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Lawmakers Prepare to Vote on Tax Cut Deal; Don't Ask, Don't Tell Debate Continues

Aired December 14, 2010 - 18:00   ET


MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: But the nation's largest retailer still faces an uphill battle in gaining a foothold in the nation's biggest city.


SNOW: Now, Wal-Mart argues its wages are equal to or better than competitors. And competitors are already in New York, but one union leader says the focus is on Wal-Mart because of its history and because it sets the standard for the rest of the industry -- Suzanne.



Happening now: the last minutes of a dramatic debate in the Senate. Lawmakers there are moving closer to a final vote on the tax cut compromise between President Obama and Republican leaders.

Also, will openly gay Marines lead to more military deaths? The top U.S. Marine is taking his opposition to repealing don't ask, don't tell to a whole new level.

Plus, new developments in the U.S. military's attempt to stop service members from reading the leaked cables released on the Internet -- what one of the branches is now doing.

We'd like to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. Breaking news, political headlines and Jeanne Moos are straight ahead.

Wolf Blitzer is on assignment. I'm Suzanne Malveaux, and you are in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We are waiting a critical Senate vote on a measure that impacts every taxpaying American. A day of debate on the deal to extend Bush era tax cuts for everyone is wrapping up in the Senate, where the measure is facing sharp criticism from the left, as well as the right.

And although passage is expected, it is not clear what will happen when the measure reaches the House, where opposition is much stronger, especially among the Democrats.

Our senior CNN congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, is live on Capitol Hill. Dana, what can you tell us about the very latest here?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The very latest is that it is still unclear at this hour whether the Senate will actually take a final vote tonight.

Suzanne, I got off the phone with somebody in the Senate majority leader Harry Reid's office who said that it could be late tonight, even as close as midnight, I'm not kidding, or tomorrow morning. So, that is where things stand.

But I think that the drama really at this point is when are they going to take the vote, as you mentioned, not, will this pass? If yesterday's test vote is any measure, 83 senators, Democrats and Republicans almost evenly split, voted yes on that, it's almost sure to pass by pretty significant margins.

MALVEAUX: All right. Stand by, Dana.

I want to bring in our senior national political correspondent, Jessica Yellin, and CNN senior political analyst Gloria Borger to talk a little bit about this.

Jessica, you first. I understand that there is opposition from the left as well the right when it comes to the tax deal. Now you have a reputable agency that is saying this could cause long-term damage or harm to the economy. What do you know about that?


Moody's, the investment service, has issued a statement saying that this U.S. tax package -- well, I will just quote what they said -- "The U.S. tax package is negative for U.S. credit, but positive for economic growth."

So, Moody's basically tells investors whether or not it's safe to invest in companies, cities, state governments, even the U.S. government, and they are saying that because this will add to the debt and it doesn't do enough or anything really to reduce spending at all, it could reduce and downgrade the value of U.S. currency in the long run, the creditworthiness of the U.S. currency in the long run, and that the U.S. might not be as safe an investment as we always thought.

That is a big shot across the bow to Congress and to investors around the world to think about what we are doing here.

MALVEAUX: And, Gloria, obviously, that must concern the White House. If the president is able to push this through Congress, how does he set this up for Congress and for the whole nation in his State of the Union address?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think that is his moment of truth, honestly. It is going to be a big speech. It has got to be a big speech. And I think this kind of intensifies the pressure on the president to say, OK, we have to move into phase two. We have to start dealing with the deficit. The good news here is that he has done everything he can do in terms of stimulus, and he's got the Republican leadership kind of complicit with him in all of this spending, whether it was on tax cuts or whatever. They are still voting for this.

And so, there is some momentum for him to say, OK, what about we reform the tax code and do deficit reduction at the same time, which would involve some tax increases, which by the way conservative Republican senators voted for on the deficit commission. So, he does have an opening, and I think it is sort of teed up for him. He has just got to hit it off of the tee.


MALVEAUX: I want to bring in back Dana.

Dana, real quickly here, there are Republicans who are outside of Congress, namely Mitt Romney being a very prominent Republican in an op-ed who is very much against this plan. What do we know about the movement inside Congress among the Republicans when it comes to this tax cut deal?

BASH: Well, we know that in that key test vote yesterday, only five Senate Republicans voted no -- 37 voted yes. So that shows where the mood is among Republicans. And you are starting to see, Suzanne, kind of a movement among the Senate Republicans who vote who are OK with this plan to sort of push back against their brethren outside who are railing against this, especially when you're looking at potential 2012 contenders.

