've got some football to talk about with Drew Brees. He's going to handle our sports duties when we come back.
You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.
HARRIS: Drew Brees is still with us out of New York, breaking down the big plays in sports.
Drew, did you see the play -- I shouldn't call it a play. Did you see the "when push comes to shove" moment from the Titans game over the weekend? We're talking about Houston, the Titans, Andre Johnson and Courtland Finnegan. Will you talk to us about what goes on the field? Because we don't understand how grown men can get themselves so worked up playing a simple kid's game that we see this.
BREES: Well, it's a tough sport. It's a physical sport. It's extremely competitive as well. And, you know, it's a violent game.
Now, obviously, we have pads on, and the whole point is to keep the pads on. And, you know, you are trying to hit each other as hard as you can, but that's why the helmet is on. So, obviously, the commissioner has handed out fines for that instance there, and hopefully, you know, there won't be too much more of that.
HARRIS: OK. And the other message from this, I'm wondering, as we roll it again, isn't the other message here, Drew, that, once again, the NFC has whooped up on the AFC? Andre Johnson wins this fight.
BREES: Well, here's the thing. Those are both AFC teams, obviously, and they are in the same division. They face each other twice a year.
Their divisional games are -- like I said, they're tough and competitive. And those two guys have gone up against each other, you know, one-on-one for probably the last four or five years.
I know Courtland Finnegan has been with the Titans for a long time, as has Andre Johnson been with the Texans. So they've probably had plenty of battles, and unfortunately it just escalated to something a little bit more than that on that occasion.
HARRIS: And that's what I said, right, that they're both AFC teams? Isn't that what I said, that they're both AFC teams?
Drew, one more question for you. So you guys have an 8-3 record. And you are in solid playoff contention.
What are your chances of getting back to the Super Bowl and getting through the Falcons in a big game at the end of December, "Monday Night Football," I believe?
BREES: Yes. Well, we've got a few very tough tests prior to that game, but, obviously, we finish off the season with two divisional games, and one at Atlanta on Monday night. And then we come back at home against Tampa.
So I hope that there's a lot of (INAUDIBLE) when those games come around. But until then, we play at the Bengals in Cincinnati this weekend. That's going to be a tough test. They only get tougher, especially, as you get into the month of December, where you want to be playing your best football.
HARRIS: That's terrific.
Drew, hey, congratulations on the SI award. That is terrific. And we can't thank you enough for everything you've done for the city of New Orleans. You really were right there at a moment when that city really needed you.
And the best to your family. And thanks for being here. Thanks for taking the time to be with us and handle sports for us as well.
BREES: Thank you.
HARRIS: Thank you.
We are waiting for live reports from President Obama -- NFC and AFC -- President Obama about his meet with congressional leaders, including incoming House Speaker John Boehner. Live coverage coming up from the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, just a few steps from the White House.
We're back in a moment.
You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.
HARRIS: OK. Once again, we are awaiting remarks from the president and congressional meetings -- out of the meeting the two are having right now. We don't know if the meeting is still going on at this moment. We understood that the meeting would last for about an hour. It seemed to be over that time.
But we will wait. We are anxious to hear what the president and congressional leaders have to say, Democrats and Republicans, as they try to map out a way forward through some sticky issues in the lame- duck session and then plot a course for action with the next Congress in January. And when those comments begin, we'll take you to the Eisenhower Executive Office building, just a few steps away from the White House. Those comments right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.
Taking a look at top stories right. A stunning halt to the Elizabeth Smart kidnapping trial as the defendant Brian David Mitchell fell to the floor in an apparent seizure. Paramedics rushed him to the hospital. No word on his condition just yet. We will keep you posted.
And the Congressional Budget Office projecting T.A.R.P., the Troubled Asset Relief Program, will end up costing $25 billion. Back in October of 2008, $700 billion was authorized to bail out financial institutions, but less than $400 billion was actually distributed. And much of it has been repaid.
And for almost 40 years, Pablo Picasso's electrician had a secret. More than 250 never-seen before Picassos. He kept them stashed in his garage. The treasure trove is worth $80 million. A gift, he says, from his boss. Picasso's family doesn't believe him and is suing to get the artwork back.