For example, you talked about Mitt Romney. John Thune went on the Senate floor today and he said, excuse me, what alternative did we have here? If we didn't act, everybody's taxes are going to go up.

So you are starting to see sort of the push and pull between those who actually have to put their money where their mouth is and cast a vote and those who don't have to.

YELLIN: And I actually, Suzanne, just to add to what Dana is saying, talked to two outside groups today that are Tea Party-aligned groups.

One Tea Party-aligned group, FreedomWorks, says they support this tax cut package because it will stimulate more investment and more revenues. And another one, Tea Party Express, opposes it, because they say that it does too much to increase the debt and deficit without proposals to bring it down, so you see even a tug of war going on inside the Republican Party...


BORGER: Welcome to Mitch McConnell's world and to John Boehner's world, because this is what they will have to deal with in their own caucuses, particularly when you get the new members coming in, the ones who say, you know what, we don't want any more spending. Rand Paul says he has got $500 billion of cuts in his back pocket. He's going to want to talk about them.

MALVEAUX: And we're going to hear from his dad, too, Ron Paul. I interviewed him as well. So, we will have him later in the show.

All right, thanks, guys.


MALVEAUX: House Democrats are pushing again to overturn don't ask, don't tell. They're introducing a new stand-alone bill to repeal the controversial policy that prevents gays and lesbians from openly serving in the military. That vote is expected tomorrow.

Meanwhile, the commandant of the Marine Corps is ratcheting up his public opposition to lifting the ban, suggesting that gays serving openly could lead to more military deaths.

I want to bring in our CNN Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr.

Barbara, tell us exactly what General James Amos is talking about.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, let's start with this. At least one gay rights group is already calling for the possible, potential resignation of General James Amos, the commandant of the Marine Corps, after he made comments to reporters today at the Pentagon suggesting implying there could be a rise in battlefield casualties if gays openly serve in the military.

Now, Amos opposes repeal of don't ask, don't tell, and he told reporters essentially he thought repeal could be a distraction to Marines, especially those serving in the combat zone. The newspaper "Stars and Stripes" provided CNN with an audio recording of what General Amos said.

Have a listen.


GEN. JAMES AMOS, MARINE CORPS COMMANDANT: I don't want to lose any Marines to the distraction. I don't want to have any Marines that I'm visiting at Bethesda with no legs be the result of any type of distraction.


STARR: This is first time anyone can recall a military official suggesting or even implying a distraction of coping with the change in the law could lead to casualties.

But we want to be very clear, General Amos has repeatedly said, if the ban is lifted, he and the entire Marine Corps will salute smartly and obey the law -- Suzanne. MALVEAUX: Barbara, do we know what is likely to happen to General Amos now?

STARR: Well, a lot of people are asking that question. Here you are, another four-star appearing to take on presidential policy.

So far, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs says -- is just repeating that the president wants to see it repealed. One senior administration official who is, it must be said, is a major advocate for repeal, says General Amos' remarks are beyond the pale.

The question perhaps now is as this vote is on Capitol Hill, will the opponents of repeal seize on this and say, look, it could cause more casualties; that is what the head of the Marine Corps says? Did General Amos hand the opponents something to work with? That is the question -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: All right, very important question. Thank you, Barbara. Appreciate it.

A major arms deal could take center stage in the Senate as early as tomorrow. It is the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with Russia. It's also known as START. It has to be ratified by the Senate before it can take effect.

Well, today, Majority Leader Harry Reid announced that senators will begin debating the issue after the chamber passes the tax cut deal. A two-thirds vote is needed to ratify it.

Our CNN's Tom Foreman is here with more on the story on why the START treaty is so important.

Tom, tell us what this would actually do.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, first thing it will do, Suzanne, is get the attention of the Russians, because they are watching what goes on in the Senate here as closely as anybody else in this country is, as we have been watching them, because both countries are working toward an agreement, and neither one wants to be out front. They want to hit there about the same time.

If you are under 40 years old, you may not remember just how extraordinary the nuclear arms race was, but take look at this. If we go back to 1967, there were 60,000 combined warheads between the U.S. and Russia, 60,000 nuclear warheads.

Then, as Ronald Reagan sort of kicked it off, we started seeing it tick down as we had various disagreements between the United States and Russia. By 1990, there were about 10,000 per country, by 2001, about 6,000 per country. And today, the U.S. has about 1,900 active nuclear warheads, Russia about 2,000. That is about parity, but when you are talking about nuclear warheads, parity is not really the issue.

So, back to your question there, Suzanne, what will this do? Supporters of this say what this will do in the START treaty is it would put a verifiable cap, a limit at about 1,500, pushing 1,600, nuclear warheads per country. We are talking about big intercontinental ballistic missiles and their payloads.

We're really the only two countries. China has got some of this. But by and large, we are the only two countries that have a lot of this capability of reaching anywhere in the world with a nuclear weapon. That is why this treaty is such a big deal and why so many people are talking about it.

It would also reestablish inspections in both countries. Right now, the only way we know what the Russians are doing is because our satellites fly over and there is some degree of self-reporting and we have some idea of what they're doing. Same for them over here.

What many intelligence services really want is this ability to send Americans in on the ground in Russia to look at what they have. Let the Russians do the same here. It calms both countries down. That is the argument for this sort of thing. And importantly for intelligence services, it keeps those resources, satellites and everything else, aimed at terrorist targets, things like that, not so much the old foe of Russia.

And the last thing is this question of stabilizing relations. This is important. The reason it is important is because as we deal with Russia and we try to deal with problems in Iran or North Korea or China or anywhere else where Russia might have has influence, it can be very helpful if we feel at least that we are on something of a united front with regard to nuclear weapons.

That is why this is being watched so closely, Suzanne, a lot of debate. Some people disagree with a lot of this and are concerned about the details of the treaty, but that is what they are working on.

MALVEAUX: Well, Tom, I was in the NATO summit in Lisbon and obviously a lot of NATO allies as well think this is a very important treaty, so thank you very much, Tom.

A new crackdown on U.S. government employees accessing WikiLeaks. The Air Force is now reportedly taking some dramatic action. We are digging deeper on that.

Plus, details of what Bill Clinton is doing to help pay off his wife's presidential campaign debt.


MALVEAUX: Well, it is judgment time for the current Congress.

Our Jack Cafferty is here with "The Cafferty File."

Hey, Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Suzanne, the lame-duck session of the 111th Congress is mercifully about to head for the exits.

The Democrats are going to have a lot of unhappy supporters to face when they go home nearly empty-handed.

For starters, it looks like the deal that President Obama struck with the Republicans on extending the Bush tax cuts is going to pass the Congress, even though a lot of Democrats object to it.

And the Democratic majority is running out of time to pass key items in their own agenda. And you can bet once the Republicans take over in January, it ain't going to happen.

These things include the so-called Dream Act, an immigration initiative that would have provided a path to citizenship for those who came here illegally as children. It's stalled in the Senate, much like the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

If the Democrats don't get these through now -- and it's looking unlikely with a Republican filibuster waiting in the Senate -- that means at least another two years before they have got a shot at controlling both houses of Congress.

Experts say Democrats are going to have to explain to their base how they didn't get this stuff done when they had overwhelming majorities in Congress for the last two years. And that's a fair question.

Others suggest the Democrats need to look for small legislative victories in the coming days and weeks in order to salvage their pride and save some face.

Here's the question then: What will or won't you miss about the outgoing Congress?

Go to and you can give them a little goodbye bouquet -- Suzanne.


MALVEAUX: I bet you're going to get a lot of e-mail on that one, Jack.

All right, thanks.

The U.S. Air Force is now blocking Web sites containing government documents leaked by the whistle-blowing organization WikiLeaks.

Our CNN's Brian Todd is digging deeper for us.

Brian, what do we know about what the government is now doing?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It looks like they are blocking access to some of these news Web sites, Suzanne.

If you are on an Air Force computer right now, you cannot look at a number of news sites like "The New York Times," "The Guardian" in the U.K. or the German publication "Der Spiegel." That's according to an Air Force spokeswoman. These Web site are blocked for hosting classified materials released by WikiLeaks, she says, as is the WikiLeaks site itself.

Now, it is not clear at this point when the block began, but right now the Air Force blocks more than 25 sites, according to this spokeswoman, though not all of them because of the WikiLeaks issues. Sites can be blocked if they host inappropriate material.

Now, in August, the Air Force told personnel not to access the WikiLeaks Web site and not to download classified information. That is what the spokeswoman told us. The government has told employees, even though the public may be able to see classified memos, they are still classified, so employees of the Air Force not authorized to see the cables are still not authorized to see them -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: So, what happens to an airman who tries to access one of these news sites on a computer that belongs to the Air Force?