The South and Mid-Atlantic on guard for some severe weather today. Already tornadoes have ripped towns in Mississippi and Louisiana. Meteorologist Chad Myers will bring us up to speed.
STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Time now for The Help Desk where we get answers to your financial questions. Joining me this hour, Carmen Wong Ulrich is a personal finance author. And Ryan Mack is the president of Optimum Capital Management. Thanks for being here today, guys.
First question coming from the Golden State, California. Danica writes, "I've maxed out my 401(k) for years, but I'm facing a potential layoff in 2011. I'm concerned about how to save for retirement without access to a 401(k). How does one save for retirement on unemployment or as a free lancer when the maximum limits are much lower on IRAs?" What do you think, Carmen?
CARMEN WONG ULRICH, PERSONAL FINANCE AUTHOR: Well, I love that she's thinking about this even though she's about to be unemployed.
Here's the thing. If she wants to go freelance full time, the best option here is to basically become self-employed as an incorporated, right? Because this will allow her to built a SEP, a simplified employee pension. Consider that the self-employed 401(k). This is going to be your pretax money. And what's really great about it is unlike the Roth that have caps on how much you can put in, a SEPs cap is based on how much money you make, you company makes. So, your cap is as high as you earn, right?
So she can do that. Go to irs.gov, look at Publication 560. And that has more information on how to do that. She needs to talk to an accountant and a lawyer and just get that set up soon.
ELAM: Yes, because that would definitely help her out if she's worried about that. That's for sure.
All right. Our next question coming to us from Renee in Massachusetts. "Is there an online tutorial for beginners who would like to invest in the stock market? I don't even know how to get started." This is a question a lot of people have, Ryan.
RYAN MACK, PRESIDENT, OPTIMUM CAPITAL MANAGEMENT: Well, definitely, if I can plug CNNmoney as a great Web site.
ELAM: It is!
MACK: They have a lot of different tools and resources to read about different takes.
I would read as many books from as many different authors as possible. There's no one single author that has a lot in terms of all the knowledge out there. So, you want to make sure you get as many different perspectives as possible. Investorpedia has a great simulator to make sure you can go on and play with some fake money to see just exactly how different things work.
One of the best things I've seen done is to form investment clubs. Investment clubs, people coming together and meeting on a regular basis to talk about stocks and how they react to different things in the market. It's a really great way to actually use your real money in capital and mitigate the risk by spreading it amongst different individuals to learn about markets every single week.
ELAM: And you are actually talking to people -- real people there that you have a relationship with. That's a good thing, too.
All right. Well, thank you so much, Carmen and Ryan. If you have a question you want to get answered, go ahead and send us an e- mail to CNNhelpdesk@CNN.com.
HARRIS: So we want to know, what came out of the meeting that the president and congressional leaders had? Do we have a plan for the lame-duck session? Will we get a new budget, a new federal budget? Will we get some kind of direction on the tax cuts set to expire by the end of the year?
We're waiting to hear from the president. We're waiting to hear from congressional leaders. When we, do we'll bring you those comments live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
Let's go to Chad Myers now. This is another important story we're following here.
CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. Well, what flavor Slurpie?
HARRIS: What flavor Slurpie?
MYERS: I am just going right down to the root of the matter.
HARRIS: Let's do it.
MYERS: OK. Right down to the heart.
HARRIS: And when that system moves through, it will be cold.
MYERS: Afterwards you bet.
HARRIS: You better believe it. All right, Chad, appreciate it. Thank you.
We've been waiting to hear comments from congressional leaders and the president at the conclusion of the summit. The get-together at the White House. We understand that that meeting is now over. We expect the president to make his way to the Eisenhower Executive Office Building at any moment now. And to tell us -- or at least give us his take on the meeting and what happens in this lame-duck session. Where there is common ground. Where there is agreement. What can get done in this session on taxes, on a new budget. Tackling the budget deficit.
So, we hope to hear from the president shortly. And congressional leaders as well.
Let's take a break. You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.