TODD: Well, according to "The Wall Street Journal," there is kind of a message that pops up on Air Force computers telling you that your access is denied and also telling you that your usage is logged and monitored, so they are keeping an eye on who is looking at what.

MALVEAUX: So they might get punished for it?

TODD: They could conceivably. That is not quite clear at the moment, but it is surprising to see some of this develop within the U.S. armed forces.

MALVEAUX: Sure. OK, thank you, Brian.

Well, WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, has been granted bail by a British court, but he is still in jail as Sweden appeals the ruling. Now, he is wanted in that country on sex charges.

Our CNN's Jeanne Meserve, she has the latest.

And, Jeanne, I understand that this is not related to the WikiLeaks release of the classified U.S. documents; is that right?


This relates to those sexual abuse allegations in Sweden, but a British judge ruled today that Julian Assange could be released. But, tonight, he is still behind bars.


MESERVE (voice-over): After a day in court, it was back to jail for Julian Assange, when Swedish authorities appealed a British judge's decision to free the WikiLeaks' founder on bail.

MARK STEPHENS, ATTORNEY FOR JULIAN ASSANGE: They clearly will not spare any expense, but to keep Mr. Assange in jail. This is really turning into a show trial.

MESERVE: Swedish prosecutors want to question Assange about allegations of rape and sexual molestation. Before the appeal from the Swedes, a judge had ruled Assange could go free if he surrenders his passport, wears an electronic tag, reports daily to police, and obeys a curfew while staying at the estate of restaurant owner and former journalist Vaughan Smith.

VAUGHAN SMITH, FOUNDER, FRONTLINE CLUB: I let him stay there because I believe in supporting the underdog. I think that he's a friend of mine. I trust him. I don't think he will break his bail.

MESERVE: Bail, almost $380,000 of it, was being raised from the likes of filmmaker Michael Moore and celebrity activist Bianca Jagger.

BIANCA JAGGER, HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST: As a human rights campaigner, believe in due process, in freedom of expression, and in justice. I am very concerned that this case is being politicized.

MESERVE: But even behind bars, Assange is not silent. He issued a statement through his mother: "I remain true to the ideals I have expressed. If anything, this process has increased my determination that they are true and correct."


MESERVE: The British court will hear the Swedish appeal within the next 48 hours, but the wrangling over his extradition to Sweden could take weeks or even months. Meanwhile, no new hints as to if or when the U.S. will file charges over WikiLeaks' release of classified documents -- Suzanne, back to you.

MALVEAUX: Thank you, Jeanne.

Well, it sounds like something from the movies, really, a bold casino robbery. One gunman got away with more than $1 million. Find out how up ahead.

Plus, Congressman Ron Paul now has the power to take on the Federal Reserve and is talking about his plan of attack. He joins us here in THE SITUATION ROOM.



MALVEAUX: Well, he is a sharp critic of the Federal Reserve and he see is about to take control of a House subcommittee overseeing it. What does Congressman Ron Paul have planned? Well, I will ask him.

Plus, a grim discovery raises fear of a serial killer on the loose in New York.


MALVEAUX: We are following developments in the Senate, where sources are now telling CNN that a vote on the tax cut deal is still hours away. It could come as late as midnight or possibly be put off until tomorrow. You are looking at Dick Durbin there, who is making his case there at the podium. We expect that there will be live dramatic pictures, much debate, but the compromise is being attacked now from the left, as well as the right, but is expected to pass and move into the House. That is where leaders say they have the votes for passage, but the opposition is much stronger.

When Republicans take control of the House next month, it will set the stage for what promises to be an epic battle between the Federal Reserve and Congressman Ron Paul.

Well, he is here to talk about it in a moment.

But, first, I want to go to CNN's Mary Snow, who has more on why Paul says that the nation's central bank needs to be eliminated.

Mary, tell us all about this. He has made some comments before and a lot of people raised their eyebrows.

SNOW: Yes, and, Suzanne, with views like that, Ron Paul is really seen as the harshest critic of the Federal Reserve on Capitol Hill. Now, with a new role, he is in a position to help oversee the Fed, which he opposes. And that has created some unease.


REP. RON PAUL (R), TEXAS: There is no authority in the Constitution authorizing a central bank, which means there should be no Federal Reserve system!