HARRIS: It is a big day for GM. The automaker rolling their first Chevy Volt off the assembly line today. CNNmoney.com's Poppy Harlow joining us. Poppy, if I remember correctly, I believe it was "Motor Trend" that called the Volt a game changer, correct?
POPPY HARLOW, CNNMONEY.COM: Yes, they called it the Car of the Year. There are a lot of naysayers that said GM would never do this. We all remember the EV-1 when they pulled that electric car from the market.
This is indeed a big day for the Volt. The first official one rolled off the plant in Detroit. And Tony, just a headline for you here. What GM CEO told us this morning is that because demand looks good, they need more people to work on the technology of the car. They are adding 1,000 new jobs right in Detroit, which is very good news for that city.
But I did have a chance to have a long conversation this morning with the new head of General Motors about the volt because let's not forget, this is a company that still owes U.S. taxpayers about $27.5 billion because we bailed out the company. And the Volt is priced at $41,000. It's a part-electric car. It is new technology. But it is not going to make money for General Motors, at least most analysts say in its first model, that's for sure. It's going to take awhile -
HARRIS: Hey, Poppy --
HARLOW: make money to make money -- yes?
HARRIS: Poppy, I'm sorry. Got to interrupt because we've been expecting this moment. Here it is. We'll hear from Republican congressional leaders right now after the meeting with the president.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), MINORITY LEADER: Let me just begin. The president had us all to the White House. We had a very frank conversation. And it was interesting that both Democrats and Republicans and the president understood what the American people had to say on election day, I think, pretty clearly. Because the president and Democrat leaders acknowledged that the American people want us to create jobs and cut spending.
The president did suggest that to unlock the tax disagreement that we have, the secretary of the Treasury and the director of OMB would sit down with four of our members, one from each caucus on the Hill, to begin a discussion to try to unlock this disagreement we have over extending all of the current rates. I think Republicans made the point that stopping all the looming tax hikes and cutting spending would, in fact, create jobs and get the economy moving again. And so we're looking forward to the conversation with the White House over extending all of the current rates. And I remain optimistic.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: Yes, I would only add, I thought it was a useful and frank discussion. We did have an opportunity to reiterate, it is the view of 100 percent of Senate Republicans and a number of Senate Democrats as well that the tax rates should not be bifurcated. In other words, if we ought to treat all taxpayers the same, as John indicated, we will each designate someone to actually try to complete the agreement.
I think there was also widespread agreement that the two most important things to do, obviously, is to decide how we're going to fund the government for the next 10 months and decide the tax issue. In the Senate, we're wrestling with a lot of other matters that may have some level of importance, but aren't in the same category as deciding what everybody's tax rates are going to be and deciding how we're going to spend the government. So I hope we can sort of reshuffle our priorities on the Senate side, get them in line with these two big issues, and hopefully wrap up the 111th Congress.
REP. ERIC CANTOR (R), VIRGINIA: I was pleased on a number of counts. First, that the president did recognize that the election meant that the people want to see results out of Washington. And I think you've heard now a process being put into place that hopefully we can begin to producing those results, first and foremost take away the uncertainty around the tax hikes or rates that exist right now. Secondly, I was encouraged by the president's remarks regarding his perhaps not having reached out enough to us in the last session and that this meeting was the beginning of a series in which he hoped that we could work together in a different fashion for the benefit of the American people given the problems that we face.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does it sound like, in this meeting, you sound rather -- the meeting was very conciliatory. You sound optimistic here. Would you -- would your side dial down its rhetoric a little bit on the president saying he (ph) has to meet us on these issues? Are we going to hear a softer tone from Republicans, sort of wait and see if the president's (INAUDIBLE)?
MCCONNELL: Can I just make the point that Americans have preferred divided government more often than not since World War II. It's not unusual to find ourselves in the position we'll be in at the 112th Congress.
It's also important to remember that some of these periods when you have divided government have been quite productive. I think of the second Clinton administration with welfare reform, with balanced budgets, with trade agreements. I think we all agree there's no particular reason why we can't find there is agreement and do some important things for the American people over the next two years.