SNOW: That was back in 2008, when Ron Paul was running for president. The libertarian Texas congressman has long been a critic of the Federal Reserve. For years, he was a lone voice. But, come January, he will head the House committee that oversees the Federal Reserve.

And worries former Fed Vice Chairman Alan Blinder.

ALAN BLINDER, FORMER FEDERAL RESERVE VICE CHAIRMAN: Well, it is a little scary. The question is how much you want to take Congressman Paul at his word. He has written a famous book called "End the Fed." And that meant, by the way, I think, end the Fed and go back to the gold standard, which is a pretty frightening prospect.

SNOW: In his 2009 book, Paul writes, "The Federal Reserve system must be challenged. Ultimately, it needs to be eliminated. The government cannot and should not be trusted with a monopoly on money."

Paul says his criticism of the Fed gained credibility after the financial crisis, and skepticism has spread after the Federal Reserve's recent move to purchase $600 billion of treasury bonds in an attempt to boost the economy.

Answering those critics, Fed chairman Ben Bernanke did a rare interview with "60 Minutes" to defend himself and the Federal Reserve.

BEN BERNANKE, FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIRMAN: Well, the Fed's independence is critical.

SNOW: As scrutiny is expected to mount, there are economists who worry about injecting politics into Fed policy.

ALAN BLINDER, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: There is zero confidence that politicians will do these jobs well, so if you start putting into people's heads that politicians will start making these decisions, while pressuring the Fed into making decisions that they prefer and the Fed didn't prefer, you're looking at a very dangerous brew.


SNOW: The question is how much support will Ron Paul have, and will other Republicans be on the same page when it comes to the Federal Reserve? Some economists say it's unlikely, but they say he will turn up the pressure and it can't be ignored -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Congressman Ron Paul, thank you so much for joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

First of all, congratulations on your new position as the new chair of the subcommittee that overseas the Fed. As -- in your new position, tell me: what is the first thing that you're going to do? What are you going to do that's any different?

PAUL: Well, we're going to probably have a lot more hearings. This committee has been considered a very, very minor committee. It's been totally ignored forever, and yet monetary policy to me is very important.

So there's going to be a lot of hearings. We're going to be looking at monetary policy. We're going to be looking at what has happened in the bailouts, what is done in the future, talking about QE 3 and QE 2 and the whole works, and also this whole mandate, whether or not the Fed should be assuming responsibility for unemployment -- the whole process we should look into.

MALVEAUX: Will you audit the Fed?

PAUL: Of course. We will continue to do that. It goes without saying. I've introduced that bill for many, many years, and we're making great progress. We had 320 co-sponsors this last year, and we did get it into the House (ph) version. So we're going to continue with that, and we'll have stronger support with so many new freshmen. And I think they know that the American people want more transparency of the Federal Reserve.

MALVEAUX: But now your book, "End the Fed," essentially, you call to abolish it. Will you actually call to abolish the agency, and can you even do that?

PAUL: Well, if you ask me whether we should have a Fed, no, we shouldn't have a Fed. I don't think that I'm going to be able to accomplish that, and that won't be high on the agenda, because it's not likely to happen.

As a matter of fact, even in my book, "End the Fed," it calls for a transition period that -- all I want to do is legalize competition. I don't want it to be the cartel of the world and the dictator of interest rates and the economic planner.

But the Constitution still says that only gold and silver should be legal tender, and I think we should be allowed to use gold and silver. Today, if you use it as money, you can go to jail for this. We are forced to use depreciating currency. As a matter of fact, it's the precise policy of the Federal Reserve to undervalue or destroy the value of our dollars.

MALVEAUX: Mr. Congressman, let me -- let me interrupt here, because Megan McArdle, she's a prominent libertarian blogger, economics editor of the "Atlantic," and she says in Slate here, she says that "Republicans stashed him" -- that would be you -- "in this job, because they don't want him making my more important decisions. He cares passionately about monetary policy, which most Republicans don't care about, but when you look at his speeches, he doesn't understand anything about monetary policy. He might actually understand it less than the average member of Congress. My personal opinion is that he wastes all of his time on the House Financial Services Committee ranting crazily."

Do you think the Republican leadership essentially is trying to marginalize you in this role?

PAUL: No, I don't think so. They wouldn't have made me chairman. And I think somebody that spouts off like that, they should look at the evidence, rather than just sort of name-calling. I don't think that kind of accusation makes any sense whatsoever.

MALVEAUX: She's saying she doesn't believe you can get very much done. What do you think you can accomplish?

PAUL: Well, you know, in the way we just talked about, am I going to accomplish ending the Fed? No. That's not going to happen. The Fed's going to end itself. It's going to destroy our money. When the bond bubble bursts, which I think is starting to leak already, and the dollar, you know, crisis comes, the Fed is losing credibility by the day. Just think in two -- the last two or three years how much credibility it has lost. It's going to lose a lot more.

So one individual doesn't bring about these things. I contribute to the understanding of the Fed, and the understanding of monetary policy. And I'll be in a better position now to get a lot of other people to further understand this. And this is what's happening in the last two to three years.

MALVEAUX: So you would like to use this role in kind of an educational way to make your case about what you believe the Fed should and should not be doing?

PAUL: Well, I understand rather well how -- how ideas have consequences rather than political power. I don't work on the assumption that political power is the solution. If that would have been the case, I have a lot of seniority. If I'd have played the ball game here, played the game -- I could have been the chairman of a committee and had political power.

But I don't believe that's the way that real change come. Real change comes when attitudes change and understanding and education change.

MALVEAUX: Congressman, I want to turn the corner, if I may, to WikiLeaks. You have said before, you have applauded WikiLeaks for exposing what you call the U.S.'s delusional foreign policy. Those are your words. We know that Julian Assange today, Assange made bail.

Do you think that that was a good idea, and do you realize that you're on the same page now with Michael Moore?

PAUL: Well, what does that have to do with it? I mean, if -- I've been on the -- you know, I've worked with Bernie Sanders on the anti-Fed (ph). I'm working on the issues.

Yes, I think that this is a very important issue. And I think he's been treated unfairly, because he's a publisher just like you are. You're on TV. You don't want prior restraint on your TV program. He's publishing things on the Internet. This is a deliberate attempt, I believe, to close down the Internet. They don't...

MALVEAUX: What do you say -- I'm sorry, but what do you say to your -- to the critics, to those who say that this exposure, this information that's coming forward is a national security threat, that it's a danger and that it cost people jobs, as well?

PAUL: Well, they can't prove that. Nobody has died from this. Nobody died from Daniel Ellsberg's release of the "Pentagon Papers." More people die from the lies that the government tells. They told lies in the '60s, and I served in the military in the '60s for five years. How many people died because they lied us into war? How many people have died because of the lies that were told that got us into Iraq and now in Afghanistan?

MALVEAUX: What kind of evidence do you have that they're trying to shut down the Internet?

PAUL: Well, didn't they take Assange off the Internet? Didn't our government participate in that and threaten him and people closed it down? They took him off. But the Internet is bigger, and...

MALVEAUX: The U.S. government has not claimed responsibility for that.

PAUL: Yes, I know. But nobody -- I mean, our government doesn't always tell us the truth. That's how we go to war. And that's how we get in -- they tell you -- they build up the fear like just like after the crisis. You know, the financial crisis. The whole world would end unless we bail out all the rich people, bail out Wall Street, bail out all the bankers. But people now in a very healthy way are very skeptical of what the official pronouncements are from the government. And I consider that very good.

MALVEAUX: And Congressman, you have been called the intellectual godfather of the Tea Party, but your real -- you're -- you're a real father to the Tea Party winner, Senator-elect Rand Paul of Kentucky. I understand the two of you are going to be sharing a condo, your condo in Virginia. How is that going to work?

PAUL: Well, his family won't be coming up immediately, and he'll be here in January, so he will be staying with me. And of course, I said that would be fine, and I just told him not to expect me to do any cooking.

MALVEAUX: OK. No cooking. In 2012, are you going to run?

PAUL: Don't know.

MALVEAUX: You're sure you don't know?

PAUL: I'm sure I don't know. And it's a possibility, but I have not made up my mind.

MALVEAUX: What would -- what would make you get to make your mind up fairly soon?

PAUL: Well, it's hard to say, because there's so many factors, personal as well as other things, too. So I'm not about to make a decision yet.

MALVEAUX: But you haven't ruled it out?

PAUL: No, I have -- definitely have not ruled it out.

MALVEAUX: All right. Thank you so much, Congressman. I appreciate your time.

PAUL: Thank you.

MALVEAUX: Looking ahead to the 2012 elections, CNN has just announced its first presidential primary debate. Mark your calendars. This is June 7. The network will team up with "The New Hampshire Union-Leader" and WMUR television to produce a Republican presidential primary debate in New Hampshire. It's the country's first primary state.