BOEHNER: And I agree that the president did make an important point that Eric mentioned, that he hadn't spent as much time with us, reaching out and talking to us, and committed to do so. And as I told the president, I think that spending more time will help us find some common ground.
You know, there's a difference. We have Democrat -- there's a reason why we have Democrats and Republicans. We believe in different things about the appropriate role of federal government. But having said that, the more time that we do spend together, we can find a common ground because the American people expect us to come here and work on their behalf.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think working with the president is being different now than working with Mrs. Pelosi? Do you see it to be more positive in the future?
BOEHNER: We had a very nice meeting today. Of course, we've had a lot of very nice meetings. The question is, can we find the common ground the American people expect us to find.
CANTOR: And I would say this, too. It was pretty revealing that the leadership in the Democratic side of the aisle in the House right now is ready to go and get the job done. I think that somehow it's a difficulty in trying to help priorities come into being on the other side of the Capitol. And, you know, I think all of us were here and, you know, the president, I think, put his best foot forward and said, we realize we've got to produce results. So I do think and am hopeful that we can work together.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Any other areas (INAUDIBLE) any other areas like START treaty or DREAM Act or anything else come up in the meeting?
MCCONNELL: Well, the START treaty is a Senate issue. There was some discussion of it. And I know the president would like to go forward as soon as possible. I think the view -- the unanimous view of Senate Republicans is, let's take care of the tax issue, let's take care of how we're going to fund the government for the next 10 months. And then if there's time left for other matters, it will be up to the majority leader, Senator Reid, to decide whether we turn to other things before we adjourn for the year.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When will the full representatives start meeting and do you believe that you will be able to reach an agreement on the tax cut issue at the end of this -- before this Congress ends?
BOEHNER: I think we're hopeful that they'll begin meeting today.
HARRIS: OK. So there's the view from Republican leaders. Let's hear the view of the meeting from the president.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So we're spending a little more time in the EOB.
I just wrapped up a meet with leaders from both parties. It was our first chance to get together face to face since the election to talk about how we can best work together to move the country forward. It's no secret that we have had differences that have led us to part ways on many issues in the past. But we are Americans first and we share a responsibility for the stewardship of our nation. The American people did not vote for gridlock. They didn't vote for unyielding partisanship. They're demanding cooperation and they're demanding progress. And they'll hold all of us, and I mean all of us, accountable for it. And I was very encouraged by the fact there was broad recognition of that fact in the room.
I just want to say, I thought it was a productive meeting. I thought that people came to it with a spirit of trying to work together. And I think it's a good start as we move forward.
I think everybody understands that the American people want us to focus on their jobs, not ours. They want us to come together around strategies to accelerate the recovery and get Americans back to work. They want us to confront the long-term deficits that cloud our future. They want us to focus on their safety and security and not allow matters of urgent important to become locked up in the politics of Washington.
So today we had the beginning of a new dialogue that I hope, and I'm sure most Americans hope, will help break through the noise and produce real gains. And as we all agreed, that should begin today because there are some things we need to get done in the weeks before Congress leaves town for the holidays.
First, we should work to make sure that taxes will not go up by thousands of dollars on hardworking middle class Americans come January 1st, which would be disastrous for those families, but also could be crippling for the economy. There was broad agreement that we need to work to get that resolved before the end of the year.
Now, there are still differences about how to get there. The Republican leaders want to permanently extend tax cuts, not only to middle class families, but also to some of the wealthiest Americans at the same time. And here we disagree. I believe, and the other Democrats who in the room believe, that this would add an additional $700 billion to our debt in the next 10 years. And I continue to believe that it would be unwise and unfair, particularly at a time when we're contemplating deep budget cuts that require broad sacrifice.
Having said that, we agreed that there must be some sensible, common ground. So I appointed my Treasury secretary, Tim Geithner, and my budget director, Jack Lew, to work with representatives of both parties to break through this logjam. I've asked the leaders to appoint members to help in this negotiation process. They agreed to do that. That process is beginning right away. And we expect to get some answers back over the next couple of days about how we can accomplish our key goal, which is to make sure the economy continues to grow and we are putting people back to work. And we also want to make sure that we're giving the middle class the peace of mind of knowing that their taxes will not be raised come January 1st.