Well, New York police fear a serial killer could be on the loose. There are four bodies that have been found on a wind-swept beach, and the search is on for more possible victims.

And ever been on a cruise you wished would go longer? Well, this one did, but passengers may have wished it hadn't. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) MALVEAUX: Police in New York are on the hunt for a suspected serial killer. The remains of four people have been found on a desolate beach. And it is feared there could be more victims. Our CNN's Deborah Feyerick is following the developments for us in New York.

Deborah, what do we know?

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, Suffolk County police say their phones have been ringing steadily, people calling in, wondering if any of the victims are their loved ones that they've reported missing.


FEYERICK (voice-over): The four badly-decomposed bodies were found dumped in the underbrush on a windswept stretch of beach on Long Island.

COMMISSIONER RICHARD DORMER, SUFFOLK COUNTY POLICE: They were within a quarter of a mile from each other, which would indicate that they were dumped there by the same person or persons.

FEYERICK: Police now looking at the possibility, it's the work of a serial killer.

DORMER: It's too coincidental that there was four bodies in the same location.

FEYERICK: It's expected to take weeks, even months, to identify the victims, but two possible names have surfaced. One is New Jersey resident Shannon Gilbert. A second woman is from Maine. Both women, in their early 20s, allegedly answered escort ads on Craigslist, then disappeared within a month of each other early this summer in this area of Long Island.

DORMER: We certainly have to look at that, that somebody targeted these individuals and dumped them in the same place.

FEYERICK: Suffolk County's top cop says the skeletal remains suggest some of the victims may have been killed up to two years ago.


FEYERICK: Suzanne, the first body was discovered by a canine officer acting on a hunch. He was investigating a missing persons case when he took his dog about 3 1/2 miles down the beach from where the person was last seen. It's too early to tell whether one of the victims is that person -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Thank you, Deborah.

A routine traffic stop turns dangerously violent as a police officer is attacked and the roadside rage was all caught on tape.

And a dramatic entrance by actor Hugh Jackman, but something went very wrong.


MALVEAUX: A police cruiser camera catches an unlikely Good Samaritan. Kate Bolduan is monitoring that and the other top stories that are coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

Hey, Kate.


This is one of the -- a pretty amazing story. A police dash cam caught it all on tape. A Dayton, Ohio, police officer stopped a car because of a missing headlight. The 64-year-old driver shoved the officer and started punching him. He even allegedly reached for the officer's gun and taser. You can see it all right there.

But a woman ran up and started hitting the suspect, helping the officer then subdue and arrest him. That's the Good Samaritan. Pretty amazing stuff.

Also, rough waters made a cruise trip -- trip one to remember for passengers on Carnival's Inspiration. The vessel returned to the port of Tampa last night hours late after stormy seas and high winds forced it to anchor in the Gulf of Mexico. Some passengers say they're just glad to be back on firm land.


DEBBIE TAYLOR, PASSENGER: It seemed like the boat was going to tip over. My husband kept telling me that it's not going to, don't worry, but I lived the first part of the night in the bathroom.


BOLDUAN: Ooh, scary stuff.

And also, a scary moment at the taping of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in Australia. Take a look at this. Movie star Hugh Jackman was riding a zip line from the top of the Sydney Opera House to the stage when he apparently hit head first, went head first into the scaffolding. Amazing. He reportedly only had a swollen eye, though, and was otherwise OK. I guess the taping went on, but pretty scary stuff.


GEOFFREY RUSH, ACTOR: Strengthening your diaphragm, simple mechanics.


Jack and Jill...

RUSH: Went up the hill.

FIRST: Went up the hill.


BOLDUAN: That's Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush in the critically acclaimed film "The King's Speech." It's up for seven Golden Globe nominations, all announced today. Other nominees include the dance thriller "The Black Swan" and "The Social Network," about the creation of Facebook.

The popular TV series "Glee," "Modern Family" and "Mad Men" also got nods. The Golden Globe awards air January 16.

All this ever shows me is how hard we must work, because I've never seen any of these movies.

MALVEAUX: You don't watch any TV? Don't watch any movies? We can catch up with them, though, like right before.

BOLDUAN: That's always what I plan to do. Once they're nominated, then I'll go see them.

MALVEAUX: And we'll have some popcorn. We'll sit down; we'll go through all of them.

BOLDUAN: I like that idea.

MALVEAUX: OK. Thanks, Kate.

Jack Cafferty is asking what you will or not miss about the outgoing Congress.

Plus, a bus driver's surprising penalty after -- yes, I'm not kidding here -- running over Frosty the Snowman.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, come on! Oh, my God. That's too funny!



MALVEAUX: Jack Cafferty is back with your e-mail.

Hey, Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Suzanne, the question this hour is what or won't you miss about the outgoing Congress? Mercifully, they're almost finished doing to us what it is they do to us.

James in North Carolina says, "As ineffective as they have been, I doubt anyone's going to know the difference. The Democrats had the Oval Office, the House, and the Senate and did very little. I'm glad to see them go and hope that the next cast of characters can do something positive for a change. Can they possibly be any worse?" John says, "What I'll miss about this Congress is the lost opportunity to accomplish great things if Obama had only stepped up to the plate and acted like he had some gravel in his gut."

Danielle in Wisconsin: "I'll miss Russ Feingold. It's too bad my fellow residents of Wisconsin got easily confused and voted against one of the best senators our country has ever had."

Steve in Virginia says, "Unlike the prior 110th Congress which did absolutely nothing, the outgoing 111th Congress accomplished some significant goals that will affect the lives of millions of Americans for many years in a positive way."

B.J. In Illinois writes, "What makes you think it's going to be any different? You have to have real change in order to miss or not miss something."

Sean writes, "I'll miss Nancy Pelosi as speaker because out of the three, she was the only one who made the tough liberal choices and fought for principle. I wish Harry Reid would have lost. As a liberal Democrat, I think he's a disgrace."

Patty says, "When Nancy Pelosi became speaker of the House, I was elated. Now I'm just glad to see her take her hat in her hand and sit down."

And Bill in Sparta, New Jersey: "Not a darn thing. But then I doubt there's anything I'll like about the new one either."

If you want to read more on this, go to the blog. If you don't, don't -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Give them a choice. All right, Jack.

Well, Frosty the Snowman, he didn't have time to melt. Our Jeanne Moos is next with a "Most Unusual" look at what a bus driver did after slamming through a snowy street prank.


MALVEAUX: OK. Who would take out a snowman? Our CNN's Jeanne Moos has the "Most Unusual" road encounter.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was a hit-and- run on a snowman.


MOOS: And it cost a bus driver his job.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): Frosty the Snowman, is a fairy tale they say.

MOOS: But this story has no fairy tale ending. It happened in Champaign, Illinois, on a video posted to YouTube. You see a car go into the bus's lane to avoid the snowman, and then the bus crosses over and takes him out.


MOOS: "Dude went out of his way into the opposing lane to kill the snowman," said critics, while defenders called it "clearing the road of an obstacle. Hail to the bus driver."

But when the mass transit district saw the video, the unidentified bus driver lost his job. Resigned, apparently facing suspension. "Most would agree that there are more responsible ways of dealing with an obstruction in the road, such as calling our control center, calling 911, et cetera, than driving westbound in an eastbound lane of traffic."

(on camera) Funny they should mention 911. The other day, a woman in England was chastised for calling the English version of 911 to report her snowman stolen.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Your snowman's been stolen?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What do you mean? Was the snowman actually made out of snow or an ornament?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, he's made out of snow. I made him myself.

SETH MYERS, CAST MEMBER, NBC'S "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE": Sure, the police are happy to get involved when a white person goes missing.

MOOS (voice-over): The guys who shot the bus video tell CNN they didn't build the snowman, they just shot it, thinking it would be a funny thing to post online.

(on camera) Now they're feeling guilt-stricken, not about Frosty's demise but about the bus driver losing his job.

(voice-over) So guilty they've started a "Save the Bus Driver" Facebook page, saying it's a good deed he did, using his big bus to break up the snowman. Look what can happen when windshield meets Frosty. Now, that's defrosting.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Destroyed my windshield!

MOOS: For some reason, some guys love decapitating Frosty.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello, little fellow.

MOOS: He's been put on railroad tracks. He's been axed. He's been torched. Sort of makes getting hit by a bus seem like a mercy killing.

Jeanne Moos, CNN... UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (singing): Frosty the Snowman...

MOOS: ... New York.


MALVEAUX: Remember, you can follow what's going on in THE SITUATION ROOM on Facebook. Go to to become a fan.

I'm Suzanne Malveaux in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"JOHN KING USA" starts right now.