I also urged both parties to move quickly to preserve a number of other tax breaks for individuals and businesses that are helping our recovery right now and that are set to expire at the end of the year. This includes a tax credit for college tuition. A tax credit for 95 percent -- a tax break for 95 percent of working families that I initiated at the beginning of my presidency, as well as a tax cut worth thousands of dollars for businesses that hire unemployed workers.
We discussed a number of other issues as well, including the importance of ratifying the new START treaty so we can monitor Russia's nuclear arsenal, reduce our nuclear weapons and strengthen our relationship with Russia. I reminded the room that this treaty has been vetted for seven months now. It's gone through 18 hearings. It has support from senators of both parties. It has broad bipartisan support from national security advisers and secretaries of defense and secretaries of state from previous administrations, both Democrat and Republican, and that it's absolutely essential to our national security. We need to get it done.
We also talked about the work of the bipartisan Deficit Reduction Commission and the difficult choices that will be required in order to get our fiscal house in order. We discussed working together to keep the government running this year and running in a fiscally responsible way. And we discussed unemployment insurance, which expires today. I have asked that Congress act to extend this emergency relief without delay to folks who are facing tough times by no fault of their own.
Now, none of this is going to be easy. We have two parties for a reason. There are real philosophical differences. Deeply held principles to which each party holds. And although the atmosphere in today's meeting was extremely civil, there's no doubt that those differences are going to remain no matter how many meetings we have. And the truth is, there's always going to be a political incentive against working together, particularly in the current hyper partisan climate.
There are always those who argue that the best strategy is simply to try to defeat your opposition instead of working with them. And, frankly, even the notion of bipartisanship itself has gotten caught up in this mentality. A lot of times coming out of these meetings, both sides claim they want to work together, but try to paint the opponent as unyielding and unwilling to cooperate. Both side comes to the table. They read their talking points. Then they head out to the microphones trying to win the news cycle instead of solving problems and it becomes just another move in an old Washington game.
But I think there was recognition today that that's a game that we can't afford. Not in these times. And in a private meeting that I had without staff, you know, without betraying any confidences, I was pleased to see several of my friends in the room say, let's try not to duplicate that. Let's try not to work the Washington spin cycle to suggest that somehow the other side's not being cooperative. I think that there was a sincere effort on the part of everybody involved to actually commit to work together, to try to deal with these problems.
And they understand that these aren't times for us to be playing games. As I told the leaders at the beginning of the meeting, the next election is two years away. And there will be plenty of time for campaigning. But right now we're facing some very serious challenges. We share an obligation to meet them and that will require choosing the best of our ideas over the worst of our politics.
So that's the spirit in which I invited both parties here today. I'm happy with how the meeting went. And I told all the leadership that I look forward to holding additional meetings, including at Camp David. Harry Reid mentioned that he's been in Congress for 28 years. He's never been to Camp David. And so I told him, well, we're going to have to get them all up there sometime soon.
And I very much appreciate their presence today. I appreciate the tenor of the conversations. I think it will actually yield results before the end of the year, and I look forward to continuing this dialogue in the months ahead.
Thank you very much, everybody.
HARRIS: OK. So there you have it. We've heard the views of the congressional leaders. Republican congressional leaders. We have not heard the take on the meeting from Democratic congressional leaders. I suspect that we will hear that soon. We certainly heard from the leader of the Democratic Party, that is, obviously, the president of the United States.
Moving forward, I think we have a clear agenda as to what will be on the table to get accomplished in this lame duck session. It is about doing something, resolving the issue of what to do with the expiring Bush era tax cuts. The Office of Management and Budget will take the lead on that. There will be representatives from the Democratic Party, from the Democratic congressional leadership, the Republican congressional leadership working on those issues with Tim Geithner and others to figure out what to do about the expiring Bush era tax cuts. And I think the other thing you heard is that both sides will get to work on coming up with a budget. A federal budget to fund the government for the next 10 months.
Let's turn things over now for more analysis with Ali Velshi, Kate Bolduan, of course, "The Best Political Team on Television."
Take it away, guys